Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 NBA Finals

2006 NBA Championship rematch Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks...D-Wade vs Disco Dirk II...Pat Riley vs Mark Cuban II...Of course round II also features brand new names to the big stage as the only other returners are Jason Terry for the Mavs, and Udonis Haslem for the Heat...LeBron James has been to the Finals once before, but guys like Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler make their Finals debut...Even the Coach match-up is different - go from Riley vs Avery Johnson to Erik Spoelstra vs Rick Carlisle

The story is well known of how this Heat team was built in the 2010 summer-o-fun in the Association...This Mavs team had been bounced in Round 1 in 3 of the last 4 seasons, they added Tyson Chandler to be their last line of defence, and re-signed Brendan Haywood

These are 2 teams that were very similar in how they won games in the regular season...Both teams put D-first...Both teams defended the 3-point shot very well...Neither team created a ton of turnovers, but both teams forced tough shots (that part really continued in the playoffs for both teams)...Similar rebounding squads too

On O again we have similarities...Both teams had great regular season FG %...Both teams struggled to be effective on the offensive glass...Both teams averaged over 100 points per game

The Mavs beat the Heat both times they played this season...Normally looking at 2 games in a 82 game schedule is short-sighted, but it is interesting to note that the only 2 losses the Heat had in a 22-2 run from the end of November '10 through the beginning of 2011 were to Dallas...Actually the Mavs have won the last 14 times these 2 teams have played in the regular season...What really stood out in the 2 meetings this season was the crazy level of the back-and-fourth runs...NBA is normally a game of runs, but these two teams were colliding and trading mega runs...14-2, 13-0, 17-0, 10-0, 12-0 kind of runs...One thing that will be significantly different in the Finals is the Mavs will be without Caron Butler, who was great in both W's this season vs Miami...D-Wade was very good for Miami in both games

Miami won exactly 1 more game than Dallas in the regular season so Games 1,2,6,7 will be in South Florida, with Games 3,4,5 in the Lone Star State (NBA Finals only series in sports that switches from 2,2,1,1,1 format to 2,3,2)...In the 2006 series the Mavs cruised at home to W's in Game 1 and 2, but the Heat took full advantage of the format change that had them with Game 3,4,5 at home (all Miami W's)...This season it will be Dallas with the opportunity to host the middle 3 and potentially take control of the series

Miami has played teams in this playoff run that can defend as well (perhaps better) as Dallas, but they have not played a team that can shoot as well...The Mavs have buried the Blazers, Lakers, Thunder with long range bombs and the Heat will need to have an emphasis on perimeter D...Of the 3 opponents the Heat have dispatched it is likely the Celtics that best resemble Dallas on the perimeter as far as ability/potential and Miami was bad in their D attack vs the shooters in that series...The thing is Miami was so much better in every other area that the D issues on the shooters was not exposed...That would be dangerous against Dallas...The Mavs have so many more weapons, and those weapons are h-o-t...Sure Disco Dirk has been outstanding, but The Jet, Peja, J-Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Juan Barea, and The Matrix have all been major contributors for the Western Conference Champs...

For Dallas the concern is that the only 3 games they have lost in these playoffs were similar in that it took an amazing effort and huge game from an individual player to beat them...Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews, and James Harden all stepped up their game and filled the basket and led the team to a W...The Miami Heat offer D-Wade and Bron Bron, plus perhaps Chris Bosh, as guys who can put up even bigger/better games than those prev players, and the Heat Big 3 certainly has the talent to do it every game...Scary...If Miami can get a contribution from either Joel Anthony or Udonis Haslem, plus get a contribution from Mike Miller and/or Mario Chalmers on the perimeter then they may be the only team capable of beating this red-hot Mavs team...The challenge for Dallas will be how do they keep ALL of LBJ, D-Wade, CB4 at livable #'s while continuing to shoot at a level high enough where they won't miss a dynamic scorer like Caron Butler...

