Where we stand with NBA labor talks. Besides screwed.


The NBA owners and players will not be getting together on Monday to look for an end to the lockout. There are a few key things that separate the NFL from NBA lockouts — primarily that the NFL is a money making machine and the NBA’s profitability is questionable at best — but one key difference is that the NFL owners and players sat down for 16 straight days to make a deal happen. They wanted to make a deal, both sides.

The NBA has yet to get past three straight days of talks. And that took a federal mediator.

So where do things stand in this ugly, pointless stalemate? Here’s what we know.

• The big issue remains the money — the split of basketball related income (BRI). That’s basically all the money that comes into the league (ticket sales, national television deals, a piece of team sponsorship and on and on). In the last labor deal, the players got a whopping 57 percent. They have offered to come down to 52.5 percent, but the owners say they are not going any higher than 50/50 (and the owners want to take more off the top before that split). The two sides are only about $100 million a season apart, which is not that far all things considered (they started out more than $800 million a season apart).

But you only close that gap by talking. Right now, both sides are dug in on this like a World War I battlefield. Until this is solved nothing gets solved.

• Even if the owners got a 50/50 split, that would not be enough, they want to win a battle for a major restructuring the system. David Aldridge of NBA.com brings us this quote from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.

“We did get a sense from the players in attendance that they felt, in essence, there should be a trade on those issues,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday. “That if we were to reach a negotiated compromise on the split of BRI … that they, therefore, should get what they’re looking for on the system issues … as I’ve been saying now for a few years, it seems, there are two independent goals, both of which are critically important for our teams. One is to be economically sustainable. And number two is to have the ability to compete. And what we told the players today is we could not trade one for the other.”

That’s from the Attila the Hun negotiations playbook. It’s domination. The owners want a complete and total win or nothing, and they will shoot the sport in the leg to get it. The players give backs (in their offer) would amount to $180 million next season and well over a billion over the life of the agreement. The players are the ones making a sacrifice here. But the owners want more — they want to hurt the players, rout them. Just winning seems not to be enough. And it’s pathetic.

The owners keep preaching “competitive balance” but that is a flat-out myth. Actually, myth may be too kind, more like intentional deception. The NBA will never have the balance of the NFL because one player (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose type players) dominates most contests. It will not work in the NBA. Besides, the NBA was at its most popular when Jordan dominated the league like no other, when competitive balance was laughable. But competitive balance is the flag the owners are flying.

• There are other things the two sides do not agree on. Chris Sheridan has a great breakdown over at his Web site of all the issues. Go read the whole post, but are a couple highlights.

Trade rules: Under the old system, the salaries of players being traded had to be within 125 percent of each other (if both trading teams were over the salary cap). This rule will be loosened considerably, although a final formula has not been agreed to. The players want the percentage to rise to 225 percent (whereby, for instance, a player making $1 million could be traded for a player making $2.25 million), while the owners have indicated a willingness to allow the percentage to rise to 140 or 150 percent — although teams paying the luxury tax would have a tighter restraint.

The “stretch exception”: Under this proposal, a team could waive any player and stretch out the remainder of the money he is owed, reducing the salary cap number for that waived player. For instance, if an underperforming player had three years left on his contract and was waived under the stretch exception, his remaining unpaid salary would be stretched out over a period as long as seven years. (Example: A player owed $21 million for three years who is waived under the stretch exception would still be paid his $21 million, but the cap cost would be spread over seven years, meaning he would count $3 million annually against the cap instead of $7 million.) In theory, this would free up more money to be paid to players who were worthy of the increased salary….

Maximum annual raises: There has been little movement here, with the owners asking that maximum raises be 4 1/2 percent for Bird players and 3 percent for others. The union wants to keep the current system of 10.5 percent raises for Bird players, with the caveat that the maximum raises would drop to 9 percent for a player signing a four- or five-year contract. For non-Bird players the union is asking for maximum raises of 8 percent in two- and three-year contracts, and 7 percent for players receiving four- or five-year deals.

A lot of these changes I like — things that bring more player movement can have advantages to fans. Undersand what the owners want is for more flexibility with role players but want to keep their stars from moving, but in general some additional player movement would be be good for fans.

For all their talk for two years — and 30 hours of meetings last week — there is still a big gap between the sides. There’s a lot of work to be done.

And they are not doing it. Both sides are dug in, nobody is moving. And the owners don’t want to give in, they want a rout, a bloodbath. The game itself is forgotten in all of this.

So where we stand with the NBA labor talks is that if they were really working on it they could get to a deal — they are not close, but they have made progress and a deal is there to be had. Except nobody wants it, both sides are stubborn and dug in.

So the lockout drags on. And on. And on.

