National Basketball Players Association

Second Bubble For NBA’s Bottom Eight Teams Now Appears Unlikely

A report one month ago suggested that the NBA appeared likely to create a second campus/bubble environment in Chicago for the league’s bottom eight teams. The idea was for those teams left out of the Orlando restart to spend some time with their players during the offseason, conducting mini-training camps and inter-squad games in a single location.

However, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s a growing belief that a second bubble site won’t happen. The Athletic’s duo reports that there’s also pessimism about those bottom eight teams getting to hold in-market minicamps for group workouts.

“There’s nothing happening,” said one general manager following a Tuesday call with the eight GMs and various league officials. “It’s a shame. It’s a huge detriment to these eight franchises that were left behind.”

With the NBA focusing on the success of the Orlando restart, discussions about plans for the bottom eight teams – the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, Pistons, Knicks, and Hornets – have been inconsistent. As recently as last week, there seemed to be momentum building toward a plan to allow those clubs to hold practices and workouts, but that momentum has apparently stalled.

According to Charania and Amick, the National Basketball Players Association has safety concerns related to the idea of a second bubble amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There are also financial and logistical complications associated with creating a smaller-scale version of the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus.

Charania and Amick suggest that the NBPA is more open to the idea of creating smaller, in-market bubbles for teams to host individual mini-camps in their respective cities. But it sounds as if that won’t happen by mid-August as initially hoped, if it happens at all.

The eight teams left out of the Orlando restart believe they’re at a potential competitive disadvantage by missing out on the player and culture development that other teams are getting this summer, sources tell The Athletic. Those clubs are expected to continue pushing for some form of offseason team activities to re-engage players and coaches. For now, they’re only permitted to hold 1-on-0 workouts at their practice facilities, with limited coach involvement.

NBA, NBPA Reach Agreements On Disability Insurance, Salary Withholding

The NBA and NBPA have reached an agreement on a revamped insurance benefit for players who suffer career-ending injuries, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. According to Wojnarowski, the new disability policy will pay players $2.5MM in the event of a career-ending injury sustained on or off the court.

The previous insurance policy for career-ending injuries paid out approximately $312K — the NBPA had been pushing to increase that amount in the midst of future salary cap uncertainty and the coronavirus pandemic, writes Wojnarowski. The new policy will also apply to career-ending ailments related to COVID-19 complications, Woj adds.

Sources tell ESPN that the new insurance benefit will apply to all active players up to 35 years old and would be paid out in addition to the money owed on the player’s existing contract. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out (via Twitter), NBA clubs already have a disability policy in place for their top earners who suffer major injuries, but that policy is designed to protect the teams rather than the players.

Meanwhile, the NBA and the players’ union have also reached an agreement to continue withholding 25% of players’ pay checks in escrow, Wojnarowski reports. That deal has been in place since May 15 and is designed to help maintain a balance of the season’s basketball-related income between teams and players.

The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for approximately a 50/50 revenue split between teams and players. With a portion of the season’s games canceled and the NBA preparing to bring in less revenue than initially anticipated, withholding a portion of player pay checks allows the two sides to begin balancing the books.

According to Marks (via Twitter), there’s already about $600MM sitting in a pair of escrow accounts that has been withheld from players by the NBA and its teams. Once the end-of-season accounting is completed, the NBA will be able to determine if players received more than 51% of this season’s BRI. If that’s the case, the money in escrow will be returned to the teams rather than the players.

Roberts Talks Revenue Loss, Possible 2020/21 Campus, CBA

In a wide-ranging phone conversation with Tim Bontemps of ESPN today, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts discussed a variety of topics pertaining to the league’s immediate future. Key on everyone’s mind recently has been the success thus far of the 2019/20 season’s Orlando campus, wherein no NBA players or travel team personnel have tested positive for COVID-19 after clearing their quarantines for the past three weeks.

Roberts acknowledged that another possible campus set-up, with NBA players stationed at a single, isolated site with frequent testing, seems like a realistic possibility for the 2020/21 NBA season, given the current state of the novel coronavirus in the US.

