Posts Tagged ‘Arn Tellem’

Morning Shootaround — March 1


VIDEO: Highlights of the seven Saturday night games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Morris wants more fan support in Phoenix | Harden vs. LeBron for MVP argument? | Randy Wittman accepts accountability in Washington | Rondo back, coping in Dallas

No. 1: Morris wants more fan support in Phoenix — After his team set a franchise-record low for points in a half, and then provided relief for the rodeo road-weary Spurs, Suns forward Markieff Morris addressed the issue of support for the Suns. You could argue the Suns didn’t deserve much on Saturday when they were wiped out by San Antonio and really didn’t put up much of a fight all night. Also, keep in mind that Morris was perhaps speaking out of frustration, realizing the Suns’ playoff chances might be slipping away in the West. Still, he went on a measured rant, wondering why the building never seems noisy enough for the Suns. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic was willing to listen:

“I don’t think we have a home-court advantage,” Markieff said. “It does not feel like a home-court advantage at all. Some games are going to be bad. You can’t win every game. That comes along with sports. Nobody wins games. We need the support. We need, as a team, to know that our fans are going to be behind us and I don’t feel like this year they’re behind us enough.

“I feel like we do have those genuine Suns fans but, for the most part, I feel like we had more San Antonio than Phoenix fans tonight.”

In the first Spurs visit of the season, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver apologized to fans and offered refunds for a preseason game in which the Spurs did not play their stars. After this Spurs 101-74 drubbing included their stars, the fourth sellout crowd of the season received only advice.

“They don’t boo, but they don’t cheer that much, either,” Markieff said. “We feed off, for the most part, off the energy. I know we’re a lot better than that. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. Like I said, we have a lot of genuine fans that cheers for us – the ones that are in the first row, in the second row, in the third row. Once you go up, you feel like people were just at the game, just watching.”

Markieff made a point to say the sentiment was not specific to Saturday night. The Suns are 17-13 at home this season with six of the home losses coming to losing teams.

“I speak for me and my teammates,” Markieff said. “It depends on who’s playing here. When we have the LeBrons and the D-Wades, we need to be heckling them. We need the fans to win games. We need the energy from them to win a lot of games, and we need that every night, not just certain nights.

“Every night is not going to be a great night. It’s going to happen. Stuff like that is going to happen. We expect more from them because I know they expect more from us.”

***

No. 2: Harden vs. LeBron for MVP argument? — The MVP debate, heating up in recent weeks, will take a turn Sunday when the Cavs play the Rockets and more specifically, LeBron James shares the floor with James Harden. As you know, LeBron is a 4-time MVP winner, Harden is looking for his first, and has a solid chance. He leads the league in 40-point games (6) and 30-point games (25) and has the Rockets squarely in the hunt in the West despite missing Dwight Howard. In fact, an amusing moment happened at the Sloan analytics conference over the weekend when Rockets GM Daryl Morey sat on a panel with Warriors GM Bob Myers had an exchange when asked their thoughts on the MVP race. Morey said Harden; Myers noted that Steph Curry and the Warriors have a better record and are 4-0 against the Rockets. Also on the panel was agent Arn Tellum, who chimed in for his client: “Russ Westbrook is better than both of them.” Anyway, Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk had this:

“Take James Harden off our team, and we’re nowhere,” Morey said.

Fodder for Mark Cuban? Yes.

True? To a degree. Harden has successfully carried a heavy load with Dwight Howard in and out of the lineup due to injury. Houston outscores opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions when Harden plays and get outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions when he sits.

Of course, Morey has long admired Harden, trading for him in 2012. That deal has been revisited countless times with the Thunder grading out poorly in hindsight – despite how reasonable the deal seemed at the time.

But perhaps Oklahoma City deserves criticism for negotiating poorly, given how badly Morey says he wanted Harden.

“We basically told the owner, ‘We should just give them everything. Like, literally, every possible thing that isn’t bolted down with the Rockets should be traded,’” Morey said.

