Tag Archives: David Stern

Deal!!! NBA players, owners reach tentative agreement

NBA players and owners came to their senses during ten-hour settlement talks Friday, and will advance a tentative agreement to their respective memberships for approval.  No, the lockout’s not over, not yet.  But the lawsuits will be withdrawn, the players’ union will reform, and approval of the deal is expected from all parties.

Many reports cite “significant concessions” by the owners.  Whether that happened is highly suspect, considering that objective observers at Yahoo Sports, The New York Times and CBS Sports had weeks ago decided that the divisive issues were relatively minor.

The real issue at stake here was respect.  NBA commissioner David Stern had made too many ultimatums, issued too many deadlines and given us all the high hat.  The players responded by disclaiming interest and filed an anti-trust.  This tentative settlement, ten days later, was more of an apology from the NBA than a compromise. 

Some of the details as reported HERE and HERE:

  • The split of Basketball Related Income was set at a “band” of 49-51 percent.  This reflects the 50-50 agreement that had been previously reached.  One percent will go to the fund for retired players, a nice play by the union and a swell gesture by the owners.  Apology accepted.
  • The “Carmelo Anthony rule” was dropped by the owners.  This would have prevented players from exercising their Larry Bird contract extension rights in “extend-and-trade” deals like the one that sent Anthony from the Nuggets to the Knicks last spring.  It’s very unclear as to why the owners were trying to stop these deals, which amount to a player limiting his own movement in deals that all parties have to agree to.  This was never a sensible bargaining item, and not much of concession.  Shrugs all around.  The OK City Thunder are still stuck with Kendrick Perkins (also an extend-and-trade deal last season).
  • Mid-level Exception (MLE) contracts for teams over the salary cap were set at four years.  The owners had wanted to alternate four-year and three-year deals, but what was the point?   There’s no rule that says a team has to use its MLE at all.  Don’t want a player for four years?  Don’t sign him.  And how was a team limited to three-year deals going to compete with a team that could offer four?  More shrugs at the bargaining table.
  • Sign and trade deals by teams paying luxury tax would be allowed but “limited,” according to reports.  Huh?  These types of deals occur too rarely to figure out what that means.
  • Qualifying offers to restricted free agents would be raised.  Aha.  The Bucks had two restricted free agents, Luc Mbah a Moute and Chris Douglas-Roberts.  Because they were 2nd round draft picks, their pay scale was low and the Bucks only had to commit $1 million to retain their rights to the players.   That’s pretty low risk, especially for Luc, who’s due to get a raise.  The Bucks decided not to retain rights to CDR, despite the low financial commit.  Raising the qualifying offer would not necessarily drive salary higher for a player like Luc, whom the Bucks want to keep.  But it would make it more difficult for teams to restrict players they have little interest in retaining.   Freedom! – but not necessarily for players in high demand.
  • The owners conceded on when to assess the Mid-Level Exception (MLE).  Teams not paying luxury tax will be allowed to use the full $5 million MLE, regardless of whether, on paper, the MLE nudges the team into tax territory.  This keeps any number of improving teams in small and big markets from being penalized as though they were repeat tax offenders like the Lakers and Celtics and Spurs, which is what the owners wanted to do.  I’ve wondered why Herb Kohl or any small market owner agreed to this and questioned whether this was a clause to level the playing field for the luxury tax payers, contrary to the owners’ rhetoric about “competitive balance.”  If the owners actually conceded on this, I can finally stop blogging about it.

“Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!” – Andrew Bogut tweeted this morning.  

“Does the beard and mullet stay or go?” wondered Jon Brockman.

“Es finalmente todo esto verdad o sigo soñando ???”  That was from Carlos Delfino.

Que?

Climbing out of the Abyss: NBA and players’ union lawyers work to save season

The shuttle diplomacy between lawyers for both sides in the broken mess of contract negotiations between NBA players and owners began on Tuesday, continued Wednesday and will resume today on Black Friday.  Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story Wednesday afternoon, right about the time most anybody with hope for a season had given up looking for NBA lockout news until after Thanksgiving weekend.

The talks are aimed trying to resolve differences to the point where union lawyers and leadership can get a handshake deal, re-establish the union, draw up a formal proposal, vote on it and open a 66-game season Christmas Day — a televised feast of showdowns that NBA junkies look forward to every year.

The obstacles are many, and go a long way toward explaining why the players disclaimed the union.

