Do owner, player negotiations finally get serious Wednesday?

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Wednesday in Manhattan, NBA commissioner David Stern and players’ union director Billy Hunter are going to sit down in a room across the table from each other and talk new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

They have done that a few times in various settings, exchanging a few proposals, for two years now. With absolutely no progress.

But we are now a month or so away from when training camps were supposed to open, less than six weeks from the first preseason games. About two months from the first regular season games.

We’ve said all along that until there was real pressure, a real deadline, the negotiations would not move forward. Well, now is about time for both sides to start really moving toward a deal.

The question is will it happen? We’re not the only ones wondering, agent Bill Duffy said this to Yahoo’s Marc Spears.

“This is a telltale meeting,” said agent Billy Duffy, whose client roster includes Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and Greg Oden. “I think we will know the seriousness of both sides’ position after Wednesday.

“I don’t think the season starts on time. There really has been no progress. The union has been patient on hoping there would be movement on the league side. The league hasn’t demonstrated any movement whatsoever while the union is flexible.”

Back in 1999 — when the league missed half a season due to a lockout — the resulting deal was hailed as a win for the owners. They got a salary cap. They got a maximum salary put in.

But a dozen years later the current crop of owners sees that deal as a loss — 57 percent of all Basketball Related Income (BRI) has to go to the players in the form of salary. Doesn’t matter if it is bad deals or good ones, salary is a set percentage of league revenues. As costs outside of just players have risen to run a team, the owners have taken a financial hit trying to pay the rest of it out of their 43 percent. The owners wail of financial losses on their toys.

The owners want a bigger slice of the pie. The players union offered to come back to 54 percent, but the owners want that number below 50 percent and they want to redefine how BRI is calculated (more net than gross income).

The owners want to overhaul the system, including hard salary caps, shorter contracts and ways to get out of the end of bad deals. The players are playing goalie, trying to keep as much of what is in the current deal  as they have. But for them, they want a percentage of salaries tied to the league’s BRI — with new television deals on the horizon they want a share of that money, not to just let the owners pocket it.

If you want a positive heading into Wednesday’s meeting, it is that this — this is just top executives from both sides. There are not hardline owners in the room for Stern to have to placate, there are no players (outside of union president Derek Fisher) in the room that Hunter has to put on a show for. Both sides know each other, know the issues and are civil with one another. This is a setting where there can be real dialogue.

But with the two sides so very far apart right now, will that matter? We can hope so, but it’s hard to be optimistic.

Kobe Bryant: I wanted to play for Knicks, because of Madison Square Garden

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Kobe Bryant, who spent his entire career with the Lakers, has said he wanted to play for the Wizards and Bulls.

Add the Knicks to the list.

Bryant in a Q&A, via Frank Isola of The Athletic:

What other teams would you have liked to play for besides the Lakers?

There are some teams … I always kind of dreamed about playing in New York and what that would have been like. It’s true. As a fan, the Garden was the historical arena.

So, I always wanted to be a part of that history and play in it. So, New York was a team … it would have been pretty good to play in that city.

For a while, the best thing the Knicks have had going for them is their arena. That gets them only so far.

They need better ownership, better management, better coaching.

Maybe Kevin Durant will help turn the tide. If he chooses New York, it surely won’t be for only Madison Square Garden.

Timberwolves shut down Robert Covington, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague for rest of season

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The Timberwolves are all but officially eliminated from the playoff race.

But Karl-Anthony Towns is still playing for something – a projected $32 million more over the next five years if he makes an All-NBA team.

He’ll continue that pursuit without teammates Robert Covington, Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague.

