Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Without wanting to tempt fate, what with the new CBA still to be signed, here are some predictions for this season. Bear in mind that my knowledge comes from reading and watching things during this recent off season, playing NBA2K11 and the Michael Jordan era. Yes, it's an amateur talking.

1. The Heat will win the title, and in style: Dwyane, LeBron and Chris will be going hell for leather this season and if they can get a new point guard or centre, then they will do it in style. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw one of the best records ever. They have a point to prove.

2. The Thunder will get to the Finals: Durant and Westbrook are two of the league's best players and James Harden is looking pretty good too. When it comes to the West, the other contenders are the Mavericks and the Lakers. Both might find it difficult to bring in new players or re-sign some older ones, especially if they want to get under the salary cap in a couple of years time. Dirk and Kobe aren't getting any younger, and the triple headers might take their toll.

3. Both the Clippers and the Timberwolves will make the play-offs: Griffin and the Clippers are one player away from the play-offs - maybe they'll get that player in the upcoming free agency period (Go on Nene, you know you want to live in LA). The Timberwolves are more of an outside bet. Love is a superstar in the making, Beasley is great on his day and I hear Derrick Williams is THE rookie this year. And if their little Spaniard works his magic, you've got a good team.

4. LeBron will win MVP: And Finals MVP. He is going to blow everyone out of the water this season. The real start of the legacy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deal (almost) done

There is a deal. It is tentative but, as someone said, these guys wouldn't take a deal to their parties that they didn't think could be used.

So the plan seems to be to open the doors next week, pull on the jerseys on 9th December, at which time a few people could be moving around, and then start the 66-game season on Christmas Day. Whether my parents will buy ESPN for that day remains to be seen. There is undoubtedly a lot of legal thingamijigs to be done before the doors open what with calling off the legal fight, reforming the union, taking a vote etc, but we're almost there.

Also, the ins and outs of the CBA will be most likely released at the beginning of next week and then we will know which teams have the scope to trade, sign or release players.

The free agency isn't the best in the world but the most interesting area is that of Nene and the Denver Nuggets. They need some new players and have the cap space to do it, but will the big Brazilian wait to see who they have in mind before resigning in Denver? The Nuggets are now in desperate need of a power forward and it's hard to find a really decent one in the list. Shane Battier will probably stay in Memphis and it's hard to see anyone leaving the Mavericks, unless of course there's no room in the cap.

Rumours are finally allowed to be talked about, even though it didn't stop anyone before, and come the end of next week, that's all you'll here.

Happy Days.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No news is bad news

A week on from the Players' meeting that effectively destroyed any chances of seeing any basketball this year and perhaps most of next year, there is very little to report on.

Two things which might be of significance are a couple of players pursuing overseas work and Michael Goldberg, head of the NBA Coaches Association, speaking out.

If players like Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant really are looking to play in Europe, then this could be the kick up the arse that David Stern needs to get the talks going again. Both sides are attempting not to look weak by staying away from the phone.

The coaches have been largely forgotten in all this. Are they part of the owners or the players? It's difficult to tell. They're not allowed to talk to the players, and get fined if they do, but they are also not getting paid. Another victim of this whole mess.

Maybe a lost season wouldn't be so bad. One side would have to come back with their tails between their legs and it would hopefully mean that nothing like this will happen again. However, the problem is that if both sides resign to losing the season, we may not get any talks until the spring at the earliest.

Urgency has not been either sides strong point up until now, hence the resignation that buying NBA2k12 will be the only way to see any action this year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The day after

Well after yesterday's hoohah, it's time to take stock.

Word on the street is that the impending non-season is a senseless waste. Virtually all the writers throughout the world have decided that there is no sympathy with either side and this whole business could have easily been avoided. The players are risking far more than they need to while David Stern pushed them just that little too far, causing the players to snap and trash their bedroom.

The legalities are far too complicated to explain but it does seem that the NBPA (NBTA?) and their actions could now yield more activity than the Stern/Hunter meetings, which were organised like two old friends who didn't really want to see each other.

There could be action before the end of the week. But don't hold your breath for a season.

How the NBA will look after all this, we don't know. The only silver lining out of this cumulonimbus is that we should never see this happen again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

To the courts

That's the courts, not the court.

The matter is now in the hands of the lawyers. We'll see you next year.

Gather round, children

At this moment, a group of tall well-paid men have gathered somewhere in New York City to decide whether they want to work soon.

Some of them will be well informed and some won't.

Some of them will have already made up their minds last night and some won't.

