By Marcus Shockley

Members of the NBA players association look on as Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Billy Hunter (C) speaks during a news conference announcing the players rejection of the league’s latest offer on Monday and the process to begin disbanding the union in New York November 14, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)

     

THE NBA LOCKOUT IS OVER.

The reports coming out late last night and early this morning are that the NBA owners and players have reached a tentative agreement. This means that while both sides have agreed in principle, the lawyers still have to iron out the details.

That’s expected to happen by December 9, which means training camp and free agency will begin on that day as long as everything goes smoothly. It also means a mad scramble for the players to get ready for a truncated season. It also means that most likely there will not be any exhibition games, but that the season will begin on Christmas, December 25.

The date was an important one for the NBA in that the Christmas games are the most watched for the NBA with the exception of the NBA Finals, and it would have meant a massive revenue loss for both sides. The current plan is to have a 66 game season.

Love basketball? Check out BasketballSportsNews.com, which lists all of the latest basketball headlines from around the world, updated to the minute.

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant arrives for a news conference announcing the players rejection of the league’s latest offer on Monday and the process to begin disbandand the union in New York November 14, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

        

By Marcus Shockley

Julius Erving, a.k.a. “Dr. J” to those of us who remember his silky moves and ability to defy gravity on the way to the hoop, has managed to secure a nice bonus on some of his memorabilia, netting $3.5 million at a recent auction:

Southern California-based SCP Auctions reports more than 140 items from Julius Erving’s personal collection sold for a record $3.5 million. The auction ran from October until Sunday.
Among the highlights: His 1974 New Jersey Nets ABA championship ring sold for $460,471; 1983 Philadelphia 76ers championship rings sold for $244,240; 1983 All-Star game MVP trophy ($115,242); final game-worn jersey from May 3, 1987 ($88,826); and 1974-75 ABA MVP trophy ($173,10)

Meanwhile, as allegations of child abuse surfaced at Syracuse, the fallout has already begun. Isaiah Whitehead (SG, 6’2″, 2014) has dropped Syracuse from his recruiting list, and it isn’t coincidence, as his mother cited the recent stories as the reason for eliminating the Orange:

[…]in light of the investigation of Syracuse men’s basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine, the nationally ranked sophomore won’t be attending the school, his mother, Ericka Rambert, said. Fine has been accused of allegedly molesting two former ball boys, allegations that Fine and longtime Orange coach Jim Boeheim vehemently deny.

Some say that the offense run by D-III Grinell is designed to score as many points as possible while barely playing a whiff of defense, but even the 5-man substitution pattern makes it hard to account for Grinnell’s Griffin Lentsch, who scored 89 points in a win over Principia, breaking the D-III single game record:

Lentsch shot 27-for-55 from the floor, including 15-for-33 from 3-point range. He was 20-for-22 from the foul line. He played 36 minutes.

You might think launching 55 shots, including a whopping 33 from behind the three-point arc, makes Lentsch a ballhog. All I can think of is five guys on Principia in the huddle who are all thinking ‘whose man is that, anyway?’.

Unsurprisingly, the NBA players rejected the owner’s latest offer, leaving the NBA season in more doubt than ever.

Well, not to me. I predicted this over a year ago, but, ahem.

This has also led to a rash of new activity with foreign teams, as NBA players suddenly are trying to grab up the few remaining roster spots. The common misconception is that NBA players can simply get a contract with a team overseas, and normally it would be pretty easy if it wasn’t for the fact that they are competing with 400 other NBA players at the same time. The hard truth is that only a select few NBA players will get offers, such as Tyson Chandler, who was just offered by Zhejiang Guangsha in China.

Even more of a reality is that there are three things that have been apparent for some time:

Tyson Chandler
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

* The NBA players are not going to be able to continue to keep the business model they’ve grown accustomed to in place;

* The NBA player representation is not up to par;

* The NBA owners, this time around, are not the same addle-headed group that agreed to the last contract.

Younger fans may not be aware of this, but for many years, losing money while owning an NBA team was considered how business was done. Inexplicably for owners in other sports, teams in the NBA could be bought, lose money for several years, and then sold at a profit to the next billionaire.

