Anyone needing proof that the NBA is indeed still a big thing in China, even without Yao Ming in uniform, needs only take a peek at the TV ratings.
The TV numbers have increased 39 percent over last season, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick that was confirmed by the league. Merchandise revenue in China has also quadrupled over the past three seasons, per the report, though no specific numbers were released.
The ever-popular Yao retired in July, a victim of repeated injuries. But the NBA still has a presence in China with former Nuggets Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith working in the Chinese Basketball Association this season.
Before Chauncey Billups was claimed by the Clippers on Monday, the NBA sent an e-mail to teams that threatened discipline against the free agent guardif he refused to report to a team that claimed him in the waiver pool or was disruptive to that team after reporting.
According to the e-mail, obtained by TNT’s David Aldridge, the league warned Billups and his agent, Andy Miller, on Monday that any statements made concerning not reporting to a team or being disruptive would be viewed as a breach of Billups’ contract, and that the NBA “is reserving all of its rights to take appropriate action against the player for his efforts to undermine the waiver process and the contractual rights of both the waiving team and any claiming team. Please also be advised that the NBA will fully support any team that claims Mr. Billups’ contract in the amnesty/waiver process and that subsequently believes it has grounds for discipline of Mr. Billups for breach of that contract.”
Miller, according to several sources, sent a letter to teams over the weekend that reiterated that Billups would be unhappy if anyone claimed him out of the waiver pool (for at least $1.35 million, the minimum for 10-plus year veterans like Billups) after being released by New York on Saturday via the amnesty provision. Miller did not respond to e-mails and calls seeking comment Monday.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports on Saturday, Billups said he was “tired of being the glue guy” and said he was tired of being taken advantage of by teams who have thrown him into deals in recent seasons, such as when the Nuggets included him in the Carmelo Anthony deal to the Knicks last season. Billups is a Denver area native who was pained to leave his hometown team not of his own volition.
“After a while, you just kind of get taken advantage of in these situations,” Billups told Yahoo!. “I’ve been known as a leader, and I am a leader, but a leader can be as disruptive as he can be productive, especially when you carry a strong voice and people rally around you. This is about me now. This is about me, and teams should know that right now.”
League sources believe that Billups wanted to clear the waiver pool so that he could sign with Miami or another contending team when the waiver claim time period expired at 6 p.m. Monday evening. Earlier Monday, ESPN.com reported that Orlando’s Dwight Howard wanted the Magic to claim Billups as part of remaking the roster in a way more to Howard’s liking as he contemplates whether to stay there after next season. Howard asked for a trade last week and was given permission by the Magic to talk with the Lakers, Mavericks and Nets about a potential deal.
The league’s e-mail said that Billups could choose to retire rather than report to a claiming team, though it would absolve the team that claimed him from having to pay his salary.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Perhaps “no comment,” officially, is the best thing anyone could say at this late stage of the NBA lockout.
After more than five hours of closed-door negotiations in New York Sunday night, the two sides agreed to stay quiet about what was said and resume negotiations Monday at 2 p.m. ET.
“We don’t have any comment at all, other than we are breaking for the night and reconvening tomorrow afternoon,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters after emerging from the meeting, which was scrapped as of late Friday night only to be revived over the weekend.
The continuation of talk is better than the alternative. Stern issued a Monday deadline for a new labor agreement to be reached before the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled. Union executive director Billy Hunter was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles this morning for a previously scheduled regional meeting with players, but will instead be back in the meeting room alongside union president Derek Fisher and the rest of their negotiating team.
“We’re not necessarily any closer than we were [going into] tonight,” Fisher told reporters when he hit the New York sidewalk shortly before midnight.
Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners Peter Holt of San Antonio and Glen Taylor of Minnesota, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube met with Hunter, Fisher and union vice president Mo Evans. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner were also present.
Getting all of them in a room together just two days after both sides agreed that they would not meet without the precondition that the players accept a 50-50 split of BRI was a victory in itself. The introduction of the 50-50 split is what shut down talks Tuesday, when the players rejected the notion outright. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix the subject was not discussed at all during Sunday’s session, which focused solely on … .
We won’t find out exactly where things stand until someone speaks about it in-depth, and preferably on the record. (Both sides agreed not to do so, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.) But the clock continues to tick on Stern’s deadline.
But it appears that the Los Angeles Lakers superstar is certainly interested in finding a place to sharpen his skills back his in his beloved Italy:
“Italy is my home,” Bryant told reporters earlier this week while on a promotional tour in Italy. “It’s where my dream of playing in the NBA started. This is where I learned the fundamentals, learned to shoot, to pass and to [move] without the ball … all things that when I came back to America, the players my age didn’t know how to do because they were only thinking about jumping and dunking.”
Unlike many of his NBA counterparts that have flirted with and even embraced the idea of playing overseas during the lockout, Bryant has extensive ties to Italy. He spent his formative years there while his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, starred in the Italian League.
