National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern answers questions from members of the media regarding failed contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York

Report: Owners move off demand for hard salary cap, sort of

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For the NBA players union, the idea of a team-by-team hard salary cap — as is seen in the NFL and NHL — was a “blood issue.” They saw it as a way owners were trying to keep down salaries and force more non-guaranteed contracts. Some owners were insistent on a hard cap, and that has reportedly stalled out past negotiations.

But with the 11th hour to save the start of the season approaching, the owners reportedly have moved off their hard cap demand. Well, technically.

Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports broke the story (which has since been confirmed by others).

The owners proposed at Tuesday’s negotiating session an idea similar to the current system that allows teams to pay a luxury tax for going over the cap. Only, now there would be ultra-punitive measures against higher-spending teams. The current system has teams pay a dollar-for-dollar tax for exceeding the cap….

The owners’ proposal on Tuesday “would still have the affects of a hard cap,” one source with knowledge of the talks said.

This is something suggested earlier to PBT by someone close to the talks — there are ways to call something a “soft cap” but essentially make it a hard cap by making the penalties for going over it so severe.

In the previous labor deal (the most recent year), the salary cap was $58 million but the luxury tax was set at $70 million and teams had to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax. That didn’t deter teams like the Lakers, which had a payroll in excess of $91 million before the tax kicked in.

A system could be set up where the tax gets gradually higher — $2 for $1, $3 for $1, etc. — the more a team spends, in effect putting in a much harder cap.

The two sides went their ways to think about this, and it could potentially be a breakthrough on the question of the next salary cap system.

There seems to be a sense that Wednesday could be a big negotiating session (although we’ve heard that before). If the two sides fail to find a lot of common ground on the system, this could fall back to an ugly stalemate for a while.

Even if there is some agreement on the cap system, on the bigger issue of how to deal with the split of “basketball related income” (BRI) the two sides remain far apart, Woj reports.

The owners didn’t budge on a desire to change the basketball-related income percentage (BRI) to a split that takes the players from 57 percent to the mid 40s, sources said. The players had offered to drop from a 57-43 split to 54-46 at a meeting last week in New York.

That is the bigger issue, the bigger sticking point. And until one side moves significantly on that issue, there will be no labor peace in the NBA.

Stephen Curry abuses Sun’s Price with behind-the-back, pull-up three (VIDEO)

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That is just cruel.

An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.

Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.

Philadelphia has dropped record 27 in a row dating back to last season

Brett Brown

We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.

But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.

With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.

That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.

The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.

But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.

If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.

The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.



Byron Scott, is it time to bench Kobe Bryant? “That’s not an option.”

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant‘s shooting woes this season have been well documented. Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up. Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three, all while jacking up more threes than ever before. He was 1-of-14 shooting against Cleveland, and that’s as many shots as rookies D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle got combined.

If Kobe keeps shooting like this while dominating the ball, is it time to bench Kobe? Coach Byron Scott laughed at the idea, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

“I would never, never, never do that,” Scott said after practice at the Lakers’ facility. “That’s not an option whatsoever. No, that’s not an option.”

It’s not an option because this is the guy the fans have paid to see, at home and on the road (the Lakers have still sold out every road game this season, the only team to have done so). Kobe is the draw, he’s going to play.

That doesn’t mean Scott is handling all this well, Kobe has no repercussions for his actions.

Byron Scott is an enabler with Kobe. In his mind Kobe has earned the right to play poorly because of his career, which is just hard to watch.

The real issue I have with Scott enabling Kobe is the double standard — minutes for Russell and the other young players get jerked around when they make mistakes. Scott sounds and acts like a guy with a couple rookies on a veteran team where the objective is to win as many games as possible.

This can’t be emphasized enough: the primary goal for the Lakers this season is to develop Russell, Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (and Larry Nance Jr., who has impressed). But Russell has sat a lot of fourth quarters, and when Scott is asked if playing in those blowout minutes might help develop the young point guard faster, he says, “Nah.” Scott has benched Clarkson at points and called him out in the media.

Reduction of minutes can be a valuable teaching tool with young players — if the conditions of them getting those minutes are precisely laid out. Clear rules with rewards and consequences. That is not the case in Los Angeles, where Russell has said Scott has not spoken to him much about what he’s doing wrong and why he’s spending the ends of games benched. That’s not coaching a guy up; that’s not player development. There need to be clear guidelines and structures for young players to follow.

The only guideline in LA seems to be “Kobe has carte blanche.”

Boston police now probing fight involving 76ers center Okafor

Jahlil Okafor

BOSTON (AP) — Boston police say a man has come forward saying he’s the victim in a fight involving Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor that was recorded and posted online.

Authorities say a man filed a police report Friday saying the fight outside a nightclub left him with stitches over his eye.

Police say the alleged victim reported the fight began after some of his female friends refused the advances of two men, including one believed to be Okafor. The man told police Okafor punched him and knocked him to the ground.

Okafor says he’s embarrassed about the scuffle and is dealing with the team and league on possible discipline.

The confrontation happened early Thursday morning after the 76ers fell to 0-16 on the season. The Sixers rookie said he was being heckled.

Previously, the police had said they were not investigating the incident.