Around The World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  August 25, 2011

Henry Abbott over at TrueHoop has a fancy chart diagramming the 2011 NBA CBA Negotiations. The Player’s Union and the League are set to meet within the week, and you can read about some of what the Union has been up to here and here. Grantland’s Malcolm Gladwell has a great “big picture” piece on NBA Ownership here.

NBA.com has a great piece about how nothing put Jerry West at peace except playing basketball. From the story:

“If you didn’t come into the game breathing fire every night, Jerry couldn’t understand it,” said former Lakers teammate Tommy Hawkins. “And I never saw him have back-to-back bad nights. Until he could replace a bad performance with a good one, his soul was not at rest.”

Mike Trudell has a retro game diary of a Lakers-Warriors game from 1991 in which Magic Johnson scored 44 and Chris Mullen scored 41. For those of us not old enough to have watched Magic, this is a great piece to get a little view of how great Magic was during his playing years. Ball Don’t Lie’s Kelly Dwyer takes a look at the Game 6 of the Lakers-Pistons 1988 Finals – the game that Isiah Thomas dropped 25 points on a busted ankle here.

Matt Moore of CBS Sports ranks Kobe the NBA’s sixth best player: With any luck, this summer’s treatment on his knee should allow Bryant to keep on trucking towards Michael Jordan’s all-time point scoring total, a chase that will captivate the NBA’s media as he gets closer and closer. At this stage of his career, it’s less important where Bryant falls in the top-100 and more important where he winds up in the Greatest Of All Time discussion. While he will almost certainly continue to fall on the former, he should only keep rising on the latter.

With FIBA Eurobasket set to start next week, the LA Times’ Mark Medina believes that Pau Gasol will benefit from playing with his Spanish teammates.

Phillip Barnett

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28 responses to Around The World (Wide Web)

  1. Site’s working for me in New Zealand.

  2. #1. Nice! Looks like we still have some hiccups in some other spots as it can take up to a day for the site to be picked up by every server around the world. But, it’s good to hear that the site is up where you are.

  3. I’ve already had a discussion regarding the Gladwell piece and would be happy to argue against the “greatness” of the article if anyone is interested. His premis is flawed, the argument is weak, and the conclusion is poorly considered. Basically, it is a well articulated example of intellectual dishonesty. Like I said, if you want to get into the specifics of why I think so, feel free to try and discuss it’s merits here.

  4. Different topic for me now, and I’m sure when people come back to the site many will feel different, but I’m sick of the speculation regarding Kobe’s legacy, at least in the immediate sense.

    It seems every time the debate devolves into the same stuff. Shaq owns 3 of Kobe’s rings, Jordan is better than Kobe ever could be, Kobe is selfish, blah blah blah. It’s gotten to the point where I honestly almost never want to hear about it until the day Kobe retires, because until then, and maybe even for a while after that point, Kobe is never going to be fairly looked at in terms of his historical impact and legacy.

    When he is afforded the opportunity to stand as his own legend, and not one qualified by the shadows of others (such as the media’s over-hyped legend of Jordan), then that is a discussion I would be interested in, but the absolute minefield that topic is in a contemporary context is a big time point of disgust for me.

    By the way, this isn’t a dig at the article, or the community here, but more at modern media and people in general, and the Jordan dig isn’t at Jordan himself or as a player, but the “ghost” of Jordan if you follow what I’m trying to say.

  5. I like the link with the graphs. It took me a while to understand it, however. I read the commentaries and got a better idea of what they really mean. Great post.

  6. Jerry West would be crucified in today’s news cycle. Can you imagine how the media would treat a player that focused and incomprehension of teammates who didn’t have his fire and desire for redemption after a bad game.

  7. Pau’s MPG hasnt changed since he arrived in LA. Dude just mentally checked out for whatever reason. Making excuses about things he has successfully handled in the past: Bynum being out, minutes played, early games because he’s a night owl etc..

    Playing a bunch of finesse European players is right down his alley, dont expect him to struggle if he’s in his element.

  8. I tend to agree with Gladwell. Not the whole thing, but I’ve always argued that the owners don’t look and treat their teams like a normal business.

