Here’s a clip from the best press conference of the playoffs — the Big Baby and Nate show. Also Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson talking about the Celtics bench and their energy.
We already knew many key details of the NBA’s plan for resuming the season:
- Only the top 22 teams will continue.
- Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
- Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
- If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams. To advance, the ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.
Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 4, 2020
Sources: Portland was the lone team that voted against the 22-team format. https://t.co/WxxADXEkNb
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 4, 2020
It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?
Players must still approve the plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.
However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.
Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
The NBA Players Association has scheduled a virtual meeting for its membership Friday to discuss the NBA's 22-team return plan that owners are scheduled to approve today, @NYTSports has learned
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 4, 2020
Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Among teams left out of Orlando resumption, some members of NBA’s Board of Governors disagree with 22-team format – but do plan to cast “yes” votes on call starting soon, sources tell ESPN. Proposal requires three-fourths support. It's expected to clear that hurdle with ease.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 4, 2020
Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
AP Source: The National Basketball Players Association and the NBA are working on a "lengthy" medical protocols document, the details of which will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed — and in plenty of time for teams to prepare for the Disney/ESPN arrival.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 4, 2020
The Knicks appear set on both hiring Tom Thibodeau and conducting a coaching search.
Mike Woodson, who coached New York from 2012-2014, will be part of the process.
Ian Begley of SNY:
In addition to Tom Thibodeau, Kenny Atkinson & interim HC Mike Miller, the Knicks are planning to interview former head coach Mike Woodson for their vacancy, per SNY sources. Woodson won 54 games with NYK in 2012-13 and won a playoff series that season, their only one since 2000
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 4, 2020
New York also interviewed Woodson in 2018 before hiring David Fizdale. I understand why the Knicks can’t make up their mind on whether they want him as their coach.
Woodson won 58% of his games with New York, the third-best mark in franchise history (behind Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy). In 2012-13, Woodson did some really creative things with Carmelo Anthony at power forward and two-point guard lineups.
Will New York return to Woodson? Probably not. The expectation remains Thibodeau will get this job. But Woodson will at least have an opportunity to make his case for a very-strange return.
Dirk Nowitzki was not headed to an American college before the NBA. Like most of the best European players — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, even going back to Tony Kukoc and others — he was taking a straight trip from his European team to the NBA.
That didn’t stop Charles Barkley from trying to get him to go to Auburn.
It wasn’t meant to be, but Saad Yousuf at the Athletic tells the story of Barkley trying.
The Auburn alum reflected on his first meeting with Nowitzki, in 1997 at a Nike exhibition game in Germany, in which the Big German put on an offensive clinic against a team featuring Barkley, Pippen, Michael Jordan and other NBA talents…
Barkley called Nike and made a strong push to get to Nowitzki through any channel, legal or not. “Just tell him, anything he wants, we’ll get it done,” Barkley recalled in 2012. “Just give him anything he wants; he’s got to go to Auburn.”
Barkley didn’t stop there, though. Nowitzki left such an impression on Auburn’s greatest hoops export that Barkley even talked to Cliff Ellis, Auburn’s coach at the time, to encourage the program to make a run at this relatively unknown teenager in Europe.
Ellis notes that in 1997 he couldn’t just jump on YouTube and find clips of a player, there wasn’t much film of European players. Still, the coach was willing to go on Barkley’s word and reached out.
Turns out Kentucky, Stanford and other colleges did as well, but to no avail. Nowitzki went straight into the 1988 NBA Draft, where the Bucks took him ninth overall then executed a draft-night trade sending the big German to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. The rest is Hall of Fame history.
For Barkley, Ellis, and Auburn fans, it’s quite the “what if.” That was a 29-4 Auburn team in 1997-98 that was an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed led by a couple of future NBA players (Mamadou N’Diaye and Chris Porter). Add Nowitzki into that mix and… we will never know. But it could have been glorius.
