Choice before players: Take Stern’s offer or decertify

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David Stern threw down the gauntlet — here is our deal. It’s a 51-49 band on basketball-related income and other things the owners can live with. Come Wednesday, this offer will vanish and the next offer will be much worse. The owners are done negotiating.

Stern said it wasn’t an ultimatum, but he is wrong. That’s exactly what it is. He knows the players have only one leverage card to play in these talks. Which leaves the NBA players’ union with two realistic options:

One: Take the deal.

Two: Decertify.

Either give in to what the owners want, otherwise risk blowing up the entire season and go after them hard in the courts with decertification. I’m not the only one seeing it this way, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo does as well.

And union president Derek Fisher suggested the players are not taking Stern’s deal.

“Right now, we’ve been given the ultimatum, and right now that is not acceptable to us,” Fisher said.

Stern’s proposal — which were suggestions from the federal mediator, according to Stern — called for a 49-51 percent band of sharing on basketball-related income (which is really a 50/50 deal that can slide a little either way), along with a mini mid-level of about $2 million for teams paying the luxury tax, no sign-and-trade for taxpayers, a $1 repeater tax (teams that pay the tax multiple years) and more.

Fisher said that never really came from an official offer of the mediator. He said he never heard that offer in the room. He said the players made an offer they thought was fair.

“We’ve made moves that are extremely significant … we made an offer that was a very fair at about 51 percent …” Fisher said. “We’ve been consistent, if we move on ecomomics we need a fair system our players can live in.”

All of this is moot.

If the players are serious about fighting hardball with hardball, if they are serious about leverage, they have to at least seriously threaten decertification. It is the one thing that scared the owners enough that they filed a pre-emptive lawsuit trying to block decertification.

Some agents are polling players on that right now, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Some players are on board with decertification (dissolving the union) right now:

source:

It would take a petition with 30 percent of the NBA’s players, about 130 guys, to start the process of decertification. Then there would be a 45-day period before the petition would be voted on (if the National Labor Relations Board doesn’t delay that vote). In that time, the threat of decertification might provide leverage that would get the union a better deal. Maybe. If you think Stern will back down. But it doesn’t feel like it because the hardline owners will not let him. If no deal, the players would need the vote of 230 players to blow up the union completely. Then the players could sue the owners on anti-trust grounds

If you put it to a vote of the entire players’ union right now, they likely would take Stern’s deal. He is counting on that, he is counting on the pressure working. Union leadership feels they have given everything they can, coming down from 57 percent of BRI to 51 percent in their latest offer. But they feel the owners are not meeting them halfway on system issues (such as the luxury tax and exceptions to it). They feel the owners are being unfair. Which is true, but moot.

Right now, union leadership is not taking Stern’s deal. And if not, decertification of the union looks more like a viable option for the players. The threat of it could force the owners to the table. Or, it could destroy the entire season. It’s a risk.

But it’s one the players have to take unless they want to give in.

Rumor: Pelicans interested in trading for Wizards’ Otto Porter

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The Wizards (5-11) are open for business.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the big names in trade talks, but how about Otto Porter?

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

There are whispers that New Orleans is interested in Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr.

The Pelicans badly need an upgrade at small forward, and Porter – who has at least somewhat fallen out of favor in Washington – fits the bill. He’s an ideal role player – an excellent 3-point shooter and solid defensively when not overmatched defensively. He could become more assertive, but part of his value lies in his ability to blend. On a team with superstar Anthony Davis, complementary skills are important.

The catch: Porter is earning $26,011,913 this season then due $55,739,815 the next two years.

He’s overpaid, but he can still play. New Orleans, trying to impress Davis before offering him a super-max extension next summer, might view Porter as an acceptable risk. Especially if the Pelicans can unload overpaid Solomon Hill in a trade.

Washington could accept Hill and another player or two and even escape the luxury tax this season. The Wizards would surely want positive-value players and/or picks, too.

There seems to be a middle ground where a Porter trade appeals to both teams. The big question: Can Washington and New Orleans find it?

