NBA owners pass lottery reform, new rules on resting players

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver got what he wanted.

How much good it will do, and what will the unintended consequences will be, will hang over this like a cloud. But Silver got the PR wins he wanted.

Wednesday the NBA’s Board of Governors — made up of the 30 team owners — passed new rules on resting of healthy players, particularly for nationally televised games, plus passed NBA Draft Lottery reform that starts in 2019. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been a strident proponent of both legislative agendas, pushing owners and team executives on his belief that passage was important for elements of the league’s economy, competitive balance and public perception…

In the new resting legislation, Silver will have the discretionary ability to fine teams for resting players in several instances, including sitting multiple players outside of unusual circumstances in a single game, and healthy players in nationally televised ESPN, ABC and TNT games…

The NBA needed a three-fourths majority to pass draft lottery reform, which is designed to discourage teams from tanking to pursue the best possible odds to select highest in the draft order.

The vote on lottery reform was 28-1-1, with Oklahoma City voting no and Dallas abstaining, according to Wojnarowski.

Let’s talk resting first — this is about perceptions and public relations. It’s a bad look for the league when they tout a Golden State vs. San Antonio Saturday night game and Steve Kerr sits Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard in that game due to injury). Every study shows that rested players (meaning at least one day off between games, but the more the better) both perform better and are less likely to get injured, and it makes sense if the Cavaliers want LeBron James at his peak in May and June they give him nights off in January to keep him fresh. To the NBA’s credit, it started the season a couple of weeks earlier this season and reduced the number of back-to-backs, mostly eliminated four-games-in-five-nights, and now makes sure teams get rest before nationally televised games.

But make no mistake, guys will still get nights off. Coaches will just not do it on the highest profile nights, nor will they rest multiple stars on the same night (at least until the final couple weeks of the season, when all bets should be off). Also, coaches will go to the old trick of saying a guy is injured if they want to rest him (by a month into the season every player has enough bumps and bruises to say he needs a night off if they want).

Lottery reform is more complicated. That’s not a surprise to the league office, which has said this is just one step in what could be a much longer process.

This move creates the perception that teams don’t benefit as much tanking, which is true only if a team is going for the worst record in the league. However, these new rules don’t change the underlying issue: For 25 NBA teams, the only way they can land and keep a superstar (at least for eight years or so to start their career) is through the draft, and the best way to do that is to get a high draft pick. What this does do is take away some incentive to be ultra-terrible to get the best odds, but teams will still aim for the bottom three if they are in that kind of rebuild.

The three worst teams each will have a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, and the odds go down from there (but not as steeply as they did before). Here is a handy chart — via Wojnarowski and ESPN — that explains the new lottery odds.

So if you have the worst record in the NBA, rather than most likely having the No. 2 or 3 pick, your “expected pick” is the three or four. Is that really going to keep teams from tanking? Kristaps Porzingis went fourth. Teams may not go as deep a dive, but they will go, and it will still be a topic.

More importantly, it just moves the tanking line. Last season, the 42-win Pacers got the 7 seed in the East and thumped by the Cavaliers in the first round. However, if they were five games worse, they would have been the 12th seed going into the lottery, with a 7 percent chance at a top-five pick. You can bet some owners/GMs will look at that calculus and say they are willing to forgo the $5 million to $8 million in gate revenue from a couple playoff games to have a shot at a high pick (some owners will want the cash). More importantly for the league, you can bet some segments of the fanbase will call for it.

What this vote does gives the league is a PR win — “we have taken steps to reduce player rest and tanking,” issues Silver was sick of talking about at his press conferences and in interviews. There is some good stuff here — the spaced out schedule is needed — but whether either proposal gets at the real issues (like too long a regular season) is still up for debate.

Kevin Love, NBA world reacts to death of Wes Unseld

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Wes Unseld, the first black athlete to be offered a scholarship at the University of Kentucky (he turned it down to attend Louisville), who then went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, died at the age of 74.

Around the NBA there has been mourning, starting with Kevin Love, who’s middle name is Wesley after Unseld.

“Wes Unseld was one of the most consequential players of his era,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “An NBA MVP and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, Wes elevated the game by mastering the fundamentals. His competitive drive and selfless approach made him a beloved teammate, a respected opponent and a cornerstone of the Washington Wizards franchise, with whom he won an NBA championship. Wes also set the model of class, integrity and professionalism for the entire NBA family during stints as a player, coach and team executive with Washington and through his dedication to expanding educational opportunities for children. We send our deepest sympathies to Wes’ wife, Connie; their son, Wes Jr. (who is an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets); their daughter, Kim; and the Wizards organization.”

The best player currently in Washington, Bradley Beal, led a chorus of people taking to social media to praise Unseld.

Kings TV play-by-play announcer Grant Napear resigns after “all lives matter” Tweet

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Sacramento television play-by-play announcer Grant Napear resigned on Tuesday amidst an intense backlash from former Kings’ players and many fans after Napear’s “all lives matter” comment on Twitter.

Napear had been the Kings’ play-by-play man since 1988, plus he was the host of a sports talk radio show on Sports 1140 in Sacramento. Napear lost both of those jobs within days of his Tweet.

