Winderman: Challenge in NBA lockout is owners, players infighting


The two sides in the NFL labor dispute have finally come together, so there will be football.

Perhaps that’s why they came together, because there only were two sides.

What has become increasingly clear amid this first month of the NBA lockout is that this is a lockout squared. There essentially are four sides.

On the ownership side, there are those with an immense amount to lose: the Heat losing one of the four locked-in years on the contracts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh; the Celtics losing perhaps the last go-round with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen; the Lakers losing the Buss family’s primary source of income; the Knicks losing impetus gained amid the costly retrofitting of Madison Square Garden; the Bulls losing their first taste of momentum in the post-Jordan era.

But on the ownership side, there also are those who gain more without playing: the Kings, who can gain additional time to sort out their arena situation without another season in their current outdated building; the Cavaliers, who could find themselves with another guaranteed high lottery pick and a quicker path toward rebuilding; the Bobcats, who clearly need some sort of revenue sharing to make it work; ditto for the league-owned Hornets.

But it’s not only a schism among owners.

On the players’ side, we’re hearing plenty about Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose cashing in for $400,000 apiece with this past weekend’s appearances in the Philippines; about Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony and their current tour of China; of Amare Stoudemire, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and their lucrative overseas possibilities.

But the league’s lesser players, the ones who could lose a year of their fleeting careers? They’re not getting the big bucks to tour or sign overseas. They’re just seeing transitory paychecks soon to be lost.

Yes, the NBA needs a consensus to get out of this mess.

But first there must be a consensus between the owners. And between the players.

Why exactly would the Lakers, with their profitable new local television deal, want to revenue share with the Kings, who are threatening to move into their very market?

Why shouldn’t the lesser half of the players’ union simply say: “Raise the annual minimum to $2 million per, guaranteed, and we’re in, and feel free to cut the maximum while you’re at it.”?

On the owners’ side, is revenue sharing best for all? Or contraction?

For the players, wouldn’t decertification and a free-for-all for benefits create a further gap between the haves and have-nots?

It still is only July, less than a month into the lockout, at the very point when it also was highly contentious in the NFL lockout.

But unanimity is easier brokered when there are only two sides to the story.

What the NBA needs at this point, before anything else, are truly unified fronts.

Not high-end players cavorting overseas as the rank and file seeing valuable career time slipping away.

Not owners who aren’t even sure what they’ll do with the pie when they finally get their slice.

If the lockout continues to be played as a game of two-on-two, it will remain a game with no possible winner.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at

51 Questions: Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

It has been five years since the Phoenix Suns made the playoffs, tying the franchise record for longest playoff drought. It’s the fourth longest active drought in the NBA (Timberwolves at 11, Kings at nine, and Pistons at six).

Think about it this way: The Magic, Sixers, and Jazz have been to the playoffs more recently than the Suns.

Phoenix hasn’t bottomed out on a rebuild, they’ve actually been pretty good — they surprised everyone and won 48 games two seasons ago, then had 39 wins last season when things went very wrong and injuries crushed the team after the All-Star break. However, in a deep Western Conference pretty good isn’t good enough.

Suns management and ownership wants that to change. They want back in the playoff dance. Now.

It’s why they went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, coming in a surprising second to a Spurs team that nobody was likely to catch in that chase.

This summer the Suns made other moves to address needs. They went out and got Tyson Chandler as a free agent. The first reaction was he was there to provide a shot blocking and defensive quarterbacking, two things the Suns sorely lacked. However, just as importantly, they needed a vocal locker room leader, a vacuum that was part of the problem in Phoenix’s implosion last season.

The Suns also needed shooting, they went out and got Mirza Teletovic and drafted Devin Booker.

It’s easy to think the Suns regressed because they lost a lot of talent since the last trade deadline — Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright — but they believe the pieces they have now fit together better.

Phoenix believes it can make the playoffs; it thinks it finally has the right formula.

Maybe. They will be in the mix. But a four things have to happen to make that a reality.

First is Chandler has to lead a defensive renaissance on this team. Last season they were average, 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Chandler can help change that. First, he gives them defensive rebounding that they lacked. He gives them a quarterback that they needed to call things out and have everyone on the same page (reports of how he talks on defense are already pouring out of camp). And he helps protects the paint — that means Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and P.J. Tucker can pressure the ball more and take risks out on the perimeter knowing Chandler can erase some mistakes.

The second is an obvious one: Bledsoe and Knight need to be able to work well together. They are going to share playmaking duties, and both are going to spend time working off the ball, both need to be ready for that mental adjustment. We haven’t seen that much yet, we need to see how it works out.

Third, there needs to be shooting to space the floor. Bledsoe is a penetrator who is a career 32 percent from three, while Knight shot just 31.3 percent from three after being traded to the Suns (likely due to ankle injuries that required off-season surgery). Those two men will be running the pick-and-roll with Chandler, who sets a good pick, rolls hard and can finish, but doesn’t have shooting range. The Suns other two starters are likely P.J. Tucker, who is not a huge threat from three but shot a respectable 34.5 percent from there last season, and Markieff Morris, who is a career 32.8 percent from three.

If I’m an opposing defense, what’s to keep me from going under picks and packing the lane against the Suns? Phoenix needs Knight to return to the guy who is a career 36 percent from three, they need Morris to improve from the outside, and they need guys like Teletovic and Booker to play key minutes and space the floor at times.

Fourth, and finally, they need the potentially volatile mixture of an unhappy Morris and a coach in Jeff Hornacek in the last year of his contract not to combust. Everyone is saying all the right things at the start of camp, and this is why guys like Chandler and Ronnie Price were brought in, but there is the potential for things to go sideways, especially if some early losses pile up.

The biggest hurdle for the Suns in ending their playoff drought is they are in the Western Conference.

Even if all four of things mentioned above go right for them — if they run and hit more threes plus play better defense — this is likely a 45 win team (give or take a few, and probably take). The problem is that in the West that may not be enough. Barring injuries, there are likely seven lock playoff teams in the West — Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans. That leaves the Suns battling teams such as the Jazz, Mavericks and maybe the Kings for that final playoff spot. It may take more than 45 wins, and things are going to have to break the Suns’ way to get there.

Maybe Robert Sarver gets his way and the playoff drought ends this season, it’s more likely than snow in Phoenix this winter. But I wouldn’t bet much on either happening.

LeBron says “get it done” message was for both Cavaliers, Thompson

LeBron James

Everything LeBron James does and says gets magnified and scrutinized.

So when he put out this photo on Instagram standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Tristan Thompson and the caption “get it done” it seemed a message to the Cavaliers.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron clarified that on Sunday, saying this has become a distraction, and the message was for both sides to bend, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

When Thompson didn’t sign the qualifying offer he surrendered a lot of leverage, the Cavaliers don’t have to raise their five-year, $80 million offer — but reportedly they still would, a little. Thompson and his agent Rich Paul have pushed for a max contract, but that’s not happening.

At some point, the two sides will come to an agreement. For the Cavaliers, this is a distraction, their star is unhappy with that, and ultimately if they are going to make a title run they need the energy and rebounding Thompson brings (even if it is just off the bench). For Thompson, he can’t make up a year of lost salary, he has to come in and start getting paid at some point.

The two sides will get it done. Eventually. Likely before the season tips off.