Those days are over.

Back in November of 2010, I cited the fact that the last straw for the owners was the Summer of Lebron, and how it really riled the already angry ownership. It’s interesting how many people want to compare Lebron to Jordan (Lebron being merely the latest, actually), but Jordan has one major accomplishment in his career that gets overlooked by most. Before Jordan, players made really great money. After Jordan, players made gargantuan money.

Micheal Jordan revolutionized sports, not just basketball, in that everything we see in place today – the massive contract of A-Rod, the major endorsement deals of college players as soon as they get drafted – all started with Jordan.

After Jordan, players made significantly more. After Lebron, players (at least NBA players) will make significantly less. An interesting juxtaposition, although I doubt you’ll see it on SportsCenter.

Finally, several recruiting outlets are reporting that Anrio Adams (PG/SG, 6’3″, 2012) has qualified and has committed to Kansas, joining this year’s Jayhawk recruiting class.

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant talks at a news conference after the Lakers were knocked out of the NBA basketball playoffs in Los Angeles, California, May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

    
    

A look at some of the headlines in the world of basketball today…

In the Big East, easily one of the best college basketball conferences over the last ten years, remaining members are reeling from the departure of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC. As a scramble to hold the Big East together takes shape, the first step is getting everyone in agreement, and that has started as the Big East CEOs give their okay for the commissioner to expand (or, perhaps, ‘re-expand’):

The presidents and chancellors of the 14 remaining Big East members and TCU have authorized Commissioner John Marinatto to “aggressively pursue discussions” with certain schools interested in joining the league.

In Italy, the most notable player negotiations are happening between Kobe Bryant and Virtus Bologna, who is attempting feverishly to get a deal done that will take one the world’s top players to their court. The move makes sense on a lot of levels, not the least of which being that Kobe Bryant already speaks fluid Italian, which will make him even more marketable during his stint there, should it come to fruition:

Bologna President Claudio Sabatini had told The Associated Press on Friday he had reached a tentative deal with agent Rob Pelinka for a 10-game contract worth more than $3 million.

This deal would be a no-brainer for both Bologna and Bryant, as Bryant’s 10 game stint would be a mere blip in his life, while the shortness of the contract would ensure heavy fan interest for those games, allowing Bologna to recoup their money quickly, not to mention the fact that Bologna would be able to sell Kobe Bryant jerseys from now on.

Kevin Durant has already participated in several charity basketball games on the East coast, and says that soon he will probably bring one to Oklahoma City:

Had a lot of fun with my NBA homes at @CP3’s basketball game in Winston Salem State…be on the lookout for a game in OKC in mid October!” Durant wrote after participating in New Orleans point guard Chris Paul’s event.

Speaking of Chris Paul’s charity basketball game, Winston-Salem State officials have begun the process of investigating and refunding “legitimate ticket holders” who were denied access to the game after counterfeiters apparently got involved:

“I think it was really shady. If the gym has capacity, why would you sell 4,500 tickets?” one fan said. “Sad part about it, there was at least 500 people out here. They told us two hours after we stood out here that seats were all filled and they were over capacity already.”

Finally, Texas landed 2012 PF Connor Lammert this weekend, a 6’9″ player from San Antonio. Conner is a good passer as a big man and will add depth inside the paint for the Longhorns.

National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern answers questions from the media regarding failed contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York June 30, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL)

        
        

The NBA and the players’ association representatives met yesterday, giving fans hope that if things went well, the possibility of pro basketball this season might still be a reality. This week, meaning, by Friday, is pretty much the last week any kind of deal could be reached before affecting the season, because of training camp schedules and then the pre-season.

Unfortunately, they walked away without any resolution, leaving a lot of doubt on the season. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he has not asked any of the owners to take the ultimate step regarding this season, but it doesn’t sound like there is any plan for a meeting in the near future:

The Owners are scheduled to hold a Board of Governors meeting on Thursday and while Stern may not ask for a vote, the final power to scrub the pre-season may be granted to the Labor Relations Committee simply by virtue of process.

