Owners, players have "amicable" meeting on a new CBA, but that is different than progress

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Nba_logo.pngUPDATE 3:50 pm: Both sides came out of the meeting saying things were better. Not good, but better, particularly the tone. Here is their joint released statement:

“The NBA and NBPA held a four-hour bargaining meeting today that included constructive dialogue and a productive exchange of information.  While we still have much work to do, it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together. We all agreed to meet again before training camp.”

David Stern said there was “a gap, not a gulf” according to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger. Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter told him that the two sides were talking to each other, not at each other, which is a start.

It’s also a long way from a deal.

2:50 pm: The owners negotiating committee and representatives of the NBA Players Association sat down for a three-and-a-half hour meeting on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement Thursday in Manhattan.

The good news, according to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger — nobody went Matt Barnes and started giving Mark Cuban love taps. Berger’s source told him this meeting was “more amicable” than the last one All-Star Weekend.

The bad news — the two sides are nowhere near a deal. Not even close.

All the big names were there. For the players LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and more showed up to put on a front of solidarity. For the owners, most of the negotiating team was there but not Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who apparently wasn’t in the mood to sit down and talk to LeBron yet.

The owners are pushing for a radical change in how the NBA’s financial structure — a hard salary cap, shorter contracts with not all of them guaranteed, some restrictions on player movement and more.

The players basically like things the way they are now.

The two sides do not even agree on the financial state of the league. The owners say they are losing money, $370 million last season according to David Stern. The players look at the recent free agent spending spree and the people lined up to bid on franchises for sale and question if things are really that bad.

Whatever they talked about for more than three hours in Manhattan, neither side was moving off their basic principles, which are so diametrically opposed. The current CBA can run for another couple years but the owners can —
and will — opt out of it by the end of this year and force a new CBA for next season.

I’ll say again — we are headed to a lockout next summer. This is not a maybe thing if you talk to people in NBA front offices. Everybody on both sides privately expects it. The only question is will it cost regular season games and if so how many.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.