HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of their Oklahoma City Thunder teammates spent their entire summer with a nagging pain eating away at them, knowing that they didn’t finish last season the way they wanted to.
Losing to the Miami Heat in The Finals is a stain on their record that won’t be shoved aside until they get back to The Finals and break through. But in the absence of a championship won on the court, the Thunder can revel in the fact that they’ve finished on top in another race.
The Thunder rank first overall in ESPN The Magazine’s 10th annual ranking of pro sports franchises, a list that includes 122 franchises from all the major sports. Fourteen NBA franchises — the Thunder, Spurs, Pacers, Grizzlies, Celtics, Sixers, Bulls, Mavericks, Heat, Jazz, Nuggets, Hornets, Cavs and Rockets — made the top 51. The most notable omission from that group, the Los Angeles Lakers, came in at No. 89.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – An Eric Gordon-Kendall Marshall backcourt of the future probably sounds good to the fans in Phoenix.
The Suns have done their best to make it a reality by offering Gordon, the Hornets restricted free agent shooting guard, a maximum salary contract worth $58 million over four years, ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard reports. It’s an offer Gordon intends to sign on July 11, the day players can sign contracts and offer sheets. The Hornets would then have three days to match that offer or let Gordon, their prize in a the Chris Paul trade last year with the Clippers, leave for Phoenix.
New Orleans has claimed all along that it will match any offer Gordon receives, but Gordon is hoping the Hornets do not match.
Gordon said Tuesday night that his preference is to play for the Suns, not the Hornets.
“After visiting the Suns, the impression the organization made on me was incredible,” Gordon said in a statement. “Mr. (Robert) Sarver, Lon Babby, Lance Blanks, the Front Office Staff and Coach (Alvin) Gentry run a first-class organization, and I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me. Phoenix is just where my heart is now.”
Gordon’s desire to leave the Hornets puts a damper on what had been a terrific week for the club. Last Thursday, New Orleans selected Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick in the draft and guard Austin Rivers at No. 10.
The league-wide assumption was that Gordon and the two rookies would form a trio that would lead the Hornets back to relevance. Of course, that could still be the case if New Orleans matches the offer.
Gordon’s statement makes for an interesting dance between the star guard and the Hornets over the next few days. The Hornets clearly had plans of their own where Gordon is concerned, even though they drafted Rivers (whose profile on Draft night is reminiscent to what Gordon’s was at the same stage.)
But if Gordon doesn’t want to be there, that obviously complicates matters a bit for the Hornets.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s still alive, the Brooklyn Nets’ dream of a Big 3 of their very own.
As long as they can continue the conversation with the Orlando Magic about a potential Dwight Howard trade, the Nets have hope that their master plan of Howard, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson joining forces is a possibility.
Never mind that only Johnson is all-but guaranteed to be in a Nets uniform as of this moment. Williams has not publicly made a decision about his future after Monday meetings with both the Nets and Mavericks.
The Nets and the Orlando Magic are discussing a trade that would send Howard to the Nets for Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and the Nets’ first-round picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017, sources said. Lopez and Humphries, who are both free agents, would go to Orlando in sign-and-trade deals.
The move would be the Nets’ second blockbuster trade this week and give them a big three of Howard, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson that could rival the NBA champion Miami Heat’s heralded trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The lasting image of All-Star center Dwight Howard from this season might very well be that scene at shootaround practice where he and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy did their “what did he say” tango.
… Howard will undergo back surgery Friday morning in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk, effectively ending his season and eliminating him from participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Howard’s agent said Thursday night.
Howard has been complaining of back problems since early March, but it wasn’t until Los Angeles-based spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins examined him last week that the herniated disk was discovered.
Howard received an epidural to alleviate the pain at that time and the plan was that he’d rest and rehabilitate his back for 10-14 days before deciding if he could return to play or further treatment might be necessary.
But his back has worsened and both Watkins and the Magic’s medical staff determined that surgery is necessary.
Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, said he hopes this development debunks any thoughts that Howard’s back problem was not serious and that he was utilizing it as an excuse not to play.
A report out of Orlando said that Howard told Magic owner Rich DeVos in a recent phone call that he did not intend to play again for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who put Howard in an awkward situation by announcing that management informed him his All-Star center had asked that he be fired. Fegan, along with other sources, have disputed that report.