Stern warned that while yesterday was a “bad day”, he hoped that phone conversations could re-start the process which seemed awfully close yesterday.

The silver lining is that the players and owners apparently started discussions over the biggest point of contention, which is how to split revenues. This could have been a result of more people being brought into the negotiations, but normally, when a group that’s trying to agree on something gets bigger, that usually just makes it more difficult.

Regardless of how both sides try to spin the result of yesterday’s meeting, the reality is that everyone knows the lack of a resolution is a very bad sign for the upcoming season:

“I think coming out of today, obviously because of the calendar, we can’t come out of here feeling as though training camps and the season is going to start on time at this point,” players’ association president Derek Fisher(notes) of the Lakers said.

The only real movement in the discussions is that the players seem willing to give up more revenue, although no formal proposal was made. Despite everyone involved expressing disappointment, Stern seems to be the ‘less glum’ of the participants, probably due to the change in position by the players:

“We did not have a great day,” said commissioner David Stern, though he was not nearly as glum as the players. Perhaps Stern recognized important movement in the players’ stance. Just last week the two sides had exchanged proposals, according to Stern, while engaging each other in conversations that were inspiring to both union and management. While union chief Billy Hunter said he hadn’t been expecting to reach an agreement Tuesday, he was hoping to achieve progress to build on the gains of last week.

As we’ve stated before, in this negotiation, the owners have far more leverage to get what they want than the players, and it’s pretty much a waiting game for them until the players’ wallets start hurting enough, and they concede.

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Staples Center Magic Johnson
Photo: Tim Wang

During the 1998 NBA lockout, players made many public relations missteps as they worked to try and secure a deal with the owners. This time, they hope that they won’t make those same mistakes, although some of the players this time around have already made the kind of comments that hurt their negotiating leverage. That’s lead the NBA players to try and keep the players’ communications in check, especially in an age of Twitter:

“It was a huge emphasis,” Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, said in a telephone interview. “The reality is, we’re in a great position, where guys have worked to put themselves in this place where they can potentially earn millions of dollars.”

It seems that this NBA labor brawl is not only seen by the owners as their chance to level some of the salaries and contracts that they got themselves into, but also seen by some as a chance to completely remake the NBA, and fix the problems that have plagued the league for years:

The NBA now has the opportunity to do the same thing with the draft and examine baseball’s in-or-out model and hockey’s draft-and-follow model.

Finally, Forbes has an idea that the players should just abandon the idea of working with the NBA and start their own league:

[…]imagine if NBA players decided to start their own league. That would change the dynamics of the negotiations. And it wouldn’t be that difficult. The players could start a new league, for example, by creating a large cooperative to which all players share in the revenues. None of the teams need an owner; each team just needs a general manager, who can be paid out of revenues. The players – or the cooperative to which the players belong – will be the owner(s).

It’s an interesting idea, but the players would have to align with some new business forces to make that happen. An interesting note about this NBA lockout is that there are some minor league teams in the United States, and apparently not one of them has attempted to make new money by signing NBA players. It could be that the price of an NBA player is just too high.

By Marcus Shockley

David Stern NBA
Photo: Nets Basketball

There’s a lot of rumors swirling about the NBA labor situation and the potential for a work stoppage, more commonly known as a ‘lockout’. The very word creates a feeling of apprehension and distaste for fans, many of whom remember the last strike-shortened season all too vividly. Many experts and people close to the situation feel a lockout is not only a possibility, but inevitable.

However, one area that has remained somewhat unclear is where this puts the potential college players who would be entering the draft this year, and those who are considering early entry possibilities.

There are a lot of rumors circulating about what would happen to these players in the event of an NBA lockout. Fans of some high profile college programs may be hoping that a lockout will keep some of their star underclassmen from leaving early, while others state that these players can still be compensated by agents.

Darren Heitner, Founder/CEO of Dynasty Athlete Representation and the Founder/Chief Editor of SportsAgentBlog.com, talked about some of the questions regarding the potential NBA labor problems and how it might affect college players this year.

