Maybe revenue sharing isn’t the answer for owner, players

1 Comment

If there is one thing that both the players and owners almost, kind of agree on in the new Collective Bargaining Talks is the concept of increased revenue sharing.

The players see it as a way to help make small market teams competitive — allowing those teams to pay higher salary and avoid issues such as contraction (a loss of jobs). Small market owners want more money for obvious reasons, and NBA Commissioner David Stern said big market owners are willing to discuss the idea so long as there are safeguards to make sure that money is re-invested in the team and not just pocketed.

Behind it all is thinking of the NBA like the NFL model, where there is extensive revenue sharing, great parity on the field, increased competition and a rising tide lifts all boats. Whether that is a model which really works for the NBA — where one player like a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant can alone radically alter a game in a way no one football player can; and where stars have long driven the sport — is another debate.

But revenue sharing does not work for the players or owners, argues Adam Fusfeld at Business Insider.

He notes that that while big market teams such as the Lakers and Bulls have made money, so have franchises in Sacramento, Utah, Cleveland. Also, having that money does not automatically produce wins — see the Knicks or Clippers, two profitable but losing teams.

But the data shows that those deep-pocketed owners in New York and Los Angeles might as well keep their cash. The size of the market isn’t what makes teams profitable, and the size of the payroll isn’t what makes them winners….

Washington, in the nation’s ninth largest media market, had a nearly identical won-loss record to Indiana over the five-year span, but earned $87 million more in operating income. The Wizards generated slightly more income, but also spent $7.6 million less each year on player expenses. If the Pacers simply reduced their payroll to equal that of the Wizards, their $26 million loss would transform into a $12 million profit.

In this five-year span, eight franchises – Phoenix, San Antonio, Denver, Detroit, New Jersey, New Orleans, Chicago, and Utah – finished with more wins than Indiana despite paying substantially less in player salaries between 2005 and 2009. Of those teams, only the Nets lost more than $1 million per year.

Small market owners gripe that it’s impossible for them to stay afloat without sustained on-court success, while large-market teams rake in profits no matter what. But how does that explain the Dallas Mavericks? Mark Cuban’s $75 million loss dwarf those of Pacers’ owner Herb Simon.

Sure, Mark Cuban and Knicks’ boss James Dolan can afford to incur those losses, but they are losses nonetheless. In essence, the Pacers, Bucks, and other small market teams are griping over rival owners’ riches.

And that’s the true inequity in NBA financials.

Some owners are willing to bankroll losses to assemble the best roster they can, while others aren’t.

This disparity continues. Peter Guber and Joe Lacob purchased the Golden State Warriors and have promised to run it smarter, but also said they are not going to spend over the NBA luxury tax line. Meanwhile Mikhail Prokhorov purchases the New Jersey Nets and money is no object.

With both the Detroit Pistons and New Orleans Hornets available for purchase, the debate about the types of owners the NBA has and needs is a very relevant one.

Adam Silver on trade demands: ‘That’s not the kind of media interest we’re looking for’

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE – Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis have taken turns dominating the news cycle with trade requests.

“That’s not the kind of media interest we’re looking for,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

The NBA even fined Davis $50,000 for his trade request.

“I don’t like trade demands, and I wish they didn’t come,” Silver said. “And I wish all those matters were handled behind closed doors.”

I’m sure Silver dislikes all trade demands. But in context, I think he meant specifically public trade requests. Because trade requests are quite common. Deep-bench players often ask to get moved, hoping a new situation will increase playing time. Those requests rarely become public.

But Irving’s, Leonard’s, Butler’s and Davis’ trade requests all did. Yet, only Davis’ drew a fine.

It seems the difference was Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, putting his name behind it. Irving, Leonard and Butler leaked their trade requests through anonymous sources.

“I think it’s perfectly appropriate, that conversations take place behind closed doors, where players or their agents are saying to management, ‘It’s my intention to move on for whatever reasons,'” Silver said.

The distinction is practically nonexistent. Irving, Leonard and Butler could claim only the least-plausible of plausible deniability, and none of those three really tried to deny it, anyway.

Insisting on this level of secrecy is a disservice to fans. If a player requests a trade, he shouldn’t be punished for revealing it. The NBA usually engages fans through openness – but not here.

Silver said he was worried about the worst-case scenario – a player not just requesting a trade, but refusing to honor his contract. However, the Collective Bargaining Agreement already has rules in place for that. Someone who withholds playing services for 30 days after training camp begins faces suspension and fines, won’t accrue a year of service and can’t become a free agent the next offseason.

For what it’s worth, Davis never threatened to hold out. In fact, he repeatedly said he wanted to keep playing if not traded. Unhappy players continue reporting to work all the time. This is not a unique situation.