***

No. 3:  Randy Wittman accepts accountability in Washingtonn — The Wizards have had better weeks and months, but at least Saturday was a better day — barely. They slipped past the Pistons and in the process brought themselves some relief from a 6-game slide and a pair of embarrassing losses to a pair of 12-win teams. The good news is Bradley Beal returned from his injury and so did Paul Pierce. No disrespect to Pierce, but the Wizards missed Beal the most. They don’t have a solid backup at his two-guard spot and as a result, John Wall forced too many shots from distance, the kind he doesn’t usually make. The Wizards scored 60 points in the first half against the Pistons and shot 55 percent. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to match the mojo they had early in the season. And if they don’t, well, plenty of speculation will surround coach Randy Wittman, because this team was expected, by management, to take a considerable step in the East. The playoffs will tell. Anyway, Wittman acknowledged the Wizards have been underperforming. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post had this from the coach …

“First and foremost, I’m the leader of this, of the group, and I’ve got to do a better job,” Wittman said. “I’m not doing a good enough job of putting guys in position to succeed better, instilling the confidence in these guys to go out and play. It starts with me. . . . I’ve got to do a better job, obviously, of getting our guys through tough times. That’s my job.”

Beal and Pierce provided what the Wizards’ offense was sorely lacking — dynamic play on the wing. Both players spread the floor with three-point shooting and attacked seams off the dribble, areas that were glaring liabilities during their previous two losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.

Their imprint was evident in the first half: The Wizards scored 60 points, shot 55.8 percent from the field and made six three-pointers. Washington played with a sense of confidence and freedom not apparent during much of their rut as Wittman incorporated rotation adjustments. In addition to having Beal play with the second unit, which he often did before his eight-game absence, Wittman added Pierce to the lineup.

“We came out as good as we’ve come out both defensively and offensively,” Wittman said. “Again, it starts with me, and I have to figure it out. I can’t explain to you how you play one half and then as soon as a team makes any kind of run we stop playing. That’s what we do — we stop playing. I have to figure out how to help the guys overcome that.

***

No. 4: Rondo back, coping in Dallas — OK, so it’s over, the Rajon Rondo snit with coach Rick Carlisle. Where do we go from here? As Rondo made his way back into the lineup after a 1-game suspension due to conduct detrimental to Carlisle, both the coach and player have had discussions on how to be on the same page philosophically. Rondo has struggled since arriving from the Celtics and feels the system might need tweaking to his liking. Carlisle seems agreeable to that, but only if it’s in the best interest of the Mavericks, and not just one player. Hey, they’re making an honest attempt here! Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas offers up this:

“That’s just the way it is,” Rondo said almost an hour after the Brooklyn Nets handed the Dallas Mavericks a 104-94 loss, having wrapped up an extended postgame shooting session. “That’s the system. I’m still learning, and I’ll find a way.”

Of course, it’s Carlisle’s job to help Rondo find a way. That’s why they’ve spent hours talking over the past four days. Some of the plays Carlisle called proved his willingness to adjust, attempting to make the Mavs’ midseason blockbuster-trade acquisition comfortable.

Case in point: Dallas repeatedly ran sets designed to run the offense through Rondo on the block, a new wrinkle for these Mavs but old hat for the four-time All-Star point guard.

“I think he’s mixed some stuff up as far as what worked for me in Boston a couple of years back when we had a great run,” Rondo said. “Just put the ball in my hands in different situations, not just pounding up top. Getting in the post and making plays for my teammates and for myself.”

The results weren’t great in Rondo’s return. He posted a so-so statistical line — eight points on 4-of-10 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 turnovers — but the Mavs were minus-22 in the 27:43 Rondo was on the floor.

In fairness, Rondo and the Mavs were forced to play without three of their regular starters. Center Tyson Chandler (hip) and small forward Chandler Parsons (ankle) wore sport coats and sat on the bench while nursing injuries. Shooting guard Monta Ellis (4-of-16 shooting) just didn’t show up.

But perhaps the Mavs’ biggest issue is figuring out how to make the square peg that is Rondo fit into the round hole that is the point guard’s role in Carlisle’s system.

If Carlisle had his way, the Mavs would never have to call a play. They’d just play free-flowing offense at all times. But that doesn’t work with Rondo, whose shooting woes allow defenses to dare him to beat them from the perimeter, screwing up the spacing for everybody else.

So the Mavs must adjust their offensive scheme to mask Rondo’s weaknesses and maximize his strengths.

“We’re in a situation where his abilities mesh with our team a certain way, and there is more play-calling when he’s on the floor because that’s been the most successful way for us to play offensively,” Carlisle said earlier this week. “He and I early on talked a lot about the right plays to call and the right tempo to play at and things like that, and we got away from it in recent games. We’ve got to get back to it. That’s on both of us.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Russell Westbrook underwent surgery on his right cheek and will not play Sunday … Bismack Byiombo of the Hornets is a good dude, taking the homeless to lunch… Hassan Whiteside grabbed 24 rebounds Saturday and the Heat still lost to a Hawks team resting three starters …

Players’ union may name Hunter’s replacement at Las Vegas meetings

The NBA players association’s 18-month search for a permanent executive director could come to an end next week in Las Vegas when members of the NBPA executive committee and other union reps meet with finalists for the position.