If there is an NBA lockout, how does this affect potential players entering the draft? If, for example, the lockout extended for over a year, would the players effectively be prevented from getting paid or signing?

Heitner: NBA Draft eligible players who have put their names into the draft would still be selected by NBA teams and those teams would retain the rights over those players. Players would only get paid based on the amount of games they play. If there is not a full season, players would earn a pro rata share of the total value of their contract for that year.

If players cannot sign or collect a paycheck during a lockout, would this likely affect players deciding to go pro early?

Heitner: It certainly is affecting players’ decisions to leave college early to play professional basketball. We already have witnessed Sullinger state he is coming back, and more recently, Harrison Barnes has indicated he will return to North Carolina. These are two players who had a very strong chance at being selected in the top 5 of the first round. Others such as Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, and Brandon Knight are rumored to be waiting and listening as to what will occur in CBA discussions between now and the deadline to withdraw from the Draft.

There are mixed reports that some agents are attempting to gather funds to help their players during an extended lockout. Is this accurate, or just speculation, and if true, would it extend to players entering the draft?

Heitner: At this point, it seems to be mere speculation, but I certainly would not count that out. I remember last year when Xavier Henry would not sign with the Grizzlies because the team refused to sign him at 120% of his slot (which many teams do without even questioning the player selected). His agent, Arn Tellem, told a newspaper that he was ready to pay his client the difference if the team would not oblige. The bigger agents and agencies with large reserves will certainly be in a better position to provide funds to clients in the event of an extended lockout.

For players who are seniors entering the NBA, is there a possibility that a long term lockout would lead some to try playing overseas for a year?

Heitner: It is not only a possibility, I see it as a likely consequence. Many of these players do not come from the best socio-economic backgrounds and need to start earning money as soon as they leave school. The domestic leagues other than the D-League leave much to be desired in terms of level of play and payments. Furthermore, players need to continue to develop and not lose any part of their games. I do believe that in the case of an extended lockout, players will look to go overseas, but it will not happen until it is clear that the lockout will cancel a majority of the NBA season.

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By Marcus Shockley

There were two reasons why I wanted to have as conversation with Ryan Blake, the Director of Scouting for the NBA.

The first is obvious; I love basketball, own a basketball site, have a large player database and scout players from time to time. There’s nothing better for me to pick the brain of someone who is one the foremost authorities on scouting players for the top basketball league in the world. Ryan Blake motorcycle
However, the second reason doesn’t have anything to do with basketball.

One of the causes I always support and pay attention to is cancer research, having lost my own mother to a brain tumor over 25 years ago, cancer was very tough on her, she even needed home care assistance from https://homecareassistance.com/portland/. That’s why my first questions to Ryan were not about basketball, but instead about his efforts to raise awareness for cancer research with his Coaches vs. Cancer Ride, in which he embarked on an ambitious journey to attend multiple venues on a Triumph motorcycle while promoting the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer. Accompanied by Shirley, a mannequin, Blake started his journey in Chapel Hill as North Carolina took on Lipscomb.

Blake tackled the project quickly, organizing it himself, and managed to accomplish much of what he set out to do, including hitting 6 venues in 7 days, and a grueling 1,000 mile journey between New York and South Carolina. He had to curtail his efforts due to family illness, but says he definitely intends to do another ride in the near future.

It’s a commendable effort and one to be applauded, especially by myself.

However, I couldn’t have a conversation with Ryan and not talk about basketball. So let’s turn now to some thoughts about what’s going on in the NBA, the draft and a few other topics.

The first thing I wanted to ask Ryan was about how they scout a player. Do they factor in things such as a player’s personality and attitude or do they simply observe from afar, looking at their play on the court?

Ryan says they don’t have a holistic approach to scouting; meaning, they don’t delve into everything about the player on the court and off. However, they do pay attention to more than just how a player performs during the game.

Their job is to find players and tell the teams who they should start taking a look at, and then it’s up to the individual teams to take it from there. Ryan’s organization has scouting all over the world, and they are on the NBA’s pre-draft committee. They don’t limit their scouting to games, either. They will attend practices as well.

