But if the measurement was “Most Memorable 3-pointers Made in The Finals,” Allen’s shot that saved the Heat’s season (for at least 48, or more, minutes) has to rank among the best clutch shots from long distance anyone has made.
Win Game 7 Thursday night and, years from now, Allen’s shot will be the one that sticks out. It’ll rank right along some of the greatest clutch 3-pointers in the history of The Finals … shots like these:
Big Shot Bob, Robert Horry’s dagger for the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 …
John Paxson’s crunch-time strike for the Chicago Bulls in 1993 …
TNT’s Kenny Smith’s money shot for the Houston Rockets in 1995 …
Dirk Nowitzki’s long-range shredder for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 …
Jerry West’s 60-footer for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970 …
And finally, Ron Artest’s (now Metta World Peace) game-saver for the Lakers in 2010 …
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is not a celebration, we repeat, NOT a celebration of flagrant fouls. We abhor them and believe they are an absolutely unnecessary evil that the powers that be must find a way to get rid of … somehow.
But as students of the game and keen observers of all things basketball, we couldn’t stop watching this mashup of flagrant fouls (courtesy of DOPESIKCEO on YouTube) from over the years.
Notice the startling consistency in how they are perpetrated (from Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer from a yesteryear to Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum these days) and how often they involve someone assuming that they can sneak a cheap shot in despite the thousands of folks watching in the arena (guys in striped shirts with whistles included), not to mention the millions viewing from home:
LONDON – Until earlier today, Dwight Howard‘s entire NBA career was spent in a Orlando Magic uniform.
But Kobe Bryant didn’t need to Howard him in purple and gold to know that he’s a better fit in Los Angeles and with the Lakers, on and off the court, than he ever was in Orlando.
The job of blending Howard’s game into what the Lakers will do with a star-studded lineup that also includes two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-Star power forward Pau Gasol is ultimately the responsibility of Lakers coach Mike Brown.
Bryant said it won’t be an issue.
“He’s not going to have to sacrifice much,” Bryant said. “He’ll get more touches here than he did in Orlando. I know, it sounds weird to say, but it’s true. We do a great job playing through the post and playing through Pau … I mean, it’s going to be sensational.”
With one of the premier distributors in the game manning the controls in Nash, there should be plenty of shots for everyone. In fact, the Lakers, at least their top six rotation, will look like an All-Star team. Big 3 or 4? They’ve got a few more, what with Ron Artest and Antawn Jamison in the mix as well.
It’s a lineup that Bryant teammates on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team never thought they’d see.
“We joked around about it a little bit during the summer,” Bryant said. “The consensus was there was no way we could get Dwight and still keep Pau, and they all love Pau for us. So they were like, ‘there is no way you’re going to let Pau go, and therefore you can’t Dwight.’ And I was like, ‘I think we can make that happen.’ We got Pau for virtually nothing [when we traded for him]. History does repeat itself.”
What Bryant is really looking forward to, though, is the future. Now that the season and summer of speculation is over and the Lakers have what could be a championship contender, training camp is already on his mind.
“It helps because you start getting into a frame of mind of what your team is going to look like,” he said.
He might have said it best earlier, when he said, “it’s going to be sensational.”
One extremely interested observer is Lakers power forward Pau Gasol, whose name continues to percolate in trade rumors. He made it clear that he’s “excited” about the prospect of teaming up with the two-time MVP, per Marca.com:
“This is great news and a good time. Anyone would love to play with Steve Nash.”
The Lakers’ power forward has embraced the arrival of the Canadian …: “I’m excited to play with Steve and with all that brings. The player is more generous and less selfish than there are in the NBA. It is also one of the assists historical leaders. “
“Unfortunately I can not control my destiny but I would love to keep the Lakers and will fight the most to try to win another ring, “he said.
Gasol hasn’t been shy in stating his own case for remaining with the Lakers. A frontline crew of Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace with Nash and Bryant in the backcourt gives the Lakers one of the most formidable starting fives in the NBA. All five of them have been All-Stars at one time or another and all but Nash have championship rings.
Whether or not the Lakers are done reshaping their roster, however, remains a mystery as Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register points out. As long as Dwight Howard remains a trade option, both Bynum and Gasol cannot escape those trade-rumor crosshairs.
But it doesn’t really matter how many times you watch it, how many different interpretations there are of it and how many different ways World Peace tries to explain away the lick he passed as both “unfortunate” and “unintentional.”
