Author: Kurt Helin

2014 Brooklyn Nets Media Day

Lionel Hollins wants Brook Lopez to toughen up, get in the paint


Lionel Hollins, you can join the line.

Pretty much every coach Brook Lopez has had at the NBA level wanted Brook Lopez to play tougher, to be more aggressive — get in the paint more and while you’re there crash the boards. Each year it seems Lopez gravitated more toward the perimeter.

Lionel Hollins was an upgrade on the bench for the Nets over Jason Kidd (who moved on to the Bucks) but can he make a difference here? Hollins told the New York Daily News he hopes to see a tougher Lopez this season (hat tip to Eye on Basketball).

“Just being more aggressive, being tougher, rebounding better. Just being a force in the paint,” Hollins said when asked how he wants his 26-year-old center to improve. “When you’re 7-feet and 260 pounds, I’d like for him to be a force. I want all our big guys to be like that — be tougher, be more aggressive, be an inside player. If you’re an inside player, a big guy, control the paint and play outside last.

“Don’t play outside and never get in the paint.”

Of course, one the strengths of Lopez’s game is he can play outside and you have to cover him — he shot 48.4 percent from 10-16 feet out last season and 55.3 percent from 16 feet out to the arc. He doesn’t take a ton of those shots, but you have to respect him and that can help space the floor or be handy in a pick-and-pop. His versatility on offense is part of what makes him arguably the best offensive center in the NBA.

Still, Lopez has frustrated coaches (and Nets fans) because he’ll settle for that jumper rather than work for position closer to the basket.

Hollins has the gravitas to ask and push for that, he’s not going to get a Marc Gasol clone but he might get more inside play. Maybe. It’s just hard to see him having much success where plenty of other good coaches have not been able to change those habits.

Does all this television money on the table mean no lockout in 2017? Don’t bet on it.

Padlock Arena AP

“We all have to serve someone… I feel like I work for the players, they are getting 51 percent, and we did a really good job for them, and the raising tide will raise all boats.”
—Ted Leonsis, Washington Wizards owner, worth an estimated $1 billion

It’s going to be hysterical during the 2017 NBA labor negotiations when some owner tries to plead financial hardship.

The numbers in the new NBA television deal are eye-popping — the deal will start with the NBA getting $2.1 billion a year in television revenue (up from around $900 million this year) and going up to $3.1 billion in nine years. The salary cap, currently at $63 million, will easily pass $90 million during the course of this deal. Owners, already seeing their franchise valuations skyrocket, now all should make money in the short term (unless they spend like the Nets last season) and have a lot more value in their teams.

Both the owners and players are going to get paid.

Is that enough money to keep there from being a 2017 lockout/strike? Are teams/players afraid of killing the golden goose?

Don’t bet on it.

I fear the best we fans can hope for is that it doesn’t end up costing any regular season games. Never underestimate anyone’s desire, no matter how rich, to get more money.

The current CBA came together after a lost summer and start of the season in 2011, with late night negotiations and lots of bad pizza eaten by media members staking out those meetings. It almost never came together, but in the end the owners got what they wanted — shorter contracts and the players’ share of league revenue down from 57 percent to 50 percent. That deal can be re-opened in 2017 and it expected at least the players and maybe the owners want to get back into it.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the potential impact of the money on the CBA at the press conference announcing the new television deal.

“In terms of the impact on the CBA, our current deal says that the players receive 50-51 percent off the top so, a lion’s share of this money will be paid directly to the players,” Silver said. “So I think it bodes well in terms of the effectiveness of the current collective bargaining agreement…. There is a re-opener in three years and I’m sure both sides will be staying the impacts of this deal and seeking to ensure it will remain a fair deal for both sides.”

The players rightfully feel they got crushed in the last round of negotiations and with a new, more aggressive president in Chris Paul and a new union director in Michelle Roberts, it is expected the players will want givebacks.

Some suggest the players will go after getting one or two of those revenue percentage points back — that will lead to a lockout and a lost season for sure. The owners will not surrender that money. Nor will the owners say the players should get a share of the profits from any sale of a franchise, another idea that has been suggested.

What might the players push for? From ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:

That’s just one of many issues.

Meanwhile, there are owners that still want a hard salary cap and you can be sure Adam Silver will start there with his side of the negotiations. Again. Or they want the players’ share of revenue down to 45 percent. The players will never go for that, but there are some owners who would be willing to wait it out (especially if this television contract has them still getting paid in the event of a work stoppage).

