Getty Images

Rumor: Spurs have ‘significant interest’ in Kristaps Porzingis

7 Comments

This rumor, this leak, is pushback on a previous rumor and leak. That doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Let’s follow the bouncing ball: Last week a report came out that the New York Knicks might offer Kristaps Porzingis an incentive-based max contract next summer. Just as the Sixers did with Joel Embiid‘s contract extension — a $147 million contract but “only” $84 million is fully guaranteed, the rest is incentives for games played considering Embiid’s injury history — the Knicks might want something similar for Porzingis, who has yet to play this season and could be sidelined the entire campaign as he recovers from a torn ACL.

You think that sat well with Porzingis and his camp?

Now comes this report from the well-connected Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Spurs would have interest in Porzingis.

Negotiating an incentive-based deal with Porzingis could risk alienating him. All it takes is one team—like the Nets, as [the previous report] mentioned—to make Porzingis a max offer sheet worth four years and $122.1 million. The Spurs are also viewed as a team with significant interest in Porzingis, according to league front office sources, though it’d be difficult for San Antonio to create enough cap space this summer. In any case, signing a max offer sheet would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (or in 2022 if it included a player option).

This is someone sending a message to the Knicks: Come at us with an incentive-based offer and we will sign an offer sheet somewhere else — one that may be shorter, have poison pills, and generally not be as favorable as what the Knicks can put on the table.

Are the Spurs interested? No doubt. But as O’Connor mentioned the finances are difficult. If the Spurs let the non-guaranteed contract of Pau Gasol go, they still need to clear more than $20 million off the books to get into max salary space, and nobody is going to take on LaMarcus Aldridge as a salary dump (even if the Spurs add sweeteners). It would take a lot of moves.

That said, two-thirds of the league will have max salary space or could get there if they wanted to make an offer for Porzingis, and if the Knicks come in with an offer that KP and his team see as lowball they will ask another franchise to step up. One will. The Knicks can match that offer, Porzingis is a restricted free agent, but this is a guy who already skipped an exit meeting with Phil Jackson because of his frustrations with management and ownership. The new front office of Steve Mills and Scott Perry have worked to improve the relationship with Porzingis, it’s hard to imagine them putting forward an offer they know he will reject and will damage the relationship further.

Damian Lillard opposes idea of later NBA season start running into summer

Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks back (although it feels like a lifetime ago), Atlanta  CEO Steve Koonin suggested the NBA should permanently shift its schedule to a mid-December start with the Finals running into August. The idea was to stop going head-to-head with the NFL and college football at the start of the season. Then the pushed back playoffs forced by the coronavirus have made that discussion more relevant. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said everything is on the table.

Damian Lillard is not a fan of the idea.

He likes the schedule just the way it is, something he said during a video conference with the media on Tuesday, hat tip to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Portland.

“I just don’t see it. I mean, the season starts when it starts now, then February all-star weekend, getting toward the end of the season in April and then getting into the playoffs. You get that early June Finals and then you get to go off into your summer…

“You get to enjoy real-time summer,” Lillard said. “Our break is into the summer and then you get to come back as summer is leaving. I think that’s been perfect…

“It’s been perfect for us,” Lillard said. “So, for that to change and for things to be pushed back, I’m definitely not a fan of that and I don’t see many guys being a fan of that.”

Lillard is not alone in thinking this way, but Silver is more open to change than most sports commissioners. That said, changes that break with long-standing traditions are hard to make a reality.

There would be a lot of questions around a schedule change. Would the ratings still be as high for a Finals series in the heart of the summer? The NBA season no longer would sync with the NCAA or international leagues’ schedules, leading to questions about the draft and timing for players who want to test the waters. There would need to be reworked television contracts, both regionally and nationally. It could make scheduling a challenge at arenas used to having more concerts and other events in the summer.

Plus, all of this would need to be negotiated with the players union — and Lillard speaks for a lot of players on this issue.

If the NBA could somehow convince players that starting later meant more money in their pocket, those union negotiations would take on a different tone. But would the move increase revenue? That’s not an easy sell.

With this NBA season likely running late, the start of next season could be pushed back, and this theory could get a little bit of a test. Or, the next season could be shortened a little to get the league back on its regular schedule.

Which would make Lillard happy.

Report: NBA deprioritizing playing regular-season games for local TV

Steve Kerr and LeBron James before NBA game
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA is financially incentivized to play more regular-season games to satisfy local-TV contracts.

How does that square with resuming play – currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic – with a play-in tournament and playoffs?

It doesn’t.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to one source, getting some teams to a magical number of 70 regular-season games had been a goal, but in the last week has taken on less of a priority.

This stoppage is going to cost the NBA a lot of money. There’s no way around that. Not every source of revenue can be preserved. It’s about finding the optimal setup.

Importantly, canceling games could allow the NBA to reduce player salaries through force majeure. Of course, the union would consider that action when negotiating how to proceed.

LeBron James advocated for playing some regular-season games before the playoffs so everyone could get back into shape. But Steve Kerr called it very unlikely the Warriors would play another regular-season game. Perhaps, playoff-bound teams like the Lakers will play tune-up regular-season games while Golden State – the only team officially eliminated from the playoff race before the hiatus – doesn’t. It’d be a little odd to have such different formats, though. (Then again, these are odd times).

Considering this report, we ought to give more credence to the idea that Kerr knows something about the NBA’s plan and that the regular season is finished.

Lakers update that all players ‘currently symptom-free of COVID-19’

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nearly two weeks ago, the Lakers announced that two of their players tested positive for the coronavirus. “Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician… All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine,” the Lakers said at that time.

On Tuesday, the team provided an update saying nobody on the team is showing any symptoms after a couple of weeks of quarantine.

“All Lakers players are currently symptom-free of COVID-19. The team will continue to follow the health and safety guidelines set by government officials, the Lakers and the NBA,” the statement said.

The Lakers’ players who tested positive were never publicly identified (in fitting with HIPAA regulations).

A total of 10 NBA players — plus five members of staff associated with teams — have tested positive for the virus that has upended life in the United States. None reportedly have had to be hospitalized. Players such as Marcus Smart and others have recovered and free from the virus.

The NBA remains suspended, with the league hoping to jump-start the playoffs in June, possibly with all the teams in one location.

Report: NBA won’t hold draft until after season

NBA draft
Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.

Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.

You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.

It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.

Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.

The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.

So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.