Big names show up to CBA negotiations

Per ESPN…

LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul were among the players who attended a negotiating session between the NBA and the union Thursday.

“It’s important for me that all of us, as being the faces of the NBA, to be involved in the negotiations and what’s going on,” Anthony said as he left. “Our future is in jeopardy if we can’t come into a mutual agreement.”

LeBron and Wade are locked into long term deals, and it would be very difficult for the owners to negotiate any kind of changes to those contracts. The guys that really have something to lose with an owner-friendly CBA are Anthony and Paul, who will be signing new deals in the next two years.

Regardless, the show of force from the players’ side is important. The owners need to know that the league’s biggest names are behind the union in these negotiations.

The four-hour bargaining session Thursday was the first since February’s All-Star weekend, when the players — also strengthened by the surprising attendance of some big names — rejected the owners’ proposal. The union recently submitted its own proposal, but commissioner David Stern has indicated it’s similar to the current CBA, and the owners are seeking significant changes to the system.

Stern has estimated the league will lose about $370 million this season, which the union disputes. The sides began discussions last year but remained far apart, creating fears of a lockout next summer.

Stern cracks me up. He effuses positivity whenever he’s asked about the financial state of the league — to the point that I think he’s trying to hypnotize his audience — but now that it’s time to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, the league is suddenly $370 million in the red. After going on and on about how well the league is doing worldwide, he’s pleading poverty.

However, the CBA does need a few changes. Contracts need to be guaranteed only to a certain point — say, 50% in years 3-4-5 — or they need to be kept to a maximum of four years. Too many franchises handicap themselves by giving long-term, lucrative contracts to players on the decline. Also, there’s nothing a team can do when a perfectly good player is hamstrung by injuries after signing his deal (i.e. Michael Redd or Tracy McGrady).

I’d also like to see a harder cap. Teams with free-spending owners like James Dolan, Jerry Buss or Mark Cuban make things that much tougher on small market teams who can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses. Fortunately, these teams — the Knicks, Lakers and the Mavs — are generally way over the cap, so they aren’t competing directly with the small market teams for free agents. (The Knicks were obviously the exception this summer, but they’ll be over the cap before too long, especially if they rehire Isiah Thomas in a year or two.) All in all, the salary cap rules aren’t too bad — at least it’s not uncapped, like baseball.

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Blogging the Bloggers: Steve Phillips’s mistress, BCS fall guy, Jerry Buss at a brothel, and more

DEADSPIN details how ESPN suspended Steve Phillips after an affair with a young co-worker came to light. THE PRODUCERS BLOG has pictures of the young lady in question. Um, what was he thinking?

NO GUTS, NO GLORY reports that the BCS is considering hiring a point person that would be the public face of the BCS. That job sounds like fun.

SPORTZ ASSASSIN argues that the NFL should expand instant replay to pass interference calls, which is not a bad idea.

SHUTDOWN CORNER has video of Jeff Fisher’s decision to wear a Peyton Manning jersey to a speaking engagement in Nashville. How did that go over with the Titan faithful?

SPORTSbyBROOKS discusses Laker owner Jerry Buss’s reputed involvement with the Bunny Ranch (brothel).

Odom leaning Miami?

Yes, at least according to a Yahoo! Sports source.

Odom has not reached a final decision, the sources said, but there is growing belief he will ultimately return to the Heat unless the Lakers improve their current offer.

“It’s close, but it’s not done,” said one source.

Lakers officials and Odom’s representatives resumed talking after a weeklong standoff that began when Jerry Buss, the team’s owner, withdrew a four-year, $36 million offer that guaranteed $30 million. Sources close to Odom said that while the two sides have since talked, Buss is now offering less than the Lakers’ previous proposal.

I still don’t know how the Heat’s offer of five years and $34 million is better than the Lakers’ offer of four years and $36 million (which works out to around $32 million after state taxes). Surely, Odom would be able to make more than $2 million in the year after the Laker deal expired. But hey, I’m not an accountant.

Or maybe he’s ticked off that Buss is offering less and wants to go to an organization that has demonstrated that it really wants him. If Miami can get Odom at the mid-level, it will be a coup, though it will create something of a logjam at power forward since that’s the position the Heat want Michael Beasley to play.

If the Lakers let Odom slip away, they will be going backwards this summer. The Ron Artest signing is nice, but Artest does not offset the loss of Odom and Trevor Ariza. With the Spurs, Blazers and Mavericks nipping at their heels, things could get very interesting in the West.

Note: John Ireland of 710 Los Angeles has reported that the fourth year of the Laker deal is only partially guaranteed (for $3 million), so the best deal that the Lakers offered was for $27 million over three years plus a guaranteed $3 million in the fourth year. So, after state taxes, that’s worth about $27 million over three years. It now makes sense that Odom would consider taking the five-year deal from the Heat since that deal offers as much as $7 million more in guaranteed money, maybe more if the Lakers’ latest offer has been reduced.

Odom-to-Miami looking like a real possibility

Yesterday, when we learned that Lamar Odom called Lakers owner Jerry Buss to try to smooth things over, it seemed (fairly) inevitable that the two sides would come to some sort of understanding and Odom would return to the Lakers. But a day later, it looks like there is a real chance that he may end up signing with the Miami Heat.

Amid a growing sense around the league that the Miami Heat have a real shot at stealing Lamar Odom away from the Los Angeles Lakers, Odom is expected to take the weekend to ponder his next move.

Sources with knowledge of Odom’s thinking told ESPN.com that he has not abandoned hope of resuscitating serious negotiations with L.A. after Lakers owner Jerry Buss angrily pulled a three-year, $27 million offer off the table earlier this week.

According to a broadcast report Friday night from longtime L.A. television anchor Jim Hill, Odom called Buss directly on Thursday in an attempt to reignite talks.

The Heat, meanwhile, have made it clear that they are prepared to offer the richest contract they can in an attempt to convince Odom to stop haggling with the Lakers, with the Dallas Mavericks also eager to offer the same fallback option.

Heat star Dwyane Wade made a public plea Friday for Odom to return to the franchise that sent him to the Lakers in the Shaquille O’Neal deal in the summer of 2004, announcing that “we want him back home.”

According to sources close to the process, Odom has been apprised that he can sign a five-year Heat deal consuming all of the team’s mid-level exception, which would be worth $34 million and include the option to return to free agency after three years and negotiate a larger contract with Miami.

Read the rest of Marc Stein’s column (which he’s been updating throughout this process) here.

I think this all comes down to Jerry Buss’s mood. Odom wouldn’t have called him if he didn’t want to take the Lakers’ offer. But Buss pulled the offer after negotiations fell apart, and it’s not clear how willing he is to open talks again.

Ultimately, cooler heads are likely to prevail. With Richard Jefferson landing in San Antonio, Shawn Marion headed to Dallas, and Portland sitting on a load of cap space, the Lakers’ Western Conference foes are getting better, and even though they signed Ron Artest, they know they can’t afford to lose both Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom this summer.

Or maybe they can. Like I said, this all depends on Jerry Buss. He made Odom an offer that was well above his market value and Odom’s camp tried to put the squeeze on him.

Hell hath no fury like an owner scorned.

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