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.

Tom Thibodeau on Timberwolves not getting first-rounder in Jimmy Butler trade: ‘Getting good players was a priority’

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The Heat offered Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. The Rockets offered four first-round picks or Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks. The Pelicans reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick.

But the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a deal that included no first-round picks and Minnesota getting only one second-rounder.

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau:

We wanted quality players. I think that that was important for us.

When you look at, to get two starters off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young, and they’re going to get better, and they’re both very good defensively. They both shoot the 3, so we think they fit well with the guys that we do have.

And so once we once got to that point where felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal.

It was what was best for the organization. Obviously, getting good players was a priority. But the pick part is important, and we felt we got a good pick from Philly.

It was what does it mean for the team? If you get two rotational players, that’s good. And then if you can get a pick, that allows you to do more things. And so I think that’s all part of it. You always try to think about what the possibilities could be.

Thibodeau might have taken the best offer for the the Timberwolves by the time he actually accepted a deal. Miami pulled the Richardson offer after his strong start to the season. Getting four first-rounders from Houston required taking Brandon Knight‘s negative-value contract, and it’s unclear exactly how the picks were protected. New Orleans has the best record of those three teams, so an unprotected pick carries less value.

But it’s also impossible to overlook Thibodeau’s present-minded attitude. That’s how he already approached everything. Now, he appears to be coaching for his job this season. Nobody ever expected him to prioritize long-term assets.

Covington and Saric are good players, but Minnesota was also 4-9 at the time of the trade. Are Covington and Saric good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of this hole and into the playoffs? It’s a tough ask. In 2020-21, Saric will be up for a big raise, and the Timberwolves already have a lot of money committed. They might have to downgrade the rest of the roster to keep Saric and avoid the luxury tax. This is a narrow window for Minnesota to get value from this trade.

That said, blame Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for creating this situation. By allowing Thibodeau to remain in charge without much job security, Taylor is practically demanding Thibodeau emphasize the present. If Taylor wanted draft picks, he should have fired Thibodeau earlier.

Caris LeVert suffers injury so horrific, it brings teammates to tears and opponents to prayer (video)

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Caris LeVert has been one of the Nets’ biggest bright spots. The hard-working 24-year-old was a Most Improved Player candidate, and he seems well-liked throughout the organization. He’s even already hit a couple gamewinners this season.

But LeVert’s breakout campaign hit a devastating snag tonight, as he injured his leg.

The reactions of both his Brooklyn teammates and the Timberwolves say everything. This is a tough one.

Markelle Fultz takes ugly pump-fake free throw

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A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?

Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.

Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.

But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.