Should the NBA adopt the NFL's franchise player tag?

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Thumbnail image for bosh_wade_james.jpgLeBron James became an unrestricted free agent and left. Chris Bosh became an unrestricted free agent and left. Amare Stoudemire became an unrestricted free agent and left. Carlos Boozer became an unrestricted free agent and left.

The radical shifting of the NBA landscape has some in the league (and some fans) asking if that much movement is a good thing?

You can bet owners — particularly small market owners — will fight in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement talks to limit that movement. They will say they need to be given the tools to keep players in the fold. They will argue that without them the NBA will become Major League Baseball, where some small market teams are perceived as farm teams for the Yankees and Red Sox.

NBA owners would love a more NFL-style system: A hard salary cap, and no guaranteed contracts (players get signing bonuses instead, something not really done in the NBA).

And there is the franchise tag.

That tag (and the start of NFL training camps) has people all over the NBA asking if it is a good fit in the NBA.

You can bet they think that in Cleveland and Toronto.

The franchise tag allows a team to tie an unrestricted free agent to them for one more year. An exclusive franchise tag takes away a player’s right to negotiate — he stays with his team on a one-year deal worth 120 percent of what he made the year before or the average of the top five players at that position in the league, whichever is higher. There is also the lesser-used non-exclusive tag, where players can negotiate with other teams but the “home” team can match, and if the player does leave his former team gets two picks as compensation.

In the NBA, it would have allowed Cleveland to keep LeBron James for one more year at a max deal. Same with Chris Bosh in Toronto. After that one-year deal, the team could renew the tag the next year, in practice locking a player with a team in a series of one-year deals.

The NBA’s current system already gave those teams advantages — they could offer larger raises and one more year than other teams — but it was not enough. Should teams be able to force a top player to stay and maybe not have that salary count against the cap?

How fair is that to the players? In the case of LeBron he actually took less than the maximum to move. Should a player who is willing to take less money to move be restricted from that movement? Is that fair? If you wanted out of your current job enough to take less to move to another company, should you be restricted from that? Is that fitting the American ideal?

CBS’s Ken Berger bounced the idea off a few people and got an interesting response.

“The league would love to have [a franchise tag] in place to maintain competitive balance,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University. “The small-market owners would love it, but the big-market owners wouldn’t. It’s not just a struggle between the owners and the players. It’s a struggle between the owners and the other owners.”

The owners vs. owners issue comes up on another topic as well — revenue sharing. NFL owners share revenue from local television deals and the gate at arenas in a way NBA owners do not. National television revenue is split evenly in the NBA, but local revenue is not. So what the Knicks get from MSG or the Bulls get from a big market in Chicago is not shared with what the Grizzlies get out of small-market Memphis.

Another question: If you franchise tag a player, how many max deals should you be allowed to have? The Lakers have Kobe and Gasol basically at max deals, with Bynum not far behind (and a lot of good players making “middle class” money, something they can afford to do as a big market, high-revenue team, which smaller markets cannot). Every team that went deep in the playoffs was paying the luxury tax last year, it is not a coincidence.

The owners may want a franchise tag, but they need to get their own house in order, first.

And know this — while the NBA seems destined for a lockout as owners try to alter what they see as a player-friendly financial system, the NFL is headed for one as well as players try to change what is seen as an owner-friendly system.

There is no way the players are going to easily — or ever — accept an NFL like system. No matter what the owners want.

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.