Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Schwartz’

Pek Gets Five, Love Got Four, So Do The Timberwolves Get Some Angst?

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Helicopters presumably are hovering over Kevin Love at this moment, “Goodfellas”-style, anticipating some sort of cut-and-run, Bronco-chase reaction to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ re-signing Wednesday of center Nikola Pekovic.

Pekovic, you should know, reportedly received a deal worth $60 million over five years. Which, rather famously, is one more year than the extension to which the Wolves signed Love in January 2012. Since-fired exec David Kahn was adamant in not using the designated-player mechanism available to a player coming off his rookie deal to bump Love’s deal (four years, $61 million) to five years. The All-Star power forward took that as a slight, on top of a pure business setback.

Instantly, the opt-out that Love did get built into the extension after the 2014-15 season was seen throughout the NBA as his escape hatch from an unhappy work situation. It’s a perception that continued right through the spring after Love made some comments in a Yahoo! story suggesting he was less than a happy Wolves camper.

So when Flip Saunders, Kahn’s replacement, talked with reporters Wednesday about the Pekovic signing, he was asked about the potential that Love might feel neglected anew, what with the big man next to him – who trails Love in All-Star selections, 2-0, and in Olympic gold, 1-0 – getting a guarantee until the summer of 2018.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Saunders said of his recent conversations with Love. “What I’ve been impressed about Kevin Love, more than anything, Kevin wants to win. As we talked about Pek, he just said, ‘You have to do what you have to do.’

“I think he really understands and he believes that I don’t have a certain way I’m going to do things. I don’t know what’s been done in the past – I really don’t care. So as he said, we’re just moving forward, both on the basketball court and every other thing.”

The Wolves do have that to explain any inconsistency in negotiating tactics. Kahn was Kahn, with whom Love did not click for a variety of reasons, and he’s gone now. As a restricted free agent, Pekovic didn’t have much leverage but then, coming off his rookie deal, neither did Love.

Also, there’s nothing to prevent Love and the Wolves locking the double-double machine in for five seasons with his next extension. Nothing either now, frankly, from the Wolves — with owner Glen Taylor’s needed blessing, of course — using the designated-player slot on Ricky Rubio so that all their main guys are together for the long term.

It might also help sell Love that his agent, Jeff Schwartz, happens to be Pekovic’s guy too. It wouldn’t be cool if Schwartz, in a couple of years, were to turn around and point to the Pekovic deal as a reason for Love’s opt-out exit.

“This signing of Pek,” Saunders said, “will in no way hinder anything having to do with Ricky down the road or with Kevin Love. … This league has proven you have to have, quote-unquote, three star-type players. Three players at their respective positions who are going to be considered probably in the top five in the league.”

As for Love, who is expected to return with a vengeance this fall to delete bad mojo of his 2012-13 lost to a twice-broken hand, Saunders said his inside-outside threat is hitting the offseason hard.

“He’s looking to come in at about the same weight as he did when he had his big breakout year,” Saunders said, saying Love is at 242 now. “He’s doing a lot of cross training. Yoga every day. Some other training, weights. … Shooting. I don’t think he’s over-wearing one part of his body out. He’s got a great attitude, he’s been very involved with both me in conversation and with our organization. I feel extremely confident that he’s showing some leadership.”

If he’s not, there’s always the helicopters. Or easier yet, Twitter.

Free Agency: Still No Deal For Pekovic?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Minnesota Timberwolves have made their position clear. They want restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic wearing “Wolves” across his chest for years to come. And they are willing to pay handsomely to make that happen.

It’s that price, however, that is holding up the process.

While the Timberwolves have reportedly slotted Pekovic for a deal in the four-year, $48 million range, the 7-footer’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, is reportedly looking for something in the $15 million a year range, according to 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

That’s a significant gap and one that will require some adept maneuvering from Timberwolves’ boss Flip Saunders, who not only has to work with Schwartz on a deal for Pekovic but also has to keep in mind that they’ll do this dance again when Kevin Love is in the midst of free-agent negotiations before the 2015-16 season. Love can opt out of his current deal then and become a free agent.

It’s a delicate balance for Saunders, crafting a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot now while also maintaining flexibility and fiscal responsibility for the future. It’s a balance that wasn’t managed well by his predecessor, David Kahn. In fact, these sorts of offseason hiccups were supposed to be history in Minneapolis, along with Kahn.

And make no mistake, this is a management issue. Pekovic’s camp has every right to push for the max. In a league where a talented big man always has value even if there is little production to warrant it (Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden come to mind), Schwartz knows that he’s working from high ground with a player like Pekovic.

He averaged 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds and was a consistent inside force for the team while Love was out of the mix for all but 18 games with an injury.

What the Timberwolves have to guard against is allowing this situation with Pekovic to put them in any sort of compromising position down the road with Love, who will indeed command max money of his own if and when he does opt out of his current deal. Love and Ricky Rubio are the current and future cornerstones of the playoff outfit Saunders is trying to build, and that has to be on the minds of everyone within the franchise as they move forward.

Outbidding themselves for Pekovic wouldn’t make a ton of sense at this juncture. But any damage done to the relationship with Schwartz right now could have lasting ramifications down the road, potentially producing consequences the Timberwolves absolutely cannot afford if they are serious about turning their playoff fortunes around.

No More Joking About The Timberwolves

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – One of our most cherished traditions here at the hideout is coming to an end and we didn’t even realize it until just now.

All those days spent joking at the expense of the Minnesota Timberwolves could soon be a thing of the past. That laughing at Timberwolves GM David Kahn for something he either said or did might be over.

And it has everything to do with the fact that the Timberwolves had arguably the best pound-for-pound offseason of any team in the league. Rick Adelman comes aboard as coach. Heralded rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams join the rotation along with solid veteran pick up and Adelman fave Brad Miller. And All-Star Kevin Love (the bearded, slender gentleman in the video above) shed a few pounds and looks like he’s in All-Star form heading into the start of training camp.

After a couple of years of trying to fit the right players into the wrong system, Adelman will bring a talent-friendly scheme to a deep and promising roster that needed just the right fit in a head coach.

While it’s far too early to set foot on thin ice and predict this team will rise into the ranks of Western Conference playoff contenders, it is fair to say that they’ve got our full attention right now.

And they also have a huge decision to make regarding Love and his immediate future. With the “Derrick Rose Rule” that is included in the new collective bargaining agreement, Love’s next contract is a front-burner issue for Kahn. And Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune says the young star is thinking big:

Much like the Wolves were faced with a franchise-defining decision whether to break the bank to sign a youngster named Kevin Garnett 14 years ago, the Wolves soon will have to decide whether the face of the franchise right now will become THE centerpiece worthy of such a deal.

If the Wolves don’t sign Love to a contract extension in the coming weeks, he could become a restricted free agent next summer.

If someone offers him a max contract then, the Wolves simply could choose to match the offer then and keep him.

If Love decides not to sign an offer sheet with another team then, he could play the 2012-13 on a $6.1 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013.

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Labor Talks: Here We Go Again

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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