Kurt Helin

Three things we learned Tuesday: Toronto still doesn’t have answer for LeBron, Irving

5 Comments

Here’s what you missed around the NBA on Tuesday night while feeding the tigers just freely roaming around your house

1) New season, same problem: Toronto still doesn’t have an answer for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving. We’ve seen this movie before: The Toronto Raptors went into Cleveland and did a lot of things right for the first 43 minutes Tuesday night. The Raptors were attacking early in the clock, pushing the tempo, and taking advantage of an unsteady Cavaliers transition defense. Toronto was moving the ball to get wide-open threes (which they hit). The Raptors got 29 points and nine assists from Kyle Lowry, and following a 20-7 fourth quarter run the Raptors had a seven-point lead in the fourth.

But then there were those final five minutes — Toronto simply has no answer for Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Irving had 10 of his 24 points in the fourth and sparked a 17-5 run late that gave the Cavaliers the win. LeBron was just himself all game and finished with 28 points on 15 shots, plus had 14 assists and nine rebounds on the night.

There are other things we could talk about — that DeMar DeRozan struggled some against a good defense, with 26 points on 27 shots; or that Kevin Love is playing very well on both ends and had three blocks — but we all know how this movie ends. The Raptors, like every other team in the East, does not have the tools to beat these Cavaliers. Cleveland didn’t bring its best game, but they still had the two best players on the floor when they wanted to be, and that is too much for Toronto.

2) D’Angelo Russell broke out against Brooklyn and the Lakers looked even better. The Lakers have gotten off to a 7-5, “hey, maybe they can make the playoffs” kind of start despite the fact D’Angelo Russell hadn’t really broken out. He’d played well enough, but then he’d have games like the seven-points-on-10-shots night like he did against the Timberwolves Sunday. Los Angeles was getting wins because Julius Randle is a playmaking four and beast all of a sudden, because Lou Williams became efficient, and because Nick Young was suddenly crushing it on defense and being mature on offense. Russell hadn’t broken out yet.

He did Tuesday — 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting, 7-of-13 from three, plus eight rebounds and four assists. Granted he did all that against a weak Nets team playing without the injured Jeremy Lin, but who cares — the Lakers will take it.

The other big story out of this game for the Lakers: Julius Randle put up his first triple-double of the season with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. It’s difficult to overstate how well Randle is playing to start the season, he has a PER of 19.6 and looks like an All-Star level player. No player has made a bigger leap in their game, has filled more holes, than Randle.

3) An update on where the new CBA stands. Another report that the NBA’s owners and players’ union are nearing and agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement came out Tuesday. Both sides have an opt-out of the old deal that has to be exercised by Dec. 17, and before that date you can bet the new agreement will be in place.

What will that deal look like, and how will it differ from the last CBA? Nothing is written in stone, but here is a list of what we know — or, at least, what we think we know — about the new CBA.

• The approximately 50/50 split of revenue (it ranges between 49-51 percent depending on if the league meets revenue goals) will stay in place unchanged. If you want to know why the two sides are getting a labor deal done early and bringing peace to the league this is the key reason — they figured out the money. Because it’s always about the money. The fact is with the massive new national television contract both the owners and players are making more money than ever, and nobody wanted to mess with that.

• The college one-and-done rule will not change. It’s not that anyone actually likes the rule, but the players want the age limit gone while the owners want it bumped up to 20 (two years after high school). To get their way means a trade-off and the reality of these negotiations is neither side is willing to give up enough on other issues to get what they want here.

• There will be two-way contracts allowing a free flow between the D-League and NBA for some players, which will expand overall rosters to 18. Teams will only be able to carry 15 on the NBA roster (and three of them need to be inactive for a game), but the other three will be in the D-League and can be called up at any point. This is more like an NHL system, and it’s a smart idea.

• The preseason will be shortened, likely allowing the NBA to start the season a little earlier (probably a week), making it possible to have fewer back-to-backs and to build more rest into the schedule.

• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it, particularly older ones that have been out of the league for some time.

• The rookie scale for salaries will increase (right now every team wants guys on rookie deals because they are such a bargain, that will remain to a degree but be less of a steal).

• There will be some changes to cap holds that will make it harder to do what Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond did with their rookie deals, delaying signing an obvious max extension to allow the team to use that cap space to put a better team around them. The cap hold increases also could make it difficult for the Warriors to keep Andre Iguodala and other role players around Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

• The league will have a more detailed policy on domestic violence, which will include a more structured disciplinary schedule. The goal of the policy will be to get players help, but the punishments — suspensions — will be known and feel less random. Good on the NBA for getting out in front of this (hey Rodger Goodell, this is how it’s done).

• The salaries for D-League players — which currently have a max of $26,000 — will jump to the $50,000 to $75,000 range. This matters because it puts D-League salaries in the ballpark of what undrafted players would earn in their first season in Europe, making it more likely some of them stay here and chase their NBA dream and grow their game rather than get a paycheck. Eventually, some (many?) of those players will head overseas, but they will stay here longer, and that’s good for the D-League.

Watch Kyrie Irving alley-oop to Tristan Thompson against Toronto

Leave a comment

The most interesting NBA game of the night is in Cleveland Tuesday, a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams bring back largely the same teams but with new wrinkles, such as a red hot DeMar DeRozan for the Raptors.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Kyrie Irving knows how to throw the lob, and Tristan Thompson knows how to finish.