Report: Grizzlies laugh and joke in locker room after 61-point loss

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Marc Gasol lit into the Grizzlies.

And that was before their 61-point loss to the Hornets.

Gasol didn’t play in that one, but Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff took his turn with strong words after the game.

Bickerstaff, via Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:

“One thing when you’ve got a bunch of young guys is they don’t understand what it takes to survive in this league,” Bickerstaff said. “If you want to make it there’s a matter of bounce-back, a matter of pride, a matter of mental toughness that you have to show on every given night and every opportunity you get. What happened tonight… there’s no defending the way we played.

“You believe because there’s opportunities you can get out there, do whatever you want and it’s my turn to play. Everything in this league is hard earned. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice then you shouldn’t be in this league. If you can’t prove to people that that’s what you’re about then you won’t be in this league.”


Bickerstaff nor Gasol were in the locker room when it opened for media after the game. Perhaps that was a good thing because several Grizzlies players didn’t appear to take the loss hard given the amount of laughter and joking between them.

My question for anyone who has a problem with this: What would brooding and sulking do for these players? Seriously. How specifically would that help?

Also, what’s the appropriate waiting period for laughing and joking after a bad loss? A day? A week? Are these players just supposed to be miserable until they win next – which, the way things are going, might be next season?

I have no problem with players enjoying themselves in the midst of a long and dreadful season. Joy is important – to basketball and life.

Maybe the young Grizzlies aren’t appropriately dedicated to winning. That very well could be. I just don’t think a few minutes of locker room kidding proves that.

Besides, Memphis trailed by 30+ the entire second half. There was plenty of time to absorb the magnitude of this defeat and reflect on it before the locker room opened to the media.

It’s tough on players when everyone knows the Grizzlies are better off losing and improving draft position. Maybe nobody told the players to intentionally lose, but tanking manifests in an attitude throughout the organization. I doubt Memphis players enjoyed last night’s game.

I’m not going to scold them for moving on and lightening the mood afterward.

Texas A&M sophomore Robert Williams, a potential lottery pick, declares for NBA draft

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A year ago, Robert Williams returned to Texas A&M despite looking like a probable first-round and potential lottery pick.

He cemented his place in the first round and increased his chances of going in the lottery this season. Now, he’s jumping to the NBA.

Austin Laymance of the Houston Chronicle:

Texas A&M sophomore forward Robert Williams is turning pro.

Williams announced his decision to enter the NBA draft and bypass his final two seasons of eligibility after the seventh-seeded Aggies lost to third-seeded Michigan 99-72 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night.

At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Williams should be a center at the next level. He’s a major leaper who puts that skill to good use blocking shots and finishing inside.

Texas A&M’s poor floor spacing – Williams often played with another big or two – did him no favors, but it clarified his role. Williams made important improvements as a defensive rebounder in his sophomore season. He also stalled as a jump shooter.

Williams will likely look better in the NBA. Though teams would love 3-point-shooting centers who also defend well, there aren’t enough to go around. When the other four positions provide spacing, shots open at the rim for players like Williams – whose rim protection is also valued in modern systems.

Report: Suns start coaching search now, before season ends

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Unlike last summer, there is going to be a lot of coaching changes this NBA offseason.

There are three teams — Phoenix, Memphis, and Milwaukee — who have interim coaches now and will conduct searches, plus at least a couple more firings are expected (Jeff Hornacek in New York and Frank Vogel in Orlando are both likely to be ousted, according to the buzz around the league, and there could be more). That’s at least five teams looking for a new coach.

The Phoenix Suns — who fired Earl Watson just three games into the season — are not wasting time, they are starting that search now, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Phoenix Suns are beginning their search for a new head coach now, a process that will include interim coach Jay Triano, general manager Ryan McDonough told ESPN…

“This is going to be a competitive marketplace,” McDonough told ESPN. “There are three of us with interim coaches in place, and we want to be able to hit the ground running. We don’t want to have to wait until the end of the regular season for candidates who aren’t with teams now. At the end of the regular season, we’ll be able to talk with coaches on non-playoff teams and we’ll need to work with playoff teams on what their approach will be on contacting (assistant) coaches still in the postseason.”

This is not going to be a fast process in Phoenix. For example, interim coach Jay Triano — who has done a respectable job since being thrown into the big chair — will get the chance to interview, but he reportedly (and understandably) wants a little time after the season ends to put together his pitch.

However, there are guys available now to interview — David Fizdale, for example — so why not get the early jump? This is going to be a wide-ranging search, for example, Jay Wright — still busy right now coaching Villanova in the NCAA Tournament — has been linked to this job. Again, never hurts to start early.

