National Basketball Players Association

And-Ones: Roberts, NBPA, Stuckey, 2019 Free Agency

Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has repeatedly dismissed the idea that the NBPA should have accepted the league’s cap-smoothing proposal prior to the 2016 offseason, and she doubled down on that stance in a recent conversation with Kevin Draper of The New York Times. Roberts zeroed in on the theory that the lack of cap smoothing has helped create a perceived competitive imbalance, led by the defending-champion Warriors.

“I have been amused by the chatter suggesting that smoothing — or more accurately the failure to smooth — has now become some folks’ boogeyman de jure,” Roberts wrote in an email. “While we haven’t yet blamed it for the assassination of MLK, some are now suggesting that it is responsible for all that is presumably wrong with today’s NBA. Needless to say, I beg to differ.”

Roberts also refuted the notion that the cap spike in 2016 (when the cap rose from $70MM to $94MM) and the slower growth since then resulted in an unusually poor market for free agents in 2018: “We opened free agency with nine teams that had significant cap room, in excess of $10MM each. Frankly, before the spike, that’s about as healthy of a start as we’ve ever had.”

Finally, Roberts insisted that players shouldn’t be blamed for contracts from 2016 that are now viewed as overpays: “I get that there are folks who believe that some of the contracts executed post the smoothing rejection were too large. I vehemently disagree as I am sure do the players that negotiated those contracts. However, if that’s the beef folks have, take it up with the GMs that negotiated them. The argument that we gave teams too much money to play with is preposterous.”

While it’s hard to argue that a lack of cap-smoothing in 2016 had a major impact on several franchises – including the Warriors, who suddenly had the cap room necessary to afford Kevin Durant – Roberts is right that certain GMs deserve the blame for how they reacted to the sudden cap spike. If some of those teams had preserved their cap room instead of using it to sign mediocre players to oversized contracts, the NBA landscape could look much different today.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • Speaking of Roberts, she was unanimously elected to another four-year term as the executive director of the players’ union, Chris Paul confirmed this week (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post).
  • Earlier today, we noted that Rodney Stuckey was holding a private workout in Las Vegas as he seeks a new NBA home. According to international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link), the Warriors, Nets, Grizzlies, Spurs, and Pacers had representatives at that session.
  • With several teams around the NBA looking to create cap room for 2019, and many of this year’s free agents signing one-year deals to hit the market again in a year, next summer’s NBA offseason could be a wild one. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) previews 2019’s free agent period, identifying the top free-agents-to-be and the teams that will have the most flexibility.
  • In an interesting piece for HoopsHype, Alex Kennedy talks to a number of current and former NBA players about their experiences in free agency, relaying some horror stories about agents and team executives alike.

And-Ones: Silver, Cuban, NBPA, Coaching Changes

A New York resident was arrested for sending a threatening email to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Steve Gardner of USA Today relays via a New York Post report. David Pyant, who has served to time for robbery and has 13 prior arrests, sent the email to Silver last summer. He was charged with aggravated harassment for threatening to shoot Silver if he wasn’t allowed to play in the NBA.

In other NBA-related news:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the sports gambling ban will be a boon to sports owners, AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today reports. Cuban made the comments in a CNBC interview. “I think everybody who owns a top four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double, at least,” Cuban said, adding “I think this is something that benefits everybody.” The Supreme Court issued its decision on Monday.
  • The Players’ Association will “work to ensure our players’ rights are protected and promoted” now that states beyond Nevada can take legal sports bets, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. The NBPA issued a brief statement on the issue, saying it would work with other sports players’ unions to reach that goal.
  • Impatience from owners and GMs has led to the head coaching carousel currently going on in the NBA, Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders opines. It takes more than three or four years to build toward a championship, Davies continues, citing the Sixers’ Brett Brown as a prime example. Knee-jerk decisions from teams that take baby steps but don’t take a full step forward are misguided, Davies adds.

And-Ones: Extension Candidates, BIG3, Sports Betting

With the NBA postseason set to tip off this weekend an equally intriguing offseason draws nearer. Recently, Keith Smith of RealGM took a nice, long look at the upcoming batch of players eligible to sign rookie contract extensions after July 1.

While some players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker are no-brainers for rich contract extensions, other players like Kristaps Porzingis and Myles Turner are intriguing cases.

