That's right! We've got some actual basketball to watch. The 2011 EuroBasket Tournament. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "This is a boring event, just a bunch of amateurs...". Wrong! How many NBA players can you spot in this photo? Yep, four!  And as you can see, one of them happens to be the great Boris Diaw in typical Doris fashion. Brings back memories, doesn't it? See, this is no amateur event, its got pros. 

Now hit the jump and I'll give you the info. 

First is the Bronze Medal Game between Russia and the F.Y.R of Macedonia. Afterward, France takes on Spain for the Gold Medal. 


Games are on Sunday, 9/18.

Russia vs Macedonia at 7:30 AM PDT
Spain vs France at 11:00 AM PDT

Both games will be streamed on ESPN 3


Bronze Medal Game

(9-1) Russia vs (7-3) Macedonia 


Key Players: Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov as well as former NBA player, Victor Khryapa. 

Strengths: Russia is perhaps the best defensive team in this competition. They rank #1 in both steals and points allowed. On offense they have good ball movement as evident by their 2nd place ranking in assists and 3rd place ranking in FG%. They go 9-10 guys deep and everyone knows their role. This is a true team. 

Weaknesses: They don't rebound the ball very well and it's what killed them in their lone loss to France on Friday. Also, despite their good ball movement, they're really just a decent offensive squad. They have no scorers. They don't have that guy who they can throw the ball to and expect to get to the line and draw a foul. That is why they only rank 12th in both free throws made and attempted. Now, that may be better than half the teams in this tourney, but that's only because the rest suck (no offense). 

Overview:  This is still a very good group though, but they rely too much on their defense. However, it's to no fault of their own. They just don't have the weapons to be good offensively and so they have to rely on defense. Hey, it's worked out so far as they've had much success, and now here they are fighting for a medal. 

F.Y.R of Macedonia 

Key Players: Bo McCalebb and Pero Antic.

Strengths: They're the best 3pt shooting squad in this tournament and they're good defensively, but not on par with Russia. They've got that underdog thing going for them though. 

Weaknesses:  Not a good offensive team. They rely too much on the 3-ball. 

Overview: Too be honest, I don't know much about them and so I'm probably not giving them the credit they deserve. What I do know is that they've been the biggest surprise in this competition. Nobody expected them to be here and yet, here they are. That shows me they're no pushover. 

Game Prediction: Russia won the last matchup vs Macedonia due to a game winning, buzzer beater from Sergey Monya. I expect this to be a very competitive and intense, defensive contest. I enjoy watching the Russian team play, so my best bet is on them. Russia takes home the Bronze winning 67-60. 


Gold Medal Game

(9-1) Spain vs (9-1) France



Key Players: Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, Marc Gasol and former NBA player Juan Carlos Navarro.

Strengths: Spain has it all. They've got a good PG, they've got good shooters, rebounders, defenders and they've got Pau Gasol. They're about top 5 in every category and they're loaded with NBA talent as you can see above. 

Weaknesses: I don't think they have one, so I'm going to make one up. They're too confident. Their only loss in this Tournament was due to a 4rth quarter choke in which they gave up a 55-49 lead, allowing Turkey to go on a 16-2 run. 

Overview: For the last 6-8 years, Spain has been one of the top 3 countries in basketball next to Argentina and the USA. Nuff said. 


Key Players: Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw. 

Strengths: France can score and they're athletic. That makes them a very intimidating team to guard (Just ask Russia). They too have some good, quality NBA talent. 

Weakness: Their defense is kind of average, but their offense makes up for it. 

Overview: I don't know much about these guys, I've only seen them play once and that was during a win against the undefeated Russians, 79-71 on Friday. Of course, I have to assume they're pretty good. I mean, I don't even need to see their record, just look at those players. Parker and Noah? If they had these guys actually play for them in recent competitions, who knows what they could have done!

