Tag: 2011 CBA

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On the skews of the NBA’s new scheduling formula

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We still have yet to see the NBA’s official schedule (or have approval of the tentative collective bargaining framework from the NBA’s players and owners, but who’s letting that stop them from moving on?) for the coming season, but thanks to a release from NBA.com, we have a basic idea of how the distribution of games should look for every team. Matt Moore dug into the particulars over the weekend, including the unusual back-to-back-to-backs we’ll see in the coming season and the revenue loss of the unfortunate teams who won’t get a visit from the Lakers or Heat.

But if we read between the lines of the scheduling notes, a bit of an imbalance begins to take shape. Teams are currently scheduled for 48 in-conference and 18 inter-conference games — an arrangement that on the surface, should greatly favor those in the East. This is nothing new; under normal circumstances, NBA teams have more games against conference opponents than non-conference ones, so one side or the other inevitably gets the short end of the stick.

Yet by reducing the total number of games, each of those specific matchups matters more than usual. Decreasing the sample size of a season from 82 games to 66 increases the chance of a fluke regular season result, but it also gives every game additional value. A single victory will be worth more this season than in one of standard length, for the simple reason that there are fewer total games to go around.

So the fact that Western Conference teams will play nearly three-fourths of their games against in-conference opponents seems rather noteworthy. The West was by far the deeper of the two conferences last season, with 11 teams winning 39 games or more to the East’s seven. That glut of contention and competence will have to battle it out on a tight schedule with a big impact, which could lead to a bit of an insane scramble for the West’s lower playoff seeds.

Additionally, divisional schedules will matter more than ever this year, as each NBA team will play the full four-game slate against only six different opponents — four of which are presumably divisional foes. The rest of the matchups will be three, two, or one-game affairs, meaning that those situated in the most competitive divisions are saddled with more games against difficult opponents. Again, that in itself is nothing new, but the fewer total number of games coupled with the new breakdown of the various season series’ makes such variables even more important than usual.

That could spell bad news for the Houston Rockets, a team forever stuck on the playoff fringe. For all of their efforts last season — the Rockets won 43 games, just three short of the eighth seed — Houston still managed to rank dead last in the very competitive Southwest division. Part of the reason for that: a 5-11 record against the four other teams in the Southwest, which filled a chunk of the Rockets’ schedule with dropped games against tough competition. In theory, Houston seems likely to have as tough of a road as anyone next season, as they’ll face that same competitive group of divisional opponents (Dallas, San Antonio, Memphis, New Orleans) in a greater percentage of their overall games. As a team likely to fall again on the playoff cusp, the margin for error is already painfully small; the Rockets will somehow have to make the most of their more difficult schedule, lest they end another year in the lottery.

These factors alone won’t decide the fate of the Rockets or any other team, but the length of the season has slightly magnified the importance of the schedule’s typical quirks.

Matt Bonner explains the lockout’s new beginning

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We’re now months into the NBA lockout. July 1st marked the expiration of the previous collective bargaining agreement, and even before that deadline passed, the lockout loomed over the 2011 off-season.

Yet in terms of the timeline of negotiations and bargaining sessions between the players and owners, the lockout is in its infancy. Only now are the parties involved given incentive to compromise — or rather, only now are the parties involved truly facing actual risk. The potential for a shortened free agency period and the cancellation of the annual Summer League naturally didn’t do much to expedite the negotiating process; a logistical shift in free agency and a year off from the festivities in Vegas just don’t register as legitimate losses on a scale this large. The owners and players are fighting for what they believe to be fair, and thus far have refused to let isolated summer events stand in the way of what they deem to be equitable.

So while it’s almost trite to say that the NBA negotiations have “only just begun,” or “are just getting started,” both of those tropes are nonetheless true. Matt Bonner, Vice President of the NBPA, elaborated on the realities of the lockout’s motivations and timeline in a radio interview with The Fan 590 in Toronto (as transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews):

“No, I mean obviously up until Tuesday everything has been posturing. I can’t really blame one side or another for the reason a deal hasn’t been reached because the calendar was on both sides’ side. There wasn’t really any pressure from the calendar on either side. Now with the recent drop dead date for training camp and preseason and approaching regular season stuff, there’s definitely a lot more pressure on each side. Through that natural pressure we saw a window, based on what we thought was indicated a week before, we saw a window to possibly get a deal done. We did everything we could to prepare ourselves for that. The owners just did not share that attitude.”

This, ladies and gents, is the lockout’s true beginning. It isn’t dragging on; the real negotiations begin only when both sides have an accurate view of what’s at stake, and now that losing regular season games is a real possibility (if not an outright certainty), the bargaining process has finally begun in earnest.

