NHL Season Cancelled

Where is the eventual middle ground of players/owners deal?

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Right now, the NBA owners are playing hardball and the players are playing goalie. The owners want to change the system, the players are trying to keep as much of the current system as they can. Both sides are dug in.

Eventually there will be a deal. The question is, where will the eventual middle ground be?

A guy with maybe the best grasp on this in the media is NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement guru Larry Coon — he of the Salary Cap FAQ, ESPN and a friend of this site. He spelled out where he thinks the middle ground will be in speaking with Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld.

But to get to the end game, we need to talk about the beginning.

The real issue in the talks is not contract lengths or a hard cap, it is about how the whole pie gets divided. In the last NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players got 57 percent of the NBA’s revenues in salary no matter what — last season salaries did not reach that level so the owners had to write an additional check to reach that threshold. The players will argue that not all the money the owners make goes into that split, and the real number is close to 50 percent of the league’s revenue goes to the players.

Doesn’t matter. The owners want a larger slice of the pie and right now are playing hardball to get it. Coon lays it out.

“The owners are seeking a significant reduction in the players’ share of the pie,” said Coon. “They don’t care whether they get it immediately (salary rollbacks) or over time (freezing total compensation at $2 billion for 10 years) as long as they get it.”

Coon also thinks the owners have the most leverage in these talks because they can hold out without games longer than the players. More than one owner is willing to sacrifice the season to reach their goals.

“The owners have most of the leverage in this dispute, so the players can’t expect to reach a compromise that splits their differences right down the middle,” said Coon. “Make no mistake — the new CBA will tilt heavily in favor of the owners. Without an unexpected bail-out from the (National Labor Relations Board, where the players filed a complaint), the players eventually will be forced to choose between accepting a deal they don’t like, continuing to wait (without income) for a better deal that may never come, or rolling the dice with decertification and an antitrust lawsuit.”

While some agents have pushed for decertification, the union has not gone there. Yet.

So where do we end up once they get around to a deal?

“A likely end-point in the dispute may be a system that preserves guaranteed contracts and the current soft cap, but eliminates or reduces many of the exceptions that allowed teams to spend with wild abandon. The new CBA could see a reduction in contract lengths, the elimination of sign-and-trade deals, and the relaxation of trade rules. As long as the players’ overall revenue guarantee is significantly reduced, the owners can make it work.”

The bottom line, the players can keep the current system but have to give up slices of the pie to do so (which will mean lower salaries or a shrunk middle class). Right now they are not willing to do so, but that will change. Eventually.

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.