What issues are union sticking points? Here are a few

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When leaders of the NBPA — the NBA’s player union — emerge from a Times Square area hotel on Monday afternoon, I fully expect them to say the people in the room voted to approve a modified version of the league’s latest offer. It makes sense to put the ball in the owners’ court.

The question then becomes: What areas are they going to modify? Multiple reports suggest a few things frustrate the players. Here are some possibilities.

• The mid-level exception for tax paying teams. It’s not so much this specific item (which impacts just a couple players a year) as it is a philosophical difference between the sides. The league wants to flatten out the payroll — rein in big spending teams but force lower spending teams to bring their payrolls up closer to the cap line. (The idea by the league is that this payroll balance will distribute talent more evenly and create more competitive balance. I — and those that studied the issue in depth — say that balance is a myth because of the gap between elite and role players in the league and how that plays out on the court.)

The players want teams that can afford to go into the tax not to be penalized — basically they want freedom of movement when they are free agents. They want 30 teams to be able to go after a player if they so wish. The owners want to tie the hands of the highest payroll teams. That plays itself out in a few areas that each individually do not account for a lot of players but as a group do allow player movement to the higher-payroll teams. Look for the players to loosen those rules some. This is something the owners may well balk at.

• The escrow. To make sure that the players as a whole hit a specific percentage of Basketball Related Income with their salaries (in total, as a league), part of each player’s paycheck is held back and put in an escrow fund. At the end of the season, a portion of that fund is returned to the players to bring the total spent on player contracts to the right percentage of league revenue. (Still with me?)

In the last deal, eight percent of player contracts were withheld for escrow, the league’s offer ups that to 10 percent. As Ken Berger at CBSSports.com explains, in the first couple years of this CBA the players are not likely to get that money back, so basically this is just taking more money out of their pocket. Nobody likes that, but it is really the only way to get close to the BRI percentages the first couple of years.

• The league’s proposal calls for a 12 percent reduction in future rookie contracts. Those were already real bargains for the league, but again if you can’t rollback existing contracts you have to get that money from somewhere for the owners. Also, the rookies always take it on the chin in these deals because veterans vote and the rookies are not part of the union yet.

Even if the sides can agree on a framework soon, there are a host of “b-list” issues that could prove troubling down the line, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

If the players were to vote to accept the terms of the owners’ current proposal, the litany of B-list issues – including contraction, drug testing, Developmental League assignments and draft age eligibility – would still have to be agreed upon.

Those so-called lesser issues could still drive a stake in the heart of the deal because the owner can insist that contraction would force the percentage of BRI to the players to go down. The idea of dramatically reducing a player’s salary if he is sent to the D-League also drew fire from players.

Those issues are not in the deal the players are discussing Monday in New York, but they have to be sorted out before there is a final deal. Which is to say, we’ve got a long way to go yet, folks.

Report: NBA opened investigation into free agency tampering

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Summer in the NBA is always the most interesting time in the league. Free agency lets us see where players have not only decided to land, but which have schemed together in order to play with each other.

The term “preagency” has been coined to mark the period in which teams and players work out deals before free agency officially opens, and well before the moratorium ends.

It’s been thought that these rules have been circumvented as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between all teams with equal ability to navigate around the written rules. But according to a new report, several team owners are upset about the way things are going in the player empowerment era.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst reported on the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting this week, saying that the league has even opened an investigation into what went on this summer in terms of potential tampering.

Via ESPN:

Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.

The league has the power to punish teams it finds to be guilty of tampering ahead of June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute that teams are allowed to speak with representatives of free agents. It also might seek information on the timing of negotiations so that any revised free-agency calendar might better align with what is actually happening.

The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, speaking as the head of the labor committee, discussed the possible need to revisit free-agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement, sources said.

I have two thoughts about this.

First, even if something does come of this, the fine has to be puny. Adam Silver has not strayed on the disciplinarian side the way David Stern did — much to his credit — and any reprimand is unlikely to satisfy upset parties.

Second, there will definitely be sweeping changes in the next CBA. So much has changed since the last lockout, and the money has gotten so big it’s inevitable that people want to make things better for their side. The players got themselves in a hole since 2011. They mishandled the cap jump in 2016, and the max contract rules didn’t create a rising tide that floated all boats. Star players benefited, but low-level guys are even more disproportionately compensated.

This stuff seems like the most boring part of the league, but in reality it’s what makes everything tick.

I won’t be surprised if the NBA levies tampering charges against one or even several teams. I’d be surprised if the league did much about it, though.

Wizards owner says John Wall ‘probably won’t play’ in 2019-20

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It was always likely that Washington Wizards star John Wall would be out for much of next year’s regular NBA season. The team has even filed for a disabled player exception for the 2019-20 season.

Now we have confirmation that the team is expecting Wall to miss significant time.

According to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said that they are going to take things slow with Wall, and that he will miss serious time.

Via Twitter:

Washington is still trying to figure out what to do with Bradley Beal, and with Wall’s contract on the books, they don’t really have much of anywhere to go. The Wizards used their No. 9 overall pick on Rui Hachimura, which raised a few eyebrows.

But the team at least does have a GM in Tommy Sheppard, and they’ve made several hirings in the front office to try and out-think their competition. Washington has made a few moves, including trading for Davis Bertans and signing Isaiah Thomas.

Expect to see the Wizards at the bottom of the East next year. Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t be entertaining.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.