Russ Granik

Former Stern right hand man not optimistic about CBA negotiations

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You remember Russ Granik as the guy everyone cheered for when he came out to announce the second round of the NBA Draft every year (until he retired).

Granik did more than just that and pick up David Stern’s dry cleaning as NBA Deputy Commissioner, however, he was the NBA’s lead negotiator when the last Collective Bargaining Agreement was hammered out.

This time around he’s outside the room, an interested observer. But he told Sam Amick of NBAConfidential (bookmark that site) that things look tough.

“I think the NBA has a more difficult problem (than the NFL), because it’s harder to see where there’s an easy compromise. On a relative basis, they’re looking for greater moves by the players and I think it’s going to be more difficult. They’ve got a lot of smart people on both sides, so hopefully they’ll come to a good conclusion.”

Part of it is that while the NFL has started to feel the pressure of real deadlines — and the immediate threat of a lockout — to push negotiations along, the NBA has not gotten there yet. Granik said progress tends not to be slow and steady on these things but to move in big leaps.

“Nobody really gives up anything important until it’s all done. It’s always got to all be part of a package, because nobody wants to give something unless they know where they’re going. So if you’re not in the room, and even if you are sometimes, it’s hard to know where you are. But it doesn’t take a lot of time to make a deal. And so when the parties are ready, they’ll get the deal done.”

Granik also had an interesting point about revenue sharing — it’s ultimately about the big number, the percent of basketball-related income (BRI) that goes to the players that determines what they make. How the owners divide it up should not bother the players.

“I don’t really think it should matter to the players (if revenue sharing is negotiated in the CBA) if you have a salary cap… But in the leagues that have salary caps, there’s already a minimum team salary, so whatever happens the players get 57 percent (of basketball-related income). At the end of the day, players get 57 percent. That’s how it works. And so, revenue sharing is not going to change that. It might affect who gets it, but it’s not going to affect what the players get. So I think there ought to be less concern when you’ve got a salary cap system on the part of the players about how the owners share revenue. You know you’re going to get your cut.”

Report: Rockets will try to sign Alessandro Gentile next summer

Alessandro Gentile, Paulius Jankunas
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The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.

So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.

If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.

Report: Hawks co-owner made more money by exposing Danny Ferry’s Luol Deng comments

Michael Gearon, Bruce Levenson
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A terribly kept secret: Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. wanted to get rid of general manager Danny Ferry.

Many believe that’s why Gearon made such a big deal about Ferry’s pejorative “African” comment about Luol Deng – that Gearon was more concerned about ousting Ferry than showing real concern over racism.

Gearon had another, no less sinister, reason to raise concern over Ferry’s remarks.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

While Gearon felt that Ferry, as he wrote in the June 2014 email to Levenson, “put the entire franchise in jeopardy,” Gearon also figured to benefit financially from a Sterling-esque fallout.

In the spring of 2014, Gearon was in the process of selling more of his interest in the team to Levenson and the partners he had sold to in September. The agreed-upon price for roughly a third of Gearon’s remaining shares valued the Hawks at approximately $450 million, according to reports from sources.

“We accept your offer to buy the remaining 31 million,” Gearon wrote in an email to Levenson on April 17, 2014. “Let me know next steps so we can keep this simple as you suggested without a bunch of lawyers and bankers.”

Approximately five weeks later — just a little more than a week before the fateful conference call — Steve Ballmer agreed to pay $2 billion for the Clippers, a record-smashing price that completely changed the assessed value of NBA franchises. Gearon firmly maintains he was acting out of the sincerity of his convictions to safeguard the franchise from the Sterling stench, but such a spectacle also allowed him to wiggle out of selling his shares at far below market value.

Gearon and his legal team later challenged the notion that the sell-down was bound by any sort of contractual obligation and that any papers were signed. Once the organization became involved in the investigation, the sale of the shares was postponed.

Arnovitz and Windhorst did an incredible amount of reporting here. I suggest you read the full piece, which includes much more background on the Gearon-Ferry rift.

Considering the Hawks sold for $850 million, Gearon definitely made more money than if he’d sold his shares at a $450 million valuation.

Did that motivate him? Probably, though it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Most likely, his actions were derived from at least three desires – making more money, ousting Ferry and combating racism. Parsing how much each contributed is much more difficult.

What Ferry said was racist, whether or not he was looking at more racism on the sheet of paper in front of him. His comments deserved punishment.

But if Gearon didn’t have incentive to use them for his own benefit, would we even know about them? How many other teams, with more functional front offices, would have kept similar remarks under wraps or just ignored them?