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NBA owners’ self-fulfilling financial handcuffing

Thurs, July 4th, 2024

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The Opening Tip

  • Aprons and penny pinching, explained

  • Olympic basketball is going to be a treat

  • More ranting about Bronny James

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1. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative

If you follow the NBA’s offseason tangentially, you’ve probably heard the term ‘apron.’ As in, this team is over/under/near the first/second apron.

You might be an idiot for other reasons, but not understanding all the apron talk is not one of them.

Essentially … Most teams are not in apron territory, but if your payroll hits or exceeds $178M, you’re in the first apron. If it hits or exceeds $188M, you’re in the second apron.

What happens when you’re in either apron: It severely constricts your team’s ability to trade for high-salary players or mortgage your future via draft picks. Here’s a full list of specific constrictions, but, basically, the goal is to make it so expensive teams can’t get better.

Now, ask yourself, are NBA owners — who fought for this specific rule in the new CBA — using it to act in good faith?

No! They are not. They are using the constricting nature of life in the aprons to justify getting under them.

You might have noticed this: The normally deep-pocketed teams are using the aprons as an excuse to shed massive payroll. 

  • The Clippers let Paul George walk for nothing. The Warriors cut Chris Paul and let Klay Thompson walk. The Nuggets let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walk, opting not to match what was a reasonable deal. 

The only owners who are YOLO’ing: Suns owner Mat Ishbia, who’s an idiot, and Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, who blacked out, gave every Boston starter a nine-figure deal, then put his team up for sale.

2. Daily GIF: Wemby to Rudy

The teams who have to face a front court of Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert in the Olympics this summer are going to have a serious case of megalophobia.

[WATCH: France vs. Turkey highlights]

3. Trivia

Which of these players is not in the top five of most made 3-pointers all-time?

James Harden

• Klay Thompson

• Dame Lillard

• Reggie Miller

Guess, click and see if you're right.

4. The justification is a stretch

In the frantic defense of LeBron’s nepo play, LeBron apologists have made two consistent points: (1) The NBA is run by nepotism, so who cares and (2) where was this energy for Thanasis?

The first one is just whataboutism, which is deflection. We all do it.

The second one, while also whataboutism, is particularly stupid:  

  1. Thanasis -- Giannis’ not-very-talented brother, a member of the Bucks since 2019 -- is a walking punchline. He is not a serious member of the NBA community. Is that what LeBron wants for Bronny? For him to check in, get dunked on, then clowned on Twitter?

  2. For the entirety of Thanasis’ Bucks tenure (2019-present), the Bucks have been a title contender. Nepotism is about leverage. Giannis could make Milwaukee sign Thanasis because he has the ability to bring the Bucks a title. The Lakers are not title contenders, which is another reason this makes LA look kind of pathetic. They are bending the knee for LeBron for … what reason? A photo op? 

  3. Thanasis is 6-foot-7. He was drafted by the Knicks in 2014 after Giannis’ unremarkable rookie season. Thansis was drafted on his own merit/potential. At one point, he was considered a prospect. Bronny -- say it with us -- is a 6-foot-1 non-shooter who averaged 4.8 PPG for a bad college team. 

Again, if you want to think this is a cool story, that’s fine, but the justification is confusing. LeBron let a bad college player, who is also his son, skip the line so he could play with him. How you interpret that fact is up to you.

[READ: Bronny James didn’t ask for the attention, so give him a break]

Quick hits

  • This is a real quote from JJ Redick on Bronny James, who averaged 4.8 PPG for a bad college team: ‘Bronny has earned this through hard work’

  • LeBron leaked that he would take a pay cut for three specific players. The Lakers signed none of those players, and now he has signed a max deal. 

  • Look at this statline from Giannis vs. Dominican Republic. 

  • Klay Thompson and Draymond Green hated that the Warriors extended Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. 

  • Banned NBA player Jontay Porter is facing a federal felony charge. 

  • Kemba Walker has retired from basketball after an unsuccessful year overseas. 

  • Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese both made the WNBA All-Star roster, marking the first time since 2014 two rookies have made it.

Reads + Pods

  • Searching for the star of the NBA Finals [New Yorker]

  • How Klay Thompson’s 13-year run with the Warriors splintered so unceremoniously [The Athletic]

  • Paul George’s arrival changes everything [The Ringer]

That's the buzzer.
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