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David Aldridge

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NBPA president Derek Fisher and the NBA's owners are still far apart on a labor deal.
Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

Labor talks inch forward as negotiations enter critical week


Posted Sep 20 2011 10:00AM

First, many thanks to Kermit Washington, Kevin Johnson and Andrea Cavalli for guest Tipping for me while I was on vacation. I hope you enjoyed their words. Of course, no one is ever really that far away from the goings on, and -- in this case, unfortunately -- that means you're never too removed from the lockout. The good news is that so many people that care about the NBA desperately want the game back. The bad news is that we're not closer to a settlement than before.

Are we?

Last week was all about showing how united both sides were -- I thought either the players or owners would break out into Solidarity Forever on Thursday -- when there is division in both camps about the best way to proceed. Which should be expected, when you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, and successful people who are used to winning.

But there was, finally, some genuine movement in the last couple of weeks. Whether that movement is the basis for an agreement, or will be used to string one side along, tactically, is not clear at the moment. But there was, finally, some movement, as the players came down from their previous offer to reduce their share of Basketball Related Income from 54.5 percent to 53 percent.

Commissioner David Stern castigated an ESPN.com report that two of his owners shot down a potential agreement between the sides, and perhaps details of that version were incorrect.

But two sources who have been briefed on the talks indicated the following: sometime during the last of the small sessions between the two sides in New York, on Sept. 7 and 8, the union made its 53 percent concept to the owners. After the proposal was made, according to the sources, the union believed it had assurances from the other side that the offer would be viewed favorably by the owners' Labor Relations Committee. That was the basis of player optimism -- including union executive committee member Roger Mason's infamous "looks like a season" tweet a few days later. And that's why the union was so crestfallen on Sept. 13, when the meeting with each side's full negotiating committees failed to produce a breakthrough.

Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver said after the Board of Governors meeting in Dallas that owners remained unified behind a hard cap system, though there could be some differences in the specifics individual owners would seek. But the issue of revenue sharing has produced greater disagreements between owners. The union believes -- hopes? -- that those disagreements widen into fissures that will force groups of owners more willing to make a deal to the forefront.

Yet the union faces its own disagreements, with high-profile agents representing some of the biggest agencies looking to accelerate a vote on decertifiying the union.

Working backwards from the projected Nov. 1 starting date, this week is really the last week in which an agreement on a new CBA can be reached in order to save an on-time start of the season.

It would take at least two weeks to hammer out the details of a new CBA, and it would take at least two more weeks to have some kind of meaningful free-agent signing period. There would have to be at least a week to 10 days for an abbreviated training camp/preseason schedule. Which would bring us back to ... right now. Unless that breakthrough occurs in the next seven to 10 days, the season will not -- can not -- start on time.

That's where we are. So glad I'm back to give you the good news.

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Tinsley determined to keep playing somewhere

At Joe Abunassar's Impact League in Vegas last week, one of the more intriguing people there was Jamaal Tinsley -- about 20 pounds less of him -- diming people up like he used to in Indiana. The only person not at all surprised by this was Tinsley.

"People just need to see me," the 31-year-old said after a run at Impact last Wednesday afternoon. "This place, everybody comes, and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to come out and play. When I'm healthy, I don't care who you put in front of me. I'm gonna hold mine."

And Tinsley insists he finally is healthy, after missing huge chunks of four of his last five seasons in Indiana, including the last 16 months. That last year-plus was at the team's request, having told him to stay away from team facilities and practices while it tried to trade him.

You may recall that Tinsley's trangressions -- a February, 2007 incident in a bar involving then-teammates Marquis Daniels and Keith McLeod, and an incident in which Tinsley was the target, either of an attempted carjacking or robbery, as he left a nightclub in December, 2007 -- came at the tail end of years of transgressions and embarssing behaviors by Pacers players, beginning with The Brawl at Auburn Hills in 2004. Team president Larry Bird was determined to clean house.

So Tinsley didn't play, even after injuries healed and he was ready to go. He stayed in limbo for the entire 2008-09 season before finally reaching a financial settlement with the team in which he received most of the $14.7 million left on his contract. But other than a 38-game stint with Memphis in 2009-10, he hasn't played in the NBA since. A potential contract offer from the Heat last summer fizzled, though Tinsley and his agent declined to offer specifics as to what happened.

