Stern gives players new ultimatum offer for 72-game season

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One week later, after nearly 23 hours of talks over two days, we are back almost in the same place we were last weekend, save that the consequences seem more dire.

Thursday night David Stern and the owners presented a new take-it-or-leave-it proposal to the union (the details of which we have few of yet but is similar to where the owners thought talks stood late Thursday). That proposal, if accepted early next week, would make for a 72-game NBA season starting Dec. 15.

Union president Derek Fisher said the union would take the weekend to look at the proposal, consult with the 30 team representatives and then give a response.

And that’s where things get scary.

Stern said this is it, turn down this offer and the owners will pull out their “reset” proposal of 47 percent of the revenue to the players and a hard salary cap. And although he said the same thing last weekend, this time he said he means it:

“If this offer is not accepted, then we will revert to our 47 percent proposal…” Stern said after the meetings broke off. “We’ve made our revised proposal and we’re not going to make another one “

Fisher sounded like a guy who wanted to use this offer as a jumping off point for more talks, which is what happened with last week’s ultimatum.

“At this point we’ve decided to take a step back, we’ll confer with our executive committee…,” Fisher said. “We still would like to continue to negotiate and try to get a deal done but right now, it’s not that time.”

Union director Billy Hunter said there are six or seven key issues to be resolved but another 30 or so “B-list” issues to be discussed yet. Those B-listers things like the age limit for the draft among others that will not hold up a deal but still need to be worked out.

What are the issues that the union doesn’t like? Here are a few we know of, but they all basically revolve around the league trying to rein in big-market teams from spending into the luxury tax (which last season was set at $70 million):

• Saying tax-paying teams cannot use the full $5 million mid-level exception, instead giving them a “mini” mid-level exception at $2.5 million.

• Having more restrictive trade rules for teams paying the tax so they cannot bring in more salary.

• Increasing the tax levels for teams that are in the tax three out of five years. (The players had agreed to lesser increases and only on the first $10 million over the tax, the owners want something more punitive.)

• Saying tax-paying teams cannot use a sign-and-trade to bring in a new player (this has happened five times in the last six years in the NBA, the most significant one was Shawn Marion to the Mavs, no sure why this is a sticking point).

• Hitting teams that pay the tax more than three times in any five-season span with a harsh set of extra penalties.

One development that came up over the night was players chiming in not happy with where the offers stood, as if some were finally realizing how much they were giving up from the old deal. There are still plenty that would approve Sterns offer to get back on the court.

Stern said he thought it was a fair offer.

“We don’t expect them to like every aspect of our revised proposal, there are many teams that do not like every aspect of the revised proposal,” Stern said.

It doesn’t look promising, yet deals neither side likes usually is where compromise is found. If you look for them, there are some signs of optimism. Take this quote from union director Billy Hunter

“It’s been a long haul man, but we’re near the end of it. We want to get this thing done,” Hunter said.

Amen.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.

Spurs’ David Lee will not need surgery on knee, will be ready for training camp in the fall

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David Lee was certainly not going to swing the series against the Warriors one way or another. However, the veteran forward with a varried offensive game still has an NBA role in the right setting.

He has a $1.6 million player option with the Spurs next season, and whatever he decides it’s good news that he will not need surgery to repair the knee injury that sidelined him in the Conference Finals. From Ramona Shelburn of ESPN.

Good news to end the week. David Lee doesn’t need surgery on his knee, per his agent Mark Bartelstein. He’s got a sprained patellar tendon that should heal in about six weeks.

As a big off the bench, David Lee can still help the right team. His game has limitations, but put him in the right situation and he can help. It’s just that due to injury, the Spurs had to ask more of him in the playoffs than he can deliver anymore.

Draymond Green says Warriors are “more relaxed” this season

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Last year, the Warriors entered the NBA Finals with the weight of expectations: Defending NBA champions, 73 regular season wins, if they got the title they would leap up the ladder of all-time great teams, lose and it would be a massive let down. We all know what happened from there.

The Warriors are back in the Finals, taking on the Cavaliers for the third year in a row — but this year things are going to be different. Mostly because of Kevin Durant changing the equation. But also the Warriors mindset is better if you ask Draymond Green. Which Mark Spears of ESPN did.

This makes sense. The Warriors to a man denied the pressure and how physically/mentally taxed they were by the chase for 73, but it clearly wore on them physically and mentally. Green was thrashing about and drawing techs, over-reacting to everything (although sometimes that feels like his default setting). Curry was injured but also tired. The Warriors opened the door, LeBron James and the Cavaliers stormed through it.

Will a rested Warriors make a difference this time around? Maybe. But again, Durant matters more than rest.

Report: Harlem Globetrotters to resume series with Washington Generals

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The Harlem Globetrotters dropped the Washington Generals as an opponent a couple years ago – a sad development for basketball traditionalists.

But the sport’s most-lopsided rivalry is returning.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

Sources said the Generals will be put into rotation to play the Globetrotters again as early as this summer and will take on a greater life than before as the lovable losers.

This just feels right. There’s a spirit about the Generals that complements the Globetrotters so well.