There is also the issue of the NBA labor meetings going on today and through this weekend in New York. Progress made in those meetings could certainly have an impact on whether or not Bryant decides to continue to pursue what he called “a dream” to play in the Italian League.
If Kevin Garnett’s contract was the flash point of the 1999 lockout — his $126 million dwarfed the $85 million paid years earlier for the entire Minnesota franchise, thus making it hard for a small-market team like the Timberwolves to put enough help around a star to contend — the salary of a player believed to be a dud is at the heart of this dispute.
Owners are sick of paying premiums for damaged goods. Players are putting the onus on the people who signed them to those deals, irrespective of who turned out to be a lousy employee.
Nowhere was the impetus for a long labor stoppage more obvious than here in Washington, where what was once thought to be a blockbuster deal — Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis this past December — was in reality one franchise’s lemon traded for another.
Only in the NBA can a town be excited by moving a player with three years and $60 million left (Arenas) for another with more than two years remaining on a $118 million deal. Why were the Wizards ecstatic? Because as bad as Lewis’s $19 million-plus deal per year was for a player with declining numbers the past three seasons, at least they only had to have his contract around for two years instead of three. That’s sadly called success before the trading deadline.
Beyond finding a more equitable split of income, stale contracts are why the union and the league may not come to terms this fall and perhaps beyond.
While some observers like to label this NBA lockout as simply a chicken contest between millionaires and billionaires, it’s so much more than that. There are legitimate issues that must be resolved before we get our game back.
Regardless of whose side you take in this fight, it should be clear by now to anyone paying close attention that fundamental changes to the way the league operates will have to come before the two sides agree to get back to the business of basketball.
During a lockout NBA players who continue to be under contract with an NBA team are free to play anywhere they want, whether for their national teams and/or for club teams.
If an NBA player requests to play for a club of a FIBA affiliated league, the NBA will not object but will state that the player will have to return to his NBA team as soon as the lockout ends. Consequently, FIBA will deliver a letter of clearance subject to the receipt of a declaration signed by the player, stating that he will return to his NBA team when the lockout is over.
“As the world governing body for basketball, we strongly hope that the labour dispute will be resolved as soon as possible, and that the NBA season is able to begin as scheduled,” said FIBA Secretary General and IOC member, Patrick Baumann.
“In view of our role to promote basketball worldwide, we support any player wishing to play the game, wherever and whenever. We do so while obviously taking the interests, rights and obligations of all parties into account,” he added.
“We are delighted to see that, in spite of widespread doubts related to the lockout, National Teams competing in this summer’s Olympic Qualifiers will be able to count on the participation of most of their NBA stars.”
With several high-profile NBA players already declaring their intentions to play overseas, and others mulling their options, the only thing that wasn’t clear was whether or not there would be complications from FIBA.
This morning’s announcement eliminates that potential issue.
*** NOTE:FIBA says each club will decide whether or not they shall sign a waiver clearing them of any responsibility towards the player in case of injury or other reasons preventing a player from returning to the NBA and from fulfilling his obligations vis-à-vis his NBA team.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Armen Gilliam, the No. 2 pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 1987 NBA Draft, died Tuesday night after collapsing during a pickup game at a Pittsburgh-area health club, a story first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gilliam was 47.
After starring at UNLV, where his No. 35 jersey was retired in 2007, Gilliam played 13 NBA seasons with six different teams. The 6-foot-9 power forward, nicknamed the “Hammer,” played for the Suns, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.
NEW YORK – Sleeping on it apparently didn’t soften the NBA players’ view of the owners’ latest proposal in their continuing but so far fruitless negotiations of a new collective bargaining agreement. Quite the opposite.
One day after meeting with the owners Tuesday in the latest round of talks to avert a lockout on July 1, Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association and union president Derek Fisher sounded less persuaded than ever.
For instance, in reference to the owners’ concept of a “flex” salary cap that would replace the current “soft” cap, Fisher did not hold back, according to Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:
Union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers says that’s a “total distortion of reality,” saying “it’s not a flexible cap, it’s a hard cap.”
Hunter, in talking Wednesday with a few reporters in New York, said of the terms proposed 24 hours earlier: “Their demand is gargantuan.” He said the NBA’s proposal would cost the players $7 billion in compensation over the 10-years of the deal and that it would take until the 10th year for the players to reach the $2.17 billion in salary and benefits they earned in 2010-11.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Arvydas Sabonis holds the distinction, per my main man Brent Barry, of being the only player to participate in the Schick Rookie Game (that’s what it was called back in the day) who “could actually use the product.”
Sabonis was a 31 during his rookie season in the NBA. From all the reports and stories we’ve ever heard, that was roughly two or three years past his prime, and yet he still enjoyed a seven-year run in the league. The Hall of Fame nod he received Monday was obviously more for what he did internationally, specifically in the Olympics and world championships, and with the national teams (Soviet and Lithuanian).
In our fantasy sports-crazed culture, can you imagine what young Sabonis might have done to the NBA in his prime?