HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With roughly two months to go in this NBA regular season we are still trying to sort through the contenders and pretenders in the Eastern Conference.
Early on the New York Knicks looked like contenders, with Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd leading a team capable of competing with the reigning world champion Miami Heat in a playoff series.
The Brooklyn Nets took that baton and ran with it later, digging themselves out of a rut 30 games ago and compiling a 20-10 record under P.J. Carlesimo‘s watchful eye.
These days the Indiana Pacers are looking like the one true foil out there for the Heat, provided they don’t get into any more shoulder scuffles between now and the playoffs (they’ll need Hang Time Podcast fave Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Danny Granger and the rest of their rugged gang in uniform).
We’ll find out which of these three teams, or Atlanta or Boston, are ready to seriously challenge the Heat in the postseason. In the meantime, Howard Beck of The New York Times joins us on Episode 106 of The Hang Time Podcast to help us analyze the New York area members of the group.
We also break down what a real NBA scrap is supposed to look like, Kobe Bryant‘s hilarious Twitter habit (“Amnesty That!”), Derek Fisher rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski not returning as coach of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team (Phil Jackson anyone?) and a whole lot more on Episode 106 of The Hang Time Podcast:
HANG TIME, Texas — The only things missing were Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing clubbing Michael Jordan like a baby seal as he drove through the lane, Charles Smith missing layups or maybe Jeff Van Gundy derisively referring to Phil Jackson as Big Chief Triangle.
It was just like old times when the Knicks and Bulls collided on Friday night at the Garden — tempers flaring, heads butting, technical fouls flying and, in the end, of course, Chicago winning.
Where else but the Big Apple would it be more appropriate to make snap judgments and leap to hasty conclusions? Especially since the New York media have spent the first third of the season once more pounding the drumbeat of hope — or fantasy — for the Knicks’ first championship since 1973.
This was the second time in two weeks that the feisty Derrick Rose-less Bulls had stuck the Knicks, who are more earthbound at 5-3 since that soaring flight over Miami on Dec. 6.
First, let’s go over the gory details of the Friday Night Fights from main man Marc Berman of the New York Post (that’s BOTP, if you’re a Twitter follower of our hilarious good buddy @FisolaNYDN):
In the worst Garden night of the season during which they fell behind by 25 points late in the third quarter, the Knicks fought the referees, fought the Bulls players, but didn’t fight hard enough to win. As the final buzzer sounded on a discouraging 110-106 loss, coach Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler — all ejected — weren’t around to hear it.
The loss dropped the Knicks (19-7), percentage points behind Miami (17-6) for best record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, who also lost to Chicago two weeks ago, shot 33 percent in the first three quarters and trailed 83-61 and then blew their cool.
First, Anthony got ejected with 6:45 left for a hard slap on the ball held by Joakim Noah, picking up his second technical foul. Then Woodson followed Anthony to an early shower 1:30 later, earning his second technical for profanely berating the referees. Woodson, outcoached by Tom Thibodeau, appeared to mouth “terrible bleeping call,’’ then adding “bleep you.’’ as a kicker.
Bad move as all hell broke loose after that.
Fact is, despite all the talk about the Knicks’ excellent defense and chemistry and coaching and cohesion and Anthony, so much of their sizzling start has been based on their shooting the ball at a record-setting pace from behind the 3-point line. When Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Steve Novak, Anthony and virtually anyone in a NY uniform are connecting at a 40 percent clip while Tyson Chandler takes care of business on the inside, that’s a recipe for success.
However, the question has always been whether the Knicks could keep up that pace from downtown? In their last three games, the outside temperature has cooled with the Knicks shooting 28-for-86 (32.6) from long range, which has included a pair of losses this week to the Rockets and Bulls.
Is the answer as close as the Erie Bayhawks of NBA D-League, where Amar’e Stoudemire is putting the final touches on his rehab from knee surgery?
On one hand, Woodson says: “We’re going to post Amar’e some when he comes back. We will stick him down there and try to get him the ball, and let him work a little bit and see what happens.”
