NBA lockout looming after this season?

NBA lockout looming after this season?

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
10:21 PM

By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

18. Will there be a lockout after this season?

It's still far too early to gauge whether a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will be reached prior to the 2011-12 NBA campaign and without more prior knowledge about labor negotiations, this writer isn't the one to get too deep into the current state of affairs, let alone the end result, such as a work stoppage. Still, it's worth it to at least probe the surface of the issues at hand.

In the wake of the spending by NBA franchises this offseason, an easy argument can be made that teams must be healthy financially to be able to line the pockets of its players, whether the various contracts deserving or dubious. The league, however, claims that franchises have suffered drastic losses--a major point of contention--and are hamstrung by constraints resulting from the last CBA.

"According to their theory, it's because of the system that's in place that forces them to spend the money, so it's not that they want to spend the money," a vice president on the NBPA's executive committee told CSNChicago.com. "It's the only option they have to be competitive, according to them."

"The thing is, it's still just posturing," the player, who wished to remain anonymous, continued. "We're still working off the last deal. From my standpoint, the last CBA has obviously been working for the last five, six years, so it's been doing what its supposed to do...the owners are trying to make it make a little more sense for them from their perspective. In their words, they're trying to make it make a little more sense for them from a business side."

"It's hard to know what goes into it from a player's perspective because there's really no rhyme or reason at times to why one player gets a deal versus another player. There's been numerous players that you can look at that should have got better deals than what they did, but for whatever reason they ended up having to go elsewhere," he went on to say, using Lakers point guard and NBPA executive committee president Derek Fisher--who he claims had to fight for a new extension despite always wanting to remain in Los Angeles--for an example. "That's the kind of stuff that needs to be stressed, as well. Allowing players to more easily move from team to team, allowing players to be secure, distributing the money to the correct players who are actually performing in those free-agent years."

After a three-hour meeting of the two sides last Wednesday--described as "cordial and constructive" in a joint statement issued afterwards by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)--all indications point to no progress in sight until after February's All-Star weekend (when the next meeting will occur), at the earliest. That leaves approximately four months--the current CBA expires on June, 30, 2011--to reach a resolution.

"It was more of a discussion on what can be done to make the game grow and what's our perspective and what's their perspective," the player described the negotiations to CSNChicago.com. "It's still no numbers, no nothing...it's basically setting the stage to bring forth changes and it was positive in the sense that they got a better understanding of where we're coming from and we got a better understanding of what they want. Somehow we can make it all work out and it makes sense where we don't shut down the business."

The league reportedly is in favor of imposing a hard cap, similar to the NFL, under which organizations wouldn't be able exceed the NBA-wide salary cap. That would mean the end of deep-pocketed owners being able to exceed the salary cap and pay a luxury tax, as well as player exceptions that enable veterans to re-sign with their teams, regardless of the cap.

While the NBPA objects to such an idea, the recent meeting in New York was more of a forum for proposals and was described as a "positive" interaction by the aforementioned source, a veteran who signed an offseason extension to remain with his current team.

"Just suggestions about making it easier for players to move from team to team, to loosen up restricted free agency so that when a guy who's performing well for his team, for example, doesn't have to be confined to that contract," the player, who indicated that base-year compensation is another told CSNChicago.com. If a player is still on his rookie wage scale, maybe he can get out of it a little sooner so he can go out and be a major player for another team if his team doesn't want to pay him."

"Things like that are ways to improve the game and allow it to even out the competitive balance and that's what one of the issues is," he added. "Every team wants the opportunity to be competitive every year. That goes into making decisions about who to draft and paying the right players. that goes back to the owners policing themselves."

The league and its owners, on the other hand, are more concerned with revenues, over half of which reportedly go to the players. The current economic climate plays its part in their concerns, but overall, they seemingly desire to have a new CBA go in the other direction, with lower player salaries one of the end results.

Although no marked progress was made at last week's meeting, it appears that the league and players are both committed to avoiding a lockout. For those who don't remember the last NBA work stoppage--which ended up abbreviating the 1998-99 season--the threat of fans resenting the pro game as a whole (players, owners, teams and the league alike) will hopefully spur the two sides to come to agreement before going down that less-than-scenic path.

"I don't think there's much frustration on either side because we both understand it's a process and we both understand that if we're both willing to take in each other's ideas and consider each other's ideas to grow the game for fans...people will continued to come out and support it. We both agree that the game is in a great place," the player optimistically told CSNChicago.com. "I think we're definitely on the right track...I don't know if it's going to be anything in place by All-Star weekend. I know that we're working to be further along in the process by All-Star, but how far along we come by that point remains to be seen."

"I think, for the most part, again, as players and the perspective that we're taking, it's a partnership and we're trying to be open to...hearing their suggestions," the NBPA vice president, who ironically took part in the league's Leadership and Development program--designed to help players move into coaching or management positions after their playing days are over; one of the sessions included in the July session in Las Vegas was a CBA tutorial--continued. "We're trying to be open to trying to grow the game, to make it better...I think the owners will hopefully be willing to continue to see that and again, it's so early in the bargaining stage."

