NBPA Meet To Discuss Current CBA Offer

What was finally decided with those “thorny” system issues?

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It was the most confounding part of this constantly confounding NBA lockout.

The owners and players got to a point a few weeks ago where they essentially agreed on the money side of the equation — how to split up the revenue coming into the league — but could not get close on the “system” issues that essentially came down to player movement concerns (the mid-level exception, Bird rights, the sign and trade rules, etc…).

Sometime early Saturday morning in New York — in the hours when the city that never sleeps even starts to close its eyes — they two sides reached a deal that will mean games on Christmas day and a 66 game season.

Where did those system issues land? Here is what we based on multiple reports.

• Next year the salary cap line will be at $58 million and the luxury tax line will be about $70 million, both where they were last season. One key difference is teams have to spend up to 85 percent of that salary cap line now, which means the minimum salary level for teams next season will be $49 million (last season it was more like $44 million). Also, the luxury tax on teams that exceed that tax line will be more stiff (it had been $1 for $1 over the line, now it will start at $1.50 for each $1 and escalate from there).

• Teams can only have one max-salary player that takes up to 30 percent of a team’s salary cap space.

• Larry Bird rights, the ability of a team to go over the salary cap or luxury tax line to re-sign their own players, remain essentially as it had been.

• Contract lengths are four years for free agents, but teams can add a fifth season for Bird rights players.

• Teams have only three days to match offers to restricted free agents, down from seven days in the old deal.

• The extend-and-trade remains, which means a team can sign a player to a Bird-rights size contract then instantly trade him — the stick that Carmelo Anthony used to force Denver to trade him last season without a financial loss for him.

Nobody is happier about that than Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, the current big free agents to be. Maybe Deron Williams too, but the Nets want to be buyers, not sellers.

• There will be a mid-level exception, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Teams under the luxury tax can go for $5 million a season up to 4 years. For teams over the tax it is $3 million for up to 4 years.

• However, around the luxury tax line the mid-level will also impact Bird rights, reports Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated reports:

If you use the full mid-level to get to or approach that barrier looming $4 million over the tax line, you cannot cross it by re-signing your own free agents via Larry Bird Rights. You can cross it to sign rookies or guys on veteran minimum contracts.

To use Lowe’s practical example, if the Boston Celtics used the mid-level to bring in someone like Jason Richardson to help on the wing that would take them over the tax line next season (to about $71 million total) and they would not be able to re-sign Jeff Green or Glen “Big Baby” Davis to anything more than minimum deals.

It means big spending teams will not just be able to take risks on free agent role players to go around their stars and not have consequences if it doesn’t work out (like the Lakers with Luke Walton, for example).

• There will be a $2.5 million exception for teams just below salary cap to go over the cap, reports Wojnarowski at Yahoo. However, those teams lose the right to the mid-level exception, too.

• There is no real change for the rookie deal or minimum salaries (which increase with years of service).

• There will be a “stretch” provision in the deal that allows a team to buy out a player and waive him, but spread his deal over a longer period of time (double the length of the contract plus one year) so as not to be such a cap hit. For example, if a player has three years, $30 million left on a deal and the teams want to waive him, they would have him on the official books for seven seasons at $4.3 million. It will look weird to see a guy on the books who was let go years before, but that space allows the team to not be completely hamstrung by a bad deal.

Call it the Eddy Curry rule.

• There also will be an amnesty clause in this deal that will allow teams to waive one player and wipe that salary almost totally off the books (75 percent goes away). This is similar to what was done in 2005, although then it only counted as savings against the luxury tax, now it counts as savings against the cap as well.

The Orlando Magic will have to choose between Gilbert Arenas or Hedo Turkoglu for this one. Tough decision.

Pistons-Kings game delayed for smoke over court (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins, in his eternal battle with referees (and everyone else), retroactively won every argument he’s ever had when he had to alert the officials in last night’s Pistons-Kings game to the large cloud of smoke coming toward the court. It was only then that the refs stopped play.

But the best reaction to the mistimed fog machine was Sacramento coach Dave Joerger:

LeBron James tweets: I’m not mad at Cavaliers GM David Griffin

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers rallies his teammates in the huddle during player introductions prior to the game Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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After tearing into the Cavaliers’ roster construction last night, LeBron James said he’d tweet even more thoughts.

LeBron delivered, softening the point everyone amplified (that he wants roster improvements) and emphasizing the point that got overlooked (that he’s on board with Cleveland general manager David Griffin):

I’m guessing LeBron saw how his comments went over and wanted to quiet the storm he created. What he said sounds so much more resentful. These tweets read as much more constructive.

But the underlying point remains: LeBron is unsatisfied with the roster.

He won’t be a free agent until 2018, but remember, dissatisfaction with the Heat’s roster contributed to him bolting Miami.

Wizards wearing all black to Celtics game for a figurative funeral

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The Celtics and Wizards have a little rivalry brewing:

The latest chapter comes for tonight’s game, with the Wizards – imitating a commonly used fashion for closeout playoff games – wearing all black to the arena.

Kelly Oubre Jr.:

We’re wearing all black to the game. So you know where we’re going with that.

Round three. Let’s get it.

Wall (as Beal yells encouragement in the background):

All black everything. A funeral.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

When Jae Crowder was asked about the Wizards all-black gear, his initial response…“That’s cute!”

Isaiah Thomas, via Blakely:

“This is definitely not Game 7 or the playoffs,” said Isaiah Thomas. “But if they want to take it that serious, they can.”

