Posted on: June 12, 2011 12:54 pm
MIAMI – With the Dallas Mavericks on the verge of an improbable championship in a closeout game on the road against the Heat on Sunday night, the worst part of the equation for them was delivered with those last three words.
“Against the Heat.”
Because no matter how compelling the angle of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd finally getting their rings, no matter the possibility of Dallas’ comeback-strewn, destiny-filled postseason run culminating with a title, and regardless of Mavs owner Mark Cuban spontaneously bursting into flames during the trophy presentation, there’s only one angle capable of trumping all of that.
The Heat. The Heat losing. The Heat failing.
That’s what this is about. That’s what this NBA season has been about since LeBron James crudely announced to a national TV audience that he was leaving Cleveland for Miami. It has been about the Heat – either the beginning of a hastily assembled, store-bought dynasty or the possibility of utter, spectacular failure.
So the prospect of the Mavs clinching the title in Game 6 Sunday night and Nowitzki winning Finals MVP, thus establishing himself as 1(b) to Kobe Bryant’s 1(a) among clutch performers of their generation? The impressive fortress of double-digit comebacks the Mavs have relentlessly constructed during this postseason run? The idea of Cuban, who has been fined at least $1.6 million since buying the Mavs in 2000, celebrating a championship? This year, and only this year, all of it shrinks in comparison to the Heat not winning.
That’s right, not even Cuban – who was famously fined $500,000 in 2002 for saying the NBA’s director of officials, Ed Rush, wasn’t fit to work at a Dairy Queen, and $250,000 for repeated misconduct after the Mavs blew a 2-0 lead in the 2006 Finals and lost to the Heat in six games – will be able to steal the spotlight from LeBron and Dwyane Wade failing to make good on their championship covenant.
Not even the culmination of a riveting, remarkable postseason run for the Mavs – in which they’ve come back from a 16-point deficit on the road against the Lakers and 15-point holes at Oklahoma City and Miami in consecutive rounds – would shield the nation from its obsession with the Heat. Not even Dallas’ unblemished record in postseason closeout games – 3-0 during these playoffs, a six-game winning streak overall – would stop folks from Northeast Ohio to North Carolina to Northern California from standing at the water cooler (or the modern-day version of it, Twitter) and saying, “Do you believe it?!?!? LeBron lost!”
So what’s going to happen? What’s my prediction? Same as it was before the series started: Mavs in seven. So if I’m right, the only force of nature that can delay the conflicting analysis of one team’s accomplishment viewed through the prism of another’s failure is – appropriately enough – the Heat themselves.
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 10:15 pm
MIAMI – NBA owners and players will meet Wednesday for a “full-blown bargaining session” in the hopes of gaining momentum toward a new collective bargaining agreement before a lockout is imposed July 1, commissioner David Stern said Tuesday night.
In his annual pre-Finals media address, Stern said it will be a “challenge” for both sides to move off their current positions in time to avert a work stoppage, the threat of which already has begun damaging the business.
“The question is whether the owners and the players will be bold enough to do what has to be done here to keep this sport on the tack that it is on now, which is straight up,” Stern said.
Two bargaining sessions already had been scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Dallas during the Finals, but Wednesday’s session in Miami was added after the National Basketball Players Association introduced what Stern described after his media address as a new “concept” last week. Stern described the status of negotiations as a “give and take,” and said the players haven’t submitted a formal counterproposal to the owners’ revised proposal, which was handed over in April.
"We told the players and the owners to bring their negotiating talents to South Beach," Stern said.
Stern said the players’ new proposed concept addressed one of the key issues the owners are trying to resolve in their efforts to vastly change the financial landscape of the sport in favor of the owners. Asked after his media address if the players’ new concept moved the negotiating needle, Stern said, “We have a deal that nothing moves the needle until the moved the needle is moved. We have no agreement on anything until there’s agreement on everything.”
During a Q&A with assembled media before Game 1 between the Heat and Mavericks, Stern declined to offer a percentage chance of a lengthy lockout. He also was asked to compare his feelings on that topic to how he felt during All-Star weekend in February.
“I can’t answer that,” Stern said. “I don’t even want to make guesses, because I know that both sides will make their best offers before the lockout – because if they don’t, then there’s going to be a lockout that would be destructive to our business from the owners’ perspective and the players’ perspective.”
Progress made last week in a small negotiation session in New York was “encouraging enough that we think tomorrow is time well spent and we think the two days next week will be well spent," Stern said.
Asked after his media address why he’s so confident a worse deal would be struck after July 1, Stern said, “Because the damage gets to be intense from our perspective. We know the deal can get worse.”