As part of the union’s annual summer meetings, the hiring of a replacement for Billy Hunter, ousted at All-Star Weekend in Houston in February 2013 amid allegations of allegations of conflicts of interest and mismanagement, looms as the biggest likely headline. Chris Paul, point guard of the Los Angeles Clippers, was elected NBPA president at last year’s meetings in August after a four-year run as one of several vice presidents.

An executive search overseen by Sacramento Mayor (and former NBA All-Star) Kevin Johnson and conducted by Chicago-based Reilly Partners was in the final stages of winnowing a list of 18 to 20 candidates down to a trio of finalists, league sources told NBA.com. The three candidates will be presented on Monday afternoon, one insider specified, with each scheduled for 45-minute sessions to give their visions and qualifications to the members. Deliberation would take place that evening, with a vote tentatively scheduled for 8 p.m. PDT.

Johnson, who in his most recent NBA incarnation helped broker the deal for his city to keep the Sacramento Kings and thwarting a potential sale and move to Seattle, was enlisted in April to assist in the NBPA search. In May, Johnson met with players and agents in Chicago, synched up to the pre-draft camp held in that city, to update them on the search’s progress.

Prior to Johnson’s involvement, the NBPA had moved slowly in the process. Despite the presence of deputy general counsel Ron Klempner as the acting executive director, the NBA had cited several matters on which it was awaiting Hunter’s permanent replacement, including the possible implementation of testing for human growth hormone (HGH) use.

By All-Star Weekend in New Orleans last February, two leading candidates had emerged: David White, an executive with the Screen Actors Guild, and Michele Roberts, a corporate lawyer from New York.

But more recently, two more names – New York Knicks GM Steve Mills and powerful NBA agent Arn Tellem – have surfaced. Last weekend, longtime basketball writer Peter Vecsey speculated on both men via Twitter, pivoting to Tellem by Monday based on word that Knicks boss Phil Jackson is happy with his working relationship with Mills:

Tellem, 60, is considered to be one of the most influential sports agent in the world. He serves as Vice Chairman on the Wasserman Media Group and, according to his biography on that firm’s Web site, has negotiated NBA and MLB contracts worth more than $3.5 billion since 2008. The basketball site Hoopshype.com ranks Tellem first among NBA agents with a stable of 35 clients and contracts totaling nearly $273 million.

It was Tellem who, in January 2013, wrote a letter to his players calling for Hunter’s firing. He was among a group of powerful agents during the 2011 lockout who called for the union to decertify, which would have removed Hunter from his position then while providing new leverage toward a resolution.

If Tellem is among the NBPA search’s finalists, his client relationships could be an issue for players who haven’t used his services. As one former NBA player knowledgeable in union business put it, “With all of his players and all of his friends who are agents, all those relationships you have, how do you make decisions and judgments in an unbiased way?”

The ex-player added: “Arn is a great negotiator, without a doubt. It would be interesting to see him across the table from Adam Silver in 2016.”

The current collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners can be re-opened by either side after the 2016-17 season, with talks for a new deal presumably beginning sometime late in 2016. The next round of labor talks will be Silver’s first as NBA commissioner, though he was heavily involved and influential as David Stern‘s deputy during previous negotiations.

In other NBPA news, Bloomberg.com reported this week that the union spent about $5.42 million on the internal audit that resulted in Hunter’s dismissal. That amounts to $12,378 per each of the 438 members, compared to $10,000 annual dues.

Morning Shootaround — June 20


VIDEO: Injury issues could cost Joel Embiid the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s Draft

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Celtics still interested in Embiid | LeBron’s next move defines him | Cavs go bold with David Blatt | Warriors have to break up Splash Bros. to get some Love

No. 1: Injury or not, Celtics still interested in Embiid — Fear has never been a part of the program in Boston under Danny Ainge. If there is a risk to be taken, Ainge is usually interested in at least exploring the possibilities. And now that the Draft world has been shaken to its core with the news that projected top overall pick Joel Embiid will have surgery on his foot today, in addition to the lingering issues about the back injuries that curtailed his freshman season at Kansas, Ainge’s curiosity factor has to be on high. And as Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely of  CSNNE.com points out, the Celtics have been down this road before in the Draft:

The stress fracture in Joel Embiid‘s right foot will certainly scare some teams away from selecting him near the top of the draft.

