Tag:Ken Berger
Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: October 19, 2011 11:27 am
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NBA, NBPA meet for 16 hours with federal mediator

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Representatives of the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association took part in more than 16 hours of talks led by federal mediator George Cohen in New York City on Tuesday but failed to reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. 

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the two sides will resume their negotiations at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The NBA's owners had been scheduled for Board of Governors meetings on Wednesday and Thursday in New York but Berger reports that the labor talks "clearly take precedence."

Specific details of the marathon negotiation session are unclear. Berger reports that a spokesman for the NBA "has asked both sides to refrain from commenting, and they are abiding."

NBPA board member Chris Paul said on Twitter: "WoW, 16 hours...I PROMISE we are trying!!!"

Yahoo Sports cited a source in the meeting saying that "very little" progress was made, that the two sides were "still not anywhere near a deal," that the only "gaps" that had been narrowed were "on small stuff" and that it was "hard to see where this is going."

Newsday reported that "nothing [was] achieved toward a deal. But there's always tomorrow."

Cohen met with both the league and the players union individually on Monday in advance of Tuesday's negotiations, which come eight days after commissioner David Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 regular season.

Tuesday's meeeting, the longest since the NBA imposed a lockout on July 1, dragged on for so long that NBA writers staking out the talks reported receiving complementary cookies from the NBA and, later, ice cream and chinese food from the NBPA. The talks began at 10 a.m. Tuesday local time and concluded just after 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

SheridanHoops.com reported the following attendees at the meeting.
Representing the owners were Peter Holt (San Antonio), Clay Bennett (Oklahoma City), Mickey Arison (Miami), Mark Cuban (Dallas), Jim Dolan (New York), Dan Gilbert (Cleveland), Wyc Grousbeck (Boston), Larry Miller (Portland), Robert Sarver (Phoenix), Glen Taylor (Minnesota) and Bob VanderWeide (Orlando).

Representing the players were Derek Fisher, Maurice Evans, Chris Paul, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Matt Bonner, Roger Mason and James Jones.

In radio interviews last week, Stern said that nearly two months of the season could be in jeopardy if a resolution was not reached on Tuesday.

"Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal," Stern said. "If we don't make it on Tuesday, my gut -- this is not in my official capacity of canceling games -- but my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day."

Further game cancellations are expected to come in two-week increments. The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the season came three weeks in advance of the scheduled start date of Nov. 1. If the same lead time is necessary for the next cancellation, an announcement should be made by Monday, Oct. 24.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 5:54 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 6:55 pm
 

No NBA labor deal, next meeting 'months' away?

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The National Basketbal Association and the National Basketball Players Association met for more than four hours in New York City on Tuesday, in what had been hailed as the most important day of negotiations to date, and emerged aroung 5:30 p.m. without an agreement.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that NBPA president Derek Fisher announced: "Intense discussions today ... today was not the day for us to get this done."

NBA commissioner David Stern said that the league's 2011-2012 schedule will be affected by the lack of progress in the negotiations: "Today we will be announcing the cancellation of the rest of the exhibition season and by Monday we will have no choice but to cancel the first two weeks of the season."

Fisher said no further meetings have yet been scheduled. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said it could be "a month or two months" before the next round of meetings.

Fisher said that the players offered to reduce their share of Basketball-Relate Income from 57 percent to 53 percent but were still unable to negotiate a deal that was "fair and amenable" to the players, as the owners reportedly offered only to increase their offer to the players from 46 percent to 47 percent. NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said the players' concessions amounted to more than $200 million per year. 

"We are employees and the NBA are the employers," Fisher said. "And they hold the key to when the lockout will be over."

Hunter said that, given the circumstances, the NBPA would reconsider the idea of decertification: "Clearly that's something we may have to give some thought to." While the players wait, NBA.com reports that Hunter says the NBPA will set up and fund workout centers in Houston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles that will remain open until a labor agreement is reached.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Boston Celtics forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, and NBPA board members Matt Bonner, Maurice Evans, Keyon Dooling, Theo Ratliff, and Roger Mason, Jr. were all in attendance at the press conference Tuesday.

This post will update with the latest on the NBA lockout.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 6:07 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 7:00 pm
 

NBA, NBPA have 'huge gaps' after 7-hour meeting

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association met for the second straight day in New York City on Saturday, but the talks failed to produce an agreement or even much progress. 

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that the talks will not continue on Sunday as expected and that the two sides will be "back at it" on Monday in smaller groups. 

Talks lasted for more than seven hours on Saturday following a lengthy negotiating session on Friday that featured some tense moments and cameos by superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Representatives for both sides addressed the media afterwards.

Berger reports that NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler said that the two sides did not discuss the most contentious issue, the division of Basketball-Related Income, and instead talked about system issues. NBPA president Derek Fisher, meanwhile, acknowledged that there were "still huge gaps" between the two sides, who decided to switch the discussion to individual system issues.

"Break down the mountain into separate pieces and tackle it one step at a time," Fisher explained. "We weren't going to be able to make major, sweeping progress on the entire economic and system at the same time. Maybe if we split them up and try to go at them one at a time ... we can at least get some momentum and some progress going."

USA Today reported that NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said the two sides were still "miles apart."

Berger reported that Hunter believes the owners are still pushing for a system that resembles a hard cap rather than the soft cap that the players prefer. "If you gave them everything they're asking for, you'd ultimately have a hard cap," Hunter said.

