Durant struggling to deal with injury (Yahoo Sports)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 14: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Chesapeak Energy Arena on October 14, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Richard Rowe/NBAE via Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder forward Kevin Durant says he has been antsy since finding out he will miss the early part of the season with a broken bone in his right foot.


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Durant signs endorsement deal with Neff (Yahoo Sports)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — NBA MVP Kevin Durant has added action sports accessory brand Neff to his rapidly growing list of endorsement deals.

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NBA Rights Deal Gives Rockets More Fuel, Competition in Future Free-Agency Talks

Not long after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s long fly ball sailed foul this summer, he pledged to keep swinging. Opposite-field singles are not his style. 

Soon, nearly the entire NBA will swing for the fences too. A free-agent frenzy like no other looms on the horizon thanks to the NBA’s new media rights deal and corresponding salary-cap increases. 

Recently, the Rockets haven’t needed salary-cap spikes to seek the best free agents or biggest deals available. Morey scored the free agent of 2013 in franchise center Dwight Howard, before whiffing on a home run swing for Chris Bosh this past offseason.

That led to the stunning decision to let Chandler Parsons flee to Dallas. Morey claims the Rockets’ championship chances are better with Trevor Ariza at just over half the price, giving Houston salary-cap flexibility in lieu of a strong roster virtually locked in place.

While making his case for flexibility, Morey has pledged Houston won’t shy away from the next long-shot superstar acquisition.

“Sometimes you have 11 and you double down and you get two,” he said after the smoke cleared following Bosh’s decision and Parsons’ departure. “It doesn’t mean it was wrong to double down.”

But when the new rights fee deals with Disney (ABC/ESPN) and Turner (TNT, Bleacher Report, NBATV) drop crisp dollar bills into league coffers, the Rockets could face an unprecedented number of competitors ready to spend like, well, the Rockets.

Morey has in past seasons carefully built his roster to have the cap room or flexibility to trade for James Harden in 2012, to sign Howard in 2013 and to chase Bosh and Carmelo Anthony in 2014. When he regrouped from this summer’s near miss—after Bosh took the extra $30 million the Heat added to their offer at the last minute—Morey offered only short-term deals to make sure the Rockets would remain free-agent players in 2015, and especially in 2016.

Now, with the salary cap likely to jump between $25 million and $30 million for the 2016-17 season and maybe sooner if the NBA can convince the Players Association to accept a more gradual phase-in of the increased cap, all kinds of teams that would not have otherwise had the cap room to gain admittance to the free-agent dance will be able to make their moves too.

(In a league memorandum issued last week, NBA executives were barred from commenting on the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations or the impact of the new rights fees.)

Of course, the Rockets’ flexibility could still come in handy, offering a chance for players to team up in a Heat-like axis of power. The Rockets have just four players—Harden, Ariza, Howard and Nick Johnson—with guaranteed money for the 2016-17 season, and Howard could opt out of his deal in the summer of 2016 to take advantage of all that new cap room.

(Howard passed on a Los Angeles Lakers‘ offer $30 million richer than the Rockets could offer him in 2013. He could make up for that by starting his new deal in the rich, new landscape one season earlier.)

By then, the Rockets will have also likely committed years and dollars to point guard Patrick Beverley, a free agent after this season. They could keep forward Terrence Jones or forward Donatas Motiejunas around. For now, they have just $25.5 million, not including Howard’s $23.3 million on the books for 2016-17, when the cap could jump to the pricey neighborhood of $90 million.

But even if they choose to have only enough players under contract for a decent poker game, they would have roster spots and cap room like never before. 

They won’t be alone. Less certain will be whether teams choose to spend their money carefully in 2015 in anticipation of a free-agent class likely to be headlined by LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Howard in 2016. Even then, players might have to weigh taking the windfall that will come with the new TV deal versus waiting another year for the new collective bargaining agreement and whatever forms of riches it could bring the league’s upper crust.

For example, would Rajon Rondo seek only a one-year deal in 2015 so he can be a free agent again in 2016? Would teams offer him maximum money for just one season if they could lose him so quickly? A player like Paul Milsap, who would be a coveted free agent but not necessarily a max-contract player, could have to choose between waiting a year for the salary cap to jump or taking the offers that might be richer because teams may attempt to lock up stars with the current salary-cap structure.

