Players union to audit five NBA teams


National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver have exchanged barbs, trying to stake out their positions before a 2017 work stoppage.

Roberts has particularly raised the rhetoric.

Now, in addition to just talking a big game, she’s also doing something to help the union’s cause.

NBPA statement, via Kevin Draper of Deadspin:

For many years, the CBA has also included a provision that allows the union to engage its own independent firm to audit five teams of its choosing. This audit process can be initiated following the audit of the League and every franchise conducted at the end of every season by PwC. A similar protocol is followed in both hockey and football. To date, this option was used sparingly by the NBPA. Starting this year, the union will exercise this option and conduct the five-team audit annually.


When asked which teams the union plans to audit, the union says, “We will not choose the five teams until after the BRI audit is completed.”

Even with the union demurring, you can bet that the Knicks will be one of the five, and that more generally the union will target teams that earn the most revenue and have a host of complicated related party issues. An informed guess would be that the Knicks, Nets, Mavericks, Nuggets, and Lakers will be audited, with the Rockets, Bulls, and Warriors candidates as well.

I’m astounded the union hadn’t regularly conducted these audits. Billy Hunter, y’all.

Now that the NBPA is exercising this right, who knows what it will find?

A key issue that Draper explores in great depth is related parties. Players and owners share Basketball Related Income (approximately) 50-50, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement specifies what does and does not count toward BRI. Money that would normally fall under BRI but does not go directly to an NBA team counts toward BRI if it goes to a related party. What’s a related party? According to the CBA, it’s a company owned or controlled by the same person/entity that controls the related NBA team.

Simply, this prevents owners from setting up shell corporations that make all the money while the actual NBA team cries poverty.

But this doesn’t completely close the loophole. What about when NBA owners have only partial stake in a company that would otherwise be considered a third party?


In Brooklyn, for example, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov owns 80% of the Nets, while real estate developer Bruce Ratner owns 20%. Meanwhile, Ratner owns 55% of the Barclays Center, where the Nets play, and Prokhorov owns 45%. While both entities are entirely owned by the same two men, by the NBA’s definition, the Nets and Barclays Center are not related parties. If they were to engage in any revenue-shifting shenanigans, the players would be helpless to collect their money. They would prefer the Nets and Barclays Center to be considered related parties.

What type of shenanigans? Draper cites Andrew Zimbalist in the The Economics of Sports:

Suppose you are an owner negotiating an arena lease and are given a choice: pay $2 million in rent and receive 50 percent of a projected $4 million in signage income or pay no rent and receive no signage. It might seem that this is a choice between equals, but since the CBA gives 40 percent of signage income to the players, the owner would do better with the second option of no rent/no signage. Lease agreements offer manifold opportunities for such juggling, especially when the arena and team are owned by the same person or entity.

To some extent, the players might just have to live with the definition of related party they agreed to in this CBA. But the CBA also includes barter in BRI, and many of the potential issues Draper raises seem to qualify.

Perhaps, these audits reveal money the players think they’re entitled to. The CBA outlines an arbitration process, which has a three-year statute of limitations on issues brought forward.

It’s three years from the date of the act being questioned or three years from when it “became known or reasonably should have become known” by the side initiating arbitration. If the NBPA audits uncover anything now from more than three years ago, this is where the union’s lack of audits could really hurt it. It seems easy for the NBA to argue the union reasonably should have known of any problems if it had conducted more audits previously.

At minimum, expect the players to fight for a wider definition of related party in the next CBA.

If you’re interested in how this labor battle is unfolding, definitely read Draper’s piece in full, including his analysis of the potential for the Knicks and Madison Square Garden Company to syphon major money from the players.

NBA to name All-Seeding Games Teams, Player of the Seeding Games

Pacers forward T.J. Warren and Suns guard Devin Booker
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The NBA already held voting for its main awards, retroactively ending the regular season March 11 and defining the eight games for each of the 22 teams continuing at Disney World as “seeding games.”

So, the league found a new way to honor standout players from this portion of the season.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that it will name the … NBA All-Seeding Games Team and the … NBA Player of the Seeding Games to honor top performers for games played July 30 – Aug. 14 during the 2019-20 season restart at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who have been on site covering the season restart will select the … NBA All-Seeding Games Team and the … NBA Player of the Seeding Games.  The media panel will vote for five players for the All-Seeding Games First Team and five players for the All-Seeding Games Second Team, choosing a total of 10 players at any position from either conference.

The … NBA All-Seeding Games Team and the …. NBA Player of the Seeding Games will be announced Saturday, Aug. 15 before Game 1 of the Western Conference Play-In, which tips off at 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Is it silly to to give awards for such a small sample of what effectively amount to regular-season games? Yes.

Is it also fun? Heck yes.

My early picks:

Player of the Seeding Games

All-Seeding Games First Team

All-Seeding Games Second Team

Kyle Kuzma: ‘Jesus could be in front of me, and I’d probably still shoot’

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Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma hit a game-winner over the Nuggets’ Bol Bol, who’s 7-foot-2 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan.

