1) Washington Wizards owner, Ted Leonsis mentioned that the NBA would have a hard salary cap like the NHL and was fined $100,000 by David Stern for saying so. How do you think the hard salary cap will affect the league and should the NBA have one?
Mark: It's clear that the NBA needs to change its salary structure because a number of teams are losing money hand over fist. For a sport as financially challenged as the NBA, I think a hard cap like the NHL is worth exploring. If there was a way to eliminate guaranteed contracts, like what you have in the NFL, that would lead to even more parity and financial success in my honest opinion. I guess this is why I'll never be a lawyer for the player's union.
Devin: It would be extremely difficult to implement now, especially since you've got all these giant contracts recently signed. Pat Riley is not going to sign off on a hard cap with three near-max players on their roster. If it was grandfathered in somehow - I.E. contracts signed prior to hard cap agreement only count as a certain percentage of the cap - it could work, but I'm not a fan of a completely hard cap. I think the salary system as it stands is more effective.
Evan: There is no question that if the league implements a hard cap, player salaries will go down, especially for the non-superstars. The top guys will still get maximum money, but players who have gotten mid-level and veteran exceptions in the past will not be as well paid. There are two clear sides of the argument as to whether the NBA should impose a hard salary cap. Naturally the owners will want to implement one to curb players’ salaries and the Player's Association would be strongly against one. My opinion? Impose a hard cap like the NFL and NHL. One of the great things about the NFL is that each season a new team seems to come out of the woodwork and make a strong run in the playoffs. A major reason for this is because of the competitive balance created by a hard salary cap. A hard cap in the NBA will equal more competitiveness around the league and will not result in the same teams making the NBA Finals each season (Lakers, Celtics, Spurs…).
DV: I'm all for a hard salary cap. It just makes sense competitively and proof of it working is in the NFL where every season teams come out of nowhere or fall hard from expectation. Sure there are a lot of factors that go into those things happening, but the managing of salaries is a big part of that. Not only will this even the field a bit more, but it will make scouting and analysis that more important and in any game, those are important elements to winning, as opposed to just throwing money around and not being afraid to make mistakes because a team doesn't mind eating up a bad contract.
2) The Orlando Magic have verbally committed to offering Dwight Howard an extension before he's a free agent in 2012. Will this happen happily and quietly or will there be a lot of noise as there's been during this offseason?
Mark: I think a lot of this depends on the end result of the CBA next summer, since that will ultimately affect Howard's payday. He's probably not going to get the kind of money LeBron, Bosh, and Amare got this offseason, so is he going to be accepting of that, or want to take his ball elsewhere? I think at the end of the day he stays in Orlando, though there will probably be a little drama.
Devin: I think it'll be closer to Kevin Durant-level noise than "The Decision"-level noise. While Dwight is certainly an entertainer, I think he's seen how bringing too much attention to off-the-court irrelevancy can be pretty damaging to your reputation. I wouldn't be surprised to see the ink dry on a max contract mid-season without much fanfare. Besides, it might be prudent for Dwight to sign quickly - given the restructuring of the CBA that is bound to happen, he may not see another potential payday like this for a while.
Evan: Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA. I have no reservations at all about saying that and he will be with the Orlando Magic for the next decade. Despite the fact that he and Coach Stan Van Gundy have not always seen eye-to-eye, Howard will sign a contract extension next summer and it will happen without much fanfare. “Superman” has a great thing going in Orlando, teaming up with Jameer Nelson to form a dynamic duo that will be around for a while. The Magic learned their lesson with Shaquille O’Neal in 1996; they won’t make the same mistake with their franchise center this time.
DV: Howard doesn't have the ego or feeling of self-importance that other players have and he seems to genuinely love being a basketball player in the NBA, but most importantly, doing his thing in Orlando. I think he definitely re-signs and will get max money. There won't be much hullabaloo when this happens other than a quiet joy from the Magic organization and its fans.
3) There is a new rule regarding whining to referees; players can now be T'ed up for it. Which player will get the most of these types of technicals?
Mark: It's hard for me to say because of the long-standing superstar rules that have plagued this league for years. Is a player like Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter really going to get a T every time they whine after a play? Like, really, really? Because I don't buy it. Instead a guy like Brook Lopez who tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve but isn't regarded as a "star" on a major team will bear the brunt of this rule - a good one, mind you, if carried out correctly and a legitimate zero tolerance is demonstrated.
Devin: Even though he's retired, can I still select Rasheed Wallace? Honestly though, I have no idea. The new rule is a complete joke. It's either going to be enforced and result in a record number of suspensions, or it's going to be cast aside. I surely hope it's the latter; players have every right to feel and express frustration when they feel they've been wronged - it's a natural emotional instinct. These guys are running on pure adrenaline and putting their bodies on the line every single play, and referees are certainly imperfect in their calls. I certainly hope this is one of those things that gets forgotten about quickly - especially come playoff time.
Evan: The first player that I thought of with this new technical foul rule was Kendrick Perkins. The guy literally argues every foul call and I think if you asked Perk, he’d say he’s never committed a foul in his life. However he is not likely to see the court before early February because of his knee injury, and while you can certainly chalk him up for a few from the bench, he won’t have enough playing time this season to be the league’s leader. So my award for the most whining T’s in 2010-11 will go to none other than Kobe Bryant. You could argue that any superstar complains and whines to the refs, but the Black Mamba outdoes them all. Kobe had 13 tech’s last season and that number will go way up if the referees actually enforce this new whining policy.
DV: I think this is a dumb rule and hope it doesn't get enforced past the "let's make it look good" period of a few weeks or so. However, if this sticks, I think the player that gets T'ed up most is Vlade Divac.