HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We barely got a chance to savor All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo‘s historic performance before another All-Star point guard, Deron Williams, blew the lid off of a star-studded weekend with a career-high and NBA-season high 57-point performance in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
In an era that has to be classified as the golden age for NBA point guards, there are any number of supernatural performances that come out way on a weekly basis.
But the 57 points (a franchise record) Williams dropped Sunday night deserve another look. He only took 29 shots to get his points, though he was a perfect 21-for-21 from the free throw line. And he did have seven assists and six rebounds to go along with his points, all done in just 38 minutes of game action.
In a season that could have been lost for Williams, who is headed towards free agency this summer, he is showing off why he is considered one of the top three or four point guards in basketball.
Good luck getting that one past the discerning eyes of millions of basketball fans that know better.
The explanation for the league putting a stop to the three-team, Chris Paul-Lakers deal was disseminated via statement late last night, putting the final nail into what was clearly one of the most bizarre nights the league has seen in years.
From the decision itself to the theories behind why it happened, not to mention the most twisted piece of all, Dan Gilbert‘s terse email detailing his displeasure (and that of many other owners) with the proposed trade was, it all just felt wrong.
It felt wrong as it was going down, wrong during three or four hours of sleep were lucky to get here at the hideout and dead wrong this morning as we try to make sense of the senseless.
The league picked the wrong time to intervene for “basketball reasons.” That should have been done long before Hornets general manager Dell Demps engaged in trade discussions with the dozen or so teams that made serious inquiries about Paul. And even then it would have been the wrong thing to do.
Whoever owns the Hornets will have to deal with the reality that Paul has no intention of playing for the franchise longterm. So rather than making a fool of the franchise, a mockery of the process and a bigger mess than the 149-day lockout did with the fans, someone needed to do the right thing and find a deal that allowed for Paul’s departure without totally destroying the fabric of the franchise.
Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor did it last season when he moved Deron Williams, his franchise’s most valuable asset at that time, before being backed into a similar corner. What Demps was attempting to do was in the very best interest of the franchise and would have been by most any reasonable standard a solid deal for the Hornets (you get three starters, two draft picks and save yourself from the ongoing saga that would have been CP3-watch for the next however many months … you have to take that deal).
Worse yet, the folks suffering the worst today are the players in all three cities that have to show up for training camp, if they show up for training camp, and answer questions about decisions that had nothing to do with them and they had no hand in making.
In Houston, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin have to deal with the fallout. In Los Angeles a wounded Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will be expected to hit the floor and act as if the night before had never happened. And in New Orleans, Paul has to decide if legal action is his best recourse for being allowed to do what we all know he will do at some point, and that’s leave the Hornets.
Not even “basketball reasons” will keep that from happening at some point.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a matter of hours Monday, the NBA’s labor impasse went from maddening to certifiably ridiculous thanks to raging emotions on both sides of a nasty fight.
What’s that phrase Kobe Bryant uttered a few weeks ago? It’s the same one NBA Commissioner David Stern used yesterday in the aftermath of the union rejecting the league’s proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement and disbanding (read up on the details here), the first step in an anti-trust lawsuit being filed by the trade association formerly known as the union.
“The union decided in its infinite wisdom that the proposal would not be presented to membership,” Stern said. “Obviously, Mr. [union attorney Jeffrey] Kessler got his way and we are about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA.”
Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of this already.
We spent 137 days waiting for something that could have come July 1. If this affair was going to end up in the courts with one side suing the other, we only wish it had come right away instead of months later, when it seemed the sides might be working their way to an uneasy alliance for the greater good of the game.
Instead, we’re left with the prospect of that aforementioned nuclear winter.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The choice seems rather simple from here, it’s either the 72-game season or bust. Take the deal and start the season in roughly a month or blow it all up.
And this time, it’s all on the players.
They asked for the owners to move a bit, show a little flexibility and come off that ultimatum talk that freaked everybody out earlier this week. Well, you got what you asked for and the proposal is in your hands (for review by the player reps from each team by Monday or Tuesday at the latest).
If time is what the union needs, that is what they will get with the weekend. Look it over, soak it in, chew on the details and think long and hard about what you do next, because if we’re this close to seeing the 2011-12 season and it somehow slips away between now and early next week … there will be no mercy from the masses.
NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear late last night that there will be no better offer from the owners. This is it. Best offer on the table. Take it or leave it.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: On the 133rd day of the lockout, commissioner David Stern called the players’ bluff: Are you going to accept the new era for the NBA, or are you going to decertify? It is now time for everyone at the table to show his cards. Players finished 23 collective hours of negotiation Thursday with a final offer from the owners that Stern hoped would end the lockout with minimal damage to the season. On Monday or Tuesday, the union representatives from all 30 teams will meet to decide whether they should put this offer to the entire membership for a vote. Should the players accept, Stern said they will be able to salvage a 72-game season starting Dec. 15, with the playoffs and the NBA Finals starting one week later than normal. The final offer comes amid a swelling movement among the players to pursue decertification. They had been hoping to force the owners to compromise in negotiations by threatening to take the union’s case to court. Union executive director Billy Hunter acknowledged this week that as many as 200 players were prepared to sign a petition that would send the union down a path of 45 days or longer to potential decertification. Now the players face a hard choice of gambling on the courts and the uncertain bargaining leverage of decertifying, or instead embracing the certainty of a proposal that Stern insists is the best deal they’ll ever see. Union president Derek Fisher declined to assess the quality of the offer, other than to acknowledge it wasn’t good enough to earn his outright approval. Hunter said he was going to leave it up to the player representatives. “It’s not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership,” said Hunter. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”
That’s sweet music to the ears of basketball fans everywhere.
With Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter smiling and joking with one another as they walked out of that New York hotel late last night signaling that today’s bargaining session (which begins at 10:30 a.m.) could very well be the final push needed to bring our beloved game back, clearly it’s time to make a deal.
We can dispense with all of the pleasantries now and get down to brass tacks. Forget about when the season starts. Most fans are wondering this morning if there will be a season. The unthinkable a few weeks ago has become our new reality …
Something To Salvage?
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: Can the season be saved? The answer is yes, so long as the NBA owners are willing to negotiate into January, as they did to resolve their previous lockout in 1999.
Understand that two weeks of NBA games have been wiped away, and that more cancellations are to come. Nothing important is likely to change over the next two weeks that will enable basketball to be played in late November or early December.
On and on it will go, with both sides looking back to the salvation of the ’99 lockout. That resolution a dozen years ago may have influenced these extended talks that failed Monday night in New York. As much anxiety as both sides were feeling to reach an agreement this week, they weren’t experiencing the ultimate pressure that will be felt later this winter when the entire season is at risk. “The problem,” said a former league official who was involved in the negotiations that shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games, “is that people tend to look at early January as the drop-dead date.”
He was worrying that the absolute final offer from either side may not emerge for another 12 weeks. Not until the final days of this calendar year will the owners fully understand the consequences of losing a full season during a recession, while more than 400 players find themselves confronted with the likelihood of a full year without an NBA paycheck.
In many ways these entire negotiations have gone according to form. It is not the formula anyone would have desired, but it has been entirely predictable. The owners lock out the players July 1, with little negotiating done for most of July and August, followed by sudden urgency to make a deal that can save the full season.
Lost Games Part Of The Plan?
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the sidewalk out on 63rd Street, sirens wailing and knucklehead cameramen jostling for position and cursing each other, here was Billy Hunter living in his own movie. Regular-season games lost on his watch, and on David Stern‘s, just as they’d discussed two years ago.
“It goes back to a comment that David said to me several years ago, when he said this is what my owners have to have,” Hunter said Monday night, after the first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA regular season were canceled. “And I said, ‘Well, the only way you’re going to get that is, you prepare to lock us out for a year or two.’ And he’s indicated to me that they’re willing to do it. So my belief and contention is that everything that he’s done has demonstrated that he’s following that script.”
That’s better than galaxies apart and even worlds apart. But it clearly puts us no closer to a solution than we were before the weekend began. That said, Monday’s and perhaps Tuesday’s scheduled sessions can yield more positive returns.
In the meantime, we’ll return to the sobering news that progress has been anything but steady …
Full Season Unlikely?
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: The threatened “enormous consequences” have yet to appear, but they will be revealed soon enough. Two days of extended negotiations concluded Saturday with little optimism that the NBA owners and players can end their lockout in time to rescue the full 82-game schedule.
Most fans will say nothing is more important than starting the season on time Nov. 1. But the owners and players have agreed to disagree with their paying customers on that point. It is, in fact, one of the few points on which the union and owners have struck common ground.
They are so far apart on how to divvy up the $4 billion generated by their league — by far the most important issue separating them — that they agreed to not discuss it whatsoever Saturday. Instead they turned their attention to the so-called system issues, including the rules for player contracts, caps on team payrolls, annual exceptions and the like. After spending all of Saturday and much of Friday on these topics they could claim little more than a better understanding of each other’s positions.
“It at least helped us to focus on a couple of issues,” said deputy commissioner Adam Silver. “Some of the earlier meetings have been a little bit more rambling in terms of various issues sort of raised and taken off the table, put back on the table.”
Commissioner David Stern acknowledged “a pretty broad gap” between the owners’ and players’ goals for a new system. “We’re not near anything,” added Stern. “But wherever that is, we’re closer than we were before.”
Stern would not say when the league would announce the cancellation of the remaining preseason games, nor would he hint at a deadline to reach agreement and save the full season. But the likely window is a scant 10 days to two weeks.
Modest Movement On Certain Issues
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The “modest movement” on system issues that one person in the negotiating room described to CBSSports.com came only after the two sides, at [Billy] Hunter‘s suggestion, agreed to separate the division of basketball-related income (BRI) from the system issues such as the cap, contract length, nature of exceptions and luxury tax. The decision to tackle the two major sticking points in the negotiations separately came after players threatened to walk out of the bargaining session Friday upon learning that the owners have not moved off of their standing economic proposal that would give the players a 46 percent share of BRI — down from the 57 percent they received under the agreement that expired July 1.