On the other are reports that the Knicks have tried to peddle the contract of the 30-year-old Stoudemire to every other team in the league unsuccessfully. The dilemma was spelled out wonderfully on Friday by Howard Beck of the New York Times:
In his prime, Stoudemire was the N.B.A.’s most lethal finisher in the pick-and-roll. But that role has been usurped, too, by Chandler, who is taller and longer, with a bigger bounce and healthier knees.
The obvious solution is to have Stoudemire anchor the second unit, running the pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni, while Novak, Smith and Rasheed Wallace spread the floor with their 3-point shooting.
But playing as a reserve means fewer minutes and a diminished profile. For all his public diplomacy, it seems doubtful Stoudemire would be content. On Thursday, he told reporters he was ready to “return back to dominance,” which hardly sounds like the words of a player ready to cede the spotlight.
Ask those who have worked with Stoudemire, and they eventually invoke the same word: prideful. Not selfish or egocentric, but simply prideful — a man who views himself in grand terms and spends every minute trying to live up to the image. At age 30, even after multiple knee operations and back problems, Stoudemire still views himself as an elite player.
Reintegrating Stoudemire — whether as a starter or a reserve — might be the greatest challenge the Knicks face this season. (His famously poor defense is also problematic.)
It is a cruel crossroads for Stoudemire, one he never could have foreseen. He surely deserves a better fate.
But considering the way the Knicks opened the season with a bang, stirred the passions in New York and raised the possibility of challenging Miami’s supremacy in the East, they do too. Old times against the Bulls weren’t such fond memories.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It appears we’ve seen the last of Jeremy Lin in a Knicks uniform.
The New York Times is reporting that Knicks’ brass has made their decision and they will not match back-loaded the three-year, $25.1 offer sheet from the Houston Rockets that Lin signed over the weekend.
The Knicks are not expected to announce their decision until this evening, and there is still a chance — albeit incredibly small — that it could be reversed. But as of 4 p.m. the decision had been made and was considered final by those with knowledge of the deliberations. Indeed, the deliberations were said to be over.
The Knicks have first-refusal rights on Lin and by rule have until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time to either match the offer or let him walk.
The decision was ultimately financial, not emotional, according to people briefed on the deliberations. The contract with Houston includes a third-year balloon payment of $14.9 million, which would have cost the Knicks another $35 million or more in luxury-tax penalties had they matched the deal. The so-called poison pill was designed to dissuade the Knicks.
The decision ends two weeks of suspense and speculation, which began when Lin became a restricted free agent on July 1. Now will come the inevitable backlash.
Lin saved the Knicks’ season in February and instantly became their most popular player in a decade, as well as a global phenomenon. Fans started at least two online petitions to keep him last weekend when it became apparent the Knicks were leaning toward letting him go. Twitter, blogs and fan forums have been filled with anguished comments for days.
Whatever outrage there is New York will be met with cheers from Houston, where the Rockets have been searching for a face of their franchise since Yao Ming retired.
Lin proved in his 25-game starting stint on Broadway that he had the chops for the job under the brightest of media spotlights. In Houston he’ll have to prove that there is substance behind the hype.
If his debut was any indication, the next three years should be a wild ride … on Rockets fans will enjoy from the front row and one Knicks fans will have to watch from afar, wondering what might have been had the franchise matched that offer.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What happened to all those good vibrations emanating from the New York Knicks a couple of weeks back, when Linsanity was in full effect, Gotham was on fire with hoops fever and the Knicks were a healthy star or two from assaulting the top of the Eastern Conference standings?
How did they go from rocking the basketball world to dropping like a rock in their last eight games — in which they’re just 3-5 — and sinking to the ugly depths of what we’ve seen from them the past three days?
If you watched them Sunday in that overtime loss against Boston, you saw a stumbling Jeremy Lin trying to navigate his space on the floor with Carmelo Anthony and fail miserably for most of the game. Lin made some plays late, but neither he nor Anthony made enough of them to overcome Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and the Celtics.