And at this stage, it’s really only a matter of how severe a penalty it will be for World Peace and the Lakers, whose regular season finale is Thursday night in Sacramento. While the reaction from folks on both sides of this issue was as immediate (thanks to Twitter and other social networking sites) as it was passionate, discipline for World Peace will have to wait until the league doles it out.
But, as one prominent agent explained it, that does not mean the league is limited to game penalties in dealing with World Peace. The league is perfectly within its right to fine him an unspecified dollar amount on top of the games he would be forced to sit out, without pay. For a player who has already missed 111 games due to 13 previous suspensions and lost millions in related fines and penalties, this latest incident is a sobering reminder of a place he probably did not intend on revisiting after a relatively incident-free past couple of years.
“I would think at least five games and anywhere from 5 to 10 games,” the agent said. “I thought it was definitely an egregious act and a totally over the top move. It wasn’t a basketball play. There wasn’t a basketball involved at all. Bynum got five for knocking Barea out of the air. This was just as bad, in my opinion, if not worse. It wasn’t a basketball play. And it wasn’t a mistake. Harden never even looked at Artest, didn’t have his hands up and never knew that elbow was coming. This wasn’t Harden’s fault.”
The former Lakers coach told The Times he enjoyed seeing Bynum’s development, even if it had been filled with inexplicable turns the last few weeks.
“Bynum is not quite mature, but everyone should relax and watch him grow up,” Jackson said via email. “This year has been a big step for him offensively…nice to see…and when he takes up the mantle as defensive captain the Lakers can get back in the hunt.”
Jackson was strict with Bynum while coaching him for six seasons, prodding him about his fitness, getting more rebounds and playing better defense.
Bynum’s on-court troubles began last month when he tossed up a three-point shot early in the third quarter of a close game against Golden State. Bynum didn’t exactly apologize afterward after being yanked from the game.
He was fined a total of either $5,000 or $7,500 by the team for his conduct relating to that game, which included shrugging and frowning for a TV camera while sitting at the end of the bench.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Six months seems like a long time to wait for a loved one to return. But when we saw the Christmas Day lineup of NBA games that the schedule making powers-that-be whipped up for us, it melted any lingering animosity we might have had about the 149-day lockout.
By the time you are finished opening gifts, sipping a little coffee and smacking on that cinnamon roll on Christmas morning, you’ll be able to dive into another pile of gifts from the NBA. The blockbuster, five-game lineup (the rest of the schedule comes next week) includes some of the league’s top teams and top stars on a day-long showcase that starts with a special Christmas morning episode of GameTime on NBA TV, followed by an episode of Inside The NBA on TNT that leads into the action.
Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, Noon ET, TNT
Keep An Eye On: Might this wind up being a battle between the Celtics’ Big 3+1 against the Knicks’ Gotham City remix of the Big 3, including the much-discussed Chris Paul joining Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire?
Either way, we’re tuning in for this continuation of the playoff matchup that the Celtics won going away last season. And with all of the principles, whoever they might be, well rested and eager to kick off the season the right way, there’s no way this game is anything other than a colossal battle of wills. It’s the perfect way to kick off the big day.
Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks, 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Keep An Eye On: One can only imagine what sort of splendid banner raising/ring/whatever-else-it-might-be ceremony Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has planned for opening day in Dallas. Having the same Heat team they vanquished in The Finals on the other side of the floor for the festivities is a brilliant move by the schedule makers, who guaranteed that this rivalry gets an immediate dose of energy by pitting these two contenders against each other from the start.
There was plenty of hostility between the two sides by the time The Finals ended. It’s been a long offseason, but surely Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t forgotten about how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade clowned him about being sick during the series. And James must remember all of the heat he took for his struggles throughout the fourth quarters in The Finals. And you know Mavericks sharpshooter Jason Terry can’t wait to get another crack at the Heat.
Rest assured, whoever suits up will understand the intensity expected when that ball goes in the air. We can’t wait.
Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers, 5 p.m. ET, ABC
Keep An Eye On: In this era of superstars collaborating to win titles, it will be refreshing to watch the two guys who refuse to recruit their peers to come play with them square off at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant‘s Lakers, still smarting from being smashed by the Mavericks in the playoffs last season, will show us what they’ll look like in the Mike Brown era. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose still seems a bit salty with himself for his playoff performance against the Heat, struggles that no doubt influenced and inspired his offseason workouts.