  • Poor leadership by union chief Billy Hunter and union president Derrick Fisher.  They backed down and down again, all the way to a 50-50 split of revenue, and got very little in the way of concessions from the owners.
  • Poor bargaining management by Hunter, Fisher and union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.  Of the six items identified as key negotiating points, only the mid-level exception (MLE) restrictions are highly relevant to player movement.  Does it matter to the vast majority of players how much the league decides to take from the Lakers and give to the Bucks?  Of course not.  Yet Fisher and Hunter put it and four other minor issues on their “A-list.”
  • 30-40 other proposed contract changes by the owners that are still unbargained.  While the union wanted to talk about rarely occurring issues such as sign and trade deals by teams in the luxury tax zone, they agreed to park a host of workplace issues such as drug testing, leaving those for later.
  • A lack of good faith bargaining from the owners.  Had they wanted to secure an agreement Nov. 14, owners would have agreed to at least one saleable concession that might have given the players reason to approve the deal.  Instead, the players saw only smug, insulting press interviews by NBA czar David Stern — who insisted the players vote on a proposal that the union didn’t agree to.  No deal.
  • Personal conflicts among the key negotiators.  Everybody seems to like union prez Fisher but there’s no love lost between Billy Hunter, union lawyer Kessler and commissioner Stern.  Stern and Hunter may have staved off retirement to negotiate one more deal, but their omni-presence has been a PR disaster for the league.  You’d be hard-pressed these days to find an NBA fan who likes the sight of either of them, especially not fans old enough to remember that  Hunter and Stern have been around since the 1980s.  Kessler’s the bad guy whom Hunter and Stern can blame for the acrimony before they retire on the heels of one more deal.  It won’t be true — but if reports that the two sides are making progress without Kessler in the room are true, the lawyer has served his purpose.
  • The double penalty “cliff” proposed by the owners.  The Lakers and Celtics and Mavs would lose their full mid-level exception (MLE – set at $5 million, $3 million for penalized teams), and pay a higher tax rate.  This reduced exception could be used once every two years.  But teams stepping into tax territory for the first time would also be penalized and it would be enforced right away, taking away the full MLE that nudged the team in tax territory.   The Memphis Grizzlies or Milwaukee Bucks would be treated like the Celtics or Lakers, albeit paying a different tax rate.   Does this benefit competitive balance?  It sounds less like something small market owners such as Bucks owner Herb Kohl or Grizzlies (they’d be competitively screwed) owner Michael Heisley wanted and more like a rule that title-contending taxpayers like the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics and Mavs demanded in exchange for agreeing to the double penalty (no – the Heat aren’t paying luxury tax with their roster yet, but this rule will limit what they could pay an MLE free agent).    If you’re looking for the one concession that will lead to a contract agreement, the rules on exacting penalties at the edge of the cliff is it.

Clear as oatmeal, right?  But make no mistake — one reason that small market owners are out to cut player compensation down to 47 percent of league basketball-related income (BRI) is that most of the other negotiating (if you can call it that) items aren’t very meaningful.  Here’s how The New York Times described it:

The parties essentially picked up where they left off Nov. 10, discussing a proposal that includes a 50-50 split of revenue, shorter contracts and tougher spending restrictions. The players rejected that deal, but on the basis of a half-dozen mechanical issues which, in the grander scheme, are fairly minor. They have already conditionally agreed to the 50-50 split and most of the new payroll restrictions.

It should be noted that the owners have made sure not to be too hard on themselves in these negotiations.  The 12% cut to the salary cap and luxury threshold won’t go into effect until the 2013-14 season.  And behind all of this has been an agreed-upon amnesty clause that would give teams a one-time “get-out-of-our-worst-mistake” card.  The player would be released with pay, of course, but his contract would not count against the salary cap number.

Gilbert Arenas (Magic), Baron Davis (Cavs), Mike Miller (Heat) — this means you.  For the Bucks that could mean Drew Gooden, whose contract won’t look so tradeable in 2013-14 when the salary cap and luxury threshold would be lowered 12%.

To boot, either side could opt out of the previously proposed ten-year deal after six years when a new TV deal will be in place.

The lawyers have called Derrick Fisher to New YorkA deal may finally be in the works.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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“Disclaimer of Interest”: NBA players’ union walks away from the bargaining table

They gave, gave again and gave back some more, earning little in the way of contract concessions from NBA owners.   Something had to give and this time it wasn’t going to be the players of the NBA.

The 30 NBA players’ union representatives met today in New York and voted unanimously to file a “disclaimer of interest” notice to the league and its owners, putting an end to a collective bargaining process that led nowhere and had finally broken down. They didn’t really have a choice given the intractability of the league on a number of contract items of debatable importance to parties on both sides.

In addition, it was revealed last weak that 30-40 other, “B-list” items remained unbargained, a problem that doomed the latest incomplete league proposal before it was presented.  Further rumblings suggested that NBA commissioner David Stern lacked the needed support from owners on the latest proposal.

Somebody had to end this mockery to collective bargaining, and that’s what the players did today in the speediest manner available to them.  The incomplete and unbargained deal is in the trash.  The players union has walked out of the bargaining room for good and will take their chances in the New York branch of* the federal courts.

