Washington Wizards v Chicago Bulls

If the current structure holds, the new NBA will look much like the old one, just smaller

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The New York Times reported Saturday on several crucial details of the new CBA deal that’s currently being discussed. Basically, if the structure holds once either side gets its collective head out of its backside, these are the provisions that are already agreed upon. So if the players cave and give in to 50/50 or the owners elect for their first ever serious concession (fat chance of either), or if both sides would just agree to a 51-52 percent band on revenue, these are the elements that would be included in the NBA.

Go read the entire thing, then come back here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I’ve got nothing else to do with a lockout Sunday.

Back? OK, great. Let’s begin with contract length.

Under the old deal, players re-signing with their old team for the max (or re-signing and then getting traded, as in the case of the Triad last summer) would receive a five-year deal with an option for a sixth. That’s been tightened to a five-year deal. I’m assuming that means a four-year deal with a player option for a fifth, but you never know. If you don’t return to your home and instead take the adventurous route, you’ll then be seeing a four-year deal. That’s pretty huge. Consider that the Bulls’ acquisition of Carlos Boozer would mean he’s only on the books for another three years, meaning he’s trade bait in two instead of another three. Contract lengths is a huge provision due to that being the best way for players to guarantee financial stability. The players giving up a year on these is no small element. It means less guaranteed money.

If you’ve been paying attention, you likely know all about the amnesty clause already. But the Times’ report that says the team can exercise it at any point during the life of the CBA is gigantic. Example? You know that fancy new extension Tony Parker agreed to this year? Consider that if Tim Duncan retires at the end of his current contract and Manu decides to head back home after Duncan retires, forfeiting his final year through retirement, Parker will still be on the books for $25 million guaranteed over another two seasons. The amnesty clause mans that teams can finish up their run with their current core, then cut ties and rebuild. And if you want a totally insane scenario? Consider that the Heat could look at the 2012 free agency class and elect to amnesty Chris Bosh, freeing up money to spend on Deron Williams, Chris Paul, or Dwight Howard. That’s not going to happen, but it’s a nice example of what could happen. The Bulls freeing up Boozer once his production plummets in a few years is another example. Getting to hold on to that amnesty is a really big deal.

The stretch exception is more clearly defined, as outlined by the Times‘ Howard Beck:

Stretch exception: Teams will be permitted to stretch out payments to waived players, spreading out the cap hit, over several seasons. The payment schedule will be set by doubling the years left on the contract and adding one. (Thus a team waiving a player with two years left could pay him over five years.)

via N.B.A. Deal Is Close, but Last Hurdle Is a Big One – NYTimes.com.

If you’re keeping score, and if I’m doing the math right, if the Magic were to amnesty Gilbert Arenas and then stretch exception Hedo Turkoglu, his nearly $23 million guaranteed (he has a non-guaranteed $12 million salary in 2013-2014) salary over the next two years would be extended over the next five (2+2+1: it’s like that movie “Clue”). So instead of paying and getting hit with over $11 million each of the next two seasons, the Magic would be paying less than the projected mid-level exception of $5 million in salary and cap hit to get rid of Turkoglu. This kind of flexibility would do much of the same work the amnesty will do in terms of helping teams recover faster.

There are other details on the MLE and the structure of raises, but in reality, the biggest remaining piece of news is the luxury tax. The Times reports that the two sides have agreed on the tax structure. The basic tax for being over the threshold rises to $1.50 for every dollar over the line, then progressively higher as the amount over the threshold rises. It’s a pretty decent solution, allowing teams to spend if they want (for example, the Los Angeles Lakers can more than afford to pay the 3-to-1 dollar tax with their new television deal. There will still be payers, just not as many and you’ll have to really want to.

It’s an exciting set of provisions which could help make teams better over the course of the next six or seven years, depending on the length of the deal. Of course, the management in those teams will still have to make better decisions, the players will still have to play, and we have to a friggin’ deal first. Other than that, gold, Jerry, gold!

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.