Carmelo’s move may make CBA negotiations nastier

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Utah Jazz owner Greg Miller talked about it when he tried to explain to a shaken fan base why he felt he had to trade Deron Williams away.

His argument: it’s a new era of stars congregating in big markets. The players have taken control of the process in a way they have not before. We could not risk Williams leaving as a free agent and getting nothing for him, so we had to make this move.

But then Miller said something else that hints at just how difficult the collective bargaining agreement negotiations are going to be:

“I’m not interested in seeing a congregation of star players on a handful of teams throughout the league…” Miller said. “I would like to see as much parity as there can be in the league.”

What has happened in the last couple years is a monumental shift in how and where free agents will go, and how players are using the leverage of free agency to move around. Carmelo Anthony’s move to the Knicks was the latest, most publicized proof of that. But it is a trend, no doubt.

And some owners want to shut that down.

In the current CBA, players were given the freedom of movement, but the “home team” (the team the player was with) was given a huge advantage — they could offer more money and more years. Nobody was going to walk away from tens of millions on a max deal, right? For a long time that was enough of an advantage, players usually took the money.

But LeBron James and Chris Bosh took less money and planned a superteam. Carmelo Anthony used the leverage of taking less money to get to New York (with his money). Now smaller market owners like Miller are trading D-Will now rather than risk losing out.

The players have the power. Maybe they have always had the power, but they are flexing that muscle more now. And the owners want to shift that power balance — and the players are going to fight to keep it.

Maybe it’s through a franchise tag. Maybe it’s through changes in max contracts and a hard cap (or the severity of penalties for exceeding a soft cap). There are a lot of ways to do it. But you can bet the owners are pushing hard for a fundamental shift in the financial and player movement structures that exist now. There are a handful of big-market owners who are doves on this issue, but there are more and more smaller-market owners who are hawks.

Those hawks watched the Carmelo Anthony scenario play out, they watched LeBron and Bosh last summer and they said, “there but for the grace of God go I.” They know if they luck into drafting a true star, they could lose him. They could lose the meal ticket. It will be couched in terms of franchise viability, but what it really means is making sure they have ways to hold on to their elite players.

The National Basketball Players Association, the union, is going to fight to keep player movement. They will argue it is good for the league (television ratings are way up and league wide game attendance is up slightly). They will argue that it is only fair that a person who fulfills his contract can choose his place of employment.

This was going to be a nasty fight as it was. What happened with Carmelo will make it nastier. And longer. And that is worse for all of us.

Jaren Jackson Jr. out for at least two weeks for Grizzlies

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Gordon Hayward
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The Memphis Grizzlies announced that Jaren Jackson Jr. suffered a sprained left knee late during the second quarter of Friday’s game vs the Los Angeles Lakers:

Memphis says Jackson will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

In his second year, Jackson has been a big part of the Grizzlies surprising success. Memphis is currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a record of 28-28. Jackson has proven to be an ideal running mate for rookie point guard Ja Morant, as the Grizzlies have rebuilt quicker than anyone expected.

With Jackson out, Memphis will need to replace 16.9 points and 1.6 blocks per game. Jackson also regularly functions as the Grizzlies backup center, sliding over to play the pivot when starter Jonas Valanciunas is out.

With Jackson out for at least two weeks, and potentially longer, Memphis will lean on Kyle Anderson and rookie Brandon Clarke at the four. The trickle-down impact may be more minutes for backup center Gorgui Dieng, who was acquired at the trade deadline, up front behind Valanciunas. In addition, Josh Jackson, who spent the first few months of the season in the G-League, has had a bit of resurgence in recent weeks. With Anderson likely to play more at power forward, Jackson may see even more minutes on the wing.

Ben Simmons out at least through Monday

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons‘ troublesome back will keep him out at least through Monday reports NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters. Winters reports that Simmons went through testing upon the Sixers return to Philadelphia on Sunday and will have further testing done on Monday:

Simmons missed the first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday due to back soreness. He then exited Saturday night’s game at the Milwaukee Bucks after playing less than five minutes.

