Kurt Helin

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Report: Michael Jordan playing prominent role for owners in CBA negotiations

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Michael Jordan’s most famous for this line to then Wizards’ owner Abe Pollin during the 1998 Collective Bargaining Agreement talks: “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”

Now Jordan is on the other side of the table, representing the owners and trying to increase their profit — and becoming quite a vocal leader in doing so, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

In multiple meetings with union officials and players in New York, Jordan is a serious voice in these ongoing discussions, league sources told The Vertical. Jordan’s appointment onto that powerful ownership committee has been secret until now, but his sudden standing strengthens what’s been a sometimes jagged journey into the ownership community….

After six years as a majority owner, Jordan has never been so relevant on that job. Beyond labor talks, the countdown to Charlotte hosting the 2017 NBA All-Star Game has started. Most of all: The Hornets are winning. The hiring of coach Steve Clifford has changed everything for the franchise, delivering the groundwork for a sustainable program and culture….

As a business model, Charlotte has grown, too. Privately, there are still agents and players who believe that Charlotte needlessly cuts expenses in ways that are below NBA norms, although most admit that the organization has gotten better in that regard. Charlotte has invested in purchasing its own NBA Development League affiliate in Greensboro, N.C., another way that Jordan has shown a willingness to spend money on the long-term growth of his franchise.

Michael Jordan the owner’s career arc has mimicked that of Michael Jordan the player — it took him a while to learn how to do things right and to win, but he is figuring it out. Certainly he came in as a better player than he did an owner, but it took Jordan years (and getting thumped in the playoffs by the Bad Boy Pistons three years in a row) to figure out how to become the guy now mythologized into some kind of unassailable legend as a player. As an owner he certainly had a rough start, but he’s learned and improved year after year.

As Wojnarowski notes, it’s no accident Commissioner Adam Silver and the other owners want him in the middle of the negotiations. The players’ union has loaded up on star power at the top — Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony — and so the owners countered with their own, bigger star. Plus, Jordan gives the small and middle market owners a more prominent seat at the table.

The deadline for either the players or owners to declare they will opt out in the summer of 2017 is this December. The fact that they are meeting now — and have broken out into smaller committees to deal with specific issues — is a good sign for those of us hoping to avoid the 2017 lockout. Another good sign is that there are few leaks coming out of those talks. Nobody has decided they need to try to take their case to the public. Yet.

I would be pleasantly surprised if an extension is reached and there is no drama about one side opting out come December, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Someone will opt out (likely the players). But that just starts a clock; the two sides would still have more than six months to hammer out a deal to avoid any kind of lockout — and longer to avoid losing regular season games. Count me in the optimistic

Count me in the optimistic camp that we don’t have a lockout that costs us games in 2017. However, I hate to underestimate the undermining impacts of human greed.

Ty Lawson sentenced to supervised probation for Colorado DUI

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DENVER (AP) — Indiana Pacers point guard Ty Lawson was sentenced to a year of supervised probation on drunken driving charges in Colorado.

The former Denver Nuggets player was ordered not to drink or use marijuana during his probation. He had faced up to 180 days in jail after pleading guilty to driving while ability impaired and to a traffic violation. The district attorney had requested at least a month in jail.

The Pacers signed the point guard earlier this year despite his troubled past.

In January, when Lawson was with the Houston Rockets, he was suspended for three games without pay for a drunken-driving case in California.

Tyronn Lue takes blame for Cavaliers defensive slippage, making changes

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Before the All-Star break, mostly under the direction of David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense allowed 101.1 points per 100 possessions, seventh best in the NBA (via NBA.com).

Since the All-Star Break, the Cavaliers have given up 104.7 points per 100 possessions, 11th in the NBA. In the last 10 games things have been much worse, allowing 108.4 points per 100, 18th in the NBA. It’s the main reason the Cavaliers have not looked like a title team.

It’s the main reason the Cavaliers have not looked like a title team of late.

Coach Tyronn Lue took the blame for it, speaking to Joe Vardon at Cleveland.com:

“I take full blame for that,” Lue said. “We’re trying to do some different things and now we just got to get back to the basics and get back to our foundation.”

Lue said there is time to reconstruct the defense because what they’re returning to they “did it all last year.”

“We did it the first half of this season and it’s just getting back to the basics and doing what we’re accustomed to doing,” Lue said.