Report: Grizzlies in ‘extensive discussions’ with Joakim Noah

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Marc Gasol has been awesome this season. The 33-year-old is holding off questions about his decline that reached fever pitch last season. He’s deferring just a little more offensively to become much more efficient and save energy to play superb defense.

The Grizzlies have played like a 61-win team with him on the court this season.

But they’ve also played like a 17-win team when he sits.

A potential solution to Memphis backup-center problem? Joakim Noah.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ivan Rabb haven’t cut it at center behind Gasol. (Jackson has been better at power forward.) JaMychal Green could work, but he’s just getting healthy, and he’s also more of a power forward.

So, Noah could be another option. He definitely has the size for the position. Performing better than the Grizzlies’ other backup centers is not a high bar.

But I still doubt Noah helps Memphis. The 33-year-old looked so wash up with the Knicks, not even Tom Thibodeau would sign the former Bull.

Pelicans: Elfrid Payton out six weeks

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The Pelicans are 5-1 when Elfrid Payton plays and 4-6 when he doesn’t.

New Orleans will have to find a winning formula without its starting point guard.

Pelicans release:

New Orleans Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton, who suffered a fractured left fifth finger against the New York Knicks on November 16, will undergo surgery tomorrow to repair the fracture. Payton is expected to miss approximately six weeks.

It’s not that Payton is great, though he has been solid this season. It’s that the Pelicans are ill-equipped to deal with this injury.

Jrue Holiday can shift to point guard, but that weakens New Orleans even further on the wing. Without Payton, the Pelicans are also forced to give more playing time to substandard players at point guard: Ian Clark, Tim Frazier and Frank Jackson.

At least New Orleans can pivot its offense to run the ball through Anthony Davis and Julius Randle. Those skilled bigs can distribute.

The Pelicans are in the middle of a tight playoff race. They have little margin for error, and this injury cuts deeply into it.

Report: Cavaliers GM Koby Altman told LeBron James they wouldn’t trade Kyrie Irving

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LeBron James told the Cavaliers not to trade Kyrie Irving last year. LeBron didn’t do anything to win over the point guard, who asked out. But LeBron still told Cleveland not to honor the request.

LeBron’s last message on the top went to Cavs general manager Koby Altman shortly before they dealt Irving to the Celtics.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

James was adamant on the call — do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics. By the end of the call, according to four separate accounts of people present for the conversation, Altman told James the trade would not occur.

James suggested he didn’t feel he was lied to by Altman, so much as Altman was overruled by owner Dan Gilbert.

“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby (was just named GM), but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as (former GM David Griffin) had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much,” James said.

Cavs front-office officials declined to be quoted for this story but disputed that Altman gave James any indication the trade would not occur. They also said Altman asked James whether he would commit to the Cavs long-term if Irving were not traded, and James said no.

If he didn’t have the authority to keep Irving, Altman shouldn’t have said he would.

Maybe Altman didn’t know he lacked that authority. He was new in the job, after all. So, maybe his error was easily forgivable. But it sounds like an error, nonetheless.

The Cavaliers also didn’t necessarily err by trading Irving. The package they got proved problematic, but the concept of trading the disgruntled star had more merit to the team than LeBron. LeBron lasted only one more season in Cleveland, and it seems likely – though not certain – he would have left even if the Cavs listened to him on Irving. That meant, the Cavaliers could have been left without LeBron and trying to trade Irving in the final year of his contract, when his trade value would have been lower. LeBron might have just wanted to use Irving for one more playoff run then leave Cleveland holding the bag.

The communication issues are a bigger issue. It’s unclear how to divvy blame between Gilbert, Altman and LeBron, but that call ended with those three on different pages. And it doesn’t seem LeBron’s exit has fixed the problem in Cleveland. Since, the Cavs:

Again, it’s unclear whether Gilbert, Altman or others are the problem. But that’s a lot of disarray under Altman, and at a certain point, it’s his responsibility to ensure proper communication is flowing smoothly within the organization.

There are numerous reasons LeBron left for the Lakers. But it’s hard to overlook the Cavaliers’ crummy management in the last year.