“Our company values and honors inclusion and equality,” Kings’ broadcast partner NBC Sports California said in a statement before Napear’s announcement. “Racism, injustice and violence run counter to everything we stand for and cannot be tolerated in our society. Grant Napear’s recent comments on Twitter do not reflect the views of NBC Sports California. We’ve spoken to Grant’s employer, the Sacramento Kings, about the matter.”

“I want to thank the fans for their overwhelming love and support,” Napear said in a statement. “I will always remain a part of Kings nation in my heart.”

“His recent comments about the Black Lives Matter movement do not reflect the views or values of Bonneville International Corporation,” the media company that owns Sports 1140 said in a statement announcing the change. “The timing of Grant’s tweet was particularly insensitive. After reviewing the matter carefully, we have made the difficult decision to part ways with Grant.”

The controversy started with former Kings’ big man DeMarcus Cousins, in the wake of nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, asked Napear what he thought and got the “all lives matter” response.

“All lives matter” is a controversial phrase that has become a flashpoint. It’s a phrase used by those opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement to try and discredit it, to try and undercut and change the topic away from the much-needed discussion of racism and how black Americans are treated by the police — and other institutions — in this nation.

Cousins quickly responded that he expected this from Napear.

Chris Webber and Matt Barnes, two other former Kings, jumped in to comment about Napear.

“Closet racist” is a strong phrase, but Tom Ziller, the longtime NBA writer based out of Sacramento, said in his Tuesday newsletter “This element of Napear’s personality has been obvious to anyone who listened to his radio show even occasionally over the past 20 years.”

Napier took to Twitter to try and apologize.

On Monday he was put on leave from his radio show, and by Tuesday he had resigned as Kings’ play-by-play man and no longer was part of his radio show with former King Doug Christie.

Report: NBA season could last through Oct. 12

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan and 76ers forward Tobias Harris
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The NBA is reportedly targeting July 31 for resuming games.

Now, we also have a planned end date for the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The big question: What happens between July 31 and Oct. 12?

Most likely, 22 teams will return for more regular-season games, a play-in tournament then playoffs. It appears a last-ditch argument for all 30 teams continuing has stalled.

But that still leaves many questions within a 22-team structure. How many regular-season games will each team play? How many seeds will be up for grabs in the play-in tournament? How many teams will qualify for the play-in tournament. Will the the playoffs have 1-16 seeding?

And then there’s next season and beyond. The NBA will obviously delay the start of the next season. But will the league work back toward an October start for future seasons? Or will this be the beginning of regularly starting the season in December?

Still, as many questions remain unanswered, the timeline is coming into sharper focus.

Tilman Fertitta: ‘Such a disappointment’ Rockets faced trouble for Daryl Morey’s tweet

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta
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When Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms), Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced the organization. Though he never publicly condemned Morey, Fertitta emphasized that Morey was speaking as a private citizen and not for the organization.

But the winds have turned. The Knicks are facing criticism for not saying enough about the death of George Floyd. The Rockets – as apolitical as Fertitta says they should be – even released a statement on the death of Floyd:

How does Fertitta reconcile the different approaches?

Power Lunch:

Fertitta:

Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters, OK? In America, we have free speech, and we can do whatever want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalize because of it. And that’s why we all love this country so much.

One hundred percent, I believe that you should not be a political organization, because we have 60 thousand employees and a hundred million customers, and we don’t always agree. It’s usually 50 percent one way and 50 percent this way.

But when it comes to an issue like this in America, you sure should speak out and say exactly what you want. And I encourage all my employees – from my basketball team to my restaurants to my hotels to my casinos – to speak out on this issue, and let’s make this world better and this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.

I go back to what happened to Eric Garner in New York, which is a second home to me, and of course George Floyd, who is from Houston, Texas. And it’s inexcusable for two men to die like that, who did not appear to be putting up a fight. And I totally agree, and I understand the protests and the injustice out there.

And it’s really a shame that, because of a few bad people, that the distraction of protesting for the inequality, that we have to watch everything else. And we know this. There’s bad journalists. There’s bad CEOs. There’s a few bad cops. And there’s a few bad protesters. And it’s so disappointing, because I love that the protesting. That’s what makes America great.

And remember, we got in trouble, my team, earlier in the year because we commented about something, which was such a disapointment, because that’s what makes America great.

This is the most strongly – by far – Ferttita has supported Morey about the Hong Kong tweet. My question: Why now? When he tweeted, Morey was an American citizen who enjoyed the freedom of speech Fertitta espouses. Fertitta could have backed Morey like this at the time, even while maintaining a message that Morey didn’t speak for the organization.

Morey’s tweet cost the NBA, including the Rockets, a lot of money in China. Everyone quickly entered damage control. Fertitta appeared more focused on the financial ramifications than anything else.

Right now, it’s popular to stand for racial justice. Customers appreciate it. So, supposedly apolitical organizations like the Rockets are issuing statements on George Floyd.

That’s why I’m not looking to professional basketball teams for leadership on these issues. It’s easy when doing the right thing aligns with maximizing profits. When those things don’t align, it’s far messier.

Even in this interview, Fertitta struggled to keep his message consistent. He said both “Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters” then later “let’s make this world better.” But after that slip into acknowledging global considerations, Fertitta jumped right back to “this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.”

Some Americans focus on injustice in America. Some Americans are concerned with with injustice elsewhere. There’s not a major difference between those outlooks  – unless it screws up the money.