Do-or-die deadline for the NBA?


Do-or-die deadline for the NBA?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- NBA owners, losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, wanted an overhaul of the financial system to ensure themselves a chance to profit. Players, believing they were the driving force behind record TV ratings and revenues, wanted to keep what they felt they deserved. Now, negotiations that have lasted nearly two years need to end in the next few days. Commissioner David Stern said he will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no agreement on a new deal by Monday, costing both sides money and driving away some basketball fans who might never come back. "There is an extraordinary hit coming to the owners and to the players," Stern said. Not to mention the people who work in the game and the businesses that depend on it. Stern has repeatedly said owners had two goals in the talks: a way to escape losses and a system where all teams could compete equally, noting that the NBA's small-market clubs aren't nearly as successful as Super Bowl champions like Indianapolis and Green Bay. The problem, they said, was a system that guarantees players 57 percent of all basketball-related income, which includes gate receipts, broadcast revenue, in-arena sales of novelties and concessions, arena signage revenue, game parking and sponsorship dollars. Another problem is a salary cap structure that allows teams to go well beyond it if they were willing to pay a luxury tax, which the big spenders in big markets such as Los Angeles and New York could easily afford. The sides are still divided over the revenue split and the cap, and players insist they would rather sit out games than take a deal that would eliminate gains they fought for years ago. "They're going to sacrifice -- if they lose games, they miss money and all that. They feel they have to take a stand the same way players took a stand for them before they were here. It's actually quite inspiring to listen to them articulate that," said players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who also represented NFL players during their four-month lockout this summer. "I think they saw how the NFL players stood together through tough times and ended up with a deal the NFL players thought was fair. They're thinking they're going to do the same thing." The cost, for both sides, would be staggering. Stern predicted a 200 million loss just for the cancellation of the NBA's entire preseason schedule. If arenas are dark on Nov. 1, when the real games are supposed to start, the damage will be even greater. "They're in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. "We're not prepared to share the specifics. But, yes, we've spent a lot of time with our teams walking through those scenarios of lost games, and the damage is enormous, will be enormous." Players' association executive director Billy Hunter said players would lose 350 million for each month they're locked out. The hardest hits likely will be felt by those off the court -- from the 114 people the NBA laid off in July to businesses that depend on fans flocking to the games. From the parking lot of his Crown Burgers restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City, Mike Katsanevas can see the edge of EnergySolutions Arena, its blue-and-green lights already twinkling at dusk. What he may not see at all this year are the hundreds of fans who routinely pack his 224-seat restaurant before each Utah Jazz game, parking their cars for free if they order 14 in food, including his famous made-to-order patties crowned with pastrami. "For us, it's a tremendous impact if these games don't go through," said Katsanevas, whose family owns the restaurant just a block north of the arena and five others in the metro area. "Before it used to be our gravy. But now with the economy and everything else that's going on, it's become a necessity." He said all of his 41 employees will see their hours cut if the lockout continues. Players and owners did narrow the financial gap before talks broke down Tuesday. Players proposed lowering their BRI guarantee to 53 percent and owners increased their formal offer to 47 percent. Stern also said he discussed the idea of a 50-50 split, which was rejected by players. With each percentage point equivalent to roughly 38 million of last year's BRI total of 3.8 billion, the union believes a reduction from 57 percent to 53 percent is enough of a concession, saying it would transfer more than 1 billion to owners in six years. So while sharing 50-50 sounds great in kindergarten, it may not work for NBA players. Stern said the league had backed off other demands, like salary rollbacks and non-guaranteed contracts, while offering players a chance to opt out of the agreement after seven years. So there is hope of a compromise in the coming days. Both sides insist they are committed to making a deal, although Silver confirmed last season that some money-losing teams would be better off if there were no season. Fans wonder how the NBA could be on the brink of self-destruction over a few measly percentage points when its popularity has soared. The historic free agency period of 2010, which put LeBron James in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, brought a new level of interest that carried right through the Dallas Mavericks' victory over the Heat in the NBA finals. But in announcing the lockout on June 30, Stern noted that small-market owners didn't particularly enjoy the season or feel included in it, and many have little incentive to go back to a system that looks like the old one. Nor would players want to play under a system that restricts free agency or limits their earning potential. Hunter and union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers have said they are prepared to sit rather than accept a bad deal. That could be the outcome, as damaging as it seems, without a big change in a short amount of time. "I haven't talked to all 400-plus guys, but the guys that I have talked to are all on the same page. While it would be devastating for fans and everything like that, right now we're dealing with some serious business," Detroit's Ben Gordon said. "One thing Derek said is we have to stand for something. It's not only today we're playing for -- it's also tomorrow, for the guys who aren't in the league yet."

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant drove to Oracle Arena for his Warriors debut Tuesday night, walked in feeling good and quickly got quite the horrific surprise.

The San Antonio Spurs started knocking on the door to the place and didn’t stop until they owned it.

The Spurs barged in and took what they wanted, everything from points and rebounds to wine and shaving cream. And the Warriors, as if bound and gagged, mostly watched helplessly in taking a 129-100 beating.

“A nice little slap in the face,” Steph Curry summarized.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green acknowledged before adding the real takeaway line, “which I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”

This brutal flogging ends talk of a historically great start resembling that which the Warriors managed last season in winning their first 24 games. This puts to rest any cloak of invincibility for which they might have been being fitted, whether in their minds of those of their fans.

