Draft age limit, other “B-list” issues still to be resolved

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There are still some big issues sitting out there unresolved in the NBA labor talks.

At what age can players declare for the NBA draft? Keep it at 19 (the one-and-dones) or move it to 20? Or 18? Then there are the specifics of the NBA drug testing policies. And the rules in the unlikely event of the league contracts a team. Plus the owners still have to finalize their revenue sharing plan.

That’s just the tip of iceberg of the B-list issues the lawyers for the NBA owners and players still have to hammer out. They may be secondary issues to how to divide up the money, but they impact the lives of players and future generations of NBA players.

These issues are not going to derail the framework of the NBA labor deal hammered out by NBA owners and players in the wee hours of Saturday morning in New York.

Neither side can afford to let that happen. The five-month NBA lockout that cost 480 games of this season has already tested the faith of NBA fans and risked alienating the fan base in the middle of the worst recession the nation has seen in more than 50 years. To go back on the handshake deal now, to offer a season then pull it back, would simply devastate the game in a way neither side can afford to do. What’s the point of arguing over how to divide the revenue pie if the pie gets much smaller?

But there are still plenty of issues on the table. And the sides don’t agree on them.

The NBA draft age limit will be the biggest. In early proposals the owners wanted to move it to age 20 — essentially two-and-dones. The players have said this is something they want to see moved back to age 18. Expect this to move to 20 or stay the same — this is a more important issue for owners. They do not want to go back to scouting high school players again, both for the expense of it and the unpredictability of the picks. The owners like the idea of more college ball during which time players can be evaluated, plus the NCAA hype machine can already start turning them into stars fans want to follow. Both good things for the owners. Which is why they want this more than the players want the issue moved back to age 18.

This will be one of the next issues on the table and could be decided before the weekend is over, according to a source near the talks.

Other issues include can the league start testing for human growth hormone with a blood test as Major League Baseball just agreed to? That will be a hard sell with players but would be welcomed by many fans.

Another key issue for fans will be the rules on assigning players to the D-League. In the old deal players could be sent down only for the first two years of their contracts and at full NBA salary. Owners want to be able to send players down for more years — up to five — and reduce their salary while down in the “minors.” More years is one thing but the salary reductions would be a very tough sell to the union.

Almost tied to that, should the NBA draft be expanded to a third round? The idea from owners — aside creating a little more draft buzz — is to find guys that they can send to the D-League and develop into NBA players over a few years. Already much of the second round is that way, do we need more?

The other big issue out there is not in the labor deal itself but will be key — the owners still need to finalize the revenue sharing plan amongst themselves. Proposals were put forward but the owners didn’t feel they could talk about revenue sharing until they saw how much they were getting back from the players. Now they know. But getting big markets to fork over more to small markets is always going to be contentious.

There are a host of other interesting little issues we will get to discuss just like those over the coming weeks.

Point is, while the NBA is on the verge of a labor deal there are a lot of issues still on the table. Negotiations will continue. And for guys like high school seniors with dreams of the NBA, those talks matter a lot.

Bob Myers says he initially told DeMarcus Cousins’ agent Warriors couldn’t afford center

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If the Warriors signed someone to a salary greater than the $5,337,000 taxpayer mid-level exception or acquired someone in a sign-and-trade, they would have been hard-capped at $129,817,000 this season.

That was obviously untenable for Golden State with its star-studded roster.

So, the idea of the Warriors adding DeMarcus Cousins seemed far-fetched – even to Golden State general manager Bob Myers.

Myers, as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“It was early in the morning — I spoke to his agent. We had been preserving our taxpayer mid-level exception for somebody that might fall through the cracks and not get paid in a very tight free agency market,” Myers explained to Greg Papa and Bonta Hill on 95.7 The Game. “But mostly we were thinking wings. I figured if something like that were to happen it would happen July 8th, 9th, 10th.

