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NBA Saturday: New T.V. Deal Raises New Issues

With a new lucrative television deal agreed to comes questions about future labor negotiations.

Jesse Blancarte



The NBA is thriving. That much is clear after commissioner Adam Silver announced on Monday that the NBA has agreed to a nine-year, $24.4 billion television contract with ESPN and Turner Sports (a jump from $930 million per year to $2.66 billion). But instead of collectively celebrating the increasing revenue and popularity of the sport, NBA stars and owners (at least one) are making comments suggesting that another significant labor fight could be an inevitability.

LeBron James was one of the players who had a clear message for NBA owners in wake of the new deal.

“The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners [were] telling us that they were losing money.” James said on Monday. “There’s no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now after we continue to see teams selling for billions of dollars, being purchased for $200 million, [selling] for $550 [million], $750 [million], $2 billion. And now [Mikhail] Prokhorov is possibly selling his majority stake in the Nets for over a billion. So, that will not fly with us this time.”

Kevin Durant echoed James’ statements on Tuesday.

“That’s a lot of money,” Durant said. “That’s a lot of money. I don’t see how owners can say they losing money now.”

Durant went further, stating that that NBA’s star players are worth more than their max contracts, and that it may be time to do away with max deals in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“Look at it like this,” Durant said. “Kobe Bryant brings in a lot of money to Los Angeles, that downtown area. People go to watch the Lakers. Clippers are getting up there, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and those guys are bringing in a lot of money as well. Look at Cleveland, look at Miami when LeBron was there. These guys are worth more than what they are making because of the amount of money they bring to that area. That’s a conversation you can always have, but until it’s changed you never know what will happen to it.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered his take on Durant’s comments and the overall situation.

“If you give up guarantees, it’s a trade-off,” Cuban said on Tuesday.

“It was discussed during the lockout time among owners but never got anywhere,” Cuban said. “So it was just one of those trial balloons. I’m not offering this as a negotiation, I’m not suggesting it. All I’m saying is that was something we discussed before, and max contracts are always big question, guarantees are always a big question. But we have two years before that’s even an issue, so no point discussing it now.”

First, it must be noted that max contracts and guaranteed money are not directly tied to one another, despite Cuban framing the discussion as though they are. So while Cuban states that he is “not offering this as a suggestion,” the fact that he raises it as a potential “trade-off” inherently makes it a negotiation. But even if Cuban is trying to align two separate issues that are not directly related, there are valid points to be made on both sides of the discussion.

James and Durant, the NBA’s two biggest stars, are correct; NBA superstars are worth more than their max contracts. In an open market, James, Durant, Bryant, Paul, and the other stars in the league would be able to sign for much larger contracts than they currently are allowed to. That seems inherently unfair, and for the few superstars in the NBA that are worth more than they can contractually make, it is unfair. But would the NBA Player’s Association even be on board with removal of max contracts? The Player’s Association represents every player, not just the cream of the crop.

Consider that the players receive a fixed amount of all basketball related income (BRI), meaning that getting rid of max contracts won’t change how much money the players will collectively receive, it just changes how the same amount of money is distributed. If James makes $50 million a year, it doesn’t mean that the owners are paying more money to the players collectively. It just means there is less available money for mid-tier players. And what figures to be a rising salary cap doesn’t do anything to change this dynamic as it is adjusted in relation to BRI as well. To illustrate this, in an NBA without max contracts, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin certainly would have signed bigger deals to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers, which would have left less money for other players. If Paul and Griffin took up a bigger percentage than they currently do, would Spencer Hawes have received a four-year, $22,652,350 contract? Probably not, especially considering that the Clippers had to make creative moves this offseason just so they could sign minimum salary players. The result could be something like the 1997-98 season (the last season before the league implemented max contracts) where Michael Jordan was making roughly $33 million a season, and his teammates were all making less than $5 million.

Also, max deals inherently protect NBA general managers from themselves. If general managers could bid for star players without limitation (except for the salary cap), we could see situations where teams are paying absurd amounts of money just to land one star, especially if a general manager is on the hot seat and looking to make a splashy acquisition. General managers already do this to a certain extent, and removing max contracts would almost certainly result in deals that could make today’s bad contracts look like bargains. And with owners as wealthy as Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen in the NBA, there could be a power dynamic like in Major League Baseball where a few teams are willing to spend limitless amounts of money (e.g., the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees), while other teams are left to finding creative ways to compete (e.g., the Oakland Athletics).

So maybe getting rid of max deals is not such a great idea. At least not for the vast majority of NBA players. But how does that dynamic relate to players giving up guaranteed contracts? That’s not really clear. Players have already given up guaranteed contracts, to a certain extent, as teams are currently able to negotiate with players for as much, or as little guaranteed money as they want (within certain limitations). The thing is, if a team is not willing to guarantee a reasonable amount of money for a good player, another team will.

So what is Cuban asking for? That also is not clear considering players as talented as Lance Stephenson are currently playing on partially guaranteed contracts. Perhaps Cuban is asking to remove all guaranteed money for players. But that is an extreme request, especially when the “trade-off” is getting rid of max contracts (which again is simply restructuring the way the same amount of BRI is distributed among the players). There are situations where large amounts of guaranteed money instantly become a burden on teams. An example being when a player suffers a catastrophic injury in the early stages of a large, multi-year contract. But that is an inherent risk that every team takes, and there is no easy, practical safeguard against these unfortunate situations.

Ultimately what the players should really negotiate for is a bigger slice of the pie (BRI). The owners cannot plead poverty the next time around, but will try and negotiate for any and all safeguards that ensure their teams remain profitable. Max contracts and guaranteed salaries are just two parts of what is a much bigger equation. For now we can view these comments as quick responses to what is a massive influx of money coming to the NBA. The owners and players will certainly have to dig in and fight for their share of that money in July of 2017. Hopefully both sides can figure these issues out without losing any games. But that is an issue that is still some time away and should not overshadow what is gearing up to be an exciting 2014-15 NBA season.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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