Is there any chance a lockout can be avoided? No, not really.

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NBA commissioner and seemingly all-powerful deity David Stern said Tuesday after the owners meeting that there was still time to avoid an NBA lockout starting Friday.

NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter said that if real progress was made during a last-ditch meeting between the owners and players Thursday, the owners might well postpone the start of a lockout.

So there is hope, right? There is a chance that the league’s leaders will back away from the precipice and a lockout can be avoided, isn’t there?

No.

Not really. Technically it could happen, sure. Technically Minka Kelly could be such a huge fan of ProBasketballTalk that she calls me up and asks for a date. The odds are about the same.

If you think that after two full years of negotiations, one side is going to walk into the room Thursday afternoon and totally cave to the other side’s demands, then sure. In that case, a lockout can be avoided.

The two sides are hundreds of millions of dollars apart on reaching a deal. The players come in liking the system as it is right now, basically, and offering some givebacks in terms of salary. The owners — driven by hardliners that are newer and smaller market owners, many leveraged in their purchases — want a radical change in the NBA financial system. They are pushing for a hard salary cap (they proposed a “flex cap” at $62 million, but it is a kind way of phrasing a hard cap compared to the current system). Those owners also want shorter contracts and a way to get out of bad longer deals via buyouts. (Sure, they could not offer the bad contracts in the first place, but remember the CBA is always in part the owners trying to protect themselves from themselves).

The big issue will be the split of “basketball-related income” — which is money from tickets, television deals, arena concessions, luxury boxes, basically everything hoops related. Currently, the players get 57 percent of the gross. They have offered to drop that to 54.3 percent (with different percentages as the league grows its business). The owners want to calculate it differently — they want their expenses taken out. Their argument is if revenue and expenses both increase, the players get more money without having the risk of the expenditures. They want a more equal split of the net revenue (which would drop the players below 50 percent of the gross).

Right now there is no real reason for either side to compromise. The players have not lost any paychecks, the owners have not lost any revenue from games missed. Until that is threatened, we probably will not see any real movement toward a deal. (That is what has happened with the NFL — until camps and games were threatened, there didn’t seem to be much movement. Now with those pressures, there is progress and it appears a resolution is approaching.)

NBA fans, the lockout is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Sorry. The optimistic among us just hope it will not cost the league games.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”