“If tomorrow looks like today, I don’t know how we say we can do it differently,” Roberts said. “So it may be that, if the bubble is the way to play, then that is likely gonna be the way we play next season, if things remain as they are.”

The 2020/21 NBA season is tentatively slated to tip off on December 1, though the NBPA hasn’t approved that start date.

[RELATED: Financial, Logistical Uncertainty Looms Over 2020/21 NBA Season]

Roberts went on to commend the safety precautions implemented within the Disney World campus setup.

“The medical facilities and the physicians on campus, I’m not worried about anyone getting sick and not being able to get absolutely immediate health care,” she said. “I am completely satisfied that we’ve come up with the right protocol.”

The NBA and the NBPA are bracing for a significant loss in league revenue, stemming from the loss of fan attendance for much or all of the 2020/21 season. Both sides will negotiate handling the fallout of these losses and are “beginning some very high-level discussions with respect to what the potential issues are,” Roberts told Bontemps.

Roberts also noted that she does not intend to use the revenue conversations between the NBA and NBPA as a moment to opt out of the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement for a total renegotiation ahead of the December 15, 2022 deadline for doing so.

“That’s not something that has been addressed and, I would venture to say, is not going to happen.”

NBA G League Players Form Union

The NBA’s G League players have organized and formed a union, temporarily named the Basketball Players Union (BPU), the National Basketball Players Association announced in a press release. Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported the news (via Twitter).

According to today’s announcement, approximately 80% of players voted to unionize, and the NBA G League has agreed to voluntarily recognize the BPU as the players’ representative.

The newly-formed union will represent players on all NBA G League teams, including the Select Team that will be launched in 2020/21. However, players on two-way contracts or on NBAGL assignments from NBA rosters will continue to be repped by the NBPA.

“We are extremely pleased that our brothers in the G League elected to form their own union,” said Anthony Tolliver, a member of the NBPA’s executive committee. “The many NBA players with prior experience in the G League can personally attest to the value an organized union brings to players’ careers. We would like to especially thank Andre Ingram and John Holland who gave so much of their personal time to the organizing process.”

G League players earn $35K per season and don’t have anywhere near the same number of benefits enjoyed by NBA players. Now that they’re unionized, the BPU will have the opportunity to collective bargain salaries, benefits, and other working conditions with the NBAGL, so those negotiations will be worth keeping an eye on.

NBA, NBPA Agree To Enhanced Insurance Plan For Injuries

The NBA and the NBPA have agreed to put in place an enhanced insurance plan for players in Orlando, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, the plan would cover career-ending injuries suffered this summer, whether they’re conventional basketball injuries or somehow related to COVID-19. The potential group policy would cover players for “several million dollars,” Woj adds.

There’s a belief among players that they’ll be at greater risk of injury this summer due to a lengthy hiatus and their limited access to basketball facilities during that layoff.

Players will get a training camp period and will have the opportunity to play a series of intersquad scrimmages in Orlando before the seeding game begin. However, the ramping-up period will look different than a typical fall training camp, as many teams will immediately have to fight for their playoff lives once games begin on July 30.

When Wojnarowski reported earlier this month that several players were pushing for an enhanced insurance plan, he noted that it would be difficult to prove that any injury suffered in Orlando is directly responsible for a reduction in a player’s future earnings unless it directly threatens the player’s career. Based on today’s report, it sounds as if the new agreement will only cover those career-threatening ailments rather than shorter-term injuries.

Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum were among the players said to be lobbying for enhanced insurance protection. All five are eligible for contract extensions this offseason.

NBA, NBPA Finalize Revised CBA Terms For Restart

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have finalized the terms of the revised Collective Bargaining Agreement for this summer’s Orlando restart, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

As Wojnarowski explains, that means that the items outlined in Saturday’s memo to teams – such as the rescheduled date for the 2020 draft and the details of this week’s transaction window – have now been formally agreed upon.

There are still more items that the NBA and NBPA must negotiate and finalize, such as the start date and subsequent calendar for the 2020/21 season. However, this agreement represents an important step toward finishing the ’19/20 campaign.

Restart Notes: Howard, Lillard, Ranadive, Korver

In a statement sent to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Lakers center Dwight Howard said that the players’ coalition expressing concerns with the NBA’s Orlando restart plan isn’t looking to derail the resumption of the season.