Speaking of Brown, there isn’t another coach in any sport at any level under more scrutiny than the man who has to replace Phil Jackson on the Lakers’ bench. Brown’s task will be toughened by the fact that the Lakers have to figure out how to reinvent themselves without the security of the triangle offense they used to fuel their rise. Brown will have his hands full with Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest) while also trying to rebuild Pau Gasol‘s confidence after his playoff struggles last season.
(Remember, the Lakers will play the first five games of this season without Andrew Bynum, who will serve his suspension for that elbow shot to the ribs of Barea during the playoffs last year.)
The Bulls offer their own set of intriguing subplots, having to show that Tom Thibodeau‘s first season (in which he was named Coach of the Year) was no fluke. The Bulls had plenty of skeptics last season as they went about the business of recording the best record in the league. They won’t have that luxury this season. Playing with a target on their chests every night will test their mettle.
Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Keep An Eye On: On paper the Magic and Thunder would appear to be teams headed in opposite directions. Kevin Durant spent his summer cementing his position as, arguably, basketball’s most beloved young star and the leader of a Thunder team that ground its way to the Western Conference finals last season. The Magic, on the other hand, were bounced from the conference semifinals by the Hawks, sparking more rumors that Dwight Howard is ready to bolt.
Howard joins both Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the players most coveted by others, the ones most likely to join a superfriends group resembling what we’ve seen in Boston and Miami in recent seasons. The Knicks and Nets battled for Carmelo Anthony last season and could do the same again for the attention of Howard, who has given no indication as to what he plans to do beyond starting training camp with the Magic.
Strangely, the one story we figured to be most prominent regarding the Thunder seemed to fade during the lockout. All-Star and All-NBA point guard Russell Westbrook was under heavy fire from outsiders for his roller coaster performance during the playoffs, sparking debates about whether the Thunder should seek to replace him with someone else. It was a suggestion that sounds as preposterous to us now as it did during the Western Conference finals. We’re expecting big things from Westbrook this season. Opening night is as good a time as any to get started.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Keep An Eye On: Like so many of our nights last season, Christmas will end with a heavy dose of Blake Griffin doing what he does best, making monster highlights. Unfortunately, new Warriors coach Mark Jackson will be on the wrong side of some of those calls he used to make as an ESPN analyst. Because we’re pretty sure Griffin will do a few things to make someone say, “Mama there goes that man” on Christmas night.
The Clippers sit atop the preseason HT rankings for the surprise team in the league this year. With Griffin and Eric Gordon coming into their own last season and the franchise finally showing some true signs of progress on the floor, much is expected of Vinny Del Negro‘s crew this season. How the Clippers handle these heightened expectations makes for must-see-viewing.
We’re also intrigued to see what Jackson will do as a coach. After hearing him analyze for so long, it’s going to be interesting to see what he brings on the bench. Will he make Monta Ellis and Steph Curry even more dangerous as a backcourt duo? Warriors fans have to be banking on it, as that is their only hope to climb up the food chain in the Western Conference. A lot is riding on the Jackson-Ellis-Curry dynamic to help reignite the franchise in Oakland. This will be our first taste.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The doors are open. The players are back in gyms around the NBA. And so too are the rumors that make this time of year unlike any other on the calendar, even if it is a few months late.
Outside of the trade deadline, there is no better time to soak in the sort of drama we’re experiencing in these days leading up to the union being reformed, the new collective bargaining agreement being finalized and the start of training camp and free agency. All we need is a big top and a ringmaster to conduct the ceremony of this player or that player being sent here or there. This is the circus that is the NBA unleashed from its 149-day lockout.
Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN.com: In a surprise development on the first day that NBA teams and agents could start talking about new contracts, Tyson Chandler came away convinced that his time with the Dallas Mavericks is coming to an end. ”I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” Chandler told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.” Chandler’s doubts about the Mavericks’ willingness to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal are bound to be welcome news for the teams already courting him in these early stages of free agency. Chandler and Denver center Nene rank as the two most coveted unrestricted free agents in the 2011 class, but the overwhelming sentiment in many front offices has been that Chandler’s return to Dallas was essentially a lock after the 7-footer’s role in helping the Mavericks win their first championship. Chandler, though, insisted Wednesday that such assumptions are a misnomer and admitted for the first time that he’s disappointed by the club’s decision not to offer him a contract extension after he was widely credited — most notably by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki – for changing the team’s defensive culture after three first-round exits in the previous four years.
