HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The shocking news that Kobe Bryant‘s season came to an abrupt end with a probable torn left Achilles Friday night spread through the basketball world like an emotional tidal wave.
Pundits and fans, friends and foes alike, everyone is digesting the news that even if the Lakers make the playoffs, Bryant’s work this season is done. Reactions from around the basketball universe (and beyond):
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Now that we have the hardest part of that pesky 149-day lockout behind us, it’s time to refocus and turn our attention to the future. And that means the next step(s) teams will take in the process to return the NBA to fully operational.
With the 66-game schedule being arranged and free agency and training camp to begin simultaneously on Dec. 9, we should be in store for some fast and furious personnel action around the league. But before we get there, we have details that must be dissected and discussed.
There are, however, plenty of opinions regarding how this tentative out-of-court agreement between the players and owners was reached and what sort of structure it will allow teams to function in …
Michael Wilbon of ESPN.com: The funniest thing about these five months of melodrama is that the NBA will begin the season precisely when and how it should anyway. Play should never for any reason commence before Thanksgiving and probably not until the first week of December, at the earliest. Truth is, a tripleheader on Christmas Day with Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Dirk and D-Rose, plus the Knicks in the Garden hosting the Celtics, is probably better than these two quarrelsome parties deserve. It’s as though they stumbled into beginning the NASCAR season with Daytona. Please, don’t tell me the Christmas Day games need a makeover for scheduling reasons. How do you get better than the Mavericks receiving their 2011 NBA championship rings in front of the Miami players? The Lakers are must-see holiday TV, so if LeBron and D-Wade aren’t available, who better to share the stage with Kobe than reigning MVP Derrick Rose and a conference finalist team? The last time we saw the allegedly revamped Knicks, they were going out like dogs to the Celtics; what better place to start anew with the most overrated franchise in American sports? So please, don’t let the NBA screw up its first call of the new season. These matchups are irresistible. Purposefully or not, the league couldn’t stage a more satisfying comeback. Even if those games are all moved to TNT, I’ll feel the same way about the Christmas Day return.
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel: An expected windfall for NBA contending teams in search of affordable talent could wind up short-circuited by the league’s soon-to-be-approved collective-bargaining agreement. The Sun Sentinel confirmed Sunday that instead of players being released under the league’s “amnesty” provision going directly to the open market, a bidding system has been put in place for teams operating below the league’s salary cap to add such players at a deep discount. ”That’s what the clause is in there for,” a party familiar with the impending process Sunday told the Sun Sentinel. “It’s so the Lakers can’t go in and scoop up all the players.” Under the amnesty program, a team can waive a player in order to remove his salary from its salary cap and luxury tax, while still paying out the balance of that contract. It had been widely assumed that such players then would immediately hit the open market. That could have positioned the Miami Heat to add players such as Baron Davis, Rashard Lewis, Brendan Haywood or Brandon Roy at the NBA salary minimum, with the players’ previous teams still paying their full salaries. (Team-by-team decisions on specific players, if any, to receive amnesty releases will not be announced until after the CBA is ratified.) However, in an outline of the proposed collective-bargaining agreement obtained by the Sun Sentinel, the NBA instead has instituted “a modified waiver process” that would allow teams operating below the salary cap to “submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract.” For example, while Lewis has two years at $44 million total remaining on his contract, a team currently operating below the salary cap could bid to pay Lewis $3 million in each of those years (with the Washington Wizards, who are expected to make Lewis available, then paying the balance of his salary). ”Some of it is still not 100-percent worked out,” a party familiar with the impending policy told the Sun Sentinel.