Posted on: February 2, 2011 11:12 am

Dirk pumps the brakes on playing in Germany

Posted by Royce Young

Dirk Nowitzki recently talked about his plans with basketball if there is a work stoppage later this year. He said he might play in Germany. Besides that probably being impossible because of his current NBA contract, Dirk has now backed off that idea a bit, calling it "speculation."

Via the Dallas Morning News:
"If it's a long lockout, we all have to check over all our options," Nowitzki said Tuesday. "You don't want to lose a whole year. But that's a long, long way away.

We don't know what's going to happen with the collective-bargaining and even then, there are a lot of other things that go into it. This was mainly just a bunch of speculation."
Actually, it's possibly just a few months away. In Dirk's head it's a long, long way away because this season has a lot left in it and Dirk isn't thinking about anything else. But once the Finals end and the draft wraps up, things will start to get dicey. That's when all of this stuff we've been hearing and reading about with start to actually get hashed out.

What Dirk said is something a lot of players are thinking about. They don't want to lose a whole year. What they are saying is they don't want to lose a whole year of basketball but what they mean is they don't want to lose a whole year of paychecks.

Again, this talk of players going overseas isn't likely to happen. To me, it's somewhat of a ploy to tell the owners that they don't need the NBA and that they can get money elsewhere. It's the greatest one because we all know where their bread is buttered.
Posted on: February 2, 2011 10:43 am

Ratings way up for the NBA

Posted by Royce Young

The NBA is really popular right now. It's not where the NFL is, but it's actually gaining ground. Because of a resurgence in talent, the league really is at one of its best places in years.

And the numbers back it all up. Via Sports Media Watch, TNT averaged a 1.5 U.S. rating and 2.325 million viewers for 32 NBA games through January 27, up 25 percent in ratings and 31 percent in viewership from the same point last year (29 games: 1.2, 1.774M).

Also, NBA TV averaged a 0.3 U.S. rating and 383,000 viewers for its first 13 Fan Night telecasts. Which really isn't bad at all considering NBA TV isn't a standard cable option.

Attendance is moving up, ratings are up, revenue is up, but then again David Stern and the owners are saying the league is losing money and needs to scale back contracts. You can see the problem here for the players and owners.

That's why it's so crucial to avoid an extended lockout and any sort of work stoppage. The league is rolling along right now. It appeals to a younger audience and is building a core base of fans. Because of Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and every other young talented player out there, the NBA really is at one of its best places talent wise in a long time.

Some of this really has to do with LeBron's decision and the Heat. It drew up serious interest in the NBA. Some has to do with the return of good basketball in New York and Amar'e Stoudemire. And a lot has to do with the league in general and how strong it is. Let's just hope we don't see a step taken back this summer.
Category: NBA
Posted on: January 21, 2011 12:25 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 1:56 pm

Friday 5 with KB: Blake Griffin an All-Star?

Posted by Matt Moore

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger answers five questions on the week's NBA developments. This week, Ken touches on ugh ... Melo, still, Rip Hamilton's situation, and the state of the CBA negotiations in this week's Friday 5 with KB

1. Well, the Russian put the kibosh on the Melo trade. You put out the reasons why it might be best for Melo to chance things with the new CBA in order to get what he really wants, the money and playing in New York. So the question then is, should Melo just say he's not going to sign the extension, period, and push for a rental trade to Houston or Dallas, or stay put?

Ken Berger (CBSSports.com):
The best way for Melo to get the Knicks and the money is still through an extend-and-trade, if Denver will come around and accept it. But you have to look at it from the Knicks' perspective, too. The more they give up for him, the less chance they will have of competing with Boston and Miami. Melo knows this, too. It's a balancing act for him between getting the place and kind of team he wants while also giving himself the best chance of getting paid. I think Melo should continue doing what he's doing, and by that I mean leave his options open. Don't sign the extension, and don't commit to whether he'll sign it or not. That's how he maintains the most leverage. Then he can take each variable as it comes. If he gets stuck with a rental deal to a deal he doesn't want to play for long-term, he still has a card to play by opting out and taking his chances with the new CBA. As I pointed out with my Melo Math column , that may not be as risky as some people think -- but there's no question there is some element of risk.

2. So Rip Hamilton really got screwed in this. Is that situation going to get resolved or was this Rip's last chance of getting out of a bad situation in Detroit?

