« October 2011 | Main | December 2011 »

November 28, 2011

No tax help in first 2 years, but then....

I know your mind will explode, trying to interpret all these arcane salary-cap rules in the NBA's proposed collective bargaining agreement.

Mine, too, but that didn't keep me from exploring. If you're a Charlotte Bobcats fan, you want the luxury tax to be as punitive as possible. That's because (1.) it's unlikely Michael Jordan will ever agree to, or be in a position to, be a tax-payer and (2.) the tax in its past form didn't keep the Lakers, Mavs, Heat and Celtics from paying whatever it took to suck up most of the talent.

The bad news: There's no real change in the tax system the first two seasons of the next agreement. The tax rate will still be one-for-one, as far as dollars spent beyond the threshold.

The good news: Starting in year 3 of a CBA that will last at least six years, a wildly overspending team could pay as much as $3.25 for every dollar over the tax threshold. That's punitive enough that there's no way the big-market teams won't blink, at least a little.

Beyond that, there are now restrictions on what a team over the tax threshold can do in free-agency. Not as many restrictions as were contemplated, but restrictions.

 It's too bad the league couldn't get in that restriction on extend-and-trades. Informally known as the "Carmelo Anthony Rule,'' it would have made it considerably harder for a team like the Knicks or Lakers to help a Chris Paul or Dwight Howard leverage a trade off his current team without losing his Larry Bird rights.

To my reasoning, it will be hard for the Bobcats to acquire a player like Paul or Howard unless that player hits the open market and has limited options for a maximum salary.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 28, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

An update on Bobcats rookie Biyombo

Some of you have been asking about Charlotte Bobcats rookie Bismack Biyombo and his contract complications in Spain.

I just had a brief conversation with Biyombo's USA-based agent, Joel Bell. He said there's a civil trial scheduled for Dec. 19 in Spain. Biyombo is suing Fuenlabrada, the team Biyombo played for last season, for breach of contract.

If Biyombo won that suit, he'd lkely be free of that contract and able to sign with the Bobcats. This has now become a more pressing issue, with the lockout likely to end in time for training camps and free-agency to start Dec. 9.

You might recall my story over the summer, quoting a FIBA official as saying that organization -- basketball's international governing body -- had denied the NBA a clearance letter to sign Biyombo. That was at the request of the Spanish basketball federation, looking to enforce Fuenlabrada's contract with Biyombo. Clearly, the team wants a sizeable transfer fee to give up its rights to Biyombo.

The Bobcats chose Biyombo, a rebounder/shotblocker, seventh overall in June. Due to the lockout, the Bobcats have had no contact with him since July. In the meantime, Biyombo has been training in Tampa, Fla.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 28, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Tap the brakes on "amnesty'' for Diop

I keep getting questions from readers, asking how soon the Charlotte Bobcats will exercise their "amnesty'' clause on center Gana Diop.

I'm not sure it makes sense to cut Diop now, or at any time over the next two seasons.  Certainly, it makes sense for fans to speculate on Diop's status. He's done little as a Bobcat and makes about $6.9 million this season and $7.3 million next season.

But the NBA's "amnesty'' provision, in what will be the next collective bargaining agreement, isn't an all-purpose get-out-of-jail-free card.

Each of 30 NBA teams will have the option of cutting a player currently under contract, and not having that contract count against the team in regards to salary cap or potential luxury-tax implications. What amnesty does NOT do is free a team from actually paying the player what's guaranteed under his contract.

I can't see a reason right now why cutting Diop and swallowing over $14 million in salary does the Bobcats any good. Particularly so, when Diop is the only true center currently under contract. Better, I should think, for owner Michael Jordan to ask coach Paul Silas to work with Diop and try to get some return on the investment. Diop had some success playing for Silas in the past in Cleveland.

Is it possible that next summer the Bobcats might have a trade or free-agent opportunity that would make cutting Diop palatable? Sure. But immediately playing the "amnesty'' card on Diop doesn't seem to make the Bobcats any better.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 28, 2011 at 08:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 26, 2011

5 pressing issues for the Bobcats

Due to the NBA lockout, the Charlotte Bobcats have been barred from contact with their players since late June.

With a tentative deal in place to end that lockout, NBA teams will likely start training camp and free-agency Dec. 9. Here are five issues the Bobcats must address on the quick once that process begins.

1. Kwame Brown's free-agency: Brown ended the season as the starting  center and now he's an unrestricted free agent. In his absence, the Bobcats' only center under contract would be Gana Diop, coming off surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. Brown wants to come back --he feels a debt of gratitude to Bobcats owner Michael Jordan for signing him, after the misadventure they shared in Washington. Whether that amounts to a discount on Brown's asking price is yet to be seen. But it's obvious Brown loves working with coach Paul Silas

2. Bismack Biyombo's Spanish entanglement: One of two Bobcats lottery picks, forward Biyombo is still under contract to a Spanish team that expects compensation to release him to the NBA. The Bobcats are limited in how much they can pay toward that buyout. Biyombo has said with great conviction he'll play for the Bobcats this season.