Porzingis, Smith writes, could be a candidate for a conditional contract extension similar to the one Joel Embiid signed last summer. Turner, meanwhile, proved himself a worthy NBA starter early in his career but has dealt with injury setbacks of his own in the time since.

A number of the top lottery picks in the 2015 draft class aren’t likely to sign significant extensions, if they’re even eligible to do so at all. Two of the top five picks – Jahlil Okafor and Mario Hezonja – didn’t even have the fourth-year of their rookie deals picked up.

For a breakdown of all 30 first-round picks, how they fared through their first three seasons in the NBA and whether or not you can expect them to hit the restricted market in 2019, be sure to check out Smith’s full piece.

There’s more from around the NBA.

  • With discussion over the legalization of sports betting a hot topic these days, the NBA Player’s Association has issued a statement, urging consideration for players’ rights ahead of any consequent negotiations over associated fees. Ben Fawkes of ESPN has the latest about the pressing issue while Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors confirms that the NBA is open to having the union involved.
  • The BIG3 held its offseason draft last night in preparation for the league’s second season set to begin on June 22. Andre Owens, an international journeyman who played sparingly with the Jazz and Pacers over a decade ago was the first overall pick. Notable NBA alums, including Jason Maxiell, Quentin Richardson, the original Mike James and Bonzi Wells were also taken over the course of three rounds. Josh Peters of USA Today has a full breakdown of the draft.
  • The NBA draft order is set, ahead of the May 15th lottery that is. We broke down what happened when a series of tiebreakers decided the fates of 12 impacted teams.

And-Ones: Davis, Roberts, Maker, Referees, Travel

NBA veteran Glen Davis was arrested in a Maryland hotel room last month on drug possession charges, reports Brian Kuegler of ABC 2 WMAR in Baltimore. The former NBA champion reportedly gave signed consent for his room to be searched after the hotel owner called police complaining of a strong scent of marijuana coming from Davis’ room.

“They recovered 126 grams of marijuana,” Aberdeen Police Lieutenant William Reiber said. “In addition to that, there was a briefcase that contained 92,164 dollars of U.S. currency along with a ledger that contained language which is consistent with someone involved in the sale and distribution of narcotics.”

The 32-year-old last played in the NBA during the 2014/15 season, averaging 4.0 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 74 games for the Clippers. He had signed on to participate in the BIG3 this season.

Davis’ attorney said that his client is innocent of the charges and looks forward to his day in court. Davis is due back in court next month.

Check out more news around the basketball world:

  • The executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Michele Roberts, plans to seek a new deal when her current contract expires in September, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. Roberts, 62, assumed her post in 2014 and seemed to be interested in leaving the job when her deal expired, but she has reportedly changed her mind, Wojnarowski writes.
  • Thon Maker‘s younger brother, Matur Maker, will be eligible for the NBA Draft in June and the Bucks’ young center feels his brother can be a first-round pick, Gery Woelfel of Woefel’s Press Box writes. “He does a lot of things well at both ends of the floor,’’ Thon said. “Offensively, he handles the ball well; he’s a playmaker. When I say playmaker, I don’t mean like he just passes first or passes only. He makes the right play every single time. He’s very unselfish.”
  • There may be an issue brewing between the NBA and its referees. After the official Twitter account for the NBA’s referees criticized the Last 2 Minute report and its effectiveness, an official NBA Twitter account fired back, calling the referees’ take “inaccurate.”
  • It’s possible that the NBA changes its playoff format in the near future but going to a 1-16 format seems unlikely, Sam Amico of Amico Hoops writes. Commissioner Adam Silver indicates that the league is not ready to make a change and that geographically, it would be a difficult proposition.“We’re serious about looking at it. We’re far from a place where there’s a solution,” Silver said. “Of course it makes sense to seed teams 1-16 in the league but we have two conferences that are geographically apart.

New York Notes: Noah, Ntilikina, Okafor, Nets

Although March 1 isn’t an official deadline for the Knicks to make a decision on Joakim Noah, the team will have to waive him on or before that day if he wants to retain his postseason eligibility. That makes it a date worth watching, and according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, the National Basketball Players Association will have an eye on the situation.