It was the only self-respecting thing they could have done.

ED. NOTE:  Players filed suit in Oakland, Calif., and Minnesota.  The Oakland case was moved to San Francisco Friday.

Negotiating Nowhere: How the NBA players’ union unbargained itself to the edge of the abyss

First, a definition of terms.

1) Abyss:  Whereby the 2011-12 NBA season is lost and the union decertifies and/or fires union heads Billy Hunter and Derrick Fisher.

2) Negotiating/Collective bargaining:  The process in which workers, constitutionally certified as a bargaining unit and their employers hammer out a contract that stipulates wages, benefits, workplace conditions, disciplinary process, sick day and attendance policies, grievance procedure, hiring/firing rules, drug testing/substance abuse policy, seniority and severance pay rules, and other agreed upon workplace issues.

3) Unbargained or unbargaining:  The process in which workers and their employers meet, talk and talk, and fail to hammer out a contract on most of the workplace items noted above.

Now digest the following note from The New York Times report on the current status of NBA player-owner negotiations:

It is unclear whether the union could call for a full membership vote, since the deal is technically not complete; there are 30 to 40 “B-list” items – such as drug testing, player discipline and days off — that have yet to be negotiated.

That’s a troubling note, raising serious questions about what the NBA and the players union have been talking about ad nauseum for the last two months – and 23 hours this week when Commissioner David Stern let on to the media that there was a laundry list of issues to discuss other than the previously identified “A-list” issues.

Sure, there’s been a lot of posturing about those “A-list items — the all-important split of basketball related income (BRI) as well as some “system” and “competitive balance” issues that are not as important, systemic or balancing as Fisher and Hunter and the league made them out to be.*

While all parties involved were busy posturing, it apparently didn’t occur to anyone to bargain on anything else.

Whether a vote of the full membership now is possible, however, is much clearer than The NY Times suggests.  Yes, union membership can vote on an incomplete agreement, and there is often little legal recourse if items change in the final contract, according to the site UnionDemocracy.org.

It’s a trust thing.  Membership trusts its elected leaders and bargaining team leaders to do the right thing and communicate the important changes to the contract.  Other member ratification rights and voting rules are outlined in each union’s constitution, on file with the federal government.  If union leadership betrays that trust, the law says it’s not the employers problem and the contract typically stands until the next bargaining opportunity.

The problem here is that the NBA membership is not likely to appreciate voting on an incomplete agreement, especially not after Fisher and his bargaining team backed all the way down to a 50-50 split on BRI — and failed to win big concessions to trumpet to the 450-member players association.  You don’t need a Harvard Law degree to understand that more unbargained contract items mean less chance of approval, or that no meaningful concessions are a hard sell.

This was a grave miscalculation by Hunter and Fisher, who are being picked on here — instead of the owners — because Hunter and Fisher accomplished so little during negotiations.

Here we have one monumental change — players will get 50% of BRI instead of the current 57%.  Unfortunately for Fisher and Hunter, the owners refused to back down on the one free agency issue that would have benefited improving small and medium market teams — the ability to nudge into luxury tax land while using the full $5 million MLE.  According to CBS Sports, the amount available to sign a free agent would be the reduced $3 million MLE, certainly not the end of the world for smaller market teams but a nice equalizer for big spenders like the Lakers.

(See Hoopshype 2011-12 team salaries page).

This could be an immediate problem for the Miami Heat (payroll $5 million under the luxury limit), the Hawks and Trailblazers; and a problem for many teams, Milwaukee Bucks included, when the 50% cap goes into effect.

Right now, it’s a problem for Hunter and Fisher and everyone who cares whether there is an NBA season this year.  The union leadership allowed the owners to back them to the edge of the abyss, failed to get solid concessions and then allowed a woefully incomplete contract proposal to be presented to their members via player agents and the media.

“Trust us.  This was the best we could do,” they might be saying to members and their player reps.

“How quickly does Billy (Hunter) get fired after we sign this bullshit,” one veteran player texted to Yahoo NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.

NBA player reps will decide on Monday-Tuesday whether to go to a full membership vote on Hunter and Fisher’s largely unbargained contract mess.

Bullshit better fly.
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*Note:  The actual impact of the much-discussed “A-List’ system issues is debatable with the one notable exception discussed above on the MLE vs. luxury tax calculation, which does impact competitive balance and the free agent market.  Hunter and Fisher couldn’t win this concession.  Under the owners’ proposal small market teams would not be able to improvea without being treated like repeat tax offenders (Lakers, Celtics currently).  This is being referred to as a “tax cliff.”

