LEBRON Opts Out of Contract with Miami Heat….

SO apparently this morning Lebron James informed Miami Heat, through his agent that he is exercising his early termination on his contract & will be a FREE AGENT as of July 1st. Where will he go? Will he come to LA? Did he leave because he couldn’t take the HEAT (pun intended)? Is he after his next ring? What are your thoughts on him becoming a FREE AGENT?


NY TIMES reports — Carmelo Anthony enjoyed the privilege of being the N.B.A.’s most coveted free agent for a little more than 36 hours. That ended Tuesday morning when it was revealed that LeBron James had informed the Miami Heat through his agent, Rich Paul, that he intends to exercise the early-termination option on his contract and become a free agent on July 1.

The news was not surprising — by opting out, James can explore other opportunities while putting leverage on the Heat to improve their roster — but it sent seismic tremors across the league, nonetheless. James, who has won two N.B.A. championships with the Heat, is widely regarded as the planet’s best player, and any team would love to have him.

The problem for most potential suitors, as is often the case amid the frenzy of free agency, is salary cap space. Most teams lack the financial flexibility to absorb the type of contract that James is sure to command, although he could be wooed by the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers (his former team), the Houston Rockets, the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, who have oodles of cap space and have yet to hire a head coach.

The Heat, though, remain the favorite to retain his services. James, 29, has made four trips to the N.B.A. finals in four seasons in Miami, and he seems to enjoy playing there.

The Heat’s most recent trip to the finals, however, was a bit of a disaster, as the San Antonio Spurs — executing their smart and savvy style of basketball — steamrollered to the title in five games. The series exposed some of the Heat’s flaws, including their lack of depth, and guard Dwyane Wade’s physical limitations.

By opting out, James can restructure his deal with the Heat to help accommodate more players. But much of that could also hinge on what Wade and, to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh decide to do. Like James, Wade and Bosh have opt-out clauses in their contracts. But unlike James, they have yet to inform the Heat of their plans.

James was due to earn $20.6 million from the Heat next season.

Dwight Stays in LA: Dwight Howard won’t be traded, Mitch Kupchak says


According to the Washington Post — With the NBA trade deadline approaching at 3 p.m. EST, one player is going nowhere: Unless General Manager Mitch Kupchak is the world’s best bluffer, the Los Angeles Lakers will hold onto Dwight Howard.

“We’ve been very consistent,” Kupchak said on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” (via ESPN). “We’re not trading Dwight Howard. … He will not be traded, and there’s nothing that anybody can do today to call me today and ask me, ‘Would you do this?’ and get a positive result.”

All righty then. Of course, Howard can render all the affection moot if he decides to become a free agent when the season ends.

“The only thing that matters is right now,” Howard said. “Nobody can control what happens in the offseason. Like I said to you guys before, there’s no need to talk about it every day.

“There’s no need for me to make a decision right now. My goal hasn’t changed. I want to win a championship and I want to win one here. I’m here right now and this is our chance to get one this season. It’s been tough, but we have an opportunity to change all that.”

Kupchak was a little less adamant about trading Pau Gasol, who is out with torn plantar fascia.

“We’re not going to trade Pau today or tomorrow, but his name has come up in the past, and it would be misleading to say it won’t come up in the future,” Kupchak said.

“I Stay In My Lane & do what I have to do” -Bryant

UPDATE on NBA Lockout: A Player’s View of Owners

EDITOR’S NOTE: Etan Thomas, an 11-year NBA veteran and, as the executive first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, an active member of the players’ negotiating team, presents a player’s view of the attitude and stance being taken by NBA executives during the lockout. This, from his perspective, is what the owners are thinking. (source: ESPN)

We are the CEOs of the 30 teams in the NBA. We follow the lead of our commissioner, David Stern, and this is our position.

The fans will always side with us no matter what the facts are. They don’t see us as greedy; they see the players as greedy. They don’t see us as being unreasonable; they see the players as being unreasonable. Their anger will turn directly toward the players once they no longer have basketball in their living rooms.

We know fans don’t want to see their favorite teams broken up because of a strict hard cap or an incredibly harsh luxury tax, which is the same as a hard cap. But it isn’t about what the fans want; we plan to impose our will on the players, and the fans will have no choice but to accept the outcome.

We haven’t budged drastically from our original proposal because, quite frankly, we don’t feel we have to. We’re just going to sit back and wait for the players to self-destruct while we stick to our position.

They think their little $300 million-a-year giveback to us will suffice? They think lowering their percentage of basketball-related income (BRI) from 57 percent to 54 percent is good enough for us? Stern was being nice when he called that gesture “modest.”

