Expect changes to NBA moratorium rule in wake of DeAndre Jordan decision

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You might want to avoid Mark Cuban today. Nobody can really blame him for being in a bad mood — DeAndre Jordan, one of the best centers in the game, verbally agreed to come to Dallas, and then at the last minute backed out and re-signed with the Clippers. Jordan started what became one of the wildest days in free agency memory by calling up Doc Rivers directly, blocking out his agent and refusing to take a call from (let alone meet) Cuban face-to-face. It blew up the Maverick’s summer plans to try and be one of the elite teams in the West (they were probably still on the second tier, but if Jordan hadn’t given them a verbal Cuban likely would have gone in a very different direction this summer).

Cuban isn’t the only team executive ticked off.

There are a lot of other front offices around the league that thought this looked bad for business — players hiding out at a home, avoiding responsibility while playing cards and video games. It was certainly dramatic. It was also unprofessional. There are a lot of people — scouts, assistant coaches, and so many others that work for teams on the business side — whose livelihoods depend on the $5 billion NBA business, and this made it look like a toy.

What Jordan did was within his rights, I don’t have a problem with a player deciding to go where he wants. I don’t blame the Clippers — they got a direct call from Jordan saying he was having second thoughts, and their title hopes hinged on him changing his mind.

But there will be fallout from how this is done.

Other teams also saw how this shook out and feared the repercussions. For one it could mean even when a free agent decides to move on — and it doesn’t happen that often, major targets stay put about two-thirds of the time — the recruiting of them might not stop. Up to now, there had been an unwritten rule that once a player verbally committed everyone backed off. What’s more, teams note that Jordan’s decision to go to Dallas led to a number of other dominoes to fall in free agency. Teams chased other players, and those players made decisions based on Dallas not having cap space. Dallas likely doesn’t sign Wesley Matthews to a $57 million deal if Jordan says no the first time. Now all of that could open up again.

As a result, there is one thing you can bet on this summer — there will be a push to change the NBA’s moratorium period.

The challenge is that the moratorium is collectively bargained, so that changing it requires the union to buy in and tweak the CBA. That is a combative relationship as the two sides posture for the 2017 lockout, getting that done may not be easy. Plus don’t forget the Clippers’ Chris Paul is the union president, and that long break worked out pretty well for him this year.

There are couple reasons for the moratorium, which is usually seven to nine days (although next year it is scheduled to be until July 12.). One is to allow the league to crunch the numbers from the previous season, then use the final financial figures to set the new salary cap and tax line for next season. This year, that number jumped from the anticipated $67 million up to $70 million. That also impacts how much a max salary is and more.

The other (and league officials will tell you the main reason) is to give other teams the chance to meet with free agents and pitch them fairly. If there is no moratorium, it encourages teams to tamper and talk to players before free agency starts (which happens anyway through back channels, this would just make it more imperative and a larger operation).

Team officials would like one of two things to happen: The moratorium gets killed all together, or it gets shrunk down to three or four days.

The league wants free agents get the chance to meet with multiple teams and make a more patient, less pressured decision. That had some advantages for teams, but now some teams would like to do away with it all together. From Zach Lowe at Grantland.

That brings us to a simpler solution popular among team executives: Finish the damn audit on June 30, set the cap, and start real free agency — signings and everything — on July 1. Kill the moratorium. There would still be some back-channeling ahead of July 1, but since all players are technically under contract through June 30, such pre-free-agency chitchat would fall much more clearly under the league’s tampering rules. If some free agent were to switch teams at 12:01 a.m. July 1 without taking a single meeting, it would raise huge red flags.

If the union goes along with this — and that is no guarantee — my guess is next season will see a three-day moratorium. Maybe five tops. That way, the next time a player changes his mind, other teams and other decisions are not so far down the road. And the entire thing looks more professional.

Adam Silver: I ‘strongly believe’ NBA will add in-season and play-in tournaments

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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CHICAGO – NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted to overhaul the schedule – including in-season and play-in tournaments – for the league’s 75th-anniversary season, 2021-22.

