Here’s what you missed around the NBA on Tuesday night while feeding the tigers just freely roaming around your house…
1) New season, same problem: Toronto still doesn’t have an answer for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving. We’ve seen this movie before: The Toronto Raptors went into Cleveland and did a lot of things right for the first 43 minutes Tuesday night. The Raptors were attacking early in the clock, pushing the tempo, and taking advantage of an unsteady Cavaliers transition defense. Toronto was moving the ball to get wide-open threes (which they hit). The Raptors got 29 points and nine assists from Kyle Lowry, and following a 20-7 fourth quarter run the Raptors had a seven-point lead in the fourth.
But then there were those final five minutes — Toronto simply has no answer for Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Irving had 10 of his 24 points in the fourth and sparked a 17-5 run late that gave the Cavaliers the win. LeBron was just himself all game and finished with 28 points on 15 shots, plus had 14 assists and nine rebounds on the night.
There are other things we could talk about — that DeMar DeRozan struggled some against a good defense, with 26 points on 27 shots; or that Kevin Love is playing very well on both ends and had three blocks — but we all know how this movie ends. The Raptors, like every other team in the East, does not have the tools to beat these Cavaliers. Cleveland didn’t bring its best game, but they still had the two best players on the floor when they wanted to be, and that is too much for Toronto.
2) D’Angelo Russell broke out against Brooklyn and the Lakers looked even better. The Lakers have gotten off to a 7-5, “hey, maybe they can make the playoffs” kind of start despite the fact D’Angelo Russell hadn’t really broken out. He’d played well enough, but then he’d have games like the seven-points-on-10-shots night like he did against the Timberwolves Sunday. Los Angeles was getting wins because Julius Randle is a playmaking four and beast all of a sudden, because Lou Williams became efficient, and because Nick Young was suddenly crushing it on defense and being mature on offense. Russell hadn’t broken out yet.
He did Tuesday — 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting, 7-of-13 from three, plus eight rebounds and four assists. Granted he did all that against a weak Nets team playing without the injured Jeremy Lin, but who cares — the Lakers will take it.
The other big story out of this game for the Lakers: Julius Randle put up his first triple-double of the season with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. It’s difficult to overstate how well Randle is playing to start the season, he has a PER of 19.6 and looks like an All-Star level player. No player has made a bigger leap in their game, has filled more holes, than Randle.
3) An update on where the new CBA stands. Another report that the NBA’s owners and players’ union are nearing and agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement came out Tuesday. Both sides have an opt-out of the old deal that has to be exercised by Dec. 17, and before that date you can bet the new agreement will be in place.
What will that deal look like, and how will it differ from the last CBA? Nothing is written in stone, but here is a list of what we know — or, at least, what we think we know — about the new CBA.
• The approximately 50/50 split of revenue (it ranges between 49-51 percent depending on if the league meets revenue goals) will stay in place unchanged. If you want to know why the two sides are getting a labor deal done early and bringing peace to the league this is the key reason — they figured out the money. Because it’s always about the money. The fact is with the massive new national television contract both the owners and players are making more money than ever, and nobody wanted to mess with that.
• The college one-and-done rule will not change. It’s not that anyone actually likes the rule, but the players want the age limit gone while the owners want it bumped up to 20 (two years after high school). To get their way means a trade-off and the reality of these negotiations is neither side is willing to give up enough on other issues to get what they want here.
• There will be two-way contracts allowing a free flow between the D-League and NBA for some players, which will expand overall rosters to 18. Teams will only be able to carry 15 on the NBA roster (and three of them need to be inactive for a game), but the other three will be in the D-League and can be called up at any point. This is more like an NHL system, and it’s a smart idea.
• The preseason will be shortened, likely allowing the NBA to start the season a little earlier (probably a week), making it possible to have fewer back-to-backs and to build more rest into the schedule.
• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it, particularly older ones that have been out of the league for some time.
• The rookie scale for salaries will increase (right now every team wants guys on rookie deals because they are such a bargain, that will remain to a degree but be less of a steal).
• There will be some changes to cap holds that will make it harder to do what Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond did with their rookie deals, delaying signing an obvious max extension to allow the team to use that cap space to put a better team around them. The cap hold increases also could make it difficult for the Warriors to keep Andre Iguodala and other role players around Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
• The league will have a more detailed policy on domestic violence, which will include a more structured disciplinary schedule. The goal of the policy will be to get players help, but the punishments — suspensions — will be known and feel less random. Good on the NBA for getting out in front of this (hey Rodger Goodell, this is how it’s done).
• The salaries for D-League players — which currently have a max of $26,000 — will jump to the $50,000 to $75,000 range. This matters because it puts D-League salaries in the ballpark of what undrafted players would earn in their first season in Europe, making it more likely some of them stay here and chase their NBA dream and grow their game rather than get a paycheck. Eventually, some (many?) of those players will head overseas, but they will stay here longer, and that’s good for the D-League.