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: I will admit (and not just because it’s easy to look up online) that I didn’t think the NBA owners and players had it in them to reach agreement. I believed a majority on each side of the table wanted to save the 2011-12 season, but I also believed that process and protocol had got the better of them. They knew what they should do, but they didn’t know how to do it — that’s what I thought would be the epitaph on this lost season. But they turned out to be bigger than the overwhelming circumstances. This is not a perfect deal, and it is surely loaded with all kinds of unintended consequences. For all anyone knows, the efforts to limit the dominance of the richest franchises could wind up giving them more power than ever, should a hardened salary cap inspire the players to chase endorsement income in the absence of a big free-agent payday. There are going to be bad feelings all around, and you may see some players refusing to do any commercial or public service work for their teams as an act of protest for the deal they feel was shoved down their throats. For objective people, however, it does no good to exclusively blame the players or the team owners. Because each side needs the other. Together they built up the NBA, together they threatened to bring it down, and together they came to an agreement when they finally realized just how much they need each other. These negotiations could have meant the end for the NBA. What they wound up generating was not the solution to all of their problems. But it is a beginning. In this world, a beginning is something to be celebrated.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The NBA and Players Association are discussing the formation of a committee to study the age minimum for the league’s draft with the possibility that no immediate changes to the “one-and-done” rule will come in the finalization of the new collective bargaining agreement, a league official told Yahoo! Sports. “Only the agreement to have the committee may be part of the new CBA,” the source said. “I doubt it will have any affect on the 2012 draft.” This could mean the current class of star college freshmen, including potential No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky, will have the opportunity to enter the 2012 draft. The draft’s age rule is considered one of several “B-list” issues that were tabled in settlement talks, but must be resolved in negotiations before the league and players can get a signed agreement. The NBA and its players must still negotiate several more issues, including drug testing and NBA Developmental League assignments. The shelving of the age minimum debate buys the league more time to deal with the high-profile and impactful issue. For now, the rule calls for American-born players to turn 19 during the calendar year of the draft and be one year removed from their high school graduating class. Since its inception, the rule has created an era in college basketball known as the “one-and-done,” where many top players have spent one year on campus before leaping to the NBA. Within the NBA, there’s a growing movement to create a rule similar to Major League Baseball, which requires college players to stay three years before becoming eligible for the draft. Some NBA teams have suggested a system in which the age minimum for the draft would be 20. Under that scenario, non-international players also would have to wait until two years after their senior high school class has graduated.
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 – In the days since the first two weeks of the NBA regular season ended, there has been no mincing of words from either side.
We are in a red alert situation. The 2011-12 NBA season is on the line every second of every minute of every single day as this lockout continues. NBA commissioner David Stern said as much in various interviews Thursday, making clear that something has to be done sooner (next week Tuesday at the earliest) rather than later …
No Deal Tuesday, No Games Through Christmas?
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Setting another arbitrary deadline for more lost games, NBA commissioner David Stern said that without an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by Tuesday, he fears there will be no games on Christmas Day.
“It’s time to make the deal,” Stern said, speaking deliberately and threateningly Wednesday in an interview on New York’s WFAN radio. ”If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut — this is not in my official capacity of canceling games — but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day.”
Tuesday is the day the league and players’ association will meet with federal mediator George Cohen in an attempt to resolve their differences before more games are canceled.
“Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal,” Stern said.
Stern confirmed that negotiating committees for the league and National Basketball Players Association will meet separately with Cohen on Monday and then will convene for a bargaining session under Cohen’s supervision Tuesday. Why the deadline? Stern’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in New York Wednesday and Thursday — first for the planning committee to present its revenue sharing plan and then for a full board meeting.
Asked when more games could be imperiled after he canceled the first two weeks on Monday, Stern said, “I don’t have a date here sitting at my desk. But if we don’t have a deal by the time the owners are in, then what’s the purpose of us sitting around staring at each other on the same issues?”
Hunter: “It’s not an issue of time. It’s an issue of will. If you are in a room and you want to make a deal and there are three major issues that are holding you up, if you can come to a compromise on those three areas than you have a makings of a deal. It’s not a nature of time. We can go in and do a deal if they want to go in and do a deal. We can do a deal in an hour, two hours if we can agree to the major terms. And after that you got to work on everything else. Everything else will fall in place.”
Q: What has been the most frustrating part of negotiations?
