PBT Podcast: MVP race, who gets the last playoff spots, and an interview with Jimmy Butler


In this edition of the podcast, Kurt Helin and I start things off by discussing the union’s dismissal of Adam Silver’s salary cap smoothing proposal, and what that might mean for free agency in advance of the 2016-17 season.

We then shift our focus to the MVP race, where we agree on the top five candidates, but differ on who’s in the lead with just 20 games or so remaining in the regular season.

We also talk about the playoff races at the bottom of each conference, and whether the Spurs are back after winning six straight games.

All that plus Kurt’s one-on-one interview with Jimmy Butler, who explains his love for country music, among other things.

Listen in the embedded player below, or download the file to hear at your convenience.


Kemba Walker to return to Hornets lineup Wednesday vs. Kings


Kemba Walker had knee surgery back in January, and the Hornets were hopeful at the time that he would be ready to return within six weeks.

Almost right on schedule, Walker will be back in the Charlotte lineup on Wednesday when the Hornets host the Kings.

From DeAntae Prince of Sporting News:

Walker, who recovered from surgery for a torn meniscus, is expected to come off the bench and play on a minutes restriction. Hornets coach Steve Clifford wants Walker to play 8-9 minutes per half.

“It sounds good,” Walker said with a smile. “But knowing Clifford, he might keep me out there for about 30 minutes tonight. He told me nine minutes a half so I’ll just work my way back. It’s no big deal at all.” …

“I’m really confident,” Walker said. “I’ve been working hard with my trainers to get back. They put me through a lot of things to get my leg stronger so I’m really comfortable right now.”

The Hornets have been surging lately, winning six out of seven before Monday’s blowout loss at the hands of the Wizards.

Walker is averaging 18.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 35.6 minutes per contest for the Hornets this season.

MORE: CSN California subscriber? Watch Hornets-Kings Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET

NBA: Union for players informed league it will not agree to ‘smoothing’ in salary cap increases


When the NBA agreed to a massive new broadcast rights deal, one of the things that needed to be addressed was how that huge influx of money was going to affect the salary cap.

Adam Silver knew this almost immediately, and had proposed a “smoothing” in of the new revenue from a cap standpoint, in order to avoid a massive spike when the deal goes into effect in advance of the 2016-17 season.

“When this deal kicks in in 2016-17, it will lead to a substantial increase that year in the salary cap,” Silver said at the time. “There is precedent for smoothing that increase in, something the NFL negotiated with its players association when it then entered into large increases to help teams in the planning process, essentially smoothing that money into the system.” …

“I mean (the players) will get their 51 percent no matter what, it’s just a question of how it comes in in terms of the cap,” Silver said. “It will have a profound effect and I’m sure the union has already begun studying it just as we have been studying how it will effect our system team by team.”

The union has evidently reached a conclusion, and one that will benefit only a small percentage of its members.

The official release, from NBA Executive Vice President, Communications Mike Bass:

“The National Basketball Players Association has informed the NBA that it will not agree to ‘smoothing’ in the increases in the Salary Cap that will result from the new national media agreements beginning in the 2016-17 season.

“Smoothing would have avoided a substantial Salary Cap spike in 2016-17.  Under the league’s smoothing approach, the salary shortfall resulting from more gradual Cap increases would have been paid directly to the Players Association for distribution to all players, and thus the total compensation paid to players in any given season would not have been impacted.”

Because the full amount of the money would have been paid to the union even under the smoothing scenario the league proposed, this decision appears to be in the best interest of only a small portion of players — the ones who hit free agency in the summer of 2016, and especially those in line for max deals, which are directly tied to the level of the salary cap.

Kevin Durant, for example, could be looking at a five-year deal approaching a staggering $200 million if he chooses to remain in OKC.

That’s great for the stars in the immediate future, but not so much for everyone else — which is why when NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said that team reps voted unanimously to reject two smoothing proposals during All-Star weekend, it came as a little bit of a surprise.

Agent Arn Tellem lays out plan for D-League reform, which includes lowering age limit


The NBA’s age limit currently stands at 19, but Adam Silver has made his pitch more than once that he’d like to see it raised to 20.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts is adamantly opposed to the idea, which could make it a potentially hot topic during the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

But there may be a way to avoid the issue entirely — by expanding the D-League in order to create a true minor league system.

Agent Arn Tellem broke down how he envisions something like this happening over at Grantland:

• No prospect would be required to declare, making everyone eligible, much like baseball’s amateur draft. Prospective picks would be asked to sign a “memorandum of understanding” as a condition for consideration, whereby they would agree to forgo college if drafted. If they declined to sign, they would effectively be choosing college over pro ball and couldn’t be drafted for two more years. If they declare but never get drafted, they should be allowed to retain their eligibility and attend school. Currently, they aren’t. The crucial point here: Players shouldn’t be penalized for an ill-informed decision. Draftees should be given the option of signing in the NBA, going to the minors, or playing overseas.

• All early-entry players would be given the same declaration date. Right now, foreign prospects get almost two months more than their American counterparts to decide whether to remain in that year’s draft.2 By locking everyone into the same date, the NBA would rectify one of the great competitive inequities of pro hoops.

• All first-round picks would be paid NBA rookie scale regardless of whether they played on the parent or farm team. To encourage a franchise to sign a first-rounder and farm him out for more seasoning, the team should get a year of cap relief. That would prevent any team from doing what the Thunder did to Josh Huestis, who was drafted at no. 29 overall only after he agreed to spend his rookie year in the D-League (and be paid accordingly).

• Today’s second-round draftees have no salary protection. Teams can decide against signing them and still retain their rights. An NBA team is required only to offer a minimum non-guaranteed contract; that’s it. Under my plan, teams would be required to offer second-rounders a guaranteed minimum split3 contract ($253,500) or forfeit their rights. Teams could still negotiate multiyear contracts with players; they’d also have the right to send those prospects to the minors without their salaries counting against the cap for two years. This would encourage NBA franchises to draft the best available players in Round 2 and develop them. For free agents or players who have been released, the minimum D-League salary would be raised to a more livable $50,000, a figure more commensurate with their relative contributions.

A lot of this is in relation to younger players, as Tellem proposes once again lowering the age limit to 18 at the very same time. The other key here is that the D-League expand to 30 teams, with each NBA franchise having a single affiliation relationship in order to create a place to develop talent according to the organization’s exact specifications.

The biggest obstacle, of course, is money. Taking some of the windfall from the latest broadcast rights deal and investing it in making the D-League a true minor league would make complete sense, but would require some short-term sacrifice in order to achieve what should be the NBA’s long-term vision.

Tim Duncan suffers elbow injury late in Spurs’ win over Raptors (VIDEO)


The Spurs are beginning to resemble the team that won a title a season ago, and while they’ve mostly been beating up on slumping, injured or just plain weaker teams, they’ve looked impressive while doing so.

The last thing they need is to see one of their starters go down with an injury, but that’s what happened late in Tuesday’s win over the Raptors when Tim Duncan hyperextended his elbow with less than a minute to play.

Thankfully, the injury is not believed to be severe enough to cause Duncan to miss any time.

From Dan McCarney of

“They told us right away it was nothing big,” said Tony Parker, who continued his strong play with 23 points and nine assists.

Said coach Gregg Popovich, “He hyperextended his elbow. I think he will be OK. I think, but I don’t know. We’ll see. I think he’s OK.”

An additional team source also indicated the injury was not serious.

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It was a bit odd to see Duncan still in the game, with the Spurs comfortably ahead by double digits and so little time remaining. But the Spurs appear to have dodged a bullet, here, which is all that ultimately matters.