Derek Fisher

Winderman: Average NBA player can’t miss full season


In many respects, the resolve of the NBA players’ union is laudable. They insist they will not be railroaded into an owner-friendly agreement just to get back on the court.

Based on the pessimism coming out of Tuesday’s negotiations in New York, we seemingly are back to the notion that nothing gets done until the majority of players face losing their first paycheck of the season on Nov. 15.

But this is no ordinary union. This is a workforce whose average careers are 4 1/2 years. That’s it.

These are not Teamsters looking at 20 years more of company time and then, hopefully, a pension.

So if the owners insist on a 10-year agreement, which does seem a bit extreme considering where the economy stands today and how it figures to change appreciably over the next decade, then what if the first five years or so are relatively favorable to the players, with givebacks, such as a phased-in hard cap, coming on the back end?

If each agent’s assignment is to work in the best interest of each individual player, then the majority of players represented today would have moved on by the time the harshest of new measures come into play.

“That’s true if you’re only representing rank-and-file players,” one agent said Tuesday, after talks broke off between the league and union. “But those with the influence aren’t only representing the rank and file.”

Fine. Let’s put aside the agent aspect.

Lose the season and for a significant number of players it means a loss of 20 percent of possible career earnings. Even the most favorable union proposal would be hard pressed to recoup such losses.

While the focus of the lockout to this point has been on where Durant, LeBron or Carmelo will play their next exhibition, for players such as that, the long-term implications of these talks are significant. Players in that talent/youth metric are in line for another high-end contract. Maintaining the high end clearly is in their best interest, even if part or all of their 2011-12 earnings are sacrificed.

But unlike the salary cap itself, or at least the way salary cap is divided on most rosters, the decision on whether to move forward on an agreement remains a one-player, one-vote proposition.

That makes this the rare NBA case when a 12th man has as much impact as an All-Star.

From the start, this never has been a matter of whether the NBA would win, but rather an issue of to what degree.

For the majority of NBA players, careers are highly perishable commodities. It is one thing for an autoworker or longshoreman to stand in arms alongside a brother in a multi-decade relationship.

But in the NBA, one draft class already is poised to challenge for jobs, with a chance another joins in the challenge before this is resolved.

The very players who insist on standing united today could be players who find themselves standing on the outside even if gains are made through a protracted lockout.

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

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.