The Next Step In the Process

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Now that we have the hardest part of that pesky 149-day lockout behind us, it’s time to refocus and turn our attention to the future. And that means the next step(s) teams will take in the process to return the NBA to fully operational.

With the 66-game schedule being arranged and free agency and training camp to begin simultaneously on Dec. 9, we should be in store for some fast and furious personnel action around the league. But before we get there, we have details that must be dissected and discussed.

Again, we’re leaving the designation of winners and losers to others, mainly NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner (who delivered his picks over the weekend).

There are, however, plenty of opinions regarding how this tentative out-of-court agreement between the players and owners was reached and what sort of structure it will allow teams to function in …

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Michael Wilbon of ESPN.com: The funniest thing about these five months of melodrama is that the NBA will begin the season precisely when and how it should anyway. Play should never for any reason commence before Thanksgiving and probably not until the first week of December, at the earliest. Truth is, a tripleheader on Christmas Day with KobeLeBron, D-WadeDirk and D-Rose, plus the Knicks in the Garden hosting the Celtics, is probably better than these two quarrelsome parties deserve. It’s as though they stumbled into beginning the NASCAR season with Daytona. Please, don’t tell me the Christmas Day games need a makeover for scheduling reasons. How do you get better than the Mavericks receiving their 2011 NBA championship rings in front of the Miami players? The Lakers are must-see holiday TV, so if LeBron and D-Wade aren’t available, who better to share the stage with Kobe than reigning MVP Derrick Rose and a conference finalist team? The last time we saw the allegedly revamped Knicks, they were going out like dogs to the Celtics; what better place to start anew with the most overrated franchise in American sports? So please, don’t let the NBA screw up its first call of the new season. These matchups are irresistible. Purposefully or not, the league couldn’t stage a more satisfying comeback. Even if those games are all moved to TNT, I’ll feel the same way about the Christmas Day return.

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Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel: An expected windfall for NBA contending teams in search of affordable talent could wind up short-circuited by the league’s soon-to-be-approved collective-bargaining agreement. The Sun Sentinel confirmed Sunday that instead of players being released under the league’s “amnesty” provision going directly to the open market, a bidding system has been put in place for teams operating below the league’s salary cap to add such players at a deep discount. “That’s what the clause is in there for,” a party familiar with the impending process Sunday told the Sun Sentinel. “It’s so the Lakers can’t go in and scoop up all the players.” Under the amnesty program, a team can waive a player in order to remove his salary from its salary cap and luxury tax, while still paying out the balance of that contract. It had been widely assumed that such players then would immediately hit the open market. That could have positioned the Miami Heat to add players such as Baron Davis, Rashard Lewis, Brendan Haywood or Brandon Roy at the NBA salary minimum, with the players’ previous teams still paying their full salaries. (Team-by-team decisions on specific players, if any, to receive amnesty releases will not be announced until after the CBA is ratified.) However, in an outline of the proposed collective-bargaining agreement obtained by the Sun Sentinel, the NBA instead has instituted “a modified waiver process” that would allow teams operating below the salary cap to “submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract.” For example, while Lewis has two years at $44 million total remaining on his contract, a team currently operating below the salary cap could bid to pay Lewis $3 million in each of those years (with the Washington Wizards, who are expected to make Lewis available, then paying the balance of his salary). “Some of it is still not 100-percent worked out,” a party familiar with the impending policy told the Sun Sentinel.

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Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: I will admit (and not just because it’s easy to look up online) that I didn’t think the NBA owners and players had it in them to reach agreement. I believed a majority on each side of the table wanted to save the 2011-12 season, but I also believed that process and protocol had got the better of them. They knew what they should do, but they didn’t know how to do it — that’s what I thought would be the epitaph on this lost season. But they turned out to be bigger than the overwhelming circumstances. This is not a perfect deal, and it is surely loaded with all kinds of unintended consequences. For all anyone knows, the efforts to limit the dominance of the richest franchises could wind up giving them more power than ever, should a hardened salary cap inspire the players to chase endorsement income in the absence of a big free-agent payday. There are going to be bad feelings all around, and you may see some players refusing to do any commercial or public service work for their teams as an act of protest for the deal they feel was shoved down their throats. For objective people, however, it does no good to exclusively blame the players or the team owners. Because each side needs the other. Together they built up the NBA, together they threatened to bring it down, and together they came to an agreement when they finally realized just how much they need each other. These negotiations could have meant the end for the NBA. What they wound up generating was not the solution to all of their problems. But it is a beginning. In this world, a beginning is something to be celebrated.