Time is on their side--both sides--but it's not too early to consider a potentially negative outcome, no matter how much none of us wants to right now.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls


LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls

It look a little longer than perhaps LeBron James expected—or maybe not, given the recent woes from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But it happens in a flash—no matter if it is a fadeaway jumper, darting pass through multiple defenders or a swat into the third row for an unsuspecting Cameron Payne, who acted like he hadn’t seen James’ movies.

It took an almost Herculean effort from the game’s best player to put away a pesky Bulls team, 114-109 Saturday at the United Center. James was without several regulars, including Rodney Hood, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Kyle Korver—and his coach, Tyronn Lue, didn’t join the bench in the second half after getting ill.

The no-look passes, the easy drives to the basket, it’s hard to realize he’s playing in his 15th season but he’s at a level few can match, even if his team struggles to keep up.

Whatever he’s lost in athleticism, he’s gained in mastering the game and making sure it’s played at his pace.

Of course, we can quibble with his indifference to defense at times and make note of how that permeates to the rest of the team, as they let the Bulls back in way too many times.

But when you say that, it’s just as easy to see his passing makes his teams unselfish. The Cavs routinely swing the ball from a good shot to a great shot, even if it’s facilitated by James himself, as they had 25 assists on 44 field goals.

“Right now the game is effortless,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “LeBron wants to be a passer first and that’s where he was hurting us early. And then he got loose and got to the rim.”

James led them with 12 in addition to his 33 points and 13 rebounds in 39 minutes, and the Cavaliers needed every bit of his production as the Bulls emptied the reservoir with four of their five regular starters out.

“I just want to get healthy,” James said. “It’s unfamiliar territory for a lot of guys, going in and out the lineup and having six guys out…I think it was a good (road) trip for us.”

The Bulls were missing Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez for various reasons.

Denzel Valentine filled in admirably for a career night and luckily, didn’t throw a cringing behind-the-back pass to the expensive seats. Buoyed by a lax defense from the opposition, he led the Bulls with 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists, hitting eight of 11 from long range in 34 minutes.

If it wasn’t for a late foul on Jordan Clarkson when the Bulls improbably tied the game at 105 with 1:41 left, the Bulls would’ve made things very interesting. But he made contact with Clarkson in the corner and the Cavaliers took a four-point lead.

James got a steal on the next possession and hit a fadeaway to complete his night, his 15th triple-double of the season.

“As soon as I went in a little bit he threw it out there,” Valentine said of James. “And I went to close out and boom. It’s just a learning moment.”

Valentine has earned praise from Hoiberg for filling a leadership void while Lopez and Justin Holiday have taken a backseat due to the organization’s wishes to evaluate young players for the rest of the season.

In the meantime, Valentine hopes he’s proving to be a starter at this level, not just a plug-and-play role player.

“I believe I’m a starter in this league,” Valentine said. “I believe I can be an important piece of an NBA team. But whatever my role on the team is that they want me to do, the organization wants me to do, I’ll do. But personally, I believe I’m a starter and I can contribute in major ways. I just got to keep working and keep getting better.”

Whether he’s a fringe starter or valuable piece off the bench, Valentine has at least shown to develop a consistent jump shot—which in today’s game puts him as a fit on any team. Shooting 39 percent on the season means if the Bulls make him available this offseason, they will have callers.

“It just shows what I’m capable of,” Valentine said. “I believe in myself even when I’m out there playing bad. But I put the work in no matter what happens, if I’m playing well [or], if I’m playing bad.”

His fearlessness, along with Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne, pulled the Bulls back from the brink after the Cavaliers took a 17-point lead before halftime.

Sixteen of his points came in the third, sending the United Center into a frenzy despite the fact a loss would be more beneficial for the franchise considering the New York Knicks destroyed the Charlotte Hornets, paving the way for the Bulls to slide back into eighth in the lottery standings.

Payne did his best to undermine the tank, with a career-high 10 assists go to with 13 points on five of 11 shooting. Portis was solid with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but had a late dunk blocked by Jeff Green.

And combined with Antonio Blakeney getting his shots up anytime he touched the ball, including on fast breaks when the Bulls had multiple-man advantages, just enough was done to give the Cavs the necessary room to end their 13-day road trip on a high note.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in positions they haven’t been in all year,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Cam was unbelievable pushing the pace, especially early in the game.”

Green added 21 and Clarkson came off the bench to score 19. All can thank James for their night—along with a fan he threw his armband to afterward, who was left in tears.

And had the Bulls actually won this game, both James and the Bulls fans would’ve been in tears.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Vincent Goodwill, and Kendall Gill discuss the concern over Zach Lavine’s inconsistent play, plus is it smart for the Bulls to offer him a max contract? Kendall also explains why the Bulls need to be careful not to lowball Lavine, like the Hornets did with him early in his career. Plus the trio discuss the early exit for Oklahoma and Trae Young. He’s likely to be there when the Bulls make their first pick, should they take him? And Vincent shares who the consensus top 5 picks are after talking with several NBA talent evaluators.