Salary rollbacks part of new owner offer to come Thursday

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UPDATE 2:01 pm: Over at the New York Times, Howard Beck has gotten a hold of a copy of the letter David Stern sent to the union about their “reset” proposal.

Here are the “highlights” (or lowlights, if you wanted to see NBA basketball this season):

The “reset” proposal features a flex-cap system that contains an absolute salary ceiling — to be set $5 million above the average team salary. In addition, the N.B.A. would roll back existing contracts “in proportion to system changes in order to ensure sufficient market for free agents.”

¶ Maximum salaries would be reduced.

¶ Contracts would be limited to four years for “Bird” free agents and three years for others, but each team could give a five-year deal to one designated player.

¶ Raises would be limited to 4.5 percent for “Bird” players and 3.5 percent for others….

In both deals are:

¶ Extend-and-trade deals, such as the one signed by Carmelo Anthony last season, will be prohibited.

¶ A 10 percent escrow tax will be withheld from player salaries, to ensure that player earnings do not exceed 50 percent of league revenues. An additional withholding will be applied in Year 1 “to account for business uncertainty” stemming from the lockout.

¶ Team and player contract options will be prohibited in new contracts, other than rookie deals. But a player can opt out of the final year of a contract if he agrees to zero salary protection (i.e., if it is nonguaranteed).

There is no way the players would accept those rollbacks. The union would file to decertify and this thing will get much, much uglier.

12:18 pm: When the NBA labor talks started, the owners had put out a number of ridiculous demands — salary rollbacks, a hard salary cap and other items the players would not accept — out on the table. As talks moved along, the owners made “concessions” of giving up things off their wish list (while the players gave up actual cash).

But if the players don’t accept David Stern’s and the owners ultimatum offer by Wednesday night, come Thursday morning it is all back on the table along with a smaller percentage of basketball related income, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

In addition to a 47 percent share of revenues for the players and a flex cap, those terms also would include a relinquishing of guaranteed contracts and a rollback of existing salaries, sources familiar with the hardline owners’ position said.

Part of that (and the reason it gets leaked) is to try and frighten the players into taking the deal on the table.

But make no mistake, that proposal would kill the NBA season if the owners stuck to it.

The players have given up money to keep a soft salary cap and guaranteed contracts (as well as keeping the salary cap tied to league revenues). Those are issues the union would be willing to lose a season over. Those issues would push them to decertify the union and try to take this thing to court. It would be a disaster.

The sides are not that far apart on a deal, with the players giving up more money wanting system issues concessions (they want more ease of player movement and for teams paying the tax to have exceptions). That’s a small olive branch for the owners to offer at this point so the union could save face, call it a win (even though the union lost big) and we could have a season.

But the hardline owners are driving the league bus right now and they want to crush the union and give no quarter. They are driving this. The owners are up by 40 points in the fourth quarter and are keeping the full court press on.

“I think, at the end of the day, this group (of hardline owners) said, ‘OK, we will let you do it your way up until Wednesday,'” a person in contact with ownership told CBSSports.com Monday.

If the sides don’t talk, if come Thursday morning there is no deal in place, I fear for the season. At that point, if the sides reach a deal it will likely be after Christmas just in time to save a 50-game NBA season. And even that could be a long shot.

At that point, both sides will have hurt the sport so much they will have lost all extra revenue they were fighting over.

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.