What happens if NBA players back out of restart in Orlando?

NBA players back out
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Friday night, about 20% of NBA players were on a Zoom call discussing the NBA’s plan for a restart of the season down in Orlando. Kyrie Irving led a group saying they didn’t think players should go to Orlando, for social justice and health reasons. Those are legitimate concerns that lead to a personal decision for each player.

What happens if NBA players back out of restart in Orlando?

It becomes a financial disaster for the league, one that would impact players’ salaries this season, force a renegotiation of the entire Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in the middle of a pandemic, and reshape the NBA for years to come in ways that will not benefit players.

In the short term, players would see their paychecks this season shrivel, with $1.2 billion in player salaries lost, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. After negotiating with the players’ union, teams are already holding back 25% of player paychecks to help prepare to balance the books this season (players and owners split the league’s “basketball-related income,” or BRI, 50/50, so when revenue fell off from canceled games players’ income had to do the same). If NBA players back out of this season there would be about $2 billion in lost revenue for the league, according to Marks.

Next season things would be far worse for everyone.

The owners would use the force majeure clause to tear up the CBA and force a total renegotiation, doing so in the middle of a pandemic (the owners have until September to do that. The league will have lost billions in revenue, would be looking at losing more next season, and the owners would target a larger slice of the BRI pie. The players would have little leverage, and they could lose some of their guaranteed contract money for next season.

There almost certainly would be a lockout, with the billionaire owners able to wait out the millionaire players to get what they want (there are far more minimum-salary players in the NBA than there are guys making eight figures who can chill during a lockout). This would look a lot more like the 2011 NBA lockout, a situation where the players went into it getting 57% of the BRI and came out of it with a 50/50 split with owners. The players got crushed in that negotiation. It would happen again.

Beyond that, the league’s television contracts would need to be renegotiated, both national and regional. The NBA had seen a dip in traditional ratings last season. While the league can argue it is on the forefront of streaming to get younger viewers to watch games, television networks would be looking to lower their costs and recoup money on games they were not able to broadcast.

There is a strong economic argument that players should get behind a return to play in Orlando. It’s the case Chris Paul and other superstar players have been making, and the league chose a 22-team restart because it generated the most revenue.

However, with health concerns and vital social justice issues on the other side, money is not the most important factor for many players. Some NBA players are ready to back out of the restart plan, and the league has said they can back out without fear of punishment (although they do not get paid).

How many players will stay home rather than go to Orlando, and will it be enough to kill the restart, remains to be seen. Their choice will impact the NBA for years to come.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.