TEAMS IN HOT PURSUIT OF NENE
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams that reached out to Nene’s representatives Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact agents to discuss potential deals. Once the offers arrive, it could take more than $13 million annually to sign Nene. While the market is still developing for him and the rest of a thin free-agent class, he’s clearly the focus for every team with cap space and the need for an inside presence. The Nuggets are pressed to keep him, and would likely have to pay significantly more than would’ve been necessary if they had worked a deal with him prior to his opting out this summer. The Nets could be the major threat for Nene because of their combination of salary-cap space and desire to surround point guard Deron Williams with as much talent as possible to convince him to sign an extension. Privately, Williams has made it clear that he’s far less inclined to re-sign a long-term deal with the Nets if they don’t immediately improve their roster. New Jersey can also gather assets and still stay in position to make trade offers to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.
METTA WORLD PEACE AN AMNESTY CANDIDATE?
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Achieving world peace comes with a hefty price tag. The Lakers might feel the same way about another form of World Peace, this one the goofy 6-foot-7 Lakers forward who flexes his biceps, makes the Staples Center crowd gasp every time he shoots and goes by the first name Metta. The Times’Mike Bresnahan has reported that the Lakers might waive the player formerly known as Ron Artest via the league’s amnesty clause. Such a move could move somewhat risky considering that Artest’s defense remains strong and waiving World Peace would make it necessary for the Lakers acquire a defensive stalwart to replace him. But the thought process makes sense for basketball and monetary reasons. World Peace averaged a career-low 8.5 points last season and appears, at 32, to be on the decline in maintaining the lateral movement and quickness that have made him a top defender. By shedding World Peace’s three-year, $21.5-million contract, Bresnahan estimated that the Lakers could save as much as $27 millon in salary and taxes in 2013-14 under the new rules, should the Lakers remain between $10 million and $15 million over the tax threshold. That would prove more beneficial than even cutting forward Luke Walton (two years, $11.46 million). That’s why it’s important World Peace understands and embraces the need to temper his antics, ranging from his Twitter rants to his on-court goofiness and his name himself.
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.
11:47 p.m.: At least no one delivered any ultimatums this time.
The labor talks broke after nearly 11 hours tonight and despite chatter earlier about a deal being done, the sides finished the night the same place they finished them last weekend. The players have a proposal to consider and will now take that proposal to their player reps, as early as Monday, per union executive director Billy Hunter.
The proposal is a revised one and not the “reset” proposal that was threatened if the players did not accept last weekend’s deal by the end of business Wednesday. Hunter and union president Derek Fisher didn’t seem particularly enthused by what they’d heard.
“We have what we characterize a revised proposal from the NBA,” Fisher said. “It does not meet us entirely on the system issues … We’ve decided to take a step back and confer with our player reps.”
Both Hunter and Fisher were asked about the disappointing expressions they wore when they faced the media before departing the hotel, but Hunter insisted that it should not be taken as an indicator of anything but the fatigue associated with the process.
“Its been a long haul. We’re coming near the end of it,” Hunter said. “We’re trying to get this thing done.”
It has to get done if the players want the current deal on the table, which NBA Commissioner David Stern said will include a 72-game schedule that would start Dec. 15 and would require the start of the playoffs and The Finals back a week to make the calendar work. If the players don’t accept the offer, Stern indicated that the league’s reset proposal, with the 47 percent of BRI and salary rollbacks, would be the only deal on the table.
Stern also said the time for negotiating is finished.
“There comes a time when you have to be done negotiating, and we are,” Stern said.”We wait the response from the union. We did our best … We moved as far as we can move. I am optimistic the NBA owners would approve it if the players union approves it.”
Stern stopped short of calling it the league’s last, best offer. But that’s exactly what it is.
“We took pains out of respect to the efforts of everybody, not to characterize it precisely that way,” Stern said. “But if this offer is not accepted, then we will revert to our 47 percent. We have made our revised proposal and we’re not making another one.”
Both Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged how tough it would be for any union to take the proposal on the table back to their reps, but he also made clear that the players are not the only ones uncomfortable with the details of the proposal.
“We don’t expect [the players] to like every aspect of our revised proposal,” he said. “Many teams don’t like every aspect of our proposal.”
But at this stage of the game, some 132 days deep in this lockout, this is where they are. And that means the players hold the fate of this season, the one that could begin as early as Dec. 15 and include just 10 missed games, in their hands.