“Our main objective is to raise awareness and gain transparency on the things that concern us collectively,” Howard said. “Many of our fellow players are afraid to voice their concerns and are continuing to follow along with what they believe they have to.

“… In a time like this where we are fighting for equal rights, it would be contradictory if we told our own players to not play and do as we say,” Howard continued. “We are not here to dictate, nor do we have the power to do so. We want to make sure communication is taking place openly without fear. … If any one of us chooses to sit, it has nothing to do with another player’s right to play. Not once has any of us told one of our fellow brethren not to go to the Orlando Bubble Experiment and we stressed that in our meetings.”

A report earlier this week indicated that Kyrie Irving, who has been one of the leaders of the coalition voicing concerns about the NBA’s restart, has encouraged his Nets teammates not to go to Orlando. Howard’s statement suggests that’s not the case. The veteran big man added that he and other members of the players’ coalition are “in full support of our brothers whether we decide to enter or not enter the Orlando bubble.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s resumption:

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said earlier this week that Irving and Howard “have a point” and that he doesn’t feel “100 percent comfortable” about resuming the season this summer, but that he’s willing to take the risk because of the impact that players’ salvaged salaries can have on their communities. “I can only speak for myself — but I think it goes for other guys as well — we are the financial support for our families and for a lot of our community,” Lillard said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We bring a lot of that financial responsibility to support black businesses in black communities. So it makes a lot of sense for us (to return), from that standpoint.”
  • Even as the positive test rate and total number of COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to increase, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said this week during a CNBC appearance that he’s confident in the NBA’s return-to-play plan, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee writes. “Statistically, it’s actually going to be safer to be in a bubble in Orlando than to stay home and go to a grocery store, so this has been very well thought through and I feel very confident that we will be in Orlando in a few weeks,” Ranadive said.
  • Bucks forward Kyle Korver said this week during a conversation with Richard Jefferson (video link) that he’d be willing to sit out the restart if his black teammates and friends felt it was the best way to bring about change, as Joe Coles of The Deseret News details.
  • The NBPA issued a press release on Wednesday that discussed a series of social-justice issues and initiatives and noted that the union is considering ideas for how players “can effectively continue their advocacy on the national stage occasioned by the games” in Orlando this summer.

Restart Notes: L. Williams, Lakers, NBPA, More

The Lakers and Clippers are among the NBA’s top championship contenders, but that doesn’t mean all their players are gung-ho about restarting the season. Clippers guard Lou Williams expressed on Instagram why he feels as if resuming play could distract from social-justice causes, while Lakers center Dwight Howard conveyed a similar sentiment over the weekend.

Howard’s agent, Charles Briscoe, told Dave McMenamin of ESPN on Sunday that his client has yet to make a decision on playing basketball this summer, while other Lakers players said that there’s still plenty of time for the team to get on the same page.

“(There’s) no divide,” one Lakers player told McMenamin.

Here’s more on the NBA’s proposed restart:

  • The National Basketball Players Association has scheduled another call for 5:00 pm ET today, with all players invited to participate, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. We’ll see if we get a better sense after that call of how the league and union may try to address certain players’ concerns about the return-to-play plan.
  • Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype spoke to agents and executives to get a feel for whether teams would use the ability to sign a replacement player for an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 this summer. “I think as long as a team doesn’t have multiple players who get sick at the same time, they won’t sign anyone,” one general manager said. “I think most teams will just wait for their sick player to return.”
  • Tim Bontemps of ESPN explores what will be at stake when the NBA resumes play, ranging from the impact the playoff results will have on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future or LeBron James‘ legacy to what happens to the league if the bubble plan doesn’t work.

Michele Roberts: “A Player Is Going To Test Positive”

Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, admits there’s no way to fully protect players from COVID-19 while they’re in Orlando, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Roberts understands that players are entering a risky situation, but said the only alternative to resuming the season under these conditions was to wait for a vaccine and possibly sit out two years.