What we really need to hope for is calmer heads. Ones who look at how much money is being split up, the potential of fan backlash (although there wasn’t really any after the 2011 lockout) and say, “What are we doing here?”

CBA expert and well connected writer Larry Coon thinks that can happen. He wrote in a recent live chat at that he didn’t think 2017 would be like 2011 just because now everyone is making more money.

“To start with, I think the players are going to opt out of the CBA. Their reasoning will be that they did their share when times were hard, but now they’re past the hard times, and they want some of their concessions back. Plus the new national TV deals will be going into place, and they will want to reap in some of that windfall as well.

“How will the owners react? Unlike 2011, when they would rather shut down the league than continue to play under an unsustainable system, the owners will be more inclined not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. I think they will be much more amenable to finding some middle ground with the players, and therefore I’m thinking there will be a new agreement in place in time for the season to start as scheduled. So no — I don’t think the league will miss games in 2017.”

Let’s hope.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three

Last season: Russell Westbrook was out and Kevin Durant stepped up with (or if you prefer, finally showed off) the well rounded, complete game we’ve always expected of him. He earned the league MVP with his carrying of the Thunder to 59 wins. OKC was again strong on both ends, seventh in the league in offensive rating and fifth in defensive rating. Reggie Jackson stepped up as Thabo Sefolosha faded, and Serge Ibaka took another step forward with his game. With Westbrook back to his terrorizing form the Thunder entered the playoffs as title contenders but again they were undone by injury, a calf strain to Ibaka. The Thunder again made it to the conference finals but with Ibaka missing a couple games they could not overcome the eventual champion Spurs.

Signature highlight from last season: It’s almost impossible to chose, this team has so many. I think the best one was Russell Westbrook’s overtime corner three to beat the Warriors:

But if you prefer a Kevin Durant game winner, here he goes basically one-on-five to beat the Hawks:

Offseason moves: For a years now, coach Scott Brooks stuck with certain guys no matter what logic or eyeballs dictated, but a couple of those fallbacks are now gone. Thabo Sefolosha (a regular starter) was allowed to walk in free agency after a down year, while Derek Fisher retired and will coach the Knicks.Last year’s free agent pickup Caron Butler left as well. Oh, and they traded Hasheem Thabeet.

In their place they picked up Anthony Morrow as a free agent as well as Sebastian Telfair, plus they drafted Mitch McGary.

Keys to the Thunder season

Just stay healthy. Of course this is true of every contender, but two years ago it was Westbrook’s knee that ended their real playoff hopes. Last season Ibaka suffered a grade two calf strain in the playoffs that kept him out for a couple weeks, including the start of the series against the powerhouse Spurs. We don’t know how that series turns out if Ibaka’s healthy, but we know if this team can’t keep its big three healthy they can’t get back to the Finals. Not in this loaded Western Conference.

Is there enough around Durat/Westbrook/Ibaka? This is ultimately the question. They have a championship caliber core, but since the James Harden trade they have not been able to get back to the Finals (in part due to that health issue). The question is do they have the right role players in the right system to lift this team up to the Finals and to win a ring?

If the answer is going to be yes, it has to start with Reggie Jackson, who by the end of the playoffs last year had taken Sefolosha’s starting job and this season. He is going to get a lot of time paired with Westbrook in the backcourt and he brings a more dynamic offensive game with him to that role. He can make the Thunder offense that much more dangerous — and it doesn’t hurt this is a contract year for him (he’s a restricted free agent next summer if a contract extension is not reached by Oct. 31).

Another key role player is Steven Adams, who hopefully will supplant Kendrick Perkins this season (Perkins is another one of Brooks’ crutch guys). Adams brings toughness and defense, but more importantly a little better offense than Perkins. Defenses ignore Perkins (the Thunder try to get him going every game by giving him a couple early touches in the post) but Adams is a rim runner and more athletic, a guy defenses have to keep an eye on.

Finally, the Thunder need growth from Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, they will need to play larger roles. Anthony Morrow needs to space the floor. If they can get something from the rookie McGary and the veteran Telfair all the better.

The pieces seem to be there, can Brooks put them in a less-predictable offense that makes the Thunder harder to defend? If so there is no limit to where the Thunder can finish this season.

How do the Thunder deal with Durant’s constant free agency questions? In every city — and especially in Washington, Los Angeles and New York — Kevin Durant is going to get questions about his 2016 free agency. Then reporters will ask the other Thunder players about Kevin Durant’s free agency in two years. Every answer will pretty much get national play. It’s a potential distraction and something the Thunder need to learn to deal with because it is not going away. (Durant doesn’t know what he’s going to do in two summers yet anyway, but staying with the Thunder is still the smartest bet.)

