Winderman: Who the players send to the bargaining table

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 437.jpgEditor’s note: From time to time, Ira Winderman will jump in with longer analysis of some bigger issues. These “Quick Takes” appeared previously as stories on and will now appear within ProBasketballTalk instead.

There is a ritual in NBA locker rooms when it comes to electing union reps.

That’s when the veterans scramble for bathroom breaks, when the league’s most outspoken players disappear, when the unsuspecting find out they have been elected.

Take the Rockets, for example.

Second-year forward Joey Dorsey, hardly a player well versed with the labor acrimony that has already gotten the league into heated discussions about a collective-bargaining agreement that won’t take effect until 2011-12.

Freshly back from a stint in the D-League, Dorsey was informed Tuesday in Miami that he has been elected his team’s union representative.


Apparently because his new teammates thought he was going to Dallas, anyway, for the D-League All-Star Game. So why not just send him to the union meeting, as well. That works, except that because he got called up to the NBA, he can’t play in the D-League game. Now he just heads to Dallas for the meeting.

He is not the only interesting choice.

The Heat’s representative? No, not high-profile Dwyane Wade or high-salaried Jermaine O’Neal, but rather where-have-you-gone James Jones.

In fact, the current union board, the one charged with crafting the new labor agreement in concert with David Stern’s cutthroat band of henchmen, is loaded with players either currently working on the minimum scale or headed there, players such as Adonal Foyle, Theo Ratliff, Mo Evans, Keyon Dooling and Etan Thomas.

Even union president Derek Fisher is at a stage where his $5 million salary this season could turn into something closer to the minimum next summer, when he stands as a free agent.

For all the bravado coming out of the union about fighting Stern at every turn, this is an executive board that comes from a far lower rent district than one would expect at this negotiating table.

No Kobe. No LeBron. No Shaq. None of the players who could find their knees bashed in the process.

Influential agents certainly will put pressure on Executive Director Billy Hunter to fight the good fight.

But if it is to the point that Fisher is union president, Foyle the top vice president and Jones the third-ranking union leader, then perhaps that apathy could be parlayed into the ultimate comeuppance for the disinterested high end.

For example, what if Stern, to all the draconian measures he already has forwarded to the union, says, “You know what guys, here’s one more: We also plan to raise the minimum salary for everyone to $1.5 million or even $2 million. Everyone would make at least that. Guaranteed.”

That is more that Foyle and Ratliff currently are earning, likely more than Fisher, Dooling, Evans and Jones will earn on their next deals.

It would serve the majority. Provide an upgrade. In a league where careers are fleeting, the loss of any paycheck to a lockout would be money never regained.

If the players with the most at stake elect to send their D-League to the bargaining table, can’t be bothered enough to make the effort, majority rule could lead to a rude awakening.

It is the rare case when the end of the bench could determine the game’s outcome.

Cavaliers beat Raptors, become first team in 27 years to surrender 79 first-half points and win

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The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.

But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.

Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.

LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.

And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.

It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate
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Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: James Harden ‘best offensive player I’ve ever seen’

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

James Harden torched a solid Trail Blazers defense for 42 points on 13-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers, and seven assists.

That prompted his coach to heap praise on the runaway MVP.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“That’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden. “They’re running guys to him and he just steps a little further back and makes a 3. The way he can pass and see the floor, get layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner — he has so many weapons, and now he’s shooting those step-back 3s.

“It’s impossible to guard him. It’s impossible.”

At first, that sounds like hyperbole from a biased source. But Harden might actually the best offensive player ever. (D’Antoni has been around for all the major contenders.)

Michael Jordan gets overlooked because he was also excellent defensively. Ditto LeBron James to a lesser extent. Another contender: Stephen Curry, whose Warriors might file away D’Antoni’s assessment for if they meet Houston in the playoffs. (The Rockets provide plenty of motivational fodder.)

The list of contenders definitely skews toward the present. Players have gotten progressively more skilled, especially the generation that grew up with the 3-point arc and didn’t suddenly have to adjust to it.

And Harden might be the cream of the crop. He’s an incredible shooter with very deep range off the dribble or spotting up, and he can drive with the best of them. Yes, foul-drawing is a skill. Harden’s combination of scoring volume and efficiency is unprecedented. He’s also an impressive passer, a skill fully unleashed by D’Antoni making Harden a point guard.

I think I’d lean toward Curry, who’s an even better shooter and screener. But it’s very close, and Harden keeps raising his level. Curry probably peaked two years ago (though he obviously remains elite). I definitely wouldn’t dismiss anyone who picks Harden as biased or misguided.

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.