With NBA lockout there are plenty of losers, but it starts with fans

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The NBA locks out and there are tons of losers.

It’s not the owners and the players. Sure, they are shooting their own business in the foot, but when it is all said and done the owners will be insanely wealthy and the players will still make a lot of money playing a game. It’s hard for fans to relate to. Or put it this way, if my bosses at NBC want to pay me the NBA rookie minimum salary (more than $400,000 last year) I will gladly accept that pay raise.

The losers are they guy who owns the pub across the street from the arena who counts on those 42 nights a year to keep his business going (as do the bartenders and waiters and chefs who need to pay rent). The losers are the security guards and ushers who are staying home and not being paid. It is the team assistant athletic trainers who got laid off and don’t know when they will go back to work. It is countless other people who count on the NBA financially that have no say in the negotiations.

But mostly, it’s the fans. The fans are the ones getting screwed again.

This is all a fight over how to divide up the fans money. They are the ones that buy the tickets, buy the beer and hot dogs in the arena, who buy the jerseys, who watch the games on television and visit the Web sites. It is their money and they eyeballs on the set that drive the revenue for this league, that revenue the players and owners get about $4 billion of a year but can’t figure out how to divide.

It’s the fans in Sacramento who fought so hard to convince the powers that be in the NBA of their support for the Kings franchise, how they would get a new arena built in the city. A project that is going to take public money. A project that is going to take corporate sponsor dollars. A project that is going to take a lot of season tickets — which were selling fast after the team drafted Jimmer Fredette. An extended lockout could kill that momentum and lead to the city losing its team.

It’s the fans in Memphis who suffered through years and years of bad team and finally saw their team win their first playoff game this April. Then their first playoff series. A starved fan base finally getting to taste some success in the NBA with players they can rally behind. They are excited about next season, just in time to have it threatened.

It is like that for 28 other teams as well.

After the 1998-99 lockout both sides admitted they had to win the fans back, but they did. The fans did return. But if there is a lengthy lockout in this economy — if they are arguing over millions in salary and hundreds of millions in profits while the nation struggles out of the worst recession in generations — it will be much harder to win casual fans back. The road back will be harder.

The owners and players have to think long and hard about the repercussions if this drags out. The fans are the losers in all this. And if the fans feel alienated through this they will not come back nearly as fast or in the same numbers they did last time.

Nobody likes to be the loser. And with this lockout, there would be a lot of them.

Reports: Rockets try to confront Clippers, police dispatched to locker room

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The Los Angeles Clippers got the better of the Houston Rockets on Monday night at Staples Center, 113-102, but the battle between Chris Paul and his former team had apparently just begun.

According to multiple reports, members of the Rockets took to the Clippers locker room after the game to confront Austin Rivers and then Blake Griffin.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says that according to his sources, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green entered the Clippers locker room looking for Austin Rivers. LAPD were then dispatched to the scene — not just ordinary Staples Center security — and that’s somehow not the end of this story.

In true Scooby Doo fashion, Woj reports that the Rockets then sent Clint Capela to the front door of the Clippers locker room while Chris Paul went to a secret back door to the Clippers’ area as he looked to go after Blake Griffin.

Once again, I cannot stress that I am not making this story up.

Via Twitter:

Some of this may stem from the general tension between the two teams. Paul was traded to Houston in June for Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Sam Dekker among others after spending six seasons with Los Angeles.

There’s also the fact that Mike D’Antoni and Griffin got into it during the game, yapping at each other after Griffin made contact with the Houston coach on the sideline.

Griffin appeared to be pointing at D’Antoni for being out of the box on the sideline, making purposeful contact with him and resulting in double technical fouls.

Yet the overarching tension between the two teams was already palpable. Paul reportedly took umbrage to how Rivers was treated by his father, coach, and (at the time) GM Doc Rivers.

Then again, Austin Rivers said that the tension between Paul and Griffin was the thing that led to CP3 looking for a trade to Texas.