On the other side of the table, Berger reported that NBA commissioner David Stern said that the two days of negotiations were "long and in some ways exhausting" and that the two sides were "not near anything." However, Stern noted: "We're closer than we were before."

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver painted the discussions as a clear exchange of ideas: "The owners certainly heard the passion from the players, and right back at them from the owners."

NBPA vice president Matt Bonner told MySanAntonio.com that both sides were "a little burned out" and only made "minor progress" on Saturday. His fellow NBPA vice president Roger Mason, Jr. tweeted: "Finished another long day of meetings. Unfortunatey nothing new to report. We are still very far from a deal."

Berger also reports that Stern acknowledged that he exchanged words with Wade on Friday. "There was a heated exchange of some kind."

The next steps for the NBA will be to announce the cancelation of the rest of the preseason schedule. On Sept. 23, the NBA announced the cancelation of the first half of the preseason. Once the entire preseason slate is wiped, a delayed start to the regular season, which is currently slated for Nov. 1, is essentially inevitable. Berger reports that Stern no announcement will be made on Monday but that the decision will be a "day to day" matter after that. 

This post will update with the latest NBA lockout news.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 7:02 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 7:46 pm
 

NBPA's Fisher: No NBA labor deal reached Friday

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports from New York City that labor talks between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have wrapped up after more than four hours of negotiations.

Both sides addressed the media, with the NBPA going first. 

Berger reports that NBPA president Derek Fisher said during a Friday afternoon press conference that although the meetings were "engaging" the two sides "did not come out of here with a deal today, but we will be back here at 10 a.m." 

Talks are expected to continue on Saturday and Sunday. 

Asked if a deal will be reached this weekend, Fisher said: "I can't answer that."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Fisher said that "no formal proposals [were] exchanged" on Friday and that talks were "contentious" at times. The paper also noted that Fisher said that the NBA did not threaten to cancel the entire 2011-2012 NBA season if no deal was reached this weekend.  

NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media following the NBPA press conference.

"There's no bad news," Stern said according to Berger. "Both sides expressed a willingness to make a deal." 

Berger reports that Stern, who acknowledged that no formal proposals were exchanged, said that both the NBA and NBPA "agreed that once regular season games lost, both sides harden."

Asked if he can see a framework of a deal, Stern said, "We leave that to the bloggers." If no deal is reached this weekend, Silver said that talks between the two sides would "of course" continue.

NBA.com reported that Stern made public some details of the league's new revenue sharing plan for the first time. Under the proposal presented by Stern, revenue sharing among owners would quadruple within three yeras after tripling in the first two years.

Finally, Stern said that a report that the season could be canceled if a deal wasn't reached this weekend was "ludicrous." 

During the NBPA's press conference, Fisher was flanked by a cadre of NBA All-Stars including Miami Heat forward LeBron James, Heat guard Dwyane Wade and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. Other players present, Berger reports, include Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, Philadelphia 76ers forwards Elton Brant and Andre Iguodala, and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Baron Davis.

Berger also reports that Heat forward Udonis Haslem left the meeting saying that he was "very encouraged" and that "you can see that everybody really wants to make a deal."

This post will update with the latest NBA lockout news.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Friday 5 with KB: An NBA Hall of Fame edition

By Matt Moore



In this week's edition of the Friday 5we delve further into the idea of an NBA Hall of Fame. Who would Ken take in the inaugural class? Why won't this happen? And by the way, did Kobe pumping up the union really mean anything? 


1. Let's say the NBA didn't figure out how to blow a $930 million media deal, the merchandising, ticket sales, sponsorship money, and various investments, and instead had the money to open their own Hall of Fame. You get six guys, and six guys only to put into the inaugural class. Who goes in? Players, coaches, league personnel, etc.

KB:  Good question. I'd have to go: 1. Michael Jordan; 2. Wilt Chamberlain; 3. Bill Russell; 4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 5. Oscar Robertson; 6. Magic Johnson. It's tough to leave Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, Shaquille O'Neal, and Hakeem Olajuwon out, but six spots are six spots. Also, tough call not to have Red Auerbach among the first inductees, but the NBA has always been and will always be a players' league.

2. If you were designing said Hall, what would you have its primary mission statement be?

KB: The mission would be simple: To honor, recognize and remember the greatest contributors in the history of NBA basketball.

3. Who leads the coaching exhibit, Red or Phil?

KB: Though Phil passed Red for the most titles, there is no surpassing Auerbach's legacy. Aside from nine championships in 10 years as a coach, there were the titles he orchestraed as GM, and most importantly, his achievements with racial integration at a time of segegation and deep racial divides in America -- and especially, in Boston. Auerbach drafted the first black player in the NBA, hired the first black coach in any American professional sport, and had the first all-black starting lineup in NBA history.

4. What's the biggest reason outside of financials for the league not to do this?

KB: Politics. Does the NBA risk alienating itself from the basketball community by breaking away and declaring its independence from a sport whose various tentacles -- college, international -- are intertwined?

5. Jumping back to reality real quick. What exactly is there for the players to unite around that Kobe's talking about? Isn't it pretty much just "don't spend all your money and get desperate?"