See the Friday Post-Ups column for a full explanation, but basically your premise is correct. And not only is Rip out of luck, but so are the Pistons. It never made sense to me why Hamilton would be included in the deal because the only people it benefited were him and Joe Dumars. Now Dumars may be stuck with an unhappy Hamilton until ownership -- whoever that is -- agrees to buy him out. If that happens, I could see Hamilton signing with the Celtics and joining UConn pal Ray Allen. He'd give the Celtics a nice jolt of bench scoring.

3. The Heat are 0-4 since LeBron tweeted about karma and the Cavs. So this question is... do you believe in karma, at least in terms of what's going on with LeBron?

No. I believe in sprained ankles and sore knees, though. That's pretty much all this is.

4. Okay, Ken, give us a teaser of your All-Star picks. Does Blake Griffin make the cut?

Griffin presents the biggest dilemma for the coaches in years. It's rare -- only four rookies since 1980 have made the All-Star team, and only one of those, Tim Duncan, was added by the coaches. (The others were Shaquille O'Neal, Grant Hill, and Yao Ming.) LeBron James and Derrick Rose didn't make the cut as rookies, and Griffin probably won't, either, considering he'd have to be elevated above Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, or both. Two things: 1) Griffin certainly deserves it, but I'm not sure the coaches will snub all-timers like Duncan and Dirk, and 2) If he doesn't make it, hide the women, children and sophomores during the rookie-sophomore game.

5. The owners will apparently meet with the players at All-Star Weekend, despite reports they were considering not. I'm of the opinion the players need to stop pouting and stomping their feet when the owners do something they don't like, and start putting together substantive strategies to get the negotiations out onto open field, so to speak. Do you agree or do you think the owners really are making that impossible with their cold blooded approach?

Well, as far as negotiating protocol, it is really incumbent on the owners to make a proposal at this point. The owners made one, the players countered, and the owners have been twiddling their thumbs ever since. That seems to be their strategy, because they want the system that they proposed about a year ago -- max contracts of three or four years, a $45 million hard cap, no exceptions, 3 and 4 percent raises, etc., etc. Conversations have continued in smaller negotiating groups, but the talks aren't going to move forward until the owners make another proposal. The longer they wait, the closer they get to their goal of locking out the players and imposing their will. What can the players do? The superstars can show up at the All-Star negotiating session again and make a big show of it, but it's the lawyers and actuaries who are going to solve this problem, not Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Stomping feet and throwing tantrums isn't going to do any good. My questions is: At what point does the owners' indifference and unwillingness to advance the negotiations constitute unfair labor practices? I honestly don't know the answer, but I would imagine that the players' path to advancing the talks will come through a legal channel rather than public rhetoric.

Have a burning NBA question you need answered? Email us at cbssportsnba@gmail.com, or drop Ken a question for the Friday 5 on Twitter at @cbssportsnba .
Posted on: January 20, 2011 12:23 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 9:34 am

NBA labor talks will be held at All-Star Weekend

Posted by Matt Moore

It would appear cooler heads have prevailed. After yesterday's report from NBA FanHouse regarding a refusal of owners to meet with the players' union, it would appear that report was inaccurate and the two sides will meet during NBA All-Star Weekend. NBA FanHouse reports the same, but also says the players are not kidding around about the seriousness of this meeting, and what the owners' tactics signal to them: 

"If they don't want to meet, then they don't want to meet," he said. "But we'll still be out there. We're still going to have our meeting, to update players and do our due diligence. But I think those guys, the owners, are really miscalculating and getting bad advice. Whoever is advising them is giving really poor advice. If you had heads and CEOs of these Fortune 500 companies, I don't think they would ever run one of those companies like that."
via Notebook: Labor Issues, Tyreke Evans Foot Update, Dunk Contest News -- NBA FanHouse.

So the two will talk, and try and make some progress. But the players continue to freak out throughout these negotiations, showing their inexperience. The stunning thing about all this is that the players could have a lot of leverage were they to play things differently. Instead, they freak out and walk around stomping the ground like they did at All-Star Weekend, and with quotes like the one above. That only affords the owners the ability to further entrench themselves, rather than getting out on open ground. 

Open ground means the owners are talking, negotiating, and gives the players a better chance of causing dissension among the ranks of the owners between the small and big market guys over issues like player movement and revenue sharing. With Ken Berger's report of a possible compromise on all fronts that would make for a significant push towards a deal, the players have a shot at getting more than the scraps if they can get the owners out on the table with some level of dignity. But so far, the players seem content to play softball with their initiatives, then react with stomps and spits when the owners play hardball. 

