If Collins is indeed headed for an exit from the bench, CSN Bay Area’s Ric Bucher is already reporting on a succession plan. Assistant coach Michael Curry, whose last coaching work came with the Detroit Pistons, is poised to take over. Curry last just one season in Detroit. But Bucher reports that he will be considered for the job on a permanent basis, if he does take over for Collins before this season ends.
The Sixers have lost six straight games and still haven’t seen prized offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum anywhere but the practice court. Lingering knee issues have kept the All-Star center out of the lineup since training camp. And based on his comments the other night, Collins doesn’t seem terribly confident that Bynum’s return, if there is one, will do much to change things for his team.
This season has turned out to be a complete dumpster fire for a Sixers team that came into the season with plans to challenge for the Atlantic Division crown and a lofty playoff perch in the Eastern Conference standings. Pairing the free-agent-to-be Bynum with All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and a solid supporting cast looked like an ideal plan, at least on paper.
Entering tonight, Philly is 5 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for No. 8 in the East. The Sixers appear to be headed back to the lottery at the rate they are going, not to mention into the mix of teams searching for a new coach.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Their names will be linked in Orlando sports lore forever, former Magic superstar center Dwight Howard and former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
But it won’t always be about their messy divorce and departure from the Magic. On at least one account, the former player and coach will come together to help bolster the future for students in the Orlando area, the Seminole County School system to be exact.
It turns out that Howard and Van Gundy do have a common interest outside of winning a Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Diametrically opposed on so many issues, Howard and Van Gundy are political allies (the combatants in contests across the nation in this election year need to take notice) when it comes to helping preserve the property tax base that helps fund the school system.
If you read my column last week, you know Van Gundy is the chairman of a political group in Seminole County called Citizens for Preservation of Property Values. The goal of the group is to increase property taxes in Seminole County to help preserve the area’s traditionally strong public school system — a system that has been decimated by $73 million in budget cuts over the past five years. In the Nov. 6 general election, Seminole voters will decide whether to approve a 1-mill increase in property taxes for four years beginning a year from now. The increase would bring in as much as $25 million annually to the school district.
Van Gundy says Dwight, who was recently traded to the Lakers, is going to lend some financial backing to the cause.
“Dwight has pledged his support,” Van Gundy said Monday during an interview on our Open Mike radio show on 740 The Game. “He’s a resident of Seminole County, and he’s keeping his house here. I think his history will show that he’s had great concern for kids in the Central Florida community. With him still living here, we asked him to help and he didn’t hesitate.”
Surprisingly to some, both Stan and Dwight say they are on good terms and have been communicating regularly over the last several weeks. Van Gundy even texted Howard and wished him good luck after he was traded to L.A.
“Dwight’s position has remained unchanged since the end of this past season,” said Dan Fegan of LaGardere Unlimited. “He fully intends to explore free agency at the end of next season, regardless of what team trades for him, including Brooklyn.”
A source said the Nets never insisted Howard commit to an extension as a prerequisite for acquiring him, which Nets president Billy King confirmed in a text message.
Howard told the Magic, according to GM Rob Hennigan, he would like to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets above any other team. The Nets made concerted efforts to strike a deal for Howard earlier this month, but were forced to stop when the Charlotte Bobcats threatened to sign their restricted free agent center, Brook Lopez, to an offer sheet.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The lasting image of All-Star center Dwight Howard from this season might very well be that scene at shootaround practice where he and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy did their “what did he say” tango.
… Howard will undergo back surgery Friday morning in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk, effectively ending his season and eliminating him from participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Howard’s agent said Thursday night.
Howard has been complaining of back problems since early March, but it wasn’t until Los Angeles-based spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins examined him last week that the herniated disk was discovered.
Howard received an epidural to alleviate the pain at that time and the plan was that he’d rest and rehabilitate his back for 10-14 days before deciding if he could return to play or further treatment might be necessary.