    If a real business was like marriage, owning an NBA team is like dating. Things you consider when you are thinking marriage are not as important when considering somebody to date.

    Anyway, I don’t see how the owners can punish the players and the fans for their collective stupidity by signing idiotic deals. I’ve not seen one fan happy with the team signing players to monster contracts, and god knows that there are just too many players that would even play for the minimum if they could be guaranteed a spot on the roster.

  9. Regarding Gladwell’s article referenced above: Somehow Jerry Buss has been able to make a go of it. To say the least.

    Which pretty much destroys Gladwell’s argument. I didn’t read his article, by the way. Why bother? They are all alike.

    To those who would argue LA’s a big basketball market, yeah I know. Hmmm, I wonder why?

  10. If you break down Gladwell’s argument, owners buy teams like other rich folk buy a painting. Statistics show that people buy a painting for a significant percentage more then they are worth (I think he said 28%). They do so for psychic benefit. if you own a major professional franchise and think of yourself as losing money, then you are gaining no psychic benefit from owning the franchise. Since a franchise is more like a painting then a business, you should sell your franchise to someone who will own it for the psychic benefit, rather then for profit.

    First, since there is a lockout, obviously the owners think they are losing money. Never mind the absurdity of thinking that they each gain no psychic benefit, beyond that point it is obvious that those who own franchises do not quite approach their stewardship of franchises as Gladwell speculates they should. He brings in two anecdotal examples. One, the longtime owner of the Red Sox, Yawkey. The other an owner of an Italian soccer franchise.

    This owner of the Italian team made the statement that “With football, business reasons don’t exist”. I guess we can simply hand Gladwell the argument with that anecdote? I think I’ll have a look at what the NFL did this summer and what the NBA is currently working on as a slightly better barometer of what a collection of owners think. They seem to think that profits are also a goal here. The other example, that of Yawkey, he used as an example of an owner whose racism led him to refuse to hire African-American players a full ten years after the rest of baseball had integrated. He brought up economic factors to show that a rational man, one who was not psychically attached to a personal benefit derived from not hiring blacks, would and did hire these players because of the increase in gate. Gladwell used a the findings of a current economist and made no case to show that the findings of this economist was available to Yawkey. I’m not saying Yawkey didn’t have a sophisticated market analysis. I’m only saying Gladwell made no case that he did. Second, Gladwell brought up that many folk have argued that Boston was so racist that attendance would have suffered in that city if he had brought in African-Americans. Gladwell countered this argument by saying that the Boston Braves brought in AA players in 1950, ergo Yawkey was only acting out of personal racism. Gladwell neglected to mention that the Braves left Boston in 1951. So, within a year of integrating, they ran away.

    I have no doubt that owners hand out bad contracts for a number of reasons. One, poor scouting. Second, the CBA’s structure makes cap space a fleeting opportunity and it is sometimes best to overpay a good player then run with a bunch of perfectly priced mediocre players. Third, this psychic benefit that Gladwell discribes is valid. The problem I have with Gladwell is that he takes this last factor, the psychic benefit, and says that anyone who wants to treat an NBA team like a business aught to get out of the show if they are bothered with losing money. They should continue to be willing to overplay players and lose money because teams are actually paintings. His reasoning is shoddy.

    One last point. If you are going to tell owners that the psychic benefit of owning a team should satisfy them, why not apply this same principle for anyone who works for a franchise. Getting to work for the Lakers should be an honor for any fan. Or, since so many of us are willing to play basketball, and do so for no money, why don’t the players just take enough to get by and play for the psychic benefit of playing in the best league, against the best players, with the best visibility? You know why not? Because basketball is a business.

  11. 1) I haven’t read Gladwell’s article and don’t plan to, however…

    2) Because we revere businesses does not mean businesses should be able to operate without any social restrictions. That would be tantamount to saying , Because we love freedom everyone should be allowed to do what they want, without regard to anyone else in society – i.e. murder would not be illegal.

    We live in a society that requires a balance between our desires and our responsibilities. We may argue about where that balance should be positioned, but not that it is required. The same is true of our sports leagues and contracts.

