Maloof press conference a how-to-guide for burning bridges in Sacramento

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That press conference was so George Maloof.

The nearly 90-minute presser was everything a good old fashion PR nightmare should be. It started as a PowerPoint presentation delivered in monotone prose by Maloof attorney Barry McNeil, and ended in a classic George Maloof back-and-forth with media members that bordered somewhere between ‘desperate’ and ‘tirade.’

The purpose of the press conference was masked as a battle for the hearts and minds of the viewer, as the attorney McNeil took the audience through a chronology that was most likely presented at the Board of Governors meeting the day before. This chronology, of course, presented the Maloofs as victims in the arena ordeal.

But in reality, the presentation was littered with legal markers that both attacked the city of Sacramento and the NBA for its handling of the arena situation. They attacked the NBA and city of Sacramento for being complicit in its refusal to address the Maloofs’ problems with the now-infamous term sheet, and said that it wasn’t Gavin Maloofs’ responsibility to raise concerns when he spoke at the Sacramento City Council meeting in support of the term sheet that was approved 7-2 by the council on March 6.

Aside from several burn-every-bridge-in-sight-with-kerosene moments, George and his team of economists and attorneys brought the case against a Sacramento arena into focus. They specifically discussed the risks to the city and cited a disastrous, but 100 percent different city-funded arena in neighboring Stockton.

They rattled off every reason not to do the arena deal, and expressed a mixture of frustration, anger, and exasperation toward Kevin Johnson, the NBA, and the media covering the events. Though they said that relocation is off the table, the money quote was “if the mayor says he’s not negotiating, then he killed the deal and it’s over. It’s over.”

So translated, yes, relocation is on the table.

Johnson, of course, went on the offensive late Thursday night with a letter to the Maloofs telling them specifically that no negotiation would occur in today’s meeting between the sides.

At the core of the issue is, shocker, money. As simple tenants, the Maloofs aren’t getting the revenue they would like to within their agreement with AEG, the company that will operate the proposed $391 million Entertainment and Sports Complex. The other issue is up-front money, as the Maloofs’ immediate beef with the current proposal is the $3.26 million pre-development costs that could eventually become sunk costs if the arena deal goes south.

But that is chump change, and the real issue is that the Maloofs will not have to pay up-front money in Anaheim, and in the Maloofs’ newest stroke of genius – in their recommendation that a renovation of Power Balance Pavilion is a superior option compared to a new downtown arena – that too would require less up-front money by the Maloofs. Under the current downtown arena proposal, the Maloofs would need to come up with $73 million in an up-front payment for the type of shiny new world-class arena that AEG likes to build.

In other words, they don’t want the outlay and they want the inlay, you dig?

The new wrinkle introduced by George, the renovating of the current Power Balance Pavilion, was particularly shocking after that option has been widely derided by all sides of the arena equation, including the Maloofs, for years.

But what this has all come down to is the Maloofs challenging the NBA to tell them that they cannot move. It appears that they feel they cannot make money in Sacramento with a new arena, and for years they have said that they cannot make money in Sacramento at the old arena.

The Maloofs pulled this same act when they did not like the terms and conditions of the 2006 measure Q & R, so after they accidentally destroyed the measure by flaunting their money in a Carl’s Jr. ad, they actually pulled their support – leading to the 80/20 public vote against the measure.

Now they’re going to try to destroy the current downtown arena deal because they don’t like the economic split with AEG. Perhaps the new idea of staying at Power Balance is their fallback position, a position that they believe they can negotiate a better revenue share out of, but make no mistake this is a scorched-earth policy. They are going to kick and scream until they get what they want, which is usually what people who get what they want do when they don’t get what they want.

In this desperate moment they showed emails from NBA representative Benjamin Harvey, who told the Maloofs that their requests to revise the term sheet that was agreed upon in Orlando was not going to be introduced to the Sacramento City Council for “political reasons.” They torched the 25 business leaders that asked for their ouster, torched mayor Kevin Johnson, and torched the principals of the deal that will provide $255 million in public money toward their enterprise. Their delivery was not polished, and at times it was reckless. Their economist cited measurement mechanisms that would make his colleagues cringe. The interplay between George Maloof and his attorneys was often scattered and unprepared. Gavin and Joe Maloof, were shoved into the corner and barely given the chance to speak.