Some of them want to play basketball this year in a professional league. Correction, all of them want to play basketball in a professional league. If they don't, much like if an owner doesn't want a NBA season, then they have no business being there.

Whatever the result of today's meeting, we can only hope that each and every player rep makes an informed decision and also states clearly to each and every player the reasons for their decision. Come tomorrow, if there are any players still confused as to the deal then it will be a sad day.

We want basketball, but at this moment, the above is all we can ask for.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Final furlong

This was never going to have a smiles and handshakes end.

Despite negotiations breaking off (not down) yesterday, we still have to wait for the players to vote on the deal on the table. That is of course if it is put to a vote. However, if it isn't, then Billy Hunter may as well resign right now for to go back to the negotiating table for two days and come away without a voteable deal is a sackable offence.

How will the players vote, we can't be sure. But surely the little man who wants to both play basketball and get paid outweighs the superstar who is grumbling about, in essence, losing $1m of his $15m salary. The Paul Pierces of this world can shout all they like about decertification, but that doesn't give the Chris Andersens any help. There are more guys who want to take the offer than not, so surely we'll be seeing the NBA come mid December.

Roll on Tuesday - there may not be any handshakes, but the fans will be smiling.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stalling tactics

If David Stern is to be believed, D-day is fast approaching. It is in fact just 24 hours away from this post. If this was Hollywood, as Henry Abbott has hinted at, then the players would either accept (roll credits) or decline (roll credits plus teaser for next season) the offer on the table.

As much as some of the players think it is, this is not Hollywood. This is real life. The players should get back in whatever room in the Waldorf Astoria (the true winners of the lockout) and start negotiating again. Negotiating so slowly that we get a deal, which includes all the crap that no one really cares about but that the players can exploit if need be, sometime around Friday dinner time.

Get in there and start talking, because if you don't, Stern is going to cancel the season. And don't think he won't. He will. But if negotiations are continuing, that season is still available and due to start on Christmas Day.

Anytime the talks have broken down, it's been due to bravado on someone's part. Slamming down a coffee cup and storming out because they won't accept a penny under 53% (you will), a penny above 47% (you will) or a penny below 52% (you will).

It's not definite we'll get a deal this week, but if the players are sensible, and not let any hot heads into the room, the season probably won't be cancelled and the 50/50 won't be thrown out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Indecent proposal

It's Monday and right now the players are huddled together working out just how bad the owners' offer is or if they can go a year without any money.

Of course they're not. They are still fuming. But guess what players? You already lost. The middle ground between 57% (players share in last CBA) and 47% (owners initial offer) is 52%. You've already given up too much for you to 'win'. And you still get good salaries. Wasn't the escrow this year something like 8%? That means your salaries didn't even meet the BRI cut you were promised. So why is 51% not good enough? In business, if you come in under budget it means you don't get the same budget next time. You get less - you get less than you spent. If you can come in under budget once, you can do it again.

In addition, with all this talk of dercertification of the players' union, this means there won't be a 2011-12 season, and perhaps not even a 2012-13 season and even, heaven forbid, an NBA. Do they not realise that with all their shoe deals and adverts and clothing lines, without basketball, they are nothing. They are tall men. You have to be playing to get those extras, and you have to be playing well. The only way to do that now is to sign a deal.

But I'm not on the owners' side. Michael Jordan, even if he didn't say anything, has tarnished his reputation with everyone who loves the game. In football here in England, the owners pretty much bankroll the clubs until they find a way of bringing in more money. Whether that be by prize money, selling shirts or pre-season tours. Don't expect that owning a sports team makes you a profit. If you're good at it and you put the work in, it might, but most of the time it is a hobby. A bean plant you water every week because someone reminds you to and you're surprised it isn't rising to a land of golden eggs. You should have never got into this position in the first place. In any other business, it is sort it out or sell up. Why is basketball any different.

For some reason now, I feel sorry for David Stern. He's found a middle ground and neither side is going to accept it. It might be time to rip up anything he has on paper, cancel the season and spend that time coming up with something new, using no words like salary cap, BRI, mid level exception, sign and trade, bird years or whatever else has been stuck onto this clown car over the last 20 years. Different model, different rules.

Then maybe we can actually talk about basketball.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From a pantomime to a farce

It has gone back and forth, and sometimes done nothing at all, for four months now and we're still no closer to an NBA season.

After the heroes and villains of September and October we've entered the slapstick farce of November. Everyone said it wouldn't get serious until the games were physically missed along with the salaries. But no one expected it to blow up like this.