Then came last night’s debacle in Dallas in the Fan Night matchup on NBA TV, where Anthony’s game flatlined into a 2-for-12 shooting effort and the reigning world champs took the Knicks apart before a late rally made things interesting score-wise.
“I think anytime you go from the early part of the season, just having the ball and me just having the ball and being the distributor, and now just running the wings and waiting for the ball to come to me, that’s quite an adjustment for myself.”
It is an adjustment that Anthony and the Knicks (18-20) will have to make soon, before they lose their hold on a playoff spot. They are 0-2 on this trip, with another difficult game ahead Wednesday in San Antonio and a late-season schedule packed with playoff-bound teams. They have 28 games to reestablish an identity and get Anthony back in the fold.
“I think we all are adjusting, we all are sacrificing for the betterment of the team,” said Amar’e Stoudemire, who had a resurgent game with 26 points and 7 rebounds. “That’s what it takes to win a championship. You got to sacrifice in order to get to that point.”
It’s not Lin’s fault and it’s not entirely on Anthony, either. The Knicks are currently experiencing an offensive system error that can only be fixed by its administrator, coach Mike D’Antoni. His hot seat cooled considerably during the height of Linsanity, but it will warm back up if his team continues on its current course.
I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe… We couldn’t believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort.
I always tell people; if you look at those championships, you’ll see who were the closest players on the team. Normally those are the guys who are the first to hug each other. And when we were winning, it was always Shaq and Kobe who hugged. I think this will answer your question. Later it was blown out of proportion by the media and both players started doing something that didn’t make sense.
We’ve already heard from two people who were around the Lakers from the start of that run until ended that dispute the origins of the feud and insist that Jackson only fanned the flames that were already there.
I know Jackson is considered a wizard in many circles, but even he would have a hard time starting one of the greatest beefs in the history of sport before he ever showed up to coach the two players involved.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We stopped counting the number of so-called “winners and losers” columns concerning the lockout when we ran out of fingers and toes here at the hideout.
Oddly enough, no two lists had the same bunch of winners and losers. Designations might not be necessary if some of the things being rumored actually transpire during the league’s condensed free agent frenzy and abbreviated 66-game season.
The big winners, as always, will be the league’s biggest stars and the teams willing to do whatever it takes (within the rules of whatever collective bargaining agreement is in place) to make sure they acquire said superstars.
If you don’t believe, just look at the big names (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul) being tossed around right now as potential trade pieces headed to bigger markets.
Howard Beck of The New York Times highlights a startling concentration of power in the league:
If Paul forces his way to New York and Howard ends up with the Brooklyn-bound Nets — who are pursuing him — it would leave eight of the N.B.A.’s top 20 players concentrated among just three teams (Knicks, Nets, Heat).
Add the Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol), the Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and the Boston Celtics (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo), and 15 of the league’s top 25 players would be spread among just six teams.
Until you see it in that context, it doesn’t really register. Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the Knicks and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat. That is a downright mind-boggling assembly of talent on just six teams.
So maybe all that fighting the small market owners were reportedly doing within their own caucus during the lockout actually made sense after all.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We apologize in advance for the conflicting reports you’re going to hear in the days and weeks ahead about basically any and every NBA player, free agent or not, being pursued by this team or that team.
Hey, it’s that time of year, just a few months later than normal.
Of course, with a condensed free agency period/training camp all rolled into one, things are going to be a little wilder and crazier than usual. So again, be prepared to hear any and everything and just remember that until at least Dec. 9, it’s all talk …
PACERS CHASING RONDO?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: As Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge aggressively pursues possible deals for Rajon Rondo, the Indiana Pacers have emerged as an intriguing suitor for the point guard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. For the past few days, Pacers officials – and third-party surrogates – have been making calls and gathering information and insight into Rondo’s reputation as a teammate and leader, sources said. The Pacers and Celtics have discussed the preliminary framework of a deal, but two sources said Indiana would need a third team to provide Boston with the talent it wants to do a deal. The Celtics are likely trying to gather the necessary pieces to make a bid for Ainge’s ultimate target: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, sources said. It was unclear if the Pacers had begun to reach out to broaden discussions, but there was an expectation they would do so. The Celtics have been gauging Rondo’s trade value for more than a year, and have held discussions with teams about him across the past few trade deadlines and NBA drafts. There have long been divides within Boston’s front office, coaching staff and locker room about Rondo. He can be moody, difficult and stubborn, and several league sources were dubious if the Pacers’ young coach, Frank Vogel, would have the stature to deal with Rondo.
