Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game One

Are NBA’s biggest stars underpaid? Actually, yes.

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Is Kobe Bryant underpaid at $25 million next season? What about LeBron James at $16 million? Dirk Nowitzki at $19 million? Dwayne Wade at $15.5 million?

Yes, actually they are.

A bunch of teachers, firemen, nurses and other hardworking people just cursed my name. If I were on a stage tomatoes would come flying out of the crowd at me. I don’t blame them. And if you want to make the argument that as a society we over-value entertainers (that’s what NBA players really are) and under pay the people who are truly important, I’ll be the first one in line behind you. That argument is spot on.

It’s also moot. In our capitalistic society as presently constructed, you get paid based on how much money you generate.

And in the NBA, the big stars generate far more for teams than they are paid. That was really what the owners wanted out of the 1998 NBA lockout — to put a cap on maximum salaries so that the Kevin Garnetts and Shaquille O’Neals of that time would not break the bank. The owners won that battle (and at the time the entire labor deal was seen as a win for ownership).

Adrian Wojnarowski touches on this topic in a Yahoo column and has some great quotes from Dwyane Wade.

Let owners bid on the true value the elite stars bring to a franchise, to the league, and Wade was asked where he believes the bidding would rise per season?

“I’m sure it would get to $50 million,” Wade told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday afternoon….

Privately, (Lakers owner) Jerry Buss has told people that Bryant – who will make a league-high $25 million this season under his current contract terms – is worth perhaps $70 million a year to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the NBA, the handful of big stars is what really drives revenue. Buildings fill up to see Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant. Those guys and a handful of others are the ones sponsors try to attach themselves to. They make the owners money.

It’s not so much the bad contracts that hurt owners as it is a high-priced middle class —Lamar Odom making $8.9 million, Jason Terry making more than $10 million next season and Brendan Haywood making $7.6 million, and the list goes on and on through every team. Those are good players but they do not generate the revenue, still they are well compensated.

Some agents (and owners) would love to see a split where the handful of true elite players would make upwards of $30 million a season, but everyone else would make far, far less. Something more akin to the NFL, where a majority of players make the league minimum. In the labor talks, the NBA players union is fighting to keep the middle class alive.

But to do that, the stars have to sacrifice and be underpaid. Call it for the good of the game if you want, but that is the reality.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.