They're losing on two fronts, but at least the talks will be held. 
Posted on: January 13, 2011 12:10 pm

If a lockout, Kirilenko would go back to Russia

Posted by Royce Young

We all know about the lockout that's almost guaranteed to happen. But we have really talked, or thought, that much about what would happen with the players during it.

One player already has a plan. Andrei Kirilenko says he would try and get back on a team in his native Russia if there's a work stoppage.

"If a lockout happens, I will definitely go back to Russia and play on a Russian team," Kirilenko told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.

Kirilenko, who just gained his U.S. citizenship on Monday, will enter the 2011-12 season in the final year of his contract with the Jazz.

The owners biggest bargaining tool in negotiating with players is money. Most agree that if a work stoppage happens and players stop getting paid, that they'd crumble eventually because they need money. Despite making millions, it's amazing how many players play paycheck to paycheck. But when you've got all those expenses, the bills just don't stop coming because you're not getting paid.

But Kirilenko obviously has a plan and a way to make money. Other players? Yeah, they probably don't have that luxury. And I don't think guys will want to uproot and head overseas for a couple weeks (or months) just to get paid.

The lockout's coming, so it's best to get ready. Players included.
Category: NBA
Posted on: January 5, 2011 11:57 am
Edited on: January 5, 2011 12:03 pm

Grant Hill compares '96 free agents to '10 class

Suns star Grant Hill talks about the differences between the 1996 free agency class and the 2010 class and the difference in labor situations of 1998 and 2011. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Grant Hill has been around and has seen a lot. That's what comes with 15 years of NBA experience. Part of that experience comes from his time dealing with the '96 free agency class, which featured Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, and for about 45 seconds, Michael Jordan. Two years after that class, the NBA entered a lockout, in part due to the kinds of contracts that were signed in '96. 

He's also seen 2010, and the formation of the Miami Triad/Heatles/Whatever-cute-nicknam
e-you-want-to-use, Rudy Gay's $80 million bonanza, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer also getting massive deals.  And in six months, that group of free agents will also likely face a lockout. 

As part of Ken Berger's interview with Hill in this week's installment of "In the Moment," Berger spoke with Hill about the comparisons between the two free agent classes and the differences between that labor dispute, and this one. 

"I remember back in 96, there was a lot of player movement, a lot of big contracts signed this summer. You didn't really get what happened this summer with LeBron, and DWade and those guys where it was like "Let's put together is kind of 'Dream Team' so to speak or something that may appear predetermined. I think the contracts at that point were getting high and it ended up becoming a concern that they would continue to escalate."

Hill also talks about the differences between the two and it's important to note that Hill takes a conciliatory line in the dispute, giving the owners reason to object to the current situation while maintaining the union's position that the current system works. It's a level-headed, reasonable position, the kind that's needed in order to avoid a lockout, the kind the owners have had no interest in adapting, instead blasting their boomboxes of recalcitrant objection to the current situation and threatening at every turn.  The situation needs leaders like Hill, and we can only help that both sides will follow his lead. 

It's also readily apparent that when his playing days are over, if they ever are, there should be a bidding war over Hill's services for television studio or announce work. Not because of his considerable star power and name recognition, but simply because it's more than evident that Hill will provide a stirring personality on screen for both analysis and personality. 

You'll see more of that personality on Friday when Ken Berger's full interview with Grant Hill is posted exclusively on CBSSports.com. 
Posted on: December 31, 2010 3:13 pm

The top 10 of 2010

Posted by Royce Young

Seems like every year around this time, people all start wondering, "Was this the best sports year ever?" The clip shows start rolling every bit of stock footage they have, put a catchy song to it, wipe of the hands and boom, 2010 is wrapped.

Other than the two clear-cut top NBA storylines that have already been covered (LeBron's decision and Los Angeles winning the title in seven games), what else was big from The Association in 2010? What else captivated, caught attention or was just downright excellent?

Well, I'm glad I asked. Here are the top 10 (for 2010, get it?) NBA stories from the past calendar year, excluding, um, the top two stories.

10. LeBron's elbow

Nothing really took over the 24 hour news cycle like a good Brett Favre story quite like LeBron's elbow. What was wrong with it? Can he actually play? Will he have to shoot everything left-handed?

But the elbow story was so much bigger than just an injury situation in the Cavaliers series against Boston. It really was the downfall of LeBron in Cleveland. He played one of the most confounding playoff games ever in Game 5, constantly deferring to teammates and really just stopping short of sitting down at mid-court and waiting for the game to end.

