Owners should push for franchise player concept

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Owners should push for franchise player concept

Monday, Feb. 7, 2011
4:52 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When NBA players and owners get together for collective bargaining sessions this summer, one of the biggest concerns has to be the viability of smaller market teams. We already witnessed LeBron James and Chris Bosh bolting their franchises to form a superstar trio in Miami. And, dont look now, but the Knicks might be the next super-team with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and possibly even Dwight Howard talking about teaming up with Amare Stoudemire in New York.

So, how can the NBA avoid becoming a top-heavy league, with 5 or 6 powerhouse teams, a few middle class squads and 15-20 punching bags? The answer might lie in the franchise-player concept currently used by the N.F.L. Teams are able to keep one player out of free agency by guaranteeing to pay him the average salary of the top 5 players at that position. The idea could work well for NBA teams who focus so much of their game plans and marketing around one of two star players.

Imagine the Bulls without Derrick Rose, Oklahoma City without Kevin Durant, Orlando without Howard or the Clippers without emerging star Blake Griffin. One player truly can change the direction of a franchise, and the NBA needs to make sure they have enough competitive teams to keep the regular season interesting. By guaranteeing every franchise can keep its best player by paying a competitive salary, the league will have more continuity and fan identification in every market.

The other issue going forward is the idea of a hard salary cap, similar to what exists in the N.H.L. right now. We all saw what happens when a team brings in too many high salaried players. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year, then had to unload almost half of their roster to get in line with the leagues hard cap. If the NBA is able to sell the concept of a hard cap to the Players Association (which doesnt seem likely), a number of teams with bloated payrolls like the Lakers, Mavericks and Magic might be forced to sell off players for pennies on the dollar to meet league guidelines. Thats why the Bulls dont want to take on any long-term, high-priced contracts right now, given the fact they still need to sign their franchise player, Rose, to a long-term extension.

Looking at the Bulls payroll for next season, theyll have 3 players making over 10 million dollars in Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. When Rose signs his extension, that group will grow to 4. So, thats why the Bulls would have zero interest in bringing in a high-salaried veteran like Richard Hamilton or Stephen Jackson as an upgrade at the shooting guard position. Since both of those guys have 2 years remaining on their contracts, adding their salaries to a rapidly growing payroll might prevent the Bulls from signing Rose to an extension if the league goes to a hard cap, or a new system with fewer loopholes for a team to re-sign its own players.

Any way you look at it, were staring at a new economic reality in the NBA. When the dust finally settles after an expected lockout, some teams may find themselves needing to sell off some high-salaried players, and the franchises that have their payrolls in order will be ready to swoop in and reap the benefits.

Nuggets could be facing worst-case scenario

With just over two weeks until the NBAs trade deadline (February 24th), it appears Denvers inexperienced front office team of Josh Kroenke (the owners son) and General Manager Masai Ujiri may have over-played their hand in negotiations on a possible Carmelo Anthony deal. The Nuggets should have moved quickly to close a 3-team deal that would have brought Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and a couple of 1st round draft picks to the Mile High City.

Instead, the Nuggets got greedy and tried to force New Jersey to take on Al Harringtons bad contract in addition to everything else they were giving up in terms of players and draft picks. Understandably, the Nets refused, ultimately leading to the announcement from team owner Mikhail Prokhorov that his franchise was ending trade talks with the Nuggets.

Now, Denver is involved in 3-team discussions with the Knicks and Timberwolves that as of now would only bring restricted free agents Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer, plus just one first round draft pick to the Nuggets for Anthony. Clearly, the Nuggets management team messed up in not getting the earlier deal done with New Jersey. They know that Carmelo has always wanted to go to the Knicks, and now New York management doesnt even have to make a competitive offer since theyll be able to sign Anthony as a free agent if they just wait until the off-season.

Any way you look at it, the Knicks are going to wind up with Anthony, and Denvers front office will have a tough time convincing their fan base they did the best they could in trading an unhappy star. Going back to the super-team concept I mentioned earlier, the Knicks will have 23 of the job done with Anthony and Stoudemire, and depending on the new cap rules well see if theyll have the room to add a third star.

As for the Bulls, they continue to explore lower-priced options for an upgrade at shooting guard, including Courtney Lee, Anthony Parker, Shannon Brown, Rudy Fernandez and O.J. Mayo. Are you in favor or the Bulls making a trade, or should they stick with the current cast, and wait until the labor situation is settled before making any roster moves?

