National Basketball Players Association

NBPA Appeals Dion Waiters’ Latest Suspension

For a third time this season, the National Basketball Players Association is appealing a Dion Waiters suspension, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

As Winderman explains, the NBPA’s appeal isn’t intended to reduce Waiters’ current six-game suspension or get him on the court any faster. The union’s goal is to recoup some or all of the salary the Heat guard has lost as a result of the ban.

The NBPA filed similar appeals following Waiters’ one-game and 10-game suspensions earlier this season, as we relayed last month. In total, the three suspensions have sidelined Waiters for 17 games and have reduced his 2019/20 salary by $1.419MM. Additionally, because he won’t appear in at least 70 games, Waiters has missed out on a $1.2MM bonus, though that lost bonus hasn’t been appealed by the players’ union, per Winderman.

The appeals, which could be heard individually or concurrently, are unlikely to happen anytime in the near future, according to Winderman, who notes that the NBPA hasn’t asked to expedite the appeals. They’ll likely happen a few months from now, and may result in Waiters’ camp and the Heat reaching a settlement brokered by the union, Winderman writes.

Although the appeals will determine how much salary Waiters ultimately loses, they’ll have no impact on the Heat’s salary cap or tax situation, since all three suspensions have been issued by the team rather than the league.

Waiters’ current six-game ban runs through December 23, so he’ll be eligible to return on December 27 when the Heat host the Pacers. Still, considering the veteran guard has yet to play this season and the club is reportedly exploring options to get rid of him, it seems increasingly unlikely that he’ll see any action for Miami this season.

NBA G League Players Discuss Unionizing

Players in the NBA G League are having serious discussions with the National Basketball Players Association about the possibility of unionizing, according to reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Charania and Wojnarowski note that those conversations are expected to continue at this season’s G League Winter Showcase, which will take place from December 19-22 in Las Vegas. The goal would be to work toward collectively bargaining items like salaries, benefits, and travel, sources tell Woj. More freedom of player movement might also be a priority, says Charania. Currently, G League players not on assignment from an NBA team make $35K per season.

Assuming this week’s talks go well, a G League players union will likely be ratified following the Winter Showcase, when a formal vote takes place. For their part, the NBA and the G League have been made aware of the discussions and say they plan to work with the newly-formed union if and when it’s ratified, per Wojnarowski.

“We support the players’ right to unionize,” NBAGL president Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “We view this as a positive thing and are looking to continue to grow our league for the players to develop and accomplish their dreams.”

The unionization of G League players has been viewed as “inevitable,” with team and league officials preparing for the possibility for the last several years, writes Charania. Still, it’s not clear how significant an impact a players’ union might have on the NBAGL’s current structure.

“Travel, housing, a little more money — it’ll be about small gains,” one G League general manager told Charania. “The G League probably doesn’t generate enough revenue for wholesale changes unless we tap into the NBA’s BRI (basketball related income), but unionizing can be a start.”

NBA In Talks To Alter Seeding, Schedule And Playoff Play-In

Serious discussions between the NBA, National Basketball Players Association and broadcast partners could see an altered league with changes to the league’s schedule, reseeding of four conference finalists, a postseason play-in and a 30-team in-season tournament, ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski report.

As the discussions progress, the hope is to bring a vote to the annual April meeting of the NBA’s Board of Governors which could include most, if not all, of the proposals, per ESPN’s report. The goal would be for these changes to take effect for the 2021/22 season, the NBA’s 75th anniversary.

For starters, the proposal would include a reduction in the schedule from 82 games to a minimum of 78 games, Lowe and Wojnarowski report. There would exist a remote possibility of teams possibly playing a maximum of 83 games given various tournament and play-in scenarios, sources told ESPN.

In regards to the in-season tournament, the league is looking at 30-team participation that begins with a divisional group stage of already scheduled regular-season contests.  Coming out of the tournament would be six divisional winners based on the best home and away records in the group stage, according the report. Teams with the next best two records advance to a single-elimination knockout round under the current proposal.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been a major proponent of the in-season tournament, modeling it after European soccer. Silver explained to the New York Times’ Marc Stein in late May that he was examining various scenarios to alter the league.

“It’s incumbent on me to constantly be looking at other organizations and seeing what it is we can do better and learn from them,” Silver told Stein. “In the case of European soccer, I think there is something we can learn from them.

“I also recognize I’m up against some of the traditionalists who say no one will care about that other competition, that other trophy, you create. And my response to that is, ‘Organizations have the ability to create new traditions.’ It won’t happen overnight.”

As far as the postseason play-in, Wojnarowski and Lowe write that two four-team tournaments would transpire with the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th seeds in each respective conference. The seventh would host the eighth seed with the victor taking seventh seed honors. The same would apply for the ninth and 10th seed, with the winner in each respective conference earning the final playoff spots.

