Derek Fisher

Union player reps to meet, want negotiations with owners


David Stern threw out an ultimatium — agree to our deal by Wednesday or come Thursday you get a much worse offer from us. (Stern doesn’t want to call it an ultimatum, but that’s exactly what it is.)

There are three player and union reactions to this, and those reactions are where we stand Monday morning.

First, the union is having meetings with all 30 NBA team player representatives Tuesday to update them on where things stand and to talk strategy, reported first at ESPN. (That follows a Monday conference call.)

The union will not present Stern’s offer to the union for a vote, rather this is a chance to talk strategy and get everyone on the same page. (Stern’s offer calls for a 51-49 percent band on BRI that is worded so that in practice it is really 50/50, plus a mini mid-level exception for tax paying teams, no sign-and-trade for tax payers and a few other system items the players do not consider enough.)

Secondly, the union is hoping to get back to the negotiating table with the owners and negotiate more, ESPN adds.

Sources close to the talks revealed later Sunday that the union is actually holding out hope that the league will call to re-open negotiations before Wednesday, with an eye toward tweaking some of the system issues to lead to a more palatable deal that the NBPA would be comfortable with putting to a vote. The union’s belief, sources say, is that a few changes — none of them monumental — could produce a deal now that the gap on the revenue was closed further in Saturday’s negotiations.

Meanwhile, on a third front, an effort to decertify the union has started to gain momentum. There will be a third call talking decertification with players this week and a drive to get the needed about 130 signatures to force a vote is moving forward. There are questions if they can get that, and even if they get that there are bigger questions if they can get the more the more than 225 votes to actually decertify.

Some — including prominent agents — think the threat of anti-trust lawsuits after decertification could force the owners to give more. They think it’s the players’ best shot at leverage.

Maybe. But don’t bet on it. The NFL players union decertified and the league basically won the one and only legal ruling out of that case, one that was very narrow. The upshot of it is that is that while the union’s case could go forward this is a process that would take several years. Nobody thinks the players can hold out that long. A deal would be struck and the union reconstituted before any real damage came to the owners (if there would be any).

But that’s where we stand. The union will talk strategy, even though right now they don’t have a really good one.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.