And Tinsley, who has offers from teams abroad, says he doesn't really care if he's in the NBA again.

"I'm not even worrying about the NBA," he said. "If I get a job, I get a job. I want to play basketball. I do it for free now. I'm not going to stop playing just because I'm not a professional no more. I like to play the game. I go out there and play with my son. I'm teaching him stuff now, stuff I didn't do when I was little. Who don't want to play (in the NBA)? But I can't control that. For me, sitting around, pouting, blaming somebody, I can't do that."

Tinsley says he has no hard feelings toward Rick Carlisle, the Pacers coach at the time.

"I don't have nothing against him," Tinsley said. "It's a business. It is what it is. It ain't their fault. It's the people upstairs that control everything. They make the last decision. The coaches just abide by them. I don't have no grudge against nobody." (Carlisle declined comment on Sunday.)

But Tinsley still thinks he was made the scapegoat in Indiana.

"I'm normal," he said. "Everybody goes out, to the strip clubs, whatever. I'm a good person. Everything that happened in Indiana, I ain't have nothing to do with it. Just being there. I ain't start nothing, none of my friends started nothing. I took a polygraph. For everybody. But at the end of the day, they had to point at somebody. I wouldn't take nothing back. When it's this and that, one name, when it's other people. Know what I'm saying? And the eight other people, they come from different backgrounds, so you don't throw their name out there? I come from a totally different background, so you throw my name out there? Sometimes, I wouldn't even be there; I'd just be coming to it. But the only person whose name they knew was Jamaal. That's the nature of the beast."

What about the shooting, which started at a gas station when two cars following Tinsley's group confronted them, and ended at a hotel?

"That could happen anywhere," he said. "We're athletes. We have a lot of cars, jewelry. It could happen anywhere. Bigger cities, it's known to happen more, but you just don't hear about it because it's a bigger city. It's Indiana, so you're gonna hear about it. They're going to make a big thing out of it, you know? At the end of the day, that could happen to anybody stepping out that club. Whoever's coming out of that club, that's who he was targeting. Whoever's car it was." (However, Tinsley says he does take security with him now whenever he goes out.)

Tinsley has spent the last year shuttling between his home in Atlanta and New Jersey, where his son lives. He gave up fried foods two years ago, he says, and has been working out regularly for the last year. (He looked in great shape in Vegas, below the weight he played at in Indy.) He has been working out with Abunassar for the past month in anticipation of the workouts.

He believes he's a good teammate, that if he gets a chance he can average double-digit assists again, like he did three times in his eight seasons (he still sports a career assist average of 9.8 per game).

"People that know me, my game speaks for itself," Tinsley said. "... All that stuff that happened down there, like I said, I've proved myself, taking polygraph tests. I didn't have nothing but being a good teammate, and at the end of the day, somebody had to get blamed, and it was me ... I play hard, I compete with anybody. An opportunity, that's fair to me.

"Get to know me first before you judge me. Just talk to Jamaal before you judge me by what you read."

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How do you, exactly, "guarantee" competitive balance?

"We're trying to formulate a new agreement that will allow teams like Portland -- smaller markets in the league -- to have an opportunity to be both profitable and competitive on the court," deputy commissioner Adam Silver told the Oregonian newspaper in March. He and David Stern have offered variations on that theme a hundred times since; this lockout is about making sure that every team has a chance to compete. But what system can guarantee that?

Of course, the league has one in mind -- a hard, or at least, hard-er cap system in which the disparity between what the top teams pay in salary and their lesser brethren is greatly reduced. In the league's mind, getting rid of the current system, where the luxury tax has had no impact on the five or six teams that are willing to pay it, is paramount.

But ... what have those teams gotten for their money?

According to cap avatar Larry Coon, these are the teams that paid the tax from 2004-2005 to 2009-10: the Knicks (five times, at a total of about $131 million), Mavericks (five times, $85 million), Cavaliers (three times, $43 million), Lakers (three times, $33 million), Celtics (three times, $31 million), Nuggets (three times, $21 million), Magic (twice, $18 million), Suns (three times, almost $14 million), Heat (twice, $11 million), Spurs (three times, almost $10 million), Blazers (once, $5.9 million), Pacers (yeah, surprised me, too--once, at $4.7 million), Grizzlies (once, $3.7 million), Jazz (once, $3.1 million) and Timberwolves (once, $1 million). Reportedly, the Lakers, Magic and Mavericks were the only teams that paid the tax this past season, at around $20 million each.

