Maybe it’s a little too early to freak out about a lockout

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Welcome to the world of my contradictions. Put up your feet, make yourself at home.

On one hand, I am fully convinced there will be an NBA lockout come next July 1. Talk to both sides informally and that feels like the only possible outcome.

But I think that Darren Rovell at CNBC is right as well — it is far too early to read much into what either side is saying about the negotiations.

You see, history shows us in labor negotiations both in sports and the real world, that true negotiating doesn’t begin until at least one side feels pressured by a deadline. With so much time left, there’s no reason for either side to buckle. An artificial deadline of making substantive progress by the All-Star Break in February has been set, that deadline is exactly what it’s called — “artificial.”

Until a group of workers stare unemployment in the face and an owner or a company truly contemplates not being able to sell his product or service, there’s no reason to step forward and make a deal. The new terms wouldn’t start until the current deal expires and who knows what will change between now and then.

Perhaps the owners, coming off $170 million in new season ticket sales, realize by June that the financial system needs to be tweaked less. Perhaps the union, which has been presented with some $350 million in audited losses from the owners last year, realizes by May that the ultimate driver of casual fan interest — the Miami Heat — isn’t even going to make it to the NBA Finals and the buzz they were counting on just won’t be there. It’s very possible that conditions over the next couple months can change that lead to greater compromise. But there’s simply no reason for either side to be close now.

Let me reiterate one other point as well: A two-day or even two-month lockout that starts July 1 really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. We fans who love to play GM every July will lose out on some fun (or have it postponed really), those of us who find Summer League in Vegas one of the joys of the NBA calendar will be disappointed. But so long as training camps open on time and games start on schedule, the casual sports fan will not notice. We die hards will forgive. Nothing of real substance to the NBA would be lost.

So that deadline of pressure Rovell speaks of comes with July 1, but really only starts to build over the summer. Which means that I can say that there will be a lockout this July, but anything being said by Billy Hunter or David Stern right now borders on meaningless.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.

Report: Suns also fire three assistant coaches

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The Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season – the second-earliest firing in NBA history.

They didn’t stop there.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Firing assistant coaches during the season has become Phoenix’s m.o. I’m just not sure what it accomplishes.

Were Watson, Nate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser all so bad at their jobs? If so, why did the Suns figure that out simultaneously?

Were the firings designed to shake up a losing team? If so, wouldn’t ousting Watson have been enough?

Will Phoenix replace those assistants? If not, will the team have the resources to properly train its players?

The Suns are filled with young players who need coaching, particularly skill development. This move looks like it will put them further behind.