The other “A-List” items are all fairly minor, considering that repeat tax offenders have been rare in the history of the current cap rules (since 2005).   (See Hoopshype salaries page).  Luxury tax revenue sharing doesn’t impact competitive balance on the court.  Sign and trade deals are rare.  Big spenders will still have an MLE.  Etc. etc. etc.  

Other than the 50-50 split on BRI, there’s not much new here for either the Miami’s or Milwaukee’s of the NBA.  No, the new proposal is not worse than the last one, as some agents are suggesting.  But hey — if they don’t like it, either party can opt out after six years. Not much of a selling point but the best card Fisher and Hunter managed to negotiate for their members.

To be continued …

Is a deal between NBA players and owners finally brewing?

Today was the day.  The day NBA commissioner David Stern set as a deadline for the players to accept the owners’ most recent offer or contend with a new, less favorable proposal that cut the players’ share of revenue to 47 percent.

The players on Tuesday said they couldn’t accept the owners’ offer, but said they would lower their revenue split proposal to 50 percent, IF …   If they could get the owners back to the table to negotiate on other issues, such as the mid-level salary cap exception (the infamous MLE), penalties for big spending teams over the cap and other issues impacting free agent movement.

It worked.  As of 5:45 PM Central, the two sides have let Stern’s “deadline pass” and are at the negotiating table, talking.  (The deadline was 6:00 PM central.)  The hope is that they’re doing more than talking and reiterating their positions, and are actually negotiating.   If they are — a big IF — today could be the day this lockout ends.

The scuttlebutt this week has been that a deal is imminent, and that the threat of a new, harsher proposal from the owners was a ploy to get the players’ moving their offer, and get it moving now.   It seems to have worked.

Still, I’m sceptical that the owners will move all that much on the free agency issues for big spending teams over the salary cap.  If exceptions are allowed (the MLE) without stiff penalties for the big spenders, what’s the point?

And if small market owners such as the Bucks’ Herb Kohl are serious about competitive balance, what’s the point of fining, say, the New York and Los Angeles teams?   That would put money in small market pockets but wouldn’t necessarily impact play on the court.

And to a man, regardless of market, NBA owners have money to burn.

6:05PM Central … they’re still talking.

Contrary to some reports, the NBA’s most recent offer is still on the table.

The New York Times sounds hopeful, headlining a “possible breakthrough.”

One Meeting, One Time: Lockout Looms

It’s come to this.  The NBA owners and players will meet later today to try one more time — not to get a deal — but to make significant progress in their negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

There is no rule or law that says there has to be a work stoppage.  Both sides could continue on under the old CBA while they work to forge a new one.  The players won’t strike, and won’t even take the owners to court so long as the two sides are talking.  And the owners don’t have to lock the doors.

The best hope right now is that the owners decide they’d rather keep talking than lock the doors after a fantastic NBA Finals that set TV ratings records (in the cable age, at least).

But it doesn’t sound good.  The Associated Press is reporting the following:

There was an informal vote taken in the players’ meeting last Thursday in New York, where an overwhelming majority of the room insisted they would go the distance with the union. The owners want rollbacks on existing contracts, a hard salary cap and provisions that make owning and operating a profitable franchise a paint-by-numbers enterprise. The NBA and union will meet one final time on Thursday before a lockout comes on July 1, and there are many on the players’ side who wonder why they’ll even bother.

“Just look at the proposal the owners have made: How do you expect anyone to respond to that in good faith?” agent Mark Bartelstein said. “It’s laughable. GMs around the league have acknowledged that to me. Every GM has acknowledged that there’s nowhere for the players to go with what’s been proposed by the owners.

“The system doesn’t work for the players now, because it’s so restrictive. It doesn’t work for the owners because they’ve made a lot of bad decisions. That’s the reality. This is a horrible system for the NBA player, incredibly restrictive in every way you look at it. If the NBA owners can’t be successful in this system, blame that on nothing but poor management.”

Maybe the agents should shut up and stay out of it.  But their bread is buttered by the continuation of business, so what well-minded agent would stay out of it?  They have a role and they certainly talk to more of the league’s GMs than I do.

But I can say with strong confidence that I’ve been involved in more collective bargaining negotiations than most sports agents.  These days, employees do not get locked out.   The workforce doesn’t walk out and set up a 24-hour picket.  While the two sides in almost every contract negotiations negotiate, business continues until the differences are sorted out.

Or until the company heads to the deep South or Mexico, where there are no labor unions and management can do what it pleases in the “right to screw your employees environment.”

The NBA, of course, is not going anywhere.

And its employees (the players) are not going to strike.

So our best hope is that the owners realize that their product is better now than it’s been in over a decade, that the American and worldwide audience has registered and verified its interest in the product, and that business should continue while progress is being made.

It’s the American way these days.  It works.  It works every time.  Now we just need to see enough progress today to ensure that the owners see the folly of shutting down the game, even for a little while.

