Lengthy Email Discussion on the NBA, Part 2

Posted: 3rd December 2011 by Blake Murphy in Blake Murphy, NBA Ball, Trev Smith

So Trev and I got talking when the NBA announced that an agreement had been reached on a tentative deal. It started to get detailed, so we formalized it a bit and decided to turn it into a piece for the site. 7500 words later, we thought it was time to split it into two pieces and post it. Check it out below, and click here to jump back to Part 1.

Blake: Sorry for the delay in response brotherman…got caught in the Leafs game last night and a busy morning at work today. Such is life, when you can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger on a commitment to writing full-time (take the leap, Blake). Allow me to quickly hit on a few of your points before I send the discussion back your way for some on-court back-and-forth.

*Salient points on Stern/Hunter, and I definitely see the need to qualify the impact on their legacies. My dismissal of it was probably more about being tired of that narrative and wanting to focus on the good stuff, so to speak. To summate quickly, I see no way Hunter sticks around long enough to see a verdict rendered on his third CBA, either due to exhaustion or a push for a change from the membership. I’m curious as to where all of this has left D-Fish, too, as he’s come off well to me personally, but I wonder if the media ploys calling him, in nicer terms, an Uncle Tom, convinced the players it was true. Thoughts on D-Fish’s future?

*The digital/global discussion is probably one we should do another e-mail exchange about for a piece in the future, when we can commit ample time for research, etc. I agree wholeheartedly that my Rogers Digital Cable is completely useless except for HD Sports….shows can be downloaded or watched online, I can stream movies to my TV via PS3, etc. Sports will always hold an advantage over “traditional” TV in that regard, and may be the last thing carrying the telco era once the primary Prime Time viewers become of technological age (e.g. in five years when we’re, gasp, 30). I obviously agree that the NBA is way beyond the other leagues (to wit, MLB blocks copyrighted YouTube content if they find it…no use for that free advertising of your sport!), and it’s a competitive advantage they leverage well. My concern comes from the fact that this will be a primary growth area for the league between now and 2017 when either side can opt out of the deal. Basically, I’m just curious as to how this was covered in the CBA and to what degree of specificity, as it has the potential to be a contentious issue later on (especially for those players who don’t fit into the group of superstars you mentioned, those who are unable to leverage their images as a brand beyond their $3M salary). Just out of curiosity, I’d love to see a PDF of the actual CBA float out when completed and see if there is any detail at all beyond “part of BRI, part of net BR-expenses.”

Okay let’s focus on the court a bit now, in case there’s anyone left reading at this point. As for the schedule - agree to disagree. I see your side for sure, I’m just itching for some ball and being selfish and greedy. Your way makes more sense from a business standpoint, but I prefer mine from the vantage point of someone who is OK with watching 15 hours of basketball on a “family” day.

Wanted to send this quote from Larry Coon your way and get your reaction as a Laker fan. After that, let’s touch on the developing Paul/Howard situations, and the Amnesty rule, and maybe wrap this thing up with a brief Raptors chat.

For example, the Lakers’ tax bill in 2011 (when the tax was dollar-for-dollar) was about $19.9 million. Under the new system, being that far over the tax line would cost them $44.68 million. If they were a repeat offender (paying tax at least four of the previous five years) they would owe $64.58 million! Taxpaying teams have a smaller midlevel exception, can acquire less salary in trade, and cannot use the biannual exception. Starting in 2013-14, teams more than $4 million above the tax level cannot receive a player in a sign-and-trade transaction.

Trev: My reaction as a Lakers fan starts with the self-delusional notion that, Luxury Tax be damned, Dr. Buss will continue to pay to produce a winner, because that is what the LA market demands and expects from him. Simply put, the Lakers are not allowed to be average. Buss’ reaction the last and only time they missed the playoffs in Kobe’s career is proof enough for anyone that he will pay for a winner no matter the cost: it drove him to back a Brinks truck up to Big Chief Triangle’s house in Montana and go back to trying to restrict his son Joey “Billy Madison” Buss’ shared power with Kupchak (which along with Chris Wallace being terrible at his job landed them Gasol). Not unlike the Yankees, the Lakers fans will not accept less than excellence, and pay the sort of ticket prices that allow that excellence to be bought and paid for. They are the most profitable team in the league for a reason, and if they have to start dipping into their margin to pay the tax, so be it.

