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.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.