No word yet on the details confirming how far anybody got, although it seems reasonable to expect Adam Silver and the league office should come down with some suspensions for folks. Malice in the Palace was perhaps the greatest modern disgrace for the NBA, and the league tries to keep even the whiff of violence away from their games.

It feels like there’s no way anyone here can get off light in an era where guys are getting suspended from both playoff games and preseason games for taking a teensy little step off the bench during disputes.

Meanwhile, the guys on the set of Inside the NBA had an absolute BLAST with the details (as did of Twitter, to be honest).

The Rockets and the Clippers play again next on Wednesday Feb. 28 in LA.

Check out the Chris Paul tribute video from the Clippers

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Chris Paul returned to Staples Center Monday night wearing the red of the Houston Rockets.

There was a mix of cheers and boos when CP3 was introduced against the Clippers, the team he helped make relevant and string together the best run in franchise history (even if it didn’t attain the lofty goals we had expected). He pushed his way out of town last summer, but Paul still goes down as one of the two greatest Clippers ever (he was a better player than Blake Griffin, but Griffin helped turn that franchise culture around before CP3 arrived, and Griffin is still doing work there).

The Clippers put together this tribute video.

Well done Clippers.

LeBron James does it all, still not enough for Cavaliers to beat Warriors

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers got to the Finals thanks to LeBron James leading an elite Cavaliers offense that covered up a defense which was second worst in the NBA after the All-Star break and improved to middle of the pack during the playoffs when they dialed in. That was not near good enough against the Warriors in the Finals.

New season, but we are watching the same movie.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Cleveland LeBron was nothing short of brilliant — 32 points on 18 shots, eight rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Through three quarters the Cavaliers got into the paint, hit their floaters and midrange shots, and knocked down 52.1 percent of their shots total — but they were down two because their defense was a disaster.

Isaiah Thomas tied the game 93-93 early in the fourth, but then Cleveland started a streak of missing eight shots in a row and hitting 1-of-14 (credit the Warriors playing better defense for some of that), and the Warriors just kept on scoring. And scoring.

The result was a 118-108 Warriors win to sweep the season series from the Cavaliers.

Kevin Durant had 32 points, Stephen Curry 23 and hit 4-of-8 from three.

With the trade deadline weeks away, this loss left the Cavaliers with big questions to answer:

Do they make a bold move to try to give themselves a better shot against the Warriors in the Finals? (And give themselves a cushion against Boston and Toronto.)

Is there an available player that can actually close that gap?

If they find the player, do the Cavaliers have the players and picks to get a deal done? Would they throw in the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick?

Cleveland must consider it all because this game made it clear again there is now a gap between the two teams that met in the NBA Finals the past three years.

The Cavaliers again started out hot, hitting eight of their first 10 shots. Cleveland shot 58.3 percent in the first quarter and LeBron was 6-of-8 — but they led just 37-35 because the Cavaliers could not get stops. Cleveland’s transition defense was a mess all night, and in the first quarter one-third of the Warriors points came in transition opportunities, where they were very efficient.

There were positives for Cleveland. Dwyane Wade provided a boost off the bench with eight first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting, making energy plays like the steal and alley-oop to Jeff Green just before the half.

The Cavaliers were up 64-57 at the break as they shot 61.1 percent from the midrange. But it always felt like it was not sustainable.

Cleveland had shooting issues with guys not named LeBron. IT and Wade combined to shoot 12-of-33, and as a team the Cavs shot 6-of-26 from three. You can say those number should improve, and you’d be right, but we’re back to a great offense trying to cover up a weak defense.

That’s not going to cut it in the Finals. It may not be enough to cut it before the Finals, but the Warriors are showing they are in another class right now.

Kevin Durant with angry dunk, LeBron James steps out of way

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There are times when challenging a dunk is the thing to do.

For LeBron James, this was one of those times.

Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were on a 2-1 break with LeBron back, but KD was not looking to pass, he wanted to finish.

He did. With authority.