10:21 p.m.: Finally, we get some news that should wake up the masses, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Might there be a proposal on the way for the players to consider?
After finishing call with owners’ labor relations committee, David Stern will deliver union a revised offer tonight, league sources tell Y!
He then added this for good measure:
Owners revised offer will be working off current negotiations with players — not the threatened ‘reset’ offer awaiting if talks broke down.
Now this sounds like real progress. And it’s some welcome, positive news after the hype and letdown from Checketts-gate earlier.
RUH-ROH, NEW ISSUES CROPPING UP?
8:56 p.m.: Turn away from your computer for two minutes and all the positive vibes about a potential deal being on the horizon are replaced with gloom and doom. (Thanks a lot Ken Berger).
Berger, of CBSSSports.com delivered a nasty backhand to the face of basketball lovers everywhere a short while ago when he tweeted that there was modest progress being made on the mid-level and that new “hurdles” had emerged.
Nine hours of negotiations, a day after both sides pulled a 12-hour marathon session, and we get hurdles? Hurdles? In the infamous words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious?”
Negotiators for the league and players’ association made modest progress on the use of the mid-level exception for luxury tax-paying teams Thursday, but other guidelines governing exceptions and the tax level emerged as a new sticking point, three people briefed on the labor talks told CBSSports.com.
One of the people said league negotiators signaled a willingness to raise the so-called “mini mid-level” to three years starting at $3 million for teams above the luxury-tax level, to be available every other year. The previous offer was a two-year deal starting at $2.5 million, available every other year to tax teams. There was no indication union negotiators were ready to agree to this slight improvement in the owners’ proposal, as it would reduce the mid-level exception for tax teams from last year’s five-year, $37 million total to three years and $9 million for teams above the tax line.
Also Thursday, a new hurdle emerged in the discussion over when teams would face the new restrictions owners are proposing for teams above the luxury tax threshold. Two of the people briefed on the talks said owners were pushing for teams under the tax at the time of the transaction to be restricted from using the full mid-level — four-year deals starting at $5 million — if the signing put the team over the tax. In that case, the team would be restricted to use of the mini mid-level. Union negotiators want the new restrictions to be based on where a team’s payroll sits in relation to the tax prior to the use of the exception — not where it stands afterward.
After a 12-hour session Wednesday produced minimal progress, the two sides pushed past the eight-hour mark Thursday with the threat looming that league negotiators would pull their existing offer off the table and replace it with a worse one. The new offer, originally scheduled to be furnished to the players at 5 p.m. Wednesday but delayed due to the ongoing talks, would feature a 53-47 economic split in favor of the owners and also would include a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts. The two sides currently are negotiating off a league proposal that would give the players a 50 percent share of revenue and maintain a soft-cap system — albeit with a vastly more onerous luxury tax system, more restrictions on exceptions, shorter contracts and smaller annual raises.
That’s just fantastic.
All that talk of progress and now this.
There have to be evil spirits at work to do this to us after all this time. Whenever things appear to be close to some sort of resolution we go right back to the point where both sides need a break from each other before things go haywire.
No offense to Mr. Checketts, who spent almost as much time talking about the lockout as he did Penn State and his Real Salt Lake soccer team, but we’ll spend our time listening to our own in-house experts (check the video above and below). And for the record, everyone from DA to the Dalai Lama has refuted the report from Checketts as being not only wildly premature but mostly just false (for now).
The folks at TNT were kind enough to round up the likes of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Steve Smith, Chris Webber and the newest member of the family, Shaquille O’Neal, to discuss the lockout’s current state of affairs with the venerable Ernie Johnson serving as moderator. It’s worth your time:
LEGEND BLASTS HARD-LINERS ON BOTH SIDES
4:42 p.m.: We know it’s not necessarily the chic thing to do in today’s NBA, but the players and owners might want to take a minute to listen to the “old heads.”
“As a very interested bystander, I just hope they get a deal,” Russell told CBSSports.com in a phone interview. “And it will not come from the hard-liners on either side. I think they all know that. I have this theory that hard-liners are like true believers. And true believers think that any compromise is a retreat. And moving forward, that doesn’t cut it.”
Russell’s words carry weight – and not just because he is the most decorated champion in NBA history. The former Celtics’ star was among a group of 20 All-Stars who threatened to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston unless the NBA recognized the newly formed players’ union.