His Game 6 effort was better, but still, the image of LeBron tossing his No. 23 jersey to the floor after the final buzzer is something that's burned into the memory of Cleveland. It was the beginning of the end for LeBron in his home state. He left without the title he promised and quite frankly laid an egg in his last games there.

Maybe it was because of the elbow, maybe not. The elbow was the trunk of the story, but the branches stretched far and wide.

9. The NBA Hornets

I get the feeling this story didn't get played up near as big as it actually is. What we're basically seeing in New Orleans is the death of a franchise. Like right in front of us.

The league has stepped in and is trying all forms of CPR it can think  of, but with the attendance issues coupled with still bad situation in New Orleans, time is probably limited for the Hornets.

A league being forced to purchase one of its own teams isn't unprecedented, but it's surely not something you see every day. People like Phil Jackson have raised the question of how the league handles a situation like Chris Paul if it has greater interest in the Hornets and really, it's something for everyone to ponder.

8. Two tall people go down... again

It shouldn't really come as a surprise, but Yao Ming and Greg Oden are out for the season. Again. But it's more than that this time as both are facing career crossroads.

Yao has probably seen his last game as a member of the Houston Rockets with the team shopping his $17 million expiring contract and Oden will become a restricted free agent next summer, so who knows what happens from here for him.

The two big men aren't connected in any way, but the fact that two of the league's most promising seven-footers have been lost for yet another season is something that's nothing less than a shame. In a league running thin on true centers and post players that can affect the game on both ends, two have been shelved for the remainder of the season. But for them, it's a lot more about what comes next than just losing the 2010-11 season.

7.  Finga Gunz

The actual incident occurred in 2009, but the fallout and result of Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittendon's locker room showdown stretched into 2010.

David Stern suspended Arenas for the remainder of the season on Jan. 6, shortly after a game against the 76ers in which Arenas flashed his now infamous "Finga Gunz" during pregame introductions.

Arenas said his teammates asked him to do it, tweeting, "I know everybody seen the pre game pics..my teammate thought to break the tention we should do that..but this is gettn way to much." Immediately sensing how this was probably about to be something, he tweeted, "I wanna say sorry if I pissed any body off by us havin fun...I'm sorry for anything u need to blame for for right now."

Well it was something. Arenas would go on to apologize a month later for his actions in a Washington Post editorial and would get sentenced to two years' probation and 30 days in a halfway house another month later.

Of course "Finga Gunz" was basically the beginning of the end for Arenas tenure in Washington with him being traded to Orlando in early December.

6. The shadow of lockout

Just as we all start having a bunch of fun with this NBA season talking about how ratings are up 30 percent, how more people are attending games, talking about how much talent is in the league, we get another story about how the owners and players couldn't be farther apart on a new collective bargaining agreement.

It's pretty much a certainty at this point that there will be a lockout next summer. Will that produce a complete work stoppage and therefore a loss of games? Let's hope not.

The NBA is really enjoying one of its most popular times in a long time, drawing in younger audiences and totally supplanting baseball as the No. 2 sport in America. The league has recovered from the darker days earlier in the decade to come out with new stars, new energy and a game that's growing worldwide. A lockout wouldn't necessarily destroy that, but it's something that's cast a shadow over everything in 2010. And it will absolutely carry over through 2011.

5.The Summer of Durant

First came the scoring title, which made him the youngest ever to win it. Then came second in the MVP voting. Then came a playoff berth. Then came a fantastic six-game series between his Thunder and the eventual champion Lakers.

And all of that was really before Kevin Durant actually got everyone's attention.

It started with a simple tweet about his contract extension in Oklahoma City. It ended with him holding up a gold medal and MVP trophy for Team USA in Turkey, the first World Championship title for the United States since 1994.

In a summer where televised decisions, big contracts, PR and distractions ruled, Durant ended up owning our hearts during the summer of 2010 just by being himself. He was always humble, never fake, always said the right thing and played really, really good basketball in Turkey.

4. Blake Griffin, basketball destroyer

We had to wait an extra year to get our NBA introduction to Blake Griffin, but I think it was well worth it. Maybe my memory fails me here, but I don't think any rookie the past 20 years -- LeBron included -- captured the attention of people quite like Griffin.

We're talking about Los Angeles Clipper games being must-watch TV. We're talking about sellouts at Staples not for the purple and gold, but for the other tenant. We're talking about nightly highlights and the constant anticipation to see the Ultimate Blake Highlight that keeps us glued to the TV when he's playing and refreshing Twitter waiting to see a slew of "OH MY HEAVENS BLAKE GRIFFIN!!!!" tweets.