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Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The NBA and Players Association are discussing the formation of a committee to study the age minimum for the league’s draft with the possibility that no immediate changes to the “one-and-done” rule will come in the finalization of the new collective bargaining agreement, a league official told Yahoo! Sports. “Only the agreement to have the committee may be part of the new CBA,” the source said. “I doubt it will have any affect on the 2012 draft.” This could mean the current class of star college freshmen, including potential No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky, will have the opportunity to enter the 2012 draft. The draft’s age rule is considered one of several “B-list” issues that were tabled in settlement talks, but must be resolved in negotiations before the league and players can get a signed agreement. The NBA and its players must still negotiate several more issues, including drug testing and NBA Developmental League assignments. The shelving of the age minimum debate buys the league more time to deal with the high-profile and impactful issue. For now, the rule calls for American-born players to turn 19 during the calendar year of the draft and be one year removed from their high school graduating class. Since its inception, the rule has created an era in college basketball known as the “one-and-done,” where many top players have spent one year on campus before leaping to the NBA. Within the NBA, there’s a growing movement to create a rule similar to Major League Baseball, which requires college players to stay three years before becoming eligible for the draft. Some NBA teams have suggested a system in which the age minimum for the draft would be 20. Under that scenario, non-international players also would have to wait until two years after their senior high school class has graduated.

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Howard Beck of The New York Times: Can that Eddy Curry deal be undone? Can we make Gilbert Arenas disappear? Is there a purple pill we can take? Is there an app for that? Sadly, no. But the N.B.A. is giving every team a multimillion-dollar do-over as part of its new labor deal. The league calls it the “amnesty” clause. General managers call it a get-out-of-jail-free card. It will be available starting Dec. 9, when the N.B.A. reopens for business. Under the amnesty provision, each team can waive one player and remove him from the salary cap — creating room to sign another player and potentially saving millions in luxury-tax penalties. The money does not disappear. The player must still be paid. But the provision could give a few teams some relief and put an extra jolt in the free-agent market. Arenas could be set loose by the Orlando Magic, who owe him $62.4 million over the next three years. Rashard Lewis ($46 million, two years) could be dumped by the Washington Wizards. Brandon Roy, Baron Davis and Metta World Peace — the player formerly known as Ron Artest — could all spill into the market. All were considered stars at one time, and each could be helpful to another team — at a more reasonable price, of course. There is, however, one minor caveat for the amnesty watchers and World Peace enthusiasts: most teams will not use the provision. “I don’t think there will be very many at all,” said one team executive, who asked to remain anonymous while the lockout remains in effect.

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Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: [NBA Commissioner] David Stern played this one beautifully, getting his new deal done in time to celebrate Christmas. Think of it as the league’s gift to you. At least that’s what the NBA will trumpet now that it has avoided cancelling an entire season. What a crock. Stern never had any intention of flushing his NBA down the toilet for an entire season, although he held that over everyone’s heads. He knew he would pay the ultimate penalty. His legacy would be destroyed. But in the end, he got what he wanted, when he wanted it. When he announced the deal at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday, he mentioned the Christmas opener in the very first sentence of his opening statement. He went into the lockout talking tough about no guaranteed contracts for the players and giving them only 37% of the pie. Utter nonsense, but it was the most sensible way to begin negotiating. Shoot for the stars and then gradually work his way up to what he was really looking for all along. Since July 1 he talked tough. But a lot of what he said during the past 149 days was just good, old negotiating. In a moment of weakness he admitted, “You take me more seriously than sometimes I take myself.” But all along, those who talked to the commissioner knew he had a blueprint for these negotiations. A 50-50 split of the $4 billion. Some harder cap features that will make it tougher for players to move around. A better revenue sharing system to help out the small-market teams. The only thing Stern won’t get is the unanimous vote from his side to approve the deal. “I would be disappointed if we did,”’ he said, drawing laughs.

