Posted on: December 8, 2011 7:23 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 10:20 pm
 

Source: Paul trade to Lakers 'dead'

The Lakers agreed to the framework of a deal to acquire star point guard Chris Paul Thursday, only to have the trade imperiled amid an uproar from owners disgusted with the fruits of a new collective bargaining agreement, an ownership source confirmed to CBSSports.com.

"Dead," is how the person described the deal, which was supposed to send Paul to L.A. in a three-team trade also involving the Houston Rockets.

Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com first reported the incomprehensible developments, and team executives who had been on the periphery of the Paul trade talks were unsure if the deal had been killed by the league office or had merely hit a snag. 

Either way, the hours after players and owners voted to approve a new CBA ending the five-month lockout will go down as among the most bizarre in NBA history.

"WoW," Paul tweeted upon learning of reports that his trade to the Lakers was on the verge of being nixed.

Yahoo reported that owners were "irate" with Stern in Thursday's Board of Governors meeting, challenging the commissioner for the business-as-usual rampage of big-market teams preying on stars before the deal was even ratified -- and before the league had even officially re-opened for business, which is supposed to happen at 2 p.m. ET Friday.

"Pathetic," one team executive said Thursday in response to developments that included the Knicks maneuvering for cap space in preparation for signing top free agent Tyson Chandler and then the Paul deal to L.A.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said it was "not true" that owners killed the deal. "It wasn't even discussed at the board meeting," he said. "The league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons."

The developments were "unbelievable," said another team executive, given that the league-owned Hornets had been allowed to conduct basketball business without interference from the league office since the other 29 owners assumed temporary ownership of the woebegone franchise in December 2010. Also, the league office technically was not supposed to be open to evaluate, approve or disapprove trades until Friday.

The trade was supposed to send Paul to Los Angeles and Pau Gasol from the Lakers to the Rockets, who would've sent Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to the Hornets. New Orleans also would've received Lamar Odom from the Lakers. While rival executives were stunned with how rapidly Hornets GM Dell Demps moved to rid the franchise of Paul, who has clamored privately and through back channels for more than a year to exit New Orleans, some nonetheless were impressed with the haul of players and picks the Hornets were able to obtain for a trade that essentially was done on a firesale basis. 

Demps, a former Spurs executive groomed by San Antonio GM R.C. Buford, had taken a proactive approach to the Paul dilemma and indicated to fellow execs in recent days that he had no intention of letting the saga drag out for months the way the Nuggets were embroiled in a similar controversy with Carmelo Anthony before trading him to the Knicks last season.

Now, the Hornets appear to be destined for even more drama, discontent and derangement than they ever imagined. 

Same for the NBA.

Welcome back!




Posted on: December 8, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Players, owners approve CBA

NEW YORK -- NBA players and owners on Thursday approved a new collective bargaining agreement, formally ending the five-month lockout and paving the way for training camps and an already rampaging free-agency period to open.

The players voted via email from 6 p.m. ET Wednesday until 4 p.m. Thursday and the deal was approved by 86 percent of the more than 200 players who participated -- less than half the union membership. The owners' Board of Governors, with representatives from all 30 teams, approved the deal at a meeting Thursday in Manhattan by a vote of 25-5, commissioner David Stern said.

As a result, the lockout will be lifted, training camps will open as scheduled, and the free-agent and trading period officially will begin at 2 p.m. ET, sources said. The league will begin a 66-game regular season, the second season shortened due to a labor dispute in NBA history, on Christmas Day.

Also on Thursday, owners finalized their new revenue sharing plan by which big-market teams -- particularly the Knicks and Lakers -- are expected to kick in a substantial portion of what will be at least a quadrupling of the previous revenue-sharing pool. According to executives familiar with the details of the plan before it was finalized, the league was expected to incorporate some new sources of revenue that would be shared. Of paramount importance to small- and mid-market teams, market size was expected to be considered as much as or more than a team's financial performance in a given year, sources said.

Posted on: December 7, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 7:00 pm
 

NBPA urges ratification in letter detailing deal

NEW YORK -- Union executive director Billy Hunter urged NBA players to ratify the next collective bargaining agreement in a letter detailing terms of the deal -- some of which were revealed publicly for the first time Wednesday.

"The NBPA Executive Committee recommends that the players vote to ratify the proposed CBA," Hunter wrote in the letter, obtained by CBSSports.com and other outlets. "Although the players made significant financial concessions, including taking a reduced share of Basketball-Related Income, collective salaries will nonetheless increase over the course of the CBA. The players retained important system issues and achieved gains on non-economic issues."