KB: No, there's much more than that. With the various income levels and priorities among the players, it could be easy for a wedge to be driven into the NBPA. So while there's a divergence of opinion about executive director Billy Hunter's strategy not to decertify or disclaim interest, it is in the best interests of the players to stand behind that strategy until it is exhausted as a viable option. The agents pushing for decertification are forgetting that the strategy turned into a dead end for the NFL players. The same fate would likely await the NBPA in federal court under antitrust law. The best strategy for the players is to see the NLRB strategy through to a conclusion and proceed from there depending on whether they win or lose. Don't forget that regardless of which legal strategy the players pursue, this will only be resolved one way: at the bargaining table. A fractured union will suffer a slow, horrible death there.
Posted on: August 1, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Stern: NBA players not negotiating in good faith

Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Representatives for the NBA owners and Players Association met at the Omni Berkshire Place in New York City on Monday to re-open negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement one month after the league locked out its players on July 1.

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger was live on the scene to provide instant quotes and reaction.

The following is a selection of Berger's tweets from the immediate aftermath on Monday afternoon featuring quotes from NBPA president Derek Fisher and NBA commissioner David Stern. 

The key takeaway points: no progress was made on Monday, additional meetings will be scheduled to continue negotiations and Stern apparently accused the NBPA of not negotiating in good faith.
Derek Fisher emerges from nearly 3-hour bargaining session and acknowledges owners and players are still in the same place as 30 days ago.

Fisher: "A lot of ideas are being thrown around, but it's become clear that the bottom line is the bottom line."

Fisher heading back to L.A. Both sides trying to schedule 2-3 more sessions this month, preferably on consecutive days, Fisher said.

Stern, Silver and Glen Taylor expressed desire to get deal done. "But where their proposal lies makes it hard to believe," Fisher said.

Stern: "I'm not optimistic." Then, in his last words before leaving, he essentially accused TheNBPA of not bargaining in good faith.

Asked if players are bargaining in good faith or not, Stern said, "I would say not," and walked away.

More Stern: "I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way."
Certainly that is the strongest language that Stern or a league official has directed towards the players to date during this negotiating process.

This post will update as additional information comes in.
Posted on: July 22, 2011 4:43 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 5:45 pm
 

Should the NBA contract? A CBSSports.com debate



By Matt Moore and Ken Berger

As part of his thorough and systemic plan for a CBA resolution to end this lockout madness, Ken Berger topped things off with a piece saying that the most logical solution to the NBA's remaining problems was contraction. Berger singled out two franchises to be chopped off the NBA forever in contraction,  New Orleans and Sacramento (Memphis, Indiana, and Minnesota were all only saved due to their relative leases in their buildings). Being a champion of small market teams and not wanting the good fans in those cities to have their souls ripped out just to make sure the bigger markets sleep easier at night (which I also believe harms the league by shrinking its nationwide fanbase), I took umbrage. We decided to debate just some of the many issues surrounding contraction. What follows is our conversation. 

Matt Moore: From your contraction piece:
And the question is: If the NBA is losing so much money -- $300 million last season and $1.845 billion during the six-year collective bargaining agreement that just expired -- then why continue to pour good money after bad into markets that have proved beyond any doubt they cannot support an NBA team without massive transfers of wealth that have failed to make them viable?
Let's start here. We're still talking about relatively young frames of reference, aren't we? Yeah, New Orleans is a hole right now. It was owned by one of the worst owners in the history of the league. It's still recovering from one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. Itn't it slightly possible that the right ownership could turn this thing around? And if we say that's possible, isn't the opposite true as well? What about the other small market franchises that are considered so connected to the league they could never be moved?

Let's say Popovich retires after 2013, same time Duncan retires. Buford is unable to recapture the Magic, especially with Ginobili gone. The team goes into a slump. A 10-year slump. We've seen it happen. Do we contract them, if that was now? How about Oklahoma City? If the core falls apart, if Kevin Durant (God forbid) went down with a career-ending injury, and Presti can't recover, do we just ditch those fans who have shown that with any semblance of a contender, they can be profitable and supportive? Are we really torching Sacramento just because the Maloofs' money has vanished in the recession and the team took what is pretty much the normal amount of time recovering from 2002... when they were one terribly officiated game away from the NBA Finals?

Basically, aren't all your candidates simply based on who is having a rough time... right now? And if that's the case, isn't it impossible to really give a fair estimation of who should be contracted? And what happens if another team can't make money in the new, better NBA? Isn't there always a loser, for long stretches in sports? If that's the case, are we just going to contract again in 10 years when San Antonio, or Orlando, or Utah is trapped in the cellar?

One more question.

If we're looking at truly terrible teams that haven't performed well or made good decisions, like Minnesota, why aren't we punishing Philadelphia, with that prime market and one of the worst attendance rates in the league? Sure, the Knicks make a world of money because of their market. But isn't that the real problem? A terribly run team can still make money? Bad teams that don't get enough support from the NBA's system isn't the problem, the fact that James Dolan and Donald Sterling turn a profit no matter what they do, that's a problem.

Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: 
To your first point, this isn't about blindly eliminating teams that aren't competing at the moment, or in a short-term frame of reference. In fact, we wouldn't even be talking about contraction if the owners hadn't put it out there that they can no longer survive with the NBA in its current state and thus locked the players out to get a better deal.

If player salaries are on the table, as well as guaranteed contracts, rookie scale, contract length, hard vs. soft vs. flex cap, the split of BRI, and literally everything else that has an impact on the NBA business model, then it is not only fair and appropriate, but prudent to evaluate whether the NBA has A) teams in the right markets, B) too many teams, or C) both.

