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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, players union working together to look at rapid testing devices for coronavirus

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If the NBA is going to create a “bubble” to restart the season — in Las Vegas or the Bahamas or wherever — there is a cargoship full of challenges, but they all start here:

How does the league test all the players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers, guys who mop the sweat off the floor, camera operators, hotel custodial staff, chefs, and maybe family members who also are inside this bubble? If one person carrying the coronavirus gets inside the bubble the entire plan comes apart.

The NBA and the NBPA (the players’ union) are working to find and check out new coronavirus tests that would be the first step to building the bubble, reports Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

Multiple league sources close to the situation said the league and players union have been looking at what those familiar with the matter describe as “diabetes-like” blood testing in which someone could, with the prick of a finger, be tested quickly, and results could be gained inside of 15 minutes…

The league sources stressed that this matter is in the exploratory phase and that there is no clear timetable as to when the efficacy of any such device might be proven.

“Rapid-testing results are key to return to work, return to sports, everything,” one NBA general manager told ESPN, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Whatever job you have and environment you work in, if you’re interacting with people, we’re all going to have to feel safe doing that. Sports isn’t any different.”

Holmes’ story discusses a test by Abbott Laboratories that is being looked at as an option, but others are being developed as well. However, with the desperate shortage of tests nationwide to assess the health of communities where outbreaks are occurring, how long it would be before there would be enough tests to use on a sporting event remains unclear. Right now there are much higher priorities.

The challenge in finding the right test is not just speed but accuracy — some existing tests have a false negative rate of 30 percent (meaning the test says a person does not have the virus when they are infected). It does the league no good to have a fast test that is not highly accurate.

To complete its season, the league would need to not only create a bubble but also maintain the integrity of the bubble for the two months or more it would take to run mini-training camps for about three weeks then play out a condensed version of maybe the regular season and the playoffs. Creating and maintaining the bubble does not involve only the teams and their staffs, it consists of the hotel staff that cleans the rooms, the cooks that prepare the food, security staffs, and others who likely would come in and out of the bubble. Plus, the league would need to make sure no players or staff decide to go outside the bubble in Las Vegas and play some craps or go to a club.

A rapid, accurate test is necessary to have any shot at making a return of the NBA — even just to televisions — possible. The league and players union are studying it. As they should.

But as Adam Silver said on Monday about the league as a whole, it’s just far too early to know if and when this might come together.

 

 

Adam Silver: No better feel for where NBA season stands than when play was suspended

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In a Twitter interview for #NBATogether with Ernie Johnson of TNT, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked if he has any better feel for where we are.

Silver answered, “The short answer is no.”

“When we initially shut down, we were calling it a hiatus or a pause. There was no sense our country would be shut down. In some ways, I know less now than I did then,” Silver added…

“I’ve told my folks that we should just accept that for the month of April, we won’t be in a position to make any decisions. That doesn’t mean on May 1st, we will be. It’s just, honestly, too early to project or predict where we will be in the next few weeks.”

Johnson asked if there was a date that it would be too late to finish the season and if the league was trying to finish the regular season.

“We haven’t made any decisions. In a perfect world we would try to finish the regular season in some form,” Silver responded. “In the first two weeks (of the hiatus) we were looking at specific scenarios. What I’ve learned is that it’s just too early to make those sorts of projections.”

“There does come a point in the summer where we would impact next season. Player safety and safety for everyone in the NBA family comes first. We may look at playing without fans. How would those games be televised? Would we go to a single site? We’re in listening mode right now. We’ve been contacted by several of those locations (for a single-site). It’s just too early to know anything right now.”

Johnson said he can live with the 2020 NBA season not having a champion if it’s for the greater good. Silver replied to that by saying, “Of course. Safety for everyone comes first. We’d love to be a part of restarting the economy. But it’s a public health matter. Health and safety have to come before the economic impacts.”

Silver finished up the interview saying he’s spent a lot of his downtime thinking about how to improve the NBA fan experience. He also said what’s been keeping him up at night is “the 55,000 jobs the NBA creates.”

Report: NBA teams given guidelines on pre-draft process

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Shams Charania of The Athletic reports NBA teams have been given parameters around the process leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft:

Per the report, teams can host virtual visits with prospects However, teams can’t ask those prospects to do any sort of live-video workout. Teams are also barred from hosting in-person workouts.

Each team is limited to up to four hours of virtual meetings per prospect. Teams are allowed no more than two hours with a single player in a given week.

The NBA Draft is currently scheduled for Thursday, June 25. Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. Nearly 100 players have already declared as Early Entry candidates.

Some Early Entry candidates go through the draft process to find out about their chances of being drafted. This is a regular process, as each year several players will return to school, or overseas, in hopes of improving their draft stock.

Lakers guard Danny Green optimistic NBA season can be saved

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On his podcast “Inside the Green Room,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green expressed optimism the NBA season would resume. Green recorded his latest episode after NBA players had a call with the National Basketball Players Association.

“I think, by any means necessary, we’re going to try and salvage the season,” Green said. “And right now, we’re fighting. Most guys think that for sure we’re going to have a season. It’s just going to start later than we expected. And just trying to get the next season to be pushed back is not going to be as easy as people think it’s going to be. (Resuming this season) is probably going to start in mid-to-late May maybe, that’s what we’re hoping for at the earliest. Or maybe earlier than that, but that’s the earliest we’re looking at, mid-to-late May, and it’ll probably go through August/as late as September I, guess.”

These thoughts from Green are far more positive than recent thoughts given by several others around the NBA.

Broadcasters and league insiders have remained hopeful, but have said the NBA is approaching things with a sense of “realism” about saving the season.

Multiple NBA coaches, from Green’s own coach Frank Vogel to Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer, have said they are continuing to prepare as if the season will resume. The coaches who have spoken recently said they are preparing for both a shortened regular season, as well as going right to the NBA Playoffs. Budenholzer said he’s been spending time scouting both the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic, who are likely first-round opponents for the Bucks.