League sends last season’s financial data to union. Baby steps.

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At this point, any little step towards the NBA owners and players union actually sitting down and having a serious conversation should be taken as a good sign.

So, in that vein, we tell you that the owners have sent the union the league financials from last season, as Ken Berger at CBSSports.com reports.

The data are crucial to both sides as they prepare for more heated negotiations that center on the financial health of the sport. Owners are seeking massive changes to the collective bargaining agreement, which expires June 30, based on their contention that the current model is not sustainable due to annual league-wide losses approaching $400 million. The NBPA, however, contends that the sport is healthier than the owners are willing to admit, citing last season’s record revenues — which are detailed in the documents furnished to the union in recent days. …

While the 2009-10 data are expected to support the union’s belief that revenues remain robust and at record levels, the owners’ case hinges on their assertion that costs are too high. While the ’09-’10 data have not been fully vetted, they are expected to reflect an approximately $100 million decline in gate receipts, which was offset by a $130 million increase in non-ticket revenues, according to a person familiar with the league’s finances. The $30 million net increase in revenues represents approximately a 1 percent rise from 2008-09, during the depths of the economic recession. During the same period, negotiated player salaries have decreased $120 million, the person familiar with league finances said.

Both sides are going to look at this data and see and say different things. The owners have said they had to discount tickets and take other harsh steps to get the revenue increase. The union has said before that losses and profits are more complex than the owners have shown — if an owner also owns the building the team plays in, money can be moved from one pocket to another (or not moved) and not impact the owner but be changed to alter the team’s picture of health.

Union head Billy Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern are expected to sit down next month and talk. These numbers will come up.

Expect nothing of it. Don’t expect real movement until there is the real threat of losing games (September seems a good bet). And even then…

Still, we’ll take the baby steps at this point. It’s the only hope for those of us who want a full NBA season starting in the fall.

PBT Extra: Fan votes from twitter on MVP, other awards

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We reached the middle of the NBA season, which is a good time to consider where things stand for the end-of-season awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year. We have made our picks and even broken them down in a podcast.

Now it was time to ask you who you thought should win awards.

I put it out there on Twitter in some polls, and I cover your responses in this PBT Extra. I’m with you on Brad Stevens for Coach of the Year, although I think it’s close. Did you choose LeBron James or James Harden for MVP? Watch and find out.

Michael Carter-Williams and Tim Frazier ejected for altercation, leading to hilarious Dwight Howard free throws (video)

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Jason Smith pushed down Michael Carter-Williams while going for a rebound. Carter-Williams pulled Smith to the floor. Tim Frazier flew in heated.

It was more than a typical NBA altercation – Carter-Williams clenched his fist, though never swung – but it wasn’t quite a fight. It was just reserves getting feisty late in a blowout, the Hornets’ 133-109 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Carter-Williams and Frazier were given double technical fouls and ejected.

One catch: Smith was called for personally fouling Carter-Williams, who was due free throws. With Carter-Williams unavailable, Washington could pick his replacement at the line.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks chose Dwight Howard, a poor free-throw shooter who’d been resting the entire fourth quarter and surely figured his night was over. Maybe it was only about Howard’s team-worst 53% shooting from the line, but it’s also possible Brooks was trying to make an opponent uncomfortable.

The Charlotte crowd went wild, and Howard only added to the fervor.

He sunk both free throws – padding his stats (18 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals) – and blew Brooks a kiss. Howard might appreciate the extra points Brooks afforded him, but they’ll likely come at a cost. Howard celebrated with the Sam Cassell/big-balls dance, which usually draws a fine from the NBA.

Kent Bazemore hits game-winner to lift Hawks over Pelicans (video)

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Just when it seemed as if the Pelicans were rolling… they lose to the lowly Hawks.

This was the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Celtics in overtime, and New Orleans looked the part, blowing a 15-point lead in the final 19 minutes.

Kent Bazemore‘s jumper with 2.1 seconds left stood as the game-winner when DeMarcus Cousins missed a rushed post-up on the other end.

Jalen Rose calls Paul Pierce petty to his face (video)

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Paul Pierce is being petty about Isaiah Thomas‘ tribute video.

And that’s from someone who empathizes with Pierce’s point of view.

When retiring a player’s number, teams tastefully use stoppages to show highlights and tributes to the player. The whole night, not just the moment of raising a number into the rafters, can be about celebrating the player. It’s reasonable for Pierce to want the entire package.

But to go on television and advocate for not showing Thomas’ video? To continue the campaign after Thomas made clear how important his video was to him? To tell the Celtics not to show a short video for Thomas during introductions?

It’s way too far.

Too many people around Pierce enabled his flawed approach. Jalen Rose put that to a pointed stop.

Rose on ESPN:

I’ve got say a word for you, fam. I think it was petty.

On Paul Pierce’s part.

I love Paul. This is my brother. Because to me, there are going to be all type of announcements that happen in the 48 minutes during that game. All types. Including Isaiah Thomas could be one of them. It does not take away from your situation. Like Kobe’s, it happened during the game. Because they’re doing yours post-game.

The look on Pierce’s face while Rose was talking!