Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:23 am

Players meet Saturday to confirm position

By Matt Moore

In another event in a sequence throughout the lockout that sounds like one thing and is really another, the NBPA canceled a Sunday regional meeting in Los Angeles. Immediately the questions began. "Does this mean they're meeting with the league? Is it a last-minute hail mary? Is there hope?" 

No, not so much, it was just more convenient for them to get their rabble rousing out of the way early.

Yahoo! Sports reports that the meeting was rescheduled because it was more convenient for the players already in Miami to hold it Saturday night.  After the meeting, Carmelo Anthony slammed the door shut on any sort of hopefulness that might have been brewing. From the AP: 
The way Anthony put it Saturday night, it almost seems inevitable."Theyre going to cancel the first two weeks of the season," Anthony said. "Well see what happens then. If they want to lock us out, lock us out. Were going to stick together."

The New York Knicks forward played in the South Florida All-Star Classic hosted by Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, the latest - and most competitive - of the many exhibitions players have participated in during this lockout that reached the 100-day mark Saturday. NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that the first two weeks of the regular season could be canceled as early as Monday if a deal is not struck.

Anthony says it would not be "realistic" for the sides to agree on anything before then.
via Now what? After Miami game, players wait and see - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Yahoo! also reports that at the meeting, the players stuck to their guns regarding 53 percent of BRI being the lowest their willing to go, while no meetings were scheduled due to the league's insistence on a 50-50 split being a precursor to any further talks.  

So here we are. The trenches have been dug, both sides are settled in for the shelling, and Stern's finger is on the trigger. Barring a miracle, the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 NBA season will be canceled on Monday, costing the league, players, team cities, employees, local businesses and supporting industries millions of dollars, because the two sides won't even get in a room to discuss it.

Everyone's stopped trying to make sense out of the lockout, because you can't make sense out of something that's not driven by reasonable people. From the owners' childish insistences to the players' hyper-reactive defensiveness and clownish pouting, both sides have revealed themselves as more dedicated to "winning" this fight than getting a deal done. It's a business negotiation, and so it's cutthroat. But too often this has taken on the feel of the inmates running the asylum. The dogs are playing poker, and we hit the river.
If any meetings pop up in the next 24 hours we'll keep you updated and once the axe falls, we'll have complete reaction to that, too. The lockout drags on. 
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:42 pm

NBA Lockout: Wade becomes the man on fire

By Matt Moore

Dwyane Wade spent the week shilling for an on-court traction product. It was very Bruce-Banner-y. He did a wide range of interviews for the product, talked about the Heat, flashed that Wade smile, did the whole publicity tour. Wade had been quiet for months regarding the lockout. He hadn't appeared at any of the Pro-Ams. He hadn't been a presence at the meetings. He hadn't been aggressively supporting the union in front of or away from the cameras. In short, some were beginning to wonder where Wade was in this whole lockout landscape, the silent superstar in a league full of big moneymakers who seemed to be just looking out for themselves and enjoying their summer. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul (who serves on the union's executive committee) and Kevin Garnett seemed to be the only leaders from the star contingent. 

Then Friday came.

And Dwyane Wade took a flamethrower to the whole damn place.

It started early when Wade gave an interview to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, and discussed, essentially, being an underpaid superstar. Wade's understanding of the earning power of superstars in the NBA wasn't off factually, even if the timing was questionable.  It was a high-impact interview with a high-impact reporter that set the tone for the day. And Wade was only getting started. 

Next up, he drops comments across the board regarding the fact that the players "may lose a season." It was an odd and seemingly out of place set of comments considering the importance of getting a deal this weekend. Wade was essentially taking a hard-line position of saying "We want to play, but don't think we're not willing to lose the year just to get a deal." This from a player who notoriously is careful to avoid controversy. He's taken on a lot of flak this year as a member of the Heat from the backlash from "The Decision" and the formation of the Triad on South Beach, but Wade has always been popular with reporters for providing sound bytes without ever getting in trouble. He rarely if ever comes under scrutiny for his comments, and here he is being up front about the realities of the talks after saying that he's not getting paid what he could. 

Then there was the meeting.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com confirmed that at one point Wade stood up to David Stern's aggressive speech to the players. ESPN reported a direct quote from Wade:
Source: David Stern pointed his finger at players while talking. Wade shouted, "You're not pointing your finger at me. I'm not your child."
via Twitter / @RicBucher: Source: David Stern pointe ....

What the...?

Where's the baby-kissing, hand-shaking, lovable Dwyane Wade we've come to know? Where's the meek and mild player that no one was loooking to for leadership? Apparently all it took was Kobe Bryant having prior commitments with Nike in Europe to bring the Warrior Wade to the front... with a blowtorch.