The Knicks didn't make the playoffs once in the five seasons they paid the luxury tax. The Mavs made it each of the six years -- including this past one -- that they paid the tax. But they made the postseason in the five previous seasons (2000-2005) in which they did not pay a luxury tax as well. The Lakers have paid the tax when they lost in the Finals (2007-08), the two years they won the championship ('08-09 and '09-10) and this past year, when they got smoked in the semis. Boston paid tax when it won its last championship (2007-08) and the year it lost to Orlando in the conference semifinals (2008-09).

The Nuggets have paid the tax three times, but they didn't pay it in 2008-09, the year they made the Western Conference finals for the first time in 24 seasons.

More to the point, Utah -- which has paid the tax once in its history -- has made the playoffs 24 times in the last 28 years. The Blazers -- who've paid the tax once -- have made the playoffs 24 times in the last 29 years.

I'm sure Stern and Silver would say that they're not literally looking for guarantees that every team in the league be competitive every year, only that financial limitations shouldn't be decisive in determining how competitive a team can be. The Commish often cites the disparity between the Lakers' $110 million payroll last season and Sacramento's $45 million to exemplify how the Kings simply cannot field a team that can play with L.A.'s. And they would argue that things are much different now than they were in the mid-80s. Fair enough.

So I have tried to look at a more fair comparison.

I have taken a look at the last 13 seasons since the implementation of the 1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the players that ended the '98 lockout. I used that line of demarcation because that CBA produced much of the modern salary structure in the game. It capped salaries of the top players, meaning the exponential growth in max player salaries that culminated in Kevin Garnett's $126 million from small-market Minnesota in 1996 would be stopped dead in its tracks. It created the mid-level exception, tied to the average salary paid in the league. And it established the luxury tax and escrow payments from the players to owners.

I tried to look at how teams' decisions affected their on-court performance. I tried to see if there was any difference between how teams in large markets, medium markets and small ones fared when it came to making the playoffs. (The delineation between "major," "midsize" and "small" markets is mine, as are any mistakes in those listings.)

"Smart Moves" refer to decisions that weren't obvious to do and had a major impact on the franchise. For example, the Bulls were fortunate to get the first pick in the 2008 Draft, but it was a no-brainer to take Derrick Rose with the first pick (or for the Cavs to take LeBron James first overall in 2003). They don't get credit for that.

"Questionable and/or Bad Moves" doesn't necessarily mean bad Draft picks or trades, though if a particular one was so egregious to the franchise's future or ability to win has been included.

The question "have they competed for championships?" does allow for some interpretation. I created four categories: yes (meaning they've won a title during the 12-season stretch, made The Finals, or made at least two conference finals), no (meaning they haven't made the playoffs or haven't gotten past the second round more than once), not really (defining teams that may have made the playoffs a few times, but haven't been real title contenders) and briefly (defining teams that had a small window of contention that was closed by injury to a key player or some other traumatic experience).

ATLANTA HAWKS

Playoff appearances:
5
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Trading for Joe Johnson (2004); taking Al Horford (third overall) in 2007 Draft
Questionable/Bad Moves: Drafting Marvin Williams in first round (2005) instead of Chris Paul or Deron Williams; max contract ($124 million) for Johnson in 2010
External Factors: Former ownership group (Atlanta Spirit) beset by internal struggles
Have they competed for championships?: Not really

BOSTON CELTICS

Playoff appearances: 8
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Acquiring Kendrick Perkins (2003) and Rajon Rondo (2006) in Draft day deals; trading for Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen (2007)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Trading Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green (2010)
External Factors: Increasing operating capital with local cable TV deals
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Playoff appearances: 1
Market size: Midsize
Smart Moves: Hiring Larry Brown as coach (2008)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Front office purge under former owner Robert Johnson
External Factors: An NFL team (Carolina Panthers, founded in 1995) competing for discretionary income
Have they competed for championships?: No

