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Report: salary rollbacks, other strings attached to owners new offer

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So the NBA owners are willing to come off their demand for a hard salary cap, sort of. Some are touting this as a potential breakthrough in these negotiations, but until they figure out the split of “basketball related income” — or even how to define BRI — it’s hard for me to get my hopes up.

But the soft cap is a concession, the issue is it came with a whole lot of other strings, according to a report from ESPN’s Ric Bucher.

Some of which the players union may find unacceptable — especially the part about salary rollbacks. Here is the list of other owner demands to go with the soft salary cap

•The “Larry Bird exception,” which allows teams to exceed the cap to retain their own free agents regardless of their other committed salaries, is limited to one player per team per season.

•The mid-level exception, which the league valued at $5.4 million last season and could be extended by as many as five years, is reduced in length and size.

•The current luxury tax, the $1-for-$1 penalty a team must pay to the league for the amount it exceeds the salary cap, is to be severely increased….

The owners also want a five-percent reduction on all existing salaries for this season, a 7.5 percent reduction of all 2012-13 salaries and 10 percent reduction of 2013-14 salaries, a source said.

Let’s take a look at these.

The first two alterations to salary cap exceptions had to be expected. The owners hate the mid-level exception and have been burned by some of the big mid-levels they have given out, so you knew they’d want that reduction. And limiting the Bird rights is something small markets want — they want to be able to keep their own stars but want to slow big spending teams like the Lakers from just getting and keeping everyone. (A one-a-year Bird exception rule could put a time clock on the big three with the Miami Heat.)

The steeper luxury tax also seemed a foregone conclusion before the lockout even started. If the tax becomes $3 to $1 or $4 to $1 — especially on a sliding scale the more you spend — it becomes more of a hard cap. Although teams like the Lakers and Knicks could still afford to pay more than most under this system.

Frankly, all that seems fair to me. The devil is in the details, but that seems like it could be worked out.

Salary rollbacks? That is going to be a harder sell than a hard salary cap. The median NBA salary last season was $2.3 million, and on that deal the player would be giving back $115,000 next season and that would double in two more years. Over three years that would be $517,500. That’s half a million dollars for an average player. That something the union will fight.

The bigger issue still remains BRI. The ESPN report still has the two sides six percentage points apart — the owners at 48 percent, the players at 54 percent — and that is a big gap to bridge. What’s more, previous owner offers tried to decouple league revenues from the split — meaning salaries would remain at a certain level regardless of increases in league revenues. For the players, that is another “blood issue,” they want the two things tied. As the league gets new television deals and the like, the players want a piece of that.

There are big issues, but we will see Wednesday if there can be real breakthroughs in these talks.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)

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Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked

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The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.