What Lue did on defense was directly connected to what he wanted to do on offense — play smaller and faster. Part of that was pressure on defense and forcing turnovers, so he had his guards try to be more aggressive and fight over the top of pick-and-rolls more (or, at least, come out higher if they went under on a non-shooter). The problem is that requires someone anchoring the middle to take away drives when the offensive player gets by those more aggressive guards, and it requires quick help recognition to help the helper in the paint (to stop back cuts and lobs). None of that help in the middle was happening consistently, leading to too many easy looks for opponents.

Both All-Star weekend and within the last month, I have asked Lue about how it is going trying to install what he wants for the Cavaliers on both ends, and both times the answers were that he just did not have the time to put things in properly. He said he needed a training camp. NBA teams don’t practice that much, and it’s hard to install significant changes midseason. Lue may be able to put this stuff in next fall, but for this season he’s decided it’s a lost cause.

Which will likely be good for the Cavaliers short term.

Dwight Howard believes Rockets can win championship. This year.

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People in the comments on this post, and on Twitter, are going to mock Dwight Howard for this sentiment. It’s inevitable. Because we all understand that the Rockets are not going to win a title this season.

But here’s the important thing: You want Howard to believe it. If he enters the first round of the playoffs — likely against San Antonio or Golden State — and said what we’re all thinking, they might win one game, he’d get thrashed online for that. As he should. We expect athletes to be confident and even brash, that confidence is part of their success. Howard has to believe it, or he’s just coasting around the floor during games collecting a check.

Meaning yes, Dwight Howard believes the Rockets can win a title this season, he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“Regardless of how our season is going so far, regardless of the fact that we haven’t played up to our expectations, I really believe that we have a championship caliber team,” Howard said. “Nobody else has to believe it, and that’s fine. The whole world can be against us. But if those 15 guys in the locker room believe that we can win, then we will win. There’s no doubt about it. We had a great season last year, and the reason why we were able to come in the playoffs and do what we did is because we believed.”

He’s right; nobody believed in the Rockets last season. He should have that confidence going it.

I just wouldn’t bet on that outcome if I were you.

Dwight Howard on James Harden: “I have no hate in my blood for this man”

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The Rockets are 35-35. One season after reaching the Western Conference Finals, they are struggling to even make the playoffs. Their team has looked disjointed and/or disinterested for too much of the season.

It’s clear they have some chemistry issues. It starts with their two biggest stars — Dwight Howard and James Harden want to play the game in different ways. They want different tempos, they want different things on defense, one wants inside-out, the other wants pick-and-roll and penetration.

But don’t think that means they don’t like each other, Howard told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“People feel … like we hate each other,” Howard said. “I have no hate in my blood for this man, you know? For what? He came from nothing. We both came from nothing. And we’re doing something that we love. We grew up playing this game for fun, and we had big dreams of making it to the NBA. So I would never hate this man because I know what it took for me to get here, and he made it. So I want him to succeed. I want us to succeed. I just – before coming here – I watched endless hours of YouTube videos on James Harden, before he had the beard. I watched all that stuff, because I’m like, ‘Dang, this boy, he’s got so much talent.'”

But Howard acknowledges the two need to find a way to get on the same page on the court.

“We both have to figure out how we’re going to make this thing work,” Howard said. “It’s on us. We’ve got the rest of the season, and the playoffs, and we can do it. It’s a mindset. It’s a mentality. And the whole team will fall in line when me and him are on that same page and the team sees that we’re strong together.”

“If we just come together like we’re supposed to – and it takes time, you know. It takes time. If we can just come together like we’re supposed to and like we want to, then I’m telling you, we can win a championship.”

Yes, you read that right, Howard firmly believes this Rockets team can win the NBA title. This season. While we may all know that’s not going to happen, I wouldn’t want or expect Howard to say anything else. Or believe anything else. He should be confident that his team can get into a groove and challenge anyone. Just make sure you don’t go and bet on that belief.

Howard and Harden have been able to come together and make their differences on the court work for stretches — last season in the playoffs, in flashes for a couple of games here or there this season. And Howard has been the best defender on the Rockets by a mile this season. But the team is not consistent. And if you’re Daryl Morey, and you’ve already changed coaches this season, you have to be asking if this pairing can scale those heights again.

It’s a very relevant question with Howard expected to opt out this summer and test the free agent market. How much do the Rockets want to pay to keep him?