But the Boston Celtics aren’t one of them.

In fact, a source tells CSNNE.com that the Celtics will give some serious thought to potentially moving up in the draft to select him.

Boston has kept “all options” open leading up to the draft, including the possibility of moving up from their current No. 6 spot.

However, Embiid’s injury gives them added incentive because this injury – which comes on the heels of a fractured back injury that shortened his lone season at Kansas – opens the door for them to acquire the player with the most upside in this year’s draft.

This latest setback which will force him to miss all of summer league and puts the start to his NBA career on uncertain ground, raises more and more questions about the 7-footer’s durability.

Embiid’s camp sounds resigned to the idea that he won’t be the No. 1 overall pick.

His agent Arn Tellem told Yahoo! Sports, “Joel will be unable to participate in any additional workouts, and will not attend the draft in New York.”

Boston heard similar concerns about Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, players they selected who came into the draft with health concerns.

Although Bradley has had multiple injuries since the Celtics drafted him with the No. 19 pick in 2010, the 6-foot-2 guard has developed into one of the NBA’s premiere on-the-ball defenders.

Sullinger, drafted with No. 21 in 2012 after being projected as a lottery pick (top-14), underwent season-ending back surgery after appearing in 45 games during his rookie season.

He bounced back this past season and did not miss any games due to his back.

Moving up to get Embiid certainly would be a high-risk move by Boston. But considering he has the most upside in this year’s draft, the 7-foot native of Cameroon just might be worth the gamble with favorable comparisons made to a young Hakeem Olajuwon.

(more…)

Union Chief Hunter Suggests Reforms To Thwart … His Past Abuses?

National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, under fire from charges of nepotism and conflicts of interest in recent weeks, announced a series of “governance reforms” Wednesday to be presented to the union at All-Star Weekend.

The measures, as described in an NBPA release, seem designed to prevent the sort of abuses in which Hunter was found to have engaged in, according to an independent investigation commissioned by the players and released Jan. 17. That report led to a letter from Arn Tellem, one of sports’ top player agents, to his clients that was made public Tuesday and called for Hunter’s dismissal.

Hunter responded Tuesday, according to multiple media reports, by announcing the termination of his daughter and daughter-in-law from union-related positions and severing investment relations with Prim Capital, where his son was employed. The NBPA announcement one day later makes those moves official and recommends other policy changes.

Presumably, those will include greater oversight over NBPA contracts, since Hunter’s most recent extension — upping his annual salary to approximately $3 million — was alleged to have been reviewed only by one attorney, since deceased, without full approval of the executive committee.

The NBPA statement includes a summary of the controversy from Hunter:

“While the external report contains various recommendations in several key areas, it is incumbent upon the Executive Director, Executive Committee, and Player Representatives to ensure the smooth operation of the union. In my work for the NBPA, my priority has always been to promote the interests of the players.  Through the benefit of hindsight, as with any executive, there are always things that could have been done better, ” added Hunter.

It will be up to the league’s player reps, and overall union membership, at All-Star Weekend to decide if the moves are better late than never. Or more barn door closed after the horse is gone.

Union Chief Hunter Faces More Scrutiny, Acts On Nepotism Claim In Report

All-Star Weekend is the NBA’s de facto annual convention, a mostly happy mix of basketball, brand-building, show biz, sponsorships and celebration, with a little bit of league business thrown in. Things figure to be a little more heavy this year, however, from the players’ side.

The National Basketball Players Association will be faced with serious questions about executive director Billy Hunter’s fitness to continue in his current position, based on reports Tuesday by the New York Times and Bloomberg News. They represent the latest challenges to Hunter’s performance, coming in the wake of the Jan. 17 release of an independent law firm’s findings. That report, commissioned by the players, was strongly critical of the executive director’s business practices.

In the Times’ piece, Arn Tellem, one of the NBA’s most powerful player agents, called for Hunter’s removal and urged that they take action at All-Star Weekend in Houston. The paper obtained a copy of Tellem’s letter to his players.

“N.B.A. players deserve better representation from the union they fund,” Tellem writes in the letter. “I implore you and your fellow players to take control of your union and your future. It’s time for Mr. Hunter to go.”