As devastating as Howard’s loss is for the Magic, who have already clinched a playoff berth, it’s just as devastating for the Olympic team. There are other options at center, but no one on Howard’s level and with his experience playing with the national team.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Dwight Howard is indeed planning on leaving Orlando for greener pastures, the Orlando Magic don’t plan on making it easy for him to leave.
The Magic, with just a couple of weeks left to make a trade that might convince the free-agent-to-be Howard to stay, are reportedly making the moves necessary to convince the league’s best big man that he can reach all of his goals in a Magic uniform.
Instead of pursuing deals for Howard, ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard is reporting that they are pursuing deals to surround Howard with the sort of talent (Golden State’s Monta Ellis) to compete with the Heat and Bulls for the top spot in the Eastern Conference:
Howard has long mentioned Ellis, who is the seventh leading scorer in the league with a 22.2 points average, as someone he would love to play with.
Golden State is willing to listen to the Magic about a potential trade for its shooting guard, but there is little on Orlando’s roster that appeals to the Warriors, according to sources.
Thus, the sides are not close to having the parameters of a deal in place. Instead, Orlando will begin looking for other clubs to get involved in a three-or four-team deal that would satisfy the Warriors and bring Ellis to Orlando.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Well, that didn’t take long.
Just hours after rumblings that Andrew Bynumcould be used as bait to try to lure either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard to Los Angeles in a blockbuster trade, there comes even more fire from ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard.
Everyone on the Lakers’ roster not named Bryant is tradeable, per Broussard, and that includes Bynum, All-Star forward Pau Gasol and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award-winner Lamar Odom. While the idea of another super team, this time on the opposite coast, surely bothers the purists among us, it appears that this is where we are right now in the league:
While Paul’s first choice is to join buddies Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the New York Knicks, he would sign a long-term contract to stay with the Lakers, according to a source with knowledge of Paul’s thinking. And Howard’s fondness for Los Angeles is well-known, leaving no doubt that he would commit to the Lakers long-term.
Sources say Paul and Howard have had several conversations with each other about the possibility of playing together on various teams.
After deliberating for 24 hours, Players Association president Derek Fisher flew to New York on Thursday night to prepare for Friday’s labor settlement meeting with the NBA, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.
His appearance in this week’s negotiations – along with that of several other key Players Association officials – figures to run the risk of validating the league’s charges that the disbanding of the union was a “sham” negotiating tactic. Nevertheless, the belief that the end of the five-month lockout is within reach this weekend inspired Fisher to make the risky move to join the talks.
“I told my agent to just take a peek,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s time. There’s a possibility that we’re not going to have a season. We’ve got to see what’s out there, what the possibilities are. I want to play competitive basketball this year. I’ve missed a year of basketball in my life before. I’m not trying to miss another. I don’t have too many years of basketball left.”
“We’re just discussing it,” Goodwin said. “We’re in discussions and it’s definitely a consideration, but we’re not in the final stages.”
No one want to see some mass exodus of NBA stars at such a crucial time in these labor talks, and despite all of the legal proceedings going on around the country on behalf of both sides, we very much consider this an ongoing situation.
But we agree with most optimistic fringe in the belief that there is more than enough time on the calendar to turn this thing around and salvage some sort of an abbreviated season.
– 4:53 p.m.: If you’re like most of us, one minute you love Twitter. And the next … well, you know what’s on the other side of that line.
As huge a role as the social networks have played in this saga since July, you had to know they’d be on fire in the aftermath of today’s decision by the players to disband the union and reject the owners’ latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement.
SI.com‘s Point Forward blog captured the moment in all of its enigmatic splendor shortly after the decision came down. Click here to enjoy it/punch-a-hole-in-the-wall (careful, that wall doesn’t give much).
It comes from Seattle native and rookie Isaiah Thomas shouting out another diminutive guard from the Emerald City (which boasts one of the deepest NBA rosters in the league these days), Nate Robinson:
Welp, since we ain’t playing hoop in the NBA ima sign up for a 6ft and under league back at the crib u down @nate_robinson lol?
It’s not nearly as funny as it would have been four months ago!
NEW LABOR LEADERS SPEAK
– 4:27 p.m.: It didn’t take long to track down the men heading up the players’ fight in what has shifted from negotiations to a lawsuit.