Asked for whom it would become worse, Stern said, “For the players. And to us, the deal will get worse for the owners. So we’ve got to decide to focus fully on how bad it will be after July 1. So June 30 is a really important date.”
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were asked several times about whether a new CBA would require a team like Miami – with three stars on the books for $46 million next season – to be broken up. The owners have proposed a $45 million hard cap to replace the current soft-cap/luxury tax system. Their revised proposal offered to phase in those changes over a two-year period, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com. But the union viewed that offer as not much of an offer, since such drastic changes would have to be phased in by definition without across-the-board salary cuts, which the players will never accept.
Pressed on the issue of what happens to the Heat in a new CBA, Stern said after his address, “That hasn’t really been addressed. But I would expect (the team) to be together. I hope so.”
But at one point, Silver made a comment that is expected to rankle the Heat stars and other top-tier players in an attempt to explain the economics of why owners believe the current system is broken.
“Costs have risen much faster than revenues over the course of this deal,” Silver said. “… At the same time, non-player costs are growing at a much higher percentage, and the built-in increases of our contracts are much higher than inflation and the growth of our business. For example, the three key players on the Heat all have 10.5 percent per year increases built into their deals for next year, at a point when revenues in our business are growing somewhere around 3 percent. It’s a broken system.”
When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh get wind of that comment, they could become as emboldened about fighting the owners as they were at All-Star weekend in Dallas in 2010. At that time, 10 All-Stars – including James and Wade – attended a bargaining session and were incensed that an NBA team executive had made derisive comments about them in telling CBSSports.com that owners had the upper hand in the negotiations.
“If they don’t like the new max contracts, LeBron can play football, where he will make less than the new max,” the team executive said at the time.“Wade can be a fashion model or whatever. They won’t make squat and no one will remember who they are in a few years.”
In decrying the collectively bargained contracts Miami’s Big Three signed, Silver was taking aim at the team – and the three players – who were most responsible for the NBA’s astronomical increases in TV ratings and worldwide fan interest that is culminating with the Finals that tipped off Tuesday night.
The countdown to a real and important deadline to keep that momentum going is very much under way.
Posted on: May 30, 2011 7:01 pm
Edited on: May 30, 2011 7:04 pm
MIAMI – Driven by record TV ratings in the conference finals and worldwide interest in the Miami Heat’s quest for a championship, the NBA will embark Tuesday on a heavily anticipated NBA Finals. It should be good, and it better be. This could be the last competitive NBA event for a long time.
The Heat vs. the Mavericks promises the kind of drama that can cement a sport in the nation’s consciousness for years. And yet the league continues to face the very real possibility of a work stoppage, with the negotiating clock at T-minus 30 days and counting.
Publicly, the signals have been decidedly mixed since All-Star weekend in Los Angeles about whether a lockout – presumed inevitable for at least a year – can be averted. The rhetoric was significantly softened at All-Star weekend in February, and deputy commissioner Adam Silver made the most optimistic comments to date at the draft lottery in Secaucus, N.J., earlier this month, saying the “throttle is down” on efforts to hammer out a deal before the current one expires June 30.
But those olive branches subsequently were snapped in two by National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, who has described the owners’ revised proposal – in which they offered the non-offer of phasing in their draconian changes over several years – as worse than the original one. Last week, the NBPA filed an unfair labor practices charge against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging, among other things, that owners have not negotiated in good faith or provided suitable financial proof of their claims that the league is losing hundreds of millions a year under the current system.
So where are we? Thirty days out from what would be a debilitating and foolish display of stubbornness by both sides, sources familiar with the negotiating climate say it isn’t time to panic – but that time is coming soon.
“If there’s going to be a deal, I would say there are tipping points," one person familiar with the negotiations told CBSSports.com. "One tipping point is June 30. Once you get past June 30, people are inclined to sit around until the next tipping point, which is September.”
While the two sides remain far apart on the issues of a hard cap, reduced player salaries and an eventual elimination of guaranteed contracts, they at least are in agreement that they are farther along in negotiations than they were prior to the 1998-99 lockout, which resulted in a 50-game season. But one of the people familiar with the talks said there has been less progress at this point than there was in 2005, when noxious lockout fumes were in the air and catastrophe was averted with a surprise agreement during the NBA Finals. The owners, clearly, are no longer celebrating that victory, since they are trying to detonate most aspects of the deal that was ratified at that time.
Representatives for the owners and players met for a small bargaining session last week in New York, and a larger session is scheduled when the Finals shift to Dallas for the middle three games next week. Despite immense differences, the dialogue has been consistent for weeks – proof that neither side likes its chances if the dispute follows the NFL path to the courts.