Tellem suggests that players should make that decision when the players association holds its annual All-Star meeting on the weekend of Feb. 15 to 17. That is also when the players will discuss the recent audit, by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Representatives of the firm are expected to present the findings and answer questions.

In his letter, Tellem suggests that Hunter should not be allowed to attend that meeting to prevent him from any attempt “to intimidate and manipulate.” Tellem writes: “Hunter is betting that the players — historically passive — will let him slide. I hope you don’t. Clearly, Hunter has violated your trust.”

The Bloomberg story reported that Hunter dismissed family members from union roles after the Paul, Weiss report cited its findings of nepotism and conflict of interest  The moves were disclosed in a Jan. 23 letter Hunter wrote to a special committee of players.

The New York-based union paid almost $4.8 million to Hunter’s family members and their professional firms since 2001, according to public records. Hunter makes $3 million a year as union chief.

“Hopefully this decision will alleviate any concerns raised by their employment,” Hunter wrote in the letter. “These measures are being taken although the report noted that both of them were highly qualified, not overpaid, and were contributing members of the NBPA staff.”

Robyn Hunter, the director’s daughter, ceased working at the union on Jan. 25, according to the letter. Megan Inaba, his daughter-in-law and director of special events and sponsorships, will leave on Feb. 17 after the National Basketball Association’s All-Star weekend.

Hunter, 70, also secured a letter of resignation from Prim Capital, which employs his son, Todd.

Hunter, through union spokesman Dan Wasserman, declined to comment on the letter or his family’s employment changes.

The independent report of two weeks ago focused on Hunter’s ethics and raised questions about the approval process for his current five-year contract as director, worth approximately $15 million. Tellem’s letter was highly critical of Hunter’s performance in leading NBA players through the 2011-12 lockout.

Tellem was one of six agents who, at the height of tensions during the dispute, called for the union to decertify, which would have removed him as a principal in the process. He resisted, only later accepting the players’ strategy to file a “disclaimer of interest” as a less strident – and perhaps less effective – alternative.

More from the Times story:

Tellem devotes a major portion of his letter to criticizing Hunter’s handling of the lockout, saying that the union chief was “tactically, strategically and logistically unprepared” and that Commissioner David Stern “outmaneuvered Mr. Hunter from the get-go.” The decision to reject decertification, Tellem writes, showed that Hunter was “more concerned with saving his job and salary than in making the best deal for the players.”

The procedure for firing Hunter is not entirely clear, although it would presumably begin with the 60 or so player representatives (two from each team). The union also has a nine-player executive board, but that board has seven vacancies because of the union’s failure to hold an election within the last year. An election is scheduled for All-Star weekend.

Last year at this time, parties on both sides – owners and players – were happy just to have salvaged a season that could include a 2012 All-Star Weekend. The 2013 edition figures to be a lot more work and a little more heated.

Labor Talks: Time To Make A Move

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time keeping up. Most of us are in the same spot, trying to figure out who is for what as the clock ticks down to the league’s 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline for the players to either take or dismiss the league’s 50-50 proposal.

Some players are all for making a deal, as Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports:

“We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”

Some others are not. Some of the owners are for it and apparently, per ESPN.com‘s sources, some others are not. It’s high time someone made a move, the right move to get the 2011-12 season up and running.

But when the sides can’t come to a consensus within their own caucuses, it’s tough to see some sort of breakthrough if and when the sides come together again to try and hash out the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement.

With the union representatives from all 30 teams set to meet today in New York, in advance of Wednesday’s end-of-business deadline, plenty of observers are a little nervous about what type of movement could emerge from the gathering. The players have limited options at this point. They can take a vote on the proposal and decide to take the deal, bowing to the league’s “ultimatum,” as union president Derek Fisher called it over the weekend, and breathe life into a season and the NBA fan base. Or they can refuse to even consider it, as Fisher insisted in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s bargaining session, and push this affair into an even darker corner.

Fair or not, the players will own the next 36 hours of this mess.

(more…)

Labor Talks: Here We Go Again

***

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Did you wake up this morning wondering what the first weekend of November has in store for you, NBA fans?

Let us help.

How about another round of “talks,” perhaps even another round of hollow smiles and more posturing about deadlines that move at the whim of the men on both sides of the league’s labor dispute and even a scare tactic or two that threatens to cost us the entire 2011-12 season?

We completely understand if lockout fatigue syndrome is full-blown in your household. It’s choking the life out of things here at the hideout, where every breaking news blast is met with a raised eyebrow and questions about who might be pulling the strings on this latest stunt (the dissolution of the union is coming back to the forefront now).

