Where we stand with NBA labor talks. Besides screwed.

14 Comments

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.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim keeps fabricating NBA draft stats

AP Photo/Nick Lisi
2 Comments

Sophomore forward Tyler Lydon declared for the NBA draft, which Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim seized as an opportunity to spew more nonsense.

Connor Grossman of The Daily Orange:

Boeheim cautioned Lydon about jumping into the NBA Draft now, knowing he lacked the “monster year” it would’ve taken for him to get lottery pick consideration.

“He didn’t demonstrate this year that he can be a lottery pick,” Boeheim said, “but next year I know he can be. That’s what I told him. I think he can come back here and demonstrate that he can be a lottery pick.

“I think it’s a better way to go to the NBA. You make money, they draft you high, they play you. Half the picks between 20-30 are out of the league within three years.”

We don’t yet know whether anyone drafted in 2014 or later will last more than three years in the NBA. So, let’s examine the prior 10-year period: 2004-2013. I exempted Nikola Mirotic, who jumped late to the NBA and is in his third season right now (even though I’d be shocked if he’s not in the NBA next season).

In that span, 22% of players picked between 20-30 were out of the league within in three years.

That’s not even half of Boeheim’s stated figure.

A third of those picks who washed out so quickly were international players. NBA teams are pretty good at scouting and developing college players, who face fewer hurdles in translating to the to the league. So, Lydon being projected to go in the first round means something.

The most recent college player picked in this range to fall out of the league, Perry Jones, got paid for a fourth season. Even the cases that count for Boeheim are poor examples.

And who’s to say Lydon would develop into a lottery pick if he stayed another year at Syracuse? The only guarantee would be missing an opportunity at a year of NBA earnings. Lydon’s stock could fall, a precarious possibility for someone who doesn’t excel at creating shots. Lydon can develop with an NBA team, maybe even spending time in the D-League – while earning far more than the college-sports cartel allows.

Boeheim’s self-serving approach is painfully evident. He enriches himself on the backs of young college players, and when the most talented among them leave early, that hurts his stature. So, he makes up bogus figures in attempt to get what he wants.

It’s shameful.

Heat’s James Johnson says he can roundhouse kick a ball wedgied between backboard and rim

Rob Foldy/Getty Images
1 Comment

James Johnson is having a career year for the surging Heat. The forward is doing a bit of everything – scoring, distributing, defending.

But we apparently haven’t seen all he can do.

Johnson, in a Q&A with Anthony Chiang of PalmBeachPost.com

Q: Can you really roundhouse kick a ball that’s stuck between the backboard and the rim?

James: “That’s a fact.”

Q: When was the last time you did it?

James: “The summer before last season.”

Q: So the last time you did it, you were with Toronto?

James: “And I was heavier. I still have everything I can do. It’s not like I lost anything. If anything, I’ve gained [more ability]. I lost weight. I’m stronger, more flexible. I might be able to get it easier now.”

Q: How old were you when you realized you could do this?

James: “Probably like 15, 16. That’s when I first knew I could do it. Then it was just something I could always do.”

Video or it never happened.

LeBron James, making career-low 67%, pledges to shoot at least 80% on free throws in playoffs

Jason Miller/Getty Images
2 Comments

LeBron James is making a career-low 67% of his free throws this season.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“Yeah it’s killing me, it’s killing me,” James said

But I’ll be fine for the playoffs. For the rest of the regular season I’m going to end up shooting in the 60s, which is a career-low for me, but the postseason I’ll be up there in the 80s.

LeBron has never shot better than 78% in any regular season. He has only once eclipsed 78% in a postseason, shooting 81% in 2014.

If he could simply decide to shoot better from the line, why hasn’t he done it already?

That said, the Cavaliers look like they’re just biding their time until the playoffs. Their focus should increase, and LeBron’s free-throw percentage should rise with it.

But to 80%? Though I’ve learned never to count out LeBron, I’m skeptical.

Dwight Howard ate equivalent of 24 candy bars daily for about a decade

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
3 Comments

Dwight Howard‘s love for candy is infamous, though in recent years he has talked more about healthy habits.

Just how much candy did he consume at his peak?

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

By February’s All-Star break, it was time for a full-blown intervention, and Dr. Cate Shanahan, the Lakers’ nutritionist, led the charge, speaking to Howard by phone from her office in Napa, California. Howard’s legs tingled, he complained, but she noticed he was having trouble catching passes too, as if his hands were wrapped in oven mitts. Well, he quietly admitted, his fingers also tingled. Shanahan, with two decades of experience in the field, knew Howard possessed a legendary sweet tooth, and she suspected his consumption of sugar was causing a nerve dysfunction called dysesthesia, which she’d seen in patients with prediabetes. She urged him to cut back on sugar for two weeks. If that didn’t help, she said, she vowed to resign.

To alter Howard’s diet, though, Shanahan first had to understand it. After calls with his bodyguard, chef and a personal assistant, she uncovered a startling fact: Howard had been scarfing down about two dozen chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every single day for years, possibly as long as a decade. “You name it, he ate it,” she says. Skittles, Starbursts, Rolos, Snickers, Mars bars, Twizzlers, Almond Joys, Kit Kats and oh, how he loved Reese’s Pieces. He’d eat them before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, and like any junkie, he had stashes all over — in his kitchen, his bedroom, his car, a fix always within reach. She told his assistants to empty his house, and they hauled out his monstrous candy stash in boxes — yes, boxes, plural.

Howard is 6-foot-11 and muscular, and he does strenuous workouts daily. He can handle far more food than the average person.

Still, dear lord, that’s a lot of candy.

This anecdote was part of Holmes’ fantastic story on peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches’ place in the NBA. I suggest reading it in full.