We see challenges here for both coaches...Coaching will be huge in this series...The NBA playoffs are all about game-to-game adjustments...Kobe Bryant says the team that lost the previous game in the playoffs has the advantage next game as they know what adjustments need to be made, and they are perhaps hungrier and more focused (sense of urgency)...In 2008 I was impressed and amazed as the in-game, and game-to-game adjustments that Doc Rivers made were better than legend Phil Jackson...In this series I would anticipate Rick Carlsile being the better coach and being able to make the better adjustments...

Miami will need their Big 3 to be superb...For me I think Dallas is shooting at a Championship level, and defending well too...Mavs have so many X-factors that can add to what you can already expect daily from Nowitzki, Kidd, and Terry (even a guy we haven't yet mentioned like DeShawn Stevenson can be streaky and get hot)...Dallas too deep...Dallas too well coached...Dallas in 5


Twitter @craigballard77

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ABC's of MLB at the 1/4 pole

We are at the 1/4 Pole in MLB and I thought we could take a look together at the ABC's of the first 1/4...

A is for Alvarez, Pedro...The Pirates 3B is hitting .200 with only 1 HR, and a measly 7 RBI's...He is K'ing 4 times for every BB

Arencibia, J.P....Jays rookie C is off to brutal .229 start, but his 6 HR's are a bright spot

B is for Buck, John...ex-Jays C is hitting a brutal .226, but his 5 HR's does project to 20 for the season

Beltran, Carlos...Mets are getting a good start from Beltran as he looks to be healthy for the first time in ages... .294 avg, 8 HR's, and 24 RBI projects to 30+ HR's with 100 RBI's which is where you would expect a healthy Beltran to be

Bautista, Jose...What can you say about this guy...Since Sep 2009 Jose has been an absolute beast...His 16 HR's at the 1/4 pole put him on-pace for a 2nd straight 50+ HR season...Only 2 batters in all of MLB (Matt Joyce and Matt Holliday) have better batting average than J-Bau...Amazing stat (IMO) - Bautista has an On Base Percentage at least 40 points higher than any player in MLB...His eye and discipline at the plate have been spot on all season

C is for Cano, Robinson...Yanks 2B is one of my faves...Off to a good start at .279, 9 HR's, 25 RBI's

Chen, Bruce...Veteran lefty is winning twice as many games as he is losing for the KC Royals the past 2 seasons...Chen is off to a 4-1 start in 2011 with an impressive 3.59 era, which is 1 full run below his career average

Castro, Starling...Cubs 2nd year stud-in-the-making SS is a hitting machine and projects to get 200+ hits with his .338, 1 HR, 18 RBI start to 2011

D is for Dunn, Adam...Big fella has been a HR machine in recent years, but has struggled mightily of late...Returning from a recent Appendectomy Dunn is at just 4 HR's (It practically seemed like he hit 3 HR's in his first 3 AB's) and his batting average is a brutal .216, while he K's twice as many times as he gets a hit (and he K's more than once every game on average)...Not the #'s the White Sox are looking for from their #3 hitter

D is also for our old friend Scotty Downs...A wonderful lefty reliever who took his talents to Anaheim in the off-season and just recently came off the DL (toe then virus) and began his season...So far he is the Scotty D that we knew here in the T-Dot...10 appearances, 9 IP, 0 runs...Plus he has more K's (5) than hits allowed (4)...Guy is good

E is for Encarnacion, Edwin...Jose Bautista finished September of 2009 with a flurry of HR's that launched his success...In Sep 2010 Encarnacion was belting bombs (even in Minny where no one belts bombs) so I was excited to see if he had found his swing and we were in for a breakout 2011 from EE just like J-Bau's 2010 breakout...1/4 way through the season and EE's 0 HR's tells us the story that this guy isn't on the verge of something big, and is in fact not a MLB talent at all...

