The stupid BRI issue is really stupid

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One would think that after four months, the NBPA and NBA would be able to figure out how to split pie slices. But no. Talks blew up again Friday over the split of Basketball Related Income, BRI, the phrase that has become the scourge of fans’ existence as more games are cancelled.  On the surface, it’s as simple as this: the players won’t come down from 52 percent, a five percentage point drop from what they held under the prior arrangement, and the owners won’t come up from 50 percent, which they feel is a “concession” from their ludicrous starting position of a 46 percent (or lower) cut for the players. They might as well have started at 0 percent for players and say they’ve given up 50 points.

It sounds simple, and stubborn, and pointless. And it is, but it’s a little more complex than that.

Let’s start with an overlooked element that has quietly slid by in the past two days. When talking about BRI, Billy Hunter made reference to the “expenses deduction” this week. The owners had been wanting to take a certain amount of money for expenses for ownership off the top of BRI, essentially saying “we only want to split the true profit.” That’s a pretty absurd position in the minds of most analysts. Consider that the players don’t have any sort of impact on the decision-making of ownership when it comes to expenses. The BRI is constructed  as the revenue generated by basketball. The owners want it to be “the revenue generated by basketball after we get back what we paid to create that revenue generated by basketball, which we don’t actually play.”

The position was such a hot-button that in previous talks it had been yanked off the table. Simple enough, and that concession was part of why I started to side with the owners at one point, at least before their extremists walked back in the room and lit everything on fire. Again. But after Hunters’ comments this week, and a tweet from Nazr Mohammed last night, it would appear that the league re-instituted this position into talks.

So that’s not really productive.

The expenses reduction essentially means that when you take the players’ cut under the owners’ proposal and divide it by the total money earned by the sources which make up BRI, plus the money they want to pull out first, the players’ actual cut would be 47 percent. It’s essentially the owners manipulating the system to make 47 percent look like 50 percent, according to the union’s math.

That sounds pretty owner-like, given what we’ve seen in this process, right? “Sure, I’ll give you 50 percent (when you want 52), I’ve just got to make it where 47 percent looks like 50 real quick.”

/facepalm

Meanwhile, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com brings up the fact that neither Hunter nor David Stern entered talks yesterday with the necessary bargaining power on BRI to get a deal. Stern, predictably, has his hands tied by the extremists owners who have been sabotaging a season since July 1st. But who’s got Hunter’s hands tied? From Berger:

“Billy said, ‘My phone is ringing off the hook from agents and from players telling me I cannot go under 52 percent,’ ” Silver said. “And he said, ‘Unless youre prepared to go there, we have nothing to talk about.'”

So even at this late date, when they were on the cusp of a deal, each one’s bus has been hijacked — the way union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said the negotiations were hijacked a week ago. Stern is no longer driving for the league, and Hunter has been booted from the drivers seat by agents who — justifiably or not — believe the players already have given up too much in this negotiation and shouldnt give up another dime.

Yes, the two men who were supposedly empowered to make the deal everyone expected them to make Friday didnt have the juice to get it done. That’s sad, silly, unfortunate, a disgrace — and reality.

via Season takes another hit as owners, players refuse to close deal – NBA – CBSSports.com Basketball.

So from left-to-right here, we’ve got agents-Hunter-Stern-extremist owners. That’s the lineup for trying to save a season, with two reasonable men (regardless of your feelings on Stern, it’s clear from this week that he’s at least trying to get a deal, possibly against the wishes of the geniuses backing the teams losing the $300 million) trying to get a deal done and the sides behind them making that impossible.

How do you get a deal done when neither side really wants one, when they’d rather just lose the money which is quickly becoming relative pocket change compared to the losses and economic damage from missed games?  You don’t. You just watch Rome burn.

Like I said. Stupid.

Nuggets say Paul Millsap won’t return until after All-Star break

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The Western Conference has been a blast this season, with the Houston Rockets playing strong after the arrival of Chris Paul. The team has 13 straight wins, and a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors.

That’s just part of the results of the West getting a boatload of stars sent its way over the summer. One team is lacking their new addition, however, and his absence has been a quiet disappointment. The Denver Nuggets still sit in sixth place out West, but new forward Paul Millsap has been sidelined with a wrist injury.

The original timeline for Millsap said he would be out for three months, which would put him back around the beginning of March. That plan was confirmed by Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, who said that he expects Millsap will be out until at least the All-Star break, which starts on February 16.

Malone also seemed to indicate it’s possible Millsap is out longer than that.

