Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

Forbes: Salary caps help make rich owners richer, poor poorer

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As we watch NBA owners and the Players Association play a game of chicken with our favorite sport, here comes a very interesting article out of Forbes (via Hardball Talk).

Part of that CBA debate will be about the salary cap — keep the soft cap with exceptions that exists now or move to a more NHL/NFL style hard cap. Some owners favor the hard cap as a way to control costs.

But smaller market owners hurt themselves with a cap and the current revenue sharing system, says Matt Ozanian of Forbes (who writes about all league finances for the magazine).

Tying team payrolls to league-wide revenue (currently about 50% of total revenue goes towards player compensation and benefits in each of four leagues) has served to make high-revenue teams enormously profitable and low-revenue teams unprofitable, or marginally so, relative to their rivals. The growing distortion in profitability has resulted in a bigger gap in team values…

The NBA had total operating income of $234 million during the 2008-09 season (our 2010 valuations and profits will be published in February). But three teams (Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons) accounted for 64% of the league’s profits and 12 teams lost money. So billionaire Michael Ilitch is reportedly pondering buying the Pistons for some $400 million while Michael Jordan snapped up the money-losing Charlotte Bobcats for just $175 million in March.

The conventional wisdom is that salary caps benefit poorer teams. But in reality they benefit richer teams more. The owners know this, of course. Which is why the real bare knuckles fighting in the current collective bargaining negotiations in these three sports is among owners.

As we have said before, if you’re serious about bringing more parity to the NBA — and we’re not sure that you really can in basketball where one player can so dominate the course of a game, nor are we convinced that parity is good for the NBA in the way it has been for the NFL — than the real issue is revenue sharing by the owners. David Stern has said the owners are seriously discussing it and that “more robust” revenue sharing is on a parallel track with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But if it is on a true parallel track, then those discussions are stalled because of disagreements about how and how much money should be shared. A parallel track would mean they are talking but nowhere near a consensus.

Still, the thought of a bunch of very rich Republican owners in a room crying out for a more socialist system always amuses me.

Kobe Bryant says his age 37 is not like Michael Jordan’s age 37

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Once again, Kobe Bryant‘s career arc is being compared to Michael Jordan’s.

There’s a lot of reason’s that’s flawed — starting with Kobe being drafted on to a Lakers team that had Shaquille O’Neal and was already considered NBA elite, as opposed to Jordan working to build a franchise up. That said, Kobe has invited the Jordan comparison at times and it has been a constant through is career. Fair or not.

Kobe is coming back this fall after seasons of injury to the NBA and those comparisons continue — now to the Wizards’ version of Jordan. And Kobe is not at all fond of that, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “My 37 (years old) isn’t MJ’s 37 (when he returned after taking two seasons off to play for the Washington Wizards), you know what I mean? Nor is it the same team or the same system that he was playing in. It’s much, much different. There’s really no barometer, no (precedent) for training physically, for recovery. It’s uncharted territory.”

Kobe is right. Jordan had four+ seasons off by the time he was 37 and was not coming off multiple major surgeries.

Kobe is entering his 20th NBA season and what any real basketball fan should wish for him is health. Let him play one full season (with limited minutes and nights off), let him get to the final game of this season next April and make his own decision on his future. Let him leave the game on his own terms.

That said, if Kobe can average Jordan’s numbers at that age — 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game — it will be a major accomplishment, and the Lakers will have a better record than many of us expect.

And Kobe may want to play a 21st season as well.

Celtics ease to 124-91 win at Olimpia Milano in Global Games

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MILAN (AP) — The Boston Celtics eased to a 124-91 victory over Olimpia Milano at the Mediolanum Forum on Tuesday, comfortably winning the first of a double-header in Europe as part of the NBA Global Games.

Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Celtics with 18 points, including nine in his first seven minutes after coming off the bench midway through the first quarter.

Jared Sullinger added 14 points, as did Avery Bradley, who also had four three-pointers, while David Lee weighed in with 13 as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Alessandro Gentile – who is reportedly wanted by the Houston Rockets, who hold NBA rights to the 22-year-old – top scored for Milano, with 19 points.

Next up for the Celtics is Real Madrid in Spain on Thursday.