The Timberwolves will play 64 games this season. The Mavericks will play 75-77 games before the traditional playoffs.
Should Dallas players get paid a higher percentage of their salaries than Minnesota players?
That’s one of the thorny questions as the NBA resumes its season.
Though players have individual contracts with defined salaries, there’s an overriding factor in determining actual wages. The Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for players and owners to split revenue approximately 50-50. Salaries are adjusted to reach that 50-50 split.
Each year, the salary cap is set to a number designed to get total player salaries to about 50% of league-wide revenue. Obviously, that’s a difficult target to hit precisely. So, there are mechanisms to adjust the distribution of money if necessary. If their total slated salaries are higher than 50% of revenue, players don’t receive their full salaries. If their total salaries are lower than 50% of revenue, players get a shortfall check from owners.
Coronavirus has disrupted that well-oiled system
The league is missing a major chunk of revenue. Players’ slated salaries would call for them to earn WAY more than 50% of revenue. That’s why the NBA has been withholding a portion of players’ salaries. Force majeure allows teams to reduce players salaries for games canceled due to an epidemic.
The NBA’s reported plan reveals the number of lost games. There were 259 regular-season games remaining when the season was suspended. The continued season includes 88 regular-season games (eight each for the 22 continuing teams) plus 0-4 play-in games.* No playoff games are being canceled.
*I’m counting play-in games as regular-season games. It’s a gray area. Perhaps, owners and players will agree to count them as postseason games. It probably doesn’t matter here, anyway. In terms of force majeure, regular-season and playoff games count equally. So, it’s simple enough to count them as regular-season games.
That’s 167-171 canceled games.
Except not every team will have the same number of games canceled.
There’s a four-game spread in the number of games each team has played so far. The Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets are done now. Every other team will play at least eight more games. The Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns and Wizards could play up to two play-in games.
Based strictly on games played, here’s how much players on each team stand to lose in salary:
- Timberwolves: 19%
- Hornets: 18%
- Bulls: 18%
- Cavaliers: 18%
- Warriors: 18%
- Pistons: 17%
- Knicks: 17%
- Hawks: 16%
- Lakers: 12%
- Spurs: 10%-12%
- Celtics: 11%
- Rockets: 11%
- Clippers: 11%
- Thunder: 11%
- Raptors: 11%
- Jazz: 11%
- Nets: 9%-11%
- Pelicans: 9%-11%
- Kings: 9%-11%
- Wizards: 9%-11%
- Nuggets: 10%
- Pacers: 10%
- Heat: 10%
- Bucks: 10%
- 76ers: 10%
- Grizzlies: 8%-10%
- Magic: 8%-10%
- Suns: 8%-10%
- Trail Blazers: 6%-9%
- Mavericks: 5%-8%
Is that fair to players on the eight done teams? They didn’t ask for their season to end prematurely.
On the other hand, they don’t have to do any more work. Other players must travel to Orlando, live under restrictions, play games with heightened injury concerns and risk contracting coronavirus just so the league can increase its revenue. Should eliminated players reap the rewards while sitting home?
This tension also exists in normal times. Players across 16 playoff teams divvied up just $20 million total for competing in the 2018 playoffs, and the amount was similar last year. Player income is largely earned on the regular season, even though the players playing in the playoffs disproportionately draw the revenue that funds everyone.
But the disparity feels sharper now – with the worst teams not even finishing the regular season and playoff teams facing a far larger burden just to keep playing.
To a certain degree, this is a player problem. Owners are going to pay approximately 50% of league revenue to players. The CBA dictates how players on each team should have their salaries cut through force majeure. If players want to share the losses more evenly among each other, owners should accommodate.
Consider this similar to cap smoothing, which the union infamously rejected. Except in that case, it was more just luck which players were in the favored class. Now, the players who could earn more will actually be the ones putting in the additional work. Then again, there could be a push for everyone to share the losses more equally.
Like many things disrupted by coronavirus, there are no good answers.