NBA lays off 114 employees, says not due to lockout

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Today there are 114 more civilian casualties to the NBA lockout war… except the league says these are not casualties at all.

We’re not buying that.

So you can get the facts as presented, here are the key parts of the Associated Press report.

The NBA has laid off about 114 people over the last two days, planned cost-cutting moves that a league spokesman says are “not a direct result of the lockout.”

The laid off employees represent about 11 percent of the league office workforce in New York, New Jersey and internationally.

Spokesman Mike Bass tells The Associated Press on Thursday the layoffs are “a response to the underlying issue that the league’s expenses far outpace our revenues,” not because of the work stoppage that began July 1.

Here is the league’s official statement:

The layoffs are not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue; that is, the league’s expenses far outpace our revenues. The roughly 11% reduction in headcount from the league office is part of larger cost-cutting measures to reduce our costs by $50 million across all areas of our business.

The NBA did lay off about 100 people (nine percent) of their workforce a couple years ago, at the depths of the national recession. Certainly things around the nation are not good now, but even the skeptical admit things are better than they were a couple years back.

So, why the next round of layoffs this week? Well, the obvious answer is that it is directly tied to the lockout, the kind of layoffs we are seeing with teams around the league as they trim payrolls during the lockout.

But the league says that is not the case. I have a hard time believing they need to cut costs this deeply right now just as the league is starting to move on a real upswing in terms of national interest (and with that revenue)… unless you needed it to look like things were bad and the budget was way in the red ink. For example, like if you were in a lockout with serious CBA negotiations taking place.

Maybe I’m too cynical, but I don’t believe this is coincidental. Not in the least. In the end, this is just more innocent people getting hurt while the owners and players argue over how to split up the fans’ money. Sometimes I wonder if the two sides really appreciate the mood around the nation and how badly a lockout that costs games would hurt the image of the league right now. Both sides give that plenty of lip service, but their actions speak otherwise.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.

Report: R.C. Buford moving on from Spurs GM role, Brian Wright taking over

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For 15 years, through championships and an unparalleled run of playoff berths and success, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich seemed to work as one brain. Popovich was the coach but also team president, Buford the GM, and together they built an NBA powerhouse.

Buford is moving on from that role. Or, more precisely moving up into a new management role, and assistant GM Brian Wright is taking over as GM, reports Jabari Young of The Athletic.

After a little more than 15 years serving as GM, Buford is getting prepared to bequeath the role to assistant GM Brian Wright, league sources have confirmed to The Athletic. Wright will report directly to Buford, who will officially get a new title that some around the NBA believe will be a role helping to oversee Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

When the Spurs initially hired Wright in 2016, he stayed behind the scenes and focused mainly on scouting. But sources have informed The Athletic over the last year Wright has been more involved, even fielding calls and packages for the trade of Kawhi Leonard the previous summer.

Wright came to the Spurs from the Pistons a couple of years ago. That said, don’t expect a big change in how things are done in the Spurs front office. For one thing, Popovich is still there. Also, Wright has an excellent reputation around the league as being smart and a straight shooter. On top of all of that, Buford will remain his ultimate boss, although Buford’s role will change into one of more of a business manager for Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Young hints there could be more changes coming. Obviously, the biggest would be when Popovich decides to step back in his dual roles as coach and president, but there could be shifts in the assistant GM ranks as well.

Just don’t expect the Spurs to stop being the Spurs.

Exclusive video preview: Dwyane Wade joins America’s Got Talent as guest judge

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Dwyane Wade is retired. He’s got some time on his hands.

But if he wants to spend quality time this summer with his wife, Gabrielle Union, he’s got to get on the set of America’s Got Talent, because she is a judge on the hit show. So, Wade did exactly that and steps in this week as a guest judge.

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Next week… it’s going down on @agt

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In the video at the top of this page, you can see an exclusive of Wade and the rest of the AGT crew watching and judging an insane danger act out of India, a sneak preview of the show airing on NBC this Tuesday night (8 p.m.).

Wade knows talent on the court, but we’re going to see what talents impress him on the stage.

Kings hire WNBA’s Lindsey Harding as assistant coach

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have hired former WNBA player Lindsey Harding as an assistant and player development coach on Luke Walton’s staff.

The team also hired Stacey Augmon and Rico Hines on Friday.

Harding played nine years in the WNBA before working as a pro personnel scout and then player development coach for the Philadelphia 76ers.

She becomes the latest woman to serve as a coach in the NBA, joining others like Boston’s Kara Lawson, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Dallas’ Jenny Boucek and Cleveland’s Lindsay Gottlieb.

The Kings have a history of hiring female coaches, notably Nancy Lieberman and Boucek.