Eric Bledsoe and Kenneth Faried chose long-term contracts now, contracts that might not seem quite as much of a gamble for their teams when the new world order kicks in.

Many of these questions could be answered as the NBA begins working through the new uncertainty, beginning with a board of governors meeting this month.

Morey will continue to gamble on landing big names because that is the strategy he and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander value. That would not change if the new money to spend brings more teams into the market, though the Rockets could use their flexibility and again chase multiple free agents, as they did with Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

In the era of the short contracts, decisions in 2014, including the Rockets’ willingness to let Parsons bolt for Dallas, are not likely to bring regrets because of changes to come in 2016. More than ever, however, teams will look for guidance about how and when the rights fees will change their lives.

This could give NBA front offices, especially teams that have saved their allowance, two years of waiting to go shopping in a buyer’s market with new money burning holes in general managers’ pockets. Morey has been there before. Now, more than ever, he is certain to be back to try again.

 

Jonathan Feigen covers the Rockets for the Houston Chronicle, and can be followed on Twitter at @Jonathan_Feigen.

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New NBA TV Deal Offers 2015 Restricted Free Agents Unique Leverage

Navigating restricted free agency has always been a leverage-free endeavor for NBA players who, for the most part, find themselves at the mercy of incumbent teams and offer sheets that don’t come.

Then the NBA signed a new media rights deal that, perhaps inadvertently, created leverage for members of the 2015 restricted free-agency class who haven’t yet signed.

Not everything changed upon The New York Times‘ Richard Sandomir revealing that ESPN and Turner Sports (which owns Bleacher Report) would pay the Association $24 billion over the course of this new agreement. There remains ample risk involved for players. But there is now a negotiating ploy that wasn’t available to past restricted free agents.

Take the Golden State Warriors and Klay Thompson. Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com says the two sides remain millions apart in extension talks. Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, is apparently seeking “at least $15 million” annually while the Warriors are slinging $2 million less.

Thanks to the new TV deal and the player-friendly raises it will bring later, Thompson has the necessary ammunition to justify his asking price now.

And he’s not the only one.

 

Immediate Change

It all starts with the salary cap.

There is no reason for spending power not to explode in the coming summers. Nearly three years removed from a lockout that emphasized the limits of a franchise’s earning potential, the owners will be hard-pressed to escape the symbol of $24 billion.

“That’s a lot of money,” Kevin Durant said of the deal, per NewsOK.com’s Anthony Slater. “I don’t see how owners can say they losing money now.”

One way or another, this influx of cash will be funneled into the salary cap, which stands at $63.2 million for 2014-15. It’s not a matter of if, only when and how much.

Although the cap is expected to erupt at some point, “smoothing out” has become a buzzphrase around the Association, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

There is no way to avoid some shock to the cap figure at some point, but there are ways to ease the trauma. The league and its TV partners, the same partners as under the old deal, could agree to make 2015-16 sort of a hybrid year, at some price point between the old $930 million and the new $2 billion–plus. That would raise revenues more than anticipated for 2015-16, and thus raise the cap beyond the current $66.5 million projection. …

Several teams have been operating for months under the assumption the cap would reach at least $70 million for 2015-16, and any bigger-than-expected jump for that season could help teams on the borderline of having max cap room this July. 

Spreading out the increase over time, beginning immediately, diminishes the size of the anticipated jump for 2016-17, which Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck says will elevate the cap to an “estimated $84 million.” But it also means that player salaries are going to increase sooner.

Player contract values and annual earnings are proportionate to the salary cap. If the latter goes up, the price of contracts and yearly salaries goes with it. And if next sumer’s cap surpasses the current projection ($66.5 million), players are going to cost more sooner.

Bypassing those expenses would be impossible when it comes to unrestricted free agents. Midseason extensions are obsolete for them because they, unlike restricted free agents, stand to make more by waiting regardless of salary-cap increases, hence the reason Kevin Love didn’t put pen to paper on a new pact upon joining the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Impending restricted free agents—such as Kyrie Irving and Kenneth Faried—are wont to sign on the dotted line prior to actual free agency because 1) these contracts represent their first massive payday and 2) offseason markets are limited by their respective team’s ability to match any offer. The latter is why incumbent teams aren’t always inclined to extend max-contract sheets as soon as they can.