    I, personally, am on the side of those saying that the NBA owners have no business demanding things from the players until they settle their own issues of revenue sharing and competitive balance – however they choose to do that. Until then there is nothing for the players to negotiate against – the owners are asking the players to simply take their competitive business issues on faith.

  12. Craig W.

    I don’t revere business, however… the only reason I have to think that you might be responding to what I wrote is that you brought up Gladwell and tossed in a “however” as a lead into your opinion about the NBA business model. The criticism I have of Gladwell’s piece does not take a side regarding the players or the owners. My criticism is with Philip’s premis, that Gladwell’s piece is “great”. His piece is full of logical disfunction and poorly backed up arguments. His premis is a bad premis. His premis is that while everybody treats the NBA like a business (players, arena workers, endorsers, fans, broadcasters, the government) the owners aught not. It makes no reasonable sense to hold that premis but even if there is a good reason, he didn’t provide an argument that stands up to criticism. He used anecdotes and thin evidence. I’m not arguing for labor or for ownership. I am calling our poor argumentation.

  13. 12. I think Gladwell’s article was a great starting point for a longer conversation. The other day, I was reading a post by Kevin Arnovitz on the draft and what he’d like to see implemented as a system should the NBA lose the entire season. The comments to that post led to a conversation about NBA ownership with points about the business of ownership raised.

    One of the main points in that tangent convesation – at least how I interpreted it – was that NBA owners are looking for both short term profits AND long term value increases on their franchises. Personally, I wonder if in the world of professional sports, especially one with a revenue sharing model that the NBA has, if this is actually possible for ALL franchises.

    Gladwell brings up the point of psychic value and that’s a variable that needs to be explored. I’d argue that if you’re an owner and really looking at the NBA strictly as a business and want it to follow conventional business models in order to earn profits, you’ve likely chosen the wrong industry. It’s an off-shot of this point where I agree with Gladwell…owning an NBA team is, for many of these billionaires, a hybrid of a hobby and a business. There *is* psychic value in being one of 30 NBA owners; it’s prestgious to be part of that small club. Gladwell may take his point too far in trying to assign a $ amount to that psychic value, but to deny that it exists is also working off a false premise.

    In the end, my point is that owners are trying to have their cake and eat it too in that one day, as the league continues to grow (in a couple of years the NBA will negotiate a new TV deal that will dwarf the current one) the value of all franchises will continue to increase. To me, the owners have put themselves in a position where they want an equation stating: short term profits (through a better CBA and revenue sharing) + long term profits (from the sale of the team) = Loads of cash. However, as Gladwell argues, there are other variables that need to be considered WHILE also knowing that in the long run, these owners are very likely to make money on the sale of their teams (the only owner that didn’t was Bob Johnson who sold the Bobcats at a loss to Michael Jordan, but he seems to be the exception).

  14. Speaking of Jerry West, he is already being crucified as a GM when he moved to Memphis after Lakers got their 3 consecutive Championships under PJ. Crucified again when he retired as a GM and coincided with Lakers trading Pau Gasol for Kwame et al. Crucified for the 3rd time in getting a statue at Staples ahead of KAJ while accepting a coaching consultant job with the Warriors. He will be forgiven again if he can land Monta Ellis to LA in exchange of Artest or Odom.

  15. Darius,

    If you were looking at Arnovitz’ Google+ account, that conversation was mine and JD Hastings going back and forth. We both agreed that this psychic value has relevance in the discussion of what motivates owners to “overpay” players. It’s Gladwell’s line of thinking, drawn from his discussion of psychic value that becomes nonsense.

    Steve Jobs increased the value of Apple stock (meaning what you can get if you sell that stock), he increased what one might gain in dividends (short term profits) if you own the right kind of Apple stock, and he increased the amount of liquid money laying about. His reputation as an innovator and a great leader are enhanced by his work at Apple. Owning Apple stock is only slightly impressive (especially if you let people know that you bought fairly low). Owning lots of Apple stock is a nice pin to lay on one’s lapel. Is Steve Jobs having his cake and eating it too? What about stockholders, would you characterize them as having their cake and eating it too? No, they are just the very lucky and/or smart investors in a company.