Ethier, Andre...He of the recent 30 game hitting streak...Off to a .355, 4 HR, 21 RBI start for the 3rd place Dodgers...Only 3 players in all of MLB have higher BA than Ethier

F is for Feliz, Neftali...Rangers closer is 7 for 7 in Save opportunities with a minuscule 0.79 ERA

Fielder, Prince...Big man off to nice start for the Brew Crew .288, 9, 31

Figgins, Chone...One of the all-time worst hitters in post-season history, Figgins has been miserable in the regular season since signing with Seattle...This season the #2 hitter has a .221 BA, with a horrid .267 On Base Percentage...yikes

Freeman, Freddie...Pedestrian start to his rookie season for Hotlanta's 1B ( .229, 4 HR, 12 RBI's) but he does have a swing that could be MLB caliber with seasoning

G is for Gonzalez, Adrian...I predicted video game #'s for A-Gon as a member of the BoSox...For one thing he will be playing home games at Fenway which is a significantly friendlier ballpark for hitters than Petco Park in San Diego...For another thing A-Gon would have legit MLB hitters in front, and behind him in the Boston lineup so he is going to see pitches to hit...So far so good, although the power #'s are just recently getting to where they should be (as I write this A-Gon has homered in 4 straight games)... .325 BA, 9 HR's with 34 RBI's...

Gonzalez, Carlos...The Rockies LF had a monster season, a breakthrough season, in 2010...The 1/4 pole #'s of 2011 do not look good for a repeat performance...Carlos is hitting a poor .237 with just 4 HR's and 20 RBI's...This projects to be about 1/2 as good as last season...The 2nd place Rockies need more from Carlos

H is for Halladay, Roy...Doc is off to another strong start...5-2 with a great 2.05 era and a WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) under 1 at 0.96...He has K'd more batters than he has allowed hits...Amazing stat (IMO) is Hallady has as many, or more, Complete Games than any team in MLB...wow

Hart, Corey...Career highs in 2010 have given way to injury and struggle in 2011...Hart is hitting just .234 with 0 HR's and 1 RBI in his initial 50 AB's of 2011

Hughes, Phil...Disastrous start to 2011 for Hughes...He was projected to be a great #2 behind CC Sabathia in New York, but a dead arm has forced him to the rest and rehab route...In his first start he through 55 fastballs, and none resulted in a swing and miss...When he does return from DL he will try to chip away at his horrific 13.94 era

I is for Ibanez, Raul...2010 saw a dip in production from Ibanez, and 2011 has seen that downward slide continue...A poor start has Raul at .237, 3 HR's, 16 RBI's

Inge, Brandon...Somehow the Tigers have trotted this career .236 hitter out there as an everyday player for years now...The 1/4 pole in 2011 has Inge at .198 with 1 HR and 12 RBI's despite 126 AB's...yikes

J is for Joyce, Matt...AL leader in BA (.360) and projects to 20 HR's and 70 RBI's...Not bad for a 3rd year player looking to show his value as an everyday OF (likely helped that Man-Ram was gone so soon into start of season...helped to give Joyce an opportunity for AB's early and often)

Johnson, Josh...Cy Young candidate at the 1/4 pole...3-1 with a teeny tiny 1.63 era, and an amazing WHIP of 0.90...WAY more IP than hits allowed...WAY more K's than hits allowed...

K is for Kimbrel, Craig...22 year old Braves closer is 9 for 12 in Save opportunities, and has a whopping 30 K's in his 18.2 IP

L is for Latos, Mat...The Padres would-be ace has begun his 3rd MLB campaign in miserable form...0-5 with a 4.86 era...Latos giving up about 1.5 more runs per game than the standard he set last 2 seasons...23 year old was hoping to take next step this season and establish himself as perennial Cy Young candidate, but so far things have been tough for Latos...His K's are still there, but he is yielding way more hits than usual

Lind, Adam...Jays 1B is banged up currently, but at the 1/4 pole he has impressive #'s with a .313 BA, 7 HR's, and 27 RBI's

M is for Marcum, Shaun...ex-Jay is at 4-1 with an impressive 2.72 era, plus an impressive 1.09 WHIP for the Brew Crew

