Report: NBA, players union in ‘serious conversation’ for new CBA, with draft age lowered to 18

NBA Draft 2022 at Barclays Center in NY
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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A long-discussed return to allowing 18-year-olds straight out of high school to make the leap to the NBA appears on the way sooner rather than later, part of the “serious conversation” the NBA and NBPA are having toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

There is a mutual opt-out date of Dec. 15 when either the NBA (meaning the owners) or the players union could opt out of the current CBA, effective July 1. The goal of both sides has been to have a new agreement before Dec. 15 that would roll into place after the current CBA. Sources around the league expect no work stoppage — both sides are profiting from the current system and nobody wants a work stoppage that messes with that flow (and would be a PR disaster in a time of inflation and economic concerns nationally).

But there will be tweaks to the CBA. Here are the highlights via Charania.

• At the top of the list is doing away with one-and-done, Charania reports.

The league and NBPA are expected to agree on moving the age eligibility for the NBA Draft from 19 years old to 18, clearing the way for the return of high school players who want to make the leap to the NBA, per sources with knowledge of the discussions.

This would kick in as early as the 2024 NBA Draft, although the details are still being hammered out.

• Stiffer luxury tax penalties in some cases are on the table. Some owners were put off by the Warriors spending more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax penalties on their way to the title last season. Both the Warriors and Clippers are on pace to break that $350 million barrier this season, and with that, some owners want to make the tax even more punitive (a hard cap is out of the question, it would lead to a players’ strike).

However, as Warriors owner Joe Lacob pointed out during the Warriors playoff run, the core of their team is players they drafted, developed and retained, not high-priced free agents. He questioned whether teams should pay the same tax penalties for keeping their own players as opposed to teams built through trades and free agency. There could be owners who see the Warriors model — or what the Grizzlies are doing, for example — and think they should see some tax relief. This is a complex topic that isn’t just a concern of the owners, the players are always happy when an owner is willing to spend.

• The sides are talking about setting up a mental health designation for a player to miss a game (or games), similar to a player being listed as out due to a sore knee or sprained ankle. The NBA would be the first major professional sports league to take this step. After Ben Simmons sat out much last season in part due to not being mentally ready to play (he also had back issues), the owners likely will seek some kind of checks and balances on the system. But with DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love at the forefront, the NBA has been the most progressive league in addressing mental health concerns and this would be a step in that direction.

• There also is talk of finding ways to help players create generational wealth after their playing days end. While NBA players today — on the whole — are smarter with their money than previous generations of players (part of that is they are making more), NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio wants a system that could create more equity for the players and give them more financial opportunities.

“Thinking about the players’ contributions to the game and how they can be compensated for it will mean there will have to be more equity structures in place. It could be the sale of a team. It could be the deals they are entering where they are receiving equity beyond the four or five years that a contract exists. It’s much broader, and I don’t think historically we’ve looked at it. It’s been the here and now.”…

To do that, Tremaglio thinks it will require setting up an infrastructure alongside the league that does not currently exist. And she feels very positive that it is something both sides can come to an agreement on.

The NBA and NBPA representatives are expected to meet this week and continue talks toward a new CBA.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

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

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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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.