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Does reducing the size of a max contract mean more player movement?

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There are not many things we can say for sure about the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that the players and owners are hammering out. Or will hammer out, right now they are just posturing. No actual work has taken place.

But we know two things are pretty much certain.

The owners will want less money and fewer years on max contracts. Why? Because they often give them to the wrong people and end up regretting it. They want to reduce the pain on their mistakes.

Secondly, the owners want to find a way to limit the movement of superstar players. The recent moves by LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami, followed by Carmelo Anthony determining where he wanted to play and forcing his way out of a smaller market to the biggest one scares the owners. They want to find a way to take that power from the players, to find a way for teams to hold on to their stars — their real meal tickets — so that there are not more Utah’s trading Deron Williams out of fear of what night be.

However, reducing max salary size may give the players even more power.

Your true superstar players — LeBron, Kobe and a handful of others — are vastly underpaid for what they generate in terms of revenue for the teams. On a true open market, LeBron would have made upwards of $40 million last season one respected agent told PBT at Summer League. But because LeBron made less he got to dictate a lot of the terms.

Henry Abbott at TrueHoop broke this down very well yesterday.

Think about it this way. Let’s say LeBron James was limited, by some upcoming CBA provision, to earning one dollar a season. In that world, every team in the NBA would be crazy not to sign him up. He’d be beyond valuable. He’d be a winning lottery ticket, that you can purchase for a dollar after they reveal the winning numbers.

With a salary like that, James really does have 30 owners at his feet. As he can’t ask to be paid what he’s actually worth, he can instead ask for … whatever he wants. Get me this teammate! Hire my buddy! Let me out of practice! Fire the coach! Stock this champagne on the team plane! It’s all worth it to the team, for a player who would be, effectively, contributing $50 million or so to the bottom line every year of his prime.

On the other hand, let’s say there were no limits at all on player salaries. Let’s say teams were allowed to pay James the $47 million (the New York Times’ Nate) Silver suggests his play is worth. Or maybe some owners make their own calculations about James’ value, and somebody offers James $75 or $100 million per season.

Well, now James is a guy with a fatter salary, for sure. But he’s also a guy whose return on investment has diminished. Now instead of 30 owners lining up, he might have one or two eager to employ him. Now instead of making a long list of demands to a team, a team would make a long list of demands to him. Now instead of telling the team how things were going to be, the team would be telling him how he can best make good on the enormous sums they are paying for his services.

In other words, to determine what happened to make superstars so powerful, you need to understand what made them so valuable. And a big part of the answer lies with a CBA that leaves superstars woefully underpaid.

It’s not going to go that way because the owners want to control costs and they see the bad max deals out there as one of their biggest expenses. The owners want to be protected from themselves and the deals they hand out. But that could just increase this clustering of stars in big markets.

Kevin Hart, Draymond Green get in All-Star Saturday three-point shootout

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TORONTO — This is going to come up in the Golden State locker room.

Right before Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry put on a three-point shooting exhibition, actor/comedian/self-promotor Kevin Hart came out and challenged Draymond Green to a shooting contest. Green was ready to go. They did the three-point shooting contest, and Green put up a total of 12 (which would have been dead last in the actual three-point contest, for the record).

Then Hart stepped up — and tied him with 12 points.

Steve Kerr, if you’re ever looking for a lineup to go REALLY small….

Other All-Stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant’s legacy

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TORONTO — This is Kobe Bryant‘s weekend.

In what will be his final All-Star Game, he has been an absolute rock star in Toronto — huge ovations, huge crowds (of fans and media), and cameras trained on him everywhere he goes. The weekend has been a celebration of one of the game’s all-time greats and a storied career.

Over the course of the weekend, nearly every other All-Star has been asked about Kobe and the impact he’s had both on the game and on the players, personally. For many of them, this is personal, the younger NBA players grew up idolizing him. Here are a sampling of their responses.

James Harden (Houston Rockets):
“He’s been my idol growing up, my basketball idol. Like I said, just watching him play meant everything to me. So this is his last year, and he’s going to retire, and there’s going to be no more Kobe Bryant playing basketball, it’s kind of sad. It’s kind of sad about that, but at some point he had to go.”

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors):
“He’s the Michael Jordan of our era. He’s the most competitive player we’ve played against, and the thing he’s done throughout his career and the things he’s done to change the game, to motivate the players is unbelievable.”

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat):
“Kobe, this is his weekend. I know he probably would never say that or admit that, but, yeah, he’s one of the iconic players of this — greatest iconic players this league has ever had. He’s had such an imprint on our childhood. I know he had an imprint on my childhood. And then I was in that mix where I was a kid, and then I was trying to figure it out in the NBA, and next thing you know you’re competing against him. So, it’s been crazy.”

DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors):
“I grew up watching the Lakers. I grew up watching him his whole career and getting a chance to have a relationship with him and kind of, you know, patterned my game after him so to speak, so definitely speaks volumes.”

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder):
“Me growing up in Los Angeles and being able to see Kobe, obviously he’s one of the greatest players to play the game. It was a true honor to be able to learn from him. It’s a great experience to be able to learn different things from him, not just on the floor but off the floor as well and very different experiences.”

Tyrone Lue (Coach, Cleveland Cavaliers):
“When I first got there (playing for the Lakers) he was still young. He was Kobe, but he hadn’t been a starter yet. And that third year of his career, that was my first year, Rick Fox went down, and he stepped in and took a starting role. But just seeing the film he watched all the time, the players he was talking about, the Oscar Robertsons, Michael Jordans, the Magics, he knew from day one who he wanted to be like. He knew that to be the best, you had to work hard. That’s what he did every single day. Not one day did I see him take off.”

Paul George (Indiana Pacers):
“He was just fearless. He’s a champion. To get to where you want to get to, you have to put the work in. His work ethic is one thing that he has. That’s the reason why he’s so great.”

Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks):
“The only thing I can remember is him always beating us when I was at Utah in the playoffs. We always had to try to overcome the Lakers and Kobe Bryant and just could never do it.”

John Wall (Washington Wizards):
“Basically, the Michael Jordan of our era is what I see with all of his dedication to the game, his competitive drive. He’s one of those guys that always wants the ball in a tough situation. No matter the circumstances, he believes in himself, no matter what.”

Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic):
“I watched Kobe growing up and watched him in the All-Star Game. The impact he’s had on my basketball game and in my life and so many other people, it’s really big. It’s astronomical. That’s Kobe. That’s the man.”

Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors):
“He’s meant so much to the game. Growing up in the era that I did, Kobe was that guy. So to play in an All-Star Game with him, I mean, that’s special. I grew up a Kobe fan, so it’s something that’s really special.”

C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers):
“He’s had a huge impact (on me). Obviously for us, he was the Michael Jordan of our era, a guy we watched. He emulated Michael. He had a lot of the same fadeaways, sticking out his tongue, winning championships. Just a sense of self to understand exactly what it takes to be successful. So for us, he was a guy I looked up to. His work ethic, his understanding and he knew how to bounce back from losses and shooting air balls in the playoffs as a rookie to hitting game winners.”

Watch it again: Epic dunk contest duel between Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon

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TORONTO — I am always hesitant to say a player/team/situation is one of the best of ever because the history of the NBA is filled with greats. We tend to overstate how good something current can be.  That said…

That was one of the best dunk contests ever.

Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show for the ages. Gordon had the best dunks of the night (in my opinion), but LaVine is consistently amazing, every dunk he does is flat out ridiculous.

Officially, LaVine won. In reality, we all won. Enjoy watching it one more time.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.