NBA owners may be willing to sacrifice preseason

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When the threat of the NFL’s missing preseason games due to the lockout hit, it put real pressure on that league’s owners. The NFL plays its preseason games in the same stadiums it does its regular season (mostly) and if you buy NFL season tickets, you have pay full game price for those preseason games. The NFL and its owners make a killing on those games.

The NBA? Not so much.

Which could factor into negotiations — NBA owners may be willing to sacrifice the preseason. It’s an interesting point made by Sean Deveney at The Sporting News (hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie).

Stern pointed out on Wednesday that, to save the season, “We have three weeks.” Training camp is supposed to start in less than a month. When the NFL was in a lockout, there was an emphasis on saving training camp, but according to a league source, that’s not necessarily as important for the NBA. First of all, pro football is a lot more complicated to coach and requires more thorough conditioning. Second, the source said, “Financially, the NFL makes a killing off the preseason. The NBA doesn’t. We play in some pretty far-off spots. And our preseason games aren’t televised much.”

NBA teams often play half their preseason games in areas where one team is trying to pick up fans. So the Suns do an outdoor preseason game at the tennis facility at Indian Wells, the Celtics play a game in Hartford, the Knicks head up to Albany. Those aren’t money makers, it’s just trying to grow a fan base. If those games are lost, the owners and players do not weep.

The owners may not be interested in the preseason but there are some deadlines coming up where both sides would feel a pinch. For one, when the European leagues start at the end of the month, the players union may think it has leverage and the negotiations may slow.

But a complicating factor to bear in mind is this: Many players have already committed to playing overseas, and most of those are scheduled to start with their new teams by the end of the month. Most of those contracts have out-clauses allowing players to return to the NBA should the lockout end, but the feeling among both general managers and agents is that, once the international leagues begin play, the pace of negotiations will slow, and probably impinge on the season. “It will be hard to have players go overseas and join a team in late September,” one agent told SN, “only to have them turn around and come back in a couple of weeks.”

The future date that would hit the players is Nov. 15 — the day they would miss their first paycheck. There are some owners that want the players to suffer a little, they want to use that leverage to get a better deal. They want the players to miss some paychecks.

But right now that attitude does not seem to be winning the day, which is really why there is an upswing of optimism as we follow a few days of negotiations between the owners and players. It’s not that the two sides have made a breakthrough but rather that they are talking regularly and have stopped the public sniping at each other. They have gotten serious about negotiating. We’ll see if that’s enough to get a deal done, but the serious tone makes things feel like there is momentum.

However, if the owners lose some preseason games to get a deal, they’re not going to lose sleep or money over that.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan
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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.

Kevin Durant: Don’t blame me for Nets, Magic and other teams stinking

AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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For the first time in NBA history, the NBA Finals will feature the same matchup for three straight years.

Among those responsible: Kevin Durant, who sunk the title-contending Thunder and gave the Warriors an even stronger grip on the Western Conference.

But don’t blame him for a lack of parity league-wide.

Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good (laughs). I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

Some teams will always be better than others. The Magic, Nets and more were mis-managed before Durant left Oklahoma City.

But I’m not even sure this is the right debate.

Does the NBA even have a parity problem to blame on Durant?

Cleveland and Golden State aren’t traditional powers. Before 2015, the Warriors hadn’t won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers had never won one. Their ascension is proof of parity – that sound management and a little luck can lift teams from the basement.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.