NBA to return $160 million in escrow money to players

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In the one move since the start of the NBA lockout, the NBA announced Tuesday that it is going to give the players back money they already earned.

It’s a good thing in terms of thawing the ice, but it’s not going to really change things. As for what happened… this is going to take some explaining. Bear with me.

You know how as part of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement the players got 57 percent of the league’s gross revenues? Well, how they insured it was exactly that amount the players received was by putting eight percent of every NBA’s players check into an escrow fund. Then at the end of the season money in that fund was returned to the players (in the proportion they put in) to get the overall number to 57 percent. Some years the players got some of it back, some years none.

In the NBA owners first new CBA proposal to the players, one of the ideas was for the owners to keep all of the escrow money from last season, about $160 million. You might imagine how well that went over with the players, who felt they were owed that money under the old CBA. (Overall league revenue was up and salaries were down last season, so the full amount was due back the players).

The league has backed off that and will return the money, according to NBA.com.

That cash could ease or delay the point at which some players begin to feel financial hardship from the lockout. Based on the “average” NBA salary of $5.7 million, the escrow rebate would be worth $456,000. A minimum-salaried player ($473,604) would be due $37,888 while a $16 million superstar could expect $1.28 million coming back.

Not returning the money was a big non-starter for the players union, so just the fact they are getting it back should help move the next conversation off the old deal and on to the next deal. Of course, David Stern will call this a concession and expect one in return from the players, while the union will say this has nothing to do with the new CBA because this is money they had already earned under the old deal.

Basically, this is not moving the sides closer to a new CBA deal as the players want the status quo and owners continue to ask for a dramatic change from the old system. This could remove one stumbling block, but it also gives players more money, which means some may be able to hold out longer before the union buckles.

Maybe a month from now the two sides will start to have meaningful talks. For now we have this action and no talks.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.