Winners, losers from first day of NBA free agency

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Life comes at you fast. NBA free agency comes at you faster.

Within minutes of free agency starting, teams were announcing deals (which in no way were worked out before the start of free agency through back channels, that would be tampering, and no team would ever do such a thing… cough). By the end of the first day of free agency Stephen Curry had the richest deal in NBA history, Blake Griffin had decided to remain a Clipper, and suddenly Philadelphia was looking real in the East (knocking on wood everyone stays healthy).

Here are our three biggest winners and losers from July 1, the first day of NBA free agency.

WINNERS

1) The Golden State Warriors. The NBA’s best team is keeping the band together — and they should. Signing Curry to a five-year, $201 million super max deal was easy, that’s the no-brainer. LeBron is right, Curry is underpaid (relative to what he generates for the franchise, not compared to reality outside of sports, but that’s another larger discussion). More importantly, the

More importantly, Joe Lacob and the rest of Warriors ownership stepped up and bit the bullet on a massive coming tax bill to keep the core of this team together. The Warriors re-signed Shaun Livingston, retained David West, then upped their offer last minute to keep Andre Iguodala — something Iguodala confirmed.

Now Kevin Durant will reach a deal with the Warriors, a 1+1 deal for a few million less than his maximum. Next year, Durant will opt out and get a max contract (likely starting at about $36 million), and the Warriors will be at least $15 million over the tax line and headed into paying the repeater tax in a few years. Keeping the Warriors together is going to eat into the profits of the Warriors, and credit ownership for being willing to pay that to keep the NBA’s best team together.

2) Jrue Holiday. He had the Pelicans up against it. With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on the team (the latter in a contract year), they need a quality point guard to run the show and get them the rock. Holiday certainly fits that bill, but he had multiple suitors. He was going to make at least $20 million next year. The problem for the Pelicans was if they let him walk they only had about $12 million to replace him, and that was going to mean a serious downgrade in talent they couldn’t afford. So the Pelicans came in big, five years and $126 million. Holiday took it, he wanted to stay in New Orleans, but he wasn’t taking a discount to do it. That’s a lot of money, credit to the man for getting paid.

Now, let’s see how this experiment works in the Big Easy.

3) J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers. We all talk about the great young core with all that potential in Philly: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and on down the line. Then you hear about GM Bryan Colangelo wanting to bring in veterans and think, “please, don’t screw up the process, it’s working.” He didn’t, and the Sixers still got their veterans.

They land J.J. Redick for one year at $23 million (that figure is why Redick is a winner). Is that overpaying? Sure. But it works. The Sixers have the cap space, Redick fits a position of need, and he’s one of the best shooters in the game, plus this is just a one-year deal. Next summer the Sixers have their cap space back. Redick will give the 76ers shooting that spacing the floor for Simmons’ and Fultz to do their thing, but he’s also a perfect mentor off the court — this guy was a huge college star who had to totally rework his body and game to fit in as an NBA role player, and he busted his butt to do it. This is the work ethic and mentality Philly wants to show those young players, show them what it takes. Same things apply to the signing of Amir Johnson — one year, $11 million, very professional and respected by everyone.

LOSERS

1) Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors keep the band together. Paul George goes to Oklahoma City in a trade, despite both the Cavs and Nuggets being down with a three-team trade that would have brought PG13 to Cleveland. The problem was the Pacers didn’t want that, they kept moving the goal posts, then sent him to the West (people around the Cavaliers are convinced Indy wanted George in the West, because why else would anyone want Victor Oladipo over Gary Harris?).

Maybe most concerning: LeBron James is sitting out the recruiting process this summer. Those concerns about him leaving in 2018 are legitimate.

2) Detroit Pistons. On the court, I like the signing of Langston Galloway on this team. He can play either guard spot, he can shoot the three, he’s a good defender, and while $7 million a year is mildly overpaying it’s not unreasonable. The problem is by using some of the mid-level exception to make this happen, the Pistons have hard-capped themselves at $125 million. If another team comes in with a max offer for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope the Pistons are going to have to shed $3.4 million to match it. And the hard cap will limit in-season moves. Stan Van Gundy has tied his own hands, and it’s going to be a problem down the line.

3) Los Angeles Clippers T-shirt. They got their man, but looks like the Clippers brought Donald Sterling back to design the T-shirt that staff wore at the end of their pitch to Blake Griffin.

Yes, that is a shirt comparing Blake Griffin’s time with the Clippers to Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela. That is the very definition of tone deaf.

This Date in NBA History: James Harden goes off for then career-high 51 vs. Kings (VIDEO)

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The 2014-15 season is one of several years where James Harden feels he should have been MVP but was robbed by voters. It’s become almost an annual tradition.

Stephen Curry won the award that year — he was bombing threes on his way to 23.8 points and 7.7 assists a game, leading the 67-win Warriors to an NBA title — but Harden put up raw numbers that were right there, 27.4 points and seven assists a game.

Harden made his case for the award on Feb. 1, 2015, with a 51-point outburst against Sacramento that was, at the time, his highest-scoring game ever. He shot 16-of-25 from the field overall, a ridiculous 8-of-9 from three, and he got to the line 13 times. Sacramento had no answer.

Harden has scored more points since — he’s had 60+ point games each of the last three seasons — but this was his first 50+ point game, and to this day remains one of his signature games.

Heat’s Goran Dragic says he’s not going to Slovenia during layoff

Heat guard Goran Dragic
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MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat said Tuesday that he is prepared to forgo his annual offseason move back to his native Slovenia if that is what the NBA schedule necessitates.

Dragic, his wife and their two children are in Miami and have no plans to leave for Slovenia amid the global coronavirus pandemic. His parents recently left Miami to return home, but the Heat guard says he’s staying.