Marquee names threatening to decertify the union, throwing not only the season into jeopardy, but the entire league. The question is how did we go from "tomorrow" to this in under a week?

The problem remains in the silence. When there is no news and no one is talking, publicly at least, then people get worried. The last week has been a case of let's see who breaks first; who picks up the phone and says sorry. We've all been there, whether it be with wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends or family. No one wants to look weak. However in real life, it's the one who does break who earns the plaudits. Unfortunately in real life $200m isn't at stake.

The big question is, much like in real life, "Is it all worth it?" Is it worth losing a season over? Is it worth destroying the reputation and goodwill that has been earned over the last 40 odd years? Do the players want to be known as the ones who ruined the league? Does David Stern want to be known as the last Commissioner of the NBA?

Surely the answer to all these is no. However, after the unbridled optimism of last week, the optimism around now is only that there will be an NBA at some point. And that is very sad indeed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Putting it to the vote

Over the last day or so, there have been rumblings amongst the players that 51%, or even the famous 50/50 split, would be enough.

Glen Davis might be the most high profile player (if you can call Big Baby 'high profile') to say this, which begs the question: when will they put it to the players to vote?

The likes of KG, Paul Pierce, Kobe, Dwyane Wade et al are holding firm, as is Billy Hunter, but despite earning the majority of the wages, they are not the majority. The other 200-odd players haven't even looked like they are getting a say and with opening night having come and gone and paydays going the same way, the bench warmers, role players and sixth men are getting antsy.

How many would take 47% let alone the 50/50 split? It seems like Fisher and Hunter are far too scared to take a straw poll in case it gets back to Stern. If it came to light that a lot just want to play, then Stern could take the BRI split down even further.

But who will stand up and ask for the vote? The players who want it have no real voice and would be bullied by the big guys to keep quiet (you wonder if Davis got a stern phonecall from Pierce today). A 7% pay cut, even if you're on $1m a year, is small potatoes, especially in the economic climate we now find ourselves in.

If Big Baby is speaking out for the little man, then we won't see a vote any time soon. However if he can get a Dirk, Ray Allen or Steve Nash on his side, it might just mean something.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All's fair in love and war

Parity or equality or a league where all teams can be competitive.

Or I created the Toronto Raptors and they're still shit.

On one side of the coin of this so far non-existent CBA is profitability (understandable, if there's no profit, there's no growth; if there's no growth, there's no point in the business). On the other side, however, is parity.

As someone who's more used to European sports, especially football, I long for the good old days when Norwich City push Manchester United for the title. But those days are gone. In the same way, David Stern is probably sick of the Lakers winning so many titles and is not looking forward to the Heat winning four in a row.

But the NBA is far fairer than most sports leagues in the world. The draft system is a brilliant way of giving the worst teams a boost by getting the best young players. And it works. The Indiana Pacers and the Cleveland Cavaliers both got to the Finals because they had one very good player and a load of average ones. In some cases these early draft picks stay for their careers, have a variety of players around them and leave a little legacy when they retire (we salute you Reggie Miller). However, in some cases they jump ship at the first opportunity leaving their stupid owners with a load of not-gonna-bes (we salute you LeBron James).

On that subject, there was nothing wrong with James auctioning himself off and going to the Heat. He was a free agent after all. It happens all the time in the Premier League and Europe. A player leaves, you boo him and then you get over it. I suppose why people were a bit surprised was because he's from Cleveland. But you ask 25-year-old where you want to live if you're being paid $15m a year and it's not going to be Ohio.

And here's the reason why parity won't work, and Stern said it himself: people are going to want to play in Miami for the heat (pardon the pun), Boston and Chicago for the legacy (something which only really came about from a draft pick - Jordan could easily have gone to Houston or Portland) and LA and NY for the celebrities. Even if they are being offered more money, are Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and John Wall really going to play in Toronto or Milwaukee?

In addition, and I hate to say it, it's not fair on the Lakers. They've spent years building up their franchise as a brand and now they'll have to give their profits away. And whichever way you look at it, giving your hard earned cash to the Cleveland Cavaliers is not charity.

Shrewd business is what's needed here. General Managers and owners who can create a team of average-to-good players to play to their strengths and their opponents weaknesses. Yes Mark Cuban is stinking rich, but if the Mavericks can do it without a poster boy (sorry Dirk fans, but he's been there forever) then anyone can.

So if the Raptors don't with the championship in the next 5 years, this whole lockout will have been worthless.