National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern answers questions from members of the media regarding failed contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York

The 2011-2012 season may be lost because of… the sign-and-trade?

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My wife got me started on using the phrase “Is that the hill you want to die on?” and it’s become something of a widespread philosophy-solver for me. You have to pick your battles, and you have to decide what is so important to you that you’re willing to lose substantial capital (be it time, energy, leverage, money, whatever) in order to win it, and what’s just not worth the reward. Both the NBPA and NBA have very poor understandings of this concept. Every little thing in these negotiations have been hills they want to die on. Everything is so important. Everything is vital.

The latest thing to prevent a deal and potentially kill a season is the sign-and-trade. Here’s how this works:

  1. The players don’t want the 49-51 BRI band, they want a 51-53 band, and they might more easily accept a 50-52 band, but they’ll take the 49-51 band if they get systemic concessions.
  2. Instead, the owners are getting massive systemic changes, which in the owners’ minds are still a concession because they don’t involve a hard cap. Among the elements in the latest offer is the elimination of the sign-and-trade for teams paying the luxury tax.
  3. The sign-and-trade is a pretty huge deal because without it, players can’t really get a max deal in unrestricted free agency, get their extra year from Bird rights, and go to the team they want. So if the Knicks, for example, are in the luxury tax when they attempt to sign Chris Paul, they can’t execute a sign-and-trade to get the extra year or fit him in when they’re over the cap. It restricts player movement.
  4. It doesn’t restrict player movement as much as a hard cap, but the union feels that it does. The union thinks this is their hill to die on.

The league has not relented on its insistence that tax-paying teams be forbidden to execute sign-and-trade transactions, which the union argues — when coupled with the other system restrictions — would dry up the market for free agents in a way that imitates a hard team salary cap.

“They want it all,” Kessler said. “They want the system where tax payers will never be in the marketplace and that for repeat tax payers, it’s going to be like a hard salary cap. And those deals are not acceptable for players today, and it’s not acceptable for future generations of players. … The players will not be intimidated.”

via Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline – CBSSports.com.

So that’s a huge part of where we’re at. It’s not everything. The union doesn’t like anything about the league’s latest offer, despite it being comprised of suggestions from federal mediator George Cohen, who the union wanted back in talks. They want a higher BRI, they want a better system for player movement, they want lighter penalties for tax-paying teams, etc.

But the sign-and-trade has become this big thing. Because that’s what happens when people are so into an argument they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat 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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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.