Derek Fisher, Spencer Hawes, Maurice Evans

Choice before players: Take Stern’s offer or decertify

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David Stern threw down the gauntlet — here is our deal. It’s a 51-49 band on basketball-related income and other things the owners can live with. Come Wednesday, this offer will vanish and the next offer will be much worse. The owners are done negotiating.

Stern said it wasn’t an ultimatum, but he is wrong. That’s exactly what it is. He knows the players have only one leverage card to play in these talks. Which leaves the NBA players’ union with two realistic options:

One: Take the deal.

Two: Decertify.

Either give in to what the owners want, otherwise risk blowing up the entire season and go after them hard in the courts with decertification. I’m not the only one seeing it this way, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo does as well.

And union president Derek Fisher suggested the players are not taking Stern’s deal.

“Right now, we’ve been given the ultimatum, and right now that is not acceptable to us,” Fisher said.

Stern’s proposal — which were suggestions from the federal mediator, according to Stern — called for a 49-51 percent band of sharing on basketball-related income (which is really a 50/50 deal that can slide a little either way), along with a mini mid-level of about $2 million for teams paying the luxury tax, no sign-and-trade for taxpayers, a $1 repeater tax (teams that pay the tax multiple years) and more.

Fisher said that never really came from an official offer of the mediator. He said he never heard that offer in the room. He said the players made an offer they thought was fair.

“We’ve made moves that are extremely significant … we made an offer that was a very fair at about 51 percent …” Fisher said. “We’ve been consistent, if we move on ecomomics we need a fair system our players can live in.”

All of this is moot.

If the players are serious about fighting hardball with hardball, if they are serious about leverage, they have to at least seriously threaten decertification. It is the one thing that scared the owners enough that they filed a pre-emptive lawsuit trying to block decertification.

Some agents are polling players on that right now, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Some players are on board with decertification (dissolving the union) right now:

source:

It would take a petition with 30 percent of the NBA’s players, about 130 guys, to start the process of decertification. Then there would be a 45-day period before the petition would be voted on (if the National Labor Relations Board doesn’t delay that vote). In that time, the threat of decertification might provide leverage that would get the union a better deal. Maybe. If you think Stern will back down. But it doesn’t feel like it because the hardline owners will not let him. If no deal, the players would need the vote of 230 players to blow up the union completely. Then the players could sue the owners on anti-trust grounds

If you put it to a vote of the entire players’ union right now, they likely would take Stern’s deal. He is counting on that, he is counting on the pressure working. Union leadership feels they have given everything they can, coming down from 57 percent of BRI to 51 percent in their latest offer. But they feel the owners are not meeting them halfway on system issues (such as the luxury tax and exceptions to it). They feel the owners are being unfair. Which is true, but moot.

Right now, union leadership is not taking Stern’s deal. And if not, decertification of the union looks more like a viable option for the players. The threat of it could force the owners to the table. Or, it could destroy the entire season. It’s a risk.

But it’s one the players have to take unless they want to give in.

Front desk at new Sixers practice facility made out of court from Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Ben Simmons walks on stage after being drafted first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. 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 Stobe/Getty Images)
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The Philadelphia 76ers have just opened a new, state-of-the-art practice facility, and maybe the coolest part is a unique touch that nods to one of the iconic moments in the history of Philadelphia basketball. The reception desk in the lobby of the building is made out of hardwood, but not just any hardwood — it’s a part of the court from Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game on March 2, 1962. Here’s a photo, via CSN Philly’s Jessica Camerato:

When Chamberlain scored 100 points, it was for the Philadelphia Warriors, not the 76ers, but it’s still a piece of the city’s sports history, and this is a cool, unique way to honor it.