CHICAGO BULLS

Playoff appearances: 6
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Not trading for Kobe Bryant (2007), which would have gutted roster (Luol Deng) and cost future Draft picks (Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, etc.)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Hiring Vinny Del Negro as head coach (2006) instead of Mike D'Antoni
External Factors: Incomparably loyal fan base continued to generate revenue during down seasons
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Playoff appearances: 5
Market size: Midsize
Smart Moves: Hiring a virtual unknown, Mike Brown, as coach (2005)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Never getting LeBron James a legitimate superstar partner (Jason Kidd, 2008; Amar'e Stoudemire, 2010)
External Factors: Carlos Boozer's departure to Utah (2004) under murky circumstances
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Playoff appearances: 11
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Embracing defense-first philosophy (Avery Johnson, Rick Carlisle), acquiring Jason Kidd (2008)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Losing Steve Nash (2004)
External Factors: Mark Cuban working more behind the scenes with league instead of daily confrontations
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

DENVER NUGGETS

Playoff appearances: 8
Market size: Midsize
Smart Moves: Successfully salvaging Carmelo Anthony trade request (2011)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Max contract for Kenyon Martin (2004), which limited flexibility for other moves once Martin became injured
External Factors: George Karl's cancer battle (2010)
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

DETROIT PISTONS

Playoff appearances: 10
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Signing Chauncey Billups (2002), hiring Larry Brown (2003)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Trading Billups for Allen Iverson (2008); hiring Michael Curry (2008-09) and John Kuester (2009-10) as head coaches
External Factors: Death of longtime owner Bill Davidson (2009) threw franchise into limbo
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Playoff appearances: 1
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Putting together strong front office with Larry Riley, Bob Myers, Jerry West; hiring Mark Jackson as head coach (2011)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Everything before that
External Factors: Former owner Chris Cohan's IRS issues
Have they competed for championships?: No

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Playoff appearances: 6
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Hiring excellent head coaches (Rudy Tomjanovich, Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming pairing never meshed into dynamic duo due to injuries
External Factors: Chinese Basketball's insistence on Yao playing every summer for national team
Have they competed for championships?: Not really

INDIANA PACERS

Playoff appearances: 9
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Building Conseco Fieldhouse, which is still a state-of-the-art stadium 12 years after opening
Questionable/Bad Moves: 2007 trade with Warriors (Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, et.al, for Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Troy Murphy, et.al)
External Factors: Malice at The Palace (2004)
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Playoff appearances: 1
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Baron Davis-Mo Williams trade (2011)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Signing Baron Davis ($65 million in 2008-09) didn't work out as planned
External Factors: Owner Donald Sterling. 'Nuff said
Have they competed for championships?: No

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Playoff appearances: 12
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Pau Gasol trade (2008), not trading Kobe Bryant (2007)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Trading Shaq (2004)
External Factors: Emergence of Jim Buss as power broker, beating out Jerry West, Phil Jackson
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Playoff appearances: 4
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Pau Gasol trade (2008), Zach Randolph trade (2010)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Jury's out on recent spending sprees ($80 million for Rudy Gay; $45 million for Mike Conley)
External Factors: University of Memphis' stall as national college power helps Grizzlies' bottom line, though entities work with one another
Have they competed for championships?: No

MIAMI HEAT

Playoff appearances: 10
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: The Super Friends (2010) and the three years of planning it took to make that happen
Questionable/Bad Moves: Running coach Stan Van Gundy out of town
External Factors: Aligning of Creative Artists Agency into basketball power broker
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Playoff appearances: 7
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Gambling on Brandon Jennings (10th pick, 2010)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Big contract ($91 million, 2005) for Michael Redd, whose knees wouldn't let him live up to it
External Factors: Inability to get new arena built to replace Bradley Center further hamstrings team compared to NBA's haves
Have they competed for championships?: No

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Playoff appearances: 6
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Hiring Rick Adelman (2011)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Drafting Jonny Flynn (2009) instead of Steph Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson
External Factors: Illegal contract for Joe Smith (2002), costing franchise four first-round picks
Have they competed for championships?: Briefly

NEW JERSEY NETS

Playoff appearances: 6
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Jason Kidd trade (2001)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Losing Kenyon Martin (2004)
External Factors: Former majority owner Bruce Ratner's payroll strip in advance of new Brooklyn complex gutted promising squad
Have they competed for championships?: Briefly

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Playoff appearances: 8
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Tyson Chandler trade (2006)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Firing Byron Scott (2009)
External Factors: Hurricane Katrina (2005) wiped out local economy for years
Have they competed for championships?: Not really