If it's fair to ask the players to take a 33 percent pay cut, and to ask the owners in markets that are doing exceedingly well to fork over tens of millions more to support struggling franchises, then it's absolutely fair game to discuss whether some of those teams in some of those markets will never be able to thrive regardless of what salary structure and revenue-sharing system is in place. Apple wouldn't continue to fund an under-performing store or produce a failing product, and neither should the NBA.

Your San Antonio point is a non-starter. First of all, San Antonio is the 37th TV market in the United States, according to Nielsen, compared to No. 52 New Orleans -- the smallest in the NBA. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the San Antonio metropolitan area (2.1 million) was nearly twice the size of the New Orleans metropolitan area (1.2 million) in 2009. Further, there is a long, established history of success in San Antonio -- both on and off the court. There is a history of success in Philadelphia, as well, by the way. There is no history of the NBA succeeding in New Orleans.

Granted, the city endured a catastrophic natural disaster that was nobody's fault. But the team relocated from Charlotte, a failed expansion market, and now the NBA has teams in two hopeless markets. Given the arena lease in Charlotte, there is no way to contract the Bobcats. But the Hornets, given that they are owned by the league and have only a $10 million penalty to break the lease, simply have to be examined for contraction if the owners are serious about addressing their money-losing problems.

If the owners simply want to use the losses as an excuse to put the players in their place, well, that's another story.

Your point about San Antonio or Oklahoma City someday winding up on the grim end of the cycle is valid. That can happen almost anywhere in the league; it's happened in Sacramento, where the Kings were thriving for years and then got obliterated by an unforgiving system that makes it difficult to recover from bad decisions or poor performance -- or both. That's why I'm in favor of a comprehensive plan to fix the league's problems. It's not an either-or game with pay cuts, a more flexible cap system, more robust revenue sharing, or eliminating a couple of teams. It should be all of the above. Teams like the Kings, Sixers, Timberwolves, etc., who've been successful in the past would be able to regain that success more quickly with a more flexible cap system, shorter contracts, and enhanced player movement. It's not about which teams are at the top of the cycle and which teams are at the bottom right now. It's about much more advanced metrics capable of measuring whether NBA franchises in all 30 markets have a chance to be successful and make a profit -- given some reasonable sacrifices on the part of the players, enhanced revenue sharing and a more flexible system that allows teams to get out of a bad situation faster.

I find it illustrative that those in the industry like yourself who are so adept at unemotionally evaluating on-court performance with advanced metrics that often betray what the naked eye sees suddenly allow emotion to infect your opinions about contraction. If you applied the same clear-eyed, sobering, numbers-driven approach to the viability of certain markets as you did to pick-and-roll defense, you would see the reality that emotion and gut-reaction thinking currently are obscuring for you.

Lastly: Part of the contraction argument is specific to certain markets -- New Orleans, Charlotte, Memphis -- and whether they are viable. But there are two other components: 1) the broader discussion of whether fewer teams would result in a better and more profitable product; and 2) the narrow, practical debate over which teams are feasible candidates to contract. The lease and arena situations in New Orleans, Sacramento and Milwaukee simply make those teams candidates to satisfy the broader goal of creating a better, more profitable product because there are fewer barriers to contraction. Contracting a team isn't an emotional decision. It's about dollars, practicality and a path to achieving the NBA's stated goals of competitive balance and profitability.

To your last point about Sterling and Dolan: It is difficult to imagine a system that would justify having Sterling as one of 28 people in the world lucky enough to own an NBA team. If a new CBA could contract Sterling, that would be a victory for all concerned. As for Dolan, he clearly deserves much if not all of the venom he has received. But Madison Square Garden is paying every penny of an approximately $800 million renovation to the arena. The same cannot be said in smaller cities where politicians gave up the farm due to the threat of losing their team or never getting one in the first place. The system has to be changed to narrow the gap between the haves (like the Knicks) and the have-nots (like the Thunder). It's the have-no-chance teams that are the problem.

Matt Moore: Well for starters, we're basically saying, "Well the owners have a problem (losing money). So naturally, let's punish the players (salaries) and the fans (losing teams). That should make for a better NBA!" All this despite the dubious nature of many of ownership's claims, and the fact that if they are in fact losing money, at least part of it is due to their own decision making regarding revenue sharing and their decisions to give those insane contracts. Before we start lopping off markets which at some point in the future could be just as viable as any other given a good string of luck, narrowing the NBA's fanbase and making it even more of an elitist sport, maybe we should look at some other options and make sure ownership's done everything it can to take care of itself. Finally, if we're going to go down the row of "we need to do what's best for the owners' profitability (in the context of their being "the league" despite their ownership only lasting at most a few decades versus the overall legacy of the sport), isn't the best thing for them to hold a four-year lockout so they can get every little desire they want, including $100,000 max non-guaranteed contracts?

I'm just not in the business of looking out for ownership. I'm in the business of looking out for the well-being of the entire league and the fans. Especially when, as you've pointed out brilliantly in this contraction argument, they're the ones who end up paying the most for these arenas.