51 Q: Will Tom Thibodeau fast-track the Timberwolves’ ascension?

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 05:  Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves is congratulated by Ricky Rubio #9 after he made a basket against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on April 5, 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Timberwolves won just 29 games last season, but few teams have more crowded bandwagons right now, or brighter futures. In many ways, their position isn’t too dissimilar to the Oklahoma City Thunder circa 2009 — still a lottery team, but the talent of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was obvious. The Wolves have a similarly promising young core with the last two Rookie of the Year winners, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the latter of whom has all the makings of a once-in-a-generation, MVP-caliber big man and an unbelievable amount of poise and polish for his age.

Young teams take time to come together, but the Timberwolves set themselves up to make a leap with their biggest offseason move, parting ways with interim head coach Sam Mitchell (who filled in admirably following the passing of Flip Saunders before last season) and hiring Tom Thibodeau. Because of this alone, the Timberwolves will win more games than they did last year. That’s what Thibodeau does — he wins games, no matter what his roster looks like. He does this by treating every game like it’s Game 7 of the Finals, and unlike the injury-riddled Bulls teams he got to overachieve, this Wolves group is young, healthy and unproven.

But even though any group with Wiggins, Towns and Thibodeau projects long-term to be in the title race, it would be unfair and unreasonable to expect contention overnight. Even Thibodeau, who expects the absolute most out of any group he coaches, is fully aware of that. Here’s what he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in July:

“We like our young core a lot,” Thibodeau said, “and I would say this: We’re also not fooling ourselves. We know we’re in a very competitive conference. We won 29 games last year.”

Short of the kind of offseason haul of superstars that transforms a roster (think the Celtics getting Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, or the Cavaliers getting LeBron James and Kevin Love in 2014), going from a bottom-tier lottery team to a contender overnight just doesn’t happen. A more realistic expectation of a best-case scenario for the Timberwolves under the first year of Thibodeau would be the 2009-10 Thunder. After winning just 23 games in 2009, Oklahoma City went 50-32 in 2009-10, grabbed the eighth seed in the Western Conference and lost to the eventual champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. A playoff berth and a competitive first-round loss to the Warriors or Spurs is only incremental progress, but considering what the starting point is, and the fact that the Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, a similar season would be a resounding success for the first year under Thibodeau.

The bottom of the Western Conference playoff race is going to be an uphill battle for the Wolves to break into. Beyond the top tier (Golden State, San Antonio and the Clippers), it seems to be a safe bet that the Jazz, Blazers, Thunder and Grizzlies will be in the playoffs. The Timberwolves will be one of the teams fighting for the final spot, but they’ll have stiff competition with the Rockets, Pelicans and Mavericks in the hunt. It’s not hard to picture the Wolves edging those teams out, but it’s far from a sure thing.

Long-term, it’s hard to think of a team with a higher ceiling than this Timberwolves group. In the here and now, though, it’s best to keep expectations in check.

Anthony Davis on New Orleans: “I never plan on leaving here”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 04:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans takes a shot during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Smoothie King Center on February 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. On media day, Anthony Davis — who signed a five-year max extension with the Pelicans last summer and cannot hit the open market until 2020 at the earliest — told reporters that he wants to play in New Orleans his entire career.

Right now, I have no doubt that Davis means what he said and wants to stay in New Orleans forever. But it’s worth keeping in mind that virtually every superstar who signed a long-term extension with the team that drafted them said something similar. Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has a few examples from Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, all of whom eventually left their teams.

For the Pelicans, it will depend on how the next four seasons go. If they can put a title contender around Davis and not waste the bulk of his prime (a la Kevin Garnett‘s first stint in Minnesota), they have a chance to convince him to stay. But it would be unwise to hold him at his word right now in four years, especially if the next several seasons don’t go the way they want.

Enes Kanter roasts Kevin Garnett following retirement announcement

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 08:  Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Thunder defeated the Suns 122-106.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Enes Kanter has emerged in recent months as one of the most entertaining NBA players to follow on Twitter, with a knack for self-deprecation as well as poking fun at other players. His response to Kevin Garnett‘s Friday retirement announcement did not disappoint: a shot at Garnett’s aging knees and a picture of himself dunking on KG.

You would have to hope that Garnett, one of the NBA’s all-time