Gotta agree with the Celtics here. This is an absurd level of motivational showmanship for a January game.

But I also love it! These petty feuds are fantastic and spice up a long regular season.

My favorite part of the Wizards’ funeral motif: Even if they “bury” Boston tonight, these teams meet again in March.

‘It’s eating me alive:’ DeMarcus Cousins again leading Kings’ longshot playoff push

Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, right, drives against Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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When the Kings drafted DeMarcus Cousins, he named his rookie goals: “Get to the playoffs, go for the championship.” But the NBA humbled the young player, as Sacramento went just 24-58 and missed the postseason for the fifth straight year. Cousins emerged for his second season resolute on a more-modest goal: “Playoffs. We’ve got to make the playoffs this year. It’s not even a goal. It’s basically in our contract, I believe. So, we’ve got to make the playoffs this year.”

Five seasons later, Cousins is still chasing that elusive postseason trip.

“It’s eating me alive,” Cousins said. “Every loss or every time another team wins in battling for the eighth spot, it’s eating me alive. Our only goal is to be in the playoffs this season.”

A depressing chase for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, where every team in the race is at least seven games under .500, has opened the door for the 17-27 Kings. They’re 1.5 games and three teams out of playoff position – a more daunting challenge than often realized. Not only must they play better, they must hope a couple teams ahead of them don’t also heat up. 538 gives Sacramento just a 5% chance of reaching the postseason, and ESPN is even more pessimistic at 3.8%.

Beginning his career with seven straight lottery trips would be another crushing blow to Cousins, who has built a credible case as the NBA’s best center. Greg Monroe is the only current player with more win shares who hasn’t reached the playoffs:

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Nobody nears Cousins besides Monroe, and the next-closest player, Jazz center Rudy Gobert, likely makes the playoffs this year. Monroe leads in win shares, because he entered the league more polished than Cousins and built a head start (and because this stat probably inflates’ Monroe’s contributions relative to Cousins’.) Monroe has never neared Cousins’ peak, and Monroe is now a backup for the Bucks. The only thing second-team about Cousins is his two All-NBA appearances.

Kevin Love is the only other player since the NBA-ABA merger to make multiple All-NBA teams before his first playoff season. He, of course, left the Timberwolves for the Cavaliers to escape lists like these.

On the other hand, there have been indications from both sides Cousins will soon sign a veteran-designated-player contract extension projected to be worth more than $219 million over five years. Staying in Sacramento and playing for owner Vivek Ranadive seems like the surest bet to keep Cousins’ postseason drought active.

Cousins already ranks in the top 25 all-time in win shares before a player’s first playoff season (which doesn’t count this season, because playoff teams aren’t yet determined):

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Cousins has 5.2 win shares this season and counting. Missing the playoffs again would launch him into the top 10 of this dubious list – and he could keep climbing.

Not only do the Kings face daunting odds to reach the postseason this year, it’s difficult to project them into the playoffs for the foreseeable future. Years of roster mismanagement have taken a toll.

Since drafting Cousins, Sacramento has held top-10 picks every year. Those have netted on draft night: Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere and Bogdan Bogdanovic – who’ve combined for a measly 2.2 win shares this season. And most of those win shares come from Stauskas and Robinson, who no longer play for the Kings.

In fact, Stauskas was sent out in a disastrous trade that gives the 76ers swap rights on Sacramento’s 2017 first-rounder* and Sacramento’s unprotected 2019 first-rounder.

*The Kings’ first-round pick must fall in the top 10 to be swap-eligible. Otherwise, it goes to the Bulls, the result of another botched trade.

Sacramento has also recently struck out on major free agents and then settled for Arron Afflalo, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple, Matt Barnes and Ty Lawson. That adds up to one mediocre supporting cast.

Meanwhile, Cousins is better than ever. He has taken a larger offensive burden, including as a distributor and suddenly dangerous 3-point shooter, while cutting down his turnover rate. Defenders are often overmatched, and they foul him more than anyone in the league. And while Cousins’ defense comes and goes, it can be quite impressive while he’s locked in.

The result is a team that plays at a 41-win pace with Cousins on the floor and a 17-win pace when he sits, continuing a disparity seen over the last few years. Hera are the Kings win paces over 82 games with Cousins on (purple) and off (black):

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Obviously, teams generally play better with their stars and starters on the court, and Cousins is a star who usually shares the court with other starters. But this gap is particularly egregious, and Cousins’ fellow starters have underwhelmed.

So, more and more falls on Cousins’ shoulders.

Playing for his sixth head coach and third general manager in seven seasons, Cousins sets the tone for the Kings, for better or worse. He plays with a unique rage, sneering resentfully at anyone who gets in his way on the court – like players trying to defend him or referees, gasp, calling a foul on him. He leads the league with 12 technical fouls and is on pace to get (at least) 16 and an automatic suspension, which he also triggered last year.

His highs are incredibly high and his lows are unnecessarily low.

That moodiness has frustrated coaches and teammates, but it also sometimes works himself and his teammates into a productive frenzy. Sacramento usually plays passionately, which is both to its credit and a sign of a talent scarcity considering the team still loses so frequently.

“I’m still confident,” Cousins said, “and I still believe we’re going to make that push for the playoffs.”

For the last few years, Cousins has looked unstoppable while the Kings have been quite easily stoppable. He’s trying to drag the franchise up with him, but optimism and desire might not be enough. At a certain point we must ask: What more can Cousins do?