NETS READYING OFFER FOR DWIGHT HOWARD
Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com: The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation. Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. No trade deadline for the 2011-12 season has been set in stone yet by the league office, but many team executives believe it will fall in March. Once the league officially re-opens for business, Howard’s future in Orlando is sure to be one of the season’s dominant story lines, along with Chris Paul’s future in New Orleans and the Nets’ attempts to secure a long-term commitment from star guard Deron Williams. It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Merry Christmas NBA fans. Our 149-day lockout nightmare, and the NBA’s “Nuclear Winter” is over.
It’s a little early, but most appropriate now that there is a tentative settlement agreement on lawsuits that will pave the way for a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, reached after a marathon, 15-hour Black Friday-early Saturday negotiating session in New York.
That means the shortened 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season with training camp and free agency starting simultaneously on Dec. 9 and season-opening slate of games – Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers — that should serve as a fitting return our beloved game for fans around the globe.
All that said, a multitude of issues remain. But the framework of the new deal is done — we’ve been telling folks for months now, this thing wasn’t officially over until we had NBA Commissioner David Stern and (former) union executive director Billy Hunter sitting next to each other smiling … “Yahtzee!”
As NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner reported before the sun rose over the hideout, “players are to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.”
Opinions will vary in the coming days and weeks about winners and losers. We will leave that for others to decide (more on that below). But I think it’s clear that the owners returned to the table ready to compromise in ways (the players already had) to ensure that we see NBA basketball before in time for the 2011 on that 2011-12 season to mean something.
In that respect, it’s a win-win for all sides (players/owners and most importantly the fans). Now, back to the news at hand (with a special HT hat tip to the dogged Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for breaking the story) …
Howard Beck of The New York Times: As a frantic Black Friday gave way to a sleepy Saturday morning in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal of all was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store. With handshakes, sighs and weary smiles, the N.B.A. and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, allowing them to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays. A 66-game season will start on Christmas Day, ending the second-longest lockout in league history. The deal was reached at about 3 a.m. Saturday, on the 149th day of the lockout, after a final 15-hour bargaining session at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” the league’s commissioner, David Stern, said at 3:40 a.m., “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.” Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, giving teams two weeks to prepare. The three Christmas games are likely to be the ones that were already on the schedule: Boston at the Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be reconstructed and released in the coming days. “We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”
Brian C. Mahoney of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post): After a secret meeting earlier this week that got the broken process back on track, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to save the season. Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25. The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game. “All I feel right now is ‘finally,’” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press. Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the 10-year deal, with either side able to opt out after the sixth year. “For myself, it’s great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players’ association. A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to the full board. The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reform the union before voting on the deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The owners made “significant moves” toward the players on several important system issues that long separated the two sides, a union source told Yahoo! Sports Saturday morning. “There’s still some tweaking to those that needs to be done,” the source said. After the tentative agreement was announced, some players privately said they would not vote for the deal, believing they had conceded too much to the owners. Still, there is not believed to be enough support to block ratification. “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a brief news conference held in New York with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher. Free agency and training camps will start on Dec. 9, Stern said. Under the current agreement, the regular season would have a 66-game schedule that begins on Christmas Day with three games: Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers. Players are not expected to be permitted to start working out at their team facilities – or with coaching staffs – until camps open on Dec. 9. “It’s finally great to wake up to this kind of news,” Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: • Jeffrey Kessler nearly killed the deal. Again. Sort of. Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, has been a lightning rod for criticism during this process and a frequent target of Stern for what the NBA believes has been a disruptive influence in the negotiations. On Friday, Kessler nearly torpedoed the negotiations again when he, via speakerphone, asked the NBA for a 51 percent of the basketball-related income. Stern and Holt, who have been vehemently opposed to giving the players any more than 50 percent, rejected the proposal. While Kessler was merely the vessel delivering the union’s message, his offer infuriated representatives from the league and, according to a source close to the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee, nearly ended the negotiations. The two sides stayed at the table, however, and, according to the source, eventually agreed on a band that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent of the BRI. • The NBA is happy with this deal. The players are OK with it. Complete details of the new CBA won’t be disclosed for a few days, at least, but it’s clear the NBA got much of what it wanted. It reduced the players’ share of BRI by at least six percent (or $240 million per season) and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams. ”I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past,” [NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners’ pockets are or how large the market is.” The players? It seems they got a deal they can live with. While many players will likely be unhappy with the concessions made by the union, the majority will vote to approve the deal, in part because they believe it’s the best deal they can get and in part because they are not willing to sacrifice an entire season’s salary.
Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: Common sense suggests players – many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball – will approve the deal. But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence. There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them. And the players not only have real power — some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate – but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players. There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days. If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: *NBA free agency – the bedrock of every players’ market value — is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well. There is no hard cap, and every team will have at least some kind of mid-level exception every year. * The Bird exception has led to some of the league’s best-paid, winningest, happiest players, and is essentially untouched. *Minimum team payrolls will be climbing. The league instituted this in the name of competitive balance. But it will be in effect whether or not better players are available for stingy teams to sign, and whether or not owners know how to spend that money wisely. That’s a win for free agents. The Grizzlies reportedly signed Zach Randolph in part because they had to get their salaries up to the league minimum. There will be more deals like this in the future. * The best way to really make a lot of money as a non-superstar NBA player is to touch off a free-agent bidding war. Revenue sharing will help even the most tight-fisted teams to join these once in a while. If $3 million or so sounds like a decent salary to you, right now, for the first time have as many as 30 teams that both want you and can afford you.
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: Here are some of the key details of those moves, according to a league source who was privy to the details of the tentative agreement and shared those details with SheridanHoops.com. _ On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth. _Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign four-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere. _ Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. Previously, owners were asking that teams be limited to offering a four-year deal one year, a three-year deal the next, then four, then three, etc. _ The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts. _ Qualifying offers to restricted free agents will become “significantly” improved. The sides had already agreed to reduce the time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent from 7 days to 3. _ A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go blow the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts. _ The prohibition on luxury tax-paying teams from executing sign-and-trade deals was loosened, although the freedom to execute those types of deals will still be limited.
Negotiations aimed at ending the N.B.A. lockout quietly resumed Tuesday, with a goal of resolving the dispute in time play games on Christmas, two people close to the talks confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
The exact participants are not yet known, but it is presumed that the talks are being conducted through lawyers for both sides, because of pending litigation. The talks, which began Tuesday and were continuing Wednesday, were first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
There are some necessary constraints on the talks because of the moves made last week by the players to disband their union and file an antitrust lawsuit. Negotiations are now considered part of settlement talks relating to the litigation. As such, the lawyers for the N.B.A. and the players must lead the way on an agreement.
Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players union, is technically part of the legal team representing the players and could be part of the settlement discussions. Derek Fisher, who was the president of the union until it disbanded, is not involved in the talks. It is unclear whether Commissioner David Stern is involved at this stage.
If the parties can agree to the framework of a deal, the union will have to be reconstituted to negotiate certain items and to adopt a new collective bargaining agreement.
The parties need at least a handshake agreement in the next few days if the N.B.A. hopes to have games on Dec. 25 — the day that traditionally kicks off its national television schedule. It will take about four weeks to get a season started, given the time required to complete a labor deal, sign free agents and hold training camps.
There might be something to give thanks about (NBA related, that is) after all!
– 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.