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

25 Comments

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.

Laker fan drains halfcourt shot… but security shuts down celebration with team

Via Twitter
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES — It was a great night for Ali Sabbouri.

The 26-year-old was selected to take the half-court shot at the end of the third quarter of the Laker game Monday night, and the Anaheim resident walked up and drained it. He was instantly $30,000 richer.

Then he ran around and celebrated as the crowd goes nuts, he gets a high-5 from the Laker girls — but watch security waive him off when he wants to get high-5s from the Lakers’ players.

That is hysterical. I’d feel sorry for Ali not getting a dap from LeBron James… but $30,000 will more than make up for that.

Lakers coach Luke Walton rips officiating: ‘I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to save my money, but I just can’t anymore’

Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers are 0-3 with LeBron James, and pressure is mounting.

One way to release it: Venting about officiating.

Lakers coach Walton via Kurt Helin:

“Let me start here. … I wasn’t going to say anything, because I was going to save my money. But I just can’t anymore.”

“It’s 70-something points in the paint to 50-something (74 to 50), again they outshoot us from the free throw line, 38 free throws (the Lakers had 26),” Walton ranted after the game. “Watch the play — watch the play where I got a technical, watch what happens to LeBron James’ arm. It’s the same thing that James Harden and Chris Paul shot 30 free throws on us the night before. Then LeBron pulls up on a screen and somebody’s trying to fight over it, same thing they shot free throws on. Same thing.

“We are scoring 70 points a night in the paint. We’re putting pressure on. Josh Hart, watch how plays the game, played 40 minutes tonight, all he does is attack the rim — zero free throws tonight. Zero. I know they’re young, but if we’re going to play a certain way then let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession. They’re just flopping to see if they can get a foul call. And then not reward players who are physically going to the basket and getting hit. That’s not right.”

I’m not certain Walton will get fined. These comments are borderline. But he asked for it, and the league might abide.

The numbers Walton cites are not convincing. Sometimes, one team deserves more free throws than the other. Maybe the Lakers outscored the Spurs by so much in the paint because the Spurs kept ceding baskets inside rather than fouling and the Lakers kept sending San Antonio to the line for free throws, which don’t count as points in the paint. Also keep in mind: Los Angeles outscored the Spurs 41-7 in transition. Many of the Lakers’ paint points came against a defense not positioned to contest shots, with or without contact.

But Walton is fighting bigger battles – taking heat off his team for losing, showing his players he has their back, making referees think twice on foul calls. If Walton achieves those objectives, a fine will be well worth it.

LeBron James appears to call for timeout with Lakers out of them (video)

2 Comments

David Blatt infamously tried to call a timeout while the Cavaliers were out of them. Though he was stopped before receiving a technical foul, that was seen as evidence Blatt didn’t have the basketball intelligence to coach LeBron James.

Somewhere, Blatt is quietly smiling. (Or let’s be real, loudly telling everyone how smart he is.)

LeBron had his biggest moment as a Laker, making a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime in Los Angeles’ eventual loss to the Spurs last night. But LeBron probably shouldn’t have had the opportunity to take the shot.

Once the Lakers secured possession, LeBron appeared to call for a timeout despite the Lakers having none remaining. If referees granted the timeout, it also would have come with a technical foul that gave the Spurs a chance to put the game out of reach in regulation.

Instead, Josh Hart incidentally made a big play by passing to LeBron. LeBron had to drop his T-signaling hands to catch the pass. Then, he brought the ball up court and drilled a 3-pointer.

LeBron said he wasn’t trying to call timeout, but his smiling denial isn’t exactly convincing. Laker coach Luke Walton was more honest.

“When I saw LeBron calling for the timeout I was yelling and I think [Kyle Kuzma] was too, I’ve got to watch the tape,” Walton said after the game. “But once he realized that we didn’t have any there wasn’t an action we ran, LeBron just dribbled up and made a three, which is what makes him special.”

This isn’t the first time LeBron lost track of timeouts at the end of a game, anyway.

Ostensibly on bench, Markieff Morris steps onto court and tugs Seth Curry’s shorts during play (video)

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
1 Comment

Markieff Morris (28 points and nine rebounds) came up big in the Wizards’ overtime win over the Trail Blazers last night.

He didn’t even need to be in the game to help Washington stop Portland on the final possession of regulation.

CJ Fogler:

There should be no place for that. None. Games should be decided by the 10 players on the court. Anyone not in the game should do nothing to encroach on the space of players in the game. Stepping over the sideline is an egregious violation. Touching a player or his uniform is beyond outrageous.

The NBA has occasionally fined coaches (including former Wizards assistant Sidney Lowe) and players, but the league hasn’t gone far enough. This type of conduct, though usually not this flagrant, occurs far too often. It’s past time to crack down. Fines, suspensions, whatever it takes to ensure this stops.

After years of neglecting to deter these antics, the NBA shouldn’t put all the weight of the problem on Morris. Fine him what has been the standard amount, but make clear to everyone this was the last straw before more severe penalties.

Morris’ shorts tug might have decided the game. We’ll never know whether that would have been the difference between the Trail Blazers scoring on the possession or not. Probably not. Damian Lillard missed on a drive, but maybe he would kicked to Seth Curry if Curry weren’t flailing his arms, exasperated by Morris contact. Or maybe Otto Porter would have stuck just a little closer to Curry without “help” defense from Morris, leaving more room for Lillard.

But it’s only a matter of time until the NBA has a more controversial ending involving someone on the bench getting involved in the play.