    Like I have said, the variable of psychic value is an interesting point. It speaks to what the owners are trying to protect their industry from. This variable is a major factor in competitive imbalance. I’m not so sure it’s much of a factor in why certain cities seem to be able to adapt their marketing, their talent, their management, and all the rest in a manner that can make them fairly profitable. There are various factors for why certain teams can make profits while others do not, and there may be some markets in which the NBA is currently residing where there is no reasonable expectation of being profitable. I think it is up to the owners to decide if it is worth it for the league to carry the water of such franchises. I don’t personally care. Guys like Matt Moore have personal interest and a philosophy of public trust that I disagree with (but then again, I am a fan of a team that was taken from one shrinking market, brought to a growing market and is ready to rake in substantial sums of money from a new TV deal with Time-Warner. My team is doing fine). All of that is different then what I am trying to say about Gladwell. I think he produced an argument whose premis is very flawed. His premis is that basketball is not a business. Owning a team is a hobby. Maybe that is not what he meant. It is what he stated, and the rest of his argument tries to support that statement. Even his support is flawed (ie Yawkey’s racism, the Italian Soccer club owner). Everyone is entitled to a bad commentary, and not just because I’ve made my fair share. I think it is better for everyone when we can criticize an article for it’s bad argument and set aside whether the bad argument is trying to argue for the position we agree with. Just because I am a fan of the Lakers it doesn’t mean I can’t comment on their flaws. Even if Gladwell’s position supports the “correct” position, how he got there was shoddy.

  16. #16. Good points. Your point about Apple is interesting though b/c I think that where we start to get in trouble is comparing the ownership of an NBA team as a business model to other corporations (publically traded or not).

    The NBA is an industry where competition is on the court and wins and losses are decided by participants playing a game. A winning team can influence it’s popularity (and thus it’s ability to make money in a given season related to ticket sales, advertising, merch, etc) but there are only so many wins to go around. Other teams need not win and can still make money based off a combination of the market they play in and frugalness.

    Anyways, where I see value in Gladwell’s argument is that owning a team offers a certain amount of prestige and that equates to a psychic value. Where I don’t agree with him is where he puts a specific dollar amount on what that value is and/or claims that the difference in Forbes’ valuation and purchase price is only related to psychic value. I also agree with your point that when the actual value of something doesn’t increase (or stagnates or actually loses value) that impacts the psychic value.

    In the end, I’m all for the owners being able to make more profit. As I argued in my last comment, owning a team is a mix of hobby and business. You can’t neglect the business side of that equation. In terms of the lockout, I just want the owners to find a better way to divide the revenues the teams bring in locally to off-set some of the cost of business rather than simply trying to take get it all from the backs of the players. But, that’s not related to Gladwell’s piece (at least not directly).

  17. Darius,

    Having a competitive league is in the league’s best interest but I’m not one to think that every market should have an equal opportunity to win. One argument made by those who want a hard cap and to protect teams in weak markets, is that one should start the season feeling like most of teams have a chance to win it all. I disagree with this view for a number of reasons.

    One, the Lakers have more fans then probably the 10 bottom teams in the league. If the Lakers are clearly in a better position then 9 of those teams, then that means more fans are in a position to root for a franchise progressing towards a championship. Market matters.

    Second, while we have experienced an awful lot of winning the last few seasons, I think we all found the ’05-07 seasons rather compelling as Lakers fans. You don’t have to be a championship caliber team in order to have a compelling narrative. Kobe Rulzzzzz.

    During those insane Kobe seasons, the Suns were a great team to watch. That run by the Dubs in ’07 was amazing. You have a few teams that win with an exciting style then you have an entertaining game, even if it doesn’t lead to a championship. I love this game.

    Finally, traditional winners, like the Lakers, the Celtics… well, the Lakers and Celtics, draw plenty of out of market eyes. I just think that starting the season in the way that NFL fans do (and I am not an NFL fan), thinking their team has a chance, is overrated. I like that the NBA is different then the NFL, Premiere League Football, MLB etc.

