2017 preview? Adam Silver says he wanted NBA hard salary cap

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During the lockout and Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, NBA Commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver was the league’s attack dog. He was the bad cop to David Stern’s good cop in their routines for the press.

What came out of those negotiations was a much more punitive luxury tax system that was supposed to tamp down spending by the bigger market, richer NBA teams. The new taxes — which kick in for this season — were going to be so onerous as to force owners to rein in spending.

Then came the Brooklyn Nets. They have put together a payroll in excess of $100 million that will lead to about $87 million in additional taxes. And owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t care.

Speaking with the New York Post, Silver talked about the owners wanting a hard (or at least harder) cap in what sounded a lot like a 2017 preview.

“I would say it’s no secret that we went into collective bargaining seeking a hard cap,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver… told The Post Wednesday after speaking at the league’s Rookie Transition Program in Florham Park. “So, for the long-term health of the league, we would rather do more to level the playing field among our teams, so the teams that have disparate resources are all competing with roughly the same number of chips so to speak.”

“What I’ll add is that what we’ve seen with the Nets, ultimately there’s no prohibition if you’re willing to pay a very substantial tax — there’s no prohibition on signing the players they did, but the new rules also dramatically limit those players that are available to sign, especially once you move into the tax. So we’ll see [what happens].”

Both sides have the choice to opt out of the current CBA in 2017, and one if not both will do so. And we will again be headed for a lockout and very possibly games missed. And you can bet some owners will again push for a hard cap.

I don’t think a hard cap is the answer in the NBA because the league both hasn’t and really can’t sell NFL-style parity. You can try to flatten out the talent pool but the NBA will never have the level playing field of football just because of the nature of the sport.

The reality of the NBA is that there are about 10 players (we can argue if it’s nine or 12, but in the 10 range) who are just on another level and if you have one of them you will win a lot more than you lose. Because a LeBron James or Kevin Durant can touch the ball much more in the NBA than Tom Brady can in the NFL — and because elite players can impact both ends of the floor in basketball — the NBA will always have teams with stars as the ones left on the biggest stages. Look at the last NBA finals — LeBron and Dwyane Wade vs. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Yes it was the Heat vs. Spurs, but they were there because of those star players.

In reality, the NBA gets its best ratings from star teams — the Bird/Magic showdowns in the 1980s, Michael Jordan in the 1990s, Kobe/Shaq and now LeBron/Wade. Having stars pair up is good for business.

The NBA has to provide the opportunity for any well run small market team to win (see Oklahoma City or San Antonio) but they need to be careful about flattening out the talent pool to the point the average fan tunes out.

Gordon Hayward is shooting standing threes in an empty gym. That’s something, I guess.

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Having lost three games in a row at home, doubt seems to have crept into the minds of some Celtics fans. They’re the top seed in the East (and likely finish the season in that slot, again), but just how good are they really? Do they have enough to knock off the Cavaliers and LeBron James when he goes into playoff mode?

In the midst of that self-doubt, the wife of Gordon Hayward, Robyn, posted this.

Still can’t beat me… 🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Robyn Hayward (@robynmhayward) on

For Boston fans still holding out hope Hayward returns this season, this is another sign. No brace, no chair, he’s draining threes. It’s a step forward.

This video also borders on meaningless — he’s not jumping, not moving, not showing us anything about his recovery we didn’t already know. Good to see him up and making progress, but that he can hit stand-still threes in an empty gym is about as shocking as finding out the next Transformers movie is going to suck.

Officially, Hayward is still out for the season. He’s putting in the work, and maybe he returns before the playoffs, but the Celtics are not going to rush him back for this season. Nor should they. The Celtics are on a multi-year plan to be the next dominant team in the East, no reason to push him and risk anything now.

Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo “devastated” by Jason Kidd firing

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The Bucks have been a team of unfulfilled potential for a few seasons now, two steps up and one step back. Last season they were 42-40 and bounced in the first round of the playoffs, this season they are 23-22 and the eighth seed in the East, with the point differential of a team that should be 20-25 and on its way to a 36-win season.

