Anonymous NBA exec accuses Pistons, Andre Drummond of circumventing CBA

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons agreed to forgo a contract extension this fall, a move that will give Detroit about $13 million more in cap room next summer.

Even if Drummond signs a max contract equal to the max extension he could have received last offseason, the Pistons can still take advantage of Drummond’s low cap hold and the extra cap space. Because they have his Bird Rights, they can sign other free agents and then exceed the cap to re-sign him.

It’s a risk for Drummond, who’s guaranteed no money beyond this season and probably could’ve gotten about $120 million guaranteed if he pushed for it. But – barring major injury – Drummond will likely get the same amount, and he’s making it easier for Detroit to build a winner around him.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

“As much as Andre wants to be here, he desperately wants to win and wants to be part of a contender and wants us to have the flexibility to continue to add people to this team,” Van Gundy said. “He has a great relationship with Tom — a very open, honest, trusting relationship. They spend a lot of time talking about this.

“I think it shows Andre’s maturity and leadership that he would step forward and put the team ahead of himself.”

Drummond, via Ellis:

“It shows a sign of maturity on my side to really just take that leap and just give my team a chance to build on what we have here,” Drummond said. “Would it be nice to have it? Absolutely. But that’s not the point right now. I’m into winning and trying to make my team as good as possible.”

Unselfishness at its best?

Not everyone thinks so.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

That all sounds very altruistic, but to one rival executive, it smacked of cap circumvention. “It’s against the rules,” said the executive, who declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of the subject.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement states:

No Unauthorized Agreements.

(a) At no time shall there be any agreements or transactions of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate):

(i) concerning any future Renegotiation, Extension, or other amendment of an existing Player Contract, or entry into a new Player Contract; or

(ii) except as permitted by this Agreement or as set forth in a Uniform Player Contract (provided that the Team has not intentionally delayed submitting such Uniform Player Contract for approval by the NBA), involving compensation or consideration of any kind or anything else of value, to be paid, furnished or made available by, to, or for the benefit of the player, or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of the player; or

(iii) except as permitted by this Agreement, involving an investment or business opportunity to be furnished or made available by, to, or for the benefit of the player, or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of the player).

(b) In addition to the foregoing, it shall be a violation of this Section 2 for any Team (or Team Affiliate) or any player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) to attempt to enter into or to intentionally solicit any agreement, transaction, promise, undertaking, representation, commitment, inducement, assurance of intent or understanding that would be prohibited by Section 2(a) above.

(c) A violation of Section 2(a) or 2(b) above may be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence, including, but not limited to, evidence that a Player Contract or any term or provision thereof cannot rationally be explained in the absence of conduct violative of Section 2(a) or 2(b).

(d) In any proceeding brought before the System Arbitrator pursuant to this Section 2, no adverse inference shall be drawn against the party initiating such proceeding because that party, when it first suspected or believed that a violation of Section 2 may have occurred, deferred the initiation of such proceeding until it had further reason to believe that such a violation had occurred. 299

(e) A player will not be found to have committed a violation of Section 2(a)(ii) above if the violation is the Team’s intentional delay in submitting a Uniform Player Contract to the NBA and this was done without the player’s knowledge.

If the Pistons promised Drummond a max contract next summer, that’d probably cross the line.

But what if they said they planned to give him a max deal? What if they said they planned to give him the max if this season went smoothly? What if they explained to him the cap ramifications and let him decide while implying they’d give him the max?

Where exactly does the line fall?

We know the Timberwolves were stripped draft picks for putting their under-the-table deal with Joe Smith in writing. Few teams are that foolish, and I’d be shocked if Detroit repeated that mistake. That leaves a whole lot of gray area.