Game Prediction: In their last meeting, Spain crushed France 96-69. I don't think that's how it'll play out on Sunday. There is a chance Spain comes into this game too confident and lets France get up on them early. However, I doubt it. This is the Gold Medal Game were talking about! This is for their country!  For that same reason, I don't expect France to just lay down like they did in the last outing. This is their chance to redeem themselves and there's no better opportunity to do that then in the Gold Medal Game!

I expect this to be an exciting one, but someone other than Parker and Noah from that French squad is going to have to step up. And guess who that player needs to be? Yep, Boris Diaw.... Well, good luck France. 

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With apparent headway being made toward establishing a new CBA between the owners and the NBA Players Association, reports have now surfaced that two owners, Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns, have stalled a potential new deal by going against the general consensus of the owners and expressing their objection to many of the terms.

While this rumor has been disputed by David Stern in an article on Probasketballtalk.com, one may still wonder if there is still some truth to these allegations, especially when the star player of one of the teams, namely Steve Nash, adds a little fuel to the fire by retweeting an anti-Sarver rant that was originally posted by Bill Simmons.  See below:

@SteveNash Steve Nash RT @jrich23: @sportsguy33 have some great points about NBA lockout. All fans should see what he have to say.(Go check his twitter rant now!)

This is what the tweet said:

@sportsguy33 Bill Simmons 2 Sarver overpaid for team, spent last few years slicing $$$$ and turned Suns fans against him. Not he wants to blow up the system? Go away.

Nash was then asked this by a fellow fan, to which Nash replied with his answer:

@SteveNash Steve Nash RT @mucorey: @SteveNash Btwn u & ur GF RT'ing @sportsguy33 Sarver rant, suppose ur days as a Sun are over? :( (Nah. I'm a SUN but NBAPA 1st)

While this doesn't confirm that Nash is taking a direct shot at voicing his support of the rant aimed at Robert Sarver, he certainly doesn't do much in the way of defending him either.  In all fairness Bill Simmons had seven total points to make about the NBA lockout, and Robert Sarver was only bad-mouthed in one.  But still, by indirectly co-signing an opinion that was voiced by Bill Simmons against all things Sarver, Nash doesn't exactly appear to be very happy with his boss at the moment.

Suns Jared Dudley Speaks on Lockout

An in-depth interview Suns' union representative Jared Dudley gave to Brian Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Guys like Aaron Brooks SHOULD be making backup money while he's a backup. (AP Photo/Matt York)

You're darn right a hard cap is a "blood issue" with both the owners and players. The players are the only ones admitting it right now, but it's obvious that the owners feel the same way. The line in the sand was drawn a long time ago. While many fans are getting caught up in money and revenue-sharing being the biggest issues (billionaires fighting with millionaires), the real issue is the salary cap itself.

Just consider this example: under the current salary cap structure, the LA Lakers can spend $100 million on player salaries and turn a profit, while the Sacramento Kings spend $45 million on player salaries and yet lose money.

Make no mistake - there are two separate issues here. Cash distribution and talent distribution.

The owners know they can figure out the cash distribution amongst themselves. They're all big boys and can devise a revenue-sharing system to help spread the wealth a bit more.

But the biggest issue is this: why are the Lakers even allowed to spend more than twice as much on salaries (nearly double the "cap") in the first place? If you want competitive balance, and you want all teams to have a fighting chance at equitable talent distribution, you have to put more limits on spending.

Let's look back at our friends in the NFL, who have a hard salary cap. No team can spend any more than any other team, regardless of circumstances. Sure, there are poorer teams than others (Tampa Bay, for example) who don't approach the cap each year. But the biggest advantage of the hard cap is that a team like Dallas, whose owner has the deepest pockets in the game, cannot just buy himself a championship.

The National Football Conference, in which the Cowboys reside, has not had a repeat Super Bowl representative in 10 years. TEN YEARS! And yet, despite being willing to spend every penny in their pockets, the Cowboys have failed miserably. Not only have they failed to appear in a Super Bowl during that span, they've only won ONE playoff game. I guarantee you that if the NFL had the same rules as MLB or NBA, the Cowboys would have won multiple championships this past decade, simply because Jerry Jones would sign every player he wanted. He would be the George Steinbrenner, Jerry Buss or Mark Cuban of the NFL.