Martinez, Victor...No matter what team V-Mart is the C for, he produces...Detroit is getting a strong start from V-Mart  with a .330 BA, 4 HR's, and 23 RBI's

McCutheon, Andrew...Pirates still waiting for this 24 year old to get his level of play up to where his potential is...Decent power #'s at 1/4 pole with 7 HR's and 7 doubles, but just 19 RBI's and a bad .234 BA have the jury still out on this kids career potential

N is for Napoli, Mike...Napoli was an Angel, then a Jay, then a Ranger in a matter of days this past off-season...His 6 HR's are decent, but his 16 RBI's leaves a lot to be desired, and his .197 BA is downright bad

Nolasco, Ricky...The Marlins pitchers will always take a backseat to Josh Johnson, but Nolasco has had a terrific first 25% of 2011...3-0 with an ERA that is impressive at 3.02, and a WHIP that is impressive at 1.08

Nova, Ivan...Yanks rookie has not produced very well in first 1/4 of season...3-3 with a bad 4.70 ERA...Nova is giving up a ton of hits in his rookie campaign...

O is for Ogando, Alexi...This 2nd year Rangers hurler (starting pitcher this season, 2010 he was relief pitcher) is 4-0 with a great ERA of 2.06 and a great WHIP of 0.89...WAY less hits allowed than IP, and more K's than hits allowed too...Impressive first 25% of 2011 for Ogando

Ordonez, Magglio...Horrid start to the season for the 37 year old Tigers vet...Currently on DL after a .172 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI start to 2011 (yikes)

P is for Pena, Carlos...The former slugger is off to a brutal start for the Cubs...At the 1/4 pole Pena is on pace to hit just 12 HR's this season (yikes), while his BA is at .208 (yikes again)

Pence, Hunter...Astros OF is off to a really nice start to 2011... .296 BA, 5 HR's with 31 RBI's

Perez, Chris...The surprise team of 2011 at the 1/4 pole is likely the 1st place Cleveland Indians...Perez has successfully closed out 10 of the 11 Save opportunities he has had, which projects to 40 saves and a monster season

Q is for Qualls, Chad...Reliever for the Padres is doing a remarkable job so far in 2011...Already a whopping 20 appearances...His WHIP currently is at 1.01 - lowest in his career

R is for Ramirez, Hanley...Marlins SS has perennial MVP candidate kind of game, but 2011 has been a struggle so far...25% of the way in and to see Hanley at just .216, 2 HR, 14 RBI is really surprising/disappointing

Reynolds, Mark...A HR machine in the NL, but only 4 HR's for the Orioles so far in 2011...He was always a K machine too...One of the all-time worst for striking out, but this season he does have that down to 1 K per game (he usually K's 1.5 times per game on average)...His .179 BA is pretty much the definition of yikes

S is for Saltalamacchia, Jarrod...The BoSox are getting things together as a team lately, but the C spot has yet to produce in 2011...At the 1/4 pole Salty has appeared in 26 games and has just 16 hits (.208 BA) and has just 8 RBI's with as many HR's as you or I have (which is to say none, zero, zilch, nada)

Santos, Sergio...27 year old 2nd year reliever is now getting the chance to close games for Ozzie Guilen and the White Sox...So far so good...4 for 4 in Save opportunities, 18 IP with only 10 hits allowed while K'ing 22

Suzuki, Ichiro...By the way, Ichiro is on pace to have his 11th straight season of 200+ hits...Say word Ichiro?!?!  Soooooo damn great...Born to hit

T is for Tulowitzki, Troy...This Rockies SS has been great for a few years now...At the 1/4 pole his BA (.261) is lower than it should be, but the power #'s are sure there with 10 HR's

Tomlin, Josh...A huge part of the Tribe's early success has been Tomlin and his 4-1 record...This starter has an amazing WHIP of just 0.86, with an ERA of just 2.70