This isn’t an isolated case. The Wizards could be taking a similar strategy with Bradley Beal. The Spurs seemingly executed this plan with Kawhi Leonard last season. He didn’t sign a contract extension, but he maintained he planned to stay in San Antonio and reportedly had no interest in seeking offer sheets. Then, Leonard announced July 1 he’d re-sign, but didn’t officially do so until July 16 – a week after he officially could’ve and well after LaMarcus Aldridge signed using the created cap space.

If the Pistons are breaking a rule, it’s only by a matter of degree relative to other teams. Admittedly, Van Gundy and Drummond were more open about their plan than other teams. But as a key point, neither has ever said anything directly about an pre-negotiated arrangement for next summer.

Pistons owner Tom Gores called Drummond a “max player,” and that speaks loudly. Said or unsaid, everyone knows what contract is coming for Drummond next summer.

Is an implied deal enough to convict the Pistons and Drummond of violating the CBA?

I don’t think so in this case, but if this executive is concerned, he or she should ask the NBA to investigate. I doubt that’ll happen, though, because all teams want to operate this way when its advantageous to them.

If the league starts poking around Detroit, the next team under investigation could be Berger’s source’s.

Wes Unseld Jr., Kenny Atkinson reportedly top list for next Chicago coach

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Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, the two guys at the top of Chicago Bulls basketball operations, fired a coach in Jim Boylen that the team owner liked. Which means they have to nail the next hire.

Chicago in on to the second round of interviews and four names stand out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bulls are narrowing to finalists for their head coaching job and expect to conduct final interviews soon, sources said. Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Philadelphia assistant Ime Udoka, Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham and former Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson are among the coaches who have had strong interviews so far.

Atkinson has a more proven resume after what he did in Brooklyn, but the other three are top assistants who have earned their shot in the big chair. Unseld Jr. is a hot name right now because his team is still in the bubble and playing well — he’s Mike Malone’s lead assistant on the Denver Nuggets — but every name on this list is qualified.

Whoever lands the job will head a team with plenty of potential but also plenty of questions. The Bulls have quality young talent on the roster — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter — but do they are fit together? How good Chicago is next season may depend more on the growth of White and the health of Markkanen than it does on who gets selected as coach.

Expect Karnisovas to spend a year putting his stamp on this roster and moving players around. First, however, he’s got to find his coach.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin form NASCAR racing team with Bubba Wallace driving

Michael Jordan NASCAR
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Michael Jordan is getting into the NASCAR game.

The North Carolina native has teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR Cup Series race team — and they’ve signed Bubba Wallace to drive.

Wallace is the only Black man driving full-time in NASCAR’s top series (the previous three seasons he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports). Wallace has been at the forefront of bringing social changes to NASCARincluding the banning of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events and tracks.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Michael Jordan becomes the first Black owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR top series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in the 1960s and early 1970s (he owned the team and drove the car). Bubba Wallace is the first Black full-time driver in the top NASCAR series since Scott.

Hamlin will be a minority partner in the new team and continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace in a statement. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The car manufacturer, number, sponsors and more will be announced at a later date.

Jordan is the primary owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.

Report: Raptors coach Nick Nurse earning $8M salary on extension

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich reportedly had an $11 million salary in 2015 then signed a contract extension in 2019 that keeps him the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Doc Rivers was earning $10 million annually with the Clippers before his latest extension. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also signed extensions in recent years.

What about Nick Nurse, who just signed an extension with the Raptors?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors coach Nick Nurse signed a new multiyear contract extension on Tuesday — a deal that pays him around $8 million per year, sources say.

That’s a lot for a coach, especially in these times.

But Nurse has proven his value. He might even be the NBA’s best coach right now. He checks so many key boxes.

He has shown the ability to prepare his team for the playoffs then adapt through a long playoff run. His players have developed under his watch. He has dealt with roster upheaval and kept everything humming.

After just two seasons as head coach, Nurse still must prove himself in more situations, especially as opposing teams become more familiar with his strategies. But Toronto should want to keep him.

Credit Raptors ownership for paying to make it happen.

Now onto Raptors president Masai Ujiri