While the baseline ideas are being discussed, other things that will need to be ironed out. How players and coaches are compensated for the changed schedule, how television partners would be impacted with changed schedules and more. However, there’s some traction to potentially change the landscape of the NBA for the 2021/22 campaign.

And-Ones: Maxey, Hampton, Cunningham, Vasquez

With the NCAA season getting underway this week, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) are providing some early scouting reports on top prospects for the 2020 draft, writing that Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey “stole the show” and looked like a potential top-10 pick in a win over Michigan State on Tuesday.

While Givony and Schmitz are keeping a close eye on several top NCAA prospects, R.J. Hampton – another projected top-10 pick for 2020 – is halfway around the world, playing for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League. In a fascinating feature for The Athletic, Dana O’Neil takes a look at how Hampton has adjusted to playing professional ball.

Although Hampton doesn’t necessarily regret choosing to spend the year in Auckland, he admits that it’s “a little weird” watching the NCAA season tip off this week. “I can envision myself in a Kansas jersey,” Hampton told O’Neil, referencing a Jayhawks team whose roster features his best friend Jalen Wilson.

Meanwhile, the top prospect for the 2021 draft class will be remaining stateside rather than following in Hampton’s footsteps by heading overseas. As Givony relays (via Twitter), 6’7″ point guard Cade Cunningham announced this week that he has committed to Oklahoma State for his freshman year in 2020/21. Cunningham claimed the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s very-early mock draft for ’21.

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

  • As part of the NBA’s attempted crackdown on tampering, the league has prohibited team personnel from using apps that auto-delete relevant communication, per Pete Thamel, Seerat Sohi, and Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports observes, it’s hard to see how the NBA will be able to enforce such a rule.
  • Former NBA point guard Greivis Vasquez is taking a leave of absence from his job as the associate head coach of the Erie BayHawks, the Pelicans‘ G League affiliate, the team announced today in a press release. “After taking some time to consider what is best for the team and my health, I have decided to step away from coaching to focus on rehabbing my ankle,” Vasquez said in a statement.
  • In the wake of the NBA/China controversy that dominated headlines during the preseason, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts tells Ben Tolliver of The Washington Post that the union hasn’t done enough to help educate players on international issues. With the NBA frequently making trips to countries like China, India, and others, Roberts wants to help raise players’ awareness on those issues.
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation argues that head coaching jobs are more stable now than they have been in past years, generally speaking. As Ziller writes, the average tenure for an NBA coach right now is 3.7 years, which is the highest mark in at least a decade.

Jose Calderon Ready To Retire, Joins NBPA

When a report in August indicated that veteran NBA point guard Jose Calderon was contemplating retirement, the Spaniard quickly came out and shot it down. Calderon said at the time that he intended to continue his playing career and later told HoopsHype that he was “just waiting” for another NBA opportunity.

However, with the 2019/20 NBA season underway and no doors having opened for Calderon, the 38-year-old sounds like he’s prepared to call it a career, as Ben Golliver of The Washington Post details.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be happy with the role that I had last year. I wasn’t playing, just helping and traveling the same amount. I was starting to miss my family a lot,” Calderon said. “I was watching a game the other day and I didn’t wish I was playing, which makes everything easier. When is the right time to say that this is it? [My retirement] is not official, but it’s almost. It’s about time. Maybe in the next couple of weeks I’ll make an official announcement and file the papers.”

As Calderon considers making his retirement decision official, he has taken on an off-court role with the National Basketball Players Association. According to Golliver, Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s executive director, hired Calderon as a special assistant this fall.

“I’ve always been sensitive to the absence of players at our New York headquarters,” Roberts told Golliver. “This is the Players Association. It’s kind of silly that it’s being run in large part by a bunch of lawyers and people with master’s degrees. I’m in regular contact with players, but it’s nice to have a body here so that I’m not calling a player who is in the middle of his game day nap or talking to someone who is so removed from the game that maybe their perspective is a little bit dated.”

As Golliver writes, Calderon heard from multiple NBA teams about possible front office positions this offseason, and was contacted by the league office as well. However, the longtime NBA point guard wanted to take on a flexible position that would allow him to test the waters and juggle his other responsibilities, including his charity work.

“I didn’t want to commit to a front office job and decide in three months that I wasn’t built for it,” Calderon said. “I didn’t have a dream job because I wasn’t sure what the best fit for me would be. That’s why this is a perfect transition role. I can touch a little bit of everything from basketball operations to finance to the international part, so that I can decide what I really like for the future.”