The term sheet emailed to players detailed previously publicized aspects of the deal, including a 51.15 percent share of BRI for the players in 2011-12 and a 50 percent share thereafter -- with the possibility of achieving a 51 percent share if revenues exceeded projections. Hunter's letter projected that player salaries and benefits would grow from $2.17 billion to more than $3 billion by the end of the 10-year agreement -- if neither side executes an opt-out clause after the sixth year of the deal.

The letter also revealed for the first time specifics of several key deal points and a litany of so-called B-list issues that union and league negotiators have hammered out over the past 11 days since the framework of the deal was tentatively agreed to Nov. 26. For example, the NBA must maintain a detailed revenue-sharing plan during the course of the agreement. (The Board of Governors is expected to formally approve the plan Thursday before voting on the CBA).

Also, clearing up some confusion among agents and team executives, the amnesty provision by which a team can waive a player and wipe the balance of his contract from the cap and tax, can only be used once per team during the course of the CBA -- and only on contracts initiated prior to the CBA. 

Among the other more interesting points:

* The minimum team salary will be 80 percent of the salary cap in 2011-12, 85 percent in '12-'13 and 90 percent in '13-'14.

* The international player buyout amount is increased from $500,000 to $525,000 this year, and by $25,000 each additional season.

* Player contracts can be renegotiated downward in extensions, as long as the player's salary does not decrease by more than 40 percent. Previously, renegotiations could only increase a player's salary, but extensions could decrease the salary. This provision closes that loophole to the extent that a player's salary cannot drop more than 40 percent in a renegotiation and extension.

* Minimum fee for player promotional appearances made on behalf of commercial sponsor set at $3,000 ($3,500 beginning in 2016-17). The fee is $4,000 for appearances beyond eight in a season.

* Players will have a minimum of 16 days off per season beginning in 2012-13. A joint NBA-NBPA committee will study further improvements to workplace conditions, focusing on such issues as back-to-back games and two-a-days during training camp.

* Draft eligibility age remains set at one year removed from high school, with a joint NBA-NBPA committee discussing future changes.

* Players with three or fewer years of service can receive unlimited assignments to the NBA Development League but will be paid their NBA salaries. Players with more than three years of service can be assigned to the D-League with their consent, for example, for injury rehab.

* Beginning in 2012-13, players can be tested a maximum of two times during the offseason for performance-enhancing drugs only. Previously, players were subject to four random drug screenings from Oct. 1-June 30. HGH testing is not included, but the joint NBA-NBPA committee will study its possible future inclusion if it is agreed that the tests would be scientifically reliable.

* For those who really enjoy the fine print, the player per diem is set at $120, training camp compensation is increased to $2,000 per week and housing reimbursement for traded players is increased to $4,500 for three months following the trade.


 
Posted on: December 6, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 10:32 pm
 

Hornets engaged in serious CP3 talks

The Hornets began to seriously engage in trade discussions for superstar Chris Paul Tuesday, with the Celtics, Clippers, Warriors and Mavericks among the most serious suitors, sources told CBSSports.com.

UPDATE: The Clippers' opening salvo was an offer that included restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan and Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick, with L.A. hoping that the prospect of playing with electrifying forward Blake Griffin and the big stage of Los Angeles would be enticing enough to Paul that he would eventually commit to the team long term. Eric Gordon is not in the deal "at this time," a source said, though it is understood that any deal that would include a commitment from Paul would have to include the sharpshooting guard.

The details of offers surrounding talks with Dallas and Golden State weren't known, though Yahoo Sports reported that the Warriors' offer centered around Stephen Curry and rookie Klay Thompson. But the Celtics stepped forward with an offer that would not have to come with any commitment from Paul that he'd re-sign with Boston after the season. According to a person familiar with the discussions, the Celtics offered Rajon Rondo, two future first-round picks, and restricted free agent Jeff Green in a sign-and-trade for Paul.

The impetus behind the Celtics' potential rental offer for Paul was intriguing: Come to Boston, take a shot at winning a title with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett while the window is still open, and then have enough room to entice Dwight Howard to come on board as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Garnett and Allen come off the books July 1, leaving the Celtics with only $30.4 million in committed salary for next season, when Howard can opt out of his contract with Orlando.

Though Paul has never expressed a desire to play in Boston, if he liked his new surroundings and the Celtics' chances of luring Howard, he would be in a championship-contending situation and could get his max deal of five years, $100 million six months after the trade.