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Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: And what, you may ask, is secondary waivers? The details still need to be ironed out in “secondary negotiations” between lawyers from the league office and the, ahem, union, but there is going to be a bidding process for players released under the amnesty clause of the new collective bargaining agreement. How will that bidding process work? Something like this: Let’s say the Orlando Magic decide to release Gilbert Arenas, who has $62 million remaining on his contract over the next three years, including $19.2 milion in the upcoming season. Arenas would first be placed on waivers, and it is safe to say that nobody is going to claim that contract during the 48-hour waiver period. But Arenas would then be placed on “secondary waivers,” and teams will space below the salary cap would be allowed to place bids on him. If the Sacramento Kings, to use a random example, were willing to spend $6 million to acquire him, and no one else made a higher bid, then he would become the Kings’ property (and the money the Magic would have to pay him this season would be reduced by whatever Arenas’ new team is paying him.) Remember, all teams now must spend a minimum of 85 percent of the cap (rising to 90 percent in Year 3 and beyond) , and the Kings are currently $17.5 million below the minimum. So this will give many of the under-the-cap teams (a group that also includes Denver, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington and New Orleans) to do some bargain hunting prior to the opening of training camps Dec. 9.

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Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: While things won’t be as tight as the NBA was proposing as recently as last week, there is still a great unknown in the Celts competing with other teams for the same free agents. Even if their offer is better than or equal to that of another club, president Danny Ainge may still not get his man. And in a year that is widely considered to be the last hurrah for the veteran trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett — at least in the same place — there is pressure to extract as much from 2011-12 as possible. By all accounts, the Celtics will look quite different when they arrive for training camp next autumn. And even if expiring contracts Allen and Garnett come back on short deals, the team will have to lean more on others. Yet as he bellies up to the season for last call, Allen is undeterred by the obstacles that face his club in the next few weeks and beyond regarding putting a proper group together. “I’m not concerned,” Allen said. “I have faith in the organization and in Danny. “For the last four years he’s put together a team that could contend for the championship and be one of the best teams in the league.” Allen further figures the Celtics situation will be mitigated because they won’t be alone in the boat. “It’s going to be league-wide,” he said. “Every team is going to be facing the same problems or challenges.” Besides, Allen believes he and his teammates have enough pressing personal responsibilities without concerning themselves with the work duties of others in the organization. “The important thing for us during the time off is that we as players need to keep ourselves ready and stay in shape,” said Allen, with a nod toward the fact training camp isn’t expected to open until Dec. 9. “I think it’s important that we’re not gallivanting around the world. We have to be ready for when we start playing.”

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Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Over the next six years, the owners succeeded in shifting more than 1 billion dollars into their pockets by negotiating their share of the Basketball-Related Income split from 43 percent in the old deal to a 49 percent to 51 percent band in the new deal. That number could grow to more than 2 billion if both parties agree to continue the deal through to its full 10-year length. In addition to the players’ 10-figure financial give-back, the owners received major concessions on virtually every important issue governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contract lengths are getting shorter from a maximum of six years to a maximum of five years for players who are re-signing and four years for other free agents, meaningfully reducing the level of financial security players feel while also reducing the burden of bad contracts on a team. The mid-level exception system is shrinking, which hits the middle class free agents hardest while helping to keep owners from overpaying for mediocre talent. The luxury tax system is getting tougher, which limits the very highest-spending teams’ ability to compete and/or set the market for free agents while theoretically creating a slightly more level playing field between large and small market teams. Whether or not you agree with the logic behind these major changes, their collective impact combined with the clear financial victory makes this negotiation a strong-arm highway robbery. And all it cost: less than 20 percent of the games in one season (and some hurt feelings among die-hard fans).