Once I calm down and begin to remove emotion from my argument, my reaction actually begins with begrudging acknowledgment that the new system takes them out of the Dwight sweepstakes entirely (the Clippers will probably sign either him or Deron now), extends into the sad realization that they will have to waste their Amnesty clause in order to get rid of Metta World Peace, and collapse in the acceptance that there is now little to no hope for Kobe to get reinforcements after this season. I can pretend to be optimistic and trot out the rumors that Kobe’s trip to Germany have left his knee in the best shape it’s been in years and that he is jumping out of the gym again, but that seems like fool’s gold. The Lakers window is now this season and maybe next, and that is likely it. What that means is that the Mamba and Mike Brown had better get on the same page immediately, and that Brown’s reputation as a defensive guru had better be well earned. You can make the case that his Cleveland team’s outperformed their talent level and were consistently excellent because of their defense, thus it would follow that maybe he can win with the considerable talent upgrade he will get in LA. Then again it’s just as easy to point to those teams winning because of the King and in spite of Brown, which is just about the least encouraging thing I can think of. Wait, that’s a lie. The least encouraging thing I can think of is the fact that a compressed schedule and less rest between games almost guarantees a significant injury to Bynum.

Okay, now I am just depressed. Dammit.

Will throw it back to you on your thoughts on CP3/Dwight and general view on who is an Amnesty target, which I will counter after I finish ripping through this fifth of Jack and pack of cigarettes in an attempt comfort my “Blue Valentine”-like despair…

(In Ron Bergundy’s voice) Breaking News: Time to roll-back the clock 20 minutes to my self-delusion on the Luxury Tax issue:

Rule: No adjustments would be made to the luxury tax payout system ($1-to-$1) in the first two years of the agreement. The cap/tax threshold won’t be any lower than it was last season.

For the time being then, the Lakers aren’t forced into sweeping change and will still be able to do a significant sign and trade (ala Carmelo). Within two years though, they will lose that ability for adding depth. So, all in on these next two years it is.

Blake: The Lakers, and a few other teams (specifically the Spurs, Mavs and Celtics) have to see that two year luxury waiver period as a flashing “all-in” sign ala Teddy KGB’s Oreo Tell. Veteran teams without young reinforcements in the pipeline, with a history of spending at or over the luxury tax line, will no doubt jump in feet first while they still can. I’d hope you’d see the smarter of these teams load up on any ‘bad’ contract that expires before July 1, 2013 (when the new luxury tax rules will be in effect) and then prepare to wipe the slate clean with a more fiscally reasonable model from then on. I could thus see the potential for a Howard mega-deal involving Bynum and Turkoglu’s brutal contract, although I think the rumblings I’ve heard of a Prokhorov-mandated mega-offer for Dwight (centered around Brook Lopez and taking back Turk’s contract) make the most sense.

With the two year freeze on luxury increases but the immediate initiation of the stricter trading rules, it will be interesting to see how teams balance using their Amnesty waive, which can be held until future years (so long as it’s used on a contract from the old CBA). It must be a tough decision for high-spending teams, whether to pull the trigger now to increase flexibility, or hold on to it for later when the luxury tax penalties become immediate.

I touched on Howard above, and I think he’ll go for sure. He’s been too wishy-washy thus far, and the Magic have no help ready. Dealing Dwight and finding a taker for Turk could allow them a fairly quick re-tooling. As for CP3, the only way I see him staying with the Hornets through the year is if the league puts the clamps down on the issue, basically holding him hostage to attract a buyer for the team. On the open market, where he wants to play (New York) makes no sense, as they have no assets and he’d take a significant pay cut as a free agent. He has apparently given pause at the notion of a Celtics extension, probably seeing a future without KG/Pierce/Ray and him in the role of mid-2000s Truth. Oklahoma makes a ton of sense from an assets standpoint (Westbrook in return), a basketball standpoint (he’s a slightly better fit with KD due to his selflessness and D), and a location standpoint (don’t forget that New Orleans played out of OKC post-Katrina)….but for whatever reason, my gut tells me that won’t happen either.

Your thoughts here? As for amnesty cuts, I’m more curious as to your thoughts on potential strategies for savvy managers or under-cap teams, as the list of cut candidates has been visited many times across the ‘net so far. Again, the amnesty cut can be made at any time over the life of the CBA, as long as it is used on a contract signed under the previous CBA. This could allow teams without a poisonous contract (e.g. the Raptors, debatably) or well under the cap (e.g. the Kings) to leverage their financial flexibility further.

