Report: Group of 50 NBA players threaten union decertification

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In case you thought sanity might encroach on the NBA labor talks, we bring you this report:

A group of hardline NBA players, about 50, participated in a conference call this week behind the back of union leadership, reports both the New York Times and Yahoo. The upshot of the mid-week call is that if the union gives any more on either system issues or percentage of basketball related income, the group will start a drive to decertify the union.

Know that this is as much a negotiating tactic as a real threat, and effort to give the union some leverage. (“You need to get a deal with us now before this renegade group tries to hijack the talks.”) That said, the threat could anger owners and handcuff union leadership — Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher — in those talks.

Here are the highlights from Howard Beck at the Times:

Two conference calls were held this week between the players and an antitrust lawyer — once on Tuesday and again on Thursday. It is not clear whether union leaders have been directly informed of the effort.

“And the players are seriously considering decertification if a deal is not reached where the players’ proposals are in the final elements of the deal,” said the person connected to the players.

Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo adds this:

Said one player on the calls: “If nothing else, this takes us off our heels.”

Several prominent NBA agents were proponents of the calls, sources said.

A number of prominent agents have favored decertification from the beginning.

The “players’ proposals” means the players get 52 percent of basketball related income (BRI, the league’s revenue) and the system that allows teams paying the luxury tax to still use sign-and-trades and the mid-level exceptions (among other things). The owners have offered the players 50 percent of BRI and want to keep teams over the tax from having many exceptions to add higher-priced players.

Decertification means dissolution of the union, allowing individual players to sue the league on anti-trust grounds. Attorneys for the owners and players were in court this week on the owners efforts to block the players from decertifying. The NFL players union decertified immediately upon the start of the lockout but so far the NBA leadership has not chosen to go that direction.

To decertify it would take 30 percent of the more than 400 players to sign a petition to call for a vote. If that vote was called, a simple majority (50 percent plus one player) backing it would be enough to force decertification. Union leadership would be pushed aside in this process. That said, it is not clear there are the votes to pull this off.

Also know this — if the union decertifies you can all but kiss the season goodbye. The pro decertification forces will deny this, but doing so would put the issue into the courts and the owners have called this a “nuclear option” that would cause them to go to their bunker and really dig in. It would make a bad situation worse. There would be no season. So let’s hope this is more threat than reality.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.

Kristaps Porzingis reportedly gave Knicks wish list of trade destinations: Nets, Clippers, Heat, Raptors

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.

But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.

Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.

The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.

But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.

Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.

Kyrie Irving on video with Kevin Durant: ‘Me and one of my best friends talking’

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The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).

Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:

Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):

It’s just crazy. This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. It doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league even more by doing bulls— like that, of just putting fictitious things on what we’re talking about. It’s crazy.

It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.

That wasn’t a denial.

Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.

Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:

I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.

But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.

So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.