“Basically I was one of those guys that helped get the players’ association started,” Russell said. “And they’ve done wonderful things. I knew David Stern before he was commissioner, when he was associate attorney for the NBA. And if I remember correctly, he said, ‘I do not consider the players’ association my adversaries. They’re my business partners.’
“That’s where, a lot of the things that David has done — and I’ve known him up close — have been beneficial for both sides,” Russell said.
Russell, 77, winner of 11 NBA titles, wanted to speak with CBSSports.com after he learned of union attorney Jeffrey Kessler’s comments in which he referred to NBA players being treated like “plantation workers.” Kessler, who made the comments to The Washington Post Monday night, apologized to several outlets Wednesday.
“I think that’s an invalid accusation,” Kessler said. “I think the whole deal is not about black and white. It’s about money, OK? I don’t see any signs of being greedy. It’s a typical negotiation and that’s all it is. And there are a couple of reasons it’s difficult, because there are hard-liners on both sides.
“But to me, the name-calling or vilifying the other side is a non-issue,” Russell said. “All that is is a distraction — a distraction from the task at hand, which is reaching an agreement that neither side will probably be completely happy with. But that’s the art of compromise.”
TAKING STOCK OF THE NBA LOCKOUT
3:45 p.m.: The intrepid and incredibly dedicated group of reporters staking out the labor negotiations in Manhattan are doing more than just playing with that solitaire app on their iPads!
They are working while they wait. What they are working on, however, well …
Asch sent this memo from the scene:
NBA labor tote board through 11/9
Courtesy of the accounting firm of Howard & Beck, NYT:
– Total NBA labor negotiations meeting time:
22 sessions, 148 hours … since lockout imposed July 1 THRU the 12-hour Wednesday session Nov. 9.
– Since they “got serious” (Sept. 27 THRU Nov. 9):
16 sessions, 118 hours.
Today (11/10) is session No. 23 in honor of the great alleged turncoat Michael Jordan.
This is quality accounting work!
THREE HOURS AND COUNTING …
3:02 p.m.: All is quiet on the meeting front as things push past the three-hour mark. But progress is being made, according to DA (check the video above). That works for us.
The news cycle of the past few days could use a positive spin. And the end of the lockout would certainly qualify. Just being on the cusp of a deal would go a long way around here.
The tone of things has certainly improved from earlier in the week, when both sides were obviously a bit perturbed with each other. There was the business of that ultimatum the owners issued. And then there was that union/unity press conference Tuesday.
owners were so upset by Tuesday’s player press conference that they nearly refused to meet b4 Wed’s deadline. Stern must’ve calmed them down
Now if they could just get a deal done!
IDENTIFICATION PLEASE …
1:51 p.m.: More Twitter fun for us all, courtesy of DA:
TO: Members of the News Media
FROM: The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
As you know, FMCS Director George H. Cohen has been involved in mediating the ongoing NBA and NBA Players Association negotiation.
It has come to our attention that a Twitter user identified as @TheMediatorGC has been impersonating Mr. Cohen, using his photo, and has impersonated him in contacts with various members of the media via Twitter. The impersonator has made false, defaming and inflammatory comments regarding the parties in the negotiation and the Director of the FMCS. Please be aware that this is an impersonation. Director Cohen does not have a Twitter account. Please do not attribute comments or information found on Twitter to Mr. Cohen or to the FMCS without first checking with the FMCS Office of Public Affairs …
– I miss the LA times telling me how sucky I am. That’s the best. End the lock out. I miss jeff van gundy. The Malcolm x of announcers
– I miss the unhealthy plane food. I miss staples low music in the arena . Lebron misses Cleveland. I miss locking down people.
– I miss zen phil not giving Luke and Adam morrison playing time! I miss the bald headed Espn announcers. I miss the going bald TNT announcers
– I miss the dance teams cheering because they have too not necessarily because they want to. I miss Kobe taking shot after shot. Lmafo
– I miss Philly , Detroit and Boston fans. They craziest fans in the NBA . I be scared man! I miss going to Philly n Kobe buying Philly steaks
– I miss the refs running down the court like they have hot tomales in their pants.. I miss Charles Barkley commentating
– I miss Clyde fraziers lime green pig skin suites with orange slices throughout the linen and pitbull skit chin-klet-tas
– I miss the supersonics
SYSTEM ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED
1:15 p.m.:TNT’s David Aldridge checked in with some informative information from New York that should help us prepare for today’s session:
Assuming no delays in the pre-meeting caucus each sides conducts with itself, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association should be underway in their pivotal meeting in New York.