Independent of the Paul situation, the Warriors are among the teams with the most serious interest in free-agent center Tyson Chandler, and the interest is mutual. Paul reportedly has let it be known that a team like the Warriors or Clippers signing Chandler, his former teammate in New Orleans, would enhance its chances of getting a long-term commitment from him -- a scenario confirmed by front office executives Tuesday.

The Hornets also are open to the idea of sending out free-agent power forward David West in a sign-and-trade, possibly as part of a trade package for Paul, sources said. It was New Orleans' interest in Jordan that prompted the Clippers to step forward Tuesday with a reported five-year, $40 million offer for their restricted free agent -- though a person close to Jordan said he is intent on remaining in L.A.

The Knicks also were said to be trying to engage New Orleans in conversations, given that Paul has long coveted the chance to join his friends Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in New York. But the best the Knicks can offer at the moment is Chauncey Billups' expiring $14 million contract, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert and center Jerome Jordan, a solid prospect who has yet to play a minute in the NBA.

The "other" L.A. team, the Lakers, also have a strong hand in their efforts to try to land Paul, Howard, or in a dream world, both. The Lakers have no chance of clearing the cap space necessary to lure Paul next summer, so their best chance is their deep stockpile of assets, including Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Hornets GM Dell Demps has indicated a strong desire to reach a swift resolution to the Paul drama and not allow it to linger for months the way the Nuggets were held hostage last season by the Anthony saga. Denver, of course, was able to get a better deal from the Knicks at the February trade deadline than would've been available before the season. But that was largely due to two key provisions that have been muted in the new collective bargaining agreement: the same length and dollars in an extend-and-trade that Anthony could've received had he simply resigned with Denver, and the fallback option of a sign-and-trade.

Paul can get only one year added to his contract in an extend-and-trade, and he'd get the same money via a sign-and-trade next summer that he would get simply by leaving outright as a free agent for a team with room: four years and approximately $74 million, as opposed to the five-year, $100 million deal New Orleans could offer he he played out the season. Paul also could get a five-year max deal from a new team following a six-month window from the date he was traded.

But front office executives who've been in touch with Demps say that New Orleans has no appetite for a protracted and potentially ugly trade saga with Paul. Yahoo Sports reported that Demps may push for final offers and a resolution by the time training camps and free agency open Friday.

Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Source: Howard hasn't told Magic what he wants

Dwight Howard has not yet indicated to Orlando management whether he wants to stay with the Magic, request a trade or play out the season and become a free agent, a person directly involved in the organization's planning told CBSSports.com Tuesday.

"Training camp opens the door to everything," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I think that will happen very, very soon."

The soap opera of whether Howard stays in Orlando or seeks a trade to the Lakers already has begun in full force, however, and there already has been a casualty. Team executives were apprised via email Tuesday morning that CEO Bob Vander Weide has stepped down and will be replaced by team president Alex Martins. In replacing Vander Weide, 53, whose departure is being characterized as a retirement, Martin's first order of business will be to represent the Magic on the NBA's Board of Governors, which is scheduled to vote on the new collective bargaining agreement Thursday in an electronic ballot.

UPDATE: Whether Vander Weide's departure has anything to do with the owners' labor relations committee -- of which Vander Weide was a member -- signing off on a deal that could actually expedite Howard's departure from Orlando is a matter worthy of consideration. The Magic scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to address Vander Weide's departure, but Vander Weide admitted Tuesday that he did, in fact, call Howard at 1 a.m. earlier this week after "a couple of glasses of wine" -- a conversation in which the executive reportedly urged the star to stay in Orlando.

The person familiar with the Magic's strategy said Tuesday that, while Howard has yet to verbalize what he wants, the All-Star center has "deep roots here" and has previously expressed that "this is where he'd like to fulfill his career."

"He wants to win," the person said. "That's on his mind intensely."

While Howard has never publicly expressed a desire to leave Orlando, it has been known among people in his inner circle for months that his preference is to play for the Lakers. The only way he's getting to that L.A. team would be via a trade, and the Lakers -- with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom -- are one of the few teams in the league with enough assets to pull it off.

The new rules set to be approved by the players and owners this week have cut off some of the avenues for superstars looking to leave small markets for big markets -- but some of those rules actually increase the pressure on the home team to make a decision to trade such a player sooner than in the past. The extension Orlando can offer Howard -- same as New Orleans can offer Chris Paul -- falls short of what each could each get as an unrestricted free agent come July 1. And since they can no longer get maximum contract length and raises via a sign-and-trade, their teams don't have that avenue as a fallback option.

"I don't think he knows what he's going to do at this point," the person familiar with the Magic's strategy said. "I'm not sure anybody does. It's impossible to predict."