The Warriors were mugged on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 54-35, with San Antonio snatching 21 on offense and turning them into 26-4 advantage in second-chance points. The bigger, slower Spurs even outscored the Warriors 24-20 on the fast break.

“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed. I know I was.”

If embarrassing seems a bit strong, this surely was nothing less than a night of utter public humility. The curtain came up on opening night and there was CEO Joe Lacob shifting and twisting in his courtside seat, like a man getting teeth extracted without anesthesia, watching his Dream Team was destroyed.

“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously,” Kerr said.

“The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game,” Curry said. “And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”

Curry's numbers were not awful, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He posted 26 points, four assists and three rebounds – but added four turnovers.

And Durant, who started the game 4-of-4, delighting a crowd that had visions of 3-pointers raining from above, also submitted a glossy stat line, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

But the Warriors were dragged across their own floor. Oracle Arena has been their sanctuary for two full seasons, during which they posted a 78-4 record.

The best they can do now is 40-1.

“No one is satisfied with the way they played tonight, especially myself,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “In the long run, this will benefit us. It’s a long season, and not everything is going to be perfect from the jump.”

So, no, the season is not over. Not even close. Remember, LeBron James’ debut with the Miami Heat six years ago ended with an 88-80 loss, followed by seven more losses in the next 16 games.

But it’s always alarming when someone storms into your house, looks you in the eye and takes what they want.

Opening night for the Warriors delivered a painful reminder that regardless of how imposing they might be or how many All-Stars are on the payroll, nothing will be given. Effort and desire, as they discovered, can be more than a great equalizer.

The Warriors now know that victory is not preordained, that if they want the glory and the spoils they believe to be theirs, they will have to prove it. Every night.

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

SAN JOSE – Prior to the season’s start, Marc-Edouard Vlasic mentioned that the Sharks’ blue line group might not get the league-wide respect it deserves due to it only having “one offensive defenseman.” He was, of course, referring to Brent Burns.

Through the first six games, that was the truth. Burns entered Tuesday night’s action with nine points, tied for the league lead in scoring, while the other five Sharks defenseman had just three assists – combined.

For at least one night, though, it wasn’t Burns who was the offensive hero. That honor went to Vlasic, who seized a loose puck in the neutral zone in overtime against Anaheim, raced ahead towards goalie John Gibson on a partial breakaway, and finished off a beautiful goal in giving the Sharks a much-deserved 2-1 win at SAP Center.

“Put my head down, breakaway, cut across and I was able to put it in,” said Vlasic, who had the presence of mind to use his skate to keep a backchecking Corey Perry from knocking the puck away. 

Pete DeBoer said: "He's got some speed when he wants to use it, and he's a big game player. That's what he does. Those guys find another level at key times, and he's one of those guys.”

The goal served as poetic justice in that the Sharks were the much better team throughout three periods. San Jose held a 35-20 advantage on the shot clock but only managed one goal, a power play marker by Joe Pavelski in the first period. Chris Wagner answered that late in the second period, despite San Jose registering 15 of the 20 shots in the middle frame.

DeBoer rearranged all four of his forward lines after the Sharks were shut out in Detroit on Saturday, and the Sharks looked much more dangerous despite just the single lonely marker before overtime.

“There’s a lot of good little things that we did well,” Pavelski said. “We were on the attack, felt like we were on the inside. We just weren’t cashing in or getting that bounce.”

Couture said: “We created some chances. We could have had a couple. Each line played pretty well.”

DeBoer, too, liked what he saw from his new combos.

“If we keep playing like that, it's going to come,” he said. “But, it was a nice response game after the Detroit game.”

Perhaps the most consistent part of the Sharks’ game through seven games has been their penalty kill. San Jose fought off all three Ducks advantages, including a brief five-on-three in the first period shortly after Pavelski had opened the scoring.

Micheal Haley took exception to a high hit by Clayton Stoner on Patrick Marleau, and dropped the gloves with the Anaheim defenseman. He was issued an instigation minor to go along with a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, and one minute and 24 seconds later, Tomas Hertl was busted for a faceoff violation.

Couture, Burns and Paul Martin worked to nullify the two-man advantage, and the Sharks proceeded to kill the remaining time on the Hertl penalty, too.

“It was an important time of the game with a one-goal lead,” said Martin Jones, who made seven saves on the PK and 19 total.

Penalties like Haley’s, where he was sticking up for a teammate, are also easier to get up for according to the goalie.

“I don't think he was expecting to get an instigator call on that one, but yeah, we'll kill that off, for sure,” Jones said. “Hales is a good team guy to go out and do stuff like that."

San Jose is 18-for-22 on the penalty kill overall, including a third period kill of a Joe Thornton holding-the-stick minor at 4:09.

“We’ve allowed [four] goals against, but they were unfortunate bounces or really nice shots from them that we could do nothing about,” Vlasic said. “Penalty kill has been good. Guys have been bearing down, blocking shots when we need to.”

The Sharks will remain at home where they will host the rebuilding Blue Jackets on Thursday and Predators on Saturday. After an odd training camp with many players missing and a tough five-games-in-eight-days road trip after the home opener, they’ll get a chance now to enjoy a much more normal day-to-day routine, with practice.

Tuesday’s win could serve as a solid foundation on which to build.

“That was definitely one of our better games this year,” Couture said. “It was good from basically start to finish.”

Especially the finish.