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Bill Reiter of FoxSports.com: At the root of the myriad pieces of good news stemming from NBA owners and players reaching tentative agreement to start the season on Christmas Day is this simple fact: Those entangled in the long lockout realized the NBA is not, in fact, the NFL. Thus, instead of the universal “Hallelujah!” that greeted football’s return after its own lockout this summer was Saturday’s mixture of relief, and the sense it’s about darn time. Thus, an NBA season that had more to sell this season than in any other in more than a decade will in fact go forward. Thus, on Christmas Day, what I honestly believe is the most exciting sports league in the country will showcase itself with a tip-off that includes the Miami Heat at Dallas, where LeBron & Co. will get a good look at what their ring ceremony might have looked like; the Chicago Bulls facing the Lakers in a game where we’ll get a good look at a league-wide storyline in which the future of the NBA competes against its soon-to-be past; and the new-look and actually relevant New York Knicks, where everyone gets to see whether the Carmelo Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire-led Knicks are now on the same level as the Boston Celtics. No, the NBA is not the NFL. But now that it’s coming back, it’s got a fantastic chance to inch closer, and certainly can compete aggressively with Major League Baseball and NCAA football for No. 2 in America’s sporting landscape. Finally, against all the greed, hardheadedness and self-inflicted damage the owners and players flirted with, the NBA has a chance to be more exciting than it’s been in a long time. This year threatens to surpass even last in drama, narratives and great basketball.

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28 Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Chris, I’m glad you brought attention to the deficiencies in the new schedule. All these NBA writers are so happy to have basketball back that they’re just glossing over the horrendous scheduling details of the upcoming season. I understand the excitement, but the new schedule is going to be awful man. Why the H.ELL can’t every team play every other team at least once? Why are division and conference games emphasized so dramatically in the new schedule? I don’t want to see each team play 4 intradivison games when we could be watching intriguing interconference matchups instead. It’s like they’re trying to turn the NBA into MLB. Baseball is the most disgusting sport ever invented. I don’t want my beloved NBA to ever turn into the MLB!!!!!

  2. James says:

    Eastern Conference Finals Predictions:

    Miami Vs Chicago (Chicago Wins)

    Western Conference Finals Predictions:

    Lakers VS OKC (Lakers Wins)

    Lakers Win the Championship. This is just my opinion people.

  3. ray allen #1 fan says:

    LETS GO CELTICS!

  4. DrPepper434343 says:

    T-Mac All The Way (He’s comming back)

  5. TRUTH says:

    REAL TALK im not a fan of no one but if d rose happen to find a real two guard like brandon roy with the added d fence help in rookie jimmy buttler from marquett truthfuly the EAST WIIL BE WON for the next 5 years …miami-new york-orlando-ECT have nothing comeing U DO THE MATH.???? YOURS TRUELY.mr. call it how i see it!! mello&amiri NO D—wade&james NO SUPPORTING CAST— dwight WILL LEAVE AFTER THIS YEAR—who else is there hungry enouf to over come the east outher thand that cold hearted citty CHICAGO if rose get a real 2 guard….WHO????

    • Gary says:

      East coast teams are definitely getting stronger in terms of playoff potential. Still hard for me to say that the east will be the most dominate coast for the next few years. It really all depends on how LA runs under Brown, and if San Antonio’s performance last year was their swan song. To me those were the most dominate teams for the past 10 years so if they are out of the mix then the east teams have better shots of winning.

  6. MaFox says:

    maybe Prez meant the CONFERENCE finals. lol critical much fellas?

  7. Gary says:

    Last season everyone had predictions about what would happen…none of them came true. Let me kick off this season predictions by saying Miami vs Chicago or NY for east finals, Lakers Vs Oklahoma or Blazers for west finals. Lakers are most likely to win the finals but hoping for the Heat.

