Q. After this week's news on the labor front, are the agents going to step in and take over?
- Mark, Syosset, N.Y.
A. They seemingly are going to try, at least a group of them.
I spoke this week with an agent who is not part of the breakaway group seeking decertification and even he said this does not make things any easier for Billy Hunter and his stewardship of the union.
"If you've got a bunch of agents telling players not to trust Billy, then you've got a break in solidarity," the agent said.
And if that's the case, it just might be the break NBA commissioner David Stern is looking for.
Yes, decertification might be the path toward a more-favorable agreement for the players in the long run, but such machinations would guarantee this being a long-haul lockout.
For agents, that might not be a bad thing, since their careers can span decades.
But for players, whose careers average 4« seasons, the loss of even months might mean money never recouped.
The fact that such bickering is taking place within days of the scheduled start of training camp speaks volumes of how unsteady the players' strategy has been from the start.
That's not to say the owners necessarily are any more resolute in their convictions, but merely that it is easier to hold together a group of 29 owners (the league owns the Hornets, the 30th franchise) than a union of hundreds of players.
The agents may have the best interests of the game at heart, and, indeed, may be able to fashion a deal that puts the union in a stronger position over the long term. But that the players would need to change direction at this late stage seems to indicate, more than anything, that the owners have seized the upper hand.
The coming days will be telling when it comes to seeing who has the real power across from the owners: the union or the agents. It's almost as if the players' side is still in the midst of their primaries while the owners are prepped for their final vote.
Q. Rick Adelman certainly was better than I expected from David Kahn. How do you see this changing the Timberwolves?
- Steve, Robbinsdale, Minn.
A. Look, Rick Adelman arguably is the best coach Minnesota has had since Flip Saunders, and possibly the most respected presence on their sideline in franchise history.
If the Timberwolves were in win-now mode, it would be a home run. But we're talking about a youthful, fickle roster that David Kahn has assembled, one that will take significant time to nurture.
To a degree, this reminds me of Adelman during his Warriors stint, when it seemed like a clear case of a mismatched coach. Does Adelman truly need Michael Beasley and Ricky Rubio at this stage?
At 65 years old, it would seem a long shot, at this point, to envision Adelman as coach when the T-wolves work their way back into the postseason.
Q. It's pretty clear that the main issues with the CBA dispute are "bad contracts." Owners feel handicapped by bad contracts that don't yield the production that was expected. So owners feel the solution is hard cap, shorter contracts, and partially guaranteed deals.
How about this idea: Let's have free-agent contracts be based on the production on the court, i.e., the PER. Let's rank players based on the PER (maybe best two of the past three seasons) and let's pay players based on where they rank.
- Richard, Tampa
A. But there has yet to be a metric developed that includes the pass that leads to an assist, the setting of a successful screen, a successful defensive rotation or block out.
No, for all the metrics developed, this remains an eye-test league. But I fully agree with the notion of shorter guarantees on contracts.
While the union has fought the guarantee issue, there already are such mechanisms in place when it comes to the cap and guaranteed money for players 36 or older.
Eliminating the "bad" contract should be a goal on both sides. Under a cap system, particularly a hard-cap system, that money would go to another, more deserving player, while also strengthening the league.
Q. Would David Stern be willing to start the season with the current CBA and work out something while they're playing?
- Howard, El Cajon, Calif.
A. No chance. That's what this is all about, a current deal that Stern and the owners insist is untenable. If such an approach was adopted, it would remove all urgency from the equation.
But, as with all agreements, it still will be up to the owners to police themselves. As the NFL has shown, even with a hard cap, teams tend to mortgage the future for the present, which is why teams such as the 49ers and Cowboys have had to drop to the bottom after previously enduring lasting success.
Again, I view it as a case of being careful for what you wish for. The NBA long has thrived with the presence of signature franchises. Bringing the T-wolves, Pacers and Bobcats up to .500 hardly would be in the league's long-term best interest if it drops the Heat, Lakers and Celtics down to .500.
Q. Amare Stoudemire is working out with Chris Paul. Is there a chance the Knicks could make a deal with the Hornets?
- Craig, New York
A. Don't overstate those sessions in Miami, which has been a hotbed for player workouts, both at the University of Miami and Florida International. It is not uncommon for players to work out together without plotting for a future together.
Unless the trade rules change significantly, it is difficult to envision New York having nearly enough to work a trade with New Orleans. And then there is the thorny issue of the NBA currently operating the Hornets. Selling off an elite player to a marquee franchise would take the league all the way back to those suspicions during the Patrick Ewing draft lottery.
As for free agency, the Carmelo Anthony deal has effectively knocked New York out of that market for years.