Owners, players can’t agree to meet; start of season doomed

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UPDATE 8:50 pm: If you were holding out hope for a last minute settlement to save the full NBA season, you should grab another beer. Or towel to cry into.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver basically confirmed the leaks from the union we passed along before (just keep scrolling down) — the league is not going to discuss money beyond the 50/50 split of basketball related income that was the last informal offer from the owners. Howard Beck at the New York Times has the quotes.

“What we told the union was that we were not prepared to negotiate over the B.R.I. split beyond the 50-50 concept that had already been discussed,” Silver said, referring to the N.B.A.’s acronym for basketball-related income.

Silver added, however, that the league was “prepared to continue negotiating over the many other issues that remain open” — such as the salary-cap system, the luxury tax and the length of contracts.

Be clear — not being willing to negotiate on the money is not being willing to really negotiate. The salary cap and everything else is secondary and tied to the BRI split. If you’re not talking BRI, you’re not really talking.

7:09 pm: Monday is the deadline — no handshake agreement by then and NBA commissioner David Stern said the first two weeks of the regular season would be canceled.

It’s going to be real hard to come to a deal if they don’t meet.

And it looks like they may not before the deadline. Thing is, there’s no reason to meet if neither side has moved from where they were when negotiations broke off last Tuesday. Apparently they haven’t.

Ken Berger at CBSSports.com has these details.

The National Basketball Players Association requested a meeting with league negotiators for Monday before the first two weeks of the regular season are canceled and could not agree with NBA officials on the parameters, a union source told CBSSports.com.

NBA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the information released by the union, which is now planning regional meetings Saturday in Miami — in conjunction with the All-Star exhibition game involving LeBron, Dwyane Wade and other stars — and Monday in Los Angeles. NBPA executive director Billy Hunter is expected to fly to the West Coast Sunday.

According to the union source, the league would agree to a meeting Monday — the deadline set by commissioner David Stern for canceling the first two weeks of regular season games — only if the players agreed beforehand to accept the NBA’s offer of a 50-50 revenue split. The union declined, the source said, believing it could not negotiate a fair deal for the players if it gave up the right to negotiate before the meeting even began.

While there has been some contact between lower level staff, the decision makers have not spoken since Tuesday’s sessions. They did not meet Friday and Saturday is a Jewish high holy day observed by a number of people on both sides of the table. Theoretically they could meet Sunday and Monday, but it doesn’t sound promising.

The issue remains how to divide up “basketball related income” (BRI), which is all the money that flows into the league from ticket sales, national television contracts, jersey sales and so on. In the former labor deal, the players got 57 percent. They have now offered to come down to 53 percent, but the owners started with their position being the players should only get 39 percent (that was more than a year ago). Formally, the owners have come up to 47 percent (under the old definition of BRI, the owners want more expenses taken out of it). However at the end of last meeting, Stern said he offered a 50/50 split, which was really a range from 49-51 percent. Stern says the union rejected that, the union says it informally suggested a range from 52 to 54 percent that the owners rejected.

If the owners refuse to even talk if the players don’t come off that number, then we’ve got a stalemate and games will be lost.

I’ll continue to say this — it is on the owners to give more. Real dollars now, not what they have been. The owners tried to move the center on these negotiations by asking for things they were never going to get — salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap, etc. Now they try to pretend they have given up a lot in these talks by taking those things off the table, but they haven’t. You can’t give back things you never had to start with. If they took the players deal at 53 percent the owners would save about $160 million next season and more than a billion over the life of a six-year deal (assuming some revenue growth). That’s real dollars the players have given up off the old deal. I would like to see the players give a little more (52, maybe 51.5 percent) but now it is on the owners to come up to that level.

I’ll also stick with my prediction — this gets solved around Halloween and we’ve got NBA games around or not long after Thanksgiving.

But it looks more and more like it will be a black Monday.

Steve Kerr “disappointed” in alma mater Arizona; wants to see NCAA follow new model

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Before he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, before he was a five-time NBA Champion playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, Steve Kerr was one of the great players the University of Arizona ever produced. The crowd would echo the announcer after ever made three — “Steeeve Keerrr” — where he was an All-American and helped lead a team (with future NBA players Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert) to the Final Four.

There is a crisis around Arizona basketball right now. Coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star recruit Deandre Ayton (expected to be a high lottery pick in June, possibly the No. 1 pick). Miller did not coach Saturday and changes are coming to Arizona.

Kerr was asked about it before the Warriors took on the Thunder Saturday.

Kerr said he was “disappointed” in his alma mater over the incident. Which is understandable.

Not to completely excuse it, but what Miller got caught doing is commonplace — money is funneled to families or the players of top recruits on a regular basis. What is more troubling (in my mind) is the money paid under the table to AAU coaches, family members, and others close to elite recruits to funnel them to a specific “financial planner” or agent, or a specific university. People in positions of trust with the player are bought and paid for.