The overwhelming opinion in central Florida -- which in 1996 saw Shaquille O'Neal flee Orlando to sign with the Lakers as a free agent -- is for Howard to let his intentions be known sooner than later.

"Don't drag us out," the person said. "Tell us what you want, so we can react with facts, not theories and guesses."
Posted on: December 5, 2011 8:01 pm
 

Sources: Mavs saving room for run at D-Will

Tyson Chandler's hunch that he'll be wearing a new uniform soon could prove to be true. And it may have nothing to do with Chandler and everything to do with Deron Williams.

With serious interest registered from the Nets, Golden State, Houston and Sacramento, four teams with cap space and flexibility, the man who served as the glue for the Mavericks' 2011 NBA title could be slipping away -- but for reasons that go well beyond the uncertain free-agent market for Chandler himself.

The Mavs are in no rush to pony up a max offer to retain Chandler, largely because they want to maintain flexibility for next summer's free-agent class -- which just happens to include Dallas' own Williams, multiple sources told CBSSports.com. While much of the speculation in this five-day run-up to the start of free agency Friday has centered around 2012 free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, Williams' situation is in many ways more intriguing.

"Everything is sort of stuck because of Chris and Dwight," one agent said Monday.

Add Deron to that list.

The Nets traded Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks to Utah for Williams in February and are in the process of trying to assemble enough talent around him to keep him with the team when it moves to Brooklyn next season. Like Paul and Howard, Williams has an early-termination option that would make him an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Williams already has indicated he will not sign an extension this season, just as Paul and Howard will not. Howard remains intent on finding his way to Los Angeles to join the Lakers, while Paul has his sights set on New York -- though he remains open to a trade that would team him up with Howard in Orlando.

Williams spoke with members of the New York-New Jersey media Monday and proclaimed in a radio interview on New York's WFAN that there's a 90 percent chance he stays with the Nets. New Jersey has expressed interest in free agents Chandler, Nene and Caron Butler, but the big prize that would make D-Will's decision to stay on the East Coast a no-brainer would be a trade for Howard -- a tantalizing scenario that could play out one way or another by the end of the week.

New rules that dampen the home team's advantage in offering its own prospective free agent a significantly larger extension -- and essentially take away the extend-and-trade and sign-and-trade safety nets -- are expected to force the Hornets and Magic to make quick decisions on how to handle Paul's and Howard's impending free agency. The Nets, having given up so many assets for Williams, are in a position to be more patient and do everything possible to entice their star to stay put.

But if the Nets are unsuccessful in their efforts to land Howard -- Brook Lopez, first-round picks and absorbing Hedo Turkoglu's contract doesn't figure to be enough -- then Williams will have an interesting decision to make come July 1. And the buzz among front-office executives Monday was that Dallas owner Mark Cuban would be in a position to sell Williams on taking less money to play in his hometown.

Once Williams becomes a free agent, he could get a five-year, $100 million deal to stay with the Nets. Signing with Dallas would net Williams only a four-year, $74 million deal. How much playing in his hometown is worth to Williams would depend, in part, on what pieces the Nets surround him with between now and then.

Of the teams expected to contend for a championship this season, only Dallas would have the cap space to sign a max player next summer and still have room to do more. If the Mavs used the amnesty provision on Brendan Haywood next summer, they'd be more than $21 million under the cap -- with Dirk Nowitzki still around, draining jumpers.

Jason Terry and Jason Kidd come off the books after the season, and the Mavs will want their Hall of Fame point guard to pass the torch to a star in his prime and keep Nowitzki in the hunt for more titles during the final two years of his contract. In addition to Williams, Paul and Howard, the 2012 free-agent class is loaded with attractive restricted free agents, such as Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo and George Hill -- not to mention Derrick Rose, who nobody envisions leaving Chicago.

So the lackluster nature of this free-agent class compared to next summer's, combined with confusion about the new rules and an unwillingness to be the team that sets the market, have slowed the activity with four days to go before camps and free agency officially open. Also, don't underestimate how the shortened season provides an incentive for teams to pass on significant moves now when July 1 is only a few months away.
 
The biggest impediment to the wheeling and dealing in 2011 has everything to do with 2012 and beyond.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Progress on B-list; on-time vote expected

NEW YORK -- Negotiators have made significant progress on secondary issues that must be finalized before the new collective bargaining agreement can be ratified and are confident the process will be completed in time for both sides to vote on the deal this week, a person briefed on the process told CBSSports.com.

