What if the NBA's elite took a European vacation?

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Now starting at forward for your FC Barcelona… LeBron James.

Fans of Olympiakos, welcome… Kobe Bryant

Sound far-fetched? Yes. Why would the NBA’s elite go play in Europe? Because crazy, crazy things are coming. Because their contracts expired at the same time as the Collective Bargaining Agreement (if they play them out), and the players may well be locked out. What if those players used European leagues as leverage in the negotiations?

NBA salary cap guru Larry Coon explains over at the New York Times basketball blog.

These players (or at least many of them) play out the remainder of their contracts and enter free agency in 2011, just as the current agreement expires. They are joined by other players whose deals end that year, like (Carmelo) Anthony, Kevin Durant and even Tim Duncan. They present a united front to the league: “If there’s a lockout, we’re heading overseas.”

Think that will get the league’s attention?

Remember, these aren’t rank-and-file players we’re talking about here, like Josh Childress (who left the N.B.A. for Europe in 2008). These are the guys who fill the seats and sell the shoes. Would the threat of a defection of this magnitude – even for one season – be sufficient to dissuade the owners from initiating a lockout?

Let’s be honest, this is not going to happen. It’s got about the same shot as LeBron going to the Knicks.

But right now it seems the owners have the leverage in the talks, they have an economy that has thrashed their business model. The players are admitting they need to give some concessions.

But the players do have options, particularly the elite players. There are things they can do to create leverage in the talks. And the European leagues are one of them.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.