Both union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and his new partner David Boies answered questions for reporters in New York after the union presser earlier this afternoon. Their answers shed some interesting light on where this process is headed (text courtesy of our friends at TrueHoop.com):
Since the decertification didn’t work for the NFL, how much better is this disclaimer?Boies: Well, remember, in the NFL case, the disclaimer …. although it was ruled valid by the district court, was never really decided by the court of appeals. The point, too, in the NFL case, was whether or not there could be an injunction. As you heard in there, we are not going to seek an injunction. While we’re going to go back, and we’re going to look at legal options, you heard Billy say that one of the things the players are not going to do is go seek an injunction here.Why not?Boies: Well, my view, and this is one that Jeffrey and I may have a different view on, is that under the Norris-Laguardia Act it’s very difficult to get an injunction. That doesn’t mean you can’t have damages. And in fact, the whole point of the Norris-Laguardia Act was to stop injunctions and force the these kinds of disputes into the damage arena.Even if you could get an injunction — let’s say Jeffrey’s wrong and I’m right on this — it would be, obviously, a drawn-out process. And I think what the players are focusing on right now is what is the fastest way to get this resolved.
Kessler: If you look at it from a player’s standpoint, collective bargaining has totally failed. So rather than exercise their labor law rights to futility, they’ve decided to free up all players to exert their antitrust rights to triple damages. And we think — not we, the players — think that is the best protection for NBA players going forward.
How do you go about deciding who the plaintiffs will be?
Kessler: We’re not going to talk about any legal strategies or tactics.
Is there any indication, knowing how the NBA has been bargaining, that this will bring them back [to a more reasonable bargaining position]?
Boies: I have no expectation about that one way or another. I’m involved in this a few hours, OK?
I would hope that, in the face of a disclaiming union, where there’s no hope of collective bargaining, that the owners would reconsider whether, under these circumstances, it makes sense to continue to boycott. But I have no idea what their strategy is.
This is clearly uncharted waters for all involved, to a large extent. but these are the men that will lead the fight from the players’ side going forward. It would be wise to study up on them and their extensive histories in the litigation field.
PROPOSAL REJECTED, ANTITRUST ACTION TO BE FILED
– 2:19 p.m.: In the words of union executive director Billy Hunter, the “collective bargaining process has completely broken down” and the players have refused the league’s latest proposal. They have already begun the process to disband union. But they have not decided to decertify, there is a difference.
The players are filing a disclaimer of interest, an antitrust action against the league within the next two days. In basic terms, they are taking the league to court.
This decision puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and obliterates any hopes of the 72-game season that would have begun on Dec. 15 which was in the proposal the players rejected.
Hunter says players were not prepared to accept NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s ultimatum, saying they thought it was “extremely unfair.”
Stay tuned to NBA.com and NBA TV for more details.
MEETINGS OVER, PRESSER IN MINUTES ON NBA TV AND NBA.COM
– 1:47 p.m.: Meetings over!
Brace yourselves folks and tune into NBA TV and live here at NBA.com to see where things stand after the player reps’ review of the current proposal from the league.
… NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS
– 1:37 p.m: We thought things were wrapping up in New York when we saw some tweets suggesting that the end of the meeting might be at hand.
But Asch informed us it was a false alarm. Someone mistook a break in the action for the end of the meeting. Oh well, back to what you were doing folks.
“I want to answer this diplomatically. The next time we meet to discuss anything, we’ll be discussing the 47 percent proposal. This is it … we’ve been negotiating this for 2½ years. The owners authorized a revised proposal, and they said if it’s not acceptable and they want to keep negotiating, we present them with a 47 percent, flex cap proposal. They know it.”
This was in response to Mahoney’s question Saturday night asking whether or not the league would accept any tweaks for further negotiations.
“If the players are going to make the concessions to address over $300 million a year in a shift in revenue from the players to the owners, the one thing the players should get back is flexibility, freedom, freedom of choice and a more vibrant and free-market system, because it’s a zero-sum game,” Bartelstein said. “Instead, they’re ratcheting down the system in the name of competitive balance, and that’s completely disingenuous.
“A negotiation is supposed to be about making trades,” Bartelstein said. “The biggest part of any negotiation is the dollars. That’s the biggest part of this negotiation. The players are giving the owners the dollars. If the owners are concerned about competitive balance, it can absolutely be handled through revenue sharing. And the myth they’re putting out there that they can’t share losses, there’s no truth to that argument whatsoever. Revenue sharing has nothing to do with sharing profits and losses. It’s about making sure low-revenue teams can have more revenue so they can be more competitive and you can have a better product. That should be done through revenue sharing, not through getting concessions from the players.”
These are scraps we’d rather were not a part of this negotiation, but this is where we are!
