NBA owners play “ultimate game” poorly, so players won’t cave

8 Comments

I have been asked this question a number of times in the last 48 hours — why don’t the players just take the owners 50/50 offer and get back on the court?

Because the players see the offer as patently unfair. You can argue all you want that if they took the owners last formal offer — where the players would get 47 percent of the league’s basketball related income, down from 57 percent in the last deal — that they still would make more than 99 percent of Americans. They still would be paid handsomely, more than you and me, to play a game. Doesn’t matter, the players see the offer as unfair.

That’s where the owners have bungled the negotiations, said University of Notre Dame Finance Professor Richard Sheehan. Yes, the players are the ones losing in the short term, no doubt. But Sheehan, who wrote  “Keeping Score: The Economics of Big-Time Sports” said that doesn’t matter if they believe the offer is unfair. It’s a tested economic principle rooted in the “ultimate game.”

“Economic evidence suggests that the more intransigent the players believe the owners’ position is, the less likely they are to settle — even when it’s in their best interests,” Sheehan told ProBasketballTalk.

“Why?  The best evidence comes from what economists call ‘the ultimatum game.’  In that game two players must interact to decide how to split some amount of money, say $100. The first player chooses the split while the second player makes the decision to accept or reject the offer. No counteroffers are allowed. If the second person rejects the offer, neither player receives anything.  If the second person accepts, they split the money as the first person had offered.

“From an economically rational perspective, the first person should offer something very small, for example $1 from the $100.  The second person would be better off with $1 than with nothing — which is what the second person would receive if he/she rejects the offer.  But when the game has been played, offers like the $99/$1 split are typically rejected. That is, unfair offers are rejected even when it is advantageous for the offer to be accepted.

“At this point, frankly, I don’t think it really matters what the owners think or want,” Sheehan continues. “The players may yet give in to their demands, but the longer the players hold out and the harder the line the owners draw, the more the players are going to view the owners’ position as being fundamentally unfair and may refuse any package other than what the players have proposed.”

It comes back to how big a win the owners want — and they want a thumping, a 50-point win. They want a larger percentage of the overall pie and they want dramatic system changes. They want it all.

And they have provided the players no way to call the negotiations a win for them. These are very competitive players who need to feel they got something out of this, so far David Stern and the owners have not provided that out.

Until they do, until the players see the deal as fair, we will not see basketball. It’s that simple.

Joseph Tsai to buy rest of Nets, Barclays Arena for $3.4 billion

Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK — Joe Tsai has agreed to buy the remaining 51 percent of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center from Mikhail Prokhorov in deals that two people with knowledge of the details say are worth about $3.4 billion.

Terms were not disclosed Friday, but the people told The Associated Press that Tsai is paying about $2.35 billion for the Nets – a record for a U.S. pro sports franchise – and nearly $1 billion in a separate transaction for the arena. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the transactions have not yet been completed.

Tsai is the co-founder and executive vice president of the Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant. He already had purchased a 49 percent stake in the team from Prokhorov in 2018, with the option to become controlling owner in four years.

Instead, he pushed up that timeline for full ownership of a team on the rise after signing superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in July.

Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, became the NBA’s first non-North American owner in 2010 and oversaw the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn two years later. He spent big in the first couple years after the move in a quest to chase a championship, but the team soon became one of the worst in the NBA before rallying to return to the playoffs last season.

“It has been an honor and a joy to open Barclays Center, bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and watch them grow strong roots in the community while cultivating global appeal,” Prokhorov said in a statement. “The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success, while continuing to deliver the guest experience at Barclays Center that our fans, employees, and colleagues in the industry enjoy.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of September and is subject to approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

That would put Tsai, a native of Taiwan, in full control of the team by the time the Nets head to China to play two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers in October. That comes at the start of a season of renewed excitement for the Nets, who just three seasons ago won an NBA-worst 20 games but are set to make a big move up the standings after landing two of the best players on the market when free agency opened.

“I’ve had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago. He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organization with all his resources, and he refused to tank,” Tsai said. “I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful.”

Brett Yormark, the CEO of BSE Global, which manages the team and the arena, will oversee the transition before leaving for a new role.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder tells Donovan Mitchell to ‘be a sponge’ around Gregg Popovich

Getty Images
3 Comments

While other players continue to pull out of the USA Basketball roster — De'Aaron Fox was the latest, and P.J. Tucker before him — Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has been outspoken in his commitment to the team.

“Me, I’m 22, some guys are older and got to rest their bodies and I understand that…” Mitchell said Friday night after Team USA’s exhibition game win over Spain. “For me, I’ve never been part of USA Basketball and I’m honored to be here, I’m honored to have this privilege to go out and compete.”

A lot of players have left — or just not put their names in the hat in the first place — saying they wanted to focus on preparing for the regular season, especially players in the Western Conference, which is deep with outstanding teams. The Utah Jazz, now with Mike Conley at the point, are one of those teams with high expectations.

Mitchell, however, has the full backing of his coach Quin Snyder to stay with Team USA and learn from Gregg Popovich, as Snyder told Marc Stein of the New York Times.

“Both Donovan and I have been excited for this opportunity, not just the chance to compete for his country but to play for Pop. I think he has an appreciation for the fact that he’s playing for the greatest coach that’s ever coached…

“Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Popovich has had an impact on the young players on the roster. For example, there’s more maturity to Kyle Kuzma‘s game, and Popovich recognized him on the court Friday night when Kuzma made a couple of smart plays against Spain.

Just having different coaching voices — not just Popovich but his assistants Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, and Villanova’s Jay Wright — can help a young player. The message may be consistent, but said in a different way, one that better gets through to the player. Styles matter.

Mitchell led Team USA in scoring against Spain with 13, but Snyder and Jazz fans are hoping for more. Not just gold at the World Cup in China starting Sept. 1, but that Mitchell comes back energized and with a broadened game after having been a sponge next to Popovich.

Marcus Smart reportedly cleared to play for Team USA

Getty Images
1 Comment

Through two weeks of training camp, first in Las Vegas then in Los Angeles, through one intrasquad scrimmage and one exhibition game, Marcus Smart has sat in street clothes.

The Celtics guard has a calf injury that has sidelined him. On Thursday in Los Angeles he took part in the shooting parts of practice during training camp, but not the full-contact scrimmages against the select team. All he could really do was this.

Friday night he never got out of his warmups and did not play against Spain, but he did say on the broadcast he would be back.

Turns out, he was cleared to be back the next day according to Mark Stein of the New York Times.

This takes away a little of the sting of De'Aaron Fox deciding to withdraw from the team just before it left on Saturday for Australia.

It also means four Celtics are on the USA roster: Smart, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. USA assistant coach Steve Kerr jokingly said to me last week he asked Brad Stevens for a thank you gift for running Celtics mini-camp.

Smart is one of the 13 players headed down under for a series of tune-up games before the World Cup (against Australia and Canada). If he’s fully healthy enough to go, Smart is a lock to make the roster because of his physical perimeter defense and ability to shoot the three (36 percent last season in the NBA, and the international line is a little closer in). He likely would come off the bench at the two behind Donovan Mitchell.

Bill Walton broadcast White Sox vs. Angels game and was nothing short of brilliant

2 Comments

Bill Walton is brilliant.

The Hall of Fame hippie and big man was in the broadcast booth Friday night — not for basketball, but for the White Sox vs. Angels MLB game. Walton loves baseball even if his understanding of the sport is… unconventional.

I want Bill Walton to narrate my life.

The world missed him while he battled serious back issues, it’s so good to have him out and around and being himself again.