Winderman: Challenge in NBA lockout is owners, players infighting

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The two sides in the NFL labor dispute have finally come together, so there will be football.

Perhaps that’s why they came together, because there only were two sides.

What has become increasingly clear amid this first month of the NBA lockout is that this is a lockout squared. There essentially are four sides.

On the ownership side, there are those with an immense amount to lose: the Heat losing one of the four locked-in years on the contracts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh; the Celtics losing perhaps the last go-round with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen; the Lakers losing the Buss family’s primary source of income; the Knicks losing impetus gained amid the costly retrofitting of Madison Square Garden; the Bulls losing their first taste of momentum in the post-Jordan era.

But on the ownership side, there also are those who gain more without playing: the Kings, who can gain additional time to sort out their arena situation without another season in their current outdated building; the Cavaliers, who could find themselves with another guaranteed high lottery pick and a quicker path toward rebuilding; the Bobcats, who clearly need some sort of revenue sharing to make it work; ditto for the league-owned Hornets.

But it’s not only a schism among owners.

On the players’ side, we’re hearing plenty about Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose cashing in for $400,000 apiece with this past weekend’s appearances in the Philippines; about Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony and their current tour of China; of Amare Stoudemire, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and their lucrative overseas possibilities.

But the league’s lesser players, the ones who could lose a year of their fleeting careers? They’re not getting the big bucks to tour or sign overseas. They’re just seeing transitory paychecks soon to be lost.

Yes, the NBA needs a consensus to get out of this mess.

But first there must be a consensus between the owners. And between the players.

Why exactly would the Lakers, with their profitable new local television deal, want to revenue share with the Kings, who are threatening to move into their very market?

Why shouldn’t the lesser half of the players’ union simply say: “Raise the annual minimum to $2 million per, guaranteed, and we’re in, and feel free to cut the maximum while you’re at it.”?

On the owners’ side, is revenue sharing best for all? Or contraction?

For the players, wouldn’t decertification and a free-for-all for benefits create a further gap between the haves and have-nots?

It still is only July, less than a month into the lockout, at the very point when it also was highly contentious in the NFL lockout.

But unanimity is easier brokered when there are only two sides to the story.

What the NBA needs at this point, before anything else, are truly unified fronts.

Not high-end players cavorting overseas as the rank and file seeing valuable career time slipping away.

Not owners who aren’t even sure what they’ll do with the pie when they finally get their slice.

If the lockout continues to be played as a game of two-on-two, it will remain a game with no possible winner.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.