It’s just an educated theory, but at some point the Maloofs likely realized that the NBA isn’t in their corner anymore, and was negotiating a deal that was more concerned about rewarding Sacramento and AEG with a fair deal than it was about giving a handout to the Maloofs. Five years ago when the Maloofs’ payroll was busty and their finances were better, the NBA would have likely fought tooth and nail to get every last cent for ‘the boys.’

But this is what happens when you begin to bring public shame to the logo. The Maloofs don’t have enough money to run an NBA franchise the way it ought to be run. There was a point in time the Maloofs could have said that the city of Sacramento was dragging its feet and not paying the price of being an NBA town. But Kevin Johnson changed all of that when he made this a keystone issue of his political career, and now the shoe is on the other foot. It’s the Maloofs that stopped running their business with the aggressive intent to make things work in Sacramento. In this messy business of trying to move a franchise, they’ve brought the league embarrassment by dragging one of its best fan bases through the mud. This comes just a handful of years after Seattle’s civic leaders balked at David Stern’s threats, and the story of the abandoned Sonics fan is now a television moment. Now, documentaries show the ugly side of NBA economics and in this day and age of Twitter, every fan can be plugged into all the messy details that were once swept under the rug.

David Stern is going to speak in moments about the issue. The Maloof attorneys took a lot of liberties with how they presented the NBA involvement, and surely Stern is going to take umbrage with the tonalities used by the attorneys to explain the NBA’s positions. Now we’re going to see how far the NBA is willing to go to protect its small market with a big heart. The city of Sacramento clearly has its ducks in a row and can provide ownership with deeper pockets that will wear the logo without embarrassment. The only question is whether or not the NBA is willing to clip one of its own in order to do what’s best for the group.

How will, should player salaries be allocated as only some NBA teams resume?

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns and Mavericks star Luka Doncic
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The Timberwolves will play 64 games this season. The Mavericks will play 75-77 games before the traditional playoffs.

Should Dallas players get paid a higher percentage of their salaries than Minnesota players?

That’s one of the thorny questions as the NBA resumes its season.

Though players have individual contracts with defined salaries, there’s an overriding factor in determining actual wages. The Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for players and owners to split revenue approximately 50-50. Salaries are adjusted to reach that 50-50 split.

Each year, the salary cap is set to a number designed to get total player salaries to about 50% of league-wide revenue. Obviously, that’s a difficult target to hit precisely. So, there are mechanisms to adjust the distribution of money if necessary. If their total slated salaries are higher than 50% of revenue, players don’t receive their full salaries. If their total salaries are lower than 50% of revenue, players get a shortfall check from owners.

Coronavirus has disrupted that well-oiled system

The league is missing a major chunk of revenue. Players’ slated salaries would call for them to earn WAY more than 50% of revenue. That’s why the NBA has been withholding a portion of players’ salaries. Force majeure allows teams to reduce players salaries for games canceled due to an epidemic.

The NBA’s reported plan reveals the number of lost games. There were 259 regular-season games remaining when the season was suspended. The continued season includes 88 regular-season games (eight each for the 22 continuing teams) plus 0-4 play-in games.* No playoff games are being canceled.

*I’m counting play-in games as regular-season games. It’s a gray area. Perhaps, owners and players will agree to count them as postseason games. It probably doesn’t matter here, anyway. In terms of force majeure, regular-season and playoff games count equally. So, it’s simple enough to count them as regular-season games.

That’s 167-171 canceled games.

Except not every team will have the same number of games canceled.

There’s a four-game spread in the number of games each team has played so far. The Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets are done now. Every other team will play at least eight more games. The Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns and Wizards could play up to two play-in games.

Based strictly on games played, here’s how much players on each team stand to lose in salary:

  • Timberwolves: 19%
  • Hornets: 18%
  • Bulls: 18%
  • Cavaliers: 18%
  • Warriors: 18%
  • Pistons: 17%
  • Knicks: 17%
  • Hawks: 16%
  • Lakers: 12%
  • Spurs: 10%-12%
  • Celtics: 11%
  • Rockets: 11%
  • Clippers: 11%
  • Thunder: 11%
  • Raptors: 11%
  • Jazz: 11%
  • Nets: 9%-11%
  • Pelicans: 9%-11%
  • Kings: 9%-11%
  • Wizards: 9%-11%
  • Nuggets: 10%
  • Pacers: 10%
  • Heat: 10%
  • Bucks: 10%
  • 76ers: 10%
  • Grizzlies: 8%-10%
  • Magic: 8%-10%
  • Suns: 8%-10%
  • Trail Blazers: 6%-9%
  • Mavericks: 5%-8%

Is that fair to players on the eight done teams? They didn’t ask for their season to end prematurely.

