Can we just be honest and say this is about LeBron?

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When “The Decision” happened, we said it would change the course of NBA history. We didn’t exactly see this coming.

Since the lockout began, there have been several storylines beneath the primary conflict. The racial component, the in-fighting between agents and union officials, the superstars’ interjecting themselves, it’s been a party of subplots. But this one has been just as talked about, even if it’s not written about as much. Dan LeBatard took it on full force Sunday.

If you think the hawkish Gilbert wouldn’t try to throw away an entire season out of pure spite for James, you didn’t read his crazy-crayon letter in a rare moment of raw, rabid public honesty from an owner — a temper tantrum unlike any in the history of an American sports ownership that includes George Steinbrenner. And you didn’t notice how small he could behave by having his Fathead company price the James poster at $17.41 — the year of Benedict Arnold’s birth. And you don’t know how petty rich people can be when playing this kind of negotiating game of ego and power, emotion trampling logic just like when a divorcing wealthy couple spends $100,000 in attorney fees arguing over a thousand dollars in china.

Think about all the ego and money in the room when those owners meet. Think about how accustomed these men with yachts are to getting their way in every walk of life. That kind of wealth isn’t usually accrued by sharing and compromise; these men tend to be rich because cutthroat is what wins in business. Given that there are so many different interests in that room, and given that these owners aren’t really in it for the money, why would Gilbert want to help Arison with urgency, exactly? Even if he is not motivated by spite, what exactly is Gilbert’s impetus to settle quickly? You think he’s in a big hurry to go 19-63 again? Better for him to lose the season, break the union, fix the system and win that way than to fight the Timberwolves for worst record again. Trying to beat the players in a negotiation is more fun than that. Letting Dwyane Wade age another year next to James without playing would be a happy bonus for Gilbert, even if it isn’t his outright goal.

via NBA lockout pits selfish owners against each other – Dan Le Batard – MiamiHerald.com.

You may be the sort to think that Gilbert is a businessman, concerned with his business, the one of making money. That he wouldn’t allow personal feelings to drive a decision-making process of this magnitude. To that I would offer you to revisit Gilbert’s personal and public jabs at James. All Gilbert had to do was release a statement about his disappointment with James and then move on, and not keep needling, and he would be considered a victim. As it stands, Gilbert has come off as someone playing a personal vendetta out, and it appears to have taken to the lockout as well.

In the bigger, non-Comic-Sans sense, though, this lockout really is about the summer of 2010. You had teams from Dan Gilbert and Robert Sarver’s teams head to East Coast teams with huge payrolls. The Heat aren’t a huge market. But Arison, as LeBatard notes, is obscenely rich, as opposed to Gilbert, who’s just ridiculously rich. Then a year and a half later, we’re in danger of losing a season because those same owners are diametrically opposed to anything short of a system that puts them into a closer bracket financially with those teams, and, oh, yeah, would cost Arison a year of his super-team.

A nasty consequence of this comes with the implication that the owners are revolting against player power. That’s what the past year has been about. James, Bosh, and Wade forming their own future. Carmelo Anthony forcing a trade, but not just anywhere, to the exact team he wanted. The hints that Chris Paul would be joining Melo and Amar’e. It all points to a redesign of the power structure in the NBA, which has always been star-lead but team-controlled, to a system where manifest destiny is the norm. The lockout seeks to end all that.

To be sure, the players will get benefits from staying put. But the lowered cap, be it through a hard cap or advanced luxury tax structures, seeks to hinder the ability of a player’s suitors from nabbing him in free agency. The elimination or redefinition of the mid-level exception is geared to keep supporting players’ salaries low and from being an albatross. In short, the team regains control of the players. That’s part of the objective. It’s not the biggest objective, that’s simply to take back lots and lots of money to stop the bleeding of losses in one move. That’s reasonable.

But the moderates and extremists among the owners are made up of owners who can afford to spend to win, who treat the team as an expensive toy, and owners who have lost their stars and are vindictive about it, or in the case of Peter Holt, know that next time they may not be so lucky as to have a reasonable, loyal superstar to re-sign.

Players play on contracts. They’re supposed to be movable commodities. But in the owners’ mind, those commodities are to be moved by the owners, not by the whims and desires of the product. At least not to the level the power play over the past year and a half has shown. Certain owners are committed to disallowing the players from determining their future. And some, it certainly seems, are committed to punishing those players who turned their backs on the teams that drafted them.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.

Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic: Mavericks tap brakes on inevitable comparisons

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic didn’t get compared to Larry Bird when he was introduced a day after the Dallas Mavericks traded up to get the third overall pick in the NBA draft.

For president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, that’s progress based on his last experience of getting a tender-aged European in hopes of lifting the Mavericks out of the doldrums.

Twenty years later, Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in league history. Back then, the big German wasn’t remotely comparable to Larry Legend – and his rough first two years proved it.

