When paychecks stop, will NBA players crack?


When paychecks stop, will NBA players crack?

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
The NBA players union has publicly said all the right things during the lockout, about the need to stick together, about their willingness to miss games to ensure that they get the best deal possible for themselves and future generations of NBA players.

It sounds great; even noble.

But up until now, it has been just talk.

The idea of missing games and the checks that come with those games, is one thing.

But to actually do it is easier - much easier - said than done.

Having players like Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce or Dwyane Wade champion their cause by talking about holding out for the best deal - however long that is - certainly resonates with the rank-and-file union members.

But the NBA's elite players can go decades without making another dime, and still live like kings.

Their economic status doesn't speak for the majority of the league's players.

Dwyane Wade not getting paid isn't the same as say, Delonte West (he recently took a job with a furniture company).

And the owners are banking on the belief that that difference will ultimately create some division among the players and thus make them more susceptible to a more owner-friendly deal.

Divide and conquer, an old but highly successful tactic.

The union has been prepping its members for years in anticipation of this moment, well aware that there would be some struggles along the way in reaching a new CBA.

"At the end of the day, this is about business," Mo Evans, vice president of the players union, told CSNNE.com recently. "We understand this, and so do the owners. Both sides want the same thing, the best deal they can get."

Yes it is business.

But the NBA and most professional sports franchises in general, are different.

In most businesses, there's a clear distinction between your labor force and the product being manufactured.

The labor helps develop the product, which, if it's really good product, will be gobbled up by consumers.

But the NBA, like most professional sports teams, doesn't function within the framework of your typical business model.

NBA players aren't just the labor - they're the product, too.

"We believe that we're the most significant and important asset to this particular business," union president Derek Fisher told reporters on Tuesday. "And with the level of revenue that will continue to be generated as this business grows, that there's just a fair place that the compensation should start for this particular group."

Players got a 57 percent cut of the league's basketball-related income in the old CBA, a figure they fully expect to be lowered in a new deal. They have shown a willingness to go down to 53 percent or possibly 52 if certain additional concessions are made by the owners.

Owners countered with giving the players 46 percent of the BRI, but have shown that they are willing to increase their offer to a 50-50 split.

Being mere percentage points apart - each percentage point is worth about 40 million - gives some hope that this particular part of the CBA will be agreed upon soon.

But the NBA owners seem determined to make the new CBA, one that comes as close to guaranteeing them profits as possible.

With most NBA owners having businesses outside of basketball as their primary source of revenue, having a team in the red financially wasn't that big a deal because they could write it off.

But when those primary revenue streams began to dry up, they looked at ways to make those companies more profitable such as downsizing or modifying the pay scale.

To some extent, they're looking to do the same in this new CBA, which is why they were pushing so hard early on for a hard salary cap along with other system-related changes.

Eventually, the owners backed off of the hard salary cap demand.

But the threat of canceling the first two weeks of the regular season by Monday isn't just tough talk rhetoric on their part.

Only a last-minute change of heart by the players union to accept a 50-50 split, could save the season from having the first two weeks wiped out.

The players union rejected the 50-50 proposal on Tuesday, and when told that agreeing to that was the only way the NBA was coming back to the table to talk, several reports indicated that the union turned it down again.

So far, the players union has backed up its claims that they're on one accord and will stay strong, together, throughout this process.

But then again, nobody has missed a paycheck . . . yet.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention


Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

BOSTON – Celtics fans are slowly but surely getting over the disappointment of the team not landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery earlier this month.
As cool as that would have been, the conference finals serve as a reminder that while having the top pick can be a good thing, most teams have to take a different route when it comes to getting on track towards and NBA title.
Of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only one that has truly been elevated to their current lofty status courtesy of landing the number one overall pick (first with LeBron James back in 2003 and more recently with Kyrie Irving in 2011).
That means the rest of the remaining field built their way up into an NBA power relying on a combination of making wise draft picks and shrewd additions via free agency and trades.
So much of that has to do with leverage, something the Celtics have plenty of on all three fronts.
They have the potential to free up enough salary cap space to sign a pair of max players, a first for this franchise. Boston also has eight draft picks in next month’s draft (three in the first round, five in the second), the most of any team leading up to the draft since it went to a two-round system in 1989.
Those picks plus a roster full of really good but not great talent, gives them the kind of ammunition to pull the trigger on a trade that could add that much-needed All-Star caliber talent.
But it’s like a high school chemistry experiment as the Celtics try to figure out the right combinations to avoid having it all blow up in their face.
For now, the emphasis has to be on the June 23 draft.
A big part of that planning process involves figuring out what to do with the No. 3 pick, the highest selection the Celtics have had since they took Jeff Green (and traded him that night) with the fifth overall selection in 2007.
If the Celtics keep the pick, it will certainly bring about some controversy regardless of who they select.
By taking Dragan Bender of Croatia, the Celtics will be selecting the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November) who may take years to develop into a legitimate contributor.
Selecting Providence College’s Kris Dunn, arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft, seems a bit redundant considering all the guards Boston has under contract whose strengths are essentially the same as Dunn’s.
Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is another option. He’s the best shooter in this draft, but doesn’t provide much other than scoring. Is that really worthy of a No. 3 overall pick?
Regardless of who the Celtics take with the No. 3 pick (and that’s assuming they keep it and not trade it away which is indeed an option), one thing we know for sure.
History tells us that if the Celtics keep the pick, he will wind up being a pretty good player.
In the past 20 years, the No. 1 overall pick has produced 12 All-Stars.
Among top six picks in that same span of time, the No. 3 selection has generated the second-highest number of All-Stars (8), while the No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 picks each had five All-Stars.
That’s important to note because the need to have multiple All-Stars is paramount to a team’s chances at making a deep playoff run.
Take a look at the four remaining teams.
There’s the defending champion Golden State Warriors, whose roster includes a quartet of current (Stephen Curry; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and former All-Stars (Andre Iguodala).
Cleveland’s roster includes a similar breakdown of recent (LeBron James; Kyrie Irving; Kevin Love) and not-so-recent (Mo Williams) All-Stars.
And then there’s Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan) who each have a pair of All-Stars.
For Boston, the team's lone All-Star is Isaiah Thomas, who knows all too well that he can’t carry this team to a deep, meaningful playoff run without getting some All-Star caliber help.

The top two picks in this year’s draft – Duke’s Brandon Ingram and LSU’s Ben Simmons – are head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class, but the Celtics are in a good spot if you’re talking about adding a key piece to a potential title contender. 

Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender


Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his son, Austin Ainge, the team’s director of player personnel, will be in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender, the potential No. 3 pick in the draft, the Boston Herald reported. 

Bender, a 7-foot-1, 18-year-old from Croatia, won’t be playing in games this weekend but will be practicing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Bender is a bench player for Maccabi, averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Still, his size and potential to develop  have him projected to go as high as No. 3.

Here’s CSN’s scouting report of Bender.

Danny Ainge was in Croatia earlier this week scouting 6-11 Ante Zizic. 


Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade


Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

There’s a high likelihood the Philadelphia 76ers will trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel in connection with the June 23 draft, in which the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, ESPN’s Chad Ford reported.

The Celtics, who have the No. 3 pick, have been rumored to be willing to part with it in a deal that includes Okafor.

Ford said in an interview with Philadelphia-area radio station ESPN 97.3:

You will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.

The Sixers are expected to choose LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram with the top pick.  Ford and Marc Stein also reported Philly’s willingness to deal Okafor or Noel in this ESPN article. 

As a deal with the Celtics for the No. 3 pick, Ford told 97.3:

Absolutely…If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.