The Suns have one cornerstone player in Devin Booker and some other guys with potential to be part of the future there. The new coach needs to establish a culture and system that maximize that talent. Then McDonough needs to get a lot more quality players in to make this all work — he’s made some questionable decisions in the past (drafting Alex Len then giving a massive contract to Tyson Chandler is just the latest), now we’ll see if he can get this rebuild moving a little faster.

Three Things to Know: Protest keeps all but a couple thousand from Hawks/Kings game

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Hawks, Kings play to near empty building after police shooting protest blocks entrance to Sacramento’s home arena. Despite an ugly season on the court, the Kings sell out their building nightly — 17,553 average attendance, 100 percent capacity every game. A passionate fan base and an impressive new building will do that.

Thursday night, there were only a couple thousand people in the arena. The reason is a protest over the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark, 23 and a father of two. Sacramento Police allege Clark had been breaking into cars, and that he ran when confronted by police — he was confronted by police in the backyard of his grandmother’s house where he was living. When two police officers approached him Clark had a cellphone in his hand, which the officers reportedly said they mistook for a gun, and they shot Clark 20 times. The shooting has sparked outrage in the city (while some video of the incident was released, the police body cam footage of the confrontation and shooting has not been yet).

The Black Lives Matter peaceful protest (there were no fights or arrests out of the night), which had shut down a Sacramento freeway earlier, moved over to the Golden 1 Center and worked to block entrance to that building. The game itself started 20 minutes late. In an effort to avoid confrontations, police kept people with tickets away from the protest, so only about 2,000 people (who had been there early when the doors opened) got in.

The Kings, to their credit, handled the situation well. Owner Vivek Ranadivé addressed the crowd after the game, surrounded by the team:

“On Sunday we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community. On behalf of the players, executives, ownership and the entire Kings family — first of all, we wanted to express our deepest sympathies to the family. What happened was absolutely horrific, and we are so very sorry, so very sorry for your loss. I also wanted to say that we at the Kings recognize people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize we have a big platform — it’s a privilege but it’s also a responsibility — a responsibility we take very seriously. And we stand here before you — old, young, black, white, brown — and we are all united in our commitment. We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place starting with our own community, and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of a tragedy from happening again. Thank you all for your patience and have a good night.”

The Kings also will be offering refunds to people with tickets who could not get in.

On a far less important note than that tragic shooting, the Kings won the game 105-90.

2) Kemba Walker scores 35 points in the first half, Hornets beat tanktastick Grizzlies by 61. The Memphis Grizzlies have reached the figurative “sitting on the bench, their knees have ice packs taped to them” portion of the season. They are still playing games, but the team has checked out. The focus is on the draft, the upcoming coaching search, the question of who will own this team by the start of next season, and are they going to tear it down and rebuild or think if healthy they could make the playoffs next season.

The Charlotte Hornets have Kemba Walker — he always plays hard.

The result was Walker dropping 35 points in the first half and 46 for the game — on 18 shot attempts, and knocking down 10 threes — before he literally sitting on the bench, his knees with ice packs taped to them in what went on to be a historic blowout, a 61-point win for Charlotte 140-79.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason in both Charlotte and Memphis. The Hornets are already in the midst of a search for a new general manager — Gersson Rosas of the Rockets and Mitch Kupchak formerly of the Lakers are reportedly the frontrunners — but whoever gets that job will have to answer the #freeKemba question: Do the capped out and missed the playoffs Hornets trade Walker and start a rebuild, or do they run it back and try to make the postseason next year? Is Steve Clifford still coaching this team next season?

It’s the same question in Memphis — GM Chris Wallace has made it clear so far there are no plans to trade Marc Gasol, they will get Mike Conley back from injury, and with that the Grizzlies believe they can make the playoffs next season. They are trying to hang on to the grit ’n grind era a little longer. Memphis will be in the market for a new coach, too, but the bigger question for the franchise — both in terms of on-the-court direction and off-the-court challenges — is who will own the team? Robert Pera is the controlling owner right now, but due to an odd ownership arrangement he has to buy out Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus (for about $300 million) or they can buy Pera out. It’s being negotiated, but the outcome of all this is unclear, and teams with a muddled ownership rarely do well on the court.

3) Another night, another 33 points and nine rebound night from Anthony Davis. The Lakers are maybe the ultimate spoiler in the West right now — a non-playoff team that has come together, is playing well, and is not in tank mode (they don’t have their own pick this year). That has led to wins over teams such as the Cavaliers, Spurs, and Heat this month.

The Pelicans could not afford that kind of loss — even on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back — so Anthony Davis took over. Again. He dropped 33 points with nine rebounds and a couple of blocks on the Lakers in a 128-125 Pelicans win.

With the victory, the Pelicans are currently the 4/5 seed in the West, tied with Oklahoma City.