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08.05.2019 00:55
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On July 2, not 48 hours into the financial chaos of free agency, the newest face of basketball opulence stood over a hotel toilet and barfed.Tyler Johnson had been told for weeks that this would be the most lucrative offseason for a semi-anonymous backup combo guard in NBA history. His agents said so. His superstar teammate on the Heat, Chris Bosh, said so. But now, on Day 2 of free agency, the numbers Johnson had heard -- 8 million per year ... no, 9 million ... no, wait, 10 million -- somehow looked conservative. Serious multiperson delegations from the Rockets, Kings and Nets had all come to downtown Chicago, where Johnsons agents are based, to meet the 24-year-old. The fact that hed averaged only 7.4 points for Miami over 68 career games -- less than one full season -- deterred none of the general managers or coaches paying homage. I kept feeling like someone was going to be like, Psych! Just kidding! None of this is real!? Johnson says.To pry him away from Miami, which had the right to match any contract, the Nets phoned Johnsons agents with a ballooning, back-loaded offer -- one that caused him to lie, facedown, on the carpet of their office.And then flee, minutes later, for the safety of his hotel room across the street. And then call his mother, Jennifer, back home in Mountain View, California, to cryptically exhale, We did it. And then vomit -- not once but twice -- as the sheer thought of a four-year, $50 million contract caused Tylers body to revolt against his brain.S---, Bosh said after hearing the news. Fifty?We hadnt even come to a decision yet, Johnson recalls of the ongoing bidding war, but I didnt know how to react.ON THE OFF chance that youd heard of Tyler Johnson before encountering this story, it was likely thanks to the following sentiment: These guys are ridiculously overpaid.Which is understandable. As any self-respecting NBA nerd can tell you, the salary cap abruptly surged from $70 million last season to $94 million this season, the scheduled result of a nine-year, $24 billion broadcast rights deal the league signed with Turner and ESPN in 2014. And so it was, in July, that front offices earmarked roughly $3 billion guaranteed for players over the first 96 hours of free agency alone.Call me a hater, Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams said on Twitter, echoing his NFL colleagues, but these NBA deals are insane. Now making it rain? The obscure, questionable likes of Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million from the Lakers), Evan Turner (four years, $70 million from the Trail Blazers), Solomon Hill (four years, $48 million from the Pelicans), Kent Bazemore (four years, $70 million from the Hawks) and on and on. Michael Jordan, it was pointed out, made a comparatively modest $94 million in salary over his 15-year career. An organism like Tyler Johnson making more than half of Jordans earnings in a single contract seemed epically declared Johnson one of the three worst signings of free agency 2016. USA Today wrote, I know hes shown flashes, but that seems like way too much money to invest in his potential. Johnson, who shoots a respectable 38 percent from 3, could not help but sarcastically hit like on this tweet: You want 10mil just to miss wide open shots and lose teeth every time someone runs into you. Be gone white boy. Four days after that, he encountered a poll tweeted by a Miami fan account that asked, Should the Heat match the Nets offer for Tyler Johnson?Of the 995 respondents, 73 percent said no.People were like, Who is this guy? I have to look his name up on Google,? Johnson says now. They dont look at me and see $50 million, necessarily.Its early August, and the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Johnson is wearing slides, shorts and a T-shirt in the lobby bar of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Unlike the conspicuously built Mozgov, or Turner, or Bazemore, or Hill, the pale, high-flying Johnson isnt obviously an NBA player. Not even to NBA players. After he swatted an Andre Miller finger roll during the 2014-15 season, Miller confessed, in genuine bewilderment, I definitely didnt think you had that. And Johnson notes that when he grows out his closely cropped brown hair, his identity is even more masked -- as evidenced, in part, by the increase in strangers who call him white boy. (Tylers father, Milton, is black.)As for that tooth insult: Johnson is missing one of his lower incisors, the victim of a summer league collision last year. Im just letting it rock right now, he explains with a wide, gap-toothed grin. I got my girl. Im engaged. Im in no rush.Except when he is. Everybody who knows Johnson notes that he vibrates with a certain restlessness. Im sure he lost weight during the process of this thing, his mother says. He wasnt able to eat well, not even when we were waiting the few days to see if the Heat were gonna keep him.By that point, Tylers teammates had already waved farewell on Twitter. Johnson had already started bookmarking Brooklyn real estate on Ashley, his fiancée, had even gone online and shipped a box of Nets-branded shirts and pants for their 2-year-old son, Dameon, to their Miami condo.Yet on July 10, the Heat vowed to back up the truck for a player theyd cut in the 2014 preseason and sent to the D-Leagues Sioux Falls Skyforce. Billionaire owner Micky Arison, whod just let 34-year-old Dwyane Wade sign with Chicago, wanted to save Johnson. And while the Fresno State grad now cost a reasonable $5.6 million in Year 1 and $5.9 million in Year 2, those devious Nets had driven his price up