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Could new Collective Bargaining Agreement break up Warriors?

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The Warrior paranoia seems silly already.

Golden State is certainly excellent, but 7-2 with a pair of 20-point losses is hardly transformational. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson have not ruined the NBA’s competitive integrity.

But owners and players negotiated the Collective Bargaining Agreement while the super-team threat was as scary as they could imagine, which is to say far more fearsome than reality. The last CBA took steps to break up or at least limit the LeBron JamesDwyane WadeChris Bosh Heat – and it might have worked.

Could the next CBA unravel the Warriors?

I called it unlikely. I still find it unlikely.

But so much of what we learn about the new labor agreement spells potential trouble for Golden State.

Durant and Curry can become unrestricted free agents next summer. So will Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia, but they’re lesser concerns. Durant and Curry are the obvious priorities.

In the likely event he opts out of his 1+1 contract, Durant would be a Non-Bird free agent. The Warriors could exceed the cap to re-sign him for up to $31,848,120. However, based on the latest salary-cap projection, his max salary would project to be about $33.9 million. I doubt he’s leaving a couple million on the table next season, so Golden State will need cap space to re-sign him.

How much cap space will the Warriors have? That’s where the new CBA could cause problems.

Free agents count against the cap until signed or renounced. How much they count against the cap depends on their previous contract, but the amount is defined by the CBA. For example, under the current CBA, Curry – who will be a Bird free agent, made more than the estimated average salary and is not coming off a rookie-scale contract – would count at 150% of his previous salary. Golden State could hold him at that amount ($18,168,539), spend its cap space and then use his Bird Rights to re-sign him to a max salary (projected to be about $29 million based on the current system).

Under the new CBA?

Bobby Marks of Yahoo Sports:

The Vertical has learned that there’s potentially could be a rule placed that is called the Drummond Rule. So basically, all these players who sign with low cap holds, teams use cap space, kind of circle back, use the room and then sign their player – that is going to go away. We’re going to see some of these cap holds take a significant increase, go from 150 percent to possibly 300 percent.

So, how that plays out is going to be a big question. We could see an impact next summer on Golden State. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant: free agents. Does the Curry cap hold double? And that might mean a dramatic effect as far as what you have with Durant, Livingston, Iguodala.

The only question will be how the NBA uses these rules. Do you grandfather them in? Do you have a grace period? There’s still a lot of questions to be hammered, but there could be certainly a domino effect right now.

First of all, it’s silly to name this rule after Andre Drummond, who forwent an extension with the Pistons last year so they could take advantage of his low cap hold this year before re-signing him to a max contract. The Spurs did the same with Kawhi Leonard. The Wizards, though perhaps with less approval from the player, did the same with Bradley Beal. Too much scrutiny has been placed on Detroit and Drummond for a fairly common strategy.

Anyway, back to the Warriors.

The example Marks provides directly applies to Curry. He’ll be the type of free agent who counts 150%. Now he could count 300%? That’d double his cap hold to $36,337,077 – but another rule limits Golden State’s exposure.

A cap hold can’t exceed a player’s maximum salary based on years of service. Based on the current system, the max for a player with nine years of experience, like Curry will have next summer, projects to be about $29 million.

So, holding Curry at $29 million rather than $18,168,539 isn’t ideal for the Warriors. But it beats $36,337,077.

Except…

The CBA might not stick with the same max tiers, which currently split players into three groups:

  • 0-6 years experience: 25% of an adjusted salary-cap figure
  • 7-9 years experience: 30% of an adjusted salary-cap figure
  • 10+ years experience: 35% of an adjusted salary-cap figure

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

You need to be a 10-year veteran to get the 35 percent. Well, they’re going to change the numbers on that. They’re going to change the service years.

I don’t know what the numbers are. I don’t know if it’s going to come down to nine years. I don’t know if it’s going to go down to eight years. I don’t know whether it’s going to be a graduated scale.

Windhorst added that players with less experience will have a chance to earn more. It will not go the other way.

So, Curry would wind up with a higher max – which would increase his cap hold. It sounds as if he’ll be experienced enough to get the 35% max, which would match the $33.9 million projection for Durant’s max.

This is becoming less and less workable for the Warriors, and we’re not done.

NBA teams are currently required to carry 13 players (which can also include free agents who are still on the books and unsigned first-round picks, who also count toward the cap). If a team has fewer than 13 players, it’s assessed a roster charge – equal to the rookie minimum, which the current CBA pegs as $562,493 for next offseason – for each open slot.

Golden State has just five players under contract for next season: Green, Thompson, Kevon Looney, Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw. Even with as many held free agents as they can keep, the Warriors will be dealing with roster charges.