“But we got the call and I just said, ‘Look. We don’t have anything more,’ because we’ve talked about other high-level free agents and the thought from their agent was, ‘Can you do a sign-and-trade? Can you get to a bigger number?’ And I kind of said, ‘Look, our roster is what it is. To move that many pieces around, to create $10 million in room, or $15 (million), it’s just prohibitive, I don’t want to waste your time.’

“So I thought that’s where the conversation was going … and I said to him, ‘We don’t have the money that you’re probably commanding out there.’ And this is the moment it became real — he said, ‘We understand what you have.’ And I said, ‘Well we only have the taxpayer mid-level.’ And then when he said, ‘I know,’ that’s when I knew it was real.

“They were very serious about it and they never really wavered.”

We’ve seen free agency from Cousins’ perspective. It’s interesting to blend Golden State’s into the story.

The Warriors are always eying stars. Their ambition might be unmatched. That not even they forecasted the possibility of signing Cousins – who accepted the taxpayer mid-level exception – speaks to just how much colder than expected his market was.

DeAndre Ayton draws himself dunking on Joel Embiid on trading card (photo)

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Joel Embiid issued a warning to pundits after the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 overall: “Don’t compare Ayton to me either… I play DEFENSE.”

Ayton envisioned a response to the 76ers star while drawing on a trading card:

Embiid:

I’m impressed with Ayton’s artistic skills.

I’d be even more impressed if he dunks on Embiid, who does play quality defense – so far a hole in Ayton’s game.

Dwight Howard’s trainer: ‘He wants to evolve into Anthony Davis, into Kevin Durant, but his own version of that’

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In 2015, Dwight Howard said he wanted to play 20 seasons in the NBA. He also later admitted he considered retiring the same year.

After that career crossroads, Howard is back on the longevity track.

Entering his 15th season, the 32-year-old Wizards center is focused on getting into shape and developing his game.

Justin Zormelo, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“He wants to evolve into Anthony Davis, into Kevin Durant,” Zormelo says, “but his own version of that.”

This sounds silly at first. Durant and Davis are far more skilled than Howard. But those superstars provide reasonable goals for Howard.

Durant – who has expanded his game the other way, going outside to inside – shows how to blend playing different styles. Davis provides an example of how to work off the ball as a modern big man.

Howard shouldn’t want to lose his strengths as an elite rebounder and interior defender, but he can move in the direction of Durant and Davis.

After getting pretty big with the Hawks, Howard slimmed down with the Hornets and excelled in transition. He also improved significantly as a ball-handler, allowing him to put even more pressure on the defense in advantage situations and attack with face-ups.

Howard hasn’t shown proficiency as an outside shooter, but that could be his next step. The concern: Howard falls in love with shooting the way he did with post-ups, and he takes too many inefficient shots.

But there’s still something encouraging about someone working so hard to improve this far into his career.

Of course, on-court improvement won’t be enough for Howard. He has quietly produced or near star level in Atlanta and Charlotte. The problems came in the locker room. Howard’s attitude must improve, too.

Maybe it’ll all come together for him, and he’ll thrive through the rest of his 30s. He’s saying all the right things.

But we’ve also been here before.

Carmelo Anthony writes thank-you note to Oklahoma City: ‘I wanted nothing more than to make it work here’

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After last season, Carmelo Anthony summed up his time with the Thunder: “It wasn’t no strategy to me being here.” He waived his no-trade clause to facilitate a trade to and buyout from the Hawks, allowing him to join the Rockets – his preferred destination ever since his time with the Knicks was ending.

But he’s leaving Oklahoma City emphasizing the positive.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

This is a nice letter, especially for someone who was there only one year. Thunder fans are extremely supportive, and I believe Anthony truly wanted it to work in Oklahoma City. He changed his game plenty to complement Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

It just wasn’t enough.

Of course, there’s more to the story. That’s self-evident in Anthony choosing to leave the Thunder rather than trying to solve their problems next season in a less-rushed situation.

But this isn’t an analysis of Anthony’s Oklahoma City tenure. It’s a thank-you note that seems pretty genuine and heartfelt – right until it’s signed “STAYME7o,” which is par for the course for Anthony.