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.

Phil Jackson: ‘Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle’

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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See whether you can follow this timeline:

1. Knicks president Phil Jackson stated his commitment to the triangle offense entering the 2015-16 season.

2. Jackson in a December interview published today, via Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak:

Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle. They know how to play one-on-one, catch-and-shoot, and they’ve mastered crossover dribbles, spins, playing off of screens and step-back shots. They don’t know how to execute things like inside-reverse pivots and other basic footwork. They have no sense of timing or organization. They don’t really know how to play five-on-five basketball. It’s strictly generational.

That’s why Fish {Derek Fisher} wants to uptempo the offense. And why he spends a half-hour before practice doing lots of skills work.

3. Jackson fires coach Derek Fisher, who — according to interim coach Kurt Rambis — resisted the triangle.

4. Jackson said the Knicks would continue to run the triangle and even ran a triangle camp for New York players.

5. Jackson hired Jeff Hornacek, who has little triangle experience, and said the new coach wouldn’t have to run the triangle.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe Jackson, relying on his December thoughts, finally changed his mind about the triangle. Maybe he believes players can still be taught triangle skills and actually plans to have Hornacek use the system.

Or maybe the Knicks are just rudderless.

Adam Silver not a fan of LeBron James’, Kevin Durant’s 1+1 contracts

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - FEBRUARY 21 :  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to keep the ball away from LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the third quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on February 21, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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LeBron James has signed a couple 1+1 contracts since rejoining the Cavaliers. Kevin Durant inked a 1+1 deal to join the Warriors.

The superstars are maximizing their compensation under the NBA’s salary-cap rules and extracting leverage over their teams in the process. Risky? Somewhat. If either player gets hurt, he has no long-term security. But LeBron and Durant are so good, teams would still line up to pay them max money after a major injury. There’s a reason even the next class of stars hasn’t duplicated this strategy.

But, as limited as 1+1 contracts are, NBA commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t give them a ringing endorsement.

Silver, via Cleveland.com:

“One of the unintended consequences (of doing contracts like James) I feel on behalf of the players is the fact that they end up putting themselves in this position where they’re taking enormous financial risk,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told cleveland.com. “The system is designed for guys to enter into long term contracts, so, and you can only get so much insurance. So one of the unintended consequences is they take risk beyond what we would like to see them take.

“The other thing is, the system is designed and incentivizes players to stay with the same teams,” Silver said. “At the same time I respect free agency so if they make those decisions to leave, that’s fine too. But as I said, I’d like to talk to the union about maybe modifying the system so there’s a little bit more of an incentive to stay with your existing team.”

Silver sounds like he might be overreacting to a narrow problem — something that might not even be a problem at all.

Not long ago, the NBA had a real problem: Contracts were too long, and raises were too high. Players signed long-term deals, declined over the life of them and became deadweight by the end. Teams were too often strapped with expensive unproductive players, and because those players ate up significant cap room, there wasn’t money left to sign upgrades.

So, the league has pushed to save teams from themselves. Two Collective Bargaining Agreements ago, the max contract length was seven years and max raises were 12.5%. In the previous CBA, it was six years and 10.5%. Now, it’s five years and 7.5%.

Simply, teams aren’t allowed to offer LeBron or Durant enough long-term security where that would trump a one-year deal — especially with the salary cap rising rapidly.

Last year, the salary cap rose 11.0%. This year, it was 34.5%.

The max 7.5% raises — which LeBron and Durant can’t even yet, because without full Bird Rights, they’re limited to 4.5% — won’t cut it. Even if LeBron and Durant are totally committed to staying with their current teams, there’s more money in signing a new contract each year as the max skyrockets in line with the cap. However, that opens the door for a change of heart and leaving in free agency.

The max-salary tiers also encourage 1+1 deals. A player’s max depends on his experience, and it escalates among three tiers: 0-6 years, 7-9 years, 10+ years.

Imagine the typical max player. He was a first-round pick, so his rookie-scale deal covers his first four seasons. He might sign a five-year max contract extension or max deal as a restricted free agent — which gets him to unrestricted free agency with nine years of experience. If he locks into a long-term deal that summer, he’s stuck with the 7-9 max. Wait one more year, and he can get the 10+ rate.

With both factors — the skyrocketing salary cap and tier system — working together, players are more incentivized than ever to take 1+1 deals.

That won’t remain the case, though.

The salary cap will level off as the new national TV contracts become the norm. There will still be free agents with nine years of experience who could wait one more season to lock in long-term, but that had long been the case, and nobody took a 1+1. LeBron and Durant are as likely to be outliers as trendsetters.

But if other players follow their lead, that’s not so bad. If players sign a new contract annually or even biannually, they’re more likely to be paid in accordance with their production. That’s something owners want.

Owners also want to keep their top players, and 1+1 deals allow for greater player movement. So, I see the downside for teams.

The “solution” would be mandating unguaranteed contracts — players tied to their teams long-term while the team still has the ability to drop the player if he’s not living up to his salary. Of course, that’s almost certainly a non-starter for the union.

In a world of compromise, the current system isn’t as harmful as Silver insinuates.

 

Jeremy Lin stars in Space Jam 3 (video)

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LeBron James will reportedly star in Space Jam 2.

Space Jam 3? Jeremy Lin already claimed the top role in a very, um, strange video.

Kids Jeopardy! contestant whiffs on LeBron James question (video)

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Did LeBron James lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2012 and 2013?

If you haven’t already gotten your fix of laughing at children, here’s a kid who guessed that happened:

The question, as you surely know, is who are the Miami Heat?