Shaq retires … for now, and with him goes the good humor he brought to the humorless, post-Jordan days of the NBA

It’s really true, and as a part-time Celtics fan I can’t help but be disappointed.  Shaquille O’Neal, when healthy (which wasn’t often this season) made the Celtics better, more formidable in the paint.

The Celtics were surprised by Shaq’s Twitter announcement and maybe we should be, too.

More than anything, Shaq changed the C’s demeanor.  No more were they the team of Kendrick Perkins‘ scowl and Kevin Garnett‘s gesticulations.  They were big as a Diesel, no doubt about it, and the Diesel delivered on the court — leading the Celtics in defensive impact (a 2.84 ezPM score) while snatching 4.8 rebs per game and scoring 9.2 points per game in just 20 minutes.

And he may return once the league’s labor dispute is settled, when the race for the 2012 playoffs is on — when we most need an old star to tweak Lebron James’ all-business, all-defense, “all-me”-this-ain’t-funny-even-if-we-win, facade.  Shaq’s got some game in him left, and a little Brett Favre in him, too — evidenced by this Twitter announcement during the NBA Finals, moments that belong to Lebron and Dirk, and that’s not a criticism of Favre or Shaq.  Jordan or Bird or Magic might have done something similar.

Shaq’s NBA in the post-Jordan dark days was not as competitive as the current league, and the Lakers three-pete (2000-2002) was often controversial and marred by questionable refereeing — yet Shaq was the face that managed to win over new converts even as so many fouled on it all.

No, Shaq’s era was not filled with the league’s finer moments, and if there were fine moments, those belonged to Jordan or Hakeem or Duncan and Robinson, even Sam Cassell (with the Rockets, Bucks and T-Wolves).  Through it all, however, the largess of Shaq and his steadily improving post game remained the point of departure for many fans.  Like it, be awed by it, shrug it off as freak of nature performance that made NBA hardwoods less than level, even the casual NBA fan had to consider all that was Shaq as he joked his way through press conferences.

Shaq’s Lakers set the NBA mark for best record in the playoffs (15-1) but, due to one of the most crookedly refereed series’ in NBA history (Sixers-Bucks 2001), they never had to face in the Finals the team they couldn’t beat that season:  The Sam Cassell, Glen “Big Dog” Robinson, Ray Allen “Big Three” Bucks coached by George Karl.

The following season, the 2002 seven-game Western conference Final between the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings was nearly as crooked as the 2001 Bucks-Sixers series, only more of the public was watching.  The smugness of Kobe Bryant and Lakers coach Phil Jackson emerged as sorry emblems for a league that seemed to have lost its way under the influence of its Emperor Palpatine-like commissioner, David Stern.  They let the big fella down.  So the big fella walked away.

(Edit addition:  In his new book, Shaq Uncut: My Story, Shaq divulges some detail behind his longstanding fued with Kobe. Deadspin has some excerpts.)

Shaq’s rebellion won over many of us NBA fans in flyover midlands country, and as he turned his back on them, he nagged Kobe’s self-centered game, defying Jackson and Stern, foiling the L.A. dynasty.  The  championship he won in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning stands as Shaq’s emphatic signature on a Hall of Fame career — four-time champion, MVP, good teammate, joker, prankster, plentiful tipper of bellhops, barmaids, waitresses and food delivery workers all over America

We the people liked him for it in the end, a difficult and unlikely achievement considering the general bad mood of the casual NBA fan.

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For Bucks fans, Shaq and his Lakers will primarily be a “what if” — an opportunity and great NBA Finals series denied in 2001.  But there is another connection (which was the original intent of this post about a thousand words ago) that involves one of Shaq’s favorite teammates and longtime friend, Bucks coach Scott Skiles; and Skiles’ longtime friend, former Orlando Magic teammate and former Bucks head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

Yes, this is the fight documentary, one of the better NBA practice brawl stories you’ll ever hear, involving two scrappy old-school player wanna-bes and their young superstar.  Yes, the best Shaq stories were told before Twitter and Youtube and Facebook …

The year: 1994

The stage: Magic practice floor on the road in Los Angeles.

Our narrator: Larry Krystkowiak, Magic reserve power forward.

The combatants: A young Shaquille O’Neal, Magic center; Krsytkowiak; Scott Skiles, Magic point guard.

The action: “Haymakers” thrown, Skiles “sorta” in a headlock, wrapped around Shaq, mayhem.

The instigator: Scott Skiles, of course.

The result: One of the wildest NBA practice fights on record, and mutual admiration society between Skiles and Shaq.  Continued friendship between Skiles and Krystkowiak. Shaq and Krystkowiak?  No hard feelings, respect. The Magic went on to win 50 games that season, Shaq’s second in the NBA.