Tejada, Miguel...Career over?!?!  Brutal first 25% of 2011 for Tejada...Just 1 HR...Just 10 RBI's...Just .195 BA...yikes, yikes, and more yikes...Considering he has had 133 AB's these #'s are clearly putrid...NOT what San Fran had hoped for when it brought in Tejada this season

U is for the Upton's - Justin and BJ...Justin (Arizona) continues to struggle to play to his potential with any sort of consistency... .247 BA, 7 HR's, 19 RBI's are below his potential...As for older brother B.J. (Tampa Bay), well actually same story...Top draft pick just like Justin, but has always struggled to play to his potential...2011 is off to another poor start for B.J. hitting just .267 with 5 HR's and 24 RBI's...Both Upton's project to 20+ HR's, but neither is hitting to their potential (as usual) and neither is carrying any load of the O like they are capable of

Utley, Chase...2011 still has yet to see Chase Utley...His right knee has not allowed for any MLB action so far this season

V is for Varitek, Jason...We saw earlier the brutal #'s from fellow BoSox C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but Tek's are even worse... .164 BA, 0 HR's (so BoSox got 0 HR's from C's in first 1/4 of 2011 season...yikes) and just 3 RBI's...Those brutal #'s come in nearly 60 AB's...Honestly, if I gave you 60 AB's could you do better than .164, 0, 3?!?!  I bet you could...

Victorino, Shane...The Flyin' Hawaiian is off to a very good start in 2011... .285 BA, 6 HR, 19 RBI for the 1st place Phillies

Vizquel, Omar...The 44 year old White Sox vet is hitting .324 with 5 RBI's (including 2 RBI in a recent 4-3 W)...The 22 year veteran is still finding ways to contribute to a MLB team...Impressive

W is for Weaver, Jered...Angels ace has lost 3 straight starts, but he still sports a nice 6-3 record, with a nice 2.26 ERA, and a nice 0.94 WHIP

Wells, Vernon...V-Dub is currently down with a groin issue, but his start to the Anaheim portion of his career has been a nightmare...How about a .183 BA with just 4 HR's and a measly 13 RBI's...yikes...Wells' 2011 contract pays him $26+ million, 2nd only to A-Rod...wow

Weeks, Ritchie...Brewers 2B found his power stroke in 2010, and that has continued for the first 25% of 2011 as he has gone deep 7 times, has 9 Doubles, plus his BA is an impressive .292 (that is about 40 points higher than career average)

X is for X-factors...Guys who you do not know what you will get...Feast or famine kind of guys like...

Carlos Zambrano 4-1, 4.35 ERA (Cubs)...

A.J. Burnett 4-2, 3.38 ERA (Yanks)...

Jack Cust gets time as the #4 hitter for Seattle, yet check his 1/4 pole #'s - .222 BA, 0 HR's with 11 RBI's...yikes

Hideki Matsui not doing much in his initail season with the A's... 236 BA, 3 HR's, 15 RBI's...

White Sox OF Alex Rios is hitting a brutal .200 with just 3 HR's, and a measly 10 RBI's

Red Sox DH David Ortiz usually has a terrible first 25% of any season, but so far so good in 2011... .284 BA with 6 HR's and 18 RBI's

Albert Pujols...Phat Albert is likely the games #1 hitter (perhaps these days it might be Jose Bautista with Pujols a close 2nd) but early on in 2011 Pujols is putting up very average #'s(for his standards)... .266, 7 HR's, 24 RBI's

Y is for Youkilis, Kevin...Like most BoSox the #'s haven't been so great for Youk in the first 25% of 2011...6 HR's and 22 RBI's are decent, but his .240 BA is well below his standard

Young, Chris...Arizona's CF is much like Arizona's RF (Justin Upton) as far as both guys have a ton of talent, and both have struggled to play to their potential with any sort of consistency...In the first 25% of 2011 Young's power stroke is good (8 HR's, 10 Doubles, 2 Triples) but his BA is terrible at .223...