Windhorst:

The minimum salaries are going way up. The new minimum is going to be in the 800-to-900-thousand-dollar range. Also, you won’t have a 13-person roster limit anymore. You will have a mandatory 15-man roster. So, your roster charges aren’t just going up to 13. They’re going  up to 15.

So, that’s even less cap space for Golden State. Not only do the Warriors have to absorb more roster charges than under the current CBA, each charge will cost more.

Based on the $103 million cap projection and these reported rule changes, Golden State could be looking at before signing Durant:

  • Stephen Curry: $33,900,000
  • Klay Thompson: $17,826,150
  • Draymond Green: $16,400,000
  • Kevon Looney: $1,233,840
  • Damian Jones: $1,224,240
  • Pat McCaw: $905,249
  • Eight cap holds: $6,800,000
  • Cap space: $23,765,395

Again, Durant’s max projects to be about $33.9 million – $10 million more than the Warriors would have room for in this scenario.

If the offseason appeared headed in this direction, he could always opt in for $27,734,405. That’d allow the Warriors to easily re-sign Curry, Iguodala and Livingston through Bird Rights.

But Durant would still be taking about $6 million less than he could get elsewhere. There’s a reason he signed a short-term contract despite his injury history, and I don’t think it’s to take a $6 million discount.

If Durant opts out in this scenario, carving out the extra $10 million necessary to max him out would be difficult.

Dumping Looney, Jones and/or McCaw wouldn’t do much, because every additional roster vacancy would add a roster charge that’s nearly as costly as their salaries. Curry could take a discount, but how inclined is he to do that after playing so long on one of the NBA’s most team-friendly contracts. The CBA prevents Thompson and Green from taking pay cuts.

There is a good source of hope, though.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

One wrinkle in the current proposed deal, according to sources familiar with it: Cap holds attached to free agents coming off rookie contracts could jump to 250 and 300 percent of their prior salaries, up from 200 and 250 percent

As of now, cap holds attached to players with more experience would stay the same, per league sources. That could change, of course.

This contradicts Marks’ description of the cap-hold changes. Because Curry is not coming off a rookie-scale contract, his cap hold would remain 150% of his previous salary. With Curry held at $18,168,539 rather than $33.9 million, the Warriors would easily have enough room to max out Durant. Then, they could use Curry’s Bird Rights to max him out, too. Iguodala might get squeezed out, but Golden State would at least avoid the doomsday scenario of losing Durant or Curry.

As Lowe notes, this is fluid.

We don’t know precisely how the CBA will treat cap holds. Even if veteran holds are raised, the change might not be implemented in 2017 to give teams a chance to prepare.

We don’t know what the salary cap will be. That’s always undetermined until July, and this year brings the additional possibility of the formula changing.

We don’t know what max salaries will be. Not only are they tied to the salary cap in the current framework, the new system could carry significantly different rules.

Other changes to the system could nuke the framework this analysis relies on.

But a picture is starting to emerge, and it should concern the Warriors. They have little roster stability. Twenty-nine other teams want to beat them, and some owners surely resent Golden State’s dominance. Likewise, players around the league might seek provisions that encourage competitiveness.

I find it hard to believe owners and players would be so punitive to any one team. I believe they’ll mostly respect the idea that they wouldn’t want to be targeted if they happened to have the hegemonic team when the CBA expired.

But none of these rules necessarily target the Warriors directly. That just might be the effect in aggregate, and it’s possible they’ll have to live with it.

It’s not nearly time for panic in Golden State, but if I were the Warriors, I’d like to be reassured that the new CBA doesn’t present as many roadblocks as it appears it might.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA Finals will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 30, if Miami closes the Easter Conference Finals out in six games. If the series goes seven games the Finals will start on Friday, Oct. 2.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109
Game 5: Celtics 121, Heat 108 (Miami leads series 3-2)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 7: Sept. 30, 8:30 p.n. (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106
Game 4: Lakers 114, Nuggets 108
Game 5: Lakers 117, Nuggets 107 (Lakers win series 4-1)

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

LeBon James takes over, leads Lakers to NBA Finals with win

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The Denver Nuggets had come back from 3-1 down twice in these playoffs.

The Denver Nuggets had never run into LeBron James.

LeBron dominated this close-out game. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter. He put up a triple-double of 38 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. Defensively he shut down Jamal Murray (who was slowed due to a bone bruise on his foot) and made smart plays.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a guy take over a game the way he did in the fourth quarter tonight, in person,” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel said of LeBron.

LeBron did what the Jazz and Clippers had failed to do — he and the Los Angeles Lakers closed out the Nuggets in five games with a 117-107 win.

“He’s had a chip on his shoulder all year long,” Vogel said about LeBron. “Everybody has doubters. To be in the Eastern Conference and get there as much as he had and to come over to the Western Conference, it’s an enormous accomplishment to [reach the Finals] with a third team.”