That cost Jason Kidd his job.

That has not sat well with the team’s superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

You can’t blame Antetokounmpo, Kidd has been his coach the past three-and-a-half seasons and guided the Greek Freak’s rise to superstardom. Kidd also was the one who put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands and made him both the defacto point guard on the team and one of the league’s most dangerous players. Kidd did some very good things with these Bucks, and Antetokounmpo is understandably loyal to the man.

However, Antetokounmpo is under contract at a near-max salary until the summer of 2021, so he has no real leverage here.

Elite coaches will be lined up for a chance to coach Antetokounmpo and a very talented Bucks roster, but whoever gets the job next summer has to connect with the superstar first. Kidd had done that.

Report: Clippers haven’t received any tempting offers for DeAndre Jordan

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A couple months ago, the Clippers had lost nine straight to fall out of the playoff picture. Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic were injured. Extension talks with DeAndre Jordan stalled.

So, teams were inquiring about trading for Jordan.

Apparently, none have made serious inroads.

Marc Stein of The York Times:

The league is oversaturated with centers. Almost everyone who used to be a power forward/center is now exclusively a center, and many former power forwards are now centers. Heck, some players who would have previously been viewed as small forwards now play center regularly.

Jordan is a good player, but not one teams are eager to break the bank for. Not in this era.

I also suspect the Clippers’ asking price has risen as they have turned around their season. They’re 23-22 and eighth in the Western Conference. It’s no longer quite as logical to get whatever possible for Jordan before he becomes a free agent. There’s value in keeping him for the rest of the season, winning as much as possible then figuring out Jordan’s player option/potential free agency next summer. Even just a playoff appearance could be satisfying in this post-Chris Paul era, and Jordan is essential to that pursuit.

Milwaukee fires Jason Kidd as coach

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On paper, the Bucks look dangerous — they have a top-10 (maybe top-five) player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, good role players, a lot of length and athleticism, and they have notched some quality wins.

In reality, they are 23-22 with a negative point differential, and they are the eighth seed in the East playoff race just a game out of missing the postseason entirely. The Bucks have the 25th ranked defense in the NBA and that has not taken steps forward this season as hoped. They have a gambling/pressure defensive style that can be beaten with good ball movement (even though they backed off that a little of late this team is still bottom 10 defensively in its last 10 games), and on offense they played more like a 1990s team than a 2018 team.

That has cost coach Jason Kidd his job, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Bucks GM Jon Horst confirmed it.

“Many factors went into this decision, but ultimately we decided that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our team to the next level and bringing us closer to our goal of winning championships,” Horst said in a statement. “We believe that making this change now is important for the organization and gives our players the best chance to reach their full potential this season and beyond.

“Jason oversaw an impressive turnaround in his first year, led the team to two playoff appearances and was instrumental in the development of our young talented players. We appreciate his tireless work and the meaningful contributions he made to the organization and the community. We wish him the best.”

This will be a highly sought-after job, but there will be no splashy short-term moves.

A lot of people around the league wondered if this was coming after the season, this was sooner than expected. The question was always how much leverage the future Hall of Fame player had with ownership — the two sides were close — and the answer is not enough. Especially when he would make ridiculous coaching decisions (like fouling late in a game when up four because he feared a four-point play).

This is the right move for Milwaukee, even if the players (and some veteran players around the league in the old boy’s club) don’t like it, but now there’s a lot of pressure on the next hire.

The Bucks brought in Horst as GM this summer — a compromise candidate because the feuding factions of ownership could not agree on the same guy so they went with a choice they could both stomach down the list — and now he gets the chance to put a real stamp on the future of the organization.

With Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker once he gets healthy, the Bucks should be discussed with Philadelphia and Minnesota as the up-and-coming teams in the NBA. However, while you see the promise with the other teams, the Bucks have seemed stalled — two steps up, one step back. This season was another step back, or at least a step sideways. The team wasn’t improving.

The coaching shakeup could help change the dynamic around the team, although the fruits of it likely don’t really come until next season.