But his back has worsened and both Watkins and the Magic’s medical staff determined that surgery is necessary.
Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, said he hopes this development debunks any thoughts that Howard’s back problem was not serious and that he was utilizing it as an excuse not to play.
A report out of Orlando said that Howard told Magic owner Rich DeVos in a recent phone call that he did not intend to play again for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who put Howard in an awkward situation by announcing that management informed him his All-Star center had asked that he be fired. Fegan, along with other sources, have disputed that report.
As devastating as Howard’s loss is for the Magic, who have already clinched a playoff berth, it’s just as devastating for the Olympic team. There are other options at center, but no one on Howard’s level and with his experience playing with the national team.
– 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.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t stick that finger in the air.
Not that one, the index finger you might use to gauge which way the NBA lockout winds are blowing. Let us save you the trouble. They’re blowing cold right now. That’s right, ice-cold is the read we’ve gotten on the owners’ 72-game season proposal delivered late Thursday night.
All of the early indications suggest that the players are not interested in accepting the “revised” proposal, the one with the 50-50 BRI split but with many of those pesky “system” issues still a problem for union executive director Billy Hunter, union president Derek Fisher and the men they represent.
The flood of instant reaction, even before the player reps from all 30 teams could make it to New York for Monday’s scheduled meeting with union brass to review the proposal, has been resounding. (That dream Dec. 15 opening night TNT double-header featuring the Heat-Knicks and Lakers-Mavs will vanish if the players punt on this latest proposal).
Once NBA players digest all the details of the owners’ new contract proposal — including a clause that opens a way for more player demotions to the D-League — it’s hard to imagine even those desperate to play would be willing to ratify it, sources told Bucher.
The D-League clause, which previously had not been disclosed, is one of several elements in the owners’ proposal to the locked-out players that prompted one agent to describe the proposal as “draconian.”
The clause would give teams the right to send a player down to the NBA Development League at any time during his first five years, paying him a reduced contract while he’s there, a source who has examined the proposal told Bucher.
Any player sent down to the D-League would be paid at a pro-rated scale of $75,000 a season, which is slightly above the current D-League maximum but roughly one-sixth of the NBA minimum, the source said.
The owners’ new proposal also would prohibit luxury tax-paying teams from sign-and-trade deals after a two-year “phase-in” period, according to sources.
Non-tax-paying teams also would be prohibited from using the mid-level exception if doing so would take them over the salary cap, sources said.
“They don’t want to do a deal,” one agent said of the owners’ proposals. “And what they’ve underestimated is the resolve of the players.”
The players were sounding their own alarms (via Twitter and elsewhere) throughout the day Friday, as details of the proposal no doubt trickled their way. And they were just as emphatic in their dismissal of any deal deemed unworthy being something they would accept just for the sake of guaranteeing that Dec. 15 start to the season.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Appreciation for days like this one, Veterans Day, were forged years ago in Shaquille O’Neal, the son of a father who served in the military.
Preparation for the days like this one and the many ahead has been a part of O’Neal’s thought process for years, long before he began his 19-year journey in the NBA.
Unlike countless others before him, O’Neal didn’t wrestle with the idea of what he’d do when his playing days ended. He’s already kicked off his career as a TNT analyst (check him out talking lockout with several of his new colleagues). His biography, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” with Jackie MacMullan, hits the shelves Nov. 15 and will include an extensive book tour where fans will no doubt want to hear more about some of his legendary battles, on and off the court, with some of basketball’s biggest names.
“Going into the next phase of my life never worried me,” O’Neal said. “Growing up and watching everybody else’s successes and failures, I’ve prepared for this. I even talk about it in my book. My father came home one day and hit me in the back of the head with a book. He said, ‘read this.’ And it was Kareem‘s book on how he lost all his money. And my father told me, ‘it’s never going to happen to you.’ It’s all about having a plan. And that’s how I got here.”
