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James not worried about being top-paid player

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James not worried about being top-paid player

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) LeBron James wants to win as many championships as he can. When it comes to the titles dictated by money, he's not that interested.

The Miami Heat star says he's not worried about being the NBA's highest-paid player.

``It doesn't matter to me being the highest-paid player in the league,'' James said. ``I think my value shows on the floor.''

He added: ``If this was baseball, it (the salary) would be up, I mean way up there.''

James spoke following the team's afternoon shootaround in Indianapolis leading to Friday night's Heat-Pacers game.

Initially, the questions were about whether the league's collective bargaining agreement would allow other teams to build the same way Miami did, by signing three big-name players.

James was the top prize on the free-agent market in 2010 but acknowledged he took less money to play with Miami and pursue NBA championships with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

James and Bosh each reportedly signed six-year deals worth $110 million. Wade's deal was for six years and $107 million. Each deal was under the NBA's maximum contract.

The Heat won the title last season, and all three Miami stars can opt out of their contracts next year. There has been speculation that the Cavaliers, James' former team, might be interested in signing him, as would the Los Angeles Lakers.

But under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which begins to be implemented in earnest next season, teams will be penalized more harshly for exceeding the salary cap than they were in the past, and repeat offenders will have it even worse.

It's already making an impact.

The new economic structure has already led to some significant personnel decisions. Oklahoma City decided to break up a core that had taken the Thunder to the NBA Finals the previous summer when they chose to ship James Harden to Houston just before the season rather than sign him to a contract extension that would have subjected the team to the more punitive luxury tax.

In the past two weeks the Memphis Grizzlies, who were considered to be legitimate challengers to the Thunder in the West, traded valuable bench player Marreese Speights and two other players to Cleveland for Jon Leuer in a salary dump, then sent leading scorer Rudy Gay, who is making $16.5 million this season with $37 million more over the next two years, to Toronto.

The move helped get the Grizzlies under the cap for next season, but left coach Lionel Hollins wondering if they still had enough to compete in the powerful Western Conference.

``When you have champagne taste, you can't be on a beer budget,'' Hollins said, before going on to say he understands the challenges new Memphis owner Robert Pera faces in one of the NBA's smaller markets.

So when James was asked whether it was right that the league's reigning MVP was not its highest-paid player, he just smiled. He later said money will not dictate his plans.

``I've not had a max contract yet, it's a story that's been untold,'' he said. ``I don't get (credit) for it. But that doesn't matter to me. Playing the game matters to me.''

Few players, even those earning more money, have a stronger resume than James.

He was the youngest player in league history to be chosen the NBA's rookie of the year, the youngest to be the All-Star Game MVP and in January became the youngest player to top 20,000 points.

At 28, James is nowhere close to slowing down, either.

Last year, James won his third MVP award, his first NBA title, was a unanimous choice as NBA Finals MVP and earned his second Olympic gold medal.

So the money issue seems to pale in comparison, especially given that James has been able to supplement his income off the court.

``It's not all about money. It's about winning. I know that and I don't mind,'' James said. ``It doesn't bother me because I'm OK, I'm financially stable and my family is OK.''

The small markets may not be the only ones that have to swallow hard and watch some big stars walk away. The new deal was designed in part to level the playing field and try to discourage teams in big markets or glitzy locales from hoarding all the talent.

Even the mighty Lakers have expressed concerns about their bloated payroll going forward. That means the era of the super team could be coming to an end, unless players such as James decide to take less money to make it easier on a front office to lure more prime talent.

Of course, it still may not matter for several deep-pocketed owners, including Brooklyn's Mikhail Prokhorov and New York's James Dolan.

The Buss family in Los Angeles may also find the allure of championship chasing hard to resist and use revenues from a mammoth new television deal to help offset the major tax penalties they could incur.

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis also contributed to this report.

3.22.19: Rick Horrow sits down with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly

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USA TODAY Sports

3.22.19: Rick Horrow sits down with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly

TO LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST, CLICK HERE

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

 