Lawyers for the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have pared the list of outstanding items to about 50, down from about 250 when the process began Friday, the person said. Among the more important B-list issues, it remains likely that the age limit for draft eligibility will be unchanged and is expected to be revisited at a later date when there is time for more thorough discussion. The two sides also are still negotiating the language on a new drug-testing policy and a provision by which teams will be able to shuttle players back and forth to the NBA Development League.

Player reps from all 30 teams will be in New York Wednesday to discuss details of the new deal. Players and the league's Board of Governors are scheduled to vote eletronically on Thursday, with training camps and free agency slated to open Friday.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 6:18 pm
 

Deal expected to pass, but not without drama

Players have been invited to New York for a meeting Wednesday to discuss the new collective bargaining agreement, and an electronic vote will be held Thursday on whether to approve the deal, two people familiar with the process told CBSSports.com.

The Wednesday meeting will be mandatory for the 30 player reps, but all 450-plus union members are invited. In the electronic vote, a majority of players who cast ballots must approve the deal for it to pass.

Members of the National Basketball Players Association's executive committee have spent the past few days sorting out confusion among players who felt they didn't have enough information about the deal or thought the vote to reauthorize the union was akin to a vote approving the deal. Some players who thought they were voting to approve the deal this week complained that they hadn't even seen it -- even though a summary of the major deal points was delivered via email to every union member.

The union was reformed Thursday with the approval of more than 300 players, and negotiators for the NBPA and the league reconvened Friday to finish hammering out the details -- including a list of secondary items that have yet to be agreed to, such as drug testing, the age limit and provisions that allow teams to shuttle players back and forth to the NBA Development League. None of those items is expected to be a deal breaker, and a key one -- the age limit -- may be left in its current form, to be revisited at a later date after the agreement is ratified.

Not unexpectedly given how painful this entire fiasco has been, it won't end without one more dose of drama.

While the deal is expected to pass overwhelmingly, a potential sideshow could emerge regarding the future of NBPA executive director Billy Hunter. As CBSSports.com reported Wednesday, there is an insurgency being led by a handful of agents who are attempting to have their clients' votes approving the new CBA contingent on Hunter agreeing to return as head of the union only on an interim basis. As far as player involvement, the movement is being led by Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, multiple sources told CBSSports.com. 

UPDATE: A small but vocal group of players is trying to have the executive community replaced, as well, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Pierce is represented by Jeff Schwartz, who has been among the leaders of a group of seven agents from six of the most influential agencies who've long disagreed with the union's bargaining and legal tactics. Those agents, including Arn Tellem, Dan Fegan, Mark Bartelstein and Bill Duffy, believe the players should've voted to decertify back in July and sued for antitrust violations much earlier in the process. Garnett is represented by agent Andy Miller, who has had no association with the dissident agents and was not aware of his client's involvement, sources said. Rob Pelinka, who represents Kobe Bryant and union president Derek Fisher, also is said to be among the group of insurgents, sources said.

Maurice Evans, a vice president of the union and member of the players' executive committee, said he's spoken with about a half-dozen players who were dissatisfied with the deal and the process until the details were explained.

"Once I explained the CBA to them, they were disarmed and enlightened," Evans said Friday. "A lot of guys are really excited about the deal. ... It sounds like a bunch of disgruntled agents who felt their tactics weren't followed."

The flawed strategy of an earlier decertification could've jeopardized the season and resulted in a worse deal for the players if they'd failed in their legal efforts before pressure mounted on the league to make a deal or lose the season. Furthermore, once the union was reformed, the leadership was reformed with it. Two people with knowledge of Hunter's contractual situation told CBSSports.com that his contract was renewed at some point in the past year and has either four or five years left.

In any event, Hunter will not be in place when the next opportunity arises to negotiate a new agreement -- after the sixth year of this deal, at which point each side can opt out of it. Commissioner David Stern, Hunter's longtime bargaining adversary, is expected to be retired by then as well.

Evans said several of the players he's spoken with about the deal in recent days backed off once they realized they'd been given "misinformation" about it from "not credible sources."

"Anyone who wants to challenge Billy's position will have their opportunity come Wednesday," Evans said. "I think they'll find his credentials unmatched. ... I'm extremely confident. For them to get a deal like this that speaks to each class -- the minimum player, the mid-level player and the superstar alike -- there's no way they wouldn't take this deal."

Once the deal is approved by the players and owners, it will lead to the opening of free agency and training camps on Dec. 9, with a five-game Christmas schedule of openers on Dec. 25, which the league officially announced Friday: Celtics-Knicks, Heat-Mavericks, Bulls-Lakers, Magic-Thunder and Clippers-Warriors.






 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com