NBA PM: Major Progress on Labor Front?
Three days of meetings between NBA commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher and union executive director Billy Hunter may have yielded some positive results. The reason for the optimism, sources with knowledge of the situation told HOOPSWORLD, is that the owners are on the verge of giving an offer that should be much more palatable to the players’ union. A deal has not been accepted by either side, but there is a belief that the owners’ new offer would represent a significant departure from their previous position.
A union meeting scheduled for Friday in New York City was canceled with the expectation that the owners’ new offer will be coming as early as Tuesday, when the union executive committee is scheduled to meet. If the executive committee agrees to the offer, it will then present it to the players on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas, which happens to be the same day as an NBA Board of Governors meeting.
HOOPSWORLD has been told that if the Players agree to the revenue share in the offer, the owners would would be willing to concede much of the mechanical changes that had been discussed, such as non-guaranteed contracts, a hard salary cap and maybe even three-year deals. In other words, if the Players agree to the Owners’ wishes on how to split the basketball-related income, the next collective bargaining agreement could look remarkably similar to the one that expired in July.
Is Calathes an NBA Player?
When and if the curtain finally does go up on the 2011-2012 season, the defending champions will likely have to waive “goodbye” to point guard J.J. Barea.
It’s not a certainty; it’s not necessarily a forgone conclusion, but it seems impossible for the Mavericks to keep the diminutive free agent with a new, more stringent salary cap on the horizon. Currently Dallas is slated to have a payroll of around $62 million, so, unless some major exceptions are afforded in the next collective bargaining agreement, Barea can expect to pick up his championship ring as a member of the visiting team.
But as crucial as Barea was to the Mavs’ playoff push, his departure isn’t a death sentence for Dallas. With Roddy Beaubois returning to health (he’s reportedly about a month away from running following foot surgery) and Rudy Fernandez’s arrival (assuming he’s not compelled to play for Real Madrid, with whom he recently signed a multi-year deal in Spain), Dallas’ bench could be even better in 2011-2012. Beyond that, the team still holds the rights to 22-year-old Nick Calathes, who continues to improve his reputation as a bonafide prospect.
Calathes, who was taken by Minnesota in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft and then dealt to Dallas, has spent the last two seasons as a rising star on the Greek National Team and as a solid bench contributor for title-winning Panathinaikos Athens. However it’s the ongoing EuroBasket Tournament in Lithuania that might propel the former Florida Gator into a real contributor for the Mavericks.
Through six games Calathes is averaging 9.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.3 APG while making 54.2% of his two-point field goals. The dual citizen took a misstep in an embarrassing loss to Macedonia, but scored 21 points and dished 10 assists while grabbing 11 boards over the next two games—both victories. Calathes is coming off a season in which he won Eurobasket.com’s “Most Improved Player” award, so his development this summer isn’t a complete surprise.
What is a surprise, at least to Americans, is how much he’s embraced Greece. Calathes won a state title in his native Florida and graduated Lake Howell High as the top scorer in Seminole County history. Two seasons with the home-state Gators only furthered his reputation as a do-it-all guard. The 6-6 Calathes scored 17.1 PPG as a sophomore while dishing 6.4 APG and grabbing 5.3 RPG. But no matter how comfortable he seemed in Gainesville, Calathes still left school early, announcing his decision to play in the Greek A1 League in May of 2009. That summer he made his debut for the Greek National Team. Now, instead of winning an NBA title, Calathes speaks of winning gold.
“I was always going to come here [to Lithuania] no matter what,” Calathes told FIBA.com. “I wanted to come here and try and qualify for the Olympics and that is definitely a dream of mine so I was always coming here this summer to play for the national team.
“Growing up my grandfather was always talking about Greece and I always wanted to [go] and represent Greece,” he continued. “I am here now and it has been a great last few years.”
Even if the Mavericks don’t bring Calathes in this season, his experience with the national team and as a contributor for a major European power has been invaluable. He averaged 1.8 steals per game as a sophomore at Florida, but didn’t really have a good defensive reputation until this season when Eurobasket.com named him to its All-Defensive team. And if the Mavericks do wait until the 2012-2013 campaign, they’d be landing the most-experienced 23-year-old rookie in the NBA. Top-level college basketball, EuroBasket, the Olympics—these aren’t just different venues for point guards. These are masters-level classes and Calathes is on the verge of graduating to the NBA.
Who Is Lester Mekkaleb (AKA: Bo McCalebb)?
Nick Calathes isn’t the only American-born point guard succeeding in the Hellenistic basketball world. Macedonia’s Lester “Bo” McCalebb (FIBA spells his name: “Mekkaleb”) has propelled the 47th-ranked national team in the world into a tie for first place in Group F with powerhouse Russia. And with only two games left in group-play, the 26-year-old McCalebb is getting dangerously close to an Olympic berth.
So far McCalleb has averaged 21.7 PPG (fourth in the tournament), 4.2 APG and 2.8 RPG through six contests, perhaps none better than his 27-point effort in a win over rival Greece (a rivalry that dates back to 400 BC). The former University of New Orleans Star—who graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Sun Belt history—is short (6-0), strong and an explosive finisher. He’s a solid shooter normally (he made 38.3% of his 3-point attempts with Montepaschi Siena of the Italian League last season), but he’s had no problem getting to the rim in this tournament.
The Macedonians have already qualified for the quarterfinals, which means there’s a good chance they’ll be at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, or, if they finish in the top two, at the Olympic Games in London next summer.
“I never imagined that something like this could be happening,” McCalebb told FIBA.com. “I knew we had a good team and I knew that no one would respect us.
“Everybody has been playing with a chip on his shoulder, everybody is playing free and playing with no pressure,” he continued. “I know [the Macedonian fans are] excited because this is maybe the first time in the history of F.Y.R of Macedonia they’ve been doing this well.”
And even if Macedonian fans did foresee their national team barging its way into the Olympic Games, they likely didn’t picture their savior coming in the form of a 6-0 scoring guard from the bayou.
Check Out: An Ugly Statue
LSU honored one of its most-famous alums on Thursday by unveiling a hideous statue of Shaquille O’Neal. The pose is an image of Shaq shattering a backboard—a move that made him famous with the Tigers—but it’s not quite the iconic likeness of Michael Jordan gliding through the air or Jerry West’s silhouette. However it is a perfect representation of O’Neal: Big, somewhat tacky, but always fun. The sculpture won’t be on display at the Guggenheim, but LSU fans and players can admire the work of art outside the Tigers’ new practice facility.
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