On top of that, it's just the way Griffin plays . It's controlled recklessness. He plays like every possession might be his last. He jumps with everything he's got for every rebound. He dives for everything. He falls hard, but gets up. The words "animal," "beast" and "monster" have been used to describe him. But I don't think those even fit.

Here's the thing though: He's actually quite good outside of the flashy dunks. He's averaging 21-12 and has a well-polished post game and has given Clipper fans a reason to hope.

3. The NBA does Dallas

This wasn't any old All-Star Game. It was 24 of the biggest basketball stars on the planet and 100,000 of their closest friends.

The NBA took its talents to Dallas, where indeed everything was bigger. The game was played in Jerry Jones death star, with a tiny basketball court placed in the middle of the monstrosity. The game itself was OK, but the glitz and glamor of the game was something else. It was the biggest crowd ever to see a basketball game and more than that, a basketball event for the ages.

To see LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant all standing on the hardwood while a giant scoreboard hung overhead and 100,000 people look on flashing cameras was unlike anything the NBA's ever seen.

2. The sagas of Carmelo and CP3

At some point, Carmelo Anthony will be traded. I'm convinced. But until then, we'll all just continue on reading every rumor, digesting every report and speculating on every trade scenario after trade scenario.

Whether it's the Nets, the Knicks or someone completely different, Carmelo is going somewhere. We've waited months to get that answer and after getting kind of a close a few times, we still just wait. But it's the daily story in the NBA with constant rumors and reports circulating everywhere about it.

But before Melo came Chris Paul. Reportedly Paul was unhappy with the direction of the franchise and wanted out. Badly. Days went by and it just seemed like the Hornet star was going to demand his way out of New Orleans. But it never happened. Doesn't mean it's over by any means, but those winds have calmed for the time being.

So we wait on that big news to break. Right now all the attention is on the Nuggets and Anthony but all it takes is one source to pop up and say, "CP3 still wants out." And then we start all over.

1. Free agency

The story in the NBA over the past year has been stars on the move trying to position themselves for a better run on a better team. Or to find some brighter lights of a bigger market.

Sure there's some overlap between this and "The Decision" but the Summer of 2010 is something people were counting down to for years. Big names were available, at the right price. Amar'e Stoudemire. Chris Bosh. LeBron. Dwyane Wade. Carlos Boozer. Joe Johnson. Steve Blake. Just kidding.

Player movement was the story. It became seemingly all about LeBron because of what happened in his little TV show, but before that, it was about all the players that were out there. Dwyane Wade went to Chicago and spoke with the Bulls. The Rockets went hard after Bosh. Joe Johnson signed a stupid $120 million deal. Stoudemire wanted New York all along.

When looking back on 2010, the Lakers winning a second straight title will be remembered. Then LeBron. But if you can rewind to what you were thinking around June 20th, it was about all the available players. It became about LeBron because he made it that way. But when those 10 superstars were up for grabs at one point, and for that short time, it had everyone's attention.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2010 5:06 pm

Union organizes by moving to dissolve itself

Posted by Matt Moore

It sounds worse than it is, really. In reality, the players' decision to decertify the union is nothing more than a move to put the guns in a row for the upcoming battle: Lockout 2011, coming this summer to a vacant theater near you. But it's noteworthy that the union very much knows what it's doing and is following protocol. From the Dallas Business Journal :
NBA players have begun the process of authorizing the decertification of the National Basketball Players Association, a move meant as a countermeasure if the league locks out players when the collective-bargaining agreement expires in June, sources said.

Players for at least two NBA clubs have voted unanimously to authorize decertification after meeting with NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter, sources said. Hunter is asking players at each club to vote to allow the union to disband, or decertify, as he makes his annual fall tour of locker rooms.
via NBA clubs vote on decertification | Dallas Business Journal .

So why is the union dissolving itself in the middle of the biggest fight as a union in ten years? Simple: lawsuits. By decertifying the union, the group becomes a trade organization. Which means that should the owners lock them out, they can then sue with a claim that the owners are conducting a group boycott, which is illegal under antitrust laws.

Which would inevitably lead to the league arguing that the decertification is a sham (it is), and that the players don't really want to decertify themselves as a union (they don't). But the union, now a trade organziation, would make every effort to convince them otherwise and leave that avenue open to pursuit.

At some point down this road basketball will be played again. But in the meantime, I'd ejoy the next seven months if I were you. It's all we're going to have for a while.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com