I'm not so sure the San Antonio argument is a non-starter. To begin with, if we're going to go with market size? How about Charlotte at 24, Sacramento at 20, Indianapolis at 25, or Utah at 30? You talk about a "history of winning" which is entirely contingent on the luck of the lottery and a good owner (which changes constantly in the NBA). Those teams have a combined zero championships. Why not just lop them all off, in favor of a lower market, San Antonio, which is reportedly also losing money (as reported by David Aldridge)? I mean, if the Spurs aren't profiting despite the Duncan era, isn't San Antonio a viable market to cut? There are already two markets in Texas, after all. But no one would suggest that idea, because it fits in with the older idea of the league. Getting rid of the Spurs is incomprehensible, mostly because they've been around and won championships recently. If Indiana manages to squeak one out, when they were title contenders as recently as five years ago, by the way, are they in the same group?

And while I'm very emotional about the possibility of losing these markets, I have a clear-eyed reason not to. This league for too long has depended on two to three teams leading the way. The league is constantly praying for Celtics-Lakers to save them, because it hasn't established itself in the other markets in the country the way the NFL, or even MLB has. The Knicks are allowed to remain the sacred cow because of the money they pull in from market and a championship four decades old. But instead of weakening the rest of the league and strengthening the top of it, the NBA should be looking for competitive balance, because that activates the whole of the country as a fanbase, and subsequently as a market base. For whatever reason, it's become insanely popular to essentially submit to our big market overlords, likely out of some emotional fondness for the halcyon days of Lakers-Celtics or Bulls-Knicks. But a more sustainable approach which will help the entire league, not just those select few owners blessed to operate in a big ol' market, is one that raises the league's profile to where every team is profitable. Build up. Don't tear down.

While we're at it, I find the disregard for the financial hit in these communities deplorable. Setting aside the job losses, which are actual people (and I don't find that the fact owners are currently laying off personnel to save themselves some dough to be a viably equal comparison), you've got the damage to local businesses. You've got local charities losing that source of revenue. You've got effects all over the place. You think if you lop off the Kings, they're all going to start buying Lakers jerseys, as seems to be the end goal of most of these big-market advocates? One, that'll never happen, and two, it's not a sustainable strategy for league growth.

Finally, let's talk about that whole public-financing issue, since you seem to think that's the real death knell. Isn't the better option in those cases to force the owners to take on more of the financing? Furthermore, cities that don't want an NBA team don't vote for arenas. They don't support efforts to keep them. Seattle's representatives failed the Sonics fans, but that's the cost of representation. Meanwhile, markets that do want the league vote to support it. Are we really to say that neither the people, nor the owners, should be held accountable for their decisions, but only the fans of those teams who live and die with them? That's who we want to punish, as they continue to pump money into the team which bolsters the local economy?

Ken Berger:
So, you don't take the owners' loss claims at face value. Neither do I; so at least we can agree to be circumspect when it comes to the owners' claims. We will find out over the next two months just how staunchly the owners will stand behind their loss figures. If they are willing to lose an entire season, and thus sacrifice nearly $4 billion of revenues, then they should be smart enough to examine ALL aspects of their business model that are failing ... including whether they are doing business in the right places with the optimal number of teams.

As has been made very clear from my coverage of the lockout, I am not in the business of looking out for the owners, either. I am not in the business of advocating for either side. I'm trying to find solutions.

Teams like the Spurs and Blazers, who compete and still allegedly lose money, clearly fall under the category of teams that are viable but need the system and revenue sharing system to change to make them more viable -- and to ease the transition from bottom of the standings back to the top, if they get hit with that cycle. I'm glad you brought up the Pacers, who have lost money nearly every year of their existence and continue to ask the city to take on more and more expense associated with their business. But you are ignoring the fact that teams like the Spurs, Blazers, Pacers and others would have their talent level enhanced by absorbing some of the best players from contracted teams. This would make the product better in those cities, and across the league, and would make for a more compelling, competitive product. This is the "good of the league and fans" aspect that you mentioned. Nobody is saying, "Contract the Hornets and Bucks and send all their good players to the Knicks and Lakers." The combination of more concentrated talent, system changes that would enhance the mid-level teams' ability to compete and revenue sharing that would mute the competitive advantages in the biggest markets would achieve much of what you are seeking to achieve.

Though I do like many aspects of the NFL cap system, the comparison between the two sports has serious limits. There are nearly four times as many players in the NFL. Role players and specialists are far more prevalent and important in football. Basketball is a game driven by singular talents and stars, and there is no way around that. You will never find as many people in the country who will sit and watch your average Wolves-Kings regular season game. But the fact that the Wolves and the Kings are so inept only magnifies this fact. And don't tell me that the Wolves and Kings could be championship contenders in five years. Then we fill in the blanks with whomever is at the bottom of the barrel then. But we don't simply contract the team with the worst record in any given year. We examine whether there are markets in the NBA that have never been, and will never be viable -- and whether reversing the dilution of talent caused by expanding or relocating to such markets would be good for the product. It unquestionably would be.

Stars and big-market teams have always driven interest and ratings for the NBA, and always will. We shouldn't be asking whether this is right or wrong; this is the DNA of the sport, and it can't be dramatically altered. But the gap between the haves and have-nots can and should be narrowed. Can the NBA have a business model that achieves all its goals with 30 teams, some of which are in markets that cannot keep up? And if you insist on doing that, what is the cost? And who pays it?