Consider this, from earlier this week on the New York TimesNBA blog Off the Dribble:  
Wade said he has been in regular contact with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players union, about the state of negotiations. But he said he felt no need to join the meetings himself, and he shrugged off the criticism directed at superstar players for their lack of involvement.

“That’s a silly thought,” Wade said. “I’ve been in a few meetings — I’ve been in three or four meetings myself.”

But none of the league’s top players have been a regular presence since the lockout began July 1, with the exception of Chris Paul, who serves on the union’s executive board. It has been suggested that a greater presence by the game’s superstars could push the N.B.A. toward a deal. Wade disagreed.

“The negotiation is the negotiation,” he said, adding: “We’ve been in there. Not only have they said their shpiel, we’ve said our shpiel, we’ve listened. We’ve taken notes. We’ve done all this. And we believe in our players association.”
via Negotiations Don't Need a Star Presence, Wade Says - NYTimes.com.

In two days, we've gone from Wade saying there's no reason for the superstars to be more active, to Wade himself aiming at the commissioner of the NBA to get his finger out of their face. Something happened, and it's likely not a coincidence that Wade suddenly came off the leash. The Players' Union needed someone with a big name and a face to come out guns blazing, to pull a Jordan '99 and Wade was the man to step up. For all the flak the Heat have taken, Wade is as respected as they come, and his foot forward spoke volumes. 

The players needed someone to go rogue and play bad cop.

Dwyane Wade pulled out the billy club on the start of the most serious negotiations in the entire process and started swinging from sun up to sun down. We'll have to see if this galvanizes the union to stick together, or if this came off as empty rhetoric from a player not representative of the league's primarily roleplayer whole.

Finally, consider this report from a Miami-based reporter who spoke with a player to gauge reaction to Wade's outburst Friday.  
Just spoke to an NBA player not in today's meeting. Said "400 guys in our league have a new favorite player tonight, and it's Mr. D-Wade."
via Twitter / @ByTimReynolds: Just spoke to an NBA playe ....

To quote a popular song for NBA players, "Say hello to the bad guy."
Posted on: September 8, 2011 12:24 pm

Report: J.R.Smith nearing biggest China deal ever

By Matt Moore

Let's get right to the heart of the matter regarding J.R. Smith's Chinese prospects. From Yahoo Sports:
Denver Nuggets free-agent guard J.R. Smith(notes) is nearing an agreement on the richest contract in China Basketball Association history, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Under terms of the deal, Smith would make more than $3 million to play the 2011-12 season with Shanxi, but lose his chance at unrestricted free agency prior to the start of the NBA season. Smith, who turns 26 Friday, has averaged 12.5 points per game in his seven-year NBA career.
via Smith nears deal to play in China - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

Smith would be the second Nugget free agent to sign in China following Wilson Chandler. It also makes a pretty good amount of sense considering Smith's outlook. This expands his popularity, makes him quite a bit of money, and keeps him in the lifestyle he's becom accustomed to. 

There is, of course, the talk of how the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association, not the Collective Bargaining Agreement; yes, that's right, Smith is signing with the CBA because there isn't a CBA) passed a rule which prohibits teams from granting an NBA opt-out clause in contracts. The rule was made to avoid the CBA looking like a player's backup option, only to be tossed aside when the season starts. The overwhelming popularity this could bring the CBA is of course overlooked, because it's an ideological position, one which should have no place in business. (Hey, kind of like the arguments on both sides of the lockout!)

But there are those who think that the Chinese teams will get around this simply by having an under the table agreement to release the player in the event of a lockout resolution. Consider this. The CBA season begins on November 20th and runs through March. If the NBA started in January as many have predicted or February as was the case in the 1999 lockout, Smith would have made up to $1.5 million for two to three months of work, then get "released" for whatever reason the team wants to invent, at which point Smith signs his new lucrative free agency contract, including a prorated amount for the lockout. 

Pretty savvy for Mr. Smith. We'll see if he signs, and if he does, if he stays.  If he does stay, there will be disappointed Nuggets and Bulls fans, both who want Smith on roster next season. 
Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:43 am

Thaddeus Young in talks with China

By Matt Moore

First Wilson Chandler headed for the East. Now Thaddeus Young's agent has also said he's in talks with a Chinese CBA team.From HoopsHype.com:
“I have been contacted by multiple teams in China expressing very serious interest in having Thaddeus Young play in their league this season,” Tanner said. “I have discussed this with Thad and he is intrigued by the possibility of playing in China if the lockout continues and has asked me to further explore these opportunities. At this point, our conversations with the teams have been preliminary but we are continuing to talk and to do our due diligence on each option.”
via HoopsHype.com NBA Blogs - Jorge Sierra » Young receiving interest from China.

The same concerns exist with Young signing with the CBA as with Chandler. The CBA adopted a rule earlier this month to bar teams from signing NBA players under contract with an opt-out clause, not wanting to become a temp job for locked-out players (which makes no sense for them, but whatever). 