Kerr put out one solution that would certainly be a big step forward: follow the Olympics model and let elite players get sponsorships that don’t end their college eligibility.

This system has its flaws as well, but it gets some of the dirty money out in the open. It would be better than the hypocritical facade of amateurism the NCAA has hit behind for years.

Joel Embiid has 28 points, 14 rebounds leads Sixers to Seventh straight win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their season-high win streak to seven with a 116-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Six 76ers scored in double figures. Ben Simmons had 17 points and seven assists, and 3-point specialist J.J. Redick added 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting – and just one 3-pointer. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Robert Covington had 12 and Dario Saric scored 11.

Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 20 points, including four 3s, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Evan Fournier scored 16 points, and former Sixer Nik Vucevic had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost five straight.

Philadelphia led 58-40 at halftime and 71-49 in the third when Orlando used an 11-2 burst, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer, to close within 13.

But the Sixers put on a show to finish the quarter.

Embiid overpowered a few Magic defenders for a slam, and then gestured to the crowd after being fouled while soaring to the hoop on a dunk attempt. After Embiid and Trevor Booker swatted consecutive shots in the final seconds, T.J. McConnell used a crossover move to finish a drive at the buzzer and give the Sixers an 87-71 lead entering the fourth.

Orlando used a late 15-2 run to get within nine and nearly cut it to six with 1:21 left, but a 3-point attempt by Mario Hezonja spilled out.

Midway through the first quarter, Philadelphia had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and trailed 15-6. The Sixers then erupted for a 21-3 run and ended the quarter up 27-18.

E-A-G-L-E-S

Orlando head coach Frank Vogel wore an Eagles Super Bowl champions T-shirt during his pregame media availability. A native of Wildwood, New Jersey, Vogel makes sure to get a taste of home when he returns to the Philadelphia area.

“Cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Yuengling beer if we beat the Sixers,” Vogel said. “Wawa coffee, but I get Wawa in Orlando now. I did get a cheesesteak today.”

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the game.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “He can come over and ring as many bells as he chooses.”

 

Report: Jimmy Butler telling people he will be back for playoffs

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We don’t know a lot about Jimmy Butler‘s meniscus injury (other than that it’s not an ACL injury as feared). Because of that, it’s impossible to put a timeline on his return. We don’t know what kind of surgery he likely needs — a traditional meniscus partial removal takes six weeks or so to get a player back on the court (but is harder on the knee long-term as cushioning in it is removed, Dwyane Wade had this), but a repair could take three months or more before he is back on the court. Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said this pregame Saturday:

However, Butler himself is telling people he will be back for the playoffs.

Is that the optimism of a fierce competitor? Players are often the worst judge of their ability to return from injury.

Or, does he know that a meniscus repair is out of the question with his injury, that a partial removal is the only option (as is true in some cases)? That has a speedier return that could have him back for the playoffs.

In the short-term, Minnesota is going to need a lot more out of Andrew Wiggins, and they need to play a lot better team defense, to hold on to a playoff slot in the West. The Timberwolves have been -8.3 per 100 possessions without Butler this season, but went 2-2 in the four games he missed. Minnesota is currently the four seed in the West at 36-26, but just three games from falling out of the postseason in a crowded conference.

Jimmy Butler has meniscus injury, not ACL. Will miss time, return TBD.

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Rarely is a meniscus injury good news, but it is for the Timberwolves.

It looked like Jimmy Butler had torn his ACL in a loss to Houston Friday night, he had to be helped off the court and he could not put weight on it. But instead, he has an injured meniscus in his right knee, an MRI revealed.

Notice the report says meniscus “injury” not “tear.” Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reported it is a tear.

If surgery is needed and recovery times differ depending on the severity of the injury. Officially, there is no timetable for his return yet — he could be back for the playoffs. Or not.

If it is a tear, as expected, that means surgery. Most of the time a surgical meniscus repair will keep a player out at least three months, which would end Butler’s season (a meniscus removal heals faster, but is rarely done anymore because long-term it is harder for the knee and the player, think of Dwyane Wade as an example).

Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game, although he had eight days off before Friday’s game. He was selected an All-Star reserve by the coaches but chose to sit out the big game because he said he needed rest for the rest of the season. His coach, Tom Thibodeau, leans heavily on his best players and does not subscribe to the kind of rest we see in Golden State, San Antonio, and other programs trying to keep players fresh.

Minnesota has to hang on for the playoffs, the team is -8.3 points per 100 possessions when Butler is not on the court this season. At 36-26, the Timberwolves are currently the four seed in the West, but just three games from falling out of the playoffs.