Throughout these NBA labor negotiations there has been a lot of focus on who is in the negotiating room. When it has been a small group led by Billy Hunter and David Stern, there has been progress. When Kevin Garnett or Paul Allen — or really any larger group — becomes involved things blow up.
But there is one other interesting dynamic out there — union attorney Jeffrey Kessler.
One of the most celebrated sports attorneys around, he is the union’s hard liner. He helped guide the NFL players when they filed to decertify their union. He recommended the same thing for the NBA players and the league feared him enough to file a preemptive legal strike against decertification.
And he has been out of the room this week as negotiations have moved to the brink of an NBA labor deal. (He is out of the country on other business.)
Which leads to this fascinating note at TrueHoop by Henry Abbott.
Much was made of Portland owner Paul Allen’s appearance in last week’s mediated session. The suggestion was that he was there to send a message that owners were holding a hard line.
NBA sources, however, say it was nothing of the sort. In fact, they say, he was there at the invitation of the NBA’s negotiators to watch Kessler. Allen was one of several owners who thought Stern and Silver had made players an overly generous offer of 50 percent of basketball-related income. The league’s lead negotiators essentially replied: Go see for yourself. You think you can get Kessler to go for 47 percent? Good luck to you.
Certainly some of this is spin from the league trying to defend Allen — right now everything both sides say is spin — but there might well be some truth in it.
And if Allen went in a hard liner, watched Kessler in action then reported back to the hardliners that 47 percent was out, it could help explain this week’s movement.
Remember, the NFL labor deal was struck while Kessler was away as well. Coincidence?
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.
On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.
But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.
Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.