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Author Topic:   NBA - 2009/2010 Season
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posted August 10, 2009 01:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Fiscal worlds collide
Rubio case tests limits of NBA

By Frank Dell'Apa | August 9, 2009

Spanish guard Ricky Rubio apparently wants to play in the NBA next season. The NBA wants Rubio, judging by the fact he was the No. 5 pick in the June draft. And Rubio’s club, DKV Joventut, is more than willing to let him go.

So, what’s the holdup?

For one thing, there is Rubio’s $8.55 million buyout, small change for Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. But there is also something stronger at work than dollars - a clause in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement that limits teams to $500,000 for buyouts of players outside the league.

In other words, Rubio could be playing in the NBA if the Timberwolves were allowed to pay the market price. Olympiakos of Greece and Real Madrid offered Rubio $5 million contracts. Regal Barcelona came in at $3.6 million. All three clubs would have to negotiate the buyout, but Rubio would be earning enough to chip in, as well. And all are offering much more than the Timberwolves.

If the richest basketball league in the world is being outbid, something doesn’t add up. An obvious solution would be for the NBA to increase the buyout limit when the next CBA is negotiated.

If the limit were, say, $3 million, it would give the Timberwolves and Rubio a chance to work out a deal. Even if Minnesota offered less than European clubs, it could fork over a couple million and propose playing a couple exhibitions in Spain, donating profits to Rubio’s club.

Right now, the Timberwolves do not have much bargaining power, their best hope being a sponsorship deal that would pay Rubio enough so that he could buy himself out of his contract.

But the $500,000 figure is not likely to change, since this is a minor issue compared with what the owners and players were concerned with in pre-CBA talks last week. And if the spending limit is raised too high, “It could open a can of worms,’’ according to former Real Madrid player Walt Szczerbiak, father of former Celtic Wally Szczerbiak.

“The NBA wanted to protect teams, because they know how things work in Europe,’’ Szczerbiak said. “They wanted to avoid [European clubs] taking advantage of them. They didn’t want teams to be pressured into having to make a decision on paying [for a buyout] or not.’’

The root of the Rubio stalemate lies in a clash of systems:

■ NBA teams are franchised entities competing in a system that limits the number of teams and monitors resources with a player draft and spending restrictions. There are safety nets everywhere in the NBA, to prevent overspending, and the propping up of unsuccessful teams by giving them competitive advantages. European teams are clubs, their leagues heavily influenced by national federations, lack of success penalized by relegation. There are no safety nets.

■ NBA teams do not develop talent, relying on colleges to do so. European teams develop their own players, funding a series of youth teams to do so.

■ The NBA has a negotiated distribution of the wealth through its CBA. In Europe, similar agreements do not exist, and even if a continental league similar to the NBA were formed, an operation resembling a cartel could be in violation of European Union regulations.

So, in this case, there is a spending limit accepted almost without question by one league (the NBA), but viewed as a foreign concept nearly everywhere else.

“I think the cap makes sense,’’ Houston general manager Daryl Morey said. “It creates a natural sort of guideline when international teams are setting buyouts. So that is beneficial to the NBA and FIBA.

“Maybe there is a way to make it a sliding, graduated type of number, depending on the situation in Europe, or the number of years experience a player has, or something along those lines. Or, depending on where they are picked in the draft, they could be permitted a different buyout. But for the large majority, the cap works fine.’’

The NBA’s spending limit for players outside the league in 1999 was $350,000. Another $150,000 was added in 2003. Those figures are minuscule compared with what even the poorest of European soccer teams are willing to pay for talent. And the dollar has been devalued since they were instituted.

“The $500,000 might as well be zero, because it’s only equal to about 350,000 euros,’’ said Guy Zucker, an agent representing several NBA players. “If European clubs are offering $3.5 million and you are offering $500,000, you don’t have a very good chance.

“It’s an archaic law. If the foreign players sued, it wouldn’t stand up in court.’’

NBA administrators and owners have become more worldly in the last 10 years. They might still need to be protected from themselves with spending limitations, but they should have grown up enough to be able to negotiate with those sly foreign agents. And, after all, the money for talent development has to come from somewhere.

“The world doesn’t begin and end in the NBA,’’ said Szczerbiak, who is employed by the Spanish national league. “These teams work hard to be competitive and represent their cities. They have to be incorporated. They are professional teams with budgets of $14 million-$20 million. They have money and time invested in players and they are not thinking of themselves as a farm system for the NBA.’’

Joventut took a chance with Rubio, coach Aito Garcia Reneses bringing him to the first team at age 14.

“He was too good for his age group,’’ Szczerbiak said. “In the finals of the 16s, he had 51 points, 20-some rebounds, and I don’t know how many assists. His stat line was off the charts, and that was just in the final game.’’

As for the Joventut buyout clause, it is a simple matter for clubs such as Olympiakos of Greece and Real Madrid. Both offered $5 million. Then Rubio decided he did not want to leave his El Mansou home near the club in Badalona; he would, though, play for nearby Regal Barcelona, but it offered only $3.6 million. Joventut is sticking to its buyout price, partly because the club could use the money and also because of friction caused, the club says, by Rubio himself.

“Joventut won’t be low-balled,’’ Szczerbiak said. “They’re upset because, since the draft, they say [Rubio] has acted in a selfish manner.

