So how does this lockout get resolved?

7 Comments

The lockout just started, and I’m pretty much done with it.

So how does this thing get resolved?

Sadly, it’s going to take some time, but a couple of factors need to come together.

There needs to be pressure on both sides to strike a deal. No real contract negotiations — whether you are talking with teacher’s union, longshoremen, truckers or professional athletes — really get going until there is pressure on one or both sides to compromise and reach a deal. You would think that the lockout would be pressure, but it’s not really. All that happens now is rookies do not get to prove themselves at Summer League and players who have been rehabbing post surgery with the team’s trainers are out of luck. But that is not real pressure.

Losing money is real pressure. That is not happening now in the dead of the offseason (well, some sponsorship and other money may be lost, but it is not yet serious). The real pressure comes when owners are threatened with not getting revenue from games, or when the players are threatened with not getting paychecks (the first NBA player payday would be Nov. 15, so we are into what would be the season a few weeks before that happens). Basically, losing actual NBA regular-season games — and with that the momentum for the league this season brought — is pressure.

The real threat of losing money doesn’t hit the owners and players until the middle of August. That is when you start thinking about things needing to be cancelled. That is when negotiations will get serious (in the short term, before then, expect the two sides to drift farther apart). If the two sides are not making progress toward a deal by the middle of September, then we should be worried. Then games — and maybe a lot of games — are at risk.

The players need to decide how much they are willing to give back. Until this ends, we will keep talking about compromise. And there will be compromise, neither side is going to get everything they want.

But the players are going to exit these negotiations more poor than they entered. Even if the owners decided suddenly tomorrow to accept the players’ proposal, the players would be giving back $500 million in the next five years. That may be well short of what the owners want — David Stern called it “modest” — but that is a lot of money in real dollars.

The owners are going to push hard for more — much more. There are some hardline owners driving the boat right now and while at some point the more veteran, level-headed owners may change the course of that ship, they are not coming all the way back to the players. The players are talking about how unified they are, but they cannot hold out as long as the owners.

At what point is the pain the players are going to feel from a lockout worse than the pain they would feel from taking the deal on the table? That will be the day the lockout ends. But this may be a more unified group of players than the ones that held out long enough to reduce the 1998-99 season to 50 games. (And that was a deal hailed as a huge win for the owners at the time.)

Will the fear of killing the momentum the league generated in the last 12 months mean a deal can be reached before games are lost? That is the hundreds of millions of dollars question. Both sides give lip service to how the fans will be hurt by the lockout and how they don’t want to alienate the fans. But that has yet to translate to meaningful actions by either side.

We can only hope that concern, combined with the fear of lost money (by both sides) and some level heads, solves this situation before games are lost.

But even in the best of scenarios, it’s going to be a while before we see any resolution.

Kevin Durant coming up ‘big’ for Warriors

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DETROIT – Soft. Scared. Cupcake.

Kevin Durant can’t help but hear his detractors.

“They’re trying psychoanalyze me when they don’t know me,” Durant said. “So, it’s like you have more information about the game of basketball than you do me as a person. So, ‘you’re soft,’ ‘cupcake,’ all that stuff comes from trying figure me out as a person, not worrying about my basketball skills. But if you watch me on the basketball court, then you come up with your own observation.”

That on-court observation no longer jibes with the unflattering perception of his mindset.

Durant’s height has long been a fascination. He’s listed at 6-foot-9, but he’s almost certainly taller. Durant once said he’s 7-foot when he talks to women. “He’s 7 feet,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says plainly.

Durant just didn’t play like it.

He entered the NBA as a finesse player. He couldn’t bench press 185 pounds a single time his pre-draft combine, and he spent his rookie year in Seattle playing shooting guard – as far from the paint as a player so tall could get.

Never mind that Durant improved greatly with the Thunder as a defender and rebounder, skills that require physicality. And never mind that he was a superstar on the perimeter, giving little reason to alter his style.

When he left Oklahoma City – where he settled in at small forward – for Golden State, Durant’s on- and off-court reputations merged to form a single image. Afraid of contact, afraid of competition.

Durant is making it much harder for his critics to paint him that way. He’s playing more like a traditional big than ever.

His 2.1 blocks per game are the most by a non-center, non-power forward since Andrei Kirilenko and Josh Smith more than a decade ago (minimum: two games). His 5.3 post touches per game are the most by a non-center, non-power forward in the NBA.com database (which dates back to 2013-14).

