NBA continues ridiculous “two steps up, one step back” dance

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We’ve given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain’t learnin’
We’re the same sad story that’s a fact
One step up and two steps back
                                                            — Bruce Springsteen

This whole thing is ridiculous.

The NBA labor talks broke off again in a huff on Friday, with both sides refusing to take the final steps needed to close a deal. What that means is that more NBA games will officially be cancelled, games likely at least through the end of November.

The union wanted the owners to give more on the system issues — specifically exceptions allowed for teams paying the luxury tax — and without getting that would not move enough on basketball related income (BRI) to make the owners happy. The players remain at wanting 52.5 percent of the BRI, the owners call for a 50/50 split (although the owners take a lump off the top in expenses.

These tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo sum it all up:

Privately, owners saying union left impression they would accept 50-50 if system issues were resolved, and that’s why NBA returned to talks.

Union won’t accept 50-50 split with many changes of luxury tax/exception system. Players thought NBA would concede a little, get deal. Nope.

They’re not even on the same page. Ridiculous.

Stern said in his post-talk press conference that future offers from the owners would reflect the losses the owners are feeling from no revenue coming in — meaning the owners will offer less, not more in the future. Great.

This is less and less about the money, and more and more about principle on the two sides. And that is bad for fans. As Tim Donahue of Eight Points, Nine Seconds (one of the better lockout bloggers) has said: People will fight for money but they will die for principle. The players feel the deal is unfair, the owners feel the players don’t understand their plight and the owners need a more resounding victory to be profitable. Plus, the owners have all the leverage.

Here’s what I mean about it being less and less about the money, it’s a tweet from Darren Rovell, CNBC’s sports  business reporter.

For the NBA players who follow me: Missing a month of the seasons costs $400M. Going from 52% to 51% on 7 year deal costs $280M!

Donahue tweeted he thinks those numbers are a little off due to projected revenue growth, suggesting a percentage point of BRI is more like $477 million over 10 years. Rather than argue let’s take that number. That means with $400 million in salary out the door we are saying this fight is down to near $77 million, or $7.7 million a year. (That assumes that if the players went to 51 percent the owners would take 49, that may not be the case.)

Are the players willing to miss a month of games over less money than John Salmons made last year? Yes, because they feel they are being wronged. They feel the deal offered is unfair and people will not sign off on a deal they see as unfair even if it hurts them to do so. The owners, on the other hand, have all the leverage and plan on using it. They have won the negotiations, but not by enough to make them happy. While I think the owners deserve the lion’s share of blame in this lockout, everyone has blood on their hands.

So here we are. It’s ridiculous, but here we are.

Don’t be shocked if the two sides start meeting again this weekend or early next week (union president Derek Fisher is reportedly flying back to Los Angeles, not a good sign for those hoping for an immediate resumption of talks).

The pattern throughout these negotiations have been several intense days of talks with incremental gains, things abruptly break off, then in less than a week they are back at it. No reason to think we will not see the same thing again this time.

But this time there is more urgency. Games are being lost and every day games and these games cannot be just put back in the schedule.

Then looming a few weeks away is a deadline to make sure there are games on Christmas Day. That’s an NBA showcase, the first day of national broadcast network games, it’s a day of marque matchups. Miss Christmas and that’s when you really start to lose the average sports fan. Both sides say they want to avoid that, to get a deal done.

Yet here we are. With no new talks scheduled and a stalemate. Ridiculous.

Wes Unseld Jr., Kenny Atkinson reportedly top list for next Chicago coach

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Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, the two guys at the top of Chicago Bulls basketball operations, fired a coach in Jim Boylen that the team owner liked. Which means they have to nail the next hire.

Chicago in on to the second round of interviews and four names stand out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bulls are narrowing to finalists for their head coaching job and expect to conduct final interviews soon, sources said. Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Philadelphia assistant Ime Udoka, Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham and former Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson are among the coaches who have had strong interviews so far.

Atkinson has a more proven resume after what he did in Brooklyn, but the other three are top assistants who have earned their shot in the big chair. Unseld Jr. is a hot name right now because his team is still in the bubble and playing well — he’s Mike Malone’s lead assistant on the Denver Nuggets — but every name on this list is qualified.

Whoever lands the job will head a team with plenty of potential but also plenty of questions. The Bulls have quality young talent on the roster — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter — but do they are fit together? How good Chicago is next season may depend more on the growth of White and the health of Markkanen than it does on who gets selected as coach.

Expect Karnisovas to spend a year putting his stamp on this roster and moving players around. First, however, he’s got to find his coach.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin form NASCAR racing team with Bubba Wallace driving

Michael Jordan NASCAR
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Michael Jordan is getting into the NASCAR game.

The North Carolina native has teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR Cup Series race team — and they’ve signed Bubba Wallace to drive.

Wallace is the only Black man driving full-time in NASCAR’s top series (the previous three seasons he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports). Wallace has been at the forefront of bringing social changes to NASCARincluding the banning of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events and tracks.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Michael Jordan becomes the first Black owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR top series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in the 1960s and early 1970s (he owned the team and drove the car). Bubba Wallace is the first Black full-time driver in the top NASCAR series since Scott.

Hamlin will be a minority partner in the new team and continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace in a statement. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The car manufacturer, number, sponsors and more will be announced at a later date.

Jordan is the primary owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.

Report: Raptors coach Nick Nurse earning $8M salary on extension

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich reportedly had an $11 million salary in 2015 then signed a contract extension in 2019 that keeps him the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Doc Rivers was earning $10 million annually with the Clippers before his latest extension. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also signed extensions in recent years.

What about Nick Nurse, who just signed an extension with the Raptors?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors coach Nick Nurse signed a new multiyear contract extension on Tuesday — a deal that pays him around $8 million per year, sources say.

That’s a lot for a coach, especially in these times.

But Nurse has proven his value. He might even be the NBA’s best coach right now. He checks so many key boxes.

He has shown the ability to prepare his team for the playoffs then adapt through a long playoff run. His players have developed under his watch. He has dealt with roster upheaval and kept everything humming.

After just two seasons as head coach, Nurse still must prove himself in more situations, especially as opposing teams become more familiar with his strategies. But Toronto should want to keep him.

Credit Raptors ownership for paying to make it happen.

Now onto Raptors president Masai Ujiri