Union head Hunter: “We don’t want to be totally exploited”


NBA players union director Bill Hunter sat down with Bill Simmons for an ESPN podcast.

Hunter didn’t break a lot of new ground, but you again get to see the players thinking — that the owners are trying to exploit them by driving down salaries so the ultra rich can get richer. Sure, the players will make a lot of money still but it’s an issue of fairness to them (and as long as it remains such they will not break).

Go listen to the whole thing, but here are a few highlights.

• Hunter: “I thought we were trying to reach compromise when we were there last week. I suspect it’s more about an internal battle that may be brewing or that’s occurring between the big and small markets over the proposals we’ve submitted. We don’t want to be totally exploited.”

(So, only partially exploited is okay?)

• Hunter: “I know there’s a struggle when we talk wealth, you’re going to say to me we’re talking about billionaires and millionaires. Well, a guy making a few dollars during his playing career, but most of our players when they end playing basketball, they’re going to be living for another 40 years or so. And I don’t know how long that money’s going to last, even if they’ve made every prudent investment they can possibly make, at what level they’re going to be able to live.

“But after a while it just become a principle. For a lot of these players, that’s what it’s about. They feel as though the owners have dug in.”

• Hunter talked about a “game changer” plan brought up by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a system that would not have had a salary cap. The players were open to whatever that idea was, but Hunter said the small market owners shot it down.

• Hunter didn’t say much about Bryant Gumbel’s comments, other than to say David Stern is nota racist.

• There was one ray of hope. Almost. Hunter hinted that the players would be willing to give on their call of 53 percent of basketball related income, but the players needed some give back on the “system issues” such as the luxury tax and contract lengths.

That’s usually how a negotiation works, give and take. It’s not what the owners are doing. They are going for the rout, demanding both a larger share of the revenue and changes to the existing system. Because there is no give and take from the owners, well, the players don’t think things are fair and they dig in.

And the NBA dies a little every day because of it.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer urged Danny Ferry to resign

Danny Ferry, Mike Budenholzer
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When Danny Ferry’s racism scandal came to light, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer publicly supported his general manager. Budenholzer called the “African” remarks about Luol Deng “very much out of character” and said Ferry was trying to learn from his mistakes.

And while Budenholzer might not have done anything privately to contradict his public statements, his tone apparently differed with Ferry and then-owner Bruce Levenson last fall.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Budenholzer very much owed his job to Ferry. His former Spurs colleague had pleaded with Levenson that the Gregg Popovich assistant was the man for the position. Yet Budenholzer felt Ferry should resign, lest the Hawks be subsumed in disruption when training camp opened, and he made his wishes known in a heartfelt conversation with Ferry and Levenson at that time.

In some respect, Budenholzer was just doing his job as coaching – trying to maximize his teams chances of on-court success. Ferry didn’t resign. He took a leave of absence that lasted until he agreed to a buyout this summer. That was apparently enough to avoid a paralyzing distraction. The Hawks won 60 games and reached their first conference finals since moving to Atlanta.

Ferry’s departure also significantly benefitted Budenholzer personally. Budenholzer ran the Hawks’ front office during Ferry’s leave, and the new owners have installed him as the teams permanent president.

The only other four active coaches with personnel control experienced much more success before getting the dual president/coach title.

Gregg Popovich coached the Spurs to four championships and 11 playoff berths before they named him president in 2008. Doc Rivers won Coach of the Year with the Magic and then guided the Celtics to a title during his 14 seasons before the Clippers plucked him to run their franchise. Stan Van Gundy steered the Heat and Magic to the playoffs in all seven of his full seasons, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals with Orlando, before getting hired by the Pistons. Flip Saunders won more games than every other Timberwolves coach combined, is responsible for every playoff win in franchise history and made four trips to the conference finals (including thrice with the Pistons) over 16 total seasons before Minnesota gave him the huge role.

Budenholzer has been a head coach just two seasons, including a 38-44 debut year. He has done a good job, winning Coach of the Year last season, and he might make a good team president.

But he lacks the track record most coaches need to gain such status. Budenholzer, more than anything, was at the right place at the right time.

Report: Rockets will try to sign Alessandro Gentile next summer

Alessandro Gentile, Paulius Jankunas
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The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.

So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.

If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.