“He had a contractual obligation. But now he seems to be saying, ‘What’s in it for me?’ and the president of the club is saying, ‘What’s in it for the club?’ The president is saying they will keep him but he won’t play, and his salary is low enough that they can do it. But it could be a ploy.’’

Indeed, both sides are posturing. Joventut apparently does need the money, but it might have to settle for less than $8.55 million. But Rubio would be taking a major risk buying out his own contract because he would not earn enough in guarantees from the Timberwolves as the No. 5 pick. Had he been drafted in the top three, the guarantees would have been sufficient.

“When he signed the contract, his parents and lawyers were there, and they were happy with the buyout clause,’’ Szczerbiak said. “The club loved him and he planned to stay there until he was 20.’’

But a lot happened in the last two years, and Rubio is now ready for the NBA. Unfortunately, the NBA might not be ready for Rubio.

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posted May 11, 2010 11:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Celizic: Adios, LeBron? Likely in more ways than one
Cavs have no answer for dominant Celtics, no reason for James to re-sign
By Mike Celizic
updated 8:56 p.m. PT, Tues., May 11, 2010

Rajon Rondo is the best player in this series, better than LeBron “Bury my Game at Wounded Wing” James. But the skinny Boston point guard isn’t the reason the Celtics are on the verge of closing another chapter in the long and miserable history of Cleveland sports.

It’s never one player, as the Cavs should be able to tell you by now. They have the best player in the game, the reigning two-time MVP, and all it’s gotten them is a 3-2 deficit with Game 6 in the hostile confines of TD Garden.

It could be the last game Cleveland plays this year. More important, it could be the last game LeBron plays in a Cavs’ uniform. After looking around at the help he didn’t get and the likelihood that his supporting cast isn’t going to get better, it’s quite likely LeBron will leave town as a free agent.

If so, he goes as the most exciting player in any sport Cleveland has had since Jim Brown. But Brown won a title. LeBron hasn’t.

The only thing that would keep him in Cleveland would be winning the NBA championship. But he’s not playing as if that’s all that important. Tuesday night, he looked lost, as if he’d met his teammates in the locker room five minutes before the game.

This is not good for Cleveland. The only way the Cavs can beat Boston is if LeBron puts up two straight 40-point, triple-double performances. He’s not healthy enough and the Celts aren’t accommodating enough for that to happen.

You never say a great player can’t win a game all by himself. LeBron’s done it once in this series, in Game 3. He could do it again.

But you know that’s a stretch, because LeBron is getting as much support from his teammates as President Obama is from Senate Republicans.

Compare that to Rondo, who was able to take the first half off Tuesday and still watch his team win by 32.

Before Game 5, a lot of people were going to give all the credit for a Celtics win to Rondo. It’s easy to see why. The kid has been a better player over five games than anyone on the court, including LeBron. Before the series began, Boston was about the Big Three. Now, it’s the Big One with three pretty good supporting players.

Rondo is a skinny little squirt, the kind of player you just hated on the playground because guarding him was like guarding the reflection of a shadow. You could see him, but even if you stood in front of him, he seemed to move right through you, except he didn’t move. He flowed.

But as great as Rondo has been, the reason the Celtics annihilated Cleveland in Game 5 on Tuesday wasn’t him. He didn’t score a single point in the first half and didn’t do much else, either. Even handing out an assist seemed a bigger task than backfilling the Grand Canyon with a salad fork.

Instead, Boston’s Big Three checked back into the game. We’d almost forgotten how good Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are when they’re on their games. Blame Rondo’s brilliance for that.

Tuesday night, we got a demonstration of just what they can do. Allen was deadly from outside. The Cavs could have dropped a piano on him and he still would have drained the shot — and the free throw. Garnett and Pierce were opportunistic and also deadly. Allen finished with 25, Garnett with 18 and Pierce with 21. That’s 64 points right there.

With Rondo contributing nothing, the Celtics took a six-point halftime lead. In the second half, Rondo decided to score. He made it look easier than scratching your nose, and against Cleveland’s defense, it was that easy. With Rondo putting in 16, the Celtics ran away to a 120-88 win. And it wasn’t even that close.

LeBron, meanwhile, couldn’t get going. He shot 3-for-14 and had just 15 points. After ringing up five assists and five rebounds in the first half, he added just two assists and one board in the second. It could be the elbow, or it could just be that he woke up Tuesday morning and realized he’s surrounded by garbage.

Any way you look at it, it was the second worst playoff game of his career, surpassed in ineptitude only by his non-performance in Game 1 of the Cavs’ 2008 playoff series against the Celtics. LeBron was 2-for-18 in that game with 10 turnovers and the Cavs lost the game and went on to lose the series in seven games.

They’re on their way to losing this one in six. LeBron could change that, but no one else on Cleveland’s team has shown capacity or the inclination to help. Antwan Jamison is a great scorer who’s forgotten how. Point guard Mo Williams can light up a scoreboard — in the regular season. In the playoffs, he has been almost as useful as sunscreen in a coal mine. If it hadn’t been for Shaquille O’Neal’s 21 points, the Cavs would have lost by 40.

Great players win championships. So do great teams. In this series, it’s the Celtics with both the great player and the great team. All Cleveland has is one great player who’s not playing great.

And it doesn’t look as if the Cavs will have him much longer. If you were he, would you stay?

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posted May 19, 2010 02:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message

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