(SI.com and NBA TV’s legal analyst Michael McCann details all of the particulars for you!)

They’ve met in small groups, larger groups and committees. There have been conference calls, secret ones and not-so-secret alike, news conferences and now threats of the union decertifying and still no sign of the one thing we need … a new collective bargaining agreement!

Substantive talks are one thing and we’d welcome anything in that neighborhood going on this weekend.

But showing up to a Manhattan hotel and sticking around just long enough to tell each other that nothing has changed is not what we’d consider progress.

And we’re not the only ones exhausted by the process …

***

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe captures the mood of many with his column that places the current state of affairs in the proper historical context:

It is very annoying for those of us who still love the sport of professional basketball to see what its custodians are currently doing to harm it. I wish it were as easy to decipher as the NFL madness. It was pretty easy to outfit the combatants in that one.

White Hats: Players

Black Hats: Owners

The NFL lockout was about very rich guys, all making a profit from their teams, wanting more. The players asked for nothing. Status quo was fine with them. There was a $9 billion pie, and there was ample opportunity for everyone to get a nice slice.

The NBA pie is worth “only’’ approximately $4 billion, and, unlike the NFL, not everyone makes a profit. That is clear. But just who is losing what remains unclear, because history teaches us that in these matters, professional sports teams make statements concerning their finances that, while perhaps not outright lies, are, shall we say, substantial stretches of the truth. Make that enormous, stupendous, astonishing stretches of the truth.

Labor Talks: Tick Tock, Tick Tock …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.

No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.

It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.

And now comes this crossroads moment, a “very huge day,” according to the words used by union president Derek Fisher in characterizing today’s session.

We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.

But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …

Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.

Here are some of the notable demands in the letter, which was obtained by SI.com from a player: (Click here for the full letter in PDF):

• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told SI.com recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.

• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.

• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.

• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.

• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.

(more…)

Labor: Where Do We Go From Here?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.

From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.

The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.

NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.

The labor talks have “Hit a wall,” as our very own Steve Aschburner points out, but he is not the only one shining a light on the hard cap vs. soft cap debate that seems be at the center of the impasse (this week).

You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.

Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …

The Union’s Next Test … Decertification

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?

“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.

“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.

“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”

Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.

There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.

(more…)

Memphis holding out on rookies

Remember the rookie holdout? Remember when the likes of Jim Jackson, Billy Owens and Glenn Robinson refused to ink that first NBA contract until they squeezed every nickel possible out of their teams?

Robinson was essentially the last of that breed when the Big Dog attempted to highjack Milwaukee for $100 million in 1994. Those days went the way of the underhanded free throw the following year with the implementation of the rookie salary scale.

The scale has undergone modifications over the years, but the essence remains the same. Rookies know almost to the penny what they’re going to get based on Draft position. It pretty much eliminates the guesswork of negotiations, making sure those NBA neophytes are signed and sealed long before training camp.

That brings Hang Time to the curious cases of Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, Memphis’ two unsigned first-round picks. The two guards, taken 12th and 28th, have yet to come to terms in an almost unprecedented display of hardball.

But instead of the players holding out for better deals, the Grizzlies are standing firm. The rookie salary scale allows each pick to sign for up to 120 percent of their slot figure. In the case of Henry, the slot is $1.68 million for this year. The starting amount for Vasquez is $863,000.

Most teams usually just go with the 120 percent figure and wrap up a contract. The Grizz aren’t opposed to going there, they just aren’t guaranteeing it. Memphis wants that last 20 percent to be tied to performance bonuses, such as playing 70 games and averaging 15 minutes for Henry.

The contract dispute has put the sharp-shooter out of Kansas behind in his early preparation for this summer, as Henry didn’t take part in Summer League. Still, about six weeks remain before training camp. Vasquez did play on the Grizzlies’ summer squad.

Henry’s agent Arn Tellem isn’t too thrilled with Memphis’ stance. Tellem told the Associated Press that only one player out of 450 drafted since the rookie scale began 15 years ago has agreed to performance bonuses. The Grizzlies apparently want to triple that figure.

“Basic fairness and equality are fundamental aspects of every positive organization-player relationship, and those concepts are totally absent from the Grizzlies’ current proposal to Xavier,” Tellem said.

Sounds like some good ole fashioned negotiating. We just don’t see it with rookies anymore. The Big Dog can relate.