Winderman: Who the players send to the bargaining table

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 437.jpgEditor’s note: From time to time, Ira Winderman will jump in with longer analysis of some bigger issues. These “Quick Takes” appeared previously as stories on NBCSports.com and will now appear within ProBasketballTalk instead.

There is a ritual in NBA locker rooms when it comes to electing union reps.

That’s when the veterans scramble for bathroom breaks, when the league’s most outspoken players disappear, when the unsuspecting find out they have been elected.

Take the Rockets, for example.

Second-year forward Joey Dorsey, hardly a player well versed with the labor acrimony that has already gotten the league into heated discussions about a collective-bargaining agreement that won’t take effect until 2011-12.

Freshly back from a stint in the D-League, Dorsey was informed Tuesday in Miami that he has been elected his team’s union representative.

Why?

Apparently because his new teammates thought he was going to Dallas, anyway, for the D-League All-Star Game. So why not just send him to the union meeting, as well. That works, except that because he got called up to the NBA, he can’t play in the D-League game. Now he just heads to Dallas for the meeting.

He is not the only interesting choice.

The Heat’s representative? No, not high-profile Dwyane Wade or high-salaried Jermaine O’Neal, but rather where-have-you-gone James Jones.

In fact, the current union board, the one charged with crafting the new labor agreement in concert with David Stern’s cutthroat band of henchmen, is loaded with players either currently working on the minimum scale or headed there, players such as Adonal Foyle, Theo Ratliff, Mo Evans, Keyon Dooling and Etan Thomas.

Even union president Derek Fisher is at a stage where his $5 million salary this season could turn into something closer to the minimum next summer, when he stands as a free agent.

For all the bravado coming out of the union about fighting Stern at every turn, this is an executive board that comes from a far lower rent district than one would expect at this negotiating table.

No Kobe. No LeBron. No Shaq. None of the players who could find their knees bashed in the process.

Influential agents certainly will put pressure on Executive Director Billy Hunter to fight the good fight.

But if it is to the point that Fisher is union president, Foyle the top vice president and Jones the third-ranking union leader, then perhaps that apathy could be parlayed into the ultimate comeuppance for the disinterested high end.

For example, what if Stern, to all the draconian measures he already has forwarded to the union, says, “You know what guys, here’s one more: We also plan to raise the minimum salary for everyone to $1.5 million or even $2 million. Everyone would make at least that. Guaranteed.”

That is more that Foyle and Ratliff currently are earning, likely more than Fisher, Dooling, Evans and Jones will earn on their next deals.

It would serve the majority. Provide an upgrade. In a league where careers are fleeting, the loss of any paycheck to a lockout would be money never regained.

If the players with the most at stake elect to send their D-League to the bargaining table, can’t be bothered enough to make the effort, majority rule could lead to a rude awakening.

It is the rare case when the end of the bench could determine the game’s outcome.

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

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Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.

Rumor: Wizards interested in Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey

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The Wizards struck out on luring Nuggets president Tim Connelly.

Washington’s next choice?

Ben Standig of NBC Washington:

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations

Olshey has done a good job in Portland. He drafted Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum then built a winner around those two after LaMarcus Aldridge left. Trading for and re-signing Jusuf Nurkic to a reasonable contract looks great. Olshey also overpaid Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Festus Ezeli, but many teams spent wildly in 2016. It was a weird summer.

The Wizards would do well to hire such a proven executive.

Would Olshey leave the Trail Blazers? Their ownership situation remains uncertain following the death of Paul Allen in October. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has demonstrated extreme loyalty to his executives.

Portland will also reportedly sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension – a move that practically must be made, but one that carries massive downside risk. However, if he goes to Washington, Olshey would be trading uncertainty in Damian Lillard’s value on the super-max for certain negative value with John Wall on his super-max extension.

A couple years ago, Olshey signed his own extension through 2021. Maybe he’s ready to move on.

Or maybe he’s ready to use the Wizards as leverage for a raise.

Rumor: Lakers hired Jason Kidd to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo

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New Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he wanted Jason Kidd because Kidd is a good coach.

Steve Popper of Newsday:

the person familiar with the Lakers process said something else: that Kidd was brought to Los Angeles to attract Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in two years when the Bucks star could become an unrestricted free agent.

Things I believe:

1. This plan probably wouldn’t work. Not only does Antetokounmpo appear happy in Milwaukee, he has specifically said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. And though I believe Antetokounmpo respected Kidd while Kidd coached him, look at the Bucks now. They’re so much better under Mike Budenholzer. You think Antetokounmpo is itching to play for Kidd again after seeing the other side?

2. The Lakers might just try this wild plan anyway. Remember when they were waiting to hire a coach in 2014 so free agent LeBron James could pick? Aside from signing LeBron last year, who seemingly had his eye on Los Angeles for years and for reasons other than basketball, the Lakers have struck out on star free agents. The franchise is getting desperate.

3. People want to believe the Lakers would do something crazy like this, and that makes the rumor spread faster – whether or not it’s true. The Lakers, because of their stature, tactics and general manager have made many enemies around the league. Plenty of folks are enjoying piling on.