On the other hand, they don’t have to do any more work. Other players must travel to Orlando, live under restrictions, play games with heightened injury concerns and risk contracting coronavirus just so the league can increase its revenue. Should eliminated players reap the rewards while sitting home?

This tension also exists in normal times. Players across 16 playoff teams divvied up just $20 million total for competing in the 2018 playoffs, and the amount was similar last year. Player income is largely earned on the regular season, even though the players playing in the playoffs disproportionately draw the revenue that funds everyone.

But the disparity feels sharper now – with the worst teams not even finishing the regular season and playoff teams facing a far larger burden just to keep playing.

To a certain degree, this is a player problem. Owners are going to pay approximately 50% of league revenue to players. The CBA dictates how players on each team should have their salaries cut through force majeure. If players want to share the losses more evenly among each other, owners should accommodate.

Consider this similar to cap smoothing, which the union infamously rejected. Except in that case, it was more just luck which players were in the favored class. Now, the players who could earn more will actually be the ones putting in the additional work. Then again, there could be a push for everyone to share the losses more equally.

Like many things disrupted by coronavirus, there are no good answers.

Report: NBA planning to start next season on Christmas

NBA Christmas
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The current NBA season – interrupted by coronavirus – could extend as late as Oct. 12. That means the league must delay next season. How long past the normal mid-October start? December was the popular notion, but that’s still a wide timeframe.

Now, we can pinpoint it.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If the N.B.A. can successfully complete the 2019-20 season under this structure, it is expected that the 2020 N.B.A. draft would be moved to October, with free agency to follow shortly thereafter and a tentative plan to establish Dec. 25 as opening day for the 2020-21 season.

Coronavirus can ruin the best-laid plans. Though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said play would continue around a positive test, it’s unclear whether that would delay this season’s schedule – then the offseason then next season. It’s also unknown how the country will be handling coronavirus in December. The cold weather, pushing people indoors, could increase cases.

But it’s still interesting to know the plan, even if it’s tentative.

People fondly recall the NBA season starting on Christmas in 2011. Many have pointed to Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin’s idea of permanently opening in December to avoid overlap with the NFL, though he suggested mid-December – not Christmas.

That’s quite late.

This year, coronavirus has forced radical changes. A Christmas start might be totally reasonable for the 2020-21 season.

What about beyond?

If the NBA wants to begin each season on Christmas, this is the simplest time to shift. A different start date for future seasons would require altering the calendar to get on track.

There are plenty of issues with opening on Christmas in normal times, though:

  • Historically, TV viewership is down during the summer. That might be changing, but people might find other activities while it’s warm rather than attending or watching an indoor NBA game.
  • Would people really watch more NBA games just because fewer of them would compete with the highly popular NFL? The NBA regular season might just be too long to capture attention, no matter when it’s held.
  • By starting on Christmas, the NBA would reduce two marquee regular-season dates – opening day and Christmas – to one.
  • Many regional TV networks that carry NBA games also carry MLB games. Many of those networks already carry NHL games. But with baseball teams playing more games, there would be more conflicts.
  • With schools out, the American system is built on summer being more of a vacation time. People within the league – including players, especially those with children – might object to working during that time.

Projecting schedules for all 22 returning NBA teams

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The NBA will recall 22 teams to each play eight games.

How will the schedule work?

The new structure will reportedly be based on teams’ existing schedules, teams playing their next eight originally scheduled games against the continuing 22 teams. Of course, that doesn’t work cleanly. Some teams would reach eight games more quickly than other teams. So, whenever a team arrived at an opponent that already reached eight games, I just continued to that team’s next game.