    If we are getting off of the Gladwell piece, and I’m happy to do so, I wonder what you thought of the Stern interview with Simmons. I found the whole thing very interesting but one point he made that really resonated with me was his point about revenue sharing. He said, you can’t revenue share your way out of loses. The point he made is that the union agrees that the league is collectively losing money. Whether it is $350 million or $200 million being lost is not really the point. Both are rather large numbers. The issue that owners have is in trying to make up those loses and it can’t be done by throwing good money after bad. It has to be done by increasing revenue and decreasing expenses. Labor is a significant expense. How does one not address this problem by decreasing the players’ share of revenue?

  18. “The point he made is that the union agrees that the league is collectively losing money. Whether it is $350 million or $200 million being lost is not really the point.”

    P. Ami – I would respectfully disagree!

    How much is being lost by the owners is exactly the point. My understanding is that the players have already made concessions based on their understanding that the owners are losing money, and that the owners want greater concessions. This disagreement seems to hinge on differing positions about how much money the owners are losing. Am I missing something?

  19. I would agree that the amount being lost does matter in terms of the specifics of what is being negotiated. To the the point of whether you can revenue share your way out of a loss, it makes no difference between those two amounts, you can’t turn that loss into a profit by distributing the loss differently. You are just spreading the losses.

    Stern said that the players did not make any sort of concession regarding revenue sharing. He says they want an 8% increase of their total. By that he means that if the players are making 100, then they want to be at 108 before the end of the decade (whatever the total in revenue will be). I don’t mean to be condescending but since we are going between percentages of the revenue pie and then percentages of dollar amounts, I wanted to be clear what I was talking about. I don’t know what that increase of 8% means in terms of revenue share. According to Stern, they have not conceded on the important point, but rather want an even bigger total. Now, maybe Stern should be accounting for the new TV deal, and Simmons didn’t bring it up (he does work for the company that deal is being negotiated with, so take that as you will) but that is the argument being made by the owners. He did bring up the increase in costs since the last CBA. The players are asking for more, according to Stern, not conceding.

    Stern is a charming dude. I love listening to his banter with Simmons, and I might be enchanted by his magic so find his points compelling based on that. I have a weak mind like that. It’s crazy amusing to me listening to him quietly snigger at some of his own responses to Simmons. It’s nice to listen to a guy who seems to really appreciate the work he gets to do.

  20. P. Ami,
    I think you may have misunderstood Stern’s message about what the players are asking for. He’s stating that the players want a system as close as possible to the one they have now. Which is true to a point. Right now the league has a soft cap and is guaranteed 57% of all Basketball Related Income (BRI). Sterns argument is that % is too high.

    What Stern didn’t bring up is that the players have already made an offer to reduce that number to 54%. Now, maybe that number is still too high but the league has yet to make a counter offer to that number and to me that is the bigger story. In that interview, Stern repeatedly stated “57% is too high”, but not once did Simmons counter with “didn’t the players offer 54%” or even “what isn’t too high?”.

    Stern is charming and he’s a fantastic negotiator (he worked as a lawyer for the league before he became commissioner) and he sold the owner’s position well. And, many of his points were well made (he’s right that you can’t revenue share your way out of losses). But, what the league can do a better job of is trying to find ways to share the revenue that is being made to – as you say – spread those losses around more evenly. The Lakers are about to come into a TV contract that could equal (some estimate) over a $100 million a year. That’s essentially enough money to cover player costs before any money from ticket sales, parking, concessions, merchandise, etc. To think some of that money can’t be distributed to the other teams is madness. The Buss’s can give some of that revenue to others and still be the most profitable team in the league. As can the Bulls, as can the Knicks, as can the Clippers, etc. And when you add in the new TV deal and other ways to make money that has not been explored yet (along with what we can only hope will be an improving economy), the league will be better off in 5 years that it has been in the 5 previous.

    One last note, the owners want player salaries to stay (essentially) flat for the next 10 years. So, even as revenues increase (even with just average 4% growth each year), the owners will rake in all that extra revenue while the players – the people who the league is built on – don’t see any benefit from that growth. This is just an extreme position as the one Stern says the players have of things staying exactly the same.

    There is a middle ground somewhere, I hope they find it soon.