3. Gerald Henderson's health: Henderson spent the summer rehabbing from hip surgery to reset how his leg plants. The delay in the start of training camp probably worked in his favor, giving him extra time to be ready for the season. The second half of last season was a breakthrough for Henderson as an NBA player.

4. Getting Kemba Walker up to speed: The Bobcats need rookie Walker's scoring ability, to help compensate for trading away Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson last season. It's an open question how much Walker lost through the absence of summer league in the off-season.

5. Corey Maggette in the fold: Maggette came to the Bobcats in the Jackson trade. He makes  a lot of money the next two years and is already pencilled in as the starting small forward. He can score, and that's the Bobcats' most pressing need right now.


Posted by Observer Sports on November 26, 2011 at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

On a new NBA deal and the Bobcats

            Apparently, the NBA’s dominance of Christmas-Day television programming forged a bridge to a new labor agreement.

            Christmas is the first big day of the league schedule. Rather than cancel late-December games, the league and the players bargained for 15 hours, coming to a tentative agreement at about 3 a.m. Saturday.

            Based on a brief announcement around 3 a.m, each team would play 66 games of what was an 82-game schedule. No details yet on what the Charlotte Bobcats’ new schedule will look like, but it’s a fair guess home dates previously scheduled will continue. It’s not so certain the Bobcats will play the same teams on those dates.

            The league intends to open training camps Dec. 9 (two weeks from yesterday) and begin free-agency simultaneous to the start of training camp. So there would be no opportunity for the Bobcats to sign veteran center Kwame Brown or rookie lottery-picks Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker prior to camp.

            Brown, who started the second half of last season, is the most prominent Bobcats veteran not under contract to the team. He has expressed a desire to return to Charlotte and Bobcats management expressed interest in re-signing him, prior to the start of the lockout last spring.

            Signing rookies is a relatively simple process under the NBA’s rules. However, Biyombo’s situation is complicated by a previous contract with a Spanish team that expects compensation to release him. Bobcats management was barred from addressing Biyombo’s situation once the lockout began.

            This handshake deal between commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter still faces approval from both the owners and the players at-large. That and various legal matters (resolving the antitrust lawsuit and formalizing language on a new collective bargaining agreement) will take up at least the next week and probably days beyond that.

            Quick player reaction, via Twitter, ranged from relief and elation to concern about what the deal’s details would reveal.

            Bobcats center Gana Diop, scheduled to make about $7 million this season, tweeted, “This is 1 of the best news I ever got at 4 a.m. NBA is back.’’

            Former Davidson star Steph Curry, the alternative player rep for the Golden State Warriors, reserved judgment,.

            “Really hope there’s a reason they agreed and we have no problem passing the CBA through the vote,’’ Curry tweeted.

            This is not the deal everyone wanted. Some small-market owners -- the Bobcats’ Michael Jordan undoubtedly among them -- wanted a new system that makes it dramatically harder for big-spending teams like the Los Angeles Lakers to dominate free-agency. This falls short of that, but it’s a step in that direction.

Luxury tax will rise considerably. However some of the free-agency restrictions on tax-paying teams that were proposed never made it to the final deal.

“It’s not the system sought...in terms of a harder cap. But the luxury tax is harsher,’’ said NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver.

Silver said this provides a system to small-market teams where those teams’ prospects become a function of good management, not just which owners can spend the most.

The players are making huge sacrifices in this deal, which will run a minimum of six seasons and a maximum of 10. Players’ cut of league-wide revenues will drop from 57 percent in the previous CBA to somewhere between 49 and 51 percent this time. That’s a reduction of billions in future paychecks.

Reports say the regular season will be extended by a week, as will the playoffs, to fit in a 66-game schedule.

The league reportedly relented to the players on one rule that could potentially hurt the Bobcats in free-agency. Originally, the league wanted to limit extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Carmelo Anthony from Denver to New York last season. In the future, that would have kept prominent free agents-to-be (Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams) from leveraging their current teams into trading them and still allowing the player to max out his earning power.

That could hurt the Bobcats, in that superstars like Paul and Howard might never reach the open market if a big-market team like the Knicks can trade for them and still preserve those players’ Larry Bird rights.

 Jordan has said repeatedly he wants to be a player in free-agency going forward. The question is whether young superstars are ever in a position to consider the Bobcats as a new team.

            There is also an amnesty provision in the new deal that would allow each team to cut one player and stop counting his salary toward luxury-tax and salary cap implications. Appealing as that might sound, concerning an expensive, under-achieving player like Diop, the Bobcats would still be responsible for the guaranteed portion of Diop’s salary.

            So it’s no given the Bobcats would ever use this amnesty provision.


Posted by Observer Sports on November 26, 2011 at 07:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

November 25, 2011

Last chance for the season?

I'm pretty intuitive.  It's one of the things my various bosses have liked best about me.

With that in mind, here's what I think about the 2011-12 season: If it isn't saved in the next 3-5-7 days, it's likely nuked.

