The NBPA sent a letter to agents yesterday "asking for a greater urgency in turning in union cards that were sent to the players earlier this week to begin the process of re-forming the NBPA as a union," according to Alan Hahn of NEWSDAY. The NBPA letter "emphasized the importance of a prompt response from the players." It stated in part, "If the American Arbitration Association does not receive 260 signed cards by (Thursday) night, we will not be able to negotiate, draft and ratify a new CBA by next week and the teams will not be able to open camps and begin signing players next Friday as hoped ... Time is of the essence here and you personally have the unique ability to get this done" (NEWSDAY, 12/1). Meanwhile, T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor said of the tentative CBA, "We certainly didn't get everything we wanted and asked for, and that's part of negotiations. I don't think this guarantees anybody that you're going to break even or that you're going to make money, but I think we moved a big step towards it. In the end, we wanted to get a settlement and we wanted to play, so we compromised." He added, "I just know if we would have missed a whole season, it would have been significant. We're hopeful that our fans will understand. We're just happy that we're back to play for them. I'm hopeful it's not significant because we will get going at Christmas, if we get this worked out" (Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 12/1).
PANDEMONIUM REIGNS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman notes yesterday was the "first day that agents and team executives could interact since the July 1 sign of the NBA lockout." But most teams are "in a holding pattern, with binding agreements banned until the pending Dec. 9 start of the free-agency signing period." One agent said, "No one seems to be really doing anything, as much as taking a lot of information down, trying to assess what's out there. What's happening now is getting lists of guys who are interested and parameters" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/1). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote, "Basically, confusion reigned Wednesday, which for all intents and purposes was the July 1 of the 2011-12 NBA calendar" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/30). However, in L.A., Mike Bresnahan notes there will be a "level of excitement in this year's hurry-up free-agent signing period that has not been felt around the league since the last lockout ended in January 1999" (L.A. TIMES, 12/1). Free agent G & NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. said the next few weeks are "going to be very hectic." Mason: "To fit so much into a small amount of time, it's going to be pandemonium" (USA TODAY, 12/1).
FREE AGENT ACTIVITY: SI.com's Zach Lowe wrote, "We are experiencing an exact repeat of last season’s Carmelo Anthony trade madness, only with two actual top-10 players threatening to force their team’s hand just as Anthony did with the Nuggets." Magic C Dwight Howard and Hornets G Chris Paul "will test many things: the new collective bargaining deal; the power of big markets as fun places to live and endorsement drivers; and the willingness among stars to forfeit money to play where they want." Lowe noted the proposed CBA "didn’t do anything dramatic to tether stars to incumbent teams." There was "never a serious discussion about an NFL-style franchise player tag, something the union would not accept." The NBA "has long had rules, called Larry Bird Rights, that allow incumbent teams to offer more money and years for their stars than rival suitors can." The new CBA "merely tweaks those rights." But those changes "appear to have closed off every loophole that had allowed stars such as Anthony to switch teams and still earn precisely the maximum-level salary that only their old team could have offered." Lowe: "In other words: Paul and Howard would lose significant amounts by switching teams, either via trade or free agency" (SI.com, 11/30). Meanwhile, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Loretta Chao notes with the Chinese Basketball Association's season "already two weeks old," a handful of NBA free agents playing there are "under contract to stay put." In addition to "facing serious financial penalties if they leave, these players wouldn't be able to sign with NBA teams." Chao notes it "remains to be seen whether the NBA players here will seek ways to get out of their contracts -- but it's unlikely," because the Chinese league "offered no opt-out provisions." Chinese Basketball Association Golden Bulls GM Zhao Bing indicated that free agent G J.R. Smith's "contract with the team includes provisions for the Golden Bulls to be compensated if he doesn't complete the season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/1).
TAKE A LESSON: In L.A., Helene Elliott writes under the header, "NBA Can Learn Some Things From The NHL." The NBA "will begin from a position of greater strength than the NHL did" following the '04-05 lockout. The NBA "still has lucrative agreements with ESPN/ABC and TNT that will make for constant, inescapable promotion of games and personalities." Also, the NBA's "absence was much shorter, with the season trimmed by only 16 games." The NBA "hasn't said if teams will slash ticket prices, but there's precedent for it: After a lockout reduced the 1998-99 season to 50 games, it required teams to make at least 500 seats per game available at $10 each" (L.A. TIMES, 12/1).
EASY DAVE: GRANTLAND.com's Brian Phillips wrote NBA Commissioner David Stern has always been the "tyrant-as-entertainer, the mob boss who winks while he's calling in the hit." Stern is "always kidding when he seems serious, but he's always deadly serious when he's kidding." For a "long time, the two pillars of David Stern's commissionership were his air of absolute authority and the sense of easy whimsy with which he inhabited it." However, with the lockout seemingly over, Stern "finds himself in a strange place." He "won the negotiations," but he "looks like he lost." Phillips: "He's less relevant and more vulnerable than at any previous point in his reign. The Easy Dave of dry quips and unchallenged power has been replaced by a nastier and more bitter figure, one who no longer seems like a perfect fit for the NBA's mood." For the "first time, he's lost the crowd." Phillips wrote, "They're not just booing him, they don't believe in him. Well, crowds can be won back, and he works for the owners, anyway. But it's hard to escape the sense that right now David Stern is a ringmaster who nearly burned down his own circus and can't understand why we don't want him to go on with the show" (GRANTLAND.com, 11/29).
FRANCHISE NOTES: In Portland, Joe Freeman notes while Trail Blazers President Larry Miller "provided some clarity to the Blazers' most pressing issues, Miller left Blazers fans with as many questions as answers after a roughly 21-minute interview session at the Rose Garden." Freeman writes, "Who will be the new general manager? Unclear. Will the team use the "amnesty clause" on Brandon Roy and waive the one-time franchise centerpiece from the roster? To be determined." Miller "made one thing abundantly clear, however: Over the past few months, interim GM Chad Buchanan and his front office staff have been crafting on a plan for this very moment," and the Blazers "put that plan into motion Wednesday morning." Miller said, "Our guys have been working feverishly behind the scenes as much as possible" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/1)....Bulls Chair Jerry Reinsdorf said that he "would give strong consideration to paying the NBA's luxury tax if he could acquire a player who gave the team a reasonable chance to win a championship" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/1)....Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie said that the team "will have to spend $16 million to $17 million to reach the minimum salary level and is about $25 million under the projected salary cap." In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes the Kings have "the biggest salary cap cushion of any team in the league." Petrie said that the team "won't use the amnesty clause to release a player." He also noted that he is "unsure if the Kings will bid on amnestied players," as the rules of the process "still have not been defined" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 12/1).