“I think everybody is taking every opportunity right now to see if something can be done without a whole lot of distractions and rhetoric,” a person familiar with the negotiations said.
Developments in the NFL lockout have affected the NBA talks in significant ways. The NFL players’ initial victory in having their decertification validated in court, followed by the owners’ victory in temporarily preventing the lockout from being lifted, has only underscored the notion that commissioner David Stern and Hunter do not want this negotiation taken out of their hands and into the hands of politically appointed judges they don’t know. In some ways, both understand they’ll get a better deal through negotiation between now and July 1 than they’ll get in a courtroom after months of negative publicity and venom.
A ruling on the NBPA’s unfair labor practices charge isn’t expected for 6-8 weeks, sources say, which means the owners may have to decide to impose a lockout without knowing the outcome of the ruling. But the NLRB charge, sources say, has more to do with leverage than outcome. By putting their complaints in writing, the players have put the onus on both sides to hold good-faith negotiations and exchange legitimate proposals until the current deal expires.
“It puts the onus on both sides not to stall,” said another person familiar with the bargaining talks.
Of more importance is a ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on the validity of the NFL lockout. Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard June 3, with a ruling possible before the NBA lockout begins. If the appeals court upholds the portion of U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling that proclaimed the NFL lockout of a decertified union illegal, leverage in the NBA negotiations would swing significantly toward the players. At that point, the proverbial throttle would be pushed even harder toward a negotiated deal; why would NBA owners want to follow the same futile path through the courts that foiled their NFL counterparts?
A ruling in favor of the owners in the Eighth Circuit would shift the leverage to the NBA owners, and raise the chances of a lockout to a near certainty.
But while there is no disputing the communication and momentum, there are a few problems with comparing the NBA’s current situation to the NFL’s – or even the NBA’s in 1998 and 2005. As for the NFL comparison, legal experts believe the NBA owners would have a better case in the courts because they are claiming to be losing millions under the current system – and have provided audited financial statements and tax returns to prove it. NFL owners don’t claim to be losing money; they just want to make more.
As for comparing this to the NBA’s ’98 or ’05 negotiations, the NBA is in a different place than it was then. In ’98, salaries were out of control and the game was about to embark on the uncertain journey of life without Michael Jordan. In ’05, owners were looking for tweaks to the ’99 agreement. Now, they are looking to permanently and dramatically alter the landscape of the sport.
Which they most certainly will do with a prolonged lockout. They will forfeit the lofty place in the sports world that the NBA finally has attained after the golden era of Magic and Bird and the golden goose that was Jordan. The Finals begin in about 24 hours, but it’s T-minus 30 days and counting to the showdown that matters a lot more.
Posted on: February 13, 2010 3:29 pm
DALLAS -- Steve Nash's eyes lit up Saturday when recounting his experience as a torch-bearer during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in his native Canada. It was as though he were running a fastbreak and had spotted Amar'e Stoudemire alone under the basket.
But despite the thrill of rejoining Canada's Olympic movement for a day, Nash said Saturday he's still done playing for Team Canada in international competition.
"I'd love to play in the Olympics again, and I'd love to play for my country again," Nash said. "But it comes a point where it’s diminishing returns. You can't be everything to everyone. And the amount of time it takes me to prepare to play, I’d have to prepare most of the summer just to play at the standards that would be expected of me on the Canadian team. If I did that, there’s a pretty good chance I wouldn’t make it through an NBA season or be able to live up to my responsibilities in that respect. I gave over a decade to the Canadian team. I love it. I wish I could do it all. But I want these young kids to get a chance to build a team and a generation of basketball players that can exceed the expectation that we’ve set."
Nash called carrying the Olympic flame "the most moving experience of my life. ... I was feeling a sense of connectivity with Canadians -- in B.C. Place, our whole country proud in that moment to have the torch, to have my torch lit was a moment where I really felt connected to all Canadians. I had a huge smile on my face, a huge rush of emotion because of that pride."
It only gets better for Nash, who will start the All-Star Game Sunday alongside former Mavericks teammate Dirk Nowitzki.
Posted on: February 13, 2010 3:11 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 8:02 pm
DALLAS -- Jason Kidd likes the trade that would fortify the Mavericks' title hopes, bringing Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson from Washington for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross. But Kidd, an All-Star point guard, said Saturday it's not all the Mavs need to get back on track.
"It could put us right there with the best, but at the end of the day you've still got to play the games," Kidd said on the practice court during All-Star weekend. "So on paper, it doesn't win you a championship. The big thing for us is we got to turn it around because we haven't been playing well as a team anyway. First off, we got to start winning no matter if there's a trade or not."