They’ve cut back on scouting international players and D1 players, simply because NBA commissioner David Stern has decided that he wants the NBA teams to manage more of that themselves.

I asked Ryan about mock draft sites, especially now that so many have cropped up. Are they credible? Are they a nuisance? Ryan said that some are indeed, credible. “DraftExpress puts a lot of time in, actually talks to people, goes to games”, but that many online sites are not that far-fetched. There is an added wrinkle, however, as even as draft sites are updated in real time based on games occurring during the college season, no actual team is going to tell anyone who they really like as a player. In fact, a team might employ misdirection to say they like a certain player, only to throw others off of the trail as to their true intentions. Blake also says that the draft order and player position changes from minute to minute in the seconds ticking up to the first pick, and no one on the mock draft sites is privy to that. He also said that they do offer some insight, because scouts like himself cannot talk publicly about undergraduates. Scouting isn’t an exact science, and Blake says when attempting to predict the draft, “No one’s ever going to be right”.

Blake also said that the mock drafts don’t impact him or his scouts, but they do contain misinformation from time to time, such as when Ricky Rubio was thought to be a lock for playing in the NBA.

This also coincided with several highlight clips of Rubio becoming a phenomenon online, as fans got a chance to see the young point guard for the first time, albeit in an edited form.

Blake, who is well aware of what teams are looking at and the players who may be coming into the league, knew there was no chance of Rubio arriving at that time, and got blasted when he went did a television spot and said as much, because fans were convinced he was wrong from reading online reports.

Ricky Rubio basketball
Flikr/jordimonti
Blake also said that while some sites are indeed credible, and people love the mock drafts, he said “people who say, ‘I’ve talked to all of the NBA scouts’ are lying”.

Next, I asked about the most common mistakes or areas of improvement that basketball players have when attempting to move from the college game to the pros. Ryan replied that most young players try to use their athleticism over substance, while veteran players know several key things that keep them in the league, such as:

  • How to play without the ball and play defense.
  • How to make other players better
  • How to be versatile enough to play a role. Do whatever the team needs done.

I wanted to know about high school recruiting rankings, if the NBA pays any attention to them, or what Ryan’s thoughts were. Ryan says his organization has people who keep up with the rankings and high school recruits, but that the age limit established in the NBA has helped tremendously when evaluating talent, and that after seeing players go up against D1 talent for a year, “you get to do a better evaluation.”

Ryan says that tons of players seem hyped until they reach D1, and they look like All-Stars while they are going against other high school players. The extra year tends to expose weaknesses and brings their prospects back down to reality. I mentioned to Ryan that if the one-year age limit has improved the product on the court for the NBA, would a further increase help even more? “Absolutely, it could,” he says, because more time evaluating only improves the chances of success when picking a player.

The other thing to consider about high school rankings is that NBA teams have so many players to evaluate, from the D-League to college and international, that it helps for them not to have to focus as much on high school. It’s a matter of finances and people to do the work, and focusing on scouting the veterans who want to secure jobs has made things more manageable.

One of the major topics looming over the NBA right now is the potential for a lockout, or work stoppage, in the coming year. “I just hope they can come together,” says Blake, who also added that commissioner David Stern has brought the groups together “brilliantly” in the past, and that there are so many good players who do great work in the community, it unfortunately gets overshadowed by their high paychecks and a few “bad apples”.

Finally, we discussed players entering the draft, and I asked Ryan if he felt players actually get enough quality information on their draft status and potential before entering. He said it’s a case-by-case basis. Some players do get good information, while others have people pushing them into the draft before their ready, or with inflated expectations. The numbers of early entry guys who were supposed to go in the first round but don’t are high. Blake says there are only 30 guaranteed contracts, and if you aren’t guaranteed to be a first round pick, it’s tough. Players trying to get into the league have to take a job away from a veteran, who isn’t going to want to give up his own contract for someone coming into the league. There are some cases where people with a vested interest in a player push the player to go pro because if the player can actually manage to get a contract in the second round, there’s money to be made.

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