Krystkowiak tells it far better than anybody. Here’s the LINK to Krystkowiak’s account, by ESPN writer Chris Sheridan.

Imagine Krystkowiak’s surprise when, in the 2007-08 season, Bucks power forward Charlie Villanueva backed down from a fight challenge — from Krystkowiak — during a Bucks practice.  The NBA had changed.  Yet it’s a better game today because players like Shaq and Skiles and Krystkowiak simply never bothered to.

Is 2011 the year Andrew Bogut finally makes the NBA All-Star team?

Last year he was snubbed.  First by the Eastern conference coaches, some of them anyway, content to name Hawks big forward Al Horford as the East’s reserve center.  Then Commissioner David Stern took his turn, choosing the Knicks’ David Lee over Bogut to replace injured Kevin Garnett, a nod to New York the media market as much as it was to Lee’s scoring and rebounding numbers.

Milwaukee’s just too damn small.  If Bogut was outplaying Lee and scoring 22 on a Friday night in November, nobody noticed.   If All-Star is about winning, the Knicks hadn’t, and still haven’t taken a game against the Bucks since March of 2009.

The Bucks did win — 30 of their last 43 games last season and a run to a seven-game series against the Hawks.  They were 40-29 with Bogut in the lineup in 2010, before his horrific fall last March, resulting in a broken, mangled arm and the end of Bogut’s best season as a pro.

The scoring was there, above average if not All-Star:  15.9 pts per game on 52 % shooting.

The defense, for those who care about defense, was superlative.  Bogut last season led the NBA in Defensive Plays, with 3.82 blocked shots, steals and charges taken per game.  He was second to Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in blocked shots (2.5 per game) and Defensive Rating (98.1 team points allowed per 100 possessions).

Add 10.2 rebounds and it was good enough for the All-NBA 3rd Team.

This season, Bogut again leads the NBA in Defensive Plays with a low estimate of 3.7 per game (the charges taken not accounted for), leads the NBA in shot blocking (2.8 bpg) and is 6th in Defensive Rating.  Is it enough to get him to the All-Star game?

His 13.4 points per game say “no” — but his 11.7 rebounds per game (5th in the NBA) say, “yes.”

But those are merely the stats.  Bogut is not only the anchor of the Bucks defense but the heart and soul of a team that has in 2011 been ravaged by injuries while playing the most difficult schedule in the NBA, based on opponent record.   They’ve won 19, lost 27 but are just a half game out of a playoff spot in the East and closing, looking up at teams that have played much softer schedules.  Bogut is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

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As the NBA reached the late January halfway mark and prepared to unveil the 2011 All-Star starters, the Bucks turned in a horrendous 2nd quarter in Chicago, were never really in the game afterward and found themselves at their lowest point, a 16-26 record, 13.5 games behind the Bulls.  They desperately needed to make a statement that their 2011 season wasn’t over, and they made it the following night in Milwaukee, beating the Atlanta Hawks, 98-90.

There were no earth shattering, SportsCenter highlight dunks from Bogut in the victory, but he hauled in 14 rebounds and took a charge and blocked a shot that turned the momentum the Bucks way at the end of the second quarter.  In the 4th, when the game was on the line, the Bucks limited the Hawks to 1 for 14 shooting for 9 minutes and held them to 15 points in the quarter.  The 2nd quarter block and ensuing fast break would find its place on the NBA highlight reels for the week, a fitting statement for the defense-first season Bogut has had.

Defense wins games, and a center’s job is to anchor the defense and control the traffic in the paint.  Among NBA centers, Bogut has only defensive rival:  the Magic’s Howard, of course, perennial All-Star and the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year.  Honors aside, Howard and Bogut have a lot in common:  They are true centers in a league that has drifted to the 3-point line, and they are established defensive forces on the basketball court.

Unfortunately, the matter of “what’s a center?” is not resolved in the All-Star selection system.  Horford and other “centers” such as Lee, Andrea Bargnani and Marcus Camby, log most of their minutes at power forward, especially when matched up against a Bogut or Howard.  The coaches must name one reserve center on the conference All-Star teams, and, as evidenced by last season’s vote for Horford, the reserve center doesn’t have to be a full time center.

“[Bogut]’s probably more of a true center than a lot of the other guys that people have talked about at that position,” said Howard’s coach, Stan Van Gundy, last season after Bogut was snubbed.  “Most of them are power forwards playing up a position, while he’s like Dwight, more of a true center.  I don’t think there’s any question he’s an all-star caliber guy. But when you’re picking 24 guys out of 400 in the league, it gets difficult.”