Simmons went to his second-straight All-Star game last week. He’s averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.2 assists and a league-leading 2.1 steals per game through 54 games this season.

An up-and-down season sees Philadelphia currently fifth in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are an equal 1.5 games behind Miami for fourth and ahead of Indiana in sixth. The Sixers would love to climb to fourth for homecourt advantage in the postseason, as they’ve been dominant at home with a 26-2 record, while underwhelming on the road at just 9-20.

With Joel Embiid continuing to suffer from injuries, while also having his minutes managed, Philadelphia can’t afford to be without Simmons for long. The 76ers added depth on the wing at the trade deadline with Alec Bucks and Glenn Robinson III, but have little behind Simmons at point guard. Raul Neto started in Simmons’ place on Thursday, but did not play on Saturday until the game was well in-hand for Milwaukee.

Lance Stephenson hopes strong season in China springboards him back to NBA

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The Chinese Basketball Association season is up in the air because of the Coronavirus outbreak. The season is postponed and, while there is talk of restarting it on April 1, there are more questions than answers about that plan right now.

Lance Stephenson was in China playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards and — as many American scorers can do against the soft defenses in the CBA — put up impressive numbers. Stephenson is hoping to use that as a springboard back to the NBA, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Will it work for Stephenson? Maybe. It only takes one GM looking for a little scoring punch down the stretch to buy-in.

However, GMs also know the numbers are inflated in China and it doesn’t translate to being able to do the same thing in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette is example 1A. Or, here are the top five scorers in the Chinese league so far this season:

1. Dominique Jones (Jilin Northeast Tigers) 37.8
2. Joe Young (Nanjing Monkey Kings) 35.9
3. Darius Adams (Qingdao Eagles) 34.9
4. Tyler Hansbrough (Sichuan Blue Whales) 32.3
5. Jonathan Gibson (Jiangsu Dragons) 31.2

All of those guys, and a lot more, would like to use China as a springboard back to the NBA. That, however, is proving to be a long leap.

Bulls’ coach Jim Boylen unapologetic about late-game timeouts in decided games

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Saturday night, Chicago was about to lose its eighth straight game, down 112-102 to Phoenix with 30.2 seconds remaining, when Bulls coach Jim Boylen called a timeout. Boylen extended a decided game, and the Bulls’ embarrassment at home, and it apparently did not sit well with Zach LaVine.

Why call the timeout? Here is what Boylen said postgame, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“We were just trying to get a 3, execute an action we’ve been working on,” Boylen said. “I think their pressure on our inbounds hurt us all night. We had a hard time getting the ball into actions.”

Boylen sees a teaching moment. Whether the players are tuned into him and he can effectively teach anything at that point in the game is another question entirely, one Boylen does not care about. LaVine was asked about it postgame but just laughed it off as Boylen being Boylen, but noted that’s not a good time to make a point.

“That’s what he do, man,” LaVine said, laughing. “I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not the coach. He told me he likes working on things we do in practice and things like that. He’s the coach. He can call timeout if he wants to.

“I just wish we were in the game. We played a really good game throughout the game and then we lose control. It’s just frustrating. Obviously, you never know what can happen type thing. But you’re down by 10 with 30 seconds left, it’s tough to stay locked in at the end of that.”

This is far from the first time Boylen has called a late-game timeout in a decided game. Darnell Mayberry counted four times he has done it — in February.

This speaks to the tension within the Bulls organization, something that will make a rebuild even more challenging. Boylen has never been popular with the players — something that can be overcome to a degree if the team is winning, but the Bulls are 19-38 and have lost eight in a row. Evidence shows the players are not responding to the coach, but team president John Paxson LOVES Boylen’s old-school attitude and has his back.

Right now, any free agent of note is going to look at the team, its coach, and if they have good options, take a pass. The team needs to be built up internally, and it’s fair to question if the GarPax front office (which is far more Pax than Gar right now) and Boylen are up to that task. Especially if the players are tuning out the coach.