“That’s the only realistic mind-set you can have going into this. A player is going to test positive,” she said. “It’s not any more of this ‘if’, it’s ‘when’ and what can I do to mitigate against the ‘when.’ When it happens, if I’m not successful, what treatment is available to me, what are my chances of being really, really sick, and how are you detecting the presence of an infection? Honestly, I don’t think this is any different than what any American has to come to grips with.”

Roberts emphasized that no player is being forced to participate in Orlando and there will be no repercussions other than loss of salary. An increasing number of players are objecting to the restart plan and the restrictive nature of the bubble environment.

“I don’t believe any player would say this was forced upon them, it’s not,” Roberts said. “Not a single player has to play. This is not involuntary servitude. I don’t have to work. They don’t have to work. But it’s of course a mitigation of risk with the players. On this health and safety protocol, I’m satisfied that it can’t be any better than this. But I’m candid that it’s not bulletproof.”

Roberts addresses several other topics in the interview:

Players have become more knowledgeable about the virus:

“At the very beginning when we were being told that this was a disease that people like me [middle-aged] had to worry about, it was more of an annoyance for the players, except for those who had family members my age. But it was not something they thought was going to have this kind of an impact on their lives or their livelihood. As time went on and the seriousness was revealed there were times when players were very concerned about it, especially when it became clear it was not confined to folks over 60. I got really serious questions. ‘Is this something I need to be worried about? Can it kill me? Can it impact my ability to continue to play basketball?'”

She believes most players support resuming the season:

“I think the players are where they want to be. They want to give it a shot and if it doesn’t work, well, we tried. Hopefully nothing catastrophic will happen and we can just figure out Plan B. If the worst would happen and it would spread, we shut it down. This is the virus. I’m going to be disheartened, but I’m not going to be surprised because there’s no scientific or medical ability to protect against it. The players know it. The teams know it. We’re doing absolutely everything we can to mitigate it. If I didn’t think we were, that the league was half-stepping, then I would recommend with every ounce of my being that our players not even think about playing again. But that’s thankfully not the case.”

The union hasn’t endorsed Dec. 1 as the start date for the 2020/21 season:

“Dec. 1 is not an attractive option. Those are tough questions that have to be resolved. How do we address the revenue challenges this virus has created and will create next season? I don’t know when they’re going to have fans back in the arena. I don’t think we’re going to have them in October. There are a number of factors that will impact when the season will begin. I don’t know if we’re going to have a second spike. What’s the virus going to look like? And if you’re going to talk about a compressed season, we were able to reduce the amount of back-to-back games, the notion of returning to that and the obvious injury risk that come along with that, is not attractive. But nothing will happen without the players signing off. That’s for sure.”

More Details Emerge From Friday’s Conference Call

We relayed details last night about a conference call regarding player objections to the plan to restart the NBA season in Orlando. More information on that call, which involved in excess of 80 players, has been released by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania confirms that Kyrie Irving was the leader of the effort to make players reconsider their support of finishing the season. He spoke first and offered a direct message to his peers, telling them, “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bull–. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”

Avery Bradley, who was outspoken throughout the conversation, was the first player to follow Irving’s comments. He encouraged the players to take a stand and to use the opportunity to “play chess, not checkers.” Other prominent names on the call included union president Chris PaulKevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell.

Players have been involved in conversations for the past two weeks, sources tell Charania, expressing concerns about the games in Orlando and the restrictive conditions that are rumored to be part of the bubble environment. The opposition began among “rank-and-file” players, with Irving and Durant providing prominent voices.

Sources offered Charania a few more tidbits from the conference call:

  • Anthony emphasized the need for player unity and the importance of conveying a single message. He also urged all 80 players on the call to donate $25K to a cause of their choice.
  • CJ McCollum told players they have to be prepared for financial setbacks if they choose not to play and the possibility that owners will nullify the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • Howard warned that resuming the season will distract from the social justice issues the country is focused on. He encouraged players to use the moment as a catalyst for change.
  • Mitchell talked about players “being behind the 8-ball” by being forced into a competitive environment after being idle for so long. “We’re taking a big injury risk,” he told his fellow players.
  • NBPA leadership doesn’t expect fans to be allowed into games at any point during the 2020/21 season, which would result in another huge revenue loss for the league.