NBA AM: Dwight Howard Or Chris Paul?
Dwight Howard and Chris Paul: The two jewels of the 2012 NBA Free Agent class are without a question Orlando’s Dwight Howard and New Orleans’ Chris Paul. New Jersey’s Deron Williams would be the consolation prize in what some hope will be a three-horse race in July of 2012, assuming all three opt-out of their current deals.
There are a couple of things worth noting about all three players.
Orlando’s Dwight Howard does not want to leave Orlando.
What Dwight wants is for the Magic to make the changes necessary for him to compete for a championship every season of his career. As of late the Magic have made one bad decision after the next and that’s the only reason there is uncertainty in Dwight’s future.
If the Magic can pull a few rabbits out of their hat when the season opens keeping Howard is not the stretch some have painted it to be. Add in the idea that whatever labor deal is agreed upon between the owners and the players is going to contain some kind of Franchise Incentive for a player to stay in his current market.
If the Magic can make a few roster adjustments and the money is a landslide in Orlando direction, it’s far more likely they keep Howard than lose him.
In New Orleans’ case the situation is a little different. Like Howard, Chris Paul loves New Orleans. He has been embraced by the city and speaks frequently about how settled and comfortable his family is.
That said, keeping Paul in New Orleans won’t be as much about the roster as you might think, mainly because the Hornets are in a very good position cap wise and should have the flexibility to add to Paul.
The biggest concern from Paul’s camp is what the franchise is really committed to.
This time last year there were rampant rumors of Paul demanding a trade from the Hornets mainly because he doubted the team’s commitment to building a championship contender.
Mid-season the Hornets were sold to the NBA, further clouding the future of the team.
While new management in Dell Demps speaks frequently of championships, as does head coach Monty Williams, until a tangible owner is present to guide the team and establish a direction there is doubt among Paul’s camp about what’s really important in New Orleans.
Some have said Paul would never commit to a team content with being a playoff team and right now, that’s where New Orleans finds itself.
NBA Commissioner David Stern says there have been several suitors who want to own the Hornets and keep them in New Orleans, so the first order of business after reaching a labor deal with the players should be finding an owner for the team.
As long as the NBA owns the Hornets there is a real chance Chris Paul looks for stability elsewhere. This is not just because of the complexity of the NBA owning the team - frankly the league has been totally hands off on the operations side - but mainly because Paul genuinely loves new Orleans and wants to see it succeed. Until an owner is physically in place the future of the franchise in New Orleans is still very fluid.
Paul likes his management. Chris believes in his coaches and genuinely likes the makeup of the roster. As long as the team continues to compete for players, they have a shot at keeping Paul in town, but more than anything they need to find an owner before Chris has to make his decision.
As for Deron Williams, there is a truth to the situation in New Jersey that no one wants to admit: Deron Williams is likely gone in 2012.
The only saving grace for the New Jersey Nets is they may be able to pay Deron a lot more money to stay in Jersey than anyone can pay him to leave and sources close to Deron say that matters a lot.
For the Nets to remove the cloud of doubt, they are going to have to make some splashy moves, but the truth of it is that of the three players leading the 2012 Free Agent class, Deron Williams might be the most obtainable.
Most of this is not New Jersey’s fault. The franchise is headed in a much better direction and Deron has admitted that.
Ownership and management tried to actively engage him, prior to the lockout, in filling out the roster with players Deron would like to play with, so he is really getting a chance to build his own situation.
The problem is the abrupt and sudden trade from Utah really took the romance out of the game for Deron and then he was thrust into a losing situation in New Jersey which has made him look more at the business side than the basketball side.
The last thing you want a player thinking about coming into free agency is how much of a business this league is and that’s what’s going to hurt New Jersey the most – Deron’s indifference to the Nets.
The good news for New Jersey is they will have a chance to romance Deron a little, to showcase that new arena in Brooklyn and plaster his face all over the city. But the truth is that if there is not a Franchise provision that allows the team to overpay Deron, he is one of the few players that might take a little less money to be part of the Miami HEAT or to be the new face of the L.A. Lakers at point guard.
A lot will happen between now and July of 2012, but if you were a betting on the 2012 horses put your money on Dwight staying in Orlando, put Chris Paul’s future on an impassioned owner buying the Hornets and that Deron Williams might be the guy that most obtainable unless Mickael Prokhorov can get him to fall in love with Brooklyn.
However the game changer for everyone could be a Franchise provision that allows the home team to get silly with money to keep their own player.
More Basketball In Canada: For the NFL fans in the room the idea of the Canadian Football League is more of a joke, however in Canada its primetime and big business, so it’s no surprise that enterprising investors are looking to recreate in the basketball space with the CFL has done in the football space.
An upstart three-team league at its inception, calling itself the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) will begin play in late October. The league launched featuring just three teams: the Saint John Mill Rats, Halifax Rainmen and Quebec Kebs, which have all played in either the American Basketball Association (ABA) or the Premier Basketball League (PBL).
