National Basketball Players Association

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.

Bulls Players Reached Out To NBPA About Boylen’s Tactics

It was an odd weekend for the Bulls, who picked up a rare win on Friday, suffered the worst loss in team history on Saturday, then held a pair of meetings on Sunday in lieu of the practice that head coach Jim Boylen had reportedly planned. As we relayed this morning, some Bulls players had originally wanted to skip Sunday’s practice altogether, discussing the idea beforehand in a group chat, but Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen were among those who convinced everyone to show up and voice their concerns.

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), Boylen pushed back on the idea that his team – as a whole – was opposed to practicing on Sunday.

“That is not true that ‘they’ didn’t want to have practice. ‘They’ means everybody. That is not true. I don’t like that narrative,” Boylen said, per Johnson. “The truth is we had a couple guys who thought a Sunday practice was excessive after the week we had. They have to trust me that if I bring them in to practice, I’m going to manage their legs. They didn’t understand that. So I explained to them that you have to trust me that I’m going to do what’s best for this team. What was best was coming in, being together and growing.”

As Johnson explains (via Twitter), it’s not as if Boylen’s tactics are at odds with what Bulls ownership and management wants from him — while his coaching style definitely reflects his personality, Boylen also has an organizational mandate to push his players hard, says Johnson. The head coach said as much on Monday, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times relays.

“My job, I tell them this and you guys have heard me say this, is to try and push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” Boylen said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is, that’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for. I take that very seriously, so I explained that to them.”

As Boylen doubles down on his hard-nosed approach to the head coaching job, Vincent Goodwill and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports report that Bulls players contacted the National Basketball Players Association on Sunday about Boylen’s tactics. Having already gone through three two-and-a-half hour practices since Boylen took over last Monday, the players reached out to the union when it appeared that another grueling practice was on tap for Sunday following a back-to-back set.

Haynes and Goodwill passed along several more fascinating tidbits on the situation in Chicago. We’ll round up a number of the highlights here:

  • Following Saturday’s game, one of the team’s veterans said – in a group text with his teammates – that if anyone showed up to Sunday’s practice, the vet would personally fine them, according to Haynes and Goodwill. Some players agreed, but with Boylen aware of the plan and refusing to relent, the players ultimately decided to show up, even though they had no intention of practicing.
  • Lopez, who wasn’t part of the initial group chat, played a major role in getting the players to back down, per Yahoo’s report. The veteran center also said today that the team “came out the better for it” after Sunday’s meetings, but admitted that he wished Fred Hoiberg had been given the chance to coach a fully healthy roster this season, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com.
  • Sources close to Boylen tell Haynes and Goodwill that the coach wasn’t actually planning to conduct a rigorous practice on Sunday. K.C. Johnson previously reported the same thing, writing that Boylen simply planned to have his players watch film and get some shots up. It’s not clear whether or not that’s revisionist history, considering Boylen said on Saturday night that he pulled his players early on Saturday in a “premeditated” move so that they’d be able to practice on Sunday.
  • Boylen, who has had “numerous verbal confrontations” with Bulls players since the start of the 2018/19 season, went against the usual postgame protocol by making players watch film immediately after last Tuesday’s loss to Indiana. Sources tell Haynes and Goodwill that Bulls players felt like they were being treated like high school athletes, and felt further disrespected when Boylen told the media later the players had to get in better shape.
  • When the Bulls told Boylen on Sunday that they weren’t practicing, Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday were the “most vocal,” sources tell Haynes and Goodwill. Sensing “turmoil” in Chicago, some teams have begun looking into Holiday’s availability, though it’s not yet clear if the Bulls will engage in trade talks, according to Haynes and Goodwill. Previous reports have suggested Holiday, who is on an expiring contract, should be available.
  • Defending his decision to sub out all five starters at once during Saturday’s game, Boylen cited Gregg Popovich and the Spurs when speaking with his team on Sunday. According to Haynes and Goodwill, one player responded by telling Boylen, in essence, that the Bulls “aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.”

And-Ones: NBAGL Showcase, Raptors, Spurs, Bazley

The NBA G League will hold its Winter Showcase in Las Vegas from December 19-22 this year, according to a press release issued today by the league. The event has historically taken place in the new year, but will happen in December this time around to give NBA teams the opportunity to scout G League talent before the 10-day signing period begins and the two-way guarantee deadline arrives.

As ESPN’s Jonathan Givony notes (via Twitter), the event will also incorporate more than 20 players from the NBA Academies, a network of elite basketball training centers from around the world. That should make the event more appealing for scouts and executives, and Givony wonders (via Twitter) if the league may eventually have players who sign the G League’s new “select contracts” participate in the showcase as well, adding even more intrigue to the event.

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

  • Based on the first week of the 2018/19 NBA regular season, it looks like both the Raptors and Spurs may be able to claim victory in the biggest trade of the offseason, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.
  • In the view of Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the G League’s new “select contracts” are a step in the right direction, but aren’t necessarily the answer, especially over the long term. Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports also spoke to Michele Roberts, the director of the National Basketball Players Association, about the G League’s new offerings.
  • Kevin Durant supports Darius Bazley‘s plan to earn some money while waiting to become draft-eligible, as Logan Murdock of The San Jose Mercury News writes. “I wonder what he’s going to do on the basketball court,” Durant said of Bazley, who opted to skip college for an internship and endorsement deal with New Balance. “But it’s good that he’s going to make some money while not playing.”
  • In an extremely informative breakdown for ESPN+, Bobby Marks examines the salary cap and roster situations for all 30 NBA teams.

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.