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.

Rockets owner appears to leave seat, yell at refs during matchup with Thunder (VIDEO)

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The Houston Rockets are in control of their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and were up 3-1 heading into Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Texas.

That did not stop what appeared to be Rockets owner Leslie Alexander from complaining to NBA referees. During gameplay. While standing directly next to an official, some 20 feet from his courtside seat.

Via Twitter:

Congratulations are in order to Bill Kennedy, the official in question, for keeping his cool. Or perhaps he just was so surprised by some dude yelling in his ear from right next to him he didn’t know how to react.

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.