Butler, having a horrendous year in Washington, would give the Mavs the scoring threat that Howard was unable to deliver -- assuming the change of scenery will restore Butler to his former All-Star level. But the key to the deal could be Haywood, whose shot-blocking and post defense could help solve the problem that had Dallas limping into the All-Star break.
The Mavs went into the break with five losses in seven games, prompting owner Mark Cuban to declare, "We suck right now." The problem has been defense, particularly on the perimeter. Dallas went into the break having allowed 100 points or more in eight consecutive games. According to adjusted plus/minus guru Wayne Winston -- who for nine years headed the Mavs' quantitative analysis team -- Kidd, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea were the worst culprits. With Haywood protecting the basket, all of them should improve.
Posted on: February 12, 2010 5:56 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 7:50 pm
DALLAS -- After weeks of discussions, taking the Wizards through various trade proposals that would put them on the path to rebuilding, Washington has revived a deal that would send Caron Butler to the Mavericks as part of a package that includes Josh Howard going to the Wizards, CBSSpports.com has learned.
Posted on: April 29, 2009 11:20 am
The Tweet came across a couple of hours after the Mavericks had eliminated the Spurs, who will not be venturing past the first round for the first time since 2000. How many starting point guards in the west under the age of 30 will be playing after saturday? #fb
Take a bow, Cubes. Just don't strain your back.
The taunt obviously was in response to a world of critics -- myself included -- of Cuban's decision to trade Devin Harris to the Nets at last season's trade deadline. Now that the Mavs have slain the Spurs' dynasty, Cuban is well within his rights to gloat.
At the advanced age of 36, Kidd had an excellent series against San Antonio, shooting 40 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. Rick Carlisle did a nice coaching job with Kidd, playing him with J.J. Barea and protecting the slowing, aging Kidd from his defensive liabilities. Cuban is right in that by the end of the weekend, the two younger point guards in the West most capable of exposing Kidd on the defensive end -- Tony Parker and Chris Paul -- will be at home and not on the court. The other is Houston's Aaron Brooks, but the Mavs wouldn't see him until the conference finals -- and only if they can beat Denver and the Rockets can knock off the Lakers (assuming they finish off Portland at home Thursday night).
Chauncey Billups is tough to defend, but doesn't have the burst that Parker and Paul possess. With a combination of Kidd's savvy, Barea's peskiness, and Antoine Wright's length, Carlisle should be able to figure out a way to keep Kidd from getting sliced and diced too badly in the second round, too.
The bottom line is this: Yes, Harris is a better player with bigger upside than Kidd at this stage of their careers. But this is an example of a progressive owner taking a calculated risk and watching it pay off. It is hard to argue with the results. Harris and the Nets won 34 games this season and are saddled with Kidd's former running mate, Vince Carter, and his $34 million over the next two seasons. The Mavs are done with Kidd after the playoffs are over. And for them, the playoffs are far from over.
Given the Hornets' 58-point loss to the Nuggets in Game 4, it isn't too early to look ahead to Mavs-Nuggets in the conference semifinals. Denver will have home court by virtue of its 54 wins compared to 50 for the Mavs. The Nuggets swept the regular season series 4-0. although three of those losses were by three points or less. But once you're this deep into the playoffs, regular season matchups don't mean as much. It's about how you're playing now, and the Mavs have their superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, playing at a high level. They also have an effective bench led by sixth man of the year Jason Terry, a certain geriatric point guard who's still hanging on, and a trigger-happy, tweeting owner who isn't afraid to point out when he's right.
Posted on: February 13, 2009 11:44 am
Edited on: February 13, 2009 9:22 pm
PHOENIX -- Ready to get the All-Star coverage going. Nope, not much going on. Just reports that Bulls G.M. John Paxson will resign after the trade deadline and that Suns president Steve Kerr may replace Terry Porter as coach.
If the reports are accurate, too little, too late on both counts.
Anyway, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is shooting down the Paxson report in the New York Post, calling it "not credible." The Post also had the item on Kerr.
Just wondering: If your G.M. is resigning, wouldn't you want him to resign before the trade deadline, so he doesn't make any more bad trades?
We'll be following up on these and other issues throughout the day. There's also the trade rumor of the day -- the Nets and Mavericks discussing a deal that would reunite Jason Kidd with Vince Carter. Interesting. Will let you know about that one.
UPDATE: I can confirm with my own eyes that Paxson is still on the job, having seen him walking around a downtown hotel where NBA business is being conducted. He politely declined to discuss his job status. More on that as it unfolds.
As for the Mavs-Nets situation, "nothing going on right now" on that front, a person with knowledge of the talks said.