Usually the Warriors could wait their Thompson situation out, the worst-case scenario being they match an offer sheet that meets Thompson’s current asking price; the best-case scenario being they lock him down for less.

But if the cap mushrooms early as part of some smoothing-out process, his price tag could balloon with it, costing the Warriors more. Signing him now, even if it’s for more money than anticipated, winds up being a discount if the team believes another interested party will throw a max deal his way next summer.

Players coming off rookie deals who are angling for extensions, like Thompson, can use the threat of that increase to inflate their immediate value.

Teams are going to be in the hunt for talent this summer. With so many players expected to position themselves for 2016 free agency—think about the two-year deal LeBron James signed in Cleveland this year—suitors may be more willing to tender max-offer sheets in exchange for long-term security other prospects aren’t promising.

 

Pulling a Monroe

Immediate adjustments to the salary cap aren’t going to be earth-shattering, bringing the upside of above tactics into question. If the 2015-16 ceiling stops somewhere around $70 million as Lowe suggests, that’s only a $3.5 million difference from the initial projection.

Greater leverage is found in summer 2016, when the cap figures to spill into the $80-plus million range.

To get there, restricted free agents would have to do what most restricted free agents typically don’t do: table extension talks now, play through 2014-15, sign their qualifying offer next summer, then hit unrestricted free agency in 2016.

Precedent is found in Greg Monroe’s restricted free agency this past offseason. Instead of signing an offer sheet from a rival team or re-upping with the Detroit Pistons, he accepted his qualifying offer worth almost $5.5 million, per ShamSports

Monroe easily could have made double that amount this year. Though the move allows him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Pistons can still offer him the most money and he’s tightly tethered his financial security to remaining healthy and productive for at least another year. That Monroe’s agent, David Falk, also told Sports Business Daily (via BasketballInsiders.com) his client received numerous lucrative offers only adds to the big-picture risk.

“Players—more accurately players’ agents—have been threatening to sign the qualifying offer for ages,” SB Nation’s Tom Ziller wrote weeks before Monroe signed his qualifying offer. “There’s a reason no one takes those threats seriously. The QO is not an arrow in the players’ quivers. It’s a fake weapon.”

A fake weapon that now carries real weight.

Writing for ESPN.com (subscription required), salary-cap guru Larry Coon estimates that the max-contract value for players with six years or less of experience will “increase by $3.77 million” annually if the cap incurs a $16 million spike. If it climbs even higher—as Lowe discussed—the annual uptick will be even more.

Threatening to drag out contract situations for nearly two years, as 2015 restricted free agents would have to do, might seem pointless if modest financial gains were on the line. But $3.8 million a season over the life of a four-year max is $15.2 million. Over the life of a five-year max, it’s $19 million.

That’s a truckload of money. It’s also a rough projection that could grow exponentially if the NBA is unable to convince the players union to curb any looming hikes.

 

Deadline Madness En Route?

Deadline day is almost upon us, and it carries incredible intrigue.

Fourth-year players have until Oct. 31 to hash out extensions with their teams, otherwise they’ll reach restricted free agency in July. There’s no telling what happens from there, roughly eight months later, when 2016 and its suspected cap bang doesn’t seem so far away.

Ricky Rubio can use that to force his Minnesota Timberwolves off the four-year, $48 million extension the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney says they’re dangling.

Thompson can use it to push the Warriors toward max-contract territory now.

Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Vucevic, among many others, can use it to extract more money from their contract negotiations.

Pricier contracts now won’t seem as expensive later. That’s the play. If restricted free agents are willing to defer, they have leverage past players didn’t, and an advantage future ones who enter the fray after the league is acclimated to this brave, new world won’t.

If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. Teams could call bluffs. Off years and injuries could derail earning potentials. That’s the price players could pay. That’s the risk they’re taking. But this is still leverage, the rewards of which allow today’s extension-seekers to reap the benefits of tomorrow’s financial boom.

 

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Will NBA’s New TV Deal Impact Boston Celtics’ Future Plans with Rajon Rondo?