Hunter: “I don’t think [the owners] are negotiating in good faith. That’s what’s frustrating. David Stern told me three years ago – and I keep reiterating that because people keep pulling up their cup on it – that they were going to lock out [the players] in order to get what it was they wanted. And what he’s done is done that. [Stern] said he was going to lock out [the players] and his owners were prepared to lock out to get what they wanted. It’s driven pretty much by the small-market teams. They actually want revenue sharing in the big markets, but the big markets have said, ‘OK we’ll give revenue conditioned upon you getting the deal in place that we think has to be there because we don’t want to go into our pockets as much as we may have to. We think you should get it off the backs of the players.’ So that’s what he’s done. He’s stated an extreme position from the get go and he’s negotiated that way. So here we are.
“We’ve been negotiating for almost three years, and here we are at the 12th hour when all of the sudden they make a slight move. But then on top of that, they then decide that they want a hard cap. So then when you get close to the economics of the number, then they get close to the system. And they know that the system is very important. If we give on the economics, we are not going to give on the system. And so all of the sudden you reach a possible agreement on the economics and now the system becomes a problem. So it’s like a moving target. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because the whole intent and purpose and whole strategy has been to break the resolve of the players.
Almost certainly it’ll pay off down the line, but the price the Bulls are paying in the conference finals is that the lack of a deal then means the Bulls don’t have enough offense now, not when Miami can send 6-foot-11 Chris Bosh and 6-8 LeBron James to double-team 6-3 Derrick Rose as happened more than a few times. Miami’s 96-85 Game 3 victory produced more than a few storylines, including Chris Bosh’s second huge game of the series.
But what should stand out even more is that the Bulls don’t have enough offense to beat Miami in a seven-game series. Back in late February when Forman and Paxson decided to put off finding a scorer to complement Rose until the summer, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen said, “We’ll be able to beat good defenses, but against a team with great defense and scorers like Miami, we just won’t have enough firepower.”
As the Eastern Conference finals progress, we’re seeing more and more evidence of why Rose was the correct choice for MVP. He’s certainly had to do more of the heavy lifting and carry much more of the load for the Bulls.
The Heat can simply hand the baton off from James to Wade to Bosh in different games or in different quarters. But Rose has got to be the one driving Chicago on virtually every possession. And not coincidentally, when Rose is driving to the basket, Miami defenders have often been able to cut him off and prevent him from finishing.
The Big Three scored a combined 73 points in Game 3.
If Rose doesn’t play his best when Miami is at its best, the Bulls don’t have much of a chance.
Now the focus falls on (coach Tom) Thibodeau. After most practices, he and Rose watch film together to see how best to attack the other team’s defense. Thibs is going to have to be refitted for his genius hat. He has to figure out ways to get Rose free in time for Game 4. If he doesn’t, how does a 3-1 Heat lead feel?
It seems obvious: The Bulls need to run. Let Rose create. Let him improvise. Let him go. Rose in a half-court offense against this good a Miami defense is suicide.
“I tried to let my teammates create for others,’’ he said. “That’s what I made the team try to do. Sometimes I tried to beat the double team, and sometimes I just tried to pass and make it easy.’’
And that’s just it: I don’t want to see Luol Deng trying to create. I want to see Rose doing the creating. The options are limited when the Bulls aren’t shooting well. Rose can dish off all he wants, but if his team shoots 41.6 from the floor, which it did Sunday, forget it.
Can the Bulls now flip the series around and win three of the next four games from the Heat? How much closer would they be to accomplishing that feat if they had another wing scorer/finisher like Lee or Richardson in their lineup?
Conventional wisdom in sports says that if you have a chance to win a championship, you reach out and grab it, then worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes while you’re already polishing your trophy.
But the 7-foot Asik is only 24 years old. He’s active and aggressive. He’s quick, he hustles, he’s improving constantly on offense and he is a big man who can defend the pick-and-roll. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of big man that every team in the league is seeking, which is why Houston and Orlando would have pulled the trigger on deals for Lee or Richardson in a heartbeat.
Will the Bulls regret not making the move sometime in the next two or three days if they can’t get past Miami in this series?
But what about the next two or three (or more) years?
It says here that Forman and Paxson may not have made the popular choice for now, but the right one for the future.