With that assumption, here are the remaining opponents for each team:

  • Boston Celtics: Bucks, Wizards, Raptors, Nets, Wizards, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Heat
  • Brooklyn Nets: Clippers, Kings, Wizards, Celtics, Magic, Clippers, Magic, Trail Blazers
  • Dallas Mavericks: Suns, Clippers, Kings, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Jazz, Bucks
  • Denver Nuggets: Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors, Heat, Spurs, Thunder
  • Houston Rockets: Lakers, Trail Blazers, Kings, Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, 76ers, Raptors
  • Indiana Pacers: 76ers, Heat, Suns, Magic, Rockets, Kings, Clippers, Lakers
  • L.A. Clippers: Nets, Pelicans, Mavericks, Nuggets, Suns, Nets, Pacers, Thunder
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz, Jazz, Raptors, Pacers, Trail Blazers,* Heat or Magic*
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Trail Blazers, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans, Pelicans, Celtics
  • Miami Heat: Bucks, Pacers, Thunder, Nuggets, Suns, Celtics, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers*
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Celtics, Heat, Grizzlies, Wizards, Rockets, Wizards, Mavericks, Raptors
  • New Orleans Pelicans: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies, Magic
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Jazz, Wizards, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Heat, Nuggets, Suns, Clippers
  • Orlando Magic: Pacers, Kings, Nets, Nets, Pelicans, 76ers, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers*
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Pacers, Wizards, Raptors, Trail Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Magic, Spurs
  • Phoenix Suns: Mavericks, Pacers, Clippers, Mavericks, 76ers, Wizards, Heat, Thunder
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Grizzlies, Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, Lakers,* Heat or Magic*
  • Sacramento Kings: Pelicans, Nets, Mavericks, Rockets, Magic, Pelicans, Pacers, Spurs
  • San Antonio Spurs: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Jazz, Jazz, Nuggets, Kings, 76ers
  • Toronto Raptors: 76ers, Celtics, Nuggets, Lakers, Bucks, Rockets, Heat, Magic
  • Utah Jazz: Thunder, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Spurs, Mavericks
  • Washington Wizards: Celtics, Thunder, 76ers, Nets, Bucks, Celtics, Suns, Bucks

*To reach eight games for each team, I had to create three games not on the schedule:

  • Lakers vs. Trail Blazers
  • Lakers vs. Heat or Magic
  • Trail Blazers vs. Heat or Magic

Los Angeles would face whichever of Miami and Orlando that Portland doesn’t face (and vice versa).

The Lakers could also play the Trail Blazers twice, and the Heat could just play the Magic. But that’d mean five Lakers-Trail Blazers games and five Heat-Magic games this season. Generally, teams play each other four or fewer times.

I wouldn’t get too caught up in the order of the games. That almost certainly must be adjusted. Otherwise, teams would finish at significantly different times. For example, the Bucks’ eighth game in this format is against the Raptors. But that’s just Toronto’s fifth game.

The NBA might also use a different method altogether. Again, the reported plan can’t work exactly as reported.

But want the best guess at each team’s remaining games? This is it.

*Thanks to Kevin Pelton of ESPN for providing a handy spreadsheet of originally scheduled games.

LeBron James to Drew Brees: You still don’t understand why Colin Kaepernick kneeled

Colin Kaepernick and New Orleans Saints Drew Brees
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Colin Kaepernick’s protest worked.

Just by kneeling during the national anthem, Kaepernick shined a light on racism – specifically through police brutality – plaguing the United States. Whether or not you agreed with his methods, Kaepernick made it difficult to avoid discussion of the very important issue. Kaepernick’s simple demonstration made society far more sensitive to police misconduct, particularly toward black people. That set the stage for these incredible nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Of course, work remains. Kaepernick suffered far too great of personal cost to deliver his message. Racism and police brutality continue.

So, expect some people – including NFL players – to keep kneeling during the national anthem.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees explained why he objected to that. Lakers star LeBron James then objected to Brees’ explanation.

LeBron:

I do think not standing for the Star Spangled Banner disrespects the United States. The societal norms are clear: Standing is the way to show respect during the national anthem.

But know what else disrespects the United States? Police brutality, which disproportionately harms black people.

At some point, you have to decide which disrespect bothers you more – racism that damages and ends lives or symbolic protest of a song and piece of cloth.

Brees also brought up the military, on which I share LeBron’s disagreement. The Star Spangled Banner represents our entire country, not just our military. It’s weak to use the military as a shield while criticizing Kaepernick. In fact, Kaepernick specifically altered his protest – from sitting to kneeling – to honor the military.

Brees can ignore Kaepernick’s message on that.

But Kaepernick’s larger message rings loudly.