NFL issues could help motivate NBA labor deal

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It’s hard to be optimistic about the NBA labor situation — and I am by nature and optimist — but today there were a few rays of light into the darkness.

It comes from David Stern, talking to the Associated Press, discussing the mess that is the NFL labor situation.

“It seemed that at the end of the bargaining between the NFL and the players, one got the sense that in the last day or two they had closed the gap,” Stern said Thursday. “I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but that’s what I read. And you wonder as an outsider whether it would have been a good thing to close that gap a few days earlier, a couple of weeks earlier so that you had the opportunity and the plan to do that.”

“Frankly, we’re running out of time,” (NBA Deputy Commissioner and lead negotiator Adam) Silver said. “We have roughly two months and a week to get a deal done before the expiration of this collective bargaining agreement. And I think on that point, Billy Hunter and the union are in full agreement with us that we need to intensify these discussions.”

They are not going to get a deal done by July 1. There is going to be a lockout this summer. And in another parallel to the NFL situation, that does not matter.

All that matters is if a deal is struck in time for the full regular season to go forward on time. That is the real deadline. Hardcore fans will come back; casual fans will not care if games are not missed. The brilliant Henry Abbott at ESPN’s TrueHoop is optimistic on this count.

Having spoken to the central figures at some length in the past few weeks, I’ll predict that precisely zero regular season games will be lost to a lockout next fall…. I say that because:

•The future holds great things for both parties if the league maintains something like its current relationship with fans.

•Both sides recognize the real long- and short-term costs of a lockout.

•And because both sides strike me as pragmatic enough to sign on the dotted line should a reasonable deal be placed before them.

I can’t tell you how much I hope Abbott is right.

But the people I talk to (people tied to owners among them) say there is a hard-core group of owners who are hawks on some key revenue issues, and at the end of the day Stern works for the owners. Those owners want radical changes in the NBA’s financial structure (basically a healthy change in the Basketball Related Income number, where currently 57 percent goes to the players) and don’t think that can happen until players miss paychecks (and players don’t get their first check until Nov. 15). So, games would be missed.

I want to think that cooler heads will prevail. Stern and Hunter are cooler heads. Everyone talks about what is at stake. But know that some of the owners look a lot like the Heat Miser going into this.

But I’m optimistic, so I hold out hope.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.