Bill Oram of The Athletic:

Kuzma has overcome so much to reach this point. Of course, he’s confident.

Would Kuzma start on some teams that don’t have LeBron James and Anthony Davis at forward? Yes. Most teams? That’s a stretch.

Regardless, Kuzma doesn’t want to find out what his role would be on a lower-profile team. And the Lakers are happy to have him, too.

LeBron, via Oram:

“In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player,” James said. “And if I’m struggling or A.D.’s struggling, he has to be our second-best player on any given night. We can’t win a championship if Kuz doesn’t play well.”

It’d work well if Danny Green is the Lakers’ third-best player. His perimeter defense and spot-up 3-point shooting complement stars like LeBron and Davis.

Kuzma creates his own shots in a way Green can’t, and Kuzma’s size makes him an effective defender at times. But he doesn’t mesh quite as neatly with stars. Kuzma can better provide a boost when LeBron or Davis is having an off night. There’s value in that. But how often will the Lakers want to have the ball in Kuzma’s hands rather than LeBron’s or Davis’ – even as much as Kuzma believes in himself?

Donald Trump: NBA ‘in big trouble, bigger trouble than they understand’

President Donald Trump
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In an interview on Fox Sports Radio, President Donald Trump played all his greatest hits on the NBA – teams kneeling for the national anthem, the league’s involvement in China.

Trump on NBA teams kneeling for the national anthem:

I think it’s been horrible for basketball. Look at the basketball ratings. They’re down. They’re down to very low numbers – very, very low. People are angry about it. They don’t realize. They don’t want – they have enough politics with guys like me. They don’t need more as they’re driving down, going up for the shot. They don’t need it. And there was a nastiness about the NBA, the way it was done too. So I think that they –   the NBA is in trouble. I think it’s in big trouble, bigger trouble than they understand.

And frankly, ice hockey which is doing very well, they didn’t do that. They respected the mores. They respected what they’re supposed to be doing. And they’re actually doing very well, as I understand it.

You have to stand for your flag, and you have to respect your flag and your country. You’re making millions of dollars a year to be playing a sport you’d be playing anyway if you didn’t make – they’d be playing it on the weekends. And they have to respect their country.

Kneeling during the national anthem is a patriotic gesture that calls attention to serious problems plaguing our country – racism, particularly through police brutality. The United States would become an even better country by addressing those issues.

In a United States that values freedom, the president should not be saying “you have to stand for your flag.” That runs toward authoritarianism.

NBA ratings are down because [insert a reason that fits your agenda here]. It’s a complicated situation with numerous factors.

Are some people turned off by the NBA’s increasingly visible political actions? Yes. Would some people lose interest in the NBA if the league shut down players and coaches who kneeled during the national anthem and spoke about the most important issues confronting the country? Yes.

NHL players did kneel during the national anthem. Not like the mass demonstrations by NBA teams. But some NHL players have kneeled.

Yet, Trump and many of his followers give more credence to some protesters than to others.

Which gets to China.

Trump on NBA players and coaches criticizing him:

I haven’t noticed them sending things back at me but I will say that I wouldn’t be that surprised. Some are very nasty – very, very nasty – and frankly, very dumb. But I haven’t noticed that. But I will say this: The way they cater to China, the way they bow to China, it’s a disgrace frankly. And they make a lot more money here than they do from China. But we have a system that allows you to disrespect your system, and that’s too bad for them. Too bad for them. They don’t appreciate what they have here.

The NBA has been complicit in abuses in China. It is disgraceful. The way otherwise-outspoken NBA people have been silent on China and Hong Kong – given the financial incentives – has been suspect.

But the NBA is far from the only American entity with business interests entangled in China. The league shouldn’t become a punching bag that distracts from a far wider issue.

The next two questions Trump faced in the interview practically begged him to denounce China for reducing freedom in Hong Kong. He did not.

Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell Tweets he’s back inside NBA bubble

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell
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The Clippers, who have coasted to a 3-3 record at the restart, are about to get a burst of energy off the bench.

Montrezl Harrell is back in the bubble. He Tweeted this out Monday:

Harrell was granted leave from the bubble to help take care of his grandmother — who he was very close to — when she fell ill. She eventually died, and Harrell poured out his emotions on social media for fans. The Clippers told Harrell to take as much time as he needed before coming back.

Harrell is back now, and if he tested negative the last seven days outside he bubble he will be in quarantine on the Walt Disney World Resort property for four days, then he can rejoin his team — possibly for Friday’s seeding game against Oklahoma City, but certainly in time for the playoffs.

Harrell is a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate who averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. More than the numbers, he brought an improved defense and relentless energy off the bench that lifted the Clippers nightly. The Harrell/Lou Williams pick-and-roll remains one of the smoothest and most dangerous in the league.

Harrell also gives Doc Rivers a lot of versatility and options on how to close games — the Clippers can go big, go small, and do either well. It’s that versatility that makes them a dangerous playoff team.

The Clippers needed Harrell back to unleash all of it, and now he is there and ready to go.