There's still the possibility that Chandler and Young, if he signs, could return if the lockout is resolved simply by the Chinese team releasing them in an under-the-table agreement. But if Young signs and stays, it means another major free agent off the board. Young really came into his own last season as he started to play bigger inside and became more versatile for Philadelphia. But with Philly still having Elton Brand on roster, and with the logjam at the 2/3 with Iguodala and Evan Turner, this wouldn't harm them considerably. 

The bigger question is if the NBA meeting Wednesday goes badly, if enough free agents will be compelled to sign with China, abandoning hope for the 2011-2012 season to be played.  
Posted on: August 18, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: August 18, 2011 11:44 am

Report: Chinese league bans locked out players

By Matt Moore

On Thursday morning, Eastern time, Chinese outlets started reporting that Kobe Bryant had signed a deal with the Shanxi Zhongyu of the CBA. The move would send ripples throughout the basketball world as the most iconic NBA player would be playing overseas in a lucrative market. Finally, a big star beyond Deron Williams has agreed to play overseas. 

Or... not.

Sports 163 along with multiple outlets are now reporting that at the CBA meetings, the league approved a rule to block outright any NBA player currently under contract with the NBA from playing in the CBA. That gets around previously discussed loopholes to proposed rules to block opt-outs. If you say outright you can't sign any player, no under-the-tables deals can be adopted. 

It also closes off one of the most attractive options for players. Not only are they revered in China like no other country on Earth, but the marketing potential is through the roof due to the companies and population. Bryant, for example, has made huge strides in his global brand by expanding to China. With Yao Ming out of the picture, China represents a wide-open market. This hurts the players' efforts to provide leverage by signing overseas. Bryant was just the biggest name. More players were likely looking for the opportunity. 

For China, this is at once a terrible business decision and typically Chinese. It's a different culture, and with the CBA managed by the government, the protection of their culture is foremost. There's a matter of pride over not wanting to rent players for a few months only to have the lockout end and them abandon the CBA. At the same time, it would have done so much to encourage interest in the league and raise money which could be devoted to development there. It's a reasonable position, even if it is disappointing for basketball in China overall. 

The NBA will have no comment, naturally, but is likely nodding with a slight grin. 

(HT: HoopsHype via IAmAGM.com)
Posted on: August 15, 2011 12:14 pm

Report: Former player questions Hunter's agenda

By Matt Moore

Billy Hunter played football. That's not all he did, of course, far from it. He was a United States attorney for several years. He helped Latrell Sprewell defend himself from the league after Spree choked his coach. He's been the head of the NBPA since 1996, a replacement for what the players felt was weak leadership. But, as it is with any significant figure, people are divided on him. Is he too abrasive? Is he too passive? Does he have a plan? Is he too controlling? Does he communicate enough with the players? Too much? The list goes on. 

The Portland Tribune features a column today quoting a former player discussing Hunter, and the words are not overly kind:
He has his own agenda,” one former player tells me. “He’s about Billy. He doesn’t have the overall well-being of all the players in
via For NBA players, the clock is ticking.

Hunter does enjoy the spotlight, that's clear from both taking a position as public as this and his particular brand of firestorming. Still, he has managed to keep the players as one of the strongest unions in professional sports. The players are behind in this particular fight, but the real measure of Hunter's leadership will be measured in what happens in October and November. Until then, Hunter can posture all he wants. It's the fall that brings Hunter's real test of strength, and will reveal whether he's pushing his own image or really looking out for his clients.

In 1998, Hunter warned against the dangers of the lockout thirteen years ago, and implicated that the gap between white fans identifying with black/African-American players could severely damage the game. From a New York Times article all those years ago: 
We don't want to say it, but we have a game that's predominantly black,'' Hunter said he told Stern. ''I don't know if there is the same kind of fan loyalty and commitment to the game. Just because of perceptions of people.''
via PRO BASKETBALL; The Street Fighter Who Galls the N.B.A. - New York Times.

Hunter is not concerned with facing the issues head-on. The only question is whether that approach is born of devotion to his responsibility or a personal drive for acclaim.
Posted on: August 11, 2011 10:00 am

Is a 3-year collegiate rule on the horizon?

By Matt Moore

Rutgers men's college basketball head coach, Mike Rice, posted on Twitter Thursday morning that he's "hearing" that "NBA owners want to adopt same rule as NFL. Players will have to wait 3 yrs(sic) to enter the draft."

It's the first we've heard of such a proposal in the CBA talks, though an adjustment to the age rule has been discussed. Moving to three years would radically change the landscape of the NBA, shortening career spans, damaging the ability to develop raw talent, and limiting the effectiveness of the D-League. It would also allow college to weed out bust players and take the burden of development off NBA clubs. It's also an idea that the players union would likely hate, but might be willing to compromise on to get a few extra Bucks out of BRI. 

