Report: Garnett, Kobe, Pierce shut down 50/50 talks before deadline on their own

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you know, in a way, I’m kind of glad for stuff like this. I mean, the lockout had become downright depressing. Both sides were “miles apart” but “ready to make a deal.” We’ve lost games, good games, which may or may not be rescheduled. Both sides seem more interested in rhetoric than progress, and it’s become about ego as much as it is about money, both of which are pretty disgusting in the times we live in.

But this? This is pretty funny. Not “JaVale McGee said the players were folding to a half-dozen reporters with tape recorders in their hands right in front of his face and then denied it on Twitter before Derek Fisher smacked him down” funny, but it’s pretty funny. And once again it shows that the players, despite being in most people’s minds on the side of right in the dispute, are woefully out of their league.

The first news came out of a Bill Simmons column. Those are typically filled with little nuggets of insider information, particularly about the NBA, nestled in with the reality television and mid-90’s prison break drama movie references, but it’s hard to catch them, so they’re not treated as news, since Simmons isn’t a news reporter or breaker. But it was enough to make people stop and go, “Wait, what?”

From Grantland:

Should someone who’s earned over $300 million (including endorsements) and has deferred paychecks coming really be telling guys who have made 1/100th as much as him to fight the fight and stand strong and not care about getting paid? And what are Garnett’s credentials, exactly? During one of the single biggest meetings (last week, on Tuesday), Hunter had Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Garnett (combined years spent in college: three) negotiate directly with Stern in some sort of misguided “Look how resolved we are, you’re not gonna intimidate us!” ploy that backfired so badly that one of their teams’ owners was summoned into the meeting specifically to calm his player down and undo some of the damage. (I’ll let you guess the player. It’s not hard.) And this helped the situation … how? And we thought this was going to work … why?

via Bill Simmons Avoids a Few Subjects Before Making His Week 6 NFL Picks – Grantland.

Because we’re prideful, Bill. And often times, very dumb with our decision making.

That was going to slip through the cracks, though. A vague reference without naming names in Simmons’ column wasn’t going to penetrate. But this will. From TrueHoop:

As Stern has recounted a dozen times since, not long after what was supposed to have been the hallway conversation that saved the season, something odd and wholly unexpected happened. There was a knock on the door where Stern was selling his owners on the idea. The players wanted to talk.

When they convened, instead of the union’s head, Hunter, or their negotiating committee of Maurice Evans, Matt Bonner, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas and Chris Paul, representing the players were Fisher, Kessler, and three superstars who had been to very few of the meetings at all: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.

A bad sign: Pierce was still wearing his backpack.

The players had two pieces of news that shocked the league: 50/50 was not good enough. And there was nothing further to discuss.

via TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

Abbott goes on to note that those players had not been to every meeting the players were invited to, much less the sessions the two sides had held privately. And that the owners were bewildered by what in the name of Stern just happened.

In essence, you have three veteran players intervening on behalf of the union, shutting down talks when a potential deal was within reach.

Now, some things to remember:

  • 50/50 is not a real compromise. It’s a win for the owners. Saying they started at 46 and compromised at 50 is like if I were to go to a BMW salesman and offer $500 for a brand new car, him giving the list price, and then me claiming that $5,000 was a compromise. It’s not. It’s a win. But the union recognized that this deal would keep most if not all of the essential things they wanted and would let them live to fight another day.
  • Talks didn’t end at this point. There was more to it. A deal could have been salvaged. Who knows, if the owners had said, “Fine, how about 51 percent?” the players might have shaken their hands and walked out the door. But we’ll never know, because it was partially on the owners to respond, and they responded by saying “Well, I guess we’re done here. Guess we’ll go extort the money we want from you via economic siege.”
  • But you know what’s hard for an owner to do? Take you seriously as a bargaining entity when the same four people you’ve been meeting with from two years vanish into a hotel while three players without a law degree between them come in to tell you what’s what. And one of them is Kevin Garnett, who has the emotional temperance of a wolverine jacked up on Red Bull and mescaline. None of the players should have gone in without Hunter or Fisher. None of them would have helped, they would have only hurt. There’s leadership, and there’s a misunderstanding of the negotiation process. And the players plunged into a big pool of the latter.  But if you’re going to go that route, you want the most stable, well-reasoned, cold-blooded guys you can find. Pierce? Sure. Bryant? Absolutely. And Garnett is known for being very personable off the court. But from these reports, it sure seems like he went dog-off-the-chain like it was Game 7 of the Finals. His intentions were noble. His approach was regrettable.
This, combined with the JaVale McGee saga from Friday, paints the picture that the players are out of their depth. Some of the players know what’s going on. Their union is doing the best it can to keep it together. They’re blasting Stern in public while trying to reach a deal to get the players paychecks. Hunter reportedly gave his blessing to the confrontation as a tactic to try and blow the owners back off their hard line, something he’s struggled with. But as it stand, it does not come off as an impressive show of strength. It seems like a Jr. High protest.
The owners waged this lockout, have drug their heels to get the deal they want, have exerted every influence they have to “crush the union” as reports suggested they wanted months ago. But the players? They’re running headlong into the owners’ swing.

 

Report: Suns’ Kelly Oubre out for rest of season

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Kelly Oubre has a lot of tantalizing raw talent. He’s young, energetic and feisty.

But just as it appeared as his game was rounding into form, Oubre – who averaged 20 points and two steals in 12 games since moving into the starting lineup – will get shut down.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Phoenix Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. will undergo a minor procedure on his left thumb and miss the rest of the season, league sources told ESPN.

Oubre is expected to make a full recovery in four to six weeks, sources said.

This could be a blessing in disguise for Oubre, who’ll be a restricted free agent this summer. He ends his season on a high note on the court. There’s no opportunity for regression to the mean. This also isn’t an injury that will last long into the offseason.

The 23-year-old Oubre is a versatile defender. When his 3-pointer is falling, he looks really good. In a league that can’t get enough productive wings, he should draw a solid contract.

Nick Collison: Thunder should retire Kevin Durant’s number

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Kevin Durant made himself public enemy No. 1 in Oklahoma City by leaving the Thunder for the Warriors three years ago.

Nick Collison, on the other hand, remains beloved in Oklahoma City. Like Durant, he moved with the franchise from Seattle. But Collison stayed until retiring last year.

With the Thunder retiring his number yesterday, Collison vouched for his former teammate.

Collison, in a Q&A with Royce Young of ESPN:

Kevin Durant gave you the nickname “Mr. Thunder.” Do you think the Thunder should eventually retire No. 35?

It’s their decision to make, but I would certainly think so. He’s meant a ton to Thunder basketball and spent a huge majority of his career here. A lot of these honors are just kind of what the team decides to do, and I think players are appreciative of them. I don’t get too worked up about it. I’ll let other people debate that, but to me, he’s a big part of what we did here.

The Thunder will probably retire Durant’s number. Time heals most wounds, likely including this one.

Durant spent eight seasons in Oklahoma City. He won MVP and made five All-NBA first teams and an All-NBA second team there. He helped the Thunder win 10 playoff series.

No matter when each player retires, Oklahoma City will almost certainly retire Russell Westbrook‘s number first. He’s the one who stayed.

But some time after that, I’d bet on Durant getting his number retired.

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.