Silver’s stance also also raises questions about transparency that are particularly relevant as the NBA embraces gambling. Either a player has or hasn’t requested a trade. If he has and the information is kept private, only select people will know it – and those people will have an edge in betting.

Public trade requests aren’t pretty. Neither Davis nor the Pelicans nor teams trying to trade for him appear happy with the fallout.

But I’d prefer that honest uncomfortableness to hidden tension.

Perhaps, Silver disagrees because public trade requests can create tricky situations for him. Right now, he’s still overseeing what Davis and the Pelicans do the rest of this season.

“It creates, understandably, a very awkward position between the team and their player and what their role is with the league in terms of injecting itself in the middle of what a team’s decision on playing that player,” Silver said. “These become very context-specific issues for the league office and not subject to computer programs that spit out answers.”

I agree there’s rarely an easy answer. But I’d rather lean toward transparency.

Davis decided he’d prefer to leave New Orleans. It’s his right to feel that way.

It should also be his right to disclose that to whomever he wants.

Report: Lakers ‘a little concerned’ about LeBron James’ health

Harry How/Getty Images
6 Comments

LeBron James could have returned far sooner from his groin injury, according to his agent.

As LeBron sat, the Lakers fell further in the standings. Did he wait until he was fully recovered, anyway? Or did he just wait as long as he felt he could before needing to carry the Lakers back into playoff position?

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

The Lakers are privately a little concerned about LeBron. Is he fully healed from the groin strain that cost him a career-worst 18 games? Is he going to pick up his intensity and propel this team back into the playoffs, as he did last year in Cleveland?

This was the biggest concern about LeBron’s injury. It’s possible to play through a groin injury, but there’s a strong possibility of aggravating it. If LeBron didn’t fully recover, he faces that risk – likely heightened by his need to play his way back into shape.

The Lakers (28-29) are three games and two teams out of playoff position. They have little margin for error. They need LeBron healthy and playing at least near his usual elite level.

I’m not convinced we can take either for granted the rest of the season.

More evidence suggests disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy fixed games

Getty Images
3 Comments

Disgraced referee Tim Donaghy and the NBA have always been aligned on one narrative: Donaghy didn’t fix games.

Provide inside information to gamblers? Yes. Bet on his own games? Yes.

But fix games? No.

That’s the story Donaghy had to tell to avoid more jail time and the story the NBA had to sell to preserve its integrity.

It just never held up to scrutiny. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop led the charge of publicly investigating Donaghy’s claims, and professional gambler (later Mavericks employee) Haralabos Voulgaris reviewed the calls. They concluded the system Donaghy admitted to – leveraging his knowledge of other referees’ biases toward against certain players and coaches – would have lost money. The money was made on his own games.

It just fits common sense. Donaghy was unethical enough to gamble on his own games but drew the line at altering calls to win his bets? C’mon.

Now comes perhaps the most definitive account of Donaghy’s misdeeds yet, including details on the gambling operation and statistical analysis of its outcomes.

Scott Eden of ESPN:

Donaghy favored the side that attracted more betting dollars in 23 of those 30 competitive games, or 77 percent of the time. In four games, he called the game neutrally, 50-50. The number of games in which Tim Donaghy favored the team that attracted fewer betting dollars? Three.

In other words, Donaghy’s track record of making calls that favored his bet was 23-3-4.

If one assumes there should be no correlation between wagers and the calls made by a referee, the odds of that disparity* might seem unlikely. And they are. When presented with that data, ESPN statisticians crunched the numbers and revealed: The odds that Tim Donaghy would have randomly made calls that produced that imbalance are 6,155-to-1.

“He can influence a game six points either way — that’s what he told me,” Tommy Martino said as we sat in the break room of his family’s hair salon, where he’s worked since he got out of prison in August 2009 after serving 10 months.

I highly recommend reading Eden’s piece in full. It is excellent.

I’m intrigued by the idea the NBA leaked the FBI’s investigation into Donaghy to undermine a search into whether more referees were corrupt. Donaghy claimed some were.

Donaghy lacks credibility. I don’t trust him on anything, including that.

But I could also see David Stern’s NBA wanting to stifle a deeper dive into the league’s officials before it got off the ground. That’d prevent wider problems just in case this was a rare time Donaghy was being truthful.

Again, Eden’s full article is worth reading.

Stephen Curry slips three odd phrases into All-Star interviews… for Jimmy Fallon (video)

Leave a comment

NBA All-Stars do so many interviews over the weekend. It can be fun to spice them up.

Anthony Davis did by talking in circles.

Stephen Curry did by using phrases – “energizer bunny,” “flippin’ pancakes” and “wham bam can of ham” – for a segment on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.