  8. Celtics fan says:

    I’m a Celtics fan but I think this year Lebron and Dwayne wade will sweep the Lakers in the finals :D

  9. carlos says:

    first of all the knicks vs heat cant be the finals because they are in the same conference. Second the knicks will not get chris paul because of the new cba. read it first before everybody starts making all these stupid speculations. and finally this deal was intended to stop all the big spenders and well organized teams from exposing all these looser teams that want to blame there bad management from getting an edge. example gilbert arenas getting a max contract. common people. and finally dwight howard is going to the lakers and it is over why have an nba season.jajaja jk….. you can all try but wont win jajajaj jk…

  10. Blackmamba24 says:

    Prez shows how much you know Basketball… how in the world are the Knicks & Heat gonna be in the Finals if they’re in the same CONFERENCE? LOL!

  11. damn! says:

    if cp3 goes to knicks it is going to be a better big 3 than the heat…
    different position different game type.

  12. Prez says:

    Go Knicks this season finals wil be Knicks vs Heat I guearantee you… seeing that Paul is moving to NY Knicks will be unstoppeble big 3 vs other big 3

  13. purple shag says:

    This is a monumental occasion and a handshake deal that will go down in the history of those that love hoops. Time to get to the real task at hand, watching giants in matching outfits command the Spalding.

    There has been some clear winners in this whole thing. Derek Fisher’s tailor for one. But if you compare the last 2 offseasons, they could not have been more polar opposite for anyone than King James. The hysteria of summer 2010 contrasted with this off season where he has been completely out of the spotlight.

    More on that and the end of the lockout here

    http://therestijustsquandered.com/2011/11/28/handshakes4hoops/

  14. ShAdy says:

    GO KNICKS!
    im from Toronto but a Melo fan

  15. Chris says:

    From what I’ve heard, what is really unbelieveable in regards to this 66 game schedule is that 6 eastern conference teams will be deprived of a home game vs the Lakers – generally their biggest home game of the season, and likewise 6 western conference teams will be deprived of a home game vs the Heat and/or the Celtics – again arguably some of the very biggest games of the season for their respective home schedules. You would think those in charge could have guaranteed us fans of at least being able to save us these huge games in every venue, but no, we are screwed yet again by the NBA! – Chris

  16. Luis Carag says:

    Wait till the disgusted fans come decide to stay home instead of watching the games ….. it’s still a loss for everyone
    Everyone got greedy here and forgot about the Fans ….

  17. clarencelovesNBA says:

    After 165days of getting pissed off and being patient. The lockout is finally. It really doesnt matter who plays this coming xmas.. what important to me is to see this guyz playing on a high level. weve got a lot of great teams this year! EXCITED? YES I AM!!

  18. Luis Carag says:

    Just wait and see how disgusted fans decide to stay home and watch the game on TV…… Greedy , both sides!

  19. jj says:

    It is silly how Steve Ashburner, in his last article, made a list of the so-called real losers (he mentions teams and players) of this lockout without ever mentioning the actual real losers of this pathetic drama: the arena employees, and the other employees who have been laid off because there was no activity for 5 months. I feel bitter about this, and I can’t completely rejoice about the end of the lockout. Nba, you rubbed me the wrong way, and my money is not going to go to you anymore. Silly animals.

    • Gary says:

      Some stadium workers were out of work but not all. Truth is that many of those workers are not employees of the NBA, rather they are workers for whoever owns the arena. So yes the NBA lockout affected them, but these workers know how working for sporting teams can have down times. By the way piss off with your subliminal racism.

  20. Anthony says:

    cool

  21. Esau Spruill says:

    I’m very glad there will be a NBA season. However when you listen to all the talk as far as the teams to watch my KNICKS aren’t even mentioned! Ok so they got swept in the first round last season, but with STAT AND MELO I feel the Knicks are a team to watch as well!!! GIVE THE KNICKS SOME RESPECT!!!!!!!!!

  22. My main concern now that the deal is done, is how is this new deal going to affect current teams with multiple superstars. Will teams like the New York Knicks and Miami Heat have to eventually dismantle their roster due to the changes in the new collective bargaining agreement leading to higher taxes? Would love to read an article talking about this in particular.

    Glad the lockout is over and I want you guys to know that despite me being upset about the whole thing, I am still a loyal fan and will continue to be one.

    • David says:

      I’ve never swayed as a NBA fan mainly because I don’t watch any other sport. I am a heat fan, and I look for them to have a excellent season this year.