Could NBA players form their own league during the lockout?

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It’s an insane idea. It requires more financial resources than they currently have. It requires more organization than they currently have. It requires risks the players are unwilling to take. And it is, just in general theory, completely bonkers. But it is an interesting question.

Could the players form their own, independent league during the lockout?

Let’s start with this, from the Wages of Wins blog:

The new league would be owned by the members of the league i.e. the players. They would hire an organizing entity to put together the venues and the events. William Morris or CAA with an assist from Nike Nike Player’s league anyone? could put this together in a heartbeat and finding an open venue this fall and next spring? Not hard at all. The players through the union would pay a share of the gross revenue to the organizing body. Let’s say 20% of the gross revenue.

A TV contract would be required, initially for one year of course. Again, the organizing body could take care of this beforehand.

via The Free Market Alternative «.

But I mean, could they legally? Consider what David Stern said months ago:

“If, in fact, there’s a lockout, then the player is free during the course of the lockout to do what he wants to do if his contract is in effect. I don’t want to play that game with anybody. … If we have a collective bargaining arrangement with the union and there’s a lockout, then last time around [in 1998] players were free to do what they’re going to do, because they’ve been locked out.”

via David Stern: Some owners not opposed to contracting New Orleans Hornets – ESPN.

Now, the reason Stern is so hands-off with his answer is that labor laws in this country restrict employers past, present, or future, from efforts to deny workers other employment opportunities. In short, Stern doesn’t want to get sued for efforts to deny the players their right to earn a living. Everybody has a right to work in this country if they are able. America, yeah! The question of whether this would impact the current situation is more complex. But there can’t be a clause to prevent this situation under the former CBA which would apply here, as it expired. It can’t be built into current players’s contracts and apply, because those are rendered moot by the lockout.

So versus playing overseas, which requires FIBA clearance plus negotiating with teams who already have budgets set up for the coming season and players on contract, there would be no governing body here to deny or approve their eligibility. It would just be them.

Now, there’s also a million ways this won’t work. The biggest in my mind is the simple great unknown. That there may be some legal ramification neither Wages of Wins nor I are thinking of. This whole lockout situation has created hundreds of scenarios where experts far better suited for analysis of the legal issues than I are left to simply say “We don’t know, this hasn’t happened before.” Second, you’ve got to find the money. You need a person, or entity, to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. Is Nike going to be willing to get into bed with a system that will be purposefully built to hurt the NBA, when eventually they have to go back to work with the league and its teams? What about insurance? That’s kind of a big deal. Or television rights, when you factor in who has to take an enormous chance on something that may get set up and invested in, then called off in November less than a month into play? The questions go on and on and on and the fact is that this idea is too risky for pretty much of any of the principle investors, from the players to the outside investors, television executives, anyone.

But the idea isn’t without merit, at the very least as a threat. If the NBA is a players’ league as the players’ believe it is (and it is, people care more about stars than teams), this would prove it. “We can play exhibition games in Kansas City and Las Vegas and people will come whether the NBA logos are on the jerseys or not.” Any efforts which prove viable towards the players being able to make money during the lockout would ratchet up the concern from the owners. And that could end the lockout quicker.

Like I said, it’s an insane idea. But it’s also kind of an interesting one.

Evan Fournier says that Frank Ntilikina just ‘needs a real opportunity’

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New York Knicks fans haven’t had a lot to cheer for recently. The team traded away Kristaps Porzingis, who is thought to be the franchise cornerstone. Now they move forward with a young core, RJ Barrett, and tons of cap space.

So what does that mean for players who have been around in the Big Apple like Frank Ntilikina?

Based on how Ntilikina played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for France this year, things might be looking up.

Ntilikina’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, but he was seen as a very solid player in a backcourt that helped propel France to the bronze medal in China.

To that end, fellow countrymen Evan Fournier thinks that all Ntilikina needs is a chance to shine.

Via Twitter:

Ntilikina’s season last year was marred by injuries, and he played in just 43 games. Still, he has the physical tools to be a useful NBA player, and he’s just 21 years old. With the surprisingly low-pressure situation in New York, it’s possible that extended time playing in the World Cup could help aid what Ntilikina is able to produce next season for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers receive DeMarcus Cousins disabled-player exception

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A chance at a championship. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. The Los Angeles market. Great weather.

The Lakers can offer plenty to anyone who gets bought out this season.

Now, the Lakers – who lost DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL – get a mechanism to offer post-buyout players more money.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The exception holds little value presently. It’s worth less than a full-season minimum salary for anyone with more than four years experience.