Trev: Interesting take on the plight of the Magic. We all know they are heading into a sequel of the Carmelo movie from last season, whereby their star’s refusal to openly acknowledge that he wants out will submarine the team’s morale and focus up until the point it overwhelms the team and a mid-season trade is unavoidable. But, to where? At first glance I agree with you that BK could be a potential destination given Prokhorov’s expectations, but I would be cautious to say it’s a lock since Dwight would almost definitely require Deron to commit to staying before he accepted a trade there.

Not sure if you read Dwight’s Esquire Q+A last month but doing so makes it painfully clear that he wants to follow in Shaq’s footsteps as the league’s biggest personality by extending his brand into over industry verticals. Film, television, commercials…he wants to expand his profile outside of basketball. In his own words: “There’s more you can do in a bigger place…I just think about what’s going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don’t want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don’t want it to close.” To me at least, that screams “Get me to NY or LA so I can be in Kazaam 2.” That is why I referenced the Clippers earlier. I can definitely see a scenario whereby Dwight teams up with Blake and Gordon to try and make the Clips more than ‘LA’s Other Team’ (something that we’ve heard will happen for at least the last 10 years by the way. I am pretty sure the ‘Clips on the Rise’ storyline ranks right up there with “Detox” in the ‘Believe it when I see it’ scale).

As for Paul, I hear you that evidence would seem to point to the Knicks having no play to acquire him…but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. If they let Chauncey’s contract expire after this season and use their Amnesty clause to take back a piece from NO that they don’t want. Thinking outside the box here, they could actually go acquire someone who was already Amnestied (I feel like that is not a real word, but just go with it) like Andris Biedrins, or hell, even Brandon Roy, to make themselves more appealing to trade with. While this all seems unlikely, the idea that they would land Melo seemed like a pipe-dream once upon a time as well. When it comes to Paul to NYK, I am now in full on “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” mode. I don’t see Deron being made available for the reasons mentioned above, and because Prokhorov and Hova would rather let him walk than help out their soon-to-be cross town rivals.

For what it’s worth, I would actually love to see Paul end up in OKC. That almost makes too much sense strictly from a basketball perspective. If the media is to be believed (a big ‘if’, but still), the riff between KD and Westbrook has only gotten worse this off-season. I will continue to wish that this isn’t true, but when whispers turn into full on chatter and public speculation, you have to give some legitimacy to the idea that it’s a relationship that can’t be fixed. Having said that though, I can’t see Presti pulling the trigger on any trade that dramatically alters the core of his team until he absolutely has no other choice, and as much as we all like to over-react in predicting doom and gloom for the Thunder, the fact remains that they are the scariest young team in the league, and while going out in 5 to the Mavs left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, they are still operating ahead of schedule and weren’t really that far from making a trip to the Finals. You simply cannot walk away from the table too soon if you are Presti, not when the team you have in place still looks like the odds-on-favorite to own the Western Conference for the next decade.

Would love to hear your view on who could benefit most from the Amnesty clause, as well as just how gawd-awful our dear Raps will end up being (“Season Seat Holders since 2011!”), and will respond in kind.

Blake: I’ve read the Dwight article, and I think it makes New Jersey/Brooklynn a legitimate possibility. While the Clippers angle is a nice story, I’d think he liks the “Mecca’s 2nd Team” + Deron + Win-Hungry Owner better than “LA’s 2nd Team” + Blake/Gordon + Worst Owner Ever. Plus you just know he’ll start missing 30+ games a season due to The Un-Named Clippers Curse. Given the tighter restrictions on player movement now, I think Dwight-to-NJ is in the best interest of Dwight, Prokhorov, AND Deron, as all of the parties’ interests align enough.

Good point about the Knicks acquiring pieces simply to deal for Paul….maybe due to Dolan’s influence on the lockout proceedings, Stern owes him a favor. And maybe the Hornets let the Knicks know that they’re interested in Mid-Level Player X, Amnesty Cut Player Z, and Young Player Q. The Knicks are able to use their mid-level, put a claim in on a cut player (assuming they’re below the luxury tax at that point), and can try and move some of their recent picks or Chauncey’s expiring deal to acquire a young piece and make that trade. Sketchier moves have happened, but let’s just say if Paul ends up in New York, we’re not getting the whole story.

