Winderman: CBA talks time to address contraction, schedule

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To some, these are the worst of times for the NBA.

An impending lockout. The drafting of a new collective-bargaining agreement. Big-money teams vs. low-revenue franchises in what might set up as its own civil war.

And yet this also can be the best of times in at least one respect, in the void of a working agreement.

What the NBA needs as much as Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting or the ensuing negotiating sessions with the players’ union in advance of the July 1 start of the lockout is a good-of-the-game summit.

Once a new CBA is in place, for whatever the term, so will be a blueprint moving forward. That makes now the perfect time, even amid this distressing time, to reshape the workplace, perhaps the final opportunity for the balance of the decade.

First, start with those owners whining because they’re losing money or not making enough money.

This was never a place for a high-profit return. That’s called the NFL. The NBA is a place where Micky Arison and Mark Cuban and Mikhail Prokhorov spend because they want to be viewed as winners. This is their hobby, their passion.

For most of the league’s successful owners, the view is similar.

The hard-line insurgency is being led by the league’s lesser half, owners David Stern never should have allowed to the table in the first place, his Frank McCourts, if you will.

So buy ’em out. Contract ’em. (It sure seems at this point as if no one wants to own the Hawks, anyway.)

The outlay now could be offset by a larger split among a smaller group of owners when it comes to television and marketing revenues. The playoffs drew record ratings because of the select group of teams viewers prefer to watch. A smaller league will allow more opportunities for Heat-Bulls, Mavericks-Lakers, Knicks-Celtics, games that will produce higher ratings than some of what is being offered nationally now.

The added benefit would be less dilution of talent. Perhaps now every team could actually field a legitimate center, quality depth.

Such contraction also would send a message to the players that your ranks will thin, so start working with us. In essence, the NBA could shrink the union.

Beyond that, address the schedule.

Among the reasons a lengthy lockout is forecast is because the NBA doesn’t truly gain traction until its Christmas games. Everything else seemingly is scheduled around Sunday and Monday NFL, and, to a degree, Saturday college football.

There has never been a groundswell for weeknight basketball from those rushing to arenas from work and then needing to get up early the following morning.

This should be a league of Friday, Saturday and Sunday (after NFL season) games, as the NBA has learned with its D-League scheduling.

A 60-game schedule would work just fine. The league still could sprinkle in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games to keep the ESPN and TNT schedules viable, only with less competition from local broadcasts, thus potentially higher ratings in that respect, as well.

These are not changes that can come in the middle of a collective-bargaining agreement.

They have to be part of the framework of a new CBA.

So if ownership insists on a lockout, if the players’ union can’t abide by management’s terms, then step back from the table and assess not only what is best from a revenue standpoint, but, dare we say it, what is best for the game, itself.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly may talk new contract next summer

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Sunday, the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to clear out a roster space for Markieff Morris. Cousins was signed last July to be the team’s starting center, but he tore his ACL in training and has not stepped on the court this season. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and under the terms of the CBA Cousins can continue his rehab in the Lakers’ practice facilities.

Cousins may be officially gone, but he could return next season to the Lakers, reports Joe Varden at The Athletic.

But the Lakers could re-sign him this summer, something both sides have expressed interest in pursuing, sources said.

This would be another one-year minimum contract deal, and it makes sense for both sides. Dwight Howard is a free agent and, after a resurgent (but not elite) season in Los Angeles, likely will get offers for more than the Lakers can pay him. JaVale McGee has a $4.2 million player option. Whatever McGee decides, the Lakers will be looking for another big man (and maybe two). Cousins could step right in.

What he can offer on the court coming off a torn Achilles and ACL remains to be seen, but the Lakers will not ask a lot of their centers. Cousins is a two-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star player who should still be able to give the Lakers some solid minutes in the paint.

The Lakers will keep their options open, but don’t be surprised if the two sides reunite.

Vanessa Bryant suing helicopter company after crash that killed Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant and Gianna Bryant
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Ever since Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash last month, we’ve been seeking answers about what went wrong during the flight piloted by Ara Zobayan. After all, Kobe Bryant had made helicopter rides such a normal part of his life.

Now, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother – is suing the company that operated the helicopter for wrongful death.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times:

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the lawsuit said.

Report: Ben Simmons back injury “isn’t a day-to-day thing”

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the back injury for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons “isn’t a day-to-day thing”.

Simmons missed the Sixers first game following the All-Star break on Thursday. He then left Saturday’s game in Milwaukee after playing just 4:44.

Over the weekend, Philadelphia ruled Simmons out for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and said he would undergo further evaluation. Per Wojnarowski’s report, that evaluation is ongoing and a course of treatment is yet to be decided upon.

Expect Philadelphia to lean on Raul Neto, Alec Burks and Shake Milton as primary ballhandlers while Simmons is out. None possess the size and skill combination of Simmons, but all have had moments throughout their careers. Neto drew the start in place of Simmons on Thursday. Burks was acquired at the trade deadline to give the team much-needed bench depth. Milton has flashed at time in his second season, after beginning his NBA career on a Two-Way contract.

Philadelphia loses Simmons while in a battle with the Miami Heat for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The fifth-place 76ers are 1.5 games behind the Heat for the fourth seed, and two games ahead of the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.

Pacers: Jeremy Lamb suffers torn ACL, torn meniscus, fracture

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Kobe Bryant making two free throws after tearing his Achilles was one of the greatest moments of his legendary career.

On a day Bryant was honored, we learned Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb made a similarly gutsy pair of free throws during Indiana’s loss to the Raptors yesterday.

Pacers release:

During the second quarter of the Pacers game at Toronto on Sunday, Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Lamb sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture.

He will undergo surgery on a date to be determined. He will be out the remainder of the season. Any further updates will be provided after surgery.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb misses all of next season. This is just a devastating set of calamities.

At least Lamb has a guaranteed $10.5 million salary each of the next two seasons.

Indiana (sixth place, 33-24) will have an even tougher time winning a playoff series now. The Pacers could challenge in the first round, but they’ll almost certainly be significant underdogs.

They have depth at shooting guard, for what that’s worth. Victor Oladipo just returned. Justin Holiday is a solid reserve. Finding his lane at point guard, Malcolm Brogdon can move off the ball when T.J. McConnell or Aaron Holiday plays point guard.