The Lakers advance to the NBA Finals, which will begin Wednesday (if Miami closes the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday) or Friday (if there is a Game 7 in the East).

LeBron James made history with the win, becoming the third player in NBA history to make it to 10 NBA Finals, joining Sam Jones (11) and Bill Russell (12) of the 1950s-60s Boston Celtics.

The Lakers pulled ahead in the first half of Game 5 because of Nikola Jokic‘s foul trouble — he played just eight minutes in the first half after picking up three quick ones. The Nuggets were +3 in those eight minutes and -13 in the other minutes of the first half, which had Dever down 10 at the break.

The Nuggets fought back in the third quarter, in part thanks to a monster game from Jeremi Grant who had 20 points on the night (tied with Jokic for a team high). Despite a hobbling Murray, the Nuggets did what they had done all playoffs long and refused to fold.

“What more could you ask from a group?” Denver coach Michael Malone said after the loss. “What more commitment, sacrifice, just everything in the last 82 days that our team has gone through. The history that we’ve made. The adversity that we faced and never ran from, embraced it… I couldn’t be more proud.”

Anthony Davis had 27 points for L.A. The Lakers also had role players stepping up. Alex Caruso had 11 points and was 5-of-7 from the floor. Danny Green also scored 11.

However, in the end, it was LeBron James looking like the best player on the planet.

Now he is headed to the Finals with the chance to make history and win a title with three different teams.

 

Lakers’ Anthony Davis ‘good to go’ for Game 5 despite sprained ankle

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This was expected, but when the Lakers officially listed Anthony Davis as questionable for Game 5 with a sprained ankle, it raised a few eyebrows.

Davis will play in Game 5 Saturday night, coach Frank Vogel said pregame.

Anthony Davis sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4, and while he stayed in the game there were questions about how it would respond the next day.

The Lakers are up 3-1 on a Denver team they know will not be easy to close out.

To do that, Los Angeles needs Davis: When AD has been on the court in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers have outscored the Nuggets by 9.4 points per 100 possessions, but when he sits, the Lakers are -21.3 (stats via NBA.com).

The Lakers want to close out in five games to get some added rest. The NBA Finals are expected to start next Wednesday, Sept. 30 (unless one conference finals series goes seven games, then it is likely Friday, Oct. 2). If the Lakers lose Saturday but win Game 6 Monday it would be a short turnaround (as it would be after a Game 7).

Denver, however, has played its best basketball whenever it has faced the prospect of packing its bags and going home.

New York congressman insults Knicks, James Dolan funds opponent

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Things are changing with the Knicks. Leon Rose is in the front office, Tom Thibodeau is the coach, and together they are talking about developing players and having a plan moving forward. It’s a reason for hope…

Then there’s James Dolan.

Max Rose, a Democratic congressman from Staten Island, echoed the voice for a lot of Knicks fans when he said: “I’m a Knicks fan to the day I die, but Dolan’s gotta sell. Right now, this is an absolute disgrace.”

We have seen how Dolan reacts to fans saying he should sell the team. In the case of Rose, he is fundraising for the Republican running against him. It would be easy to say “Dolan is a big President Donald Trump supporter and donates to GOP causes all the time” and this isn’t personal, except Dolan sent out an email to help raise funds for Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis and the New York Post got a hold of it.

“Max Rose thinks he can make our team and my ownership his political platform,” Dolan wrote in a personal email to friends last week that was obtained by The Post. “I need to let him know that we will not stand for this. The best way to do this is to help his opponent. He is in a tight race for the US Congress in Staten Island. … Please join me in helping Nicole defeat Max Rose for Congress.

“It will help send a strong message to all NY politicians that the Knicks will not be their political ticket to reelection.

That’s personal. Dolan isn’t just asking other people to donate.

A $50,000 check from MSG Sports was cut Tuesday to “The Governing Majority Fund,” a PAC run by former Reps. John Faso and Jeff Denham, Dolan confirmed. The PAC’s mission is to help Republicans take back the House.

Rose represents New York’s 11th District, a solid Republican district until the 2018 midterms when it became one of 30 districts nationally that flipped blue. The GOP is trying to turn a number of those back, including Rose’s district.

Whatever you think of Rose’s politics (he’s a former Army Ranger, which helped him in a more conservative district), what he said about wanting Dolan to sell the franchise is what many Knicks fans are thinking. Dolan just doesn’t like to hear it. Maybe Rose and Thibodeau can turn the Knicks around — they certainly deserve a chance — but the team has struggled since Dolan became the owner and that’s not a coincidence.

Whatever Rose and Knicks fans want, it’s also highly unlikely Dolan sells the team, there are no rumblings about that around the league (and he certainly has had chances).