to $18.9 million in Year 3 and $19.6 million in Year 4.All of which is to say that Johnson and his obscure, questionable NBA cohorts -- Mozgov, Turner, Bazemore, Hill et al. -- are absolutely overpaid, yes.But theres a lot more to why the NBA overpaid free agents in the summer. And theres more to Johnsons story than the fact that he fell into a crazy sum of money.WHENEVER HER FIVE children were moved to tears, Master Sgt. Jennifer Johnson repeated a slogan: Get a straw and suck it up. Meaning: Dont be a crybaby, the single mom and 31-year Air Force veteran recalls now. Figure out what you gotta do.Shed say it for everything, Tyler says. Its the most annoying saying ever.Whenever Jennifer, an airfield manager, suddenly had to deploy to Bosnia or Turkey or Djibouti or Qatar, often for months at a time? Tyler got a straw. (Each of the Johnson kids crashed with the family of a classmate.) Whenever money ran low, forcing everyone in the family to pinch pennies? Tyler got a straw. (One month, just before he entered third grade, the Johnsons even moved into a tent on a campground.) Whenever financial aid at Mountain View powerhouse St. Francis High required work during the semester? Tyler got a straw. (Sometimes literally: He served lunch to his classmates.)Because of his moms profession, Johnson had attended five different schools by the sixth grade. Milton, the man whose athleticism Tyler says he inherited, had left by the time his son got to high school. But Tylers mission -- as declared in drawings, poems and unrelated homework assignments -- never changed. Hed always tell me, Im going to the NBA,? Jennifer says. And Im going to take you with me.Its impossible to miss how her straw slogan shaped Tylers game. In seventh grade, he played with a right arm he didnt know was fractured. As a 5-8, 140-pound sophomore at St. Francis, he failed to make varsity, but he didnt relent. As a senior, when he received zero interest from major college programs, he played in a tournament on a torn meniscus. To this day, Johnsons coaches from Fresno State rave about the time he shattered two (other) teeth diving for a loose ball in a drill ... then picked up the scattered shards of enamel ... and kept practicing.Such restlessness translated into a souped-up version of what scouts euphemistically call motor. Sometimes Tyler will bristle when I tell him, Hey, youve got grit, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says. He may take that as, You dont have talent. But his toughness is absolutely talent.Last summer, for instance, he had two metal plates inserted into his jaw after he sprinted into Magic forward Branden Dawson during summer league. (Good screen, Johnson recalls.) And this past February, at long last, the left-hander underwent surgery to address a soreness in his left shoulder that hed first ignored as a college senior. Not until Johnsons rotator cuff gave out against Brooklyn in January -- he airballed a floater -- did he finally let up.By March, weeks into recovery, Spoelstra had to summon Johnson into his quarters at AmericanAirlines Arena. When healthy, the guard had always insisted on doing an extra regimen of pre-practice workouts and post-practice drills. Spoelstra just wanted to ensure that Johnson, in rehab, was following doctors orders and not rushing back for the playoffs that spring. No, no, no, dont worry about me, Johnson assured.So whos this? Spoelstra replied, before hitting play on an office monitor. Arena security footage, taken shortly before midnight, unmistakably showed Johnson sneaking in to do drills on the court. The punishment: $500 for an unsupervised workout without clearance from a team physician -- an infraction, Spoelstra admits, that he had to invent on the spot.Slow the f--- down, Bosh recently told Johnson. Chill out. You only have one speed. You go from fast to fast.IN THE NBA, the question of who deserves what actually has an answer. An arcane 153,133-word answer. The leagues collective bargaining agreement, last renegotiated in 2011, exists as part Magna Carta, establishing peace between owners and players, and part tax code, detailing the rules of finance. Its 551 pages constitute the most important document in basketball. And as the hysterics around free agency 2016 proved, an overwhelming majority of us couldnt care less.If we did? It would be clear that, by rule, half of the record $24 billion in rights fees flooding the NBA marketplace has to be spent on players. It would be clear that every billionaire owner is required to pay his roster at least 90 percent of the salary cap every season, creating a salary floor that spiked from $63 million last year to $85 million this year. And it would be clear that righteous condemnation of Johnson and his cohorts might not make a ton of sense.The timing of Johnsons expiring contract was essential to his windfall, admittedly. But in a market, timing is always everything. Just look at the available shooting guards this summer, says Austin Brown, one of Johnsons agents. The top options under age 34 -- DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, Jordan Clarkson, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier -- all immediately re-upped with their original teams on July 1. From there, it was no accident that Brook Lopez, the Nets star center, flew out with team officials to woo Johnson. Or that Rockets coach Mike DAntoni wined and dined him. Heck, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic, two Kings stars-turned-executives, both showed up and topped Brooklyns offer. Even then, famously cutthroat Heat president Pat Riley matched every single penny.No one was fooled into giving away $50 million. Exactly the opposite: A rational