Assuming this is it for Calderon, he’ll retire with 895 career regular season games – and another 40 postseason appearances – under his belt for the Raptors, Pistons, Mavericks, Knicks, Lakers, Hawks, and Cavaliers. For his NBA career, the former undrafted free agent has averaged 8.9 PPG and 5.8 APG with an impressive .472/.407/.873 shooting line. He also played professionally in Spain for seven seasons before making his NBA debut in 2005.

Roberts: Complaints About Player Movement Hypocritical

With NBA training camps set to open up later this month, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated sat down with the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Michele Roberts, who feels that there is a “double standard” between how players and teams are viewed when a decision is made for the player to move franchises.

“If you want to be critical of one, be critical of both,” Roberts said. “No one has said a word about what happens when the team precipitously trades a man, especially a family man, and the consequences that that has on him…. We spend so much time criticizing a player’s decision to move but no time wondering or thinking … about a team’s decision to move a player.”

According to Roberts, if a team has the right to move a player without backlash, then a player should have the equal right to change teams, pursuant to league rules, without being unfairly criticized.

“If a team has the right to trade you, then that’s the way it works. Similarly, if a player has the right to leave, that’s the way it works too… there’s just a perception that owners have rights and players don’t… I mean it’s unfortunate that we tend to, on some levels, continue to view players as property as opposed to people.”

Ultimately, Roberts analogizes player movement, or at least the motivation for players to want to change teams, as any other individual in the workforce who wants to change jobs, firms, or companies.

“What I think has to happen is we have to somehow stop the chatter that I think is growing in intensity about the problem of player movement. I don’t see it as a problem any more than I would see a lawyer deciding to work in another firm as a problem. I thought that that was something we were supposed to be able to do in this country.”

NBA, NBPA Resume Talks To End One-And-Done Rule

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have resumed discussions in recent weeks about ending the league’s one-and-done rule and lowering the minimum age to 18, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony.

According to Wojnarowski and Givony, those talks have been infused with some urgency, since the league still hopes to change the rule in time for the 2022 draft. If the rule is changed for that year, there will be a greater influx of talent in the ’22 draft, with high school seniors and college freshman each getting their first chance to declare as early entrants. Those draft picks will, in turn, become more valuable.

“There was a run on trying to get 2022 picks at the trade deadline,” one GM told ESPN.

While both sides would like resolution, the NBA’s desire to convince the NBPA to make concessions on rules related to the availability of prospects’ medical information and combine attendance and participation have been obstacles, per ESPN.

The NBPA has felt pressure from the agent community to resist the NBA’s efforts to gain control of prospects’ medical information, sources tell Woj and Givony. Conversely, the league doesn’t want to lower the minimum age to 18 without some giveback from the players’ union.

As negotiations between the league and players’ union continue, the NBA and USA Basketball have reached an agreement to allow teams to begin scouting Team USA’s 16-under national camps this May, Woj and Givony report. Players at that camp could potentially be available in the 2022 draft. Previously, NBA teams were only permitted to scout 18-under camps and programs.

NBA Submits Proposal To Lower Draft Age

The NBA has submitted an official proposal to the National Basketball Players Association that would lower the draft-eligible age from 19 to 18, according to a report from Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports.

The NBPA and executive director Michele Roberts planned to review the proposal on Monday at a post-All-Star break meeting, Zillgitt adds.

Both the NBA and the NBPA have held extensive discussions on lowering the age throughout the season, but two significant hurdles remain in the way: Commissioner Adam Silver wanting player-agents to provide medical information on prospects for NBA teams, and the league wanting to mandate that players attend and give some form of participation during the pre-draft combine, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. To this point, the NBPA has pushed back against both of these ideas.

In the present day, players must attend college for one season – or at least be one year removed from high school – before they can declare for the NBA Draft. Prospects such as Duke’s Zion Williamson have raised questions about the legitimacy of this rule, with Williamson widely regarded as being NBA-ready before his collegiate season began.

Should the NBA and NBPA mutually agree on a proposal to lower the draft age, the league wants to give teams significant time before putting the rule into effect, according to Zillgitt. The earliest draft with an altered minimum-age would likely be the 2022 NBA Draft, or three years from June.

And-Ones: Iguodala, Gupta, Vesely, Williamson

Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala was elected First Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association, according to an NBPA press release. Iguodala has been on the Executive Committee since February 2013. He replaces LeBron James, whose four-year term has expired.

The BucksMalcolm Brogdon, the CelticsJaylen Brown and the HornetsBismack Biyombo were elected to serve as VPs on the Executive Committee. They replace Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Iguodala.