Z is for Zobrist, Ben...Rays 2B had a monster 2009, but came back to earth in 2010...Thankfully for TB fans the first 25% of 2011 resembles the monster 2009... .294 BA, 8 HR's with 27 RBI's

Zaun, Gregg...Although I certainly disagree with a lot of what Zaunie has to say in his new role as MLB Analyst I have seen people like Peter King give great praise to Zaun on Twitter for his abilities as an analyst...I know King is more of an NFL guy, but I respect the hell out of his sports knowledge and to see him him giving props to Gregg was a major plus for Zaun in my books

craig.ballard@hotmail.com ... follow me on twitter @craigballard77

Thursday, May 12, 2011

End of Lakers?!?!

The Dallas Mavericks used sensational shooting to expose the Lakers weakness in transition D, and pick-and-roll D...Disco Dirk, Peja Stojakovic, The Jet Jason Terry et al were left wide open time and time again...They made the Lakers pay the price time and time again...The end result was the ultimate slaying of the dragon - a sweep...In the aftermath redonkulous stories (like rifts between Pau and Kobe through Kobe's wife) have been assumed, invented, blown out of proportion...The seemingly wide-spread notion that fans are finally rid of Kobe and the gang is significantly premature IMO...

For one thing the Lakers (under the leadership and ownership of Dr Jerry Buss) tend to re-load, as apposed to re-build...We can expect the team to spare no expense and spend to the max of the Salary Cap...

Pau Gasol was bad in these play-offs, but he is just 30 and he has produced way more often than not...As a Laker Pau has 128 regular-season double-doubles...He always gives the Lakers 18+ points per game...Double-digit rebounds per game...Major contributor to 3-time West Champs, and 2-time NBA Champs...Historically speaking now is not the time to cut bait on Pau Gasol...Check this previous entry regarding the best big-men ever in the NBA, and the path they took (ie what ages did they do their historic damage/create their legend)    http://craigballard77.blogspot.com/2010/08/kobe-bryant-is-running-things-in-nba.html

Andrew Bynum had his usual injury-slowed season, and had a horrible ending to his season with his ridiculous actions towards J.J. Barea...AB just completed his 6th season as a Laker and he averages missing 27 games per season...I am a believer that this 23 year old does have a huge future...Again I would point to prev blog entry from above where we see the path that the great big-men normally take...I would submit that Bynum is on that path and will be a great back-to-the-basket C in the Association for another decade...At around $14 million/year with his upside he is one of LA's more desirable assets...I would not trade Bynum, but I do see his value in the trade market...BIG future for Andrew Bynum

Both big-men had good upswings with their assist-to-turnover rate this season...Both getting more and more familiar/comfortable in the triangle...The issue for the Lakers this season was not the interior

The backcourt and small forward is surely in need of an injection of youth and athleticism...Looks like Ron Artest is already in beast mode for the off-season training and prep for next season so I would say Artest at the SF, and Kobe at the SG, leaves the upgrade to come at PG...If you are a Lakers fan then you heart Derek Fisher, but he will enter next season at the age of 37...I am underwhelmed with having Steve Blake as the answer to the back-up PG spot...In the current Association you have to have athletes capable of getting quick/easy scores...Lakers run the triangle very well, but completely rely on running half-court sets to score...They do not get easy points nearly as often as is required in this day and age...Too slow currently...

What will surely help the Lakers get back to relevance immediately is this will be the first off-season in ages where Kobe Bryant can get proper and actual training/health...No surgeries that will eliminate training...no Team USA...Lakers did not go deep into June for first time in 4 years...KB already seems to have a major handle on what he can accomplish this off-season...It has been years since Kobe scored as "poorly" as he did this season...25 points per game is KB's lowest since the turn of the century (in a season that he was not injured)...Just the time that Kobe now has makes me certain he will be "Doin' Work" in the off-season and will be stronger than he has been in ages for next season...He was clear in his exit interview that there is a difference between feeling healthy enough to play vs feeling as strong as he knows he can be...Several Lakers pointed to the lack of intensity in their practises contributing to their (sweep) exit...Injuries forced Kobe to miss most practises, and he is already warning that next season will be a healthy season and no excuses in practise/preparation for his teammates...This summer will allow for the time required for KB which should be exciting for Lakers fans...Kobe Bryant does not seem to have a sense of humor regarding the wide-spread/growing "Lakers are done",  "Kobe is done" talk...