market deemed Johnson worth exactly that.But when it comes to player paychecks, many fans see these startling fortunes from the perspective of management: as costs to keep down. This is partly because of Americas surging fetish for front office executives; thanks to some combination of fantasy sports and Moneyball, we are no longer a nation of aspiring athletes but vicarious bargain hunters.But mostly, we empathize with ownership because its sports. Fans have always been conditioned to root for teams -- proxies for our hometowns and our childhoods -- over the individuals who actually star in the games we cherish. A billionaire owner gets to embody the organization, gladly taking tax breaks and public money. A millionaire player, meanwhile, is more dangerous than any other type of entertainer. An actors not leaving your hometown to go somewhere else, Johnson says. An athlete threatens to betray you and those you love.FOR ALL THIS talk of capitalism and market value, however, even Tyler Johnson must concede that Tyler Johnson is overpaid. Thats because the NBAs brand of capitalism, as detailed in the CBA, requires an asterisk. It is not quite capitalism. And the NBAs free market, as rational as it might be, is not quite free.Understand: The salary cap has regulated payroll -- and, in ownerships view, enriched competitive balance -- since 1994. But just as critical, in tandem, are the caps two cousins: the rookie wage scale, which has limited the earnings of the leagues youngest players since 1995, and the maximum contract, which has done the same for the leagues superstars since 1999.Within those 551 pages of rules, it is decreed that no player can earn more than 35 percent of the salary cap -- and that he needs 10 years of experience to qualify for that maximum share. Six or fewer years limits a player to 25 percent of the cap, max; seven to nine years, 30 percent. I dont know of any space other than the world of sports where theres this notion that we will artificially deflate what someones able to make, just because, Michele Roberts, the executive director of the NBA players association, told ESPN in 2014, months after she was hired. Its incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.But Johnson -- like most of the NBAs 440-some-odd players -- is not offended. At all. He is refreshingly upfront about the reality that he benefits from the economic squeezing of rookies and stars. I have no complaints, Johnson says. It worked out in my favor. Players such as Johnson are overpaid because they, like owners, wish to profit from the rules too.Its basic math. Without the max contract, league sources say, LeBron James would warrant significantly more than his $31 million annual salary, drying up the well for the lesser players on the roster. Instead, in the world of capped spending, James prompts us to consider an unsympathetic riddle: How can the NBAs highest-paid player still qualify as crazily underpaid?No, not every superstar has agita over the boost given to the rank and file, and no one pretends to worry about a max player making ends meet. I dont like to say, If this was an open market, I wouldve been making more,? says Bosh, who signed a four-year, $114 million max contract in 2014. Im happy for those guys.But with the CBA up for renegotiation in December, a curious political dynamic has a chance to shift. Roberts, for one, has basically condemned the max contract as unpatriotic. And the union, after being led by three consecutive role players (Michael Curry, Antonio Davis and Derek Fisher), is now under the direction of two max superstars -- placing them right across the table from commissioner Adam Silver.Meet union president Chris Paul and his first vice president, LeBron James. Although theyve remained publicly silent on this issue, both of them know what they could be worth. And for reasons of principle and self-interest, both of them could push for the abolition of the max contract.ITS LATE AUGUST now, and Johnson is sitting with Ashley and Dameon in their rented two-bedroom on the 29th floor of a condo tower in Miami. In front of a modestly sized RCA flat-screen in the living room sits an infants play mat. Packed plastic bins -- one hiding the Nets gear Ashley ordered -- line the blue-gray walls. At around 1,000 square feet, its delightful for two young parents.It is also one-twelfth the size of the roughly $5 million Mediterranean-style mansion Tyler just bought in Pinecrest, where theyll be moving in a few weeks. I cant wait to get there, he says, scrolling through the Zillow listing on his iPhone. Its got, like, crown moldings on all the ceilings. Which I guess is a big thing.His biggest offseason concern remains rehab: slowing down, under medical advisement, in an attempt to fully heal his left shoulder. It first got sore at Fresno, he says, because I was shooting an unnecessary amount. Hed walk into the gym and fire until, in his words, his technique felt right. The routine was so familiar that a pregnant Ashley would come to the gym with her laptop and write papers on the sideline.But now, Tyler knows, his obsession was part of the problem. There are some issues that cannot be solved by getting a straw. These days, he says, I pay a little more attention to how Im actually feeling.It is not a courtesy he wishes to extend to his critics. Johnson wisely presumes that behind closed doors, there is envy around the league. But he has also resolved that he will not bend over backward to explain to anybody, anywhere, why Miami gave him a raise of more than 2,000 percent. I wont bother explaining the salary cap, that the game is different now than it was before, Johnson says. Its hard to break all that stuff down.Besides: He didnt get into this business -- sacrificing shoulders, teeth, arms, legs and jaws -- for crown moldings. That is not why he remains so restless.My goal in the NBA wasnt to make a bunch of money, Johnson says. When its all said and done? I just want people to say, Man, that kid could play.?Pablo S. TorreTorre is a senior writer for ESPN based in Brooklyn, NY. He can frequently be seen on Around The Horn and The Sports Reporters, among other TV programs. Previously, he worked at Sports Illustrated.join the conversationfollow @PabloTorrefollow @ESPNJerseys NFL Wholesale . In Europe, top teams seem to be largely happy with their squads after spending nearly $1 billion in the off-season. And although English league clubs are unlikely to splash cash in January, Arsenal and Chelsea could be tempted to strengthen their squads with new strikers. Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys .ca looks back at the stories and moments that made the year memorable. . Oyama had six birdies and two bogeys at Kintetsu Kashikojima in the event also sanctioned by the Japan LPGA Tour. "I have been having this neck ache thats been affecting my golf recently," Oyama said. NFL Jerseys China . - Levi Browns tenure at left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers is over before it even began. Wholesale Jerseys From China .Y. - Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has earned NHL first star of the week honours after winning in his first three appearances of the season.The first World Golf Championship of the year takes place at Trump National Doral, where Ben Coley expects power to be the order of the day.A year ago, JB Holmes dominated for three rounds only to be reeled in on Sunday, first by Bubba Watson and then by Dustin Johnson who eventually made a brilliant par on the final hole to win by one.When Johnson, Watson and Holmes take up the first three places, clear of fourth, there can be only one conclusion, and its further confirmed when we consider that this golf course is one of the longest on the PGA Tour. Johnson came fourth in his last start at the Northern Trust Open So, while this is a really competitive event which features all of the worlds best, we can at least begin to narrow down our shortlist using the driving distance stats as a guide.Dustin Johnson topped the charts last season with a whopping 317.7 yards from the tee and hes in good shape to put together a successful title defence.Last time out, the 31-year-old came close to winning at Riviera which was also the case in 2015, so we know his game is close to its best, which is really the only trigger needed to back him here. Johnson claimed a one-shot victory at Doral last year Simply put, Doral is made for Johnson, who was placed in 2014 as well and is now a two-time WGC winner.Skipping the Honda Classic was probably a wise move given that hed played a lot of golf on the west coast and hes primed to go well in his bid for back-to-back titles here.On that note, Johnson has defended a title successfully before, which is another positive given that some can struggle under the weight of expectation.Of the key dangers at the top of the market, dont be surprised if Rory McIlroy bounces back at a suitable venue, given that the weather forecast is quite calm. McIlroy looks to bounce back from last weeks missed cut at the Honda Classic The world No 3 might not have been quite at his best this season but hes still been very close and my feeling is hell win at Doral one day, with his imperious driiving a major asset.ddddddddddddJordan Spieth probably has more questions to answer and can be ignored this time whereas Jason Day is harder to assess, given that he seems to be coming to the boil but has an awful record in Florida.Clearly, this course should suit big-hitting Day but until he shows it, prices in the 12/1 region can be left alone.Instead, the final vote comes down to a toss-up between Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka, with the latter preferred. Brooks Koepka (left) and Justin Rose are both tipped to impress this week Rose is a former course winner but the redesign which took place prior to the 2014 edition of this event has seemingly worked against him.Still, hes too good not to work it out eventually and given that hes adding length with every passing year, this could be a good time for him to bounce back. However, Koepka looks in marginally better form and this Florida native also has the right game for the set-up.He putted badly last week but still finished within a couple of shots of the top 10, while in this tournament a year ago it was a similar story; a series of destructive holes undermining a generally strong performance. Koepka has already posted two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year With another year to improve and the Ryder Cup firmly in his sights, I expect this monstrously long hitter to step up and show that his next PGA Tour win is likely to be a big one.For those looking for the pick of the European challengers, Rafael Cabrera-Bello might show up for a time while Victor Dubuisson and Anirban Lahiri are two big hitters who come with risks attached but have contended for top-grade events in the past.Even so, the man most likely beyond McIlroy and Rose must be Henrik Stenson, who is very much due a return to the winners circle and seems sure to play well.Watch the WGC-Cadillac Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports 4 - your home of golf. Or watch from £6.99 without a contract, on NOW TV.Also See:2015 recap: Johnson takes titleSpieth and McIlroys H2H recordBig three battle for top spotGolf live on Sky Sports 4 ' ' '

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