The debate on how long to keep players in college is always going to be a tense one. It touches on the question of limiting a person's earning potential, protecting the college game and pro investments, and of course, the always sensitive subject of the exploitation of athletes by the NCAA. Rice, being a member of a profession that would be greatly helped by getting their talented players locked in for three years, isn't an objective source, by any means, but the whisper in the wind is certainly enough to perk up an ear. More and more it seems likely that after this new CBA is finally agreed upon, the NBA won't look anything like it has in recent history.  
Posted on: August 5, 2011 2:53 pm

Friday 5 with KB: Lockout blues

By Matt Moore

In this week's edition of the Friday 5, we take a look at what the odds are of losing the season, check in on how the Joe Dumars reclamation project is going, and ponder if there's anything to move the negotiations on the new CBA forward. 

 1. Well, it's been a downright depressing week on the labor front. Billy Hunter says he'd "bet" on losing the whole season. You've been more optimistic like me that the season will be salvaged, but I'm losing hope. What's a percentage you'd put on missing the whole year at this point?

KB: The whole season? I'd say -- and I'm just pulling this number out of thin air based on a gut reaction -- 25 percent. When I laid out my timeline for the lockout, I predicted this would be settled by Oct. 15 -- just in time to avoid the cancellation of any regular season games. Now, I'm almost certain that prediction will be wrong and that some games will be lost.

2. Whatever happened to "we both want to keep this out of the courts?" If both sides have known the other's position for months, why the increasingly antagonistic tactics from both sides? Is there any way to defuse this situation?

KB: Well, even with the lockout well into its second month and with lawsuits and labor charges flying back and forth, the two sides can continue to negotiate. And both sides know, despite the litigation, that the only way this is going to be solved is at the bargaining table. They can do that now, next month, in October, in January, or next July -- but that's where it's going to be solved. The legal tactics are efforts by each side to gain leverage and pressure the other side to move off its bargaining position. So the only way to get closer to a deal was to escalate the legal battle and see if one side or the other can win a small battle that will bring everyone closer to a deal.

3. Let's say before the lockout is one round, the first 30 days after are another, and the last week is a third. Score the rounds for the union and the NBA.

KB: OK, pre-lockout goes to the owners, 10-8. They got their lockout, which is what they wanted all along. The month of July was a draw; nothing happened, nobody won or lost anything, and Deron Williams' foray into Turkey did not open the floodgates for other stars to leave. This past week was a decisive victory for the owners, who beat the players to the legal punch, got a Republican-appointed judge in district court, and chose a venue with an appeals circuit where the law is heavily favorable to them. Also, they exposed a rift within the players' association -- the influential agents who are clamoring for decertification vs. union officials are want to wait for this to play out with the NLRB.

4. Joe Dumars called Lawrence Frank his "mulligan" this week. Do you think the hire will wind up getting the second crack Joe's looking for at success, or is the roster too far gone?

KB: There's actually a lot to like about the Pistons' roster. I like Monroe and Jerebko, love Stuckey and Gordon, and really love the Brandon Knight pick. But as has been the case for some time, it's a matter of fit. Whenever the free-agent floodgates open, Dumars will have to move Tayshaun, Rip or preferably both. L-Frank is a solid coach, and his defensive principles will get the Pistons back to their roots. But he's wired, high-strung and emotional -- all traits that will play better with the younger core than with the old guard. So nothing's changed in that respect; the old guard has to go for the Pistons to truly turn the page and move on.

5. Tell me why the endorsement money, not the salary, but endorsement money in China and overseas isn't enough to tempt players with the lure of being a "global brand."

KB: Well, several top stars already have significant endorsement deals in China. Signing there and playing there for a while certainly could enhance that. But this isn't really the question to be asking. Every move by the players should be viewed through the prism of the lockout, and what helps their bargaining position. I disagree with the NBPA over how much an overseas exodus of stars would help the union's bargaining position. I don't think a handful of stars "getting theirs" in China or anywhere else helps the union at the bargaining table. Even if 20 stars sign there -- and that would be a lot -- where does that leave the other 400 players? True, you can't have an NBA without the stars, but you can't have a powerful bargaining unit without them, either. And since they'll all have out clauses to come back when the lockout ends, what are they really accomplishing there, anyway? One last point: If the best the NBA's top players can do is $1 million a month to play overseas, what does that really tell the owners who were paying them many multiples of that under the previous CBA? As one front office executive told me recently, "I think Dr. Buss would kill to pay Kobe $1.5 million a month." Look at it another way: If a $17 million player like Deron Williams goes to Turkey and the best he can do is get $5 million, the owners respond, "Why don't you just stay here for $10 million?" That's the clearest explanation I've heard for why this overseas stuff doesn't make sense for the players.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com