NBA@2: The Kevin Love Extension Dilemma
Believe it or not, Russell Westbrook’s extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder will likely have a direct impact on Kevin Love’s extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Let’s break it down.
First of all, to understand the situation fully you must be well-versed in one particular provision in the new collective bargaining agreement. It’s called the Derrick Rose Rule, and it allows a young player to get what is referred to as a “super max” contract, worth 30% of the salary cap, versus a simple “max” contract, which is worth 25% of the salary cap. In order to qualify for this “super max” deal, a player must meet one of criteria during the first four years of his career:
1 – Win the NBA Most Valuable Player award. Makes sense, because that player probably is pretty dang good.
2 – Be named a starter in the NBA All-Star Game twice. Players with this kind of popularity likely are helping their teams win AND are helping them at the gate, as well.
3 – Be named to any of the three All-NBA teams twice. This helps players who may not win the popularity contest of starting in an All-Star Game.
A player who meets the criteria and signs the “super max” contract is then his team’s “designated player,” and each team can only have one player carrying that distinction.
In the case of Westbrook, who did not meet the criteria for a “super max” contract (All-Star 2011, All-NBA Second Team 2011), the Thunder saved about $50 million over the life of his contract by giving him the “max,” worth $80 million over five years.
This brings us to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are using Westbrook’s deal as a means to convince Kevin Love’s team that he is not quite up to the maximum deal they are seeking. Love has just one All-Star appearance, having been named as an injury replacement last season, and has not yet made any All-NBA teams. The Timberwolves are pointing to Westbrook, who also plays for the West’s best team, and saying Love isn’t quite worth the same kind of contact.
Sources close to the situation tell HOOPSWORLD that the Wolves will happily give Love a four-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $61 million, but they would prefer not to add a fifth year for the purpose of long-term flexibility. Love’s camp wants the fifth year, which would push the value of the contract to roughly $78 million.
This is where the talks stand today.
Love’s representatives want the fifth year now because they stand to gain quite a bit of money on their commission for the deal. Nothing is guaranteed in four years, especially with players switching agents more and more frequently. At the end of the day, however, it might be best for Love to take the four-year deal, as well. It would mean that in four years instead of five he could negotiate a much more lucrative contract based upon his continued improvement and the Timberwolves’ continued growth and anticipated success as a team.
It’s not out of the question that Minnesota could go ahead and give in with a five-year deal, but at this stage they are pushing for a four-year deal and hoping Love will recognize the opportunity it can represent for him long-term.
Optimism Rampant In New Orleans
From the outside looking in, the New Orleans Hornets are a franchise teetering on the brink of disaster. The team was sold to the NBA to prevent an exit from New Orleans, their star player just left town for Los Angeles, and the team is off to a conference-worst 3-12 start.
That’s from the outside.
On the inside, there is a great deal of optimism regarding the future of the Hornets, both as a team on the court and as a franchise in New Orleans.
“We have been working diligently behind the scenes on so many fronts over the last year,” Hornets President Hugh Weber tells HOOPSWORLD. “When you think back a year ago when the NBA purchased the team, we had just been through the launch pad of a new culture with the hiring of both Monty Williams and Dell Demps. That culture has been gaining traction over the last 12 months. In terms of the state of the franchise, in terms of what we’re building on the court, we feel very confident in the DNA and the culture that’s being built and the traction that they’ve been able to get in a very short period of time. I think in many ways you see that translate in terms of our style of play, the commitment and the comments that players like Carl Landry and others have made saying that we have choices in where we want to play and we choose to play here in New Orleans, in this system, for these coaches and for this general manager. We know that those are signs that we’re on the right track but by no means are we in a position to look at what’s happened over the last 12 months and say we’re satisfied because we’re not.”
Despite the ownership issues and the loss of Chris Paul, the Hornets have sold more than 10,000 season tickets for the 2011-12 season. It’s a clear indication that the fan base in New Orleans is behind the team, and it’s not something Weber takes for granted.
“It really goes back to the fan base here. The team is in a good stead because the fans are so supportive of what we do. They appreciate the hard work and effort that Dell puts in and the preparation that Monty and his team put in. I think the fans appreciate the work that we do behind the scenes to make every game night a fun experience win or lose. The fans notice those things. These convergent goals have come to a point where we can hopefully elevate the brand and elevate the franchise to a place that is a beginning point for some very special things. When we think about the team as a whole, people ask if I’m surprised that all of these things have happened relatively smoothly. I say I’m not surprised because failure was never an option on any one of these. This was 100 percent all go on all fronts and if any one of those things hadn’t come together it would’ve subtracted from the success of the whole. One of the things we’ve always said internally is that yes, this is tough when you have 10,000 season tickets and you started at 6,300 during a work stoppage when you don’t have players to talk about. Yeah, it’s difficult but failure is not an option. I think that’s the attitude that’s going to be a part of our culture moving forward. It’s mirrored when Monty talks about no excuses, no holds barred culture for the players, and we hope to emulate the same thing off the court.”
The Hornets have enjoyed some early success through their rebuilding process, but they also realize the work has just begun.
