Adam Silver says free agency negotiation rules need to be changed, then enforced

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NBA knows its rules about when teams can negotiate with free agents are not being followed.

So expect changes on that front for 2020.

The NBA’s board of governors discussed ways Tuesday to fix that process — either by changing rules, adding rules or potentially eliminating some rules that may be outdated — and decided that it’ll all be worked on over the next several months in an effort to ensure fairness across the league.

“The one strong conviction I have is that we should not have rules that are not strictly enforced,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “And we know that’s the case right now. And whether that’s by virtue of practice, whether it’s because just the world around us has changed, whether it’s because players have power that they didn’t use to have … let’s step back, let’s reset, let’s talk to our players’ association about what system makes sense going forward.”

This year’s free-agent negotiating period was to begin on June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern. But it was known within the first few minutes of that period that several deals had already been agreed upon — and in a few cases, deals were apparently struck even before the negotiating window opened.

There’s always been an understanding that some players are talking to other players about teaming up, which is legal. And there’s also been the same sort of understanding that teams will talk to their own free agents to strike deals before negotiations are technically supposed to begin.

This year, the rules simply seemed to be ignored.

“It’s pointless, at the end of the day, to have rules that we can’t enforce,” Silver said.

Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Brooklyn Nets was one of the major pieces of free-agent news this summer. The Nets said Tuesday that when word leaked before 6 p.m. on June 30 that Durant had made his decision and would announce it on social media, they were concerned — since they had not spoken with him yet.

“We weren’t even sure we were getting a meeting that night,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said.

Durant eventually came in that night and spoke with the Nets, but after he made the announcement that he would be signing a max contract — four years, $141 million — with the team.

Teams couldn’t sign players until the offseason moratorium ended, which this year meant Saturday. Some deals that are known to be happening still aren’t completed, meaning teams still have not had the chance to celebrate certain signings or acquisitions. And by now, in some cases, the buzz surrounding those still-unannounced moves is largely gone.

“We have work to do,” Silver said.

When the Paul George trade and Kawhi Leonard signing — both players are headed to the Los Angeles Clippers — get finalized, it’ll mean five of the 10 All-Star starters from last season will have changed teams this summer. Durant went from Golden State to Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving went from Boston to Brooklyn, Kemba Walker went from Charlotte to Boston, George is leaving Oklahoma City and Leonard is leaving Toronto.

Seeing big names on the move is nothing new in the NBA, of course. Of the 25 players who were on the 2017 All-Star rosters, 17 have changed teams since and seven of them have switched jerseys at least twice.

“Players want to know that they’re in a fair system as well, where they have the opportunity to compete,” Silver said. “You want to know that the rules are known, and that they’re being enforced. Again, I think we have some work to do there when it comes to free agency. There’s always been stuff around the edges that have gone on. It may have moved to a new level.”

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.

Billy Donovan to choose Bulls’ starting PG during training camp

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Speaking at Chicago’s media day, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he will choose his starting point guard over the course of training camp. Lonzo Ball was expected to reprise his role as the starter, but he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome knee and raised some eyebrows at media day when he said he couldn’t run or jump. Simply put, there is no guarantee we even see him at all this season.

Donovan is fortunate that he has a plethora of options though, as Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White will all battle it out. “We’ll have to see how these guys gel and mesh once training camp starts and we start practicing,” Donovan said. “But I think we have enough back there that we can get the job done from that standpoint.”

Dragic is the most “seasoned option” to use Donovan’s own words and would be the safe pick, but at 36 years old, he doesn’t exactly raise Chicago’s ceiling. Plus, Donovan already hinted at managing his minutes throughout the season.

Alex Caruso is Chicago’s best defender and is going to play a massive role whether he starts or comes off the bench, although the latter seems more likely since he’s not a natural point guard.

Coby White showed improvement as a shooter last season, hitting 38% of his triples. However, it’s no secret that his name has been in the rumor mill and the Bulls hardly mentioned him at media day.

With that said, I think Ayo is the dark horse to start after showing some serious promise during his rookie season. In 40 starts, Ayo put up 10.9 points, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 triples and 1.1 steals and was one of the best perimeter defenders on the team. Zach LaVine went out of his way to hype up Dosunmu at media day as well, so you have to love his chances of running away with the job.

Anthony Davis says his goal is to play in all 82 games

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Anthony Davis played 40 games last season, and 36 the season before that. Charles Barkley has nicknamed him “street clothes.”

In a critical season for him and the Lakers, the biggest question with Anthony Davis is not his skill set and if he can be elite, but how much can the Lakers trust him to be on the court? Davis said on media day his goal is to play all 82 games (speaking to Spectrum Sportsnet, the Lakers station in Los Angeles).

A full 82 may be optimistic, but Davis saw last season as a fluke.

“Last season, I had two injuries that you can’t really control. I mean, a guy fell into my knee, landed on the foot,” Davis said earlier at media day. “And the good thing for me is that the doctors after they looked at us, they could have been, like 10 times worse.”

Davis talked about his workout regimen, getting his body both rested and stronger for this long season, knowing more will be asked of him. New coach Darvin Ham wants to run more of the offense through Davis, but all the Lakers’ plans are moot if Davis and LeBron James are not healthy and on the court for at least 65 games this season.

“The focus of my game is being available…” LeBron said Monday. “Availability is the most important thing in his league and to be able to be available on the floor.”

Ham has to walk a line of pushing this team to defend better, show a toughness it lacked last season, and make the playoffs in a deep West while keeping his stars’ minutes under control. In a league all about recovery, the Lakers need to prioritize that, too.

“Just being efficient with how we practice, how we manage shootarounds, how we manage their minutes,” Ham said Monday. “I don’t need ‘Bron or Ad playing playoff minutes in October, November, December.”

It’s the first days of training camp, everyone is feeling good, everyone is rested, and everyone is optimistic. The real tests for the Lakers and Davis start in a few weeks — and just how much will the Lakers’ stars play.