NBA Commissioner Stern holds a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals basketball series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat in Miami

Still big gap between NBA owners, players after key talks

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If you were waiting to really worry about an NBA lockout, now is a good time.

Tuesday’s negotiation session — which NBA Commissioner David Stern had previously called key to avoiding a July 1 lockout — had both sides leaving and speaking in pessimistic tones. Chris Paul said this to Brian Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune (via twitter).

“We talked for a while. Both sides made moves, but we’re still very, very far apart on what we’re trying to get done.”

NBA Union Executive Director Billy Hunter was slightly more optimistic, and called a new proposal by the owners a ray of light in a very dark room. So if you’re looking for hope, that’s it.

The players are meeting again Thursday to go over the owners’ new proposal from Tuesday, then the two sides will meet again on Friday. But with nine days until a lockout there is a lot of room between the two sides.

The big move of the day was the owners proposed a “flex cap” according to David Stern. Here are his comments, via the tweets of Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

Stern: Proposal also included “flex cap,” with a max that could be exceeded and a minimum….Stern says cap “target” is $62 million per team, with a max above that to allow for exceptions such as the Bird exception.”…. Stern on owners’ proposal: “It’s all out there. … I’m never saying final, final to anything other than we made our offer.

What you think of that depends on where you think the middle ground really is. For the owners, whose first proposal was a $45 million hard cap with no exceptions, this is a significant compromise.

But for the players, the new proposal is still a hard cap, and that is a sticking point. Right now there is a soft cap with a lot of exceptions, allowing teams to spend. While the players are willing to limit exceptions, they do not want a hard cap.

Make no mistake, this is a hard cap. While teams could go over the $62 million it would only be a little over according to reports (a few million to sign players). Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said it was based in some degree on the NHL cap, but in that one if you go over the cap by a million to pay a bonus one season, the next season your team’s cap is $1 million lower. This is not a situation like now where the cap is $57 million but the Lakers are spending $90 million.

The union’s Hunter said that there was movement on the overall split of revenue between the sides — the Basketball Related Income (BRI). Adam Silver said they were moving closer to a 50/50 split (currently the players get 57 percent).

However, Hunter said they are still very far apart on how that money will be divided (or even where the split of BRI will be). Movement on the BRI is a start. Although Stern called it a “modest proposal.”

We are a long, long way from this being solved. There is going to be a lockout on July 1. But that ray of light into the negotiations is at least some hope that the two sides can find common ground before games are lost.

Kevin Durant denies report he told Russell Westbrook he was returning to Oklahoma City

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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In the weeks since Kevin Durant announced he was signing with the Golden State Warriors, we have yet to hear Russell Westbrook speak on his former teammate’s decision. This week, ESPN.com’s Royce Young indicated in a podcast interview that Durant was telling Westbrook and others in the days leading up to his decision that he was coming back to Oklahoma City. He later walked back his report, saying he misspoke. On Thursday, Durant himself told The Vertical‘s Shams Charania that he never said any such thing, or misled Westbrook or anyone else about his intentions.

“It’s false,” Durant told The Vertical on Thursday. “I didn’t say that – words about me telling Russell or Nick that I would stay or leave never came out of my mouth. We met as teammates, but no promises came out of it. In this day and age, I can’t control anything people claim out there. Someone can go out and say something random right now, and people will believe it.

“I never told Russell or Nick [Collison], ‘All right, guys, I’m coming back to the Thunder’ – and then a week later, I decide not to. Never happened. I don’t operate like that. I heard people say that story, but it’s not the truth.”

So that settles that.

Report: Spurs agree to two-year deal with free agent forward David Lee

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 01:  David Lee #42 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.   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.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Lee will have a player option in the second year of his deal, which will be worth the veteran’s minimum.

Lee, 33, considered more lucrative deals elsewhere, but committed to the Spurs’ opportunity to win a championship and play a backup role to LaMarcus Aldridge andPau Gasol.

General manager “R.C [Buford] and coach [Gregg] Popovich put a lot of time and energy to give David a visual of how much they wanted him and would use him,” Bartelstein told The Vertical. “A lot of people talk about taking less money, and not many people do it, so the Spurs get a lot of credit for selling David on joining their organization.”

After winning a championship with the Warriors in 2015, Lee was dealt to Boston last offseason, where he fell out of the rotation quickly. He was bought out midseason and signed with the Mavericks. He was solid in Dallas, but at his age and with almost no defensive ability, he didn’t draw much interest on the market. In San Antonio, he likely won’t have a big role, but he’s a solid veteran scorer in the frontcourt off the bench in limited minutes.

Bulls sign guard Spencer Dinwiddie

CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 13: Spencer Dinwiddie #8 of the Detroit Pistons in action against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 13, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Pistons defeated Cleveland 112-110 in overtime.  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. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Bulls have signed guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

The Bulls acquired Dinwiddie in a trade with Detroit last month and waived him three weeks ago. He spent two years with the Pistons and appeared in 12 games last season, averaging 4.8 points and 13.3 minutes.

The Bulls announced the move Thursday.

D.C. on hook for additional $10 million for Wizards practice facility

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 01:  Senior Sports Writer at Time Inc. Sean Gregory and Founder, Majority Owner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Monumental Sports & Entertainment Ted Leonsis speak onstage at the 2nd Annual 'NYVC Sports' Venture Series: The Future of Sports Digital Media panel during Advertising Week 2015 AWXII at the Liberty Theater on October 1, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for AWXII)
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The Wizards are getting a new practice facility.

For some reason, the Wizards have to pay just $4.46 million for it. Washington D.C. will cover the rest.

How much is the rest?

More.

Jonathan O’Connell of The Washington Post:

The District”s sports and convention arm, Events DC, is proposing a series of upgrades to a planned Washington Wizards practice facility and entertainment center in Southeast that would  likely reduce the total number of seats but add $10 million to the original $55 million price tag.

The new spending would be paid for by Events DC, which is funded by a percentage of hotel occupancy taxes. It does not require approval by the D.C. Council but will have to be voted on by the Events DC board Aug. 11.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis pledged to move the team’s practices there as well as home games for the Washington Mystics and a future Wizards’ NBA D-League affiliate team. His company, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, agreed to pay $4.46 million — or 8 percent of the original $55 million cost.

But in a July 26 letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive of Events DC, wrote that the original $55 million budget was “based on a preliminary estimate, as development and analysis of the program and concept design had not yet been performed.”

So, the District agreed to pay for a project without knowing how much it would cost and got the primary beneficiary — Leonsis — to kick in a share based on a low early estimate? It’s almost as if politicians are inept or have ulterior motives.

At least Wizards practices and WNBA games will bring plenty of new money into the community.

As Leonsis said, “There’s never been a better time to be an owner of an NBA franchise.”