The idea behind the league is to give Canadian basketball players a place to continue playing after they exhaust their collegiate eligibility and create options at home versus heading to Europe or China.
There are a few Canadian-born NBA players, with Phoenix Suns’ guard Steve Nash being the poster boy; however Joel Anthony, Samuel Dalembert (Canadian citizen born in Haiti), Andy Rautins and 2011 fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson are all from Canada.
Since its inception the NBLC has approved four expansion franchises in Moncton (New Brunswick), Oshawa (Ontario), London (Ontario), and Prince Edward Island.
The league has established a salary cap of $150,000 per franchise, so it’s not as if NBA players will be jumping ship for this new league, but it does create an interesting opportunity for development, especially for Canadian born players.
The first game of the new season is set to kick off on October 29th.
More basketball in Canada is a good thing. Here is hoping the organizers get the support from the local fans to make this a sustained business.
For more information on the NBLC head to their website: http://www.nblcanada.ca
Working The System: While the Chinese Basketball Association has ruled its member teams may not enter into contracts with NBA players still under contract to NBA teams, they can work the system a little.
The Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons have been in pursuit of Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant and had actually reached the framework of a deal only to have the concept nixed by the CBA.
The loophole uncovered is that while Chinese teams cannot sign under contract NBA players for their regular season, they can sign NBA players for exhibition games and scrimmages; something Shanxi Zhongyu seems interested in exploring.
The play for many of these international teams is not so much that the NBA players they are signing will ever play meaningful games. Many of them are exploring deals with major NBA stars because of the publicity and fanfare a signing causes, especially among advertisers.
Besiktas ColaTurka, who signed Deron Williams last month, did so knowing full well he may never put on a ColaTurka jersey. In fact sources close to the situation say that Williams deal will be fully funded by an advertiser, who is only on the hook if Williams plays.
ColaTurka had a similar deal in place for Kobe Bryant, but his camp turned down their overtures after two days of meetings.
There are a few international situations worth paying attention to, especially as it pertains to Euroleague qualifiers.
The Euroleague qualifier tournament has several slots that are “play-in slots”, meaning teams earn their way into the Euroleague each year by virtue of first and second place finishes in an early season tournament.
There are a number of fringe international teams that are offering deals to mid-level NBA guys specifically for the purposes of getting into the Euroleague this year by way of the qualifier in mid-September.
Alba Berline, Asvel Basket, KK Buducnost, Le Mans, Bavit BK, BC Khimki, Pepsi Caserta, Budivelnik of Ukraine, KK Hemofarm, Hapoel Galil, Unics Kazan, Gasterra Flames, Cez Nymburk and Spirou Basket are all vying for two Euroleague spots this year.
A total of 15 teams from 12 countries will play in the home and away formatted tournament that ends in early October and there are some teams that have offered NBA players up to $20,000 a month to help anchor a win.
Given the timetable of the qualifier, if labor talks between the Players and The Owners don’t resume quickly, don’t be surprised if some named players try and scoop up some extra cash for what may amount to less than a month’s worth of work.
Goodman and Drew Leagues? By now you have likely heard about the Goodman League and the Drew League, they have become a barnstorming pickup sensation with NBA players representing their various cities in head to head tournament play.
If you have attended one of these events, you likely noticed pretty quickly that the organizers are making this up as they go, and while money is being generated and big dreams are being talked about, at this point capitalizing on Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant hasn’t gone exactly as planned.
The Drew League, which is comprised of players from Los Angeles has featured Kobe Bryant, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings and Craig Smith to name a few.
Typically players suit up for a couple of games to get in a good run against solid competition. Kobe got in a game. LeBron got in some work too.
The Goodman League, which typically features players from the Baltimore/Washington DC area or that have ties to the region, has seen the likes of Kevin Durant, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Beasley, Sam Young and Josh Selby.
This weekend both leagues squared off in Washington D.C. for a matchup dubbed Capital Punishment, however what looked to be a great idea turned into a nightmare for fans that were turned away at the door due to rampant counterfeit tickets.
Organizers also tried to get a television deal, but found few major broadcasters willing to edge in on the NBA labor dispute.
Its estimated more than 1,000 legitimate tickets were sold in the D.C. area, prompting the Drew League to suggest a rematch in L.A. in the coming weeks.
Sources near the Goodman League in D.C. say there has also been talk of a Seattle stop in the Goodman League’s future, as well as a possible multi-game tournament in Las Vegas featuring both leagues.
If you are planning to attend, don’t expect the frills of a NBA games. You may see exciting play, but keep in mind a lot of the process is being invented on the fly and this format may not every existing again once a labor deal is reach, so enjoy it while you can the players involved seem committed to playing the games are frequently as they can.
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