Long-term team planning in the NBA has always been a challenge, but now you can use another adjective to describe it: ambiguous.

For the Boston Celtics, that uncertainty looms from the potential changes the NBA’s new TV rights deal will have on the salary cap. Any shifts in those numbers could have a major effect on how the team plans on handling Rajon Rondo‘s future, for this season and beyond.  

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times first reported last week about the new TV deal, noting that Turner Sports and ESPN will pay an average of $2.7 billion a year to the NBA for nine seasons (starting in 2016-17) in exchange for retaining exclusive broadcast rights for the league.

The new deal will send league revenues skyrocketing over the second half of the decade. The NBA salary cap rises and declines based on league revenues.

With the NBA expected to more than double its current average yearly intake for TV rights starting in 2016, the league’s salary-cap number could make a dramatic jump from the latest estimate of $66.5 million.

NBA salary-cap expert Larry Coon reported the NBA was projecting that cap figure for the 2015-16 season back in April. 

Zach Lowe of Grantland explored just how significant that increase could be in a column last week:

The league right now projects a jump to $66.5 million for 2015-16, a modest rise pegged to the final year of that modest $930 million TV deal. If the new TV deal kicks in for the 2016-17 season just shy of $2 billion, the cap could exceed that same $14 million leap, all the way to around $80-plus million, in a single year.

Lowe also reported that the league is considering the option of smoothing, a process which would tie the new TV deal revenue partially to the 2015-16 season as well.

That scenario would lead to higher revenues—and a higher salary cap from the league’s current $66.5 million projection—during the 2015-16 season, thus creating a more staggered rise to an $80-plus million salary-cap number in 2016.

The path the league elects to take in implementing any changes remains to be seen, but it is clear that many pending NBA free agents will be significantly impacted by this new TV deal when they hit the open market this summer.

Both teams and agents will be attempting to map out the value of each player in the midst of enormous shifts within the salary-cap landscape.

The most intriguing player to watch next summer, with these changes in mind, may very well be Rondo. In preparation for Rondo’s looming free agency, I took a closer look at just how much of an impact, if any, the pending salary-cap changes might alter the Celtics’ plans with their star point guard.

The value Rondo deserves in his next contract has always been a common topic of debate among league observers. The 28-year-old has amassed an impressive resume when healthy during his eight-year career, especially during the postseason when he helped carry the Celtics to deep playoff runs in 2010 to the NBA Finals and to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012.

Those performances, combined with elite point guard numbers throughout his career, have made Rondo a four-time All-Star.

The Celtics captain said on the team’s media day last Monday that this kind of production has made him worthy of receiving a max contract in his next deal, a suggestion that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t exactly dispute:

“I think a four-time All-Star by the time he’s [28] years old would qualify for max based on what we’ve seen in the marketplace,” Ainge said. “If I were Rajon and I were Rajon’s agent, I would definitely say that. But since I’m negotiating against him, I’ll withhold.”

Knowing the effects the NBA’s new TV deal is likely to have on player salaries, Rondo’s camp should be in a better position to secure a max-level contract from the Celtics or another team in the league next summer.

That stance is contingent on the point guard performing at an elite level on the floor upon returning from a broken left hand which will sideline him until November.

Assuming Rondo is able to return to his peak form, the Celtics will likely be more compelled to bring their captain back for the long haul due to a variety of factors influenced by the TV deal.

The first of those is a financial component. As I mentioned earlier, all NBA teams will be dealing with more salary-cap room than anticipated in future seasons, perhaps as early as 2015.

That means a potential max-level contract offered by Boston to Rondo, which would be worth a bit over $107 million over five years (based on next year’s $66.5 million salary-cap projection), won’t put as much of a dent in the team’s salary-cap room for future seasons as had been anticipated.

In fact, that kind of a contract for Rondo may be viewed as somewhat of a bargain later in the decade, when the salary cap jumps to over $80 million per season and max salaries for stars also see considerable jumps.

Crucial from a team-building perspective for the Celtics front office, however, is that the franchise would still have plenty of cap room to spend in free agency, even after potentially handing Rondo a $20-plus million annual salary.

They would have enough cash to try to lure another prominent player or two and have them team up with Rondo and other parts of the team’s young core to take the Celtics to the next level.