Interesting issue about the amnesty clause to throw your way: a friend at work claimed that he felt bad for the players who get cut. Ignoring that they still get paid, he basically said the cut acts as an indictment on the player and puts a stink of sorts on them. While I agree it’s a referendum on the player’s current value against their current salary, I don’t think it’s necessarily the mark of death for a career, not even close. Brandon Roy is a perfect example, a guy who still holds tremendous value to a team, he’s just far too great an injury risk to pay max money too. Another example, though I don’t think he’ll be cut, would be Jose Calderon, someone who isn’t grossly overpaid, but overpaid relative to his value on his current team (a rebuilding Raptors squad). I think this type of cut could actually be a blessing, giving some players (Roy, Biedrins, etc) a fresh start without the pressures of a mammoth contract. This goes doubly for players who clear the waiver process and are then free to sign where they want.

To answer your question, I think the two biggest winners are Brandon Roy and any small-market team below the luxury tax line. Roy wins with a fresh start and the possibility to be a huge comeback story (although he apparently loves Portland and doesn’t want to leave, he was never going to perform to that contract again). For said small-market teams, the waiver process gives them a legitimately fair chance at talented players who they normally couldn’t acquire due to exorbitant free agent prices, poor talent attraction, or other reasons. I’m thinking a team like Milwaukee or Indiana, in specific.

Your thoughts on the amnesty winners/losers? And then yes, finally, we’ll touch on the Raps and maybe close this thing out for the time being.

Trev: Let’s go rapid fire on some thoughts I have on your last correspondence:

•I agree in principal that BK is a better destination, but I think ignoring LA undersells Dwight’s view of himself as a movie star in waiting (See: The amazing new Call of Duty commercial). That happens in LA, not NY.

•If something suspicious happens with the Knicks, it won’t be because Stern owes Dolan a favour necessarily, but because the L in general is more valuable, more exciting, and more relevant culturally when New York matters. New York is New York and nothing else is, which means the Knicks being relevant for a decade (as they would be if they acquired Paul) is to the league’s overall benefit, small-markets be damned.

•Also, while it’s a bit on the Conspiracy Theory side, remember that the league owns the Hornets right now, and while taking away their most valuable asset would seem counter-intuitive, if they don’t have a buyer in place by the trading deadline that scenario becomes very interesting.

•Jose is not “relatively overpaid”, unless by “relatively” you mean “wildly, grossly, insulting”. If that’s your intention, then sure, “relatively” it is. I know first-hand that he is one of the best ambassadors for the team the franchise has had in its sad-sack history and that he is a first-class person and a character guy. But so is Luke Walton. And both of them are paid more than ten-times their value in the open-market. So, please, don’t sell me on the notion that Jose is still worth even half his salary or a viable starting point – it’s laughable. If BC had been successful in getting MJ to take him in the Chandler deal it would have been one of the all-time fleecing. Even Kupchak would have stood and applauded. Great guy? Definitely. Borderline 9th-man on even a decent team? That too. (Now if you want to debate he isn’t the most overpaid guy on the roster, that is another argument…*cough*Amir *cough*)

•That is one sympathetic friend you have. He is going to feel sorry for multimillionaires who are grossly overpaid based on their actual performance and who have never lived up to their value, BUT they will still be paid in full of the terms of their contract, plus get a fresh start somewhere else with a fan-base that doesn’t hate them for underperformance? Seems like they are still getting a pretty fair shake to me. Rashard, Gilbert, and the rest of the Amnesty All-Stars would be right if they were to say that no one forced the teams to sign them to those deals, and that they are not responsible for the owners spending recklessly because it is their job and their agents’ job to get the best offer possible. I don’t disagree at all. But that doesn’t excuse them from the expectations such a contract brings. You sign up for it, you sign up for those expectations and the ridicule and scorn that potentially may come with not performing up to the value of that contract. That’s the trade-off. I am all for getting paid and maximizing your earning potential, but you live with being accountable to that contract. And yes, that even apply to guys like Roy and Greg Oden who are not directly at fault for their underperformance. Even though they were injured and did not wilfully underachieve, they underachieved nonetheless. For fans to begrudge that fact is fair in my eyes, since NBA contracts are guaranteed. Now if teams could cut players who were injured and not honour their contracts, that would be a different matter. But that is not the system in place; they are still paid in full despite never meeting expectations.

Amnesty Thoughts: The winners here are NBA GMs, since they do not need to fire this magic bullet immediately and can keep it in the chamber (so to speak) for later, as a type of insurance for down the road, which means they can continue to sell future projections and what-ifs without having to make tough decisions right away. The modified waiver process is obviously a huge help to mid-to-small market teams that might not otherwise attract free-agents, but the value of that is easily over-blown considering at most it will apply to 29 guys around the league. Specific winners here are the Cavs (can drop Baron), Baron himself (can go play for a winner potentially), Joe Dumars (who can wipe one of his many mistakes off the board), the Lakers (can drop Ron Ron or Luke), and the Magic (Gil). If Rashard’s agent is to be believed, Washington isn’t going to use their option on him, to which I….have no words….