NEW YORK KNICKS

Playoff appearances: 5
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Signing Amar'e Stoudemire (2010)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Acquiring Eddy Curry (2005), signing Jerome James (2005, $30 million), trading Trevor Ariza for Steve Francis (2006), hiring Larry Brown (2006) ... do we have to go on? Knicks fans' eyes are about to explode
External Factors: Sexual harassment lawsuit (2007) exposed all of MSG's dirty laundry
Have they competed for championships?: No

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Playoff appearances: 5 (3 as Seattle SuperSonics)
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Drafting Russell Westbrook (2008), keeping Serge Ibaka (taken in 2008, left overseas for a season)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Relocation from Seattle (2006). Nothing against the folks in OKC; I happen to have a soft spot for the Emerald City
External Factors: Only pro game in town makes Thunder a must ticket
Have they competed for championships?: Not really

ORLANDO MAGIC

Playoff appearances: 9
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Opting for Stan Van Gundy instead of Billy Donovan (2007) as head coach; signing Hedo Turkoglu (2004)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Trading for Gilbert Arenas (2010)
External Factors: Can anyone believe the Magic don't want a settlement of the lockout to have an offseason to get more talent around Dwight Howard before he becomes a free agent next summer?
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Playoff appearances: 9
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Drafting Thaddeus Young (2008), hiring Doug Collins (2010)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Ousting former team president Pat Croce; $80 million contracts apiece for Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala (2008)
External Factors: Former owner Ed Snider, Comcast-Spectactor group were Flyers/NHL -first kind of people
Have they competed for championships?: Briefly

PHOENIX SUNS

Playoff appearances: 9
Market size: Midsize
Smart Moves: Signing Steve Nash (2004), hiring Mike D'Antoni (2003)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Losing Joe Johnson (2004), firing D'Antoni (2008), trading for Shaquille O'Neal (2008)
External Factors: Selling first-round picks (Rajon Rondo, Rudy Fernandez) to save cash
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Playoff appearances: 8
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Hiring Nate McMillan (2005), not trading Nicolas Batum
Questionable/Bad Moves: Firing GMs Kevin Pritchard (2010), Rich Cho (2010)
External Factors: Health of owner Paul Allen
Have they competed for championships?: Briefly

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Playoff appearances: 8
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Max contract ($121 million, 2001) for Chris Webber
Questionable/Bad Moves: Losing core of title contending team to avoid paying luxury tax
External Factors: Recession has hit Maloof Family, which owns team, as hard as any owners in the league
Have they competed for championships?: Briefly

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Playoff appearances: 13
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Late-round Draft success (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, George Hill, etc.)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Trading Luis Scola (2007) to save money
External Factors: "Brain Drain" of executives (Sam Presti, Dell Demps) in recent years
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

TORONTO RAPTORS

Playoff appearances: 5
Market size: Midsize
Smart Moves: Hiring Dwane Casey (2011) as coach
Questionable/Bad Moves: Never surrounding Chris Bosh with quality talent
External Factors: Team's owners (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) are hockey-first people
Have they competed for championships?: No

UTAH JAZZ

Playoff appearances: 9
Market size: Small
Smart Moves: Signing Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur (2004), trading for Deron Williams (2005), finding Wes Matthews (2009) as undrafted rookie
Questionable/Bad Moves: Trading Ronnie Brewer (2010)
External Factors: Death of owner Larry Miller (2007)
Have they competed for championships?: Yes

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Playoff appearances: 4
Market size: Major
Smart Moves: Gilbert Arenas free agent signing (2003)
Questionable/Bad Moves: Gilbert Arenas $111 million extension (2008)
External Factors: Gunplay in the locker room (2009)
Have they competed for championships?: No

So, what do all of those numbers mean?

Sixfteen -- just more than half -- of the NBA's teams have made the playoffs more than half of the time (at least seven appearances) in that 13-season stretch. Another four teams have made it six times in 13 seasons, meaning two-thirds of the teams in the NBA have been fairly regular visitors to the playoffs under this system.

Only five teams -- Charlotte, Golden State, the Clippers, Memphis and Washington -- have made the playoffs less than a third of the time. Do those teams have anything in common? Washington, the Clippers and Golden State are in major markets; Memphis and Charlotte are in small ones. The Wizards and Warriors have spent big on players; the Grizzlies and Bobcats have limits, and we all know that winning is hardly important to Sterling.