Berman hears from sources that the NBPA will “intensify its interest” in the Noah situation if he remains on the Knicks’ roster – but not with the team – beyond March 1. If the veteran center wants to return to the Knicks at that point and the club wants him to remain in exile, things “could get ugly,” per Berman.

Sources tell Berman that the Knicks were within their right to suspend Noah for insubordination after he cursed out head coach Jeff Hornacek last month, but chose not to do so — Noah continues to receive his full salary during his absence. If the big man isn’t released this week, one potential scenario, Berman suggests, would see the Knicks brass telling him to sit tight and prepare for the 2018/19 season, when Hornacek may no longer be the club’s head coach.

While we wait to see what happens with Noah, let’s round up a few more items from out of New York City…

  • In a separate article for The New York Post, Berman examines the upcoming summer for Frank Ntilikina. The rookie point guard has suggested he’ll spend much of his offseason in his home country of France, but the Knicks will likely want him to play for their Summer League team in July.
  • Jahlil Okafor hasn’t seen any action for the Nets since February 12, but still believes he’s capable of fitting in with Brooklyn’s fast-paced style of play, writes Fred Kerber of The New York Post. “I wish we’d had him since training camp,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Okafor. “It makes it easier. We’re scrambling here trying to find a lineup so he’s a little bit of a victim of that.”
  • Speaking of the Nets‘ lineup, it got a boost on Monday, as both Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returned from injuries. Tom Dowd has the details at the club’s official site.

Meeting Between Players, Referees Called ‘Productive’

Four points of agreement emerged from today’s meeting between representatives of players and referees, according to a joint statement released by both groups.

Gathering at All-Star Weekend in the wake of increased on-court tensions, the representatives of the NBPA and the referees’ union agreed to a course of action that calls for:

  • Enhanced education and clarification around the Respect for the Game rules.
  • The opening of an additional channel of communication for future conflicts.
  • Plans for future meetings and discussions.
  • A broad review of existing rules and regulations and developing joint recommendations to enhance them.

The statement calls today’s meeting “incredibly productive in terms of opening up the lines of communication between both groups and beginning the process of improving relations.” It also refers to the get-together as “a successful first step,” with more meetings planned for the spring and summer.

“In this meeting, we took some important steps in identifying existing frustrations for both sides,” said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts. “Now with that information, we plan to move forward and continue to work together to find solutions that will enhance the on-court experience for both parties.”

“Our two unions met out of the necessity to examine issues that have previously been left unaddressed,” said NBRA spokesperson Mark Denesuk. “We look forward to continued collaboration between our two organizations to explore common interests.”

And-Ones: Garnett, Buyout Market, McCollum

Kevin Garnett has stayed busy in post-NBA days, working with several teams as a consultant and holding down a television role on TNT. Garnett spoke to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports to discuss his retirement and addressed the possibility of one day becoming a coach.

Garnett said to Zillgitt that he worked with players such as Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Thon Maker. However, in his own words, Garnett views himself less of a coach and more of a teacher. He also noted that he doesn’t want to tie himself down to working for one team, preferring his services to be more accessible.

“I wish it was a freer market than that, but I totally understand. But I like being free,” he said. “I like being able to work with multiple teams. That’s not the case. The league changed their rules a little bit. But from a mentoring aspect, you can mentor as many players as you want. As far as team, you have to stick with one team. I would never say never to anything, but I don’t have an appetite to coach. I’m more of a teacher than a coach. A coach has a lot more responsibility. I just want to teach the players, and that’s it. I don’t want to organize who gets what playing time. I definitely don’t want that.”

Check out other news around the basketball world:

  • ESPN Insider’s Bobby Marks (subscription required and recommended) breaks down the remaining options on the buyout market. Marks provides a full list of teams with open roster spots, logical landing spots for the current free agents and likely buyout candidates, and assesses the cap hits for each of them.
  • Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum has been named the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, the NBPA announced on Twitter.

And-Ones: Players/Officials, Diaw, Modern Approach

Several current NBA players and referees will meet privately Saturday during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles to discuss player-referee relations, according to a release posted on the Players’ Association’s website. Tensions between players and officials have been a hot topic this year and the aim of the meeting is to improve communication and transparency. Among the topics that will be discussed is on-court communication and demeanor; perception in media, optics, and reality of issues between players and officials; respect for game rules and their consistent enforcement; tactics for de-escalation of tension from each side; and equality of treatment for all players and officials.