“Getting in the mix with the bigs a little bit, I think that’s one role that I always wanted to play and always appreciated about my teammates in the past – from Kendrick Perkins to Thabo Sefolosha to Draymond to David West to Serge Ibaka,” Durant said. “I appreciated those guys for doing the dirty work and allowing me to be the player that I am on the offensive end.”

The Warriors are spoiled to have Durant assume this responsibility.

Many of his post touches come on split cuts, an action Kerr popularized in Golden State. A player – often Andrew Bogut when Kerr first implemented the play – posts up while a teammate screens for another teammate on the perimeter. Most teams would kill to have a shooter like Durant set or receive the screen. But the Warriors have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to do that. So, Durant serves as the post man, surveying the screen carnage and occasionally just taking matters into his own hands. This video from Eric Apricot of Golden State of Mind excellently shows a few variations:

Defensively, Durant has become more comfortable defending power forwards and centers. Sometimes, he blocks their shots:

Other times, guarding a big just positions Durant to protect the basket:

“He’s just being active,” Kerr said. “When he’s active on the weak side of the play, he’s a devastating defender.”

Durant still just bottles up an opponent in a traditional wing matchup for him and blocks a jumper. He also blocks shots in transition.

But he leads non-centers, non-power forwards with 4.8 shots defended at the rim per game (minimum: two games). His block numbers aren’t telling a misleading story. Durant is doing work in the paint.

It helps that the league has shifted toward small-ball. When the slender Durant matches up against fours and fives, his opponents aren’t as big as they would have been a few years ago.

The Warriors played Durant at center to great effect in last year’s Finals, and it’d be a shock if they didn’t turn to him there again in high-leverage situations.

Make no mistake, though: Durant remains a generational perimeter player. He’s a dead-eye shooter with tight handles and jaw-dropping fluidity. Whatever time Durant spends moonlighting as an interior player, he can always switch into the style that made him a future Hall of Famer in the first place.

His ability to play both ways just makes him even more dangerous.

Still, Durant has made his name as a small forward. He says he has always played the role coaches gave him, but it’s tough to look past the fears of Kevin Garnett, another skilled tall player who worried when he was younger he’d get pigeonholed inside if he were listed as a 7-footer. As we talked, Durant picked up on my line of questioning and interjected.

“You trying to turn me into a four guy?” Durant said.

“Maybe even a five,” I said.

“Maybe,” Durant. “I don’t know. Maybe. That’s the way the league is going.”

Listen to what LeBron James told Lonzo Ball on court (video)

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LeBron Jameson-court conversation with Lonzo Ball after the Cavaliers beat the Lakers last night quickly became a fascination.

With LeBron-to-the-Lakers rumorsfueled by Ball himself – swirling, did LeBron tip his plans for free agency?

Here’s what LeBron said after the game:

LeBron:

I don’t see the reaction, because I don’t get involved in it. I don’t do it to get a reaction.

I do it because he’s said over and over since he was growing up and who he modeled his game after. And who was his favorite player? And it was me, and I was humbled by that. So me wishing him a happy birthday was kind of a salute back to him.

I see all the stupid noise that happens, and I can’t buy a place in L.A. I can’t live in L.A. It’s funny noise. But I don’t get involved in it, because when I post things, I don’t look at comments. I’m so far removed of the white noise and the noise doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to me.

Were you mentoring Ball or giving him advice? LeBron:

None of y’all business.

Unfortunately for LeBron, a microphone picked up most of the conversation (hat tip: reddit user IT-3):

LeBron, best I can tell:

Find your zone and just stay f—ing locked in. The media is going to ask you what I told you right now. Tell them nothing. Just be aggressive every single day.

It’s white noise to you. That’s all it is. Alright? Let’s go.

LeBron was never going to say something controversial in front of all those cameras. He knows better, especially after attention drawn by his on-court conversation with Dwyane Wade a few years ago.

Unsurprisingly, LeBron’s words directly to Ball mirror what he told the media after the game. There’s no secret plot here – just someone who has been in the spotlight for years trying to help someone going through it now.

Who needs good form? Hawks fan nails halfcourt shot for $10k (video)

1 Comment

Former Hawks owner Bruce Levenson didn’t want guys like this shooting this shot.

I’m so glad this fan got the opportunity. This was Atlanta’s biggest highlight while losing to the Pistons — and John Collins had a nice dunk over Luke Kennard:

Kevin Durant kisses fan hit by ball (video)

Leave a comment

Kevin Durant‘s final line in the Warriors’ win over the Mavericks: 36 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks… and one kiss.

He has done this before.