Lamar Odom comes off the bench to provide size/length/skill...If LA really is getting a re-focused and re-vamped Ron Artest then I like the idea of bringing in an athletic SF/SG to come off the bench and inject energy in the game while giving KB or Artest a breather (Tayshaun Prince?  Rodney Stuckey?  Wilson Chandler?  All are Free Agents)...I absolutely think LA needs an athletic PG, likely a starter (I mentioned earlier that Lakers will re-load, not re-build...Could that mean the PG of the future will be a Chris Paul, or a Deron Williams?!?!)...Aaron Brooks could be an idea, although he is a Restricted Free Agent...

Ultimately this team does need to get more athletic and faster, but it does not need an overhaul...It does not need to trade assets to get Dwight Howard (D12 can go to LA after next season as a Free Agent)...Howard, D-Will, CP3 will all be on Lakers 2012 radar, but for this next season I think LA will be major players in the West, again/as usual...

Question like "Who will coach this team going forward?" and "What will they do with the upcoming 2011 roster knowing that they will actively pursue guys like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul in 2012?" seem very legit and interesting to me...Question like "Are Lakers done?" and/or "Is Kobe done?" seem inaccurate and premature to me...

Of course Bryant and the Lakers could end up having a ton of time to train etc if the looming work-stoppage comes to fruition...Check the previous blog entry (NBA vs NBPA) to see the details of the NBA labour dispute that threatens the 2011-2012 season...

craig.ballard@hotmail.com ... follow me on twitter @craigballard77

Thursday, May 5, 2011


The 2011 NBA playoffs have been awesome...Underdogs gettin' it done...It is not all fun and games these days though...The business of sports is in discussion for all of us as NBA fans...The looming lock-out is worrisome...The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in just over 1 month, sadly the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are at odds with each other...

NBA Commissioner David Stern has been clear that the owners will lock-out the players if a new CBA cannot be agreed on, one that provides the financial swing Owners are seeking...That swing is in the $800 million per year range...NBA is projecting $300 mill in losses for this season and already put a proposal before the NBPA which called for a Hard-Cap, and a $750-$800 million swing in Owners favor...The NBPA rejected that offer taking major issue to the idea of a Hard-Cap, and with having their share of Basketball Related Income plummet from 57% currently to a proposed 41%

Also at issue is the whole idea of what gets included in Basketball Related Income...Currently broadcast rights, gate receipts, sponsorships, % of arena naming rights, proceeds from NBA properties, suites, concessions, and merchandise all add up to give a big ol' pot of $$$ called Basketball Related Income...The clash here is the NBPA wants their % of B.R.I. to remain in 57% area, and wants more revenue streams included in what makes up Basketball Related Income...The NBA wants their percentage of B.R.I. to jump to 59%, and they want a reduction in what revenue streams get included in the B.R.I. pot...

Forbes reports that 17 of the 30 NBA teams lost money...The NBA itself had to buy the New Orleans Hornets...The Sacramento Kings are very possibly, if not probably, entering their final season in SacTown...Charlotte, Indiana, New Jersey, Sac, and even a team like Orlando struggle mightily to survive under the current system, losing millions annually...From NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver "We need a system that provides all 30 teams, regardless of market size, an opportunity to compete for a championship and be profitable,"

The NBPA will point to the $100 million in increased Season Ticket sales this past year...Also the fact that ESPN, TNT and their Network partners have seen huge tv #'s, while major markets like LA, Boston, ChiTown, and Miami are all booming...They warn that a Lock-out will thwart all of that great momentum...Problem is David Stern answers with a warning of his own that the deal the NBPA rejected will be way better than the deal they come back to after a Lock-out

