NBA expects big television revenue jump, which complicates lockout

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Nothing runs professional sports in the United States like television and television money. And it’s right in the middle of the NBA lockout.

That starts with the current television deal, set to pay the league $930 million next season (assuming there is a next season). We told you before about how the NBA’s television networks — TNT, ESPN/ABC — are set to lose $1.25 billion in revenue if there are no games.

Over at Hoopspeak, Ethan Sherwood Strauss explains how the NBA has missed the boat on its national television deal (first signed in 2007).

Ad Week reports that ESPN/ABC and TNT would miss out on up to 1.25 billion dollars from a year with no basketball ad money. If the 2011-2012 season actually happens, those channels would collectively pay 930 million dollars for that 1.25 billion return in broadcast revenue, a potential 320 million-dollar gap between what the NBA sells TV content for and what broadcasters make off of it. This is a quite a steal for the TV side considering that broadcasters often overpay for the privilege of attaching themselves to sports. For perspective, networks give the NFL 4 billion dollars in return for 3 billion in ad money. My suspicion is that pro basketball could easily make up the 300 million they claim to be losing–if only the league had a mulligan on TV rights negotiations.

They don’t get to redo those rights until 2016, although the current partners may be willing to do an earlier renegotiation to keep the rights without opening up the bidding.

But when they do, the NBA will see a big jump in revenue, according to Forbes.

The buzz in broadcasting circles is that the National Basketball Association’s terrific television ratings and greater competition for sports programming are going to result in at least a $3 billion increase in the league’s next deal (30 percent more a year than the current deal)…

While buzz sometimes nothing more than just buzz, in this case a 30% increase might be too conservative. The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly inked a new cable deal in February that will pay the team an average of $150 million a year, five times their current fee. Almost immediately after Peter Guber and Joe Lacob bought the Golden State Warriors last summer the team inked a new cable deal with Comcast. Although the figure has not been reported, I have been told the deal paid the new owners between $40 million to $50 million upfront, plus a more than 100% increase in the annual rights fee. Heck, even the National Hockey League just got a new deal with Comcast that will pay the league 170% more than its current agreement.

What Forbes is writing about both the owners and players realize — the league had the best ratings it had seen in a decade last year and they will be getting more television money in the future. Which brings us to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations and lockout.

The last offer from the owners wanted to cap annual player salaries at $2 billion (they made $2.17 billion this past season) for a decade. Meaning that player salaries would remain flat an all of the money from the increased television rights deal would go into the owners pockets.

The players currently get 57 percent of the gross Basketball Related Income that comes into the league, a figure that includes the national television revenue. While the players have offered to lower their share down to 54 percent, they want it to remain a percentage because they want to share in the increased television revenue when it comes.

And that is part of the standoff. There will be more revenue for the league in future seasons, but who gets the lions share of it has to be hammered out.

If back in 2007 the league had not signed such a long television deal, one that had more flexibility, we might not be dealing with the threat of such a protracted lockout.

Celtics’ Gordon Hayward says he’s open to returning this season

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BOSTON (AP) — Celtics guard Gordon Hayward says he is open to playing this season, but says it will depend on how fast he is able to heal and show progress as he works his way back from a broken left ankle.

Hayward was at TD Garden on Friday for Boston’s matchup with the Utah Jazz, the team he left this past summer in free agency after seven seasons to sign a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics. He was injured in Boston’s season opener at Cleveland.

Wednesday marked a milestone in Hayward’s recovery process, when he was able to shed the walking boot he’s been using since his surgery in October. He will continue to wear a protective brace during the rehab process.

He said he doesn’t know how long he will have to wear the brace. But he said he is now allowed to do some shooting and begin working more on mobility.

 

Russell Westbrook triple-double keys OKC in 3OT thriller vs 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and Oklahoma City and the Philadelphia 76ers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before the Thunder pulled out a 119-117 victory on Friday night.

Andre Roberson scored the winner with 10 seconds left for the Thunder. But one of the early contenders for NBA game of the year belonged to Joel Embiid and Westbrook as they drove, blocked and rebounded their way toward one big play after another.

Embiid scored 34 points in 48 minutes with an achy back and rallied the Sixers from a 17-point hole.

Embiid, Philly’s franchise center and social media star, grabbed his lower back when he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Embiid grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.

Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94-all with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.

Embiid scored the first bucket of OT and the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers’ five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George‘s 3-pointer and a Westbrook bucket that made it 102-all. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.

Round 2 was just as fun.

Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped buckets that kept it even and the Sixers had one more chance to win it with 1.2 seconds to go in the second OT.

Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid even waved goodbye as the crowd went wild when Steve Adams fouled out of the game.

But Embiid seemed gassed at the end and there’s no telling how the heavy workload may affect his availability the rest of the week.

The Sixers were featured on ESPN on Friday as part of Philadelphia All Access, and Sixers’ related content was aired throughout the day on all platforms.

“I’m not a fan,” coach Brett Brown said. “I like living behind closed doors.”

But Brown understood the exposure would help build the brand and serve as a recruiting pitch of sorts to any free agents intrigued about becoming part of The Process. The Sixers put on a show in the fourth until Embiid gave them a scare.

Embiid’s health woes have dogged him since his college career at Kansas and every slip, ache or bump throws Sixers fans into a panic. Embiid has been banged-up lately but he calmly went to the line and made both free throws. He fell again when he tripped over Adams, who earned a foul, and sank two more free throws to make it 78-72.

 

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder won in triple overtime, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.