Chris Paul remains President of the committee with Anthony Tolliver, Pau Gasol, C.J. McCollum and Garrett Temple also serving on it.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Pistons assistant GM Sachin Gupta never knew ESPN’s Trade Machine would become so popular when he created it in 2006, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Gupta called it a “fun project” and took about a month to write the code for the Trade Machine when he worked for the network, Beard adds. “It’s not meant to replace common sense. It’s not meant to replace any GM’s job,” Gupta said. “It’s simply based on the rules and whether it works or not.”
  • Former NBA player Jan Vesely has signed an extension with Fenerbahce that keep him under contract until 2022, the Turkish team tweets. The 7-foot power forward was drafted by the Wizards with the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft but only lasted three NBA seasons.
  • Stephen Curry is a fan of Duke’s Zion Williamson, considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, he said in an interview with The Undefeated and relayed by E. Jay Zarett of the Sporting News. “He’s unreal. We were talking about him the other day in our team room,” Curry said, via Justin Tinsley of the Undefeated. “He has a lot of hype around him and he’s unbelievably talented, but you can’t teach his passion and the way that … he plays. He plays hard every possession, and that’s an underrated skill that kids can kind of emulate.”

Adam Silver Talks Suns, Draft Lottery, Marijuana

Appearing on Howard Beck’s podcast, The Full 48, NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed a handful of issues facing the league, weighing in on the Suns‘ arena situation, the NBA’s draft lottery, and the league’s marijuana policy, among other topics.

Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:

On the Suns’ arena situation and the concept of relocation in general:

  • Silver says he has made it clear that it’d be a “failure” on his part if an NBA team moves out of its current market, and he doesn’t expect that to happen with the Suns. “If I can be helpful, I will be to all parties there,” Silver said, referring to the Suns and the Phoenix City Council. “But I’m pretty confident they’re going to sit down and work out a deal.”
    [RELATED: Robert Sarver: Suns won’t move out of Phoenix]
  • In the Suns’ case, the issue will come down to how much money the city is willing to put toward those renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Silver, referring to arenas as “modern-day town halls,” argues that a public/private funding partnership makes sense because NBA games make up only a fraction of the events that take place at those arenas.
  • Silver points out that Phoenix’s arena is the oldest one in the NBA that hasn’t been either rebuilt or renovated over the years, adding that it’s in need of an upgrade.

On the draft lottery:

  • It’s still “unclear” how effective the NBA’s changes to the draft lottery will be, according to Silver, who cautions that he views the recent tweaks as an incremental improvement rather than a “cure-all.”
  • The NBA is constantly looking for ways to improve its system, but unless the league is willing to take drastic measures to revamp how teams can acquire players coming into the NBA (ie. abolishing the lottery or the draft itself), there’s only so much that can be done to adjust the format, says Silver.
  • The commissioner also tells Beck that he’s unconvinced that “tanking” for multiple years is the best way to go about rebuilding, given the toll it takes on a team’s culture and fan base.
  • Silver referred to “The Wheel,” an idea from Celtics executive Mike Zarren which would see a team rotate through all 30 draft positions over 30 years, with those positions set well in advance. However, Silver suggests it’d be a bad look for the league for championship teams to end up with top picks, given the fan outrage when the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins this past offseason.

On the NBA’s marijuana ban:

  • The NBA is having ongoing discussions with the players’ union about the league’s rules surrounding marijuana, according to Silver. “I don’t want to speak for [union head] Michele Roberts, but I think she and I have a somewhat similar view on this, which is we should follow the science,” Silver said. “This is not an ethical issue for me. It’s not a moral issue for me. I obviously see what’s happening in states around America. I think there’s a bunch of unique issues for the NBA.”
  • The fact that various states across the country have different regulations and rules regarding marijuana use makes things trickier for the NBA, according to Silver, who points out that there are still federal laws prohibiting traveling with marijuana.
  • Silver also notes that the league’s marijuana ban may – in some cases – result in players turning to alcohol or prescription drugs, which might actually be worse for the player that marijuana would be.
  • Ultimately, the NBA wants more input from experts before making any changes, but Silver acknowledges that the league may eventually alter its position.

On changing the NBA’s entry age:

  • Silver reiterates that the earliest the NBA would change its entry age would be for the 2022 draft, which has been previously reported.
  • Silver views 2022 as a reasonable target for those changes if the NBA and players’ union can get something done within “the next few months.” If there’s no significant progress in those talks by the time the 2019 draft is approaching, the timeline may need to be pushed back further, says Silver.
  • In concert with the negotiations on the NBA’s entry age, the league will likely be looking to create regulations about the availability of prospects’ medical information during the pre-draft process — Silver would like to see all teams have equitable access to that info, as opposed to top prospects withholding it from specific clubs.
  • Silver believes the NBA G League will get up to 30 teams within “the next two years or so.” Currently, 27 clubs have NBAGL affiliates.