So how does this lockout get resolved?

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The lockout just started, and I’m pretty much done with it.

So how does this thing get resolved?

Sadly, it’s going to take some time, but a couple of factors need to come together.

There needs to be pressure on both sides to strike a deal. No real contract negotiations — whether you are talking with teacher’s union, longshoremen, truckers or professional athletes — really get going until there is pressure on one or both sides to compromise and reach a deal. You would think that the lockout would be pressure, but it’s not really. All that happens now is rookies do not get to prove themselves at Summer League and players who have been rehabbing post surgery with the team’s trainers are out of luck. But that is not real pressure.

Losing money is real pressure. That is not happening now in the dead of the offseason (well, some sponsorship and other money may be lost, but it is not yet serious). The real pressure comes when owners are threatened with not getting revenue from games, or when the players are threatened with not getting paychecks (the first NBA player payday would be Nov. 15, so we are into what would be the season a few weeks before that happens). Basically, losing actual NBA regular-season games — and with that the momentum for the league this season brought — is pressure.

The real threat of losing money doesn’t hit the owners and players until the middle of August. That is when you start thinking about things needing to be cancelled. That is when negotiations will get serious (in the short term, before then, expect the two sides to drift farther apart). If the two sides are not making progress toward a deal by the middle of September, then we should be worried. Then games — and maybe a lot of games — are at risk.

The players need to decide how much they are willing to give back. Until this ends, we will keep talking about compromise. And there will be compromise, neither side is going to get everything they want.

But the players are going to exit these negotiations more poor than they entered. Even if the owners decided suddenly tomorrow to accept the players’ proposal, the players would be giving back $500 million in the next five years. That may be well short of what the owners want — David Stern called it “modest” — but that is a lot of money in real dollars.

The owners are going to push hard for more — much more. There are some hardline owners driving the boat right now and while at some point the more veteran, level-headed owners may change the course of that ship, they are not coming all the way back to the players. The players are talking about how unified they are, but they cannot hold out as long as the owners.

At what point is the pain the players are going to feel from a lockout worse than the pain they would feel from taking the deal on the table? That will be the day the lockout ends. But this may be a more unified group of players than the ones that held out long enough to reduce the 1998-99 season to 50 games. (And that was a deal hailed as a huge win for the owners at the time.)

Will the fear of killing the momentum the league generated in the last 12 months mean a deal can be reached before games are lost? That is the hundreds of millions of dollars question. Both sides give lip service to how the fans will be hurt by the lockout and how they don’t want to alienate the fans. But that has yet to translate to meaningful actions by either side.

We can only hope that concern, combined with the fear of lost money (by both sides) and some level heads, solves this situation before games are lost.

But even in the best of scenarios, it’s going to be a while before we see any resolution.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”