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.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.