In other news around the league and overseas:

  • Veteran big man Boris Diaw is expected to remain with his French team until the end of its season, Sportando relays via Le Parisien. Diaw has drawn interest from NBA teams and has an opt-out clause he could exercise by March 1 but he’ll stay with Paris-Levallois. He played 73 games for the Jazz last season.
  • Changes to the All-Star format and the league embracing pro sports betting are ways that the NBA is trying to remain relevant, Howard Bryant of ESPN argues. Oversaturation will eventually override nostalgia, tradition and enormous television rights fees, which has propped up major sports over the years, Bryant continues. That’s why the leagues are desperately trying to reinvent themselves, Bryant adds.

And-Ones: Referees, Baron Davis, Ball Brothers

Having become dissatisfied working with the NBA to moderate issues between referees and players, Lee Seham, the general counsel for the National Basketball Referees Association recently met with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts to discuss those issues, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. After meeting at the players’ union’s Manhattan offices, Seham and Roberts plan to hold another informal sitdown at All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, which will include a few top referees and players.

As Wojnarowski details, both the referees’ union and players’ union have expressed concerns about how treatment from the other side — the NBRA believes that the league office has become too lenient in allowing players to verbally go after referees, while players are put off by what they view as dismissive or disrespectful reactions from refs when they ask about a call.

The NBA would ultimately need to sign off on any official changes to the way its referees are trained, or the way that disputes between players and refs are handled. However, if the referees’ and players’ unions can reach common ground on some of those issues, they’d have added leverage to take those suggestions to the league.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league has added another former NBA All-Star to its ranks, announcing this week in a press release that Baron Davis has signed with the BIG3 and will play for 3’s Company next season.Hearing about the fun they had this past summer really made me excited to suit up,” Davis said. “I have a lot of basketball left, and this is a great opportunity to fill that void I’ve been missing.”
  • In a fascinating piece for The Washington Post, Candance Buckner shines a light on some of the NBA’s behind-the-scenes power brokers, including a video game marketing director, a fashion designer, and a skills trainer.
  • How did LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball end up landing with a little-known team in Lithuania? Andrew Keh of The New York Times takes a deep dive into the city of Prienai and its basketball club (Prienu Vytautas), which has already added five more people to its modest staff to help handle the increased marketing workload.

And-Ones: Doncic, Gee, Mexico City, NBPA

A highlight of Real Madrid star Luka Doncic crossing over former Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver went viral on Thursday, and representatives from a number of NBA teams were on hand to see it in person. According to international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link), the Sixers, Suns, Clippers, Magic, Mavericks, Pelicans, Wizards, and others all had officials in attendance.

Of course, given how highly regarded Doncic is, most of these teams are unlikely to have a shot at him in the 2018 NBA draft. In singling out some of the risers and fallers in the latest update to their 2018 big board, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) explain why Doncic is at the top of their rankings.

According to Givony and Schmitz, who refer to Doncic as “the most productive European prospect of all time,” the 6’8″ guard could have a legit chance to win the EuroLeague’s MVP award this season. Some scouts worry about his athleticism, his defense, or his ability to create shots, so it’s not a lock that he’ll go No. 1 in June. But Doncic, at age 18, is already one of the best scorers and facilitators in Europe, in the eyes of Givony and Schmitz.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA swingman Alonzo Gee is headed to the G League, according to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days, who tweets that the Heat‘s affiliate (the Sioux Falls Skyforce) has claimed Gee off waivers. The 30-year-old, who has appeared in regular season games for six NBA clubs, last played for the Nuggets in 2016/17.
  • After reporting last week that the NBA intends to establish a G League franchise in Mexico City, Marc Stein of The New York Times takes a deep dive into the issue and outlines why the league is more seriously considering the viability of eventually expanding to Mexico — not just with a G League team, but with an NBA club. The fact that Mexico City shares a time zone with so many current NBA clubs is a major plus, as commissioner Adam Silver observes.
  • The players’ union and former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter have reached a settlement in their legal battle, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter links). After the NBPA fired Hunter in 2013, the longtime executive director sued the union for $10MM+, and the union counter-sued. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but Hunter said in a statement that he’s happy about “moving forward after years of hard-fought litigation on both sides.”