Legendary Chicago Bulls “circus trip” to come to an end next season

Getty Images
1 Comment

There are a handful of long, named road trips for specific teams in the NBA: The Rodeo Trip for the San Antonio Spurs when the rodeo kicks them out of the AT&T Center for a couple weeks; the Grammy trip for the Lakers/Clippers when Staples Center turns into the center of the music world; and the Chicago Bulls’ Circus trip, a tradition dating back to the Jordan era and starts this week.

Except, the circus trip is about to die.

Chris Kue at the Chicago Tribune explains it well.

But the Tribune has learned that when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ends its run at the UC later this month, it won’t be returning to the arena. In addition, when the teams are forced to take another two-week break in February for Disney on Ice, that will be the final time it will result in the Hawks and Bulls hitting the road for an extended period as that show will be condensed to a one-week run beginning in 2018.

The Circus and Ice Show trips have been a staple for the teams for decades and date back to when they occupied the Chicago Stadium. But when the present contracts expired, changes were made.

It’s the end of a tradition. Not that it’s a bad thing, but Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, and other coaches have been able to turn that into essential bonding and growth moments for the team. There were silver linings.

But everyone would rather sleep in their own beds.

Report: New CBA will have shorter preseason, new domestic violence policy

3 Comments

Another day, another report that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players’ union and the owners is nearly complete. This time it comes from Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer, which confirms what everyone around the NBA is hearing — the two sides are treating each other with respect (a vast change from the David Stern/Billy Hunter era), and since they figured out the money quickly it’s been smooth sailing.

This new report adds a couple of new details to what we know — or really, think we know, everything is subject to change — about what is coming in the new CBA. First, there will be a shorter preseason, something coaches and players have wanted.

The sources indicated that the NBA preseason schedule will be shortened under the new CBA. Stretches of four games in five nights and back-to-backs were reduced to all-time lows in recent seasons, but steps are being taken to further decrease those instances.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this before. The idea is to shorten the preseason by a week with fewer games, start the NBA season a week earlier, and that allows more space in the schedule to reduce back-to-backs. It makes sense. If you’re about to say “why don’t they just shorten the too-long schedule by 15 games?” you clearly forgot we live in a capitalistic society where making money is worshiped like a god.

Also, look for changes to the NBA’s domestic violence policy.

The new CBA will likely clarify the disciplinary procedures in dealing with domestic-violence policy violations, according to a source. The terms haven’t been finalized, but the measures will go well beyond a fine and a suspension. “I think as we’ve all seen in those situations that it needs to be more than discipline,” a source told The Ringer. “It needs to be about counseling, support services, intervention, outreach, and providing resources behind the scenes to help.”

Consistency of discipline has never been an NBA strong suit, so this would be welcome. The NBA needs to get out in front of this issue and be a leader in a society where domestic violence is far too prevalent and easily swept under the rug.

Here are some other things we believe to be coming in the new CBA

• The roughly 50/50 split of revenue will remain (it ranges between 49-51 percent depending on if the league meets revenue goals). This is always the real issue in negotiations, and everything else is secondary. The fact the two sides agreed on this split quickly — in part because the rising tide of the new national television contract has floated all boats — made the rest of this relatively straightforward.

• The college one-and-done rule will remain. Nobody likes it much but the players want the age limit gone, the owners want it bumped up to 20, and neither side apparently was willing to give up enough on other issues to move the needle.

• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it, particularly older ones that have been out of the league for some time.

• The scaled salaries for rookies will increase.

• There will be some changes to cap holds that will make it harder to do what Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond did with their rookie deals, delaying signing an obvious max extension to allow the team to use that cap space to put a better team around them. The cap hold increases also could make it difficult for the Warriors to keep Andre Iguodala and other role players around Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

• The salaries for D-League players — which currently have a max of $26,000 — will jump to $50,000 to $75,000. This brings the D-League in the ballpark of what undrafted players would make in their first season in Europe, making it more likely some of them stay here and chase their NBA dream and grow their game rather than get a paycheck. Eventually, some (many?) of those players will head overseas, but they will stay here longer and that’s good for the D-League.

Report: Michael Jordan, NBA shopping 10-hour Jordan documentary

5 Comments

Would you watch a 10-hour, authorized, full-access Michael Jordan documentary? Stupid question, of course you would. We all would.

Which leads to the next question: How much would a network — ESPN, HBO, Fox, etc. — be willing to pay for such a documentary? Does $20 million sound about right?

The idea is well beyond the formative stages and is being shopped around, reports Richard Johnson at the New York Post (hat tip Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie).

The NBA and CAA (Creative Artists Agency) are shopping a 10-hour authorized documentary about Jordan. Production has not yet started, but the film will mostly be about His Airness’ comeback in the late ’90s (after his stint playing baseball), when he won three of his six championship rings.

The producing team is led by Mike Tollin, who spearheaded ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series and is partners with Peter Guber in Mandalay Sports Media. The project has been pitched to ESPN, Showtime, HBO and Fox Sports, and Jordan’s reps are looking for a deal somewhere north of $20 million.

Michael Jordan remains a captivating story and draw — his name still sells shoes, books, underwear, pretty much anything it’s attached to. He is now the primary owner of the Charlotte Hornets, but his business interests run far and wide.

And as we can tell you from the buzz around his 50th birthday recently, there is still plenty of people who want to read, watch, and know all things Jordan. The team putting this together is a good one, the kind of team that is not going to let this become a PR puff piece — there are difficult questions around Jordan that need to be part of a documentary, that need to be addressed. They can’t gloss over the gambling allegations, the punching of teammates and more.

As a side note, if you want to know Michael Jordan’s story well, read Roland Lazenby’s fantastic biography “Michael Jordan: The Life.”