Now, don't come back at me if somehow in December, they squirm a deal that makes for a 50-game season. I'm telling you -- don't think, I know -- that the NBA doesn't want that. Not so much because a 50-game season is invalid, but because the hardline owners would rather blow up everything NHL-style than accept middle-ground and start playing games in the dead of winter.

Here's the deal: There's a momentum of sorts to solve this, and it might be solved. But going beyond that arbitrary, yet important, Christmas-Day start very well might doom all this. If there is a deal to be hatched -- and that involves the owners backing off some things, more than anything -- the time is now.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 25, 2011 at 12:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

November 16, 2011

Walker denies he was near fatal shooting

    A story in the New York Daily News said Charlotte Bobcats draftee Kemba Walker was invited to a party at a Chelsea nightclub where a man was fatally shot early Tuesday morning.
    However, Walker, raised in New York, said on his Twitter account that he wasn't at the Juliet Supper Club when the shooting occurred.
    "I was not at the club when it was shot up,'' Walker tweeted. "I don't even stay in NY anymore! It's just a rumor that I was there!''
    Numerous pro athletes, including several New York Giants, were at a party when shots were fired. The Daily News story named several other NBA players, including former Duke stars Carlos Boozer and Chris Duhon, as having been invited.
    There was no indication in the Daily News' story that any of the professional athletes were injured or directly involved with the shooting or whatever prompted it.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 16, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

November 14, 2011

Kemba Walker on the lockout

        Interesting tweet tonight from Charlotte Bobcats draftee Kemba Walker about a lockout that could now cancel the entire 2011-12 season:

        "No money. Ok. I grew up with no money. There's nothin new!''
         Some followers of Walker's Twitter account were suggesting perhaps he made a mistake by turning pro in this circumstance, rather than staying at Connecticut. Walker said he graduated and won an NCAA title with the Huskies, so he still would have turned pro even if he knew this lockout would be protracted.
         By the way, former Duke star Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 overall pick, also said via Twitter that he has no second thoughts about turning pro.
         Neither has the income of an NBA lottery pick right now, but I doubt either one is hurting. There's shoe-contract money that I'm sure can tide them over until this labor mess is resolved.

Posted by Observer Sports on November 14, 2011 at 09:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

A Duke law prof on the NBA labor mess

I just got off the phone with Professor Paul Haagen of Duke, one of the country's experts on sports law. He made some interesting points on the NBA players' decision to break up the union and pursue one or more antitrust lawsuits against the league.

First off, Haagen says it's important to understand the subtle difference between "disclaimer of interest'' (what the union is doing) and decertification. Disclaimer of interest means the union is voluntarily giving up its role as the players' representative in collective bargaining.

That's important in two ways: It speeds up the process (decertification would have added a couple of months) and it allows the union to regain its status as the players' representative pretty quickly.

In other words, if the NBA decides it doesn't want to spend years, potentially, in federal court, it could still approach union chief Billy Hunter with a better deal. (Though NBA commissioner David Stern has said that won't happen.)

Haagen said a best-case scenario for the players would be getting an injunction forcing the NBA to lift the lockout. Haagen said that's no given, based on the NFL's experience over the summer (you might remember the NFL having to lift the lockout for a single day, until the league got a reversal from a higher court).

The nuclear option in this is a successful antitrust suit brought by one or more players against the league. If that worked, it could hypothetically bankrupt the league, since there's potential for damages to be tripled. However, that could literally take years to resolve.

Haagen says the union's strategy could change the situation in as little as a week, if it forces the NBA to soften its position. However, Haagen wouldn't be surprised if the 2011-12 season is cancelled all-together.

 "If we get relatively deep into the process, positions will harden and economics change,'' Haagen said. "The longer it goes, the harder it is on both sides to make up the difference. Hockey lost a season and a half'' to a lockout.

"I'd be surpised if (the NBA lockout) lasts more than one season, but I could definitely see the whole season lost.''

Posted by Observer Sports on November 14, 2011 at 03:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

November 13, 2011

Silas, Divac Hall of Fame nominees

Congratulations to Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas and former Charlotte Hornet Vlade Divac for being among those nominated for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Their names showed up on a list originally published by nba.com

The list of nominees is long, so it's far from a given either Silas or Divac will be in the Class of 2012 in Springfield, Mass. However, it's nice to be in that circle. Silas was one of the NBA's best-ever rebounders before retiring as a player and ending up coaching the Clippers, Hornets, Cavaliers and Bobcats.

Divac was among the first highly successful International players in the NBA. He came to Charlotte in that odd cap-management trade with the Los Angeles Lakers that allowed the Lakers to pursue Shaquille O'Neal in free-agency.

Divac wasn't initially happy about being uprooted from L.A., but he played well at center and might have been the best teammate in Hornets history -- a calming, mature, unselfish guy in a lockerroom that could be pretty volatile. Glen Rice and Anthony Mason always wanted their touches on that team, and Vlade was great at breaking the tension.



Posted by Observer Sports on November 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)