NBA salary cap to increase next year. Which sadly means a lockout is more likely.

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Thumbnail image for stern_Hunter.jpgBusiness is good in the NBA. No. Seriously.

The NBA released the salary cap numbers for next season and after all the reports of doom and gloom the numbers are going up for next season.

The salary cap will be $58.044 million next season, making the luxury tax threshold $70.307 million (for every $1 in salary over the luxury tax line, teams pay $1 in tax). That is well above the $50 million cap figure some teams feared for about a year ago.

The mid-level exception will be $5.765 million. By my estimation, the max contract for a Bird-rights player in the league seven years or more (a team keeping a player, like Joe Johnson in Atlanta) will be $127 million for six years. Non Bird-rights players (like Amare Stoudemire in New York) will work out to about $99 million for five years. The max deal for younger players (like Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City) is $87.7 million for five years.

Those numbers are all up from last year — because basketball revenue was up slightly last year from the year before. The salary cap is based on the “basketball related income” for the teams and league.

So we are seeing teams come out of a recession, it’s all good, right? The teams are spending like that right now, it seems. So all those lockout fears are overblown, right?

Wrong. It’s worse.

The owners still want to change the economic structure of the game. They do not like the soft cap and its seemingly endless parade of exceptions.

Why? Well, I’d argue it’s because they can’t restrain themselves from overspending. They have no self-control, look at this off-season. Only a few owners show discipline. And when only a few do, they get outspent and their teams lose out on players, then they lose on the court. Right now Oklahoma City gets credit for doing it all right, but they are not a huge market, and they just gave a max deal to Durant. What happens when they need to pay Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the rest of the team bigger money, too. And everyone is telling them to get the one free agent that puts them over the top. Then are they disciplined?

But back to the point at hand, the owners are going to push hard for a new system. Maybe a hard salary cap, certainly more punitive measures for teams that keep spending well above the cap (sliding luxury tax scale?). And they will want to negotiate salaries down, shorten contract lengths and make deals non-guaranteed (again, to cover their own mistakes of bad deals).

The players now have ammunition to call them on this. The economic system must be just fine if the teams’ income rose last year despite the national recession. And by looking at the way they are spending. The players are not going to buy the economic hardship the owners are selling.

And that, my friends, means a lockout is more likely, not less.

And that is good for nobody.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Eric Bledsoe hair-salon claim about tweet was unbelievable

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Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:

Clear message?

Apparently not.

After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:

The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.

Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.

It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.