That line of thinking leads us to the other main reason the TV deal could increase the chances Boston keeps Rondo. The Celtics won’t be the only team benefiting from additional salary-cap space in future seasons; other teams will also have plenty to spend, and this fact will lead to increased competition for free agents on the open market.

That factor may also limit Boston’s trade market for Rondo if it explores moving him this season. Why would most teams give up assets for a player they can conceivably sign as a free agent with their added cap size?

The extra cap space will create a more aggressive marketplace overall in free agency, increasing the importance of appealing to any prized free agent with the lure of winning and a formidable supporting cast.

As the Celtics enter the next stage of their rebuild, landing top-flight free agents is the team’s best hope of developing into a contender once again. If Rondo is not in the fold for future seasons, the challenge of landing these types of players becomes tougher for Ainge.

The painful truth is that the rest of the Celtics roster doesn‘t exactly inspire the kind of confidence in future success that someone like Rondo, with his strong postseason track record, would.

The other wild card in play here for Boston’s plan with Rondo is the possibility that he will want to explore a short-term contract as a result of the TV deal. LeBron James pursued this strategy last summer, signing a two-year contract with a player option that will guarantee he can become a free agent in 2016-17 when the biggest jump in salary is expected.

If Rondo wants to benefit from the raised max-salary levels (35 percent of the salary cap for players with 10-plus years of experience, according to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement), he could seek a short-term contract that would give him the opportunity to become a free agent in the summer of 2016.

That strategy would maximize Rondo’s potential earnings but may be considered somewhat risky for a player with a significant injury history in recent years.

The bottom line is, beyond all of these variables, Rondo’s play on the floor this season still remains the biggest factor in his next contract and if the Celtics will be willing to pay a high price in future seasons.

The new TV deal will provide an opportunity for Rondo to earn a bigger deal, but the truth is, Rondo still has to prove he is worthy of it.

The Celtics still have not seen their longtime starting point guard play minutes while healthy under Brad Stevens. Even though Rondo suited up for 30 games last season, there were plenty of telltale signs that he was not in peak form in his return to the hardwood in January 2013.

Sure, there were glimpses of strong play from Rondo, but reduced minutes, an inability to play both games in a back-to-back and a career-low mark in field-goal percentage (.403 percent) demonstrated that Rondo had still not fully recovered from ACL surgery.

Ainge admitted these realities when discussing Rondo’s preparation for this season:

“[Rondo] was motivated [this summer] because he didn’t play very well last year, to his standards coming off the knee injury,” Ainge said. “He doesn’t like not to be good. He doesn’t like not being considered one of the best point guards in the game. That’s what drove him to hard work this summer.”

Rondo already had plenty to play for over the next six months, but if the point guard can return to his All-Star ways this season, the NBA’s new TV deal made the odds of the 28-year-old landing a lucrative deal with the Celtics just a bit better.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand by the author at Celtics media sessions. 

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Ray Allen Agrees To Deal With Cleveland Cavaliers

Looks like Ray Allen has made up his mind about playing next season. Allen, 39, will reportedly joing his buddy LeBron James and play with the Cleveland Cavaliers this upcoming season. Earlier reports of Ray Allen signing with Cavaliers are true. Done deal. #NBA — Glenn Moore (@GlennMooreCLE) October 7, 2014 Allen, a lifetime 40% […]
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Kobe calls out owners for hypocrisy after TV deal

Bryant has spoken out about max contracts and salary caps before.

      
 

 

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TV deal gives players, owners more to fight over

The NBA’s labor deal can be terminated in 2017. Expect both sides to want even more.

      
 

 

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Will the NBA’s New TV Deal Make It Easier for Superstars to Join Forces?

The NBA announced a new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal on Monday that will result in a major increase to the league’s salary-cap structure in 2016. Maximum contracts will skyrocket along with the salary cap over the co, and minimum contracts, rookie-scale deals and cap exceptions could rise after the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement, too.

Will such changes to the salary-cap system make it even easier for superstar players to join forces and form superteams?

Howard Beck joins Stephen Nelson to break down what the future of the league looks like in the video above.

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NBA gets more programming in TV deal

Summer league, D-League games will be televised in new agreement

      
 

 

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