The league would probably say that teams like the Kings and Suns, which had championship-level squads, couldn't maintain them because of the current system when the Lakers' payroll dwarfs theirs. Of course, the Lakers can do that, in part, because of their prohibitive advantage over most teams in local televsion money. It's an edge that's only going to grow once L.A.'s new deal with Time Warner Cable -- reported at $3 billion over 20 years -- starts in 2012. And the union maintains that those local TV dollars, along with other money that teams don't share with one another is where the have-nots can be made whole.

Stern reiterated last week that a new revenue sharing plan will be in place when the new CBA gets hammered out, and will pay out at least three times -- or $180 million -- what the current revenue sharing deal splits between teams.

But teams make decisions. The Spurs, Magic and Jazz went all in the last couple of years, willing to pay luxury tax to give, respectively, Tim Duncan a couple more shots at a ring, Dwight Howard his best chance at a title and to try and keep Williams and Boozer happy enough to stay around. (It doesn't look promising for the Spurs, the Magic's hopes of keeping Howard are teetering and we know how it worked out for the Jazz, who also lost coach Jerry Sloan in the process.)

Michael Heisley, the Grizzlies' owner, got ripped for much of the decade for being cheap, but he always said he'd spend for players he thought were worth it. In the last two years, Memphis has given extensions to Rudy Gay ($80 million), Mike Conley ($45 million) and Zach Randolph ($68 million), and says it won't let Marc Gasol -- the centerpiece of the Pau Gasol trade in 2008 -- get away as a free agent.

Memphis not only made the playoffs last season, but knocked the Spurs out and almost beat Oklahoma City in the semis, taking the Thunder to a Game 7. The Grizz traded a veteran small forward, Shane Battier, for Gay in 2006. They drafted Conley in the first round in 2007. They picked up Randolph from the Clippers in 2009 for little-used Quentin Richardson. And last season, they got Battier back in a deadline-day deal that helped fuel the Grizzlies' run. Smart drafting, smart signings, smart trades -- isn't that the very definition of "being competitive" in a small market?

The league, of course, will say that the losses that teams are taking has grown exponentially in the last five to seven years, and no matter if you believe the losses are $300 million or less than that, I don't doubt more teams are losing more money than they did in 1999.

There's no question that there have to be better ways for teams to get out of underperforming contracts. There's no question that owners shouldn't have to go bankrupt to keep their teams. But the tried and tested formula of good management -- draft the right guys, trade for the right guys, keep the right guys, and pay the right guys the right amount of money -- still works. And there is nothing that can -- or should -- protect a team from its own bad, dumb decisions.

"There are 30 teams," free agent guard T.J. Ford said Thursday. "That means somebody has to lose."

It's kind of hard to argue with that logic.

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The Really, Really Expensive Breakfast of Champions. From Tommy Hoas:

I've been sitting on the other side of the sea here trying to follow the true crisis of the world right now that is the lockout. Every day [is spent] with every article published on NBA.com trying to read through words like "revenue", "concession" and numbers that make my eyes bleed. And what I've come up with so far about is that no matter how much I try, I'll never understand all angles that leads up to this. Still there's one question that remains.

The union is basically saying that it's impossible for them to manage through a career with the hard cap. But what are we really arguing about here? Wouldn't the players make enough to pay for their favorite breakfast cereals? Now I don't know what responsibility that comes with the NBA life and I have nothing against stars that are making big money, but how impossible is it really?

I think we all can agree, Tommy, that no one wants to watch a guy making $60 million not playing because he's out of shape or indifferent. The argument the union makes about a hard cap is that it will have a severe effect on the "middle class" of the NBA. Superstars will get paid in any system, but the players believe a hard cap will mean most of the other players on the team will be fighting for less money, and have fewer guaranteed contracts with which to obtain that money. Agree, disagree, but that's what they think.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and Emmy Award trifecta tickets to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your contribution is especially witty, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might print it!

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$100,000 -- Fine levied against Bobcats owner Michael Jordan for talking to an Australian newspaper about the collective bargaining agreement negotiations .

$55,000,000 -- Income Michael Jordan earned between June, 2009 and June, 2010, according to Forbes magazine.