“We’re very far apart in BRI and made no progress in that,” NBPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said. “So we tried to see if we could make any progress in something else.”
A source told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that at one point, NBA commissioner David Stern was emphatically directing a comment — and pointing his finger — at [Dwyane] Wade, the Miami Heat’s All-Star guard. Wade objected and interrupted Stern, reportedly saying: “Don’t point your finger at me. I’m a grown man. I have children.”
The meeting broke at that point. A few minutes later, Stern sought out Billy Hunter, NBPA executive director, to briefly talk privately. Soon thereafter, the session resumed.
While no one sounds ready to declare that a deal is imminent or even in the works, there is no doubt that everyone involved understands that it is time to get down to the business of solving their differences before it’s too late …
Stars Step Into the Spotlight
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Before a stunning confrontation between Dwyane Wade and NBA commissioner David Stern in Friday’s labor meeting, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul told their Players Association peers that they’re willing to sit out the season rather than make further concessions to the owners, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.
“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”
“LeBron, Wade and Paul want to fight this so hard, they don’t seem scared about missing the season,” one source in the negotiating room told Yahoo! Sports.
James, Wade and Paul believe the owners are bluffing in threatening to ultimately cancel the season to get the changes they want in the collective bargaining agreement, a source in the meeting said. In the meeting with union peers, the three stars declared their willingness to miss games rather than drop down from the 53 percent of BRI the union has proposed to the NBA.
Despite the bold talk out of the sport’s biggest stars, the union privately has expressed a willingness to move further toward ownership this weekend with an understanding that Stern wants desperately to cut a deal with the players and avoid a prolonged work stoppage.
If nothing else, the owners did see the star players’ resolve on Friday. Once the players entered the room with the owners, Wade reacted harshly to what he perceived as Stern’s condescending way of lecturing him on the issue.
Union Holding The Line
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: There was widespread speculation entering the weekend that the union might be willing to make compromises in order to salvage the income from a full 82-game season. But two union sources said the players agreed to hold firm during an emotional private meeting Friday before the afternoon negotiations, with crucial leadership provided by [Paul] Pierce, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP of the Celtics.
The union leadership reviewed the recent give-and-take of the negotiations amid repeated questioning by Pierce and heated talk from James. Others spoke up as well, but when Pierce was told that the union had already offered to cut its revenue-share from 57 percent to 54 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) in order to help the owners deal with their operating losses, he urged his fellow players to unite behind Fisher and union chief Billy Hunter in not yielding further.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – At least we can all agree on one thing where this lockout is concerned, no one — and we mean NO ONE — is happy about it!
The news out of New York Thursday afternoon prepared us all for what was to come, the NBA’s first lockout in 13 years commenced at 12:01 this morning. It didn’t take long for the feedback to start rolling in from the assembled punditry.
Here is a brief morning sampling of opinions from around the country …
Ian Thomsen of SI.com: How long will this go on? Union chief Billy Hunter anticipated that another meeting will be called in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, he and union president Derek Fisher must consider the unlikely option of decertifying and putting their case into the court system, if they believe they can’t get a fair hearing from the owners.
The alternative is to continue to talk over the summer with the small goal of finding some minimal terms on which both sides can agree. As the next season approaches and both sides are confronted by real pain — a loss of income for the players, and a loss of fan support for the franchises should games be canceled — maybe then there will be a willingness to meet in the middle, with an understanding that their shared business must continue on, even if neither side is particularly happy with the terms.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The gap between the NBA game and the international game of basketball continues to shrink at a rapid pace.
FIBA instituted NBA-style rule changes earlier this year (including the dumping of that trapezoid lane, the no-charge zone under the basket and the extended 3-point line). Now comes the NBA’s move towards closing the gap from the other side.
The NBA D-League announced today that is has tweaked its goaltending and overtime rules, the goaltending rule will now mirror the FIBA rule that allows a player to knock the ball away when it is on the rim. Since it serves as, in the words of NBA D-League President Dan Reed, the NBA’s “Research and Development” department, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s just a matter of time before this new goaltending rule is implemented in the NBA.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has been a vocal supporter of changing the rule for years. “As far as I’m concerned, FIBA has it right: It’s in play and the only thing the referee has to judge is, Did it hit the rim? That’s it,” Stern said told Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen last year. “To me, that’s a sensible rule, and it would make foul shooting more fun too.”
The NBA D-League tested the adidas-developed NBA Revolution 30 uniforms you will see on your favorite NBA players this season. So this wouldn’t be the first time the “R&D department” delivered the goods.
If the new goaltending rule is a success in the D-League it could pave the way for one of the most significant rules changes the NBA has seen since the 3-point shot was adopted in the 1979-80 season.
Seriously, can you imagine how crazy it would be to have guys like Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Gerald Wallace, Josh Smith and even an aging but cagey veteran like Kevin Garnett going after the ball while it’s on the cylinder?
Talk about a potential game-changer for some of the league’s elite athletes and craftier players, a new goaltending rule in the NBA could revolutionize the game for some teams and players (the difference in rules go a long way in explaining why some NBA players flourish during international competitions and other struggle, same for the international players that thrive in their game and don’t always make a smooth adjustment to the NBA).