Via Twitter:

At least Millsap is on schedule? It’s hard to tell inflection from text, but let’s just hope Malone’s “at the earliest” isn’t an indicator of slow recovery on Millsap’s part. The Nuggets certainly don’t need to rush Millsap back. They have a 16-13 record and instill more confidence than most the teams floundering below them in the standings.

LeBron James on talk with Lonzo Ball: “Some things could be held private”

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LeBron James was caught on a hot mic this week speaking with Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. The conversation came after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers in Ohio, 121-112.

In their talk, LeBron told Ball that he needed to stay in his zone and be aggressive. Pretty generic stuff, to be honest.

Meanwhile, LeBron was asked about whether he thought having microphones record those types of conversations between players was good for the league. He was less than enthused.

Via Cleveland.com (response is at 0:50 in the video above):

Some things could be held private. Like my conversation with Lonzo. Everything doesn’t need to be said. Should be some type of privacy. I’m OK with it.

It does raise an interesting question in terms of player privacy and separation between media, fans, and players. On one hand, you could see how what they say on the floor, in a public arena meant for spectators, could be deemed public and therefore fair game.

But it’s also common for media not to publish — or for TV not to broadcast — the things players say during the game. We don’t hear trash talking, even if we see it, and if you’ve ever sat near the floor at an NBA game you hear a lot more colorful language than you do watching the game on TV.

However you come down player privacy on the court, it doesn’t seem like LeBron needed to speak with Ball in front of media like that. He could have spoken to him in the tunnels below the Q, or got his phone number and texted him. He could have sent him a DM on Twitter and it would have been more private.

It feels like there was a performative aspect to this, like LeBron wanted to create a mystery around his conversation with Lonzo but it got turned on its head. It’s just too bad what was said between them wasn’t actually that interesting.

LeBron James on possibly winning fifth MVP this season: “it would mean a lot”

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LeBron James is destroying the NBA’s traditional aging curve. Over the years and looking at thousands of players, we know that at certain ages and years in the league, guys start to decline. Look at the guys still in the league from the 2003 NBA draft: players still in the league, such as Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, are seeing their games deteriorate in their 15th NBA season. As expected.

Not LeBron.

About to turn 33 and having played more regular season games than Michael Jordan did, LeBron is averaging 28.1 points, 9.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game, with a true shooting percentage of 65.9 that would be a career high, and a PER of 31.5 that is right at his career high for a season (31.7). LeBron has not lost a step.

LeBron is in the middle of the too-early MVP conversation, where he and Houston’s James Harden have separated from the field a third of the way into the season. At shootaround Saturday LeBron said winning the NBA MVP for a fifth time would matter to him, but what he really likes doing is opening the door to future NBA players to blow up the aging curve. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“Team success is always the number one, but along the way if you’re able to accomplish some individual awards, individual achievements, it would mean a lot,” James said after Saturday’s practice. “I feel good. This is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I’ve had as far as how I feel and I want to continue that. I want to kind of try to break the mold for the next generation. So just take the narrative out of ‘OK, you’re past your prime when you get [to] 31, or you’re past your prime in your 12th year in the league, or whatever the case may be.’ Hopefully I can break the mold so when the next guy comes, he can still get 200 or 300 million and be 33 years old. I’m serious. You guys are laughing, I’m serious. This is the mold I’m trying to break.”

He’s broken it.

Part of it is that today’s players know more about nutrition and training than past generations. They tend to take better care of their bodies, there are improved medical treatments, and much better diets — and nobody takes all that more seriously than LeBron.

Also, he is a physical freak of nature. Always has been.

It’s too early to have a serious MVP conversation, we have two-thirds of the season remaining, but as of now LeBron and Harden are the front runners (with guys such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and others on the next tier). If LeBron can keep up this level of play, and continues to carry the Cavaliers to a top two record in the East, he will be one of the top vote-getters. No question.

And that would break a mold, too, and put him in a conversation with Michael Jordan again (Jordan won five MVPs, the oldest at age 35).

Kevin Hart plays Shaq, Saturday Night Live takes on Inside The NBA

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Notoriously undersized actor — and NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game MVP — Kevin Hart playing the notoriously oversized Shaquille O’Neal is brilliant.

That was at the heart of it when Saturday Night Live took on Inside the NBA on its Christmas show Saturday night. Hart was into it poking fun at Shaq’s penchant for going off with his own word salad during the show.

Charles Barkley and Shaq are rich satire targets, and SNL went right at them. Well done.