Nobody supports the idea of anyone losing his job. But if you're going to champion the cause of those who'd be left behind if the Hornets and another team were contracted, then you cannot ignore the public cost of forcing teams to stay in those markets. How much more money do Louisiana and New Orleans have to divert from legitimate needs to support a failing basketball team? In Memphis, the city can't find the money to open schools on time, yet it pays $13 million a year in debt service for FedEx Forum -- and an accompanying parking garage that was the subject of an FBI investigation for misuse of public funds. How can you say that the public cost associated with contracting the Kings would be greater than the cost the city and region would bear to build the team a new arena -- which will be financed with decades of public debt, lost tax revenues and misallocated resources?

It's a vicious cycle because the cities that are too small to support an NBA franchise on their own merits are those that must pay the most to get the teams there in the first place. And once the team is there, the initial cost is never enough. The Pacers go back to the city and get $33.5 million more to operate Conseco ... the Timberwolves get millions in public funds to duct-tape the Target Center back together, and then will want a new arena built for them in five years. A sales tax is passed in Wisconsin to fund a new ballpark for the Brewers, and now the politicians want to extend it to build a new arena for the Bucks.

When does it stop? When the Kings move to Anaheim and in five years say, "This arena sucks, build us a new one?" 
Go ask people in Minneapolis if the Timberwolves have bolstered the local economy. The team has been a drain on the public coffers there for years, and will be for years to come if they stay there. That's what I call deplorable.

Matt Moore:
I think it's difficult to argue that professional basketball, with $930 million in annual media buys alone, is simply unsustainable. This isn't about how the business is structured, it's about how it's run. The owners, as you've pointed out in the past, are asking not for a "Get out of jail free" card, but a "Don't ever be allowed to put in jail." And if we start chopping off franchises that we think are the drain, what's the next result if the owners continue to find ways to circumvent the intent of the cap structure (as they did with the current system using the luxury tax)? Are we just going to be back here in five years, looking to contract down further, to the point we're left with the big markets and some Midwestern Washington Generals for them to pound upon?

Right, but if we were having this conversation in 2005, we're calling the Pacers "viable." The Blazers are the mess of a franchise who haven't won a championship in 30 years and are mired in mediocrity in an ancient building. But we're not going to liquidate the Blazers now because they're a playoff team. This is the issue. We're not contracting teams here because they're unsustainable, it's because it's convenient right now. And that's not a good enough reason to hurt fans, local economies, and the strength of the league.

You talk about how those players would be allocated across the board to all those San Antonio's and Portlands. Has that been your experience? Or do the players nearly always drift towards those same teams time and time again. If you've forgotten, I can refer you to the seven months of hell you spent covering the Melo debacle. I'm severely dubious about the prospect of talent being equally distributed. It may look that way immediately following the dispersal draft, but in a few years, we'll be back to the same formula.

A better idea? Get great players in wounded market like Andrew Bogut, Tyreke Evans, and Chris Paul the ability to compete on par with the rest of the league. Then you've got more superstars, which as you said, drives the league. We have the talent. You can't tell me Chris Paul's not a star worth following. But the league continues to promote only following those five or six teams, to the detriment of the total strength of the league, which hurts their television packages, which hurts their bottom line, and here we are. There are obviously bigger problems in New Orleans than that, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a decent ownership group. That's what's really missing is this league. Not ripping the hearts out of loyal fanbases, but owners with vision and a will to win. Instead, as we've covered and both dislike, we get Donald Sterling.

As far as the DNA of the sport goes, if we're admitting in this exercise that the DNA is the exact thing that's causing the profit loss, which leads to the sickness that is this lockout, why are we not talking about trying to build a better animal, for lack of a clear analogy? The league isn't limited in how it's portrayed. You're absolutely right in the ways that the NFL and the NBA are dissimilar. But just because their comparisons are not perfect does not mean that there shouldn't be efforts to emulate the model. The model works, which is that at the start of every NBA season, 32 fanbases of rabid, loyal fans believe in their team, their players, their coaches can win the title and are willing to spend money to be a part of it. That's the successful model, not praying the Heat and Lakers wind up in the title game every year until the next big market juggernaut is born.

As far as Memphis goes, I direct you to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and a report on the economic benefits the Grizzlies have directly held on the area.

Memphis, like the rest of the country, is mired in the ongoing effects of the recession. To insinuate that blowing up the major tenant of a building that's already built, that already exists will somehow fix or even improve things is flawed logic. Sacramento loses one of the few major public events it has going for it. New Orleans still has the building. And for every complainer in Minnesota or wherever about the drain on the Wolves? I've got another to talk about the Vikings, or the Mariners, or the Chiefs. If we're talking about eliminating all waste in a community, these franchises exist among a litany and don't serve as the way out.

Ken Berger: 
You seem to think I am taking a pro-owner position here. The owners don't WANT to contract. It would cost them MONEY to contract, because they would have to pay an owner to go away. Unless we are talking about the Hornets, in which case there is nobody to buy out because the rest of the league already OWNS the Hornets -- who are, bar none, the clearest-cut case for contraction in the history of contraction. You've seen the financial statements. They're hopeless. Shinn was a deplorable owner, but that's what happens when you put teams in cities where they don't belong. You get bad owners leaching off the public, because no sane, competent businessman would try to operate a team there. Oh, and by the way, the public has to PAY for all this incompetence. These public boondoggles to put teams in places that can't support them, in the name of "expanding the fan base" and "promoting the brand" is one of the saddest commentaries of sports in our society over the past quarter century.

