NBA Commissioner Stern speaks at the state of the league press conference during the NBA All-Star game weekend in Los Angeles

NBA owners, players to have one final pre-lockout meeting Thursday

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The NBA owners and players have been formally meeting on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement with an offer on the table since the 2010 All-Star game in Dallas (and really they were talking before that, informally). After more than 16 months of talks, they are hundreds of millions of dollars apart and nowhere close to a deal.

But they are going to meet again on Thursday in New York — one last ditched effort before the lockout kicks in at midnight July 1 (Thursday night/Friday morning).

Theoretically they could make progress and decide to extend the negotiations and postpone the lockout, but if after 16 months of getting nowhere fast why would this session be different?

The NBA’s Board of Governors met in Dallas Tuesday, were updated on the labor negotiations and may have voted to authorize a lockout (no details of the meeting were made public). It’s pretty much moot if they voted to do it at the meeting or not, Commissioner David Stern has said they could vote to authorize the lockout at any time electronically, they didn’t all need to be in the same room.

The owners latest offer to players is a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with a phased in “flex cap” of $62 million, a number that could only be exceeded slightly and only to resign a free agent who was with the team already. They also want to shorten the length of contracts by a couple of years and allow buyouts of deals in the final years at a reduced rate.

All of that is a major change from the “soft cap with luxury tax” system in place now. And the players like the system in place now.

The basis for all the arguments is the split of “basketball related income” (BRI) — money from ticket sales, concessions, television contracts, and virtually everything else. Currently the players get 57 percent, the owners 43 percent. The owners have proposed a 50/50 split (although the structure of their offers would leave the players with less), while the players have offered to drop their share to 54.3 percent (about a $100 million a year drop overall in salary league wide).

The bottom line is the two sides can’t agree on much of anything — how to divide BRI, the type of cap, the length of the deal, they probably disagree over the shape the negotiating table should be. The lockout is coming. But Thursday both sides will go through the motions again.

Heat players past, present throw support behind David Fizdale heading to Memphis

David Fizdale
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The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.

It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.

Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.

Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.

Watch Kevin Love drop 25 points on Toronto

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Before Game 5, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue told Kevin Love just to stay aggressive. Channing Frye told him the same thing.

Love took that advice to heart. From the opening tip of Game 5, Love was attacking — backing down the overmatched Luis Scola and knocking down threes. Love had 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 25, helping spark an easy, 38-point Cavaliers win in Game 5.

Now, can Love do this on the road in Game 6?

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 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.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.