Why you should watch: Have you ever seen Durant and Westbrook play? Go look at the highlights above. This is as entertaining a team as there is in the league, with two of the game’s most dynamic stars leading them. Plus you should watch just to see what Russell Westbrook wears to the arena on any given night.

Prediction: 61-21, which will have them as one of the top two seeds in the West, maybe the top seed. Kevin Durant likely will pick up another MVP award (LeBron now has some real help around him and with that his numbers are likely drop a little, then guys like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will split the Clipper vote). But what really matters to him and the franchise is getting a ring. If they are relatively healthy, and if the role players have stepped up, the Thunder have a very real shot at that title. They are legit title contenders, the only real problem they face is that there are a couple others of those in the West.

If the Thunder don’t get back to the Finals, Scott Brooks could be the next change the Thunder seriously consider.

Salary cap could jump from $63 million to $91 million with new TV deal, league wants to “smooth in” increase

Adam Silver

This is what the new television deal means for the basketball side of the NBA:

The salary cap, which is at just over $63 million this season, could jump all the way to $91.2 million in the summer 2016, according to Ken Berger of (That number assumes the full $2.68 billion a year the league will get on average in the new television deal starts that high out of the gate, Zach Lowe of Grantland says it starts at $2.1 billion, but that still puts the cap in the ballpark of $85 million.)

Or, look at it this way: Under the new television deal, if LeBron James signs a max contract in the summer of 2016 it will be worth about $6 million to $8 million more a season than the max deal he just signed this past summer ($20.6 million this season). Which is why even if he picks up his extension for the 2015-16 season he will be, without a doubt, a free agent in the summer of 2016. As will Kevin Durant. As will a number of other players.

Those numbers are estimates, but they are not going to be far off. That flood of cash could have all sorts of unintended consequences around the league and it has teams concerned and trying to alter their plans. At the press conference announcing the new television deal with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting (TNT), NBA Commissioner Adam Silver discussed wanting to smooth out that massive flood of new money into the market.

“When this deal kicks in in 2016-17, it will lead to a substantial increase that year in the salary cap,” Silver said Monday morning in New York where the announcement was made. “There is precedent for smoothing that increase in, something the NFL negotiated with its players association when it then entered into large increases to help teams in the planning process, essentially smoothing that money into the system.

“I had a brief conversations with Michelle Roberts, the new head of the (players’) union, on Friday to tell her these new deals were coming, and in fact we have a meeting later this afternoon to gauge their interest in creating a smoothing effect. I mean they will get their 51 percent no matter what, it’s just a question of how it comes in in terms of the cap. It will have a profound effect and I’m sure the union has already begun studying it just as we have been studying how it will effect our system team by team.

“And a lot of is just happenstance in who has a free agent, who happens to have cap room, what class happens to be coming up. As we all know, certain players and agents have been timing their contracts so they would become free agents in 2016-17 knowing we would be entering new television deals.”

For the record, the NFL smoothing wasn’t really all that smooth, teams were caught off guard this year by the jump in the cap.

That said, phasing in the massive cap increases rather than having one massive jump in two years likely makes sense to the owners, and it gives franchises time to adjust their plans on roster building accordingly.

The NBA players union might be open to smoothing things, out, if only to ease concerns in their own house. As Zach Lowe put it at Grantland:

Would the union want (Anthony) Davis making nearly $25 million per year on his max deal while Kyrie Irving’s max nets $16.5 million, simply because Davis entered the league one year later?

However, if they are going to give they are going to want to get — and not just the money owed. The players feel (rightfully) they got hammered in the last CBA and they are not in the mood for concessions just to be nice, or for “the good of the game.” Franchise values are skyrocketing ($2 billion for the Clippers sticks with a lot of players) and they will only climb higher as the owners get this new flood of cash. Roberts and the players union isn’t going to just help out the owners because they’re nice.

All of those concerns will roll over into 2017 when the players will likely opt out of the CBA and push for more concessions.

The money on the table has certainly gotten everyone’s attention.

Raptors’ Terrence Ross with huge breakaway slam on Kings (VIDEO)

Terrence Ross, Nik Stauskas

Toronto opened their preseason at home against Sacramento and Terrence Ross added a few fireworks with the second quarter steal and breakaway dunk. Oh, it is good to have basketball back.

Ross went out of the game when he bruised his right knee, but the injury is considered minor and he is listed as day-to-day.

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 21 points in 21 minutes.