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Former union chief says sides may not be feeling pressure yet

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Fans, we’re feeling pressure. Later on Friday the official news will come down that the preseason has been postponed and the first preseason games have been canceled.

While that seems like it should be pressure to us, it may not be to Billy Hunter and David Stern.

The cancellation of games — even regular season games — does not reach into the negotiating room like you would think, said Charles Grantham, the former head of the NBA players union who helped negotiate the league’s Collective Bargain Agreements between 1980 and 1995.

“You don’t feel the pressure of cancelling regular season games, I think if possible you may think about adjusting your workout period, your preseason schedule,” Grantham said.

He added the real pressure comes when you start to feel progress in the talks — something that had seemed to happen in recent weeks but has now faded.

“Once you get some moves away from the area of confrontational bargaining — meaning that you are stuck on your page and I am stuck on their page and there is no movement — then there is a kind of pressure,” he said.

While much of the public debate has been around the issues of hard or soft salary cap, Grantham said that the first order of business need to be to figure out exactly what is “basketball related income.”

“The first thing I think happens is you define the pie,” he said. “The definition of the pie — whether you’re talking football or basketball or hockey, because they all have similar systems — is in flux with each negotiation.”

Grantham said the players willing to reduce their share of BRI shows they are serious about negotiations, although clearly the owners don’t think it is enough of a giveback. After they figure out all that the two sides can get into issues such as the system — the structure of the cap — and things such as guaranteed contracts.

If you want to know where the players line in the sand is, try to decouple league revenues from the salary structure.

“The best thing we ever did in 1980 when we went into this revenue sharing agreement was tying players salary to revenue,” Grantham said. “So as long as revenue went up and business was good and people were running their business efficiently then player salaries would go up….

This period here, of recessionary or concessionary bargaining if you want to say that, then you’re starting to look at milestones and triggers going forward that reflect the changes that you’re making now. But also put a positive spin on that as well. Meaning, if we’re taking a hit now, three years from now (and we’re signing a six-year deal) if revenue starts to grow at a certain rate or you hit certain milestones then those three or four points I’ve giving you back I get the chance to recoup.”

That doesn’t sound a lot like the talks going on, which shows you how far apart the two sides really are. Maybe that will change when they start to feel some real pressure.

So many pretty putback dunks (videos)

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Yesterday’s NBA games featured a fun number of highlight putback dunks.

The best by:

Dewayne Dedmon:

DeAndre Jordan:

Blake Griffin:

Serge Ibaka:

Heat center Willie Reed has bursitis, out for Monday

AP
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MIAMI (AP) Willie Reed will not travel with the Miami Heat for Monday’s game in Dallas because of bursitis in his right ankle.

Reed was injured in the fourth quarter of Miami’s win over Indiana on Saturday. He limped around for several seconds, then went down in obvious pain and eventually was carted off the court.

The Heat originally called Reed’s injury a calf strain, and tests performed Sunday showed the bursitis.

Reed is being listed as day-to-day. He’s averaging 5.3 points on 57 percent shooting this season.

His injury means the Heat will have 11 players available Monday, with four forwards or centers all out. Chris Bosh has not played this season, Justise Winslow (shoulder) is expected to miss the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts (foot) remains sidelined.

Chris Webber eager for new ‘Players Only’ NBA programming

Chris Webber
AP
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MIAMI (AP) Chris Webber’s first night as a television analyst ended with the former Michigan star getting teased about his infamous extra timeout that helped seal the Wolverines’ fate in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina.

He laughed it off.

It was, as Turner Sports colleague Ernie Johnson called it that night, an initiation. And not only did Webber pass, he has flourished – evolving into one of the game’s respected voices, a player-turned-broadcaster who tries to combine the emotion of what’s happening on the floor with a professionalism that he believes is required of those behind the microphone.

Webber will be one of the headliners when TNT unveils its new “Players Only” platform on Monday night, a five-week run of doubleheaders where all the commentators will be former pro men’s and women’s players.

“It’s a crazy opportunity as a player to be able to kind of take over the studio,” said Webber, a finalist for induction in this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame class. “Some of the guys and I have talked about what a crazy opportunity this is, and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Among the other players involved: Chris Bosh, Isiah Thomas, Baron Davis, Grant Hill, Kevin McHale and Lisa Leslie.

“I do think we can change the game with this opportunity,” Webber said.

In a time when television remarks have started feuds between current and former players – like the longstanding back-and-forth between Charles Barkley and stars like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and in the last few days the dustup involving Shaquille O’Neal, JaVale McGee and Kevin Durant – Webber has prided himself on being fair with criticisms.

There are times when people within the game tease one another, like the night Johnson asked him how many timeouts are allowed in college games. Webber thinks that’s fair – but he avoids the banter that turns personal.

“As long as I don’t speak about guys’ character, then it really doesn’t matter,” Webber said. “There’s nothing that I can say about a player that hasn’t already been said about me. There’s no sensitivity there. Players, when certain commentators say something, he can say: `How can he say that? He’s never been in that position.’ Well, the player can’t look at me and say that.”

Webber retired averaging 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, numbers that will likely have him headed to the Hall of Fame – possibly this year. He’s among 14 finalists who will get word on their fate in April at the Final Four.

The induction in Springfield, Massachusetts, is in September.

“About time,” said Barkley, a Hall of Famer. “He should already be in there.”

Webber said hearing his name listed as a finalist was surreal.

“I’m just thankful that I was nominated,” Webber said. “I’m taking in the moment, being very thankful and that I’m here. But as far as thinking about more than that, nah, I don’t do that.”

Webber doesn’t play anymore – nearly losing to his 16-year-old nephew in a 1-on-1 game last summer was the last straw – and has enjoyed being around basketball in other capacities since retiring. He represented the Sacramento Kings at an NBA draft lottery, agreed to teach a class at Wake Forest in sports storytelling and is involved in a production company.

He said he sees broadcasting as a privilege, after working alongside the likes of Kevin Harlan, Dick Stockton and Marv Albert, which is why he’s taking “Players Only” especially seriously.

“If you’re around someone and you’re willing to learn, you can get better,” Webber said. “We’re going to take from their examples. You have to honor the game with professionalism, but I also think we give a unique perspective. And I think we have a validation that can’t be taught.”

Russell Westbrook dunks on DeMarcus Cousins, who fouls out (video)

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In one fell swoop, Russell Westbrook scored two points, eliminated the Pelicans’ second-best player and got the Thunder all the momentum.

This dunk on DeMarcus Cousins, who fouled out trying to contest it, helped Oklahoma City pull away for a 118-110 win.