The majority of us do not want a lockout, being that we are billionaires and do not like to lose money. We also do not believe the players will stick together once they start missing their paychecks. It’s easy for them to speak the language of solidarity and unity now. It isn’t difficult for them to come to our negotiating meetings and take cute little photo ops with their matching “stand” T-shirts now, but we fully expect to see them caving once their paychecks stop coming in. We believe they are going to come crawling back to us for whatever deal we give them, almost like a strung-out addict who will do anything for the next fix. We are the ones who can scratch that itch for them, and they won’t care about the particulars of the deal then. They will just want something so they can return to playing. And at that point, we’ll give them an even worse deal than they would’ve received when they weren’t desperate. And we’re gonna do it because we can. Just like the NHL did to its players in the lockout in 2004-05.

So we’re able to comfortably enter the negotiations from a starting point that’s twice what we’re expecting to get and negotiate our way down to what we really want. And, after achieving our desires, we can make everyone think we actually made concessions. We can give them back things they already had, such as a soft cap and guaranteed contracts; and the media will present us as though we are being flexible.

They want us to come up with a revenue-sharing plan, which has been difficult because the reality is that not all of us want to share with each other. But if we get the deal we want, it won’t be necessary. Every team will be guaranteed a profit no matter what bad decisions we make.

We’re going to stick to our talking points about the system being broken, stress our desire for competitive balance and emphasize that 22 of 30 teams are operating in the negative.

We know the system is just fine if we can properly run and manage our own teams. We know the general managers and presidents and all the people who actually make the decisions are the ones at fault, but we’re going to point the finger at the players for accepting the contracts we give them.

We will stress that a reduction in player salaries stands as the only way to offset our losses. And we want the players to give us back portions of their existing contracts for the next few years.

We know limiting the amount each team can pay its players has absolutely zero correlation to competitive balance.

We also know that if teams controlled their own spending, hired the right people to evaluate talent and made better decisions, they wouldn’t be operating in the red. But that isn’t how we are going to present it to the public. We will divert the attention away from the real crux of the problem.

It’s like in Washington, when one of the political parties digs in its heels and keeps repeating a position just like a mantra until people start to believe it. That’s a brilliant strategy, and we are going to use it: Our system is broken. We want competitive balance. Twenty-two out of 30 teams are operating in the negative. We’ll just keep saying it.

In fact, we’re not even going to entertain the reports by Nate Silver of The New York Times, Forbes.com and Financial World magazine suggesting not only that our claims of massive losses were a bit overstated but that we had actually earned a profit in 2009-10. We’re just going to tell you that our calculations are correct and leave it at that.

We definitely see the contradiction in the fact that after increasing our overall revenue in one of the country’s worst economic periods since the Depression and enjoying skyrocketing television ratings, record attendance and ever-increasing revenues from television rights deals the past six seasons, we are now suggesting the structure by which our league operates overall is failing. We know that multiple successful businessmen, smart enough to make themselves into billionaires, wouldn’t line up to try to buy franchises in a “failing” industry.

We know that if teams could control their spending, they wouldn’t be in the financial predicaments they are in now. Which is why we want the rules to make our bad decisions less damaging. We want the rules to protect us from our own incompetence. We want to be able to come to a player and say, “Listen, we would love to pay you the max. We think you are worth it. But you know what? The rules simply won’t let us.” It takes the responsibility off of us.

We see the irony in teams choosing to blow through their salary caps, then wanting a hard cap to keep them from doing what nobody forced them to do in the first place. We know that the very system Mark Cuban is now against has enabled him to run his team to his preference, no matter what the luxury tax, and win his first championship. We know he enjoys that freedom.

We know that factors such as Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed more to New Orleans’ financial troubles than anything else.

We know that the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are prime examples of how, if they’re run properly, small-market teams can be successful through draft picks and proper management.

We also know there is no possible way a small-market team such as Memphis or Minnesota could ever compete with a New York or L.A. when it comes to TV deals, which makes the need for revenue sharing even more apparent. We know that it would take Portland 10 or 11 years to make what the Lakers make from their TV deal in one year.

But again, we won’t focus on that. We can look away from the facts and just concentrate on our talking points.

Our system is broken. We want competitive balance. Twenty-two out of 30 teams are operating in the negative.

We are more than happy that the agents are trying to undermine the union by sowing seeds of dissension and division among the players. They write letters that become public, stressing their doubt that the union has the players’ best interest at hand. If portions of the players begin to lose faith in their union, the waters become muddy, and we can then dominate the situation by adopting the age-old strategy of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”: Divide and conquer. At first, we were worried about the agents working with Billy Hunter and the union, but, to our pleasant surprise, the opposite has happened.

