By Matt Moore
In this week's edition of the Friday 5, we check in with how much the players are willing to negotiate, the impact of Woodson joining the Knicks, and find out who Ken's top five players in the NBA would be.
1. So Mo Evans says that the players are "ready to negotiate." Do you believe that, given the non-progress of the talks? The players have offered compromise on BRI as you've reported in the past and as Evans said, but not enough to get any sort of momentum going. How far are the players going to have to head towards the owners just to get talks going in a serious direction?
KB: It's pretty difficult to question the players' willingness and availability to negotiate. The owners, in my view, have been far more intransigent. The players have offered to reduce their share of BRI from 57 percent to 54.3 percent, and despite the fact that everyone wants a kumbaya moment next week or the week after, it ain't happening. Why? Neither side is going to budge until it's forced to. And there are only two things that could do that at the moment: 1) an outcome in the players' NLRB complaint, or B) the calendar.
2. In a podcast with ESPN earlier this month, Stern said that contraction is on the table for the owners, and players. I can hear you giggling with joy. But he mentioned that New Orleans' season ticket sales are strong, and he's been pretty committed to not screwing over an area ravaged by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, and he also mentioned that no owners are stepping to the plate to offer contraction for their buyout. Considering the owners won't even come together to boot Donald Sterling, how do you get them to move on one of their brethren in order to force a contraction?
KB: Matt, I have a car with more than 125,000 miles on it that I'd like to sell to you. It may be old and have frame damage from a wreck, but she purrs like a kitten when idling in the driveway and only leaks when it rains. In his role as used car salesman, I don't find it unexpected that Stern would say nice things about something he's trying to sell. Also, the NBA is stuck with the Hornets in New Orleans for three more years, per an agreement that was signed when the league took ownership of the team. Everyone can snicker at contraction all they want, but this is what will happen: Once the owners and players agree on a new CBA, whenever that may be, league officials will take a serious look at whether the NBA has franchises in the right cities or too many franchises. It has to be part of the overall re-evaluation of the business model.
3. Mike Woodson reportedly joining the Knicks bench, how much will that help on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "they're still defensive doormats" and 5 being "Chicago 2.0!?'
KB: Well, Mike D'Antoni always says, "I don't need shooters. I need makers." So to be a good defensive team, you need good defenders. Mike Woodson isn't going to change the makeup of the Knicks' offensive-oriented roster. But he'll help some, and the fact that D'Antoni was willing to bring an experienced defensive coach on board to address a deficiency should get some Heat off him in his contract year. So all things considered, I'll say 2.5.
4. We just wrapped up our Elite 100, ranking the top players in the NBA 1-100 based on overall value. Who are your top ten?
KB: You guys did amazing work on those rankings, and it's hard to quibble with your top 10 -- especially just doing this off the top of my head without putting in the thorough research you did. The talent is so good at the top that it becomes a matter of preference. So here are a few very subjective points: 1) Watching the Heat throughout the playoffs, Wade was their best player more often than LeBron; 2) As great as Dwight is, he too often hurts more than he helps offensively late in games; 3) Pau Gasol is supremely gifted, but his lapses in concentration and aggressiveness during the Lakers' brief playoff run haunt me; 4) I love CP3 and D-Will, but just prefer Williams due to his size. So here's how I would go: 1) Wade, 2) Nowitzki, 3) James, 4) Howard, 5) Rose, 6) Kobe, 7) Durant, 8) Williams, 9) Paul, 10) Griffin. Side note: The fact that you have only three 7-footers in your top 10 and I have only two speaks to the rules changes I suggested that would accentuate the strengths of the big man. Guys like Amar'e Stoudemire, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, and the Gasol brothers should be in the top 10 but the rules are designed for wings and point guards to dominate.
5.Given the Labor Day "unofficial deadline" right around the corner, what are the chances we're losing the entire season in your mind right now as compared to two months ago?
KB: I'm sticking with my prediction of 25 percent. When one side or the other gains leverage in federal court or with the NLRB, and as we get closer to mid-October when regular season games will be jeopardized, we will find out how entrenched each side really is. I believe that only the height of stubbornness and foolishness could cause the entire season to be lost.