So ask Nelson about a player the Mavericks clearly coveted heading into the draft in Doncic, and he’ll choose his words carefully regarding the 19-year-old from Slovenia. Doncic won’t turn 20 until after the All-Star break of his rookie season, which is expected to be Nowitzki’s record 21st with one franchise.

“Dirk and I had a long talk coming in,” Nelson said about the player Dallas drafted days after his 20th birthday in 1998.

“We’re obviously very excited to have (Doncic) but he’s got a very tough road ahead of him. Dirk wasn’t done any favors in his first two years. We are going to steer away from any of those comparisons. Luka is his own guy. He’s got his own challenges.”

Coach Rick Carlisle dropped a few international names in trying to describe the versatility Dallas thinks is offered by the 6-foot-7 Doncic, who won Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP honors while helping Real Madrid win the title just days before the draft.

After offering comparisons to the late Drazen Petrovic, three-time champion Toni Kukoc and longtime San Antonio star Manu Ginobili, Carlisle stopped.

“I really feel it’s important that we shouldn’t try to compare this guy to anybody,” Carlisle said Friday during an introductory news conference that included Doncic and second-round pick Jalen Brunson, who won two NCAA titles in three years at Villanova. “Let him be himself. Let his game takes its own form.”

Doncic figures to shape the future of the Mavericks in some form with Dallas coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the second of Nowitzki’s two difficult years at the start of his career.

Those 1990s-era Mavericks had 10 straight losing seasons. Combine the drafting of Doncic with last year’s ninth overall pick in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a still-young leading scorer in Harrison Barnes, and Carlisle expects the losing to stop soon, if not this coming season.

“Last night was symbolic to me that it was kind of a defining moment in this rebuild,” said Carlisle, who had just one losing season as a coach before the current Dallas slide. “We’re going propel forward with the idea that we’ve got to start winning games.”

Just as he did last year with Smith, Carlisle is declaring Doncic a starter, which means the opening night lineup will have a teenager for the second straight year. Youth partly explains a two-year record of 57-107, including the 24-58 mark last season that landed Dallas the fifth pick before the draft-night trade with Atlanta on Thursday.

Another explanation was an unusually large number of undrafted players, including a young German in Maxi Kleber who grew up watching his countryman become the 2007 MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP.

The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since taking their only title in 2011, and have missed the postseason three of the past six seasons coming off a 12-year playoff streak. Doncic might only get one chance to get Dallas back on track with Nowitzki, the 13-time All-Star who has hinted that 40 is a nice round number as a retirement age.

If this is it for Nowitzki, Nelson sees a trio in Barnes, Smith and Doncic that reminds him of Michael Finley mentoring Nowitzki and point guard Steve Nash and helping the Mavericks end a 10-year playoff drought in 2001.

“Michael Finley was our Harrison Barnes back in the day,” Nelson said. “We feel like we’ve got that here in a different form. There’s just some really cool elements to this that take me back and remind me about what it was like 20 years ago when we were watching these young guys.”

Just don’t remind Nelson about the Nowitzki-Bird comparisons.

 

Clippers’ Milos Teodosic opts into $6.3 million for next season

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It was a lot of fun to watch Milos Teodosic play last season…

When he was healthy. He only played in 45 games for the Clippers last season.

Teodosic will be back in the NBA next season, as he has told the Clippers he will opt into a $6.3 million next season, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Clippers can buy him out by July 15 for $2.1 million, and that likely will happen. The Clippers are deep at the point guard spot (Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jawun Evans) and with a lottery rookie in the fold they will want to get him run.

Expect the Clippers to try to trade him in the next three weeks. He would have value to a team looking for a backup point guard — when he did play he averaged 9.5 points per game, shot 37.9 percent from three. The fans will love his passing and play. The coach will like him too… when healthy.

Report: Suns to renounce rights to Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

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The Suns want to free up some cap space heading into July. They are not going big game hunting, but with $10 million to $15 million they could bring in some solid veterans to provide leadership to their young core — and win a few games along the way.

How they get there starts with not bringing back Alex Len or Elfrid Payton, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

Expect them to renounce their rights to center Alex Len and point guard Elfrid Payton, making them both free agents. Ayton’s addition has made Len expendable, and while Phoenix still needs point-guard help, Payton’s inconsistent play last season and, more importantly, his $10 million cap hold figure, likely means he’s played his last game in a Suns uniform.

This was expected. In Len’s case, he was playing on a qualifying offer and didn’t anticipate being back with the team (especially after they drafted Deandre Ayton).

The Suns acquired Payton at the trade deadline for a second-round pick (which was just by Orlando to land Jarred Vanderbilt) and it was a good flier. The Suns need a point guard to go next to Devin Booker, Payton is a former lottery pick that had shown flashes in the past, so Phoenix rolled the dice on him. It didn’t work out, and the Suns can just move on.

Both Len and Payton probably find new homes in the NBA next season. Len is 7’1″ and can use that size to protect the paint, plus he can score around the rim. Teams can use that off the bench. Payton has shown enough in flashes, and he can get buckets, that some team will grab him, just probably as a reserve.