There is competition for the East’s All-Star reserve spot.  Shaquille O’Neal, still “The Diesel” in limited minutes for the East-leading Celtics, was second in fan voting, due largely to both the largess of Shaq and the Celtics’ East-leading record.  Bulls center Joakim Noah, third in the fan voting, was off to a strong start with the Bulls before a broken hand sidelined him until after the All-Star break.

Roy Hibbert was scoring 16 points per game for the Pacers early in the season but has tapered off.  Brook Lopez of the Nets is scoring 18+ points per game, but the Nets are losing and Lopez can’t seem to grab a rebound (only 6 per game, half of Bogut and Howard’s haul).  The Raptors Andrea Bargnani scores 21.4 pts per game but spends an awful lot of time far outside the paint — he’s actually list in most places as a forward.

That leaves Bogut, 4th in fan voting, his scoring down (12.9 ppg) this season as he slowly makes his way back to 100% after last season’s injury.  Bogut, whose Bucks aren’t winning as much as most preseason prognosticators had predicted.  Bogut, the 3rd Team All-NBA center after last season, the 11th leading vote getter in the All-NBA balloting.

Bogut, leading the league in blocked shots and Defensive Plays, and one of the league’s top 5 rebounders.  Howard, of course, is top 5 in those categories, and is an All-Star.  He’ll start the 2011 game at center.

Not to say that Horford does not deserve All-Star recognition (he does, moreso than any other Hawk), but Horford is not in the top 10 in any of those categories.  But then, Al Horford is not a center.

In the NBA, circa 2011, Andrew Bogut is a center.  As a center plying his trade in the Eastern Conference, he’s earned the honor of backing up Dwight Howard at the 2011 All-Star game.

That beer money PO Box and other migraines

We’re still working hard to emigrate the Bob Boozer Jinx archive over to its new home here at BobBoozerJinx.com. The corporate directors have even decided that it’s OK for me to take a break and go watch the Super Bowl.

Before I head out for an evening of football, I do have to make an important announcement regarding the P.O. box to which you’ve all been sending beer money. If your mail has been returned “undeliverable”, this was due to an administrative error in setting up the box, not because the P.O. box was yet another hoax perpetrated by yours truly. Seems that although you and I still get mail from previous tenants at our homes and apartments, postal service will not deliver mail to unregistered “tenants” of a P.O. box.

Who knew? Well, I do now. Point being, said problem has been fixed — it is now safe to resend all that beer money that the post office returned to you. And safe to send more!
So, Bogues, once you get over that migraine that hit you in NY, feel free to resend that check or money order to:

Send beer money, please!The Bob Boozer Jinx c/o J.D. Mo

P.O. Box 510624

Milwaukee, WI 53203

Bogues, I hereby solemnly swear to use this donation in the spirit in which it was given by drinking Foster’s or other Australian beer while watching your Bucks.

Bogut led the Bucks with 21 Saturday despite being slowed by the migraine. By now Pacers coach Jim O’Brien should be a convert to the Bogut All-Star crusade: In the Bucks first game vs. the Pacers, AB led the Bucks with 31 pts, 18 rebs and 3 blks. That’s an average of 26 pts and 13 rebs vs. O’Brien’s Pacers this season (Bucks are 2-0).

With another victory over the Knicks Friday, the Bucks went to 5-1 vs. the Knicks since Scott Skiles became Bucks coach and Mike D’Antoni took over in NY. The Skiles Bucks have never lost to D’Antoni’s Knicks when Bogut suits up. This time, AB played only a few minutes in the first quarter and hit all three of shots before leaving the game with one of those migraines that cripple him at least once per season. Ouch.

The Knicks really don’t like to play defense, and that starts with their coach and his run-and-gun philosophy. It’s fun to watch but worked best when Steve Nash was running the D’Antoni show. Remember that D’Antoni was fired in Phoenix in large part because his no-D system failed time and again to get the Suns through the West playoffs.

NBA Commissioner David Stern did his Yoda imitation in NY this weekend, then flipped off the players union.Labor-management strife. Looks the owners are going to play hardball with the next collective bargaining agreement. Much of what’s being said now is probably posturing. Some of it, however, is probably not.

Like Commissioner Stern’s “middle finger,” as one NBA executive put it.

The non-controvers-Yi of Yi’s rookie year

Yi with Commissioner David Stern on draft day.It all seemed so controversial last summer. Bucks management trapsing all over the world to track down their 1st round draft pick, Yi Jianlian, whose handlers would have prefered he play on the West Coast, or anywhere but here.

Yi was promised a starting position, ESPN reported. No he wasn’t Bucks GM Larry Harris lied – I mean replied. Bucks fans worried that the team had wasted the #6 pick on a guy that didn’t want to play.