These loyal fan bases you speak so wistfully of wouldn't have been part of the NBA -- and thus wouldn't be a burden to the NBA business -- if the league hadn't over-expanded in the first place. Don't tell me the NBA would wither away and die without teams in New Orleans, Charlotte or Memphis. It was doing fine without teams there for years. And in fact, in the case of New Orleans and Charlotte, each city is on its SECOND team and it still isn't working. What demigod or savior of American business are you hoping will come along and make these markets profitable? Anyone who had all those great ideas would've stepped up and put a team there. Instead, we got Shinn and Robert Johnson, and in Memphis, we got Heisley.

You're a little hysterical about turning the NBA into a league of five big cities and the Washington Generals. Nobody is saying that. I am saying that, if you're going to look at the entire business, then you need to look at the number of teams and the location of them. In the case of New Orleans, where the team is buried in debt, owned by the league as a charity case, with no track record or hope of ever being viable, and with the most reasonable cost imaginable to get rid of, contraction represents the easiest business decision for the NBA during David Stern's commissionership. A much saner and financially viable decision than expanding and then relocating there in the first place. Nobody is going to nuke the Rockets if they don't find a replacement for Yao Ming.

You're also obsessed with the notion of, as you put it, right now. Well, Matt, this is right now. This is where we are: The NBA is shut down for the foreseeable future, the players are locked out, and the owners -- who take all the risk, make all the investments and write all the checks -- are saying that two-thirds of them are losing money every year. We can choose to believe them or not, but you can't ignore the fact that they are in control. And so right now, we have a team in New Orleans that is a burden to the league and to the residents of its city and state -- a team that never would've existed in the first place if not for the grandiose and overambitious expansion vision of David Stern. Now, due to the grandiose and naive visions of Matt Moore, we are supposed to compound the mistake of overexpansion by further burdening the NBA -- not to mention the good, tax-paying people of Louisiana -- and keeping the team there? For what? So we can save a few hundred jobs at the expense of tens of millions of dollars that could be better used?

I didn't wake up one day and say, "Let's get rid of the Hornets." But right now, the NBA is in crisis. Whether you're on the players' side or the owners' side, now is the time to evaluate everything. The sport is shut down. Some aspects of the business clearly aren't working. Why ignore such a sensible solution simply to be able to say you saved a team that is in no way a healthy or productive member of the NBA?

As for how the talent will be dispersed, I have no experience with this, because based on my rough recollection, I've never seen the NBA contract -- only expand, and expand too much, says the evidence. And you've twisted my argument about Memphis. I am not drawing a straight line from the city schools crisis to the Grizzlies' arena. I am merely highlighting what a shame it is that the taxpayers of Shelby County will continue to pay millions of dollars a year in interest on a basketball arena at a time when children could be held out of school because there is no money to pay the teachers to show up for work.

And since you brought up the Commercial-Appeal, you may want to check out the rebuttal to that homerized and pitiful piece of shameless boosterism. In this piece, someone who doesn't live in Memphis and may never have even visited actually bothered to contemplate how many jobs might have been created if the city had sold $250 million in bonds for some other, perhaps even useful purposes -- and also calculated that the 1,534 jobs allegedly created by the arena project came out to a cost of $150,000 per job. If the Commercial-Appeal had been doing its job, it would've analyzed the costs and benefits of that arena a tad more carefully instead of printing verbatim the schmaltz from the Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the city will pay millions in interest this year while it struggles to find money to pay teachers and open schools, but at least it will have a basketball arena that may not be used for its intended purpose this season -- because the NBA is shut down, in part, because it has too many teams in cities where they don't belong.

If that makes sense to you, then move to Sacramento and brace for tax increases and shoddy services so that a new arena can be built at no cost to the Maloofs or any other NBA owner, for that matter. Go Kings!
Posted on: February 26, 2011 10:58 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 11:25 am
 

Chris Paul and the Longevity Effect

Chris Paul is a fierce winner as well as arguably the league's best point guard. But are his career goals holding him back until the playoffs come? And wait, he think he's most like Isiah Thomas? We break down Ken Berger's interview with CP3 for this week's "In the Moment." 
Posted by Matt Moore




Chris Paul has always been a bit different from his contemporaries in one distinct notable aspect. He wants to win. More than anything else, more than the fame and fortune, he wants to win. Of the players representing this "brat pack" like conglomeration of All-Star friends including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony, no one wants to win as badly as Chris Paul. Wade wants to win, that much is evident. He's driven. But he's also a business unto himself, and a fashion and media star. He's basically building an empire the way LeBron wants to except without all the negative public reaction and bad decisions. But Paul? Paul wants it more. It's why his trade demand from last summer has simmered into a cool and patient wait to discuss his options, why he's consistently playing through pain, and why the Hornets are back to being a top team in the West, within sight of a first-round homecourt advantage. 

It's the biggest x-factor in the free agent movement expected to occur. Dwight Howard wants to win, but has shown little of the focus and responsibility necessary to take a franchise like Orlando on his admittedly massive shoulders instead of bolting to somewhere he can get that smiling face even more air time. Deron Williams is apparently simply more driven to be happy than anything else, as he left a team that has consistently moved to contend because they were tired of his complaints. But Paul? Paul can be satisfied with winning. That's what matters to him. He wants all the rest of it, the money, the notoriety, the parties, the endorsements. But in his list of priorities, building the Chris Paul Empires comes after winning. Not just a championship. Consistently. As much as he can. He's a fiend for it. It's what makes him such a tremendous player, even more than the brilliant vision and astounding precision. 