Timberwolves release:

Covington has missed the last 34 games while recovering from a right knee bone bruise, originally suffered on December 31 at New Orleans. Covington had made improvements in his recovery and had progressed to on-court activities, in preparation to rejoin the team.  However, he recently suffered a setback which will require further treatment before returning to the court and as a result, is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Rose has missed the last four games while experiencing soreness and swelling in his right elbow. An MRI taken Tuesday at Mayo Clinic Square revealed a chip fracture and a loose body in his elbow. The team and Rose are currently exploring further treatment options and he is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Teague has missed the last four games after reaggravating a left foot injury, originally suffered in December. On Tuesday, Teague received an injection designed to treat chronic inflammation. He will wear a boot and is scheduled to be reevaluated in approximately three weeks. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

The language – “expected to miss the remainder of the season” – allows the possibility of the players returning. But the Timberwolves wouldn’t set this expectation unless they were pretty certain the players were finished.

Covington deserved All-Star consideration, and maybe Minnesota would still be in the playoff mix if he remained healthy. He was also heading toward an All-Defensive team before getting hurt. I doubt 35 games, even at 34 minutes per game, will be enough to get him selected now. Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Draymond Green clearly belong ahead of him. Covington has an outside chance for that fourth spot, though.

Rose had a bounce-back year after it appeared he could fall out of the NBA entirely. He looks like a solid backup point guard. He’ll draw plenty of interest in free agency this summer.

Teague has a $19 million player option for next season. He already seemed likely to exercise it, and this only increases the odds. The 30-year-old had a relatively down season.

Teague’s and Rose’s absences will leave the ball in Tyus Jones‘ hands at point guard. Jones has looked good in a small role, and this offers him an opportunity to prove himself before restricted free agency this summer.

Importantly for Towns, Minnesota’s depth at point guard allows him to play with someone credible at the position while he attempts to finish the season strong. There’s a lot of room to produce for the Timberwolves now, though Towns will likely face double-teams even more frequently.

Report: Suns signing Jimmer Fredette to two-year contract

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The Suns didn’t meet with Jimmer Fredette just for fun.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Fredette is a relatively high-profile signing because he scored a lot of points at BYU eight years ago and fills a great-white-hope narrative to some.

He’s also a 30-year-old who hasn’t played in the NBA in three years and faced questions about his athleticism even when younger. Don’t count on much.

Fredette’s season just ended in China, where he was dominating. But his high-usage style doesn’t translate cleanly to the NBA.

Fredette won’t change the course of the Suns’ season. They are and will remain one of the NBA’s worst teams. Though they need a point guard, especially with Tyler Johnson injured, Fredette hasn’t shown the playmaking ability to handle that position regularly.

At best, Fredette entertains late in a lost season and gives himself a chance to earn a role next season. The team option gives Phoenix upside if Fredette pans out at no additional cost if he doesn’t.

At worst, he interferes with the development of younger Suns over their final 10 games. That seems more likely.

Did Oklahoma City fan yell n-word at Pascal Siakam? (video)

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Pascal Siakam was awesome in the Raptor’s win over the Thunder yesterday. The Most Improved Player favorite had 33 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

He also shot free throws as an Oklahoma City fan shouted something:

Did the fan yell the n-word? Did she yell “Nader,” as in Thunder Thunder forward Abdel Nader? Did she yell something else entirely?

I can’t tell. It’s a noisy arena, and she wasn’t speaking directly into the microphone.

Her shouting drew the attention of a couple Toronto players, though.

Fred VanVleet:

Siakam:

The Thunder should investigate this. Talk to arena workers who were in the area. Maybe fans, too. Racist jeers obviously shouldn’t be tolerated.

I’d be surprised if she shouted the n-word without it immediately becoming a major incident, though. As the Donald Sterling saga reminded us, that’s the type of racism is not tolerated by society. Discrimination in housing and employment – things that destroy lives – get ignored. People can get away with coded racist language and terms with racist undertones some are ignorant to. But get publicly exposed saying something clearly racist – especially the n-word – and a firestorm usually erupts.

Some have suggested she couldn’t have been yelling “Nader” because he wasn’t in the game. That doesn’t hold up. Fans often yell at players on the bench.

Again, I don’t know what she said. VanVleet’s and Siakam’s interest should prompt the Thunder to investigate and explain their findings.