SCOLA ROCKS THE VOTE
– 10:37 a.m.: Whatever the player reps decide today, there is no mistaking Luis Scola‘s position on the lockout talks. The Rockets’ big man wants the latest proposal put to a vote of the entire union.
At this point I believe that all the players should vote. not only the 30 reps.
Hard to disagree with him at this point. If nothing else, hearing from the entire union (rank and file, middle class and stars alike) would give us all a much better measure of where they stand on this latest proposal.
– 9:46 a.m.: In addition to the player reps and executive board members in attendance at the meeting in New York today, our very own Steve Aschburner is on the scene with camera (phone) in hand.
Asch spotted Russell Westbrook (red hoodie) and Luc Mbah a Moute heading into the hotel:
The players arrive at the hotel in New York ready to dissect and debate the NBA's latest proposal.
If the players were to vote to accept the terms of the owners’ current proposal, the litany of B-list issues – including contraction, drug testing, Developmental League assignments and draft age eligibility – would still have to be agreed upon.
There’s a growing belief that Stern doesn’t have the ownership support to pass the very proposal he’s been pushing all weekend, and that owners would ultimately kill this deal with the list of non-negotiable B-list issues the players would oppose. This way, the league can say it worked hard to cut a fairer deal with players, but in the end, the owners will get the draconian ‘reset’ proposal that many of them have wanted all along.
“A lot of teams – more all the time – don’t like the deal on the table,” one high-ranking league official said.
That’s going to be an interesting discussion going on in that room this morning. We’re imagining this one turns into a pretty long day for all involved.
If they reject the proposal (read it for yourself in a PDF version of it here) without even taking a vote, as they did the last one, we’re floating into treacherous territory. And honestly, no one wants that.
The player reps need to go over this thing with BluBlockers. They need to study every word, absorb every nuance and then decide what comes next. But they don’t need to go into that room with their minds made up before examining the proposal.
What they do after that is a bit tricky. They could review the proposal and then pass it on to their membership for a full vote, and then we’ll have to await word on that outcome. They could also review it, add their own revisions and then try to send it back to the league (though NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear over the weekend that he is done negotiating).
Whatever happens, it’s going down today.
And the one nagging thing that’s impossible to shake from our collective psyche here at the hideout is whether or not these men, these proud players, are ready to risk the $4 billion in revenues (and all of the other periphery revenue associated with just one NBA season) for the promise of something better than what is one the table right now?
By any measure, the proposed deal would be a major win for the owners. The players are being asked to take a $280 million pay cut, with shorter contracts, lower raises and tighter restrictions on the top-spending teams. But league officials insist that the deal is not nearly as bad as the rumor mill suggests.
“It’s of grave concern to the league that there is an enormous amount of misinformation concerning our proposal, both on Twitter and in the more traditional media,” Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner, said Saturday night. “We believe that if the players are fully informed as to what is and is not in our proposal, they will agree that its terms are beneficial to them and represent a fair compromise.”
Beck did attempt to add a little more gravity on what’s to come in the new NBA, but this is more conjecture on the part of all involved, since no one is sure that a new collective bargaining agreement can deliver on any of the things this proposal is designed to bring. But union executive director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher are responsible for making very clear to the player reps what is on the table, not what everyone has heard is included.
(Stern used this memo to make that specific point to the players directly.)
The escrow system would assure that owners would be reimbursed for however much they exceed the negotiated amount of basketball-related income allowed to be spent on player salaries.
In the current seven-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN The Magazine, the players have a choice of selecting a 50-50 split of BRI or a 49-51 band.
If teams spend more than the allotted percentage, they not only retain the 10 percent of each salary held in escrow, but if that 10 percent doesn’t cover the excess then the additional funds can be deducted from a one percent of BRI dedicated to “post-career player annuity and player benefits.”
If the excess still hasn’t been satisfied, future benefits and escrow funds can be utilized to cover it. In essence, it assures the owners that no matter how much they spend in any one season, they will not have to pay more than the stated percentage.
Another source of contention from the players side, according to sources, are triggers that would implement a hard cap on any non-taxpaying teams that use an exception to sign a player.
Great. More mixed signals. That’s all we need this morning.
And that’s why today, we know you’ve heard this before, ranks as the biggest day of the lockout so far. This could be the day all this madness goes away. Or it could be the day when the real fireworks begin. We’ll know one way or another in a few hours.
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.
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.
• 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.