“Three days ago they flew back home because they had to, the government said that all the Slovenian citizens needed to get back,” Dragic said, referring to his parents, adding that they wore masks and gloves on their not-very-full flight back to Slovenia. “But my situation is different. Here is my home. We have health insurance in America and we have a home to go to, so we’re going to stay here.”

Dragic and his family have gotten a firsthand global view of the pandemic.

He’s in Miami, and so is his uncle — who is staying in the U.S. because he cannot get back to his native Serbia because Dragic said that country has essentially locked its borders over health concerns. Dragic’s brother Zoran, a former Heat guard, was quarantined while playing in Spain, then returned to Slovenia recently and is under quarantine again, unable to leave his hotel room for a couple more weeks.

“It’s a really crazy situation over there,” Dragic said, detailing what his brother went through in Spain — one of the hardest-hit nations with more than 94,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 8,000 deaths attributed to the virus, the second-highest total worldwide behind only Italy. Slovenia has confirmed 802 cases through Tuesday, with 15 deaths.

In Miami, though, Dragic is trying to keep some sense of normalcy.

Dragic said the Heat are participating in a daily team workout on Zoom most mornings, those sessions often including strength and conditioning coach Eric Foran and Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn, among others.

“We try to work together, in isolation,” Dragic said.

Dragic has been working out individually as well at his waterfront home, trying to stay fit. He’s hopeful that the season resumes at some point, and said he hopes the league has teams play no more than a handful of games before starting the playoffs.

“I’m running around the house. I’m going to be in good shape,” Dragic said.

Dragic is averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 assists this season for the Heat, coming off the bench in all but one of his 54 games.

Report: NBA, players’ union in talks to withhold some of players’ salaries

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The forced suspension of the NBA’s regular season is hitting the league hard — and it’s about to hit players’ paychecks hard.

The NBA and the players’ union are in negotiations to withhold more of players’ paychecks in an escrow account if the rest of the NBA season is canceled, as is seeming more and more likely. Up to 25 percent of the players’ salaries will be withheld, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are discussing scenarios for withholding up to 25 percent of players’ remaining salaries in a league escrow should regular-season games eventually be canceled, sources tell ESPN…

The Collective Bargaining Agreement maintains that players lose approximately 1 percent of salary per canceled game based on a Force Majeure provision, which covers several catastrophic circumstances, including epidemics and pandemics…

Commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and a group of league and union lawyers have been discussing a number of ways to prepare financially for how the likely cancelling of scheduled games will impact some percentage of lost salary for players, sources said.

In every NBA check, even in a typical season, 10 percent of a players’ salary is held back in an escrow fund. Then, at the end of the season when the books are balanced, and the players get 50 percent of the basketball related income (BRI). If league income was slightly lower than projected, the players do not get all of their money back from the escrow fund, the league takes whatever portion is needed to get to the CBA’s prescribed 50/50 BRI split (and the rest is returned to the players).

This season, due to the coronavirus possibly canceling more than 20 percent of the season and condensing the playoffs, there is going to be more than a 10 percent shortfall in the projected BRI.

Players will get a full regular paycheck on Wednesday, April 1. If the NBA and players union reach an agreement before April 15, that check could start to see the reductions as money goes to the escrow account.

The vast majority of players have their pay stretched out for the entire year (the first and 15th of every month), but some players take an option to get more of that money up front. Regardless, everyone will pay into the escrow fund.

The NBA has not officially announced the cancelation of regular season games yet, but games will be lost. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he doesn’t expect the Warriors will play any more games this season. More and more sources think the regular season is lost, but the league is holding out hope.

It’s impossible to calculate how big the revenue hit to the league will be until a plan for the postseason is put together (if one is put together), but it will be massive. Possibly more than a billion dollars if the season and playoffs are canceled. Right now, the league is simply running a lot of scenarios to try and project how to lessen that blow when they do return to action.

Still, the coronavirus suspension is going to hit the players’ pocketbooks. This increased escrow account is just the first wave.

 

LeBron James, Kevin Durant among handful of players who got this year’s contract money up front

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Years ago, NBA players (like those in other professional sports), got paid every other week during the regular season. They might get a bonus during the playoffs if the team did well, but in the offseason they had no money flowing into their pockets.

Over the past decade that changed. Now the standard contract now calls for players to get paid over 12 months, giving them cash flow all year long.

This also means the vast majority of NBA players have yet to get most of their pay for this year, which will get interesting as the owners and players union start discussing the “Force Majeure” clause in the CBA to take some of the players’ salaries because of canceled games.

Mark Stein of the New York Times talked about it on Twitter.

However, a handful of big-name players got more their money up front — the CBA allows players to get a chunk of their money in advance then get then rest over a 12-check, six-month span. Some of the biggest names in the sport went for that.

In addition to LeBron James, players such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Blake Griffin have gotten the majority of their pay already.

NBA owners are scheduled to have a remote meeting soon to discuss next steps. They are talking both about the restart of the season (in whatever form that takes) and about invoking the “Force Majeure” clause. That CBA clause allows teams to reduce players’ salaries in the event of an “act of god” kind of event that cancels games – things like war, natural disaster, and epidemics. Obviously, the epidemic part has come into play and shut down the league.

If the NBA doesn’t play any more regular season games — which reports have said is seeming more likely — teams and players will miss about 25 percent of the season (give or take depending on how many games their team played) and owners would want to recoup some money. Doing some of that through “Force Majeure” is on the table, with the canceled games triggering the clause.

The players union warned its members this could happen. For LeBron, Durant and other players who have gotten most of their money up front it could mean checks next season will be docked to make up the difference.