Instead, the Board of Governors vote planned for April was canceled.

Not because the ideas were unpopular, according to Silver. Because they were too popular.

“When we went to our teams, the Players Association and our media partners – probably the most important constituents in making changes,” Silver said, “the response we got was that, frankly, there was so much interest that they didn’t think it made sense to do it as a one-off.”

It’s easy to be skeptical of spin. But Silver is adamant.

“I strongly believe we will end up with some sort of in-season tournament and a play-in tournament,” Silver said.

The NBA will probably eventually have a play-in tournament. It makes a lot of sense, both competitively and financially. When those considerations align, things usually get done.

The league might even also add an in-season tournament. But it’s hard to find people actually enthusiastic about that idea.

Did Dwyane Wade violate judges’ agreement to keep dunk contest tied?

Dwyane Wade judging dunk contest
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CHICAGO – Dwyane Wade is a self-proclaimed Heat lifer.

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. won the dunk contest with Wade as a judge.

You do the math.

On his final dunk, Jones got a 48. Then, Aaron Gordon dunked over terrified Tacko Fall… and got a 47.

The voting for Gordon’s last dunk:

  • Dwyane Wade: 9
  • Common: 10
  • Candace Parker: 10
  • Chadwick Bozeman: 9
  • Scottie Pippen: 9

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

With Common and Parker giving 10s and casting blame elsewhere, Wade, Bozeman and Pippen became suspects. The evidence points strongly at Wade.

Before the scores were even revealed a smiling Wade removed his earpiece, as if he knew the contest was finished. Notice how Common and Scottie Pippen both look at Wade after seeing the scores:

Wade danced around the controversy, never directly denying that he didn’t vote how he agreed he would:

Gordon’s final dunk was better than Jones’ final dunk. But Jones dunked better throughout the contest. Does that mean Gordon got robbed? At that point, yes. But Jones should have won the contest before then.

The bigger problem is judging dunks on a 6-10 scale. They should be judged relative to each other, and Jones’ were better.

Kobe Bryant’s legacy remembered, celebrated at All-Star weekend

Kobe Bryant jersey at All-Star Game
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CHICAGO — Kobe Bryant always seemed to be in top form when he stepped onto the court for the NBA All-Star Game. The league’s current best will try to match his effort when Team LeBron and Team Giannis meet on Sunday.

The All-Star festivities returned to Chicago for the first time since 1988 when Michael Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins in a slam dunk contest that remains the standard and scored 40 points to lead the East over the West.

But Bryant is casting a huge shadow over the events this weekend, just weeks after he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain near Los Angeles.

Commissioner Adam Silver announced Saturday night that the All-Star Game MVP award has been renamed in Bryant’s memory.

“We know that he’s watching over us,” the Lakers’ LeBron James said. “It’s our responsibility to just represent the purple and gold not only for him but for all the greats, everybody that’s ever come through the Lake Show. I really don’t want to sit up here and talk about it too much. It’s a very, very sensitive subject, but he’s with us every day.”

Bryant played on five NBA championship teams, won a league MVP award and two scoring titles in a career that spanned 20 seasons and has him poised to enter the Hall of Fame after he was announced Friday as one of eight finalists.

He was the youngest All-Star in league history, ranks second with 18 selections and took game MVP honors a record-tying four times, including on his home court in 2011 when he dazzled with 37 points and 14 rebounds. Bryant scored 20 or more seven times.

“The whole thing of paying respect to Kobe is awesome, so I think it’s going to be fun,” said Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, making his sixth straight All-Star appearance. “I’m hoping it’s really, really intense. Hopefully, we’ll give the fans one of the best All-Star Games ever.”

PAYING TRIBUTE

The support for Bryant and his daughter is uniform.

Team Giannis will wear No. 24 on its jerseys and Team LeBron No. 2 for Gianna, a promising player who wore that number.

All participants in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday and 3-point, slam dunk and skills competition on Saturday wore patches showing the numbers 24 and 2 and nine stars to commemorate the victims of the helicopter crash. The patches worn Sunday will only have the nine stars since players will be wearing the numbers 24 and 2.