That doesn’t mean he spared anyone or anything in his book. With an extensive history playing with and against some of the biggest names in the game — including the league’s three biggest current stars, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — there will be plenty for fans to chew on once they get their hands on more than just the excerpts that have already circulated.
“The worst thing about the world we live in now, is there is more than one outlet that people respect. Back when we were coming up if it didn’t come from ESPN, NBC, CBS or ABC it didn’t have that stamp. But now, people are just taking excerpts and putting them out like they have the whole story,” O’Neal said of early criticisms, particularly his relationship with Bryant. “In the long run, it’s only going to help me have a No. 1 bestseller. Look, a lot of this stuff is just me reflecting on what’s already been out there and what’s been said. But a lot of guys that don’t have any creativity, guys like Bill Plaschke (of The Los Angeles Times) and Ric Bucher (of ESPN The Magazine), they don’t have any creativity to come up with their own stories. So to keep people paying attention and respect what they do, they keep bringing up old (expletive).
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you thought October was filled with empty rhetoric from both sides and nastiness that prevents progress in the NBA’s lockout saga, wait until you get a load of the new narrative.
The only thing worse than yet another breakdown in lockout negotiations is the incessant finger-pointing that kicked off in earnest on what should have been the opening night of the season.
And it’s open season on any and everyone connected.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We knew better than to believe there was any substance behind those Thursday night smiles that had us all believing that this thing was anywhere close to over.
From the moment the NBA lockout began July 1, one of our most trusted sources has been reminding us that we would not have NBA basketball to be thankful for at Thanksgiving. And we foolishly ignored that warning. The jovial back and forth between NBA Commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter after Thursday night’s session threw us off just long enough for us to dream a little.
Well, we’re done dreaming here at the hideout.
The game face is back and there will be no more sugar-coating the smoldering hot mess that this labor impasse has become. No one has to worry about our hopes getting too high that a deal will be done in due time because we’re done with hope. The time has passed. The first month of the season went up in smoke officially Friday night, along with any chance the two sides had of preserving whatever ounce of goodwill remained amongst the basketball loving masses.
We know now that being “close” on system issues means nothing if the BRI gulf remains the same, that a smile for the cameras one night could easily be a frown for the same cameras the next.
No doubt, someone will reach out over this weekend or early next week and rekindle the talks and eventually everyone will come back to the table ready to play this game again. Just leave us out of this time. Save us the posturing, public sparring and those hollow smiles that make the best cliffhangers in the latest episode of As The Lockout Turns …
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Just when this was starting to get fun, just when it was starting to get done, we all got snookered. That was the word Billy Hunter used Friday after negotiations to end the 120-day lockout went kablooey for the second time in a week and third time this month. That was what Hunter said David Stern did to him when the commissioner said Thursday night he was going into Friday’s seemingly promising bargaining session “ready to negotiate everything.” Only he wasn’t. Neither was Hunter. The two men who were supposed to be in position to finally close this deal did not have the authority to do so. That’s the only logical explanation when failing to get a deal this weekend results in approximately $800 million of economic carnage — the total cost to both sides of a month of lost games — when the distance between the two sides is $80 million. ”Absurdity,” one person on the management side of the NBA business said Friday night. Oh, no. It’s worse than that. Altogether now: It’s ass-hattery. But you knew that already. I’d brought two bananas to Friday’s bargaining session — mostly for sustenance during these mentally debilitating hours spent waiting for grown men to finish staring at each other, but also as props. You may recall the banana-in-the-tailpipe column in which I detailed the blowout victory the owners were seeking in these negotiations. On Friday, we all fell for the banana in the tailpipe again. And we didn’t even have a late supper — shrimp salad sandwiches, say — to show for it. On top of that, I left my grocery bag with the bananas in the lobby, and by the time the predictable, double-talk-laden news conferences were over, two perfectly good bananas were gone. The latest casualties of the dumbest lockout ever.
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.
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.
• 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.