Collective bargaining talks produce vaguely positive outcome

NBA lockout Stern Hunter

The lockout drags on, but today NBA fans are given the slightest reason for optimism. Representatives for the NBA players and owners met today for a six-hour bargaining session, and though dialogue in itself isn’t enough to bring back the league we all know and love, the fact that meetings are going on at all does give some reason for optimism.

Howard Beck of the New York Times met reps from both sides on their way out, and offered a few carrots to basketball-starved fans via his Twitter account:

[Derek] Fisher also said parties agreed to dispense with the rhetoric and public shots at each other. All positive signs, IMHO.

Positive indeed. The less talking that goes on outside of the negotiations, the better. Neither side really has much need for posturing at this point; both sides have made their pleas to the public based on the supposed injustices of the other camp, and the patience for that kind of campaigning has grown thin. Fisher’s comments give us reason to believe that that stage in the lockout process has passed, which can only mean good things for the rest of the negotiations. Less bad blood, more hammering out the details of how to bring the NBA back.

More meetings are scheduled, but parties will not specify when and where.

The lack of public transparency in this case is a non-issue. Again, the important thing is that these meetings and dialogues continue to happen. Progress is the key here, even if fans and media members have some difficulty tracing the specific locale of each negotiation. It’s good news that there isn’t just “another meeting,” but another planned meeting that’s actually on the calendar.

Stern and Silver just spoke. Just as cautious as Fisher in assessing progress. But Stern said there is definitely time to make a deal.

The fact that neither side is jumping at a chance to declare real, immediate progress is just fine. It’s important that both parties continue to take the negotiations seriously and consider the timeline of the bargaining period to be pressing, and that sense of urgency doesn’t come without the acknowledgement that there’s still plenty of work to be done. It’d be wonderful if the lockout could be resolved overnight, but the gulf between the players and owners makes that an impossibility. As such, a healthy dose of realism is invaluable for all involved, and that such realism is embedded in the notion that there’s still plenty of negotiating work to be done.

Chris Kaman has a piggy bank ready in case of lockout

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers

NBA players make a lot, I don’t know if you’ve heard. Millions, in fact. So when they say they’re saving, it’s not really all that notable. After all, they do get a per-diem, which continues to blow my mind. They make millions of dollars, but then they get a considerable amount of money just to eat and travel. I gotta work that in my next NBC contract.

But what is notable is why they’re saving money. Chris Kaman is a great example of such a player. From the LA Times:

“There’s a lot of negotiations that are going on, and I don’t really know how it’s going to end up,” the ClippersChris Kaman said Thursday. “They’re saying lockout. You just never know. You’ve just got to be ready and prepare yourself for that, moneywise.

“I’ve been saving a lot — looking out.”

On one hand, it’s good news because you don’t want anyone to suffer through being short on money. On the other, it’s frustrating because it’s not like Kaman’s going to be hurting to come up with rent money, and in the meantime, he’s basically preparing himself in case the fans get denied a 2011-2012 season. The fact that the lockout has become almost unavoidable at this point is depressing, and the situation gets more dire with every passing salvo.

But hey, at least Chris Kaman will be comfortable for it.

New Wizards owner thinks the NBA gives its owners too much rope to hang themselves with

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Ted Leonsis is going to make buddies with his NBA owner peers very quickly.

Leonsis spoke to reporters on Friday and said that the NHL (whose Capitals are also owned by Leonsis) is currently “stronger” because their Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents owners from ingesting “stupid pills” as he put them, referring to large contracts which can eat up salary space and sink profits.

Leonsis specifically pointed to the NBA’s soft cap, which allows teams to exceed the salary cap in exchange for a tax on every dollar spent over the limit. NBA ownership is currently considering pushing for a hard cap for next year’s CBA negotiations, something the Player’s Union would outright revolt at, and which would inevitably lead to the lockout. You know the lockout, the one that’s considered inevitable, anyway.

Leonsis coming out swinging for the ownership is sure to make him a few new friends, and certainly the argument is sound. NBA teams with as much revenue as they generate, should not be losing money. And the cap situation has allowed for long term failures of certain clubs. Take the Knicks, who are still feeling the effects of Isiah Thomas’ stupid pills overdose. They surrender their last draft pick to Utah in June’s draft, while finally freeing themselves of the ridiculouslly bloated contracts they managed to pick up over the last decade.

At the same time, one of the best things about the NBA is its fluidity and the soft salary cap makes that possible. If you have an owner willing to spend, it means that you’re more likely to find yourself in contention. Moving to a hard cap is fine, but also may create a chokehold on certain teams in certain markets. This is where the revenue sharing angle comes into play, something the players’ union is adamant about and that big market owners like Leonsis are likely to resist.

Still, at least Leonsis is showing early signs of understanding how you create long-term success, by managing your resources carefully, maintaining flexibility, and making moves for the long-term. That should aid him as he seeks to rebuild the Wizards. You know, once he can figure out how to ditch Gilbert Arenas, who has proven to be a stupid pill so big you can choke on it.