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.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.