Please post your comments in the section below. Ill be talking to you from Salt Lake City Wednesday night. Our pre-game coverage on Comcast SportsNet Plus begins at 7:30 p.m.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Tonight on CSN: Bulls shoot for five straight wins as they battle Nuggets

Tonight on CSN: Bulls shoot for five straight wins as they battle Nuggets

Watch as the Bulls take on the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

1. A pair of playoff teams....really. The average basketball fan thinks Bulls vs. Nuggets and doesn't necessarily think of a pair of playoff teams. But the Bulls have won four straight and are tied for sixth in the East, while the Nuggets have surprised the league and gone 25-31, good for eighth in the West. The Bulls opened as three-point favorites, meaning this one could go either way. And when it comes time for the playoffs this is one both teams may look back on as A) a helpful win or B) one the loser really could have used.

2. Going for five straight. The Bulls have won four straight for the second time this season. That fifth game the first time around was a seven-point loss to the Clippers. The Bulls won six in a row last season in December and January, so this is an opportunity to pick up a five-spot for the first time in more than a year. Currently the Bulls are tied with the Spurs for the longest winning streak in the NBA.

3. Cameron Payne getting involved. Expect to see more and more of the second-year point guard who came over in the deal from the Thunder. Payne got just a handful of minutes on Saturday against the Cavaliers but looked good, going for 6 points on 2-for-3 shooting in 12 minutes. There's a logjam at point guard to be sure, but the Bulls dealt for Payne because they want to see what he can do in extended minutes. He has a good matchup against Denver in Jamal Murray and Jameer Nelson, and could do some damage when he gets in.

4. What could have been. When the Bulls traded the Nos. 14 and 19 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft to the Nuggets for Doug McDermott, Denver used one of those picks on Michigan State guard Gary Harris. The 6-foot-4 guard has turned into one of the better young under-the-radar players, averaging 14.2 points on 48 percent shooting and providing solid defense in 29 minutes a night. Who knows if the Bulls would have selected Harris with one of those picks, but he sure would look good on the perimeter next to Jimmy Butler.

5. Bobby Portis momentum. With Taj Gibson out of the picture the starting power forward job is officially Bobby Portis' to lose. Portis has been impressive in his last five games, averaging 11.4 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and is shooting 36 percent from deep. He'll get a difficult test against the Nuggets' frontline, but these are the kinds of games that can help the young forward's progression.

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Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

A milk carton was a more likely place to find Bobby Portis than on a basketball floor playing big minutes for the majority of his second season.

He could often be found in the locker room before games and listening to the older players talk to the media afterward, trying his best to fight off the frustration and admitted confusion that comes with the regression of not getting playing time.

When Portis did play, he looked nothing like the confident and borderline cocky rookie who often referred to himself in the third person in interviews. He didn't know when he would play, how long he would be out there or even worse, what was expected of him.

The trade of Taj Gibson at the deadline — preceded by the temporary benching of Nikola Mirotic — put Portis back in the spotlight and he's intent on making the most of it during the last 23 games of the regular season.

"It's fun. You know go out there every day just to know that it's another day I'm going to play," Portis said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I feel like that's already a confidence builder right there, just coming into every game knowing that I'm in the rotation. It's great fun to go out there and play."

It's no secret the front office the Bulls want Portis to succeed and not add him to the ledger of some of the first-round disappointments that can be recalled in recent memory.

The trade of Gibson was certainly underlined with the mantra that Portis should play and the way was going to be cleared for Portis, one way or another. Scoring 19 with eight rebounds against the Celtics on national TV right before the All-Star break probably gave Portis enough validation considering he was thrust into the starting lineup at power forward soon after.

"I don't care about nobody judging me," Portis said. "At the end of the day I'm going to play basketball. That's my job. I'm going to go out there and do the things I do well. I feel like sometimes people misconstrue just because you don't play and they can say some things like that. I don't really care about anybody judging me at this point. At the end of the day I'm still going to be Bobby Portis at the end of the day."

Well, clearly, the third person thing hasn't left the second-year forward, but he said he stayed in the gym waiting on his opportunity, even through a quick but confusing stint to Hoffman Estates to the D-League.

"Just being hungry. Humble and hungry," Portis said. "You know one thing I always strive off of is being humble and hungry. That kept me sane. My mom, I talked to her a lot. She kept me grounded. It's kind of tough not playing and going through the season knowing that some games you might play, you might not play. You know it's about waiting your turn, but at the same time you have to keep working."

Being the fifth big in Fred Hoiberg's rotation didn't leave him a lot of room for Portis to get much run or even find a rhythm, and like many others who've found themselves out of the rotation unexpectedly, it was without much of an explanation.

"Nah, I didn't really know what I could do to get minutes," Portis said. "The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn't work."

Now that he has found himself into Hoiberg's good graces, his improving range has allowed both units to play similiarly.

"I think Bobby has done a real nice job," Hoiberg said. "He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He's stepping into his 3 with good rhythm."