“He was the Michael Jordan of our generation,” Antetokounmpo said. “He was one of those guys that gave back to the game so much, gave back to the players. A lot of people when they’re so great, they don’t do that. There was a quote that said that talent is worthless if you’re not willing to share it, right? And he was one of those guys that was sharing his talent with us. He’s going to be definitely missed.”

Anthony Davis, Patrick Beverley, more return to sweet home Chicago for All-Star Game

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CHICAGO — For Anthony Davis, it means a lot of things. Like snow.

“I don’t get to see the snow as much now. Me and my cousins would go outside and have snowball fights almost every day after school,” Davis said. “I kinda miss that.”

And deep-dish pizza.

“Giordano’s pizza is my go-to,” Davis said.

For Patrick Beverley, it means grit.

“My Chicago grit goes everywhere with me,” Beverley said. “It’s something, when I get on the court, I try to represent. That’s just a part of my game.”

For a handful of players — Davis, Beverley in the Skills Challenge, Miami’s Kendrick Nunn in Rising Stars, Detroit’s Derrick Rose (who had to pull out of the Skills Challenge due to injury) — the NBA All-Star weekend of events is a chance to come back home, to the city where they grew up and learned to play the game.

“Really excited to be back home, really excited to see my friends, the high schools I went to,” Beverley said. “I’m really excited to smell the Chicago air. I’m so happy to be back home right now…

“It’s an emotion I really can’t explain. It’s surreal to me, I find myself trying to pinch myself. I think the last All-Star Game (in Chicago) was 32 years ago, so I wasn’t even born yet. You know me, I represent Chicago, the grit of Chicago, I’m just fortunate to be able to represent the city the right way.”

“It’s good to be back home, spend time with my family, my friends…” Davis said. “Just trying to stay warm. But to get back here and play in front of the fans in the place I grew up, the place I had my first big-time game, the McDonalds game at UC (United Center). It’s been great to get back here and re-live some of the high school memories I had here in Chicago.”

Davis didn’t attend one of Chicago’s basketball powers. Kind of the opposite. He went to Perspectives Charter School — which didn’t even have a gym on campus at the time. They played at a church nearby. Davis entered school as a 6’2″ guard who was relatively unremarkable, but he grew 8 inches in 18 months, bringing those guard skills with him, and suddenly he was on the top of everyone’s recruiting lists.

Davis could have transferred to any of Chicago’s power schools, like Rose’s Simeon Career Academy, but he stayed at Perspectives.

“I was just being loyal, it was my junior year and I didn’t want to leave and have to sit out a year, so I kinda just stayed around and tried to stick it out,” Davis said. “My dad always gave me the saying ‘no matter where you are they’ll find you,’ and I kind of took that to heart and kept doing what I was doing, working hard, and eventually someone would come see me. Then Coach Cal [Kentucky’s John Calipari] came to one of my games and the rest is history.”

Chicago influenced all of their games.

For Beverley, he said it was another Chicago guy, Will Bynum, who served as a mentor. Plus, when Beverley was in elementary and heading into middle school, it was the Michael Jordan Bulls era.

“There were a lot of parades at that time, the city was on fire. Literally on fire,” Beverley said. “Seeing all that made you want to go out and play basketball. I guess that was every kid’s dream.”

When Davis was having his growth spurt and starting to emerge in high school, Derrick Rose was drafted and took over the NBA — right there in Chicago.

“Derrick Rose is still one of my favorite players to watch,” Davis said. “He was the guy every guy underneath him looked up to. The things he did for the city, and him getting drafted to the Bulls and that whole run, it was just inspiring for all of us.”

All-Star weekend is not a time Davis is going to get to chill on the couch with family and friends. The games, the charity events, the sponsor events — and not to mention a few parties — pull the players in the events a lot of directions.

“I haven’t been able to take it all in, I’ve been running around,” Davis said.

But they are still home. They get to smell the Chicago air, see some friends.

And maybe throw in a slice of pizza.