Sources have indicated that the sides made progress Wednesday on three of the five significant system issues that separate them. Those are believed to be the escrow account that the league has implemented since 2006 where a portion of player salaries are withheld and placed in escrow in case the players’ overall share exceeds their agreed-upon percentage (the league is looking for a 10 percent escrow commitment from players in the next collective bargaining agreement), the league’s “repeater tax” proposal that would add additional financial penalties for luxury tax paying teams that do so three or more times in a five-year period, and the so-called “cliff” issue, with the union concerned that teams that are marginally and infrequently tax payers get punished financially under the league’s proposals just as badly as teams that are tax paying recidivists.
It is not known how much progress was made on those issues, though a source indicated Thursday morning that the moves were incremental rather than substantial, a view also expressed by the union’s executive director, Billy Hunter, in his post-meeting remarks early Thursday.
That would leave mid-level exception use for taxpayers and the ability of tax payers to execute sign-and-trade deals as the two significant issues that still aren’t close to being solved.
The NBA wants to limit tax paying teams to a “mini mid-level” exception that would only run two years and start at $2.5 million in the first year. The union has countered with a four-year mid-level starting at $5 million. Both sides have agreed that whatever mid-level is adopted for tax payers, it will only be available to them every other year.
The league argues that teams that go into the tax shouldn’t be able to add to their rosters by using the full mid-level, as the Lakers did with Ron Artest in 2009 and the Celtics did with Jermaine O’Neal last season. The idea is both to reduce the payrolls of tax paying teams to bring them closer to those of non-payers, which the league thinks will help competitive balance, and to get more players into the system for non-tax payers. The union believes that such restrictions will chill the market for free agents–in essence, taking the top five or six paying teams out of play–and will also affect players who don’t sign with the top teams, because the teams that bid for them will be able to sign them to smaller contracts than they would have to if the bigger payroll teams were able to pursue those players.
The NBA has similar concerns about allowing tax paying teams to execute sign-and-trade deals, where a free agent is allowed to add an additional year to his contract by signing a deal with his old team, which then immediately trades him to another team. Free agents got a seventh year if they re-signed with their old teams under the previous CBA, but only six years if they signed with another team. This was the method used, for example, by LeBron James when he went from Cleveland to Miami last summer–though the Heat was not over the tax threshold when it made the deal.
The union has pointed out that tax payers have only been involved in sign-and-trade deals five times over the past several years, making it an issue hardly likely to impact competitive balance.
A PICTURE IS WORTH … ?
1:02 p.m.: Using recent negotiation sessions as a guide, the men (below, pic courtesy of Steve Aschburner) setting up this room for the post-session media briefings probably don’t need to rush.
Asch has ordered us not to read anything into their being just one room used for the pressers. Apparently there are certain factors at work within the hotel that prevent the use of more than one room. And by no means are we assuming anything with the union backdrop going up first.
READY FOR ANOTHER ROUND …
12:24 p.m.: It’s time. It’s time for the owners and players to go back into that negotiating room in Manhattan and time for them to get back to the business of bringing our beloved game back to the masses.
So what if we’ve said that before every single meeting throughout this lockout. But that 12-hour session that ended early this morning was hopefully just the appetizer for today’s pow-wow, which kicked off minutes ago.
The league’s assertions that they are losing upwards of $300 million per season have been met with skepticism from the players association and fans alike. After being given the opportunity to examine the league’s books, the union admitted the league was losing money, but said the losses were closer to $100 million than $300 million.
The union also believes the league has up its sleeve a few extra ways of squeezing out a profit. One of these is an ancillary benefit associated with negotiating a more favorable split of basketball related income (BRI) with the players. Business valuations are tied to revenues and expenses. By negotiating the players down from 57 percent of revenues to 50 percent (and counting), the league is ensuring the teams a decrease in expenses – and therefore an increase in projected profits. This will drive up franchise values.
How much will franchise values increase? It’s hard to say. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the value of a business, and a number of ways to do the calculation. A conservative estimate might be a $3 million to $12 million average increase in franchise values for each percentage point in revenues the league wrests from the players. Decreasing the players’ split of BRI from 57 percent to 50 percent therefore might be worth $21 million to $84 million per team.
The owners will only see this money when they sell their teams. But when they do sell, none of it is shared with the players.