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NBA AM: Former NBA Players to Benefit in New CBA

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association’s new CBA includes new benefits for former NBA players.

Cody Taylor

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News broke last night that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association had reached an agreement on terms for a new labor agreement. The tentative deal in place is huge for the league, the players and the fans since there will be no work stoppage.

The deal is not official yet and the two sides have agreed to extend the deadline to opt out of the current deal until next month. The deadline was extended in order to allow both parties the opportunity to formally ratify the deal.

Avoiding a lockout is a huge step forward for the league, which has seen two lockouts over the course of the last two labor negotiations. A lockout in 1998 shortened the season to 50 games and the most recent lockout in 2011 resulted in a 66-game season.

Details will emerge in the coming weeks on the specific additions to the new CBA, but we’re beginning to see some of the things that will be put into place. One item from the new deal to surface has been the reduction of preseason games, which will help lower the amount of back-to-back games.

Other changes include higher salaries for max-deal players, a “designated veteran” provision, the creation of a two-way contract and health care packages for retired players, among others. These new additions to the deal were broken down in greater detail last night by our own Steve Kyler.

The league and players made a concerted effort during these negotiations to reach this point. The two sides have been meeting frequently over the past several months in an attempt to avoid a lockout for a third-straight time.

As it typically goes with these sort of things, some players will be upset with the new deal, while others will be happy with it. Just after news of the agreement broke, Draymond Green voiced his frustration. “One day we will get it right…. Maybe,” Green tweeted.

DeAndre Jordan just wants to see a fair deal for both sides. While he didn’t necessarily voice frustration with the deal, he just made it known that he is with the players and wants to see each side taken care of. Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers joked that he’s upset he won’t get the summer off now for vacation, but said the agreement is absolutely wonderful news.

While Green appears to be upset with at least one item in the agreement, NBPA President Chris Paul was happy with how things played out. Paul has been active during the entire process and has stayed in contact with NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts throughout the course of the negotiations.

“I talked to her today before the game so I sort of knew,” Paul said. “She’s always trying to be so respectful of my time and making sure I’m focused on the game, which I am. I talked to James Jones before the game, too. He is my right-hand guy.

“We’re excited for the players, for the owners, but most of all for the fans. [We’re] also [happy] for the former players. This was such a huge deal for some of the things that we are [going] to provide for our former players and guys that have paved the way for us.”

As Paul told reporters last night in Orlando, the league’s former players stand to benefit from this new deal. The new agreement is said to provide health care packages for retired players and increase the benefits for those players still in the league. The league and union will co-fund a tuition reimbursement fund for those players as well.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports that the health insurance for retired players will begin on January 1, with every player logging at least three years of service becoming eligible for the program. In addition, pensions will increase by nearly 50 percent and payouts will start at age 50.

“Probably the thing I’m most excited about is what we’ve been able to do as far as health care and health insurance for our former players,” Paul said. “One thing we always say is that us as active players, at some point we’ll be former players, so it’s a real brotherhood with all of us that play now, and those guys that came before us, so it’s pretty special.”

Paul expressed that he was happy each group of players was represented at the table. He said there was a special committee formed, which comprised of max-level players, mid-level players and minimum-deal players. Each of those groups was vocal during the process, which made it a collective effort from the players.

The last two lockouts were clear evidence that those past negotiations did not run smoothly. In order to combat a possible work stoppage this time around, the two sides have been meeting for months in order to come to an agreement ahead of the opt-out deadline. Optimism that an agreement would be met before the deadline began growing as far back as October.

Owners and players have voiced their displeasure with a potential lockout and seemed motivated to avoid that possibility. The agreement in place is not official and still requires the owners and players to ratify the deal, but that is considered to be a formality at this point. Paul commended both sides for making this a smooth process.

“I think everyone negotiated in good faith,” Paul said. “The conversations were great. Everything was cordial. Everyone knows how well the game is doing, and nobody wanted to mess that up. My hat goes off to Adam [Silver] and his team, and the same thing on our side.”

Yesterday’s news is huge for the league moving forward. It prevents the possibility of a work stoppage and shows the two sides in the league can come together on pressing issues. Owners and players can rest easy knowing the bulk of the dirty work is now over.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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