The NBA owners don't want to impose a hard salary cap like the NFL just to "save them from themselves".

They want the hard salary cap to save them from their peers. They don't want Jerry Buss to be able to spend twice as much as his peers, and 30% over the "cap" at which teams are viable.

To be sure, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NBA allows for the same types of contracts that the NFL enjoys. The owners don't have to exceed the "cap". They have the option to offer as little as one-year, non-guaranteed contracts any time they want, just like the NFL. In theory, they should be able to control their own spending. 

But they can't, for two big reasons.

Reason #1: All it takes is one

In the NBA, guaranteed contracts are a death nell only to the relatively poor. If you're rich, you can offer guaranteed, escalating salaries for multiple years and there is little to no punitive damage thanks to the soft cap. In a league where only 7-8 players get regular playing time on a team, even the most egregious spenders get to bring in new players to replace old ones in the lineup without having to even get rid of those old ones. The Lakers added 2 rotation players to their $100 million 2-time champion team last year without giving anyone away. That's improving 25% of their team even though they were $30 million over the "cap".

So what does that mean to the Sacramento Kings? It means they have to offer the same lucrative contracts (big, long-term, guaranteed money) or they won't get the time of day in negotiations with free agents. Yet, if you don't have the same revenues, you can't afford to keep spending on even more players. So you end up with Beno Udrih making $6 million a year for the next 5 years even though his performance drops off precipitously. And what if a big-money player gets injured? Richer teams just go get new players while still paying the injured guy. Poorer teams turn to a rookie or journeyman and look forward to lots of losses.

Closer to home, take the Amare situation. As I wrote before, teams are allowed to offer the same contracts that NFL players get. Owners are allowed to be prudent. Sarver offered oft-injured Amare a max contract that was only 60% guaranteed (by contrast, Larry Fitzgerald's new NFL deal is less than 40% guaranteed, and Fitz has never been injured!). Amare laughed and said he wanted "an NBA deal, not an NFL deal". The Knicks gave him "an NBA deal" - same money, but all guaranteed for all 5 years. So long, Amare. All it takes is one.


Reason #2: Collusion is illegal

Players and agents say they're only taking what's offered. No one is MAKING the NBA owners offer these crazy deals. And the players would be stupid to reject them.

Great! So what if all the NBA owners sat down and decided, as a unified collective, that no one would offer more than 3-year deals anymore. And that every contract would have an out clause in case of non-performance or injury (non-guaranteed money). And, that no one would exceed the "cap" by more than X dollars, despite the free exceptions they've got. And let's further pretend that they trusted each other not to break those unwritten rules.

In that case, the lockout could end today and the old CBA could be extended. Owners could offer little whatever they want, and the players would have to take it. Fiscal sanity is back!

Not so fast. That's called "collusion" and it's illegal. In a collective bargaining world, one side cannot collude to control prices that intentionally deflate the market. And since the market has been insane for so long, any significant decrease in contracts would be seen as collusion.

The only way the owners can enact some sort of fiscal sanity is to change the rules of the CBA, to protect them from their competitive peers and antitrust violations.

The line in the sand has been drawn.

At some point, the players will compromise, and so will the owners. We will likely end up with something halfway between the NFL hard cap and the old NBA soft cap. Some exceptions, like the midlevel exception, will likely be dropped or dramatically changed. "Bird" rights will be limited to X concurrent uses (like NFL franchise tags). Teams like the LA Lakers won't be able to significantly improve their team if they are already over the cap. Harsher penalties will be enforced on those already there.

Yet players will still get guaranteed deals (though maybe for less years). The stars will get paid big bucks. The solid rotation players will get solid money. And the middling/fringe players coming off a good season will still get middling/fringe money (long term) or a short-term windfall at best.

And the season as well as the NBA's viable future will be saved.

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