  • * This year, March Madness could cost employers over $13 billion. According to the annual study done by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., every hour spent on games can cost employers $2.1 billion, for a total of $13.3 billion over the length of the tournament that will end with the NCAA National Championship game on April 8. Research done by staffing firm Office Team indicates that workers spent an average of 25.5 minutes of their workday on March Madness-related activities. And a survey by TSheets and QuickBooks showed that at least 48% of people participating in March Madness won their brackets during work hours. However, the basketball tournament can foster a little excitement among coworkers. “Streaming games during work hours, heading to a local restaurant to watch the games, filling out brackets or just discussing the games with co-workers will mean hours of distractions during the three-week tournament,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President.  But Challenger adds that employers should use the tournament games to build morale and not restrict employees. About 97 million people watched March Madness games last year, according to CBS – tens of millions of them during work hours.
  •  The purse for the just-completed The Players Championship increased for the second consecutive year. The purse at TPC Sawgrass expanded from $11 million in 2018 to $12.5 million this year, making the purse the “largest currently on the PGA Tour schedule,” according to Golf Channel. This marks a “dramatic bump considering that last year’s increase for the Tour’s flagship event was $500,000.” The Masters and PGA Championship had $11 million purses in 2018 and the Open Championship was at $10.5 million. Golf Digest noted 2018 Players winner Webb Simpson’s share of the $11 million purse was $1.98 million while 2018 U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka “took home” $2.16 million of the $12 million purse. Based on the same formula of 18% “going to the winner,” this year’s Players champion Rory McIlroy earned $2.25 million. McIlroy, who bested 48 year-old Jim Furyk to win The Players title – Furyk pocketed $1.35 million – is clearly the man to beat heading into The Masters next month. While The Players is a benchmark win for Rory and his brand, The Masters is the sole Slam trophy missing from his extensive trophy case. 
  • * Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed upon a series of rule changes that will kick in over the next two seasons, subject to ratification by all 30 clubs. Changes set to begin this year will include (but are not limited to and subject to broadcast partner buy-in) inning breaks being reduced from 2:05 to 2:00 in local games and from 2:25 to 2:00 in national games. The All-Star Game will now see fan voting conducted in two rounds, a “primary round” that mirrors the All-Star voting of old, followed in late June or early July by an “Election Day” in which the top three vote-getters at each position will be voted on by fans. In addition, total player prize money for the Home Run Derby will be increased to $2.5 million with the inner receiving $1 million, while in typical games, maximum number of mound visits per team will be reduced from six to five per game. Changes for 2020 will include an opening day roster increasing from 25 to 26, while the 40-man active roster for September will be eliminated. The changes are meant to make America’s pastime more fan friendly – and less time consuming. 

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Mike Trout raised the red flag about free agency, and Nationals players took notice

Mike Trout raised the red flag about free agency, and Nationals players took notice

WASHINGTON -- Mike Trout was everywhere, especially for the supposedly tough-to-market star of the game. 

Anaheim made Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million extension official Sunday. Trout was the center of a large press conference in California, hopped on MLB Network, made the rounds expected of someone who signed the largest deal in American sports history.

Trout made a telling remark at each stop: He noted watching Manny Machado and Bryce Harper slog through last winter as free agents. He then talked to both. The conversations and visual prompted him to label their situations a “red flag” when he thought about free agency.  

That term, from that player, is eye-popping, despite the heft of his current extension and others being struck around the league. It holds force even after Harper set a record with a new contract that was summarily crushed three weeks later by Trout. It also turned heads when read to players in the clubhouse before the Nationals played the New York Yankees on Monday in the final exhibition game of spring training.

“To me, that’s the red flag,” Sean Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington. “We’re not talking about a veteran guy that’s, you know...we’re talking about the face of our game. If he doesn’t want to go through the free agency process the way it’s been going for guys these past few years, like if he doesn’t think the process could benefit him and he could recognize his full value on the open market, that’s really tell you everything you need to know, right?”

Free agency, once referred to by Max Scherzer as the players’ “golden egg,” has pivoted. Players previously groused about the veteran player who was left jobless. Teams moved away from paying players 30-plus for past performance, both learning a more efficient way to run their team and more financially viable one. Younger players -- unproven players in the eyes of many major leaguers -- were receiving jobs based more on market forces and perceived value than actual value. The process rankled those already in a clubhouse.

“It’s not about players,” Ryan Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington. “It’s about the valuation or the way that they use it to say it’s going to change their organization. I’ve always said you have to have young guys come up and play. I get it. But my whole thing is to not sign legit big-league players, who you know what they’re going to do at the big-league level, because you have the best farm system in the league, two of those kids might be something. The other eight you’re never going to hear about them again once they leave Baseball America. I just think the percentage of people who become real big leaguers is not very high, and they hold it at a very high value.”

That portion of the debate is receding. What free agency has become is at the forefront. The recent cluster of extensions suggested players realized their best path under this collective bargaining agreement was to stay. The plight of Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel -- who remain unemployed just days before the season begins -- shows that premise is correct.

“[I do] recognize the free agent process has changed,” Scherzer said. “Teams used to covet players, marquee players, and be aggressive trying to bid on them -- don’t feel like that’s the case. That’s what I’ll say.”

Doolittle continued to churn through how the idea related to Trout. If he entered free agency, what could be the possible knock on him? 

It’s not on-field skill. It’s not how he interacts with fans. It’s not how he conducts himself off the field. 

“It would have been really fun to see him go through the free agency process,” Doolittle said.

Instead of finding out, Trout decided to take a lifetime deal to stay in Anaheim. The cash haul was enormous. The terms record-setting. The process? Not so good.

“We need to make some adjustments to the system,” Doolittle said. “Because, yeah, it’s good Manny and Bryce got those deals. It’s unfortunate it took so long. I think it’s very concerning and very notable the face of the game, one of the best players in the history of the game, didn’t want to have to go through that because of the way it’s been going.”

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