Take for example his interview with Ken Berger for CBSSports.com's In the Moment series:



"I think it's just guy's trying to win. This league's getting dangerous. There are a lot of really good teams at times at the top. You just want to put yourself in a good situation, in terms of longevity and things like that. Guys just want to win multiple championships if at all possible."

That's Paul talking about  all the superstars teaming up in Miami, New York, etc., a trend that began in 2007 with the formation of the Boston Big 3, and continued with the addition of Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers. And that's how Paul sees things. Not in the context of parties, endorsements, fun and games. For him it's all about victories and championships. The days of being willing to wait until you're an established veteran are over. In an era of players wanting what they want, when they want, how they want it, Paul's only concerned with winning. If that means bolting to a big market to play with better players than former All-Star David West and talented center Emeka Okafor, so be it. the Hornets have to prove to him they can win. 

That's probably partially because unlike his contemporaries, even injury-rattled Dwyane Wade, Paul has felt the drag of poor health, even this season. Chris Paul is simply not at full strength, is obviously struggling. It's been evident from his explosiveness right down to how he's functioned in crunch time. Friday night's coaster win over the Wolves was an easier time of it for Paul than he's had as of late. Hornets blog At The Hive noted this recently, before the All-Star break: 

f you're a Hornet fan, you're probably terrified. I know I am. The guy that was blazing his way to Best Point Guard of All Time status as recently as 2010? He quite literally stood around doing nothing for multiple possessions, multiple minutes a time. He ceded control to Willie Green (who was fantastic), to Trevor Ariza, to anyone he could see. Multiple times, he stopped mid-drive to throw awkward, forced passes to teammates behind the three point line who weren't expecting it. Multiple times, he brought the ball up, handed off to a teammate, and went and hid in the corner till the shot clock expired. 
We got a flash of the old Chris Paul for sure. His move in the second quarter where he crossed inside out from the baseline, drove the lane, looked off two defenders, and slipped the ball to Jason Smith for the slam? Surreal. Absolutely surreal. Nobody else in the NBA makes that play. 
But that's exactly what makes this new Chris Paul so difficult to stomach. We know his game and his limitless potential. We've seen him drag this team from nothing to the brink of everything. We know who Chris Paul is supposed to be. We may not see it on every play, the way we did in 2007-2008 or 2008-2009. But it's still there. There's a reason Chris Paul is still far and away the NBA's leader in win shares over names like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant. Chris Paul, from November to January, was still amazing, and if we're being fair, that should carry far more weight than one god-awful road swing. 
But to be a fan is to concentrate, to a large extent, on the here and now. And at present, the here and now is not pretty.
via On Chris Paul - At The Hive.

At the Hive went on to say they expected the return of "the real Chris Paul" on Wednesday following the All-Star Break, and sure enough, since the break Paul has averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists in two games, both wins. Granted, they were over the Clippers and Wolves, but you've got to start somewhere. 

The bigger issue is that it's not like Paul hasn't shown his "real" self this season. He's flourished at times. He's been an MVP candidate, for crying out loud. But for those who have intently watched the games, his deference late in games cannot be denied. We're not just talking about throwing to the open man for the assist instead of going to the jumper or floater. We're talking "walk the ball up, give it to David West, and go stand in a corner." In key situations, Chris Paul should always be initiating the offense. Always. That this has happened consistently despite bursts from Paul shows an ongoing issue, one that won't be solved with a four day break and a few easy wins over lottery teams.

And with Paul's drive, it leaves you to wonder how healthy he is. Then again, it could be Paul's simply learning what Wade has learned, like Kobe Bryant before him.  There are times to kick it into that higher gear, and times to coast. Paul knows the Hornets are a lock for the playoffs. Resting his body is really the better option. But with his attitude, with his drive, it must be killing him to hold anything back. But at the same time, that word, longevity, keeps creeping into Paul's words. Consider this quote from In the Moment about what point guard he most thinks he's like. 

"Definitely Isiah Thomas, maybe a little bit of Allen Iverson the way I go at the refs at time. Those guys are unbelievable. I think the thing about those guys is that they did it for a number of years. I think that's what I always admired the most about John Stockton. I came in the league, I looked at his steals record and assists record, and I wanted to try and break it. Man, that guy never missed a game. That longevity is something ghat pushes me. I look at Steve Nash, how he remains healthy. I look at Jason Kidd, not only has he been in the league a long time, he's still productive. I don't want to be one of those guys who's in the league, year 17, and I'm not productive. "



BREAKING NEWS: CHRIS PAUL COMPARES HIMSELF TO ISIAH THOMAS, IS OBVIOUSLY HEADED TO NEW YORK!

Sorry, just had to screw with the New York media a little bit. Ka-ching. 

But you notice that whole paradigm Paul's expounding. Wanting to play long-term. Wanting to be around for years. Wanting to still be productive when he's older. The only way to do that is to hold yourself back. It's what makes fans sour on the NBA so much, stars who no longer burst out of the gate, no longer kill themselves every single game. It happens to all great players. It'll happen to Blake Griffin. And it may have happened to Chris Paul. 

But the real question that will decide not only Chris Paul's future but possibly that of professional basketball in New Orleans, is what Chris Paul shows up in the playoffs. Our bet?

The one that wants to win, no matter who's on his side. 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com