But minimum-salary and mid-level exceptions decline throughout the season. This exception does not.

So, on March 1, a team with only a minimum slot available can offer a free agent just between $233,459 and $666,546 (depending on the player’s experience level). The Lakers can offer $1.75 million.

This means an NBA-appointed doctor ruled Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15. Given that prognosis, the Lakers could open a roster spot by waiving Cousins, who’s on a one-year deal and facing a domestic-violence charge. They’d still keep the exception.

If Cousins can return more quickly than expected, he’d be eligible to play, whether or not the Lakers use the exception.

Damian Lillard says he plans to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympics

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Stephen Curry said he wants to play for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics.

He isn’t the only star point guard eager for Tokyo.

Damian Lillard, via James McKern of news.com.au:

“I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing,” Lillard said

Though neither Curry nor Lillard played for Team USA in this year’s World Cup, there’s a potentially large difference: Curry never agreed to play. Lillard did then withdrew. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo indicated particular scorn for players who decommitted.

Of course, Colangelo also wants to win. That might require swallowing his pride and accepting players who withdrew this year. He has talked tough in the past about players who didn’t show his desired devotion to USA Basketball. Lillard got cut in 2014 then missed the 2016 Olympics citing injury. It can be difficult to determine which absences Colangelo forgives.

One factor working against Lillard: The Americans’ point guard pool is deep. Curry rates higher. Kemba Walker earned respect by playing in the World Cup. James Harden (who also withdrew from the World Cup) and Kyrie Irving also factor.

I expect Colangelo to operate on a sliding scale: The better the player, the less prior commitment to USA Basketball necessary. Lillard is an excellent player. We’ll see how far that gets him.

And whether he’ll even want to play next year. The reasons for playing – pride of representing your country, prestige marketing opportunities – are more obvious now. The reasons not to play – injury, fatigue, personal commitments – are more likely to emerge closer to the Games.

Losing Kemba Walker would always sting. Hornets made it nearly as painful as possible

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Hornets faced a miserable choice this summer:

  • Lose not only their by far best player, but the greatest player in franchise and someone with a deep connection to the community
  • Sign a point guard to an expensive contract that will further inhibit an already-strapped team from competing at even a moderate level

Charlotte’s choice? Both.

The Hornets let Kemba Walker leave via free agency and replaced him with Terry Rozier (three years, $56.7 million). That’s a failure, not one of solely this offseason, but a failure nonetheless.

At 29, Walker would’ve likely become a negative value on a long-term deal. But at least he would’ve kept Charlotte more firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race in the near term – not that on the fringes of that competition is a great place to be. There were reasonable arguments for and against keeping Walker.

But if the Hornets were willing to offer him only $160 million (about $62 million less than his super max), they should have traded him before it got this far. Why did they keep him past last season’s trade deadline? To have him represent Charlotte in the All-Star game there? To make a longshot run at the No. 8 seed? Without knowing exactly what other teams offered, that seems highly likely a mistake.

The Hornets weren’t good enough to make the playoffs with Walker. What makes them think they’ll be good enough with Rozier?

Losing Walker always would’ve invited a year of pain. Charlotte is too capped out, too veteran-laden to pivot in a meaningful way. But at least Bismack Biyombo‘s, Marvin Williams‘ and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s contracts will expire next summer. Nicolas Batum‘s and Cody Zeller‘s will expire the following year.

Now, Rozier is on the books another year after that.

Maybe Rozier, 25, will become a key part of the Hornets’ next successful era. He has the requisite athleticism and has shown flashes of being a good starting point guard. But he’s coming off a down year. That counts, too.

It’s easy to pin Rozier’s struggles on a tough situation behind Kyrie Irving. That surely factored. Still, most players on a starting track would’ve fared better in those circumstances.

Credit Charlotte for creativity. By signing-and-trading Walker to the Celtics for a signed-and-traded Rozier, the Hornets got more spending power. But they probably would’ve been better off with a point guard in the mid-level-exception range like Tomas Satoransky, Delon Wright or Tyus Jones. It’ll take a major jump for Rozier to justify his near-$19 million-per-year salary.

Charlotte isn’t giving him much help. Jeremy Lamb left in free agency. Even though they have enough breathing room under the tax line to use the rest, the Hornets haven’t used their mid-level exception other than sliver for No. 36 pick Cody Martin.

Internal prospects look limited. Charlotte didn’t place anyone on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years. No. 12 pick P.J. Washington probably won’t change the franchise’s arc.

The Hornets didn’t reach this dismal point in one offseason. But this summer worsened the predicament.

Offseason grade: D-