$4,000,000 -- Amount in damages the Sacramento Kings are seeking in a lawsuit filed against the manufacturer of an exercise ball that guard Francisco Garcia was using in 2009 when he broke his wrist while lifting weights. Garcia was laying on the ball and lifting when the ball burst underneath him, throwing him to the floor. He broke his right wrist and missed 57 games for the Kings that season.

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1) At least we'll still have Bavetta.

2) Rick Adelman made a great hire in adding Bill Bayno to his coaching staff in Minnesota. This is one of the all-time good guys, who has found a calling as an NBA assistant coach. He gave his heart and soul to rehabbing Greg Oden in Ohio the last couple of summers before Oden again got injured last November; I was as heartbroken for Bill as for Greg. He will do great work with and for the Wolves.

3) Great read by the Salt Lake Tribune's Steve Luhm on Jerry Sloan.

4) You know who looked really good at Impact last week? The Sixers' Marreese Speights. He's lost a lot of weight and pounded people inside at will. And the Grizzlies' Josh Selby continued to have a really strong summer with great one-on-one play. I'm not sure how that's going to work when he's playing with his actual teammates, but he can score.

5) Smart move by the Warriors to mend fences with one of their all-time greats, Chris Mullin, by retiring his No. 17 jersey next season. Mullin was ousted as GM in 2009 after losing a power struggle within the organization and it got very, very ugly at the end. But under the new management of Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the Warriors seem to be righting past wrongs.

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1) Sad to hear Steve Javie is retiring as a ref because of chronic knee pain. I covered the infamous "Hoops Game" in 1991 when a then-young and hotheaded Javie, earning his reputation as a talented but incredibly thin-skinned and trigger-happy ref, ejected Bullets coach Wes Unseld and two of his players, Darrell Walker and Pervis Ellison, in the space of 1 minute, 14 seconds during a home game against the Trail Blazers.

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Steve Javie, who began officiating NBA games in 1986, says he will retire.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

He capped the night off by asking that the Bullets' mascot, Hoops, who was riling up the crowd at Capital Centre, to stop coming on the court. The Bullets then had Hoops leave the floor, and everybody thought Javie had ejected him. He hadn't, but it made for a better story.

But instead of being defined by that, Javie became one of the game's best officials, tempering his temper and almost always getting the big calls right.

2) Dave Gavitt was as important to the renaissance of basketball in the 1980s as anyone, including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Gavitt was the driving force behind the creation of the Big East conference in 1979, which brought passion and excitement back to college basketball just when that sport was taking off as a national phenomenon.

The Big East's impact on the pros was just as pronounced with Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova and St. John's becoming powerhouses as those schools sent the likes of Patrick Ewing, Derrick Coleman, Kerry Kittles, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin and others to the NBA. Gavitt, who also helped expand the NCAA Tournament to 64 teams, became a vice president of the Celtics and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, died Friday at the age of 73.

3) My man Prokhorov had a bad week back home.

4) I am changing my name to Metta World Pizza. Mmmmmmm. Pizza.

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Yo, Rook, I break the news around here ...
-- Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (@kevinlove), Monday, 11:19 p.m., responding to teammate Derrick Williams' tweet about the Wolves' hiring of new coach Rick Adelman. Love had actually "broken" the story earlier Monday with his own tweet.

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"I'm not looking out just for the marquee guy, I'm looking out for the guy that dreams of being a professional basketball player and gets a minimum deal. I'm not just trying to protect the guy on a team in a huge market. I'm protecting the player that is in a small market with incredibly loyal fans."
-- National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher, in an open letter to all players obtained last week by SI.com, after reports surfaced that several prominent agents were looking to force a vote on decertifying the union.

"This team is completely different from what I had in Cleveland. In Cleveland, I had a guy who liked to come off the top of the floor, liked to play in space and play pick-and-roll and make plays for others. Here, I've got two guys similar to what we had in San Antonio; you're able to throw them the ball on the block."
-- Lakers coach Mike Brown, to the Orange County Register, on how he envisions ball distribution in Los Angeles going through Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

"I have been blackballed for two years, so these guys are making a big thing out of the lockout. They don't know what locked out is.''
-- Former first-round pick Rashard McCants, in an interview with the Boston Globe, claiming he's currently not in the NBA or fighting for a roster spot because he was on bad teams in Minnesota and Sacramento and cared too much about losing. He said the only person that "thinks like him" is Kobe Bryant, and that he'd only play again if he got to play with Bryant and the Lakers. Ohhhhkay.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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