The season started with Yi in the starting lineup, playing 30 minutes a game. Charlie Villanueva was relegated to reserve role and did a spectacularly bad job of it. By the end of December, Seattle’s Kevin Durant, the rookie of the year and #2 pick, was the only rookie scoring more than Yi, and only #3 pick, Atlanta center Al Horford, was rebounding more. Yi was leading them all with a .503 shooting percentage. Yi was named T-Mobile Rookie of the Month in the Eastern Conference for December, and had filled it up for 29 against Charlotte (a win) on the 22nd.

But there was a problem: The Bucks were 18-30 with Yi as a starter. On Feb. 9 — Game 49 — Larry Krystkowiak moved Yi to the bench and started Charlie V.



But there was a problem: The Bucks lost at an even faster rate, going 8-25 in games that Yi did not start or did not play (he missed half of them) the rest of the way. (Yi did start one more game in February, a loss).

This week, the NBA coaches left Yi off the 1st and 2nd team All-NBA rookie teams, though Yi did receive 13 votes in the process. (A first team selection gets 2 points; a second team selection gets one point). That means that nearly half of the 29 voting coaches (coaches can’t vote for their own players) thought Yi was good enough for second team, assuming no one voted Yi on the first team. That’s nearly not half bad.

Watching a 6’11” guy run the floor better than Tracy McGrady and shoot jumpers with Ray-Allen-perfect form wasn’t half bad either. Watching Yi get pushed around as he tried to box out for rebounds was not so good. Even worse was Yi flashing to open spots and being routinely ignored by Michael Redd and Mo Williams. There was a mean chill on this Bucks team; you had to be at the games to see it.

I was impressed with Yi — and I admit, I was hoping to be impressed. He wanted to run the floor. Yet no one on the Bucks was ready to run except Mo Williams. (Dez Mason was out the first few games I attended; Yi was out the last couple). On offense, the ball didn’t move — Redd held it, waited, palmed it, waited for everyone to stop, then drove into traffic. As a team, they couldn’t get uncontested shots. Mo could, easily enough, but only for himself. In a game against New Jersey, at halftime Yi and Bogut had six points combined.

After a few trips to the BC, it stopped mattering to me whether the Bucks should have drafted Jeff Green or one of the Florida players, Noah or Brewer, instead of Yi. After Greg Oden, Durant and Al Horford, it didn’t matter. The way the Bucks were playing, it didn’t matter. So the kid from China didn’t want to play in Milwaukee. Who in their right mind would want to suffer on the 2007-08 Bucks? Scola? No. Carl Landry, who grew up here and went to Vincent? Alright, Landry would probably love to play for the Bucks, no matter the circumstances.

I did come to the conclusion that Yi should have been coming off the bench. If the Bucks couldn’t do anything else well, at least Krystkowiak should have commited the team to rebounding. Charlie V last season was better help for Bogut under the boards, and should have been the starter at power forward. Both big forwards could have played 30 minutes, with Yi playing about ten minutes at small forward, posting up his defender.

But it didn’t matter. The Bucks lost more when Charlie was starting. Sometimes Charlie felt like rebounding, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he played as though all he cared about was proving that he could score just as much, if not more, than “Michael” and look better doing it. Call it the Mo Williams syndrome. By April, Yi, Mo and Charlie all seemed perfectly happy sitting in their tailor-made suits, riding out the bad vibes of the season on the end of the bench.

GM John Hammond has enthusiastically called Yi “a keeper” an “asset” and in a lengthy interview in the Racine Journal Times Sunday, said Bogut and Yi are: “two, very good young pieces … that you can build around. Bigs are so hard to find. The Boguts and the Yis … it would be awfully hard to move guys like that.”

Bogut said this about Yi in his most recent interview with Journal Sentinel:

“To have him at the 4 (power forward) and shoot the ball the way he does, that’s his main role, and I think he’s done a great job with it,” Bogut said. “I think he can spread the defense. But once he gets more aggressive, I think he needs to work on putting the ball on the floor and trying to get to the basket.

“He’s as athletic as anybody I’ve seen. Ballhandling will be a key factor for him, working in the off-season. If he gets that down, he’ll be a much more productive guy. Guys are scouting him and trying to make him put the ball on the floor.

“It’s kind of tough, adjusting to NBA guys who are much quicker than you’re used to. It’s just getting strong hands, and I think he’ll be fine. His work ethic is unbelievable, and he’ll be in the gym every day this summer.”


Sounds good to me. The NBA season is sometimes just a snapshot of basketball in time that doesn’t carry over into the playoffs or the next season. The All-Rookie team presents one of these snapshots for the league; it’s camera failed to capture the ups and downs of Yi’s first season, just as it failed to capture how well Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey played in Game 5 against Orlando last night (Stuckey missed the All-Rookie 1st team but made the 2nd).

There’s no real controvers-Yi to find here. And no reason to doubt the hope that Yi will be much-improved next season.