Raptors Thoughts: This really deserves its own message thread (Spoiler alert: This is precisely what is going to happen before the season), but just at a high-level, I suspect this year will hurt, but not nearly as much as expected. I don’t think they will be last in NBA, or even in the East, put it that way. “Toronto, where managing awful expectations happens.” I expect DeMar to take another step forward with better D and something approaching range (anything is an improvement after his near-record futility last year) to emerge as someone who could be the third-best player on a great team. I expect Andrea to play/sulk his way out of town and make us all long for next season when Jonas will get here. I expect Ed Davis to continue to grow and be secretly one of the most interesting young talents in the entire league. I expect Jose to cause me to break at least four TV remotes. I expect Amir to somehow average a foul every 4 minutes. And I expect Casey to wonder out loud what he got himself into. All of that said, I expect to enjoy the process of watching these youngsters. We have no false expectations about playoffs this year; so often this franchise has half-committed to winning now without going all-in. This is the first full-on demolition and reconstruction project, which is the only way the franchise might actually improve long-term. That at least has me excited – to watch these young guys take their lumps and occasionally stumble into moments of brilliance.

And with that I will turn it over to you good sir. Good night and good luck.

Blake: I assume the good night and good luck ends your side of the correspondence, so despite your bashing of my Jose comment, I’m afforded closing remarks and therefore the last laugh. To which I put forth…nothing, this has been too fun and long overdue (and shows potential for a running feature, if we can trim our word counts by about 400%) for me to fire back and homer-ishly defend my man Jose as an adequate NBA point guard.

One quick question back on the Lakers regarding amnesty – is Metta the best option? With Walton a potential retirement candidate, it might behove the franchise to wait it out and see how the Walton situation plays out, and just how crazy Ron-Ron has gotten with the time off. Maybe they can save it for Turkoglu if they make a Godfather play for Dwight?

Raptors Thoughts: It’s going to be tough, for sure. I know a lot of fans are clamouring for a Tyson Chandler type, but I think it would be extremely short-sighted (and typical of Colangelo’s regime so far) to spend money on someone who won’t make a meaningful (read: winning a playoff round) difference, and who would then block our best prospect in Year 2. It’s my sincere hope that DeMar can take a leap even greater than your anticipating, to a legitimate NBA #2-man. He came so far offensively last year and became one of the most dangerous mid-range players in the league. Yes, his range should have been priority #1 in the extended offseason, and I pray to the basketball Gods that he can eventually get that clip up around 33-35%, not so that he’s a threat there, but so defenses at least respect it, which would open up his arsenal off the dribble. I would hope that Casey can help with his D, but it has never seemed to be an issue of commitment (Casey is apparently big on defensive effort and accountability), so Casey will have to be a teacher as well as a motivator. Ed should take some steps as well, and he has “eventually underrated by casual fans and overrated by Raptors diehards” written all over him, which I’m excited about to be honest. I’ll stop there as I’ll have a full Raptors piece sometime soon.

Thanks for doing this with me man, let’s make it a regular (and more brief) endeavour. Looking forward to next Sunday’s Raptors Season Ticket Draft Day. Stay classy.

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  1. Great post guys. As a fellow Sports Blog Net blogger it’s refreshing to see another site on the network take the time to put up a quality article like this one.

    A couple of thoughts -

    1. Teams are only allowed to use their amnesty clause on players that were on their roster before the new CBA was signed.

    2. As a Lakers fan I can tell you that Buss and Kupchak are going to do everything in their power to get Dwight in purple and gold by seasons end. Landing Howard not only bolsters your chances of winning a title in the 1 or 2 (perhaps) seasons of the Lakers current window, but it also ensures the team a profitable star for the next 8-10 years.

    The only question is what kind of deal is Orlando going to want in return this season, or what kind of deal will the Lakers have to make in the offseason to free up enough cap space to land Superman 2.0. This is why I think the Lakers will hold onto their Amnesty rights until the offseason when they can reassess where they are financially.

    Anyways, love the post. Hopefully you guys keep a running dialogue like this up throughout the NBA Season. Perhaps sometime we can do a cross site feature about the NBA, it would be a lot of fun.

    Keep up the good work.