In the NHL vs NHLPA a few years ago we saw the NHL achieve a 24% salary roll-back when the NHLPA insisted there would be zero roll-back...In this labour dispute we see the NBA looking for around a 40% roll-back...We know this will be a major, drawn out, issue

Another major issue is the Hard Cap...Currently the NBA has a Salary-Cap, but with several Exceptions...Bi-Annual, Mid-Level Salary, and Bird Rights (amongst others) are all current examples of Exceptions, and are used frequently to help NBPA members get more $$$, and get contracts on teams that were already at the max of the Salary Cap...The NBA wants a Hard-Cap meaning once a team has spent to the Cap max then you are done in the FA market, and cannot add salary in a potential trade...This will affect so many veteran members of the NBPA that it will surely prove to be a major bone of contention

Other issues are in play too...NBA wants to eliminate Guaranteed Contracts as a way to help teams get out from under bad contracts...Of course the NBPA is screaming bloody murder on this one...Certain things like Revenue Sharing will muddy up things too...Even though it pertains to how Owners divvy up their Revenue, it still has to be approved in Collective Bargaining with the NBPA...Likely not earth-shattering, but with so many issues that will take a long time (potentially) to resolve we do not need extra things like this (and Rookie Salary Cap etc) adding to an already lengthy process...

Check the words from Billy Hunter (NBPA Executive Director) as he feels the NBA is aggressively seeking "a hard cap, a 40 percent rollback in player salaries, unlimited expense deductions and the elimination of guaranteed contracts" which Hunter says would "inevitably result in a lockout and the cancellation of part or all of the 2011-2012 season."... Hunter and the NBPA have disputed the NBA's accounting methods, and figures...The kind of rhetoric common from Union Execs in sports labor disputes 

Contraction is likely an issue owners can give in on...Stern has referenced a few times that Contraction is on the table as an option  to strengthen the on-court product, plus a reduction in teams would help with the bottom-line for the Association...The Owners though could find viable relocation options to revive certain Franchises, rather than cut them (we could see a 3rd team in LA after next season)

A side-storyline I will be watching is how will the prominent NBPA members view a work-stoppage?!?!  Guys like Kobe Bryant, KG, Jesus Shuttleworth aka Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobli are already on the other side of 30 years old and cannot afford to just have 1 season taken away at this point...How about the guys that are on fire, the current IT-guys like Zach Randolph, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant etc...How will they react to having a season stripped from them when they are so hot?  I could see a guy like Dwight Howard, perhaps even a Deron Williams not being overly-concerned as they are likely looking to bolt their current teams after next season anyway...If the Big 3 in Miami cannot produce a Title this season then they will be on pins and needles watching the bargaining play out (if they do not win  a Title this year then worst-case-scenario is Owners get a major W in the new CBA which could include Hard-Cap which would make any upgrades to their supporting cast extremely difficult)

If there was a sign (IMO) that points to players/agents being scared shitless of how the new CBA will finally look it was the Melo trade...Melo wanted to play for the Knicks, and he wanted the 3 year, $60 million Extension on the table...Melo knows for a player to make $60 mill in new CBA it will take 5+ years, and he knows new CBA may have a Franchise Tag (similar to that of NFL) which would allow the Nuggets to keep him in Denver...Why else get the Knicks to trade several potential teammates as you could just sign with the Knicks in the off-season, and why depart the West to go to the top-heavy East now?!?!  Melo knew this was his only way to guarantee he could be a Knick

For me, the rhetoric and the issues are consistent with that of a Lock-out, so I (sadly) think we are in for a work-stoppage...

As per usual it is us, the fans, that will truly suffer through this labour dispute...Multi-billionaires arguing with Multi-millionaires over how to divvy the spoils of an industry that brings in billions annually...Good luck to us all

craig.ballard@hotmail.com follow me on twitter @craigballard77