Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter

The real problem on the players’ side in this fight

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OK, the headline’s a bit misleading. The owners are the real problem for the players in this fight. Not that they want something the players don’t, but that they want everything. I made the comparison earlier this week on Memphis radio that this is the equivalent of the geek throwing the jock up against the locker and shaking him down for his lunch money. That’s pretty accurate. There’s no “bargaining” going on here, just extortion. You may think the owners have every right to do this to their employees, and that’s fine. We can have that argument later.

But beyond the owners’ Biff-ness is a secondary problem which has been apparent since the beginning and which Sam Amick of SI.com touched on Friday night.

The inefficiency in communication and organization from the players at such a dire time is astounding to me.Fri Nov 11 23:12:53 via TweetDeck

 

I’m consistently hearing about player reps who don’t contact/inform teammates, agents are scrambling for info on where things stand. Unreal.Fri Nov 11 23:13:48 via TweetDeck

 

There has to be a better way to bridge the gap between experts in the union & the ones they represent.Fri Nov 11 23:20:30 via TweetDeck


This has been an ongoing theme throughout this process. Decertification  is a legal tactic any which way you slice it, but the origins of it within the context of this labor dispute aren’t just about putting pressure on the players with lawsuits (which will not, let’s be clear, in any way shape or form, actually ever work out to favor the players, the threat is all that matters). The origin is with players unrest. And it’s not just from those who hate the NBA’s tactics and want to blow them out of the sky. Players have expressed displeasure with the fact that there hasn’t been enough caucusing of the membership. You want to know the real reason there’s not going to be a vote on Monday of all membership? Because no one’s asking to have one.

Who’s fault is that?

Everyone’s. Not just Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher, and not just the hardliners like Paul Pierce. Everyone. No one is taking responsbiliy for the union to be on the same page.

The league’s a lot different. Each team has a leader, and the league has two. You have 32 people who need to be on the same page. Even the owners who aren’t involved in this know their interests are represented by someone else. But the players have 450 members, plus Hunter. Plus the agents, no matter how messed up this may be, need a seat at the table. They have too much invested, and the players in them. But no one has gotten out in front and said “We need to communicate better with the players about what’s actually going on.”

There are going to be allegations that the reason union leadership doesn’t want the players educated is because they might realize how badly the union’s been hammered in talks. You can actually understand it from the Exec Committee’s standpoint. You never had leverage and are expected to beat back the Kraken that’s tearing down your house, armed with nothing and yet also expected to calmly soothe it back into the ocean so you don’t lose a season. There’s no way to convince the players you’re doing well if you’re losing at every turn. It’s hard to explain to anyone that they have no leverage and that this is really all about determining how much they will lose.

But still there hasn’t been enough. And it should have been both ways. “Yes, we’re giving up the money. But we’re not losing guaranteed contracts. We’re not getting a hard cap. We’ve saved these elements, but we’re losing these. You have to decide what is most important to you.”

But it’s not all on them. Because the players don’t want to try and understand these concepts, not enough of them. Get into a conversation on Twitter with a player and you’re going to hear the same talking points over and over again. “We’ve given up $3 billion over ten years!” and “We’ve made concession after concession!” The same things. But you wonder how much they know about the details. About what they mean and what the alternatives are. The players should be beating down Derek Fisher’s phone, should be in New York in meetings while the meetings are going on. If this fight is important enough for them to lose the entire season over, they should be getting minute-by-minute updates. In this day and age of technology, there’s no excuse.

There’s been talk that the players aren’t smart enough to understand this stuff. I think that’s ridiculous. You don’t need a graduate degree in economics to understand how the MLE works, how player movement works, what Bird rights are. You just have to have it explained to you the right way. This means everything to them, it’s their livelihood, the game they’ve dedicated thousands of hours of their life to.

And now they’re on a cliff that ends with everyone involved from owners to agents to players to teams to fans being damaged. The league put them on that cliff, but the NBPA failed to build themselves a ladder off it.

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

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TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.

Report: Celtics, Cavaliers talking Kevin Love trade; could include Knicks, ‘Melo

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love holds the ball away from Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson during the second quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are looking for an elite player to improve their deep cast of role players. The Cavaliers are looking for depth. And Carmelo Anthony may just be looking to win.

All of that has talks between the Cavaliers and Celtics on a potential Love deal progressing, with the possibility of the Knicks as a third team also in the mix, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions about expanding the deal to include the Knicks and Anthony, who would have to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

This is a longshot, but the report has some legs.

It’s not clear how far along these talks are. The trade deadline is Feb. 18 (next Thursday) and conversations tend to move past the theoretical/value judging phase and get real come All-Star Weekend, when many GMs and decision makers are in one place (and nobody can go outside because it is too cold in Toronto). This trade works for the Cavaliers if they get a quality stretch four in return — Kelly Olynyk? — plus some depth and a quality pick. The question for the Cavs is simply how much can they get back — this is a win-now team and Love helps that, so how does a trade make them better?

Would Danny Ainge move the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick to get Love? Jae Crowder? How much would Boston surrender to get an elite star, especially one under a reasonable, long contract?

Carmelo Anthony wants a ring, if he could end up playing with LeBron and be much closer to it than he is now, he would waive his no-trade clause.

That said, this trade sounds like a longshot. At least at the deadline. Next Summer… who knows?

Watch Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

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Kevin Hart has a movie to promote decided to come out of retirement to play in the NBA All-Star Friday Night Celebrity Game.

And, he did what Kevin Hart does.

Well, except win MVP of the game, that went to Win Butler (the Canadian lead singer of Arcade Fire). Butler led Canada to a 74-63 win over Hart and the USA.