  21. I have to say that this thread is incredibly well-articulated. The only thing I’d add is regarding the need for increasing revenues and decreasing expenses and while I agree with the principle, it’s worth noting I think, that the latest figures released by both the league and the players union, show BRI increasing 4.8% coming off an economic downturn while negotiated salaries actually declined by 100 million.

    These numbers (late July), certainly don’t address revenue sharing and I agree with the notion that you can’t revenue share your way out of loss. In a wildly generalized way, I’d say you’ve got losers hijacking winners, winners figuring that they’ll take a lost season if it means starving out the losers and the players union going to the mattresses because they assume their union will be broken if they give another inch.

  22. I typed that before reading last comment and certainly agree – the deeper pockets can certainly afford to share more. The question (IMO), is if certain parties feel that it’s simply throwing it away. There’s forces within ownership and the league, that strongly believe contraction to be a matter of when, not if. And, a work stoppage and/or refusal to share, only expedites that notion.

  23. “And when you add in the new TV deal and other ways to make money that has not been explored yet (along with what we can only hope will be an improving economy), the league will be better off in 5 years that it has been in the 5 previous.” Darius, I hope I’m not quoting you out of context, but if the season is cancelled or even shortened, your statement may not be true. For an example we all know about, MLB suffered big time for its last labor troubles and had to not only juice the baseball but also look the other way while some of its best players used, in order to regain its lost popularity.

  24. #25. I’m hopeful it won’t come to that, but you’re right that a lost season would hurt the league tremendously. But it’s that reality that, I think, will drive both sides to a deal that both can be okay with. We could be potentially entering another golden era for the league that comes close to approaching what the 80’s gave us. The owners surely recognize this as ratings and the number of marketable young stars rise together.

  25. I recall Stern saying that the Union did not counter offer, that they came to the owners with an 8% increase in salary and when the League countered (I’d have to re-listen to the interview to get the counter-offer right) the players said no, give us a different counter-offer. That was where the negotiations stalled. Now, there is, I am sure, plenty of information that I am not aware of, and I have no real way of knowing how truthful Stern was in the interview. I’m just saying, from what I recall in the interview, he has a different version of events then what you posted.

    @ #25, Dipping back into the Stern interview, the owners seem to agree that revenue sharing needs to be a bigger component of the model. How beautiful would that be for the Buss family, and for us Lakers fans, if the success of our franchise, our love for the team, and the support we provide by watching them on local TV winds up supporting the team (paying their salaries) while some of the left over money from the local TV deal helps to support other good teams that come into town. I hope that some level of competitive advantage for our team is sustained into this CBA. If we are paying for the weakness of markets in other markets, I hope we can at least maintain that advantage that leads to a better chance at us having to run from celebratory riots and then gathering for championship parades.

    Regarding BRI, I’ve read on Hoopshype (link no longer available) that non-labor related BRE increased by 9.8%. Meanwhile, from everything I’ve found, player salaries has remained fixed, after accounting for inflation. I haven’t found that 100 million number Dave was talking about.

    I am keeping hopeful that we’ll be watching meaningful games in the last days of October. That said, if we lost this season, there would be lost momentum, but baseball was already losing momentum when it went on strike those years ago. Baseball is an aging game that has done a poor job of appealing to the new generations. It is a sport that does not translate very well to the TV, and is treated like a few hours at the park, laying out in the sun (or the parking lot if you are Giants fan at Dodgers stadium… Too soon?), when you do go to a stadium. The NBA has a very different product and is a league on the rise. It really does have the potential of being the second most popular sport in the world. It appeals to China, to Europe, and to the Levant. That is a pretty nice mass of population. All that said, I’d rather keep the momentum going rather then try and get it restarted. I really do think that both sides recognize the value in keeping this going.

    Regarding the economy improving… do you see any signs of this? The US might be in need of a more labor friendly CBA before we see the middle-class being able to afford what we could 4 years ago. What the hell do I know?

  26. This thread was indeed well-articulated. Teams like the Lakers can get away with good average seats that cost $175 a pop in a large city like Los Angeles. But, that is not the case in many other markets. I would agree that the US will need to have a more labor friendly CBA to continue the success of the league, considering that workers salaries are being cut throughout.