Well, at least now the NBA players union has decided on who is going to help them decide who should be executive director.
Former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will head up a search committee to find a new executive director for the National Basketball Players Association, the union announced on Monday.
That job has been vacant since Billy Hunter was let go 14 months ago following a scathing report that questioned his management and said he made preferential dealings with family members. The union press release says the goal is to have someone in place by the start of next season.
“Mayor Johnson is in a unique position as a former player and someone skilled in the politics of negotiations to lead this effort,” said union president Chris Paul in a released statement.
“I have a deep passion for the NBA and the promise it has for everyone connected to it,” Johnson said in his statement. “Everything I’ve been able to achieve in life was a result of embracing the opportunities that I had as an NBA player.”
Johnson is a polished consensus builder — remember he spearheaded the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento — and those are the kinds of skills needed to help pick someone for a position where a lot of different people have varied interest in who gets selected. There are agents and others that want to push back against the owners after gains the owners made in the last collective bargaining agreement, while others see those percentage points as gone and want instead someone who can hold that line and find ways to increase the league’s revenue pool. Also, there has long been an “what is good for the elite players may not be good for the average player” tension in the union and in its bargaining sessions.
Whoever is ultimately selected for this job will be the one sitting across the table from Adam Silver in 2017 when one side — probably the owners but maybe the players — opts out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. A lockout that year seems likely, at least as viewed right now, and how that plays out will in large part be about who is picked and what their view of the negotiations.
There already has been one round of searches and this past All-Star weekend in New Orleans the union’s executive committee met with two candidates: David White, former director of the Screen Actors Guild; and Michele Roberts, a respected corporate attorney.
After those interviews the union has decided to open up the process again.
Twenty years before Colin Kaepernick made his stand by sitting for the national anthem during preseason games — something he has every right to do: if we are going to force compliance in our rituals of allegiance how are we different as a nation than the countries we rail against for forced indoctrination? — the NBA had Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
For those that don’t remember, Abdul-Rauf was a good NBA guard and a member of a Denver Nuggets in the mid-1990s. He had converted to being a Muslim during his playing career. As his faith and beliefs grew, he came to view the flag as a symbol of oppression. In the middle of the 1995-96 season, he told the NBA he would no longer stand for the anthem. Everything was kept quiet for a while, but when the PR storm hit it led to a few strange days — the league suspended him at one point — before was a compromise where he would stand for the anthem but pray into his hands during it.
Bernie Bickerstaff was the coach of the Nuggets at the time and went on SiriusXM NBA Radio Monday to talk about those days. His first reaction was that of virtually every coach who has heard or talked about Kaepernick.
“Distractions,” Bickerstaff said. “It caused a lot of distractions, and you know at that point the number of media members was not quite as resounding as it is today. But still, it was a distraction.”
Bickerstaff said he was blindsided byAbdul-Rauf’s decision, and he said they scrambled to deal with the fallout. He said he and the brain trust of the team eventually had a meeting with the guard and told him if he wanted to be on the team he had to stand for the anthem.
“We had him come in, to sit down and have a conversation, and the conversation was about, the one thing that we have in this life is freedom of choice, and with that choice comes consequences. And my conversation with him was simply that one of the guys I probably admired most at that time was Muhammad Ali, because not only did he make a decision not to step forward but it was the part of it, the things that he gave up, and our message basically to (Abdul-Rauf) was ‘Hey, that’s the guy I admire. If you really feel that way then you go home, and you give us a call and let us know you’re willing to walk away from that contract, and then I can really, really, respect that…
“When he got home, we got a call and he said ‘I think I want to be on the trip.’ And that’s our understanding, if you’re on the trip, then you’re standing.”
The NBA came in with a more fair compromise.
If this were to happen again with the NBA, it would be interesting to see how Adam Silver would handle this compared to the heavy-handed David Stern.
Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder waived Steve Novak and as soon as he was a free agent the Milwaukee Bucks jumped in — they wanted his veteran presence and his ability to space the floor as a big with his shooting. That lasted all of three games before he injured his MCL and was done for the season.
Milwaukee is going to give it another shot — they have re-signed Novak for this season, the team announced. Novak was born in Wisconsin and played his college ball at Marquette.
Details of the contract were not announced, but you can be sure it’s for the veteran minimum. This would give the Bucks 15 fully guaranteed contracts heading into training camp, the max they can carry once the season starts.
Novak may get limited run as a backup three or four (behind Mirza Teletovic). At this point, the 33-year-old is a dangerous catch-and-shoot three point threat (7-of-15 from deep last season), but brings little else to the table. He’s a defensive liability, which will limit how much he gets on the court for Kidd. But he fills a need.
Kids, if you’re tall and can shoot the rock, you can get paid for a long time in the NBA.
Part of the reason Oklahoma City was able to push Golden State so far in the Western Conference Finals was Kevin Durant on defense. He could switch out on the perimeter and use his length to bother Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, and take away their driving lanes. Multiple times in that series he was the guy rotating into the paint to protect the rim and he gave Draymond Green trouble in the paint. Durant is listed as 6’9″ but look at him from this summer standing next to DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan, and you can see he’s more like 7-foot — the most mobile seven-footer in the league.
Which is why the Warriors — who already had a top-five defense the past two seasons — think they have another guy that fits right in with their switching-heavy style and can make them better on that end.
Here is what Warriors’ assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams told Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.
“His versatility is outstanding,” Ron Adams says of Durant. “He’s a terrific defender, who played with great defensive consistency in our playoff series. We will expect a lot out of him in that regard….
“He can, if necessary, guard all five positions – and do it effectively,” Adams says of Durant, who spent most of the conference finals smothering Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“He’s a really good rim protector, in a non-traditional way,” Kerr says. “When he played the ‘four’ against us in the playoffs, he was brilliant. He blocked some shots and he scored a bunch of times. So he’ll play a lot of ‘four’ for us, for sure.”
You don’t need me to tell you the Warriors are going to be good this season. Hate them and KD if you want, but know they will be a force.
Just remember they are not a team looking just to get in a shootout — the Warriors get stops, too. And that’s not changing.
Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are just like the rest of us.
The Thunder players sit around and belt out the Backstreet Boys’ “I want it that way.”