“There’s so much unfinished business that we have to do. What gives people hope, what gives fans hope or what makes you frame the question how did you know when nobody knew is as Monty would say, we haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t proven ourselves yet. It feels good to know that you’re making progress but lots of teams make progress. It feels good to take something that is standard and make it a little bit better then standard but we don’t want to be a little bit better then standard, we want to be an elite, best of class organization and we’ve got a ways to go and our staff knows that. It’s easy to get lolled into sleep and say we’re better off then those other people that live in different markets or we’re doing better than this team or that team or we did better than other people thought but it doesn’t mean anything until you achieved the goals that you want to achieve.”
The decision to trade Chris Paul was not an easy one. Once the decision was made, however, the organization pursued a package featuring a new young core for Monty Williams and his staff to develop.
“Getting young is one thing, but getting young while you’ve got a coaching staff and a developmental staff and a scouting staff who are well equipped to take that investment and turn it into the highest optimal potential and the highest opportunity gives me great comfort. I know it’s not just a matter of getting someone like Eric (Gordon) or (Al-Farouq) Aminu but knowing that they’re in Monty’s hands and that Monty is going to go ahead and do everything that they can to make these players the best they can be makes the whole system work. If, at any point, we didn’t have confidence in that then that would be a difficult thing to do; it would be difficult to invest and go young. Knowing that these guys are coming into a good culture, that they’re going to learn good habits and that they’re going to develop at the best rate that they can as long as they’re committed lets us know that this plan is more than just one season long and we have a high probability of success.”
The new NBA collective bargaining agreement is going to make it easier for small market teams to compete. Smart management is going to be more important than an owner with deep pockets, and the Hornets have already put a team in place that should flourish in that environment.
“I really felt a strategic change was important a year and a half ago,” says Weber. “Not just last summer but the summer before, when we made the change to revamp our entire basketball operations. I felt that the athlete that was competing today in the NBA was someone who had a different growing period. These players grew up through AAU, high school and college; it’s a different world then it was ten years ago. Having a staff of people that understood how to recruit, how to develop, how to build a culture, how to do all of those things was something that I really felt was part of our future. If you look at other leagues that have restrictions on how much can be paid and how much can be done in terms of salary, where they truly compete is in their preparation and intelligence off the field or off the court. That’s something we’ve been working towards and I’d like to believe that we’re on our way to building a culture where we have the reputation where people say, ‘they are a small market but that’s an advantage they have and they do things right and they’re a professional organization and it’s a place where guys want to play.’”
Hornets GM Dell Demps came up in the San Antonio system, which also spawned Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti. Like the Spurs and the Thunder, the Hornets are going to build their team from the ground up.
“As you see in other leagues, there’s not any one path. There are those who are going to build one way and those who are going to build a different way. Some teams have different luxuries to build in different ways. I can tell you it’s the right way for us. I can tell you based on our fan base and based on who we are beyond economics and everything else it’s the right way to do things. We’ve never taken shortcuts. We’ve never tried to overcome our mistakes with more resources. For us to do it on the court that way makes total sense. There will always be different options for people to take different paths.”
Time will tell, but it certainly seems like the Hornets are on the right path.
For more on the Hornets’ ownership situation, which seems close to resolution, be sure to read Steve Kyler’s piece on that subject!
Will The Real Devin Harris Please Stand Up?
There was a period of time, not too long ago, when it looked like Devin Harris might be one of the next great point guards in the NBA. He had lead the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006, was an All-Star in 2009, and was of so much interest to the Utah Jazz last season that they traded Deron Williams – in part – to usher in a new era with Harris.
Harris improved steadily over the first six years of his NBA career, most of which were with the Dallas Mavericks. He went from averaging 5.7 points as a rookie to averaging 21.3 points and 6.9 assists per game in his first full season in New Jersey, where he landed as a result of the Mavs’ trade for Jason Kidd. The only thing that could hold him back was his slight frame, which was often injured.
In 2006-07, Harris appeared in 80 games for the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, he has struggled to hit 70. He was healthy for just 64 games in 2007-08, 69 games in 2008-09, 64 games in 2009-10 and then 71 last season, between New Jersey and Utah.
This season Harris is healthy, but his production and efficiency have dropped off a cliff.
Through 14 games Harris is averaging a meager 8.1 points while shooting 35% from the field, including an 0-for-7 effort against his former Mavericks last night. It’s hardly a coincidence that ESPN’s Marc Stein has since tweeted that the Jazz are openly looking to move Harris via trade. During a season in which the Jazz have been surprisingly good, Harris has been surprisingly bad, and has begun losing minutes to reserve Earl Watson.
On a personal note, I can’t help but wonder if Harris’ infant baby has something to do with his production issues. His newborn daughter is only a couple of months younger than mine, who was born in June, and there has certainly been a lot less sleeping going on in the Ingram household. It wouldn’t shock me at all to learn that Harris has more on his mind than basketball at the moment, though we all have to learn to function professionally no matter what’s going on personally.
Whatever the cause, Devin Harris is now on the outs with the Jazz. Will his next team get the player who averaged better than 21 points and nearly seven assists per game, or will they get the oft-injured non-productive Harris of late?
Someone is bound to take a chance that it will be the former.
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