The agents are under the impression that the answer to moving this process along is the threat of decertification. They feel that this threat will bring us to the table to start negotiating seriously. They believe this is the silver bullet that will save the season, without asking themselves the million-dollar question: What if it doesn’t work? What if they play that card and it does nothing? What if we call their bluff?

The agents fail to recognize what a dangerous game that is to play if we don’t react the way they are hoping we will. Of course we don’t want the union to decertify, but who is to say we will just cave at the mere threat of it?

It’s like the movie “The Breakup,” in which Jennifer Aniston keeps doing things to get a reaction from Vince Vaughn. When he doesn’t react the way she thought he would, it just keeps making things worse.

Agents are naive enough to think decertification can be used as a negotiation tactic. Their expressed desires prompted us to file the lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board and in federal court. We asked the courts to grant us the legal right to void all existing player contracts if it is discovered that the decertification (if used in the future) is a sham. We know the union has never made any actual threat to decertify, but the potential influence of these agents is a concern for us. So filing a pre-emptive strike was a no-brainer.

We know the union has consistently distanced itself from what the agents are pushing.

But that aside, having the agents plant a seed of dissension among the players is beneficial for us. So the union can bring in DeMaurice Smith in an attempt to keep the players together and convince them that decertification is not the silver bullet the agents have been telling them it is. They can have Kevin Durant claim that the players won’t give in. They can have Carmelo Anthony stress the importance of the players sticking together. They can have Chauncey Billups and Jermaine O’Neal explain how agents need to stay out of the negotiations and that the agents work for the players and not the other way around. They can have Kevin Garnett give emphatic speeches at union meetings. They can have Kobe Bryant telling guys that he will put up his own money to help some of the younger players who are struggling.

And Dwyane Wade can take offense at Stern’s gestures or language in the bargaining sessions all he wants. Once the seed of dissension is planted, it only works to our favor.

If we can get players to fragment and their walls of unity and solidarity to come tumbling down, we will win.

The only fact that is relevant is this: If the players don’t stick together, we will crush them. Period.

Etan Thomas is an 11-year NBA veteran and a poet, author and motivational speaker. You can visit his website at etanthomas.com. (cont.)

Day 93 Of The NBA Lockout: Will We Have A 2011-2012 Season?

It is looking like both parties will not COME to an agreement by next week, in order for the regular season not to be effected. I really hope so because this is damaging to more than just the NBA players, what about the vendors, all the employees employed by the arenas/stadiums that host these games.

The NBA made more than $4 billion last fiscal year, but Stern claims the league still lost $300 million. Owners want to change the 57 percent-43 percent revenue breakdown that currently favors the players and establish a hard salary cap. And while they’ve shown signs of softening their stance this week, the sides remain at least $500 million apart. In last week’s negotiating session, the owners proposed that the players’ share of basketball-related income be cut from 57 percent to 46 percent. League sources said the players were offered a 48 percent share on Tuesday. The owners also want a 5 percent reduction on all current salaries for this season, a 7.5 percent reduction in all 2012-13 salaries, and a 10 percent reduction in 2013-14 salaries, the source added. (source: businessweek.com)

ESPN reports — When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.

Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.

Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat‘s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”

The NBA denied Wednesday night that Stern has any such extreme intentions. “It’s simply not true,” NBA senior vice president Tim Frank said. In 1998-99, which ranks as the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.

It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks to the media will have the intended “scare” effect and convince players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time. At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.

The league and the union did agree Wednesday to meet again Friday and likely through the weekend, but Stern warned that there are “enormous consequences at play” in the coming days. Sources said that the sides need to have an agreement in principle by the middle of next week at the latest in order to ensure that the entire 82-game regular season, scheduled to begin Nov. 1, can be played.

Two days’ worth of talks ended Wednesday to allow negotiators from both sides to observe the Rosh Hashanah holiday that began Wednesday night at sundown. Each side has summoned its respective bargaining committee to New York on Friday for the most important stretch of the lockout to date, pledging to meet through the weekend if progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement is being made.

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has called for his executive committee members, as well as some of the league’s superstars such as Kobe Bryant and James, to meet Friday in New York, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard. Bryant, though, has been in Europe all week on a Nike promotional tour and is not expected to be back in time for Friday’s session.

Sources told Broussard that Stern is also scheduled to meet with league owners Friday, with owners and players expected to end up in the same room for negotiations. If James attends, that could result in his first face-to-face meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert since James left Cleveland for Miami last summer.

