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Do-or-die deadline for the NBA?

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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."

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Ryan Pace finds silver lining in social distancing at Halas Hall

Bears general manager Ryan Pace, like everyone else in the United States right now, is doing his best to do his job in what's become a bizarre new normal of social distancing. Fortunately for him and the rest of the team's staff and players, Halas Hall is well-equipped to handle COVID-19's challenges.

The renovations at Halas Hall couldn't have come at a better time. The more expansive campus provides the Bears with the space needed to keep the players and coaches as safe as possible. For Pace, it offers a greater opportunity to appreciate the little things while catching a meal with Matt Nagy.

“So the last two nights, we discovered how nice it is,” Pace said, via MMQB. “You sit out there, and it forces you to take a different vantage point during the day. Beautiful view, and it’s pretty peaceful.”

As Albert Breer pointed out, Pace and Nagy's view includes four outdoor practice fields and a couple of ponds. Not too shabby.

The most important takeaway isn't the landscape. Instead, it's safety. 

NFL players have until Thursday to decide whether they'll opt-out of the 2020 season, and for teams that are lacking the facilities Chicago has, it's more likely high-risk players or those with families at high-risk will choose to sit out the season.

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman and safety Jordan Lucas have decided to opt out this year, and there's a chance more will do the same. 

Pace is confident in Chicago's COVID-19 plan. We'll see if the players are too.

For now, Pace is finding comfort in the little things. 

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Why Chicago Cubs starters Jon Lester, Alec Mills are two of MLB's best pitchers

Usually when GMs, managers and fans get ready for a baseball season, any consistent production from the Nos. 4 and 5 starters is a luxury. In the Cubs’ case, it’s been an embarrassment of riches through two turns of the rotation.

Through 10 games, the Cubs are 8-2, good for the best win percentage in the National League. One huge reason for that has been the team’s incredible starting pitching. Kyle Hendricks set the tone early when he pitched a complete game shutout in the very first game of the season. Now, the Cubs’ starters lead MLB in ERA (1.95), batting average against (.156) and WHIP (0.780). They’ve done all that while also throwing 60 innings, second only to the Indians who have thrown 70 innings.

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At first glance you’d probably think, yeah, that makes sense with Hendricks starting the season the way he did, and Darvish getting back on track with six innings of two-hit ball in his second start. But surprisingly the only two clunkers came in Hendricks and Darvish starts. In fact, the analytics say Jon Lester and Alec Mills, the Cubs’ last two guys in the rotation have been two of the most impressive starters in MLB.

Let’s start by looking at the ERAs of all starters who have at least 8 IP, since the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. If 8 IP seems like an arbitrary cutoff… well, it is. But it seems like a fair number to assess quality pitchers who have made two starts in this shortened season with short leashes on pitchers. Among those pitchers, Lester and Mills each rank in the top-10 with ERAs of 0.82 and 1.38, respectively, according to FanGraphs.

So how are they doing it? Neither is a power pitcher who relies on strikeouts. In fact, Lester’s four punchouts place him tied for fourth-fewest in our split of SPs who have thrown more than 8 IP. Mills’ seven strikeouts (tied for 10th-fewest) aren’t much better. These guys succeed by keeping guys off the base paths, and not allowing hard-hit balls.

Looking at batting average against, Lester and Mills move into MLB’s top-five, according to our FanGraphs split, with each pitcher holding batters under .120. Since we’ve already established that neither guy is a power pitcher, when we filter further to just show BAA on balls put in play it should come as no surprise that Lester and Mills rise to No. 1 and No. 2 in all of baseball with .118 and .139 marks, respectively.

Great defense, like Javy Baez’s tag in Monday’s game, certainly helps the pitchers’ stats. But the starters also make things easier on the defense by inducing poor contact, regardless of whether the ball is hit on the ground or the air. According to FanGraphs, Mills ranks second in MLB by inducing soft contact on 33.3% of all balls put into play. In addition, he’s 11th in MLB with a 54.3 ground ball percentage. Lester ranks ninth by getting hitters to make soft contact 26.5% of the time, although he’s 11th in the league in getting batters to hit fly balls 47.1% of the time.

In the end the result is the same, with Mills and Lester combining to only allow four extra base hits in 24 IP. So although they aren’t typical “dominant” pitchers that teams like to make their aces, Mills and Lester have been two of the most effective starters in the game.


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