Union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers said of the expanded meetings: “I think it points more toward the calendar than actually being able to measure progress. It points to the realities that we face with our calendar and that if we can’t find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time.”

Fisher said some of the league’s biggest names could join the executive committee in Friday’s meeting, and Miami guard Dwyane Wade has committed to attend. Wade was part of a meeting about labor issues at the 2010 All-Star Weekend in Dallas, when players were briefed about owners’ plans for dramatic changes to the league’s salary structure.

“I look forward to learning something that I didn’t learn two years ago,” Wade told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Hopefully it’s different information, something that will move us forward. Hopefully we don’t walk out of the meeting back at where we were at the All-Star Game two years ago.” Wade has been in New York for the past couple days for business meetings. When the invitation came to attend Friday’s session, he did not hesitate.

“I’ve talked to a couple guys,” Wade said. “I’m here. … I was going to leave tomorrow, but I’m going to stay in town and go to the next meeting.” With the scheduled Nov. 1 season openers just over a month away, Stern said there would be “a lot of risk” attached to a failure to reach an agreement in principle by the end of the week. But both sides made it clear in press briefings after Wednesday’s talks that there hasn’t been enough progress to put them on the verge of a deal.

The lockout entered its 90th day Wednesday. During Tuesday’s bargaining session in New York, Stern offered a new proposal to the players’ union that budged slightly from the owners’ long-held position on establishing a hard cap, league sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher.

Stern wouldn’t comment Wednesday when asked whether owners had softened their salary-cap stance. Nor would he say if the season could still start on Nov. 1 without having any preseason play at all. “I shouldn’t deal with hypotheticals here,” he said.

“All I’d say to that is that there are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend,” Stern continued. “Either we’ll make very good progress — and we know what that would mean, we know how good that would be, without putting dates to it — or we won’t make any progress and then it won’t be a question of just starting the season on time, there will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress.”

Training camps have already been postponed and 43 preseason games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were canceled last week. The league has said it will make decisions about the remainder of exhibition play as warranted, but further cancellations were expected at week’s end even before Stern turned up the pressure with his comments Wednesday.

Fisher said the players’ executive committee could be joined Friday by other star players who would be invited if their schedules allowed. The owners’ labor relations committee consists of 11 members, but Fisher acknowledged that there could be about 15 owners present.

“I can’t say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there I think is there,” Fisher said. “We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won’t be any magic that will happen this weekend to just make those things go away, but we have to put the time in.”

Bucher reported Tuesday night that owners did not offer players a finite annual team limit on salaries but are willing to relax their insistence on a hard cap only if certain conditions are met.

Those conditions include:

• The “Larry Bird exception,” which allows teams to exceed the cap to retain their own free agents regardless of their other committed salaries, is limited to one player per team per season.

• The mid-level exception, which the league valued at $5.8 million last season and could be extended by as many as five years, is reduced in length and size.

• The current luxury tax, the $1-for-$1 penalty a team must pay to the league for the amount it exceeds the salary cap, is to be severely increased.

In last week’s negotiating session, owners proposed that the players’ share of basketball-related income (BRI) be sliced from 57 percent to 46 percent. Broussard reported Tuesday that the owners’ BRI offer had increased to 48 percent.

Sources say that the owners also want a five percent reduction on all existing salaries for this season, a 7.5 percent reduction of all 2012-13 salaries and 10 percent reduction of 2013-14 salaries. Bryant, meanwhile, said Wednesday during his tour stop in Italy that it’s “very possible” he’ll play there if the lockout drags on, noting that he regards the country like home because he spent part of his childhood there while father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant was playing professionally in Italy.

Virtus Bologna has made numerous contract offers to the Los Angeles Lakers star. The club told The Associated Press that the latest talks are centered on an offer a $2.5 million offer for 10 games over 40 days from Oct. 9 to Nov. 16. That would come out to about $1.5 million after taxes. “It’s very possible — it would be a dream for me,” Bryant said Wednesday in Milan, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “There’s an opportunity that we’ve been discussing over the last few days. It’s very possible and that’s good news for me.”

Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Marc Stein on Twitter: @stein_line_HQ

Take a Chance on Me (via Painting the Black)

interesting take on the NBA DRAFT!!! A must read!!!

Take a Chance on Me Don't back down now. It's time to go all-in. Bryan Colangelo has to push his chips in the middle and hope for the best. In a draft class where sifting through the talent is about as difficult as getting the Raptors to play good defence, there is no better opportunity for the Toronto GM to make a bold move. The Raptors should take Kemba Walker. With each mock draft miles apart from the next, there's no telling what player each team is going to dra … Read More

via Painting the Black

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