Do owner, player negotiations finally get serious Wednesday?

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Wednesday in Manhattan, NBA commissioner David Stern and players’ union director Billy Hunter are going to sit down in a room across the table from each other and talk new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

They have done that a few times in various settings, exchanging a few proposals, for two years now. With absolutely no progress.

But we are now a month or so away from when training camps were supposed to open, less than six weeks from the first preseason games. About two months from the first regular season games.

We’ve said all along that until there was real pressure, a real deadline, the negotiations would not move forward. Well, now is about time for both sides to start really moving toward a deal.

The question is will it happen? We’re not the only ones wondering, agent Bill Duffy said this to Yahoo’s Marc Spears.

“This is a telltale meeting,” said agent Billy Duffy, whose client roster includes Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and Greg Oden. “I think we will know the seriousness of both sides’ position after Wednesday.

“I don’t think the season starts on time. There really has been no progress. The union has been patient on hoping there would be movement on the league side. The league hasn’t demonstrated any movement whatsoever while the union is flexible.”

Back in 1999 — when the league missed half a season due to a lockout — the resulting deal was hailed as a win for the owners. They got a salary cap. They got a maximum salary put in.

But a dozen years later the current crop of owners sees that deal as a loss — 57 percent of all Basketball Related Income (BRI) has to go to the players in the form of salary. Doesn’t matter if it is bad deals or good ones, salary is a set percentage of league revenues. As costs outside of just players have risen to run a team, the owners have taken a financial hit trying to pay the rest of it out of their 43 percent. The owners wail of financial losses on their toys.

The owners want a bigger slice of the pie. The players union offered to come back to 54 percent, but the owners want that number below 50 percent and they want to redefine how BRI is calculated (more net than gross income).

The owners want to overhaul the system, including hard salary caps, shorter contracts and ways to get out of the end of bad deals. The players are playing goalie, trying to keep as much of what is in the current deal  as they have. But for them, they want a percentage of salaries tied to the league’s BRI — with new television deals on the horizon they want a share of that money, not to just let the owners pocket it.

If you want a positive heading into Wednesday’s meeting, it is that this — this is just top executives from both sides. There are not hardline owners in the room for Stern to have to placate, there are no players (outside of union president Derek Fisher) in the room that Hunter has to put on a show for. Both sides know each other, know the issues and are civil with one another. This is a setting where there can be real dialogue.

But with the two sides so very far apart right now, will that matter? We can hope so, but it’s hard to be optimistic.

Elfrid Payton slams chasedown block on LeBron James (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is usually the guy handing out chasedown blocks. He’s famous for them, and has carted out his signature move in the biggest moments of his career.

He’s also not used to having his own shots blocked from behind, and certainly not by opposing point guards.

Enter Elfrid Payton.

During a play halfway through the first quarter against the Orlando Magic on Thursday, LeBron was on a drive to the hole with Elfrid trailing far behind.

Thanks to a pinch by two Magic defenders, LeBron had to try and use brute force a bit deeper in the paint than he wanted to.

That allowed Payton — running at full speed — to catch up and pin The King on the glass.

Cleveland still got the best of the Magic, as Isaiah Thomas hit a clutch free throw to win the game with 11 seconds left, 104-103.

All-Star Joel Embiid doesn’t need Rihanna: “On to the next one”

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For about as long as we can remember, Joel Embiid has famously thirsted after Rihanna on Twitter. Fans have tried to boost his standing with the singer, but it apparently that has not been enough.

In 2014, Embiid mentioned on social media that a “famous girl” — presumably Rihanna — told him to “Come back when you’re an All-Star.”

Well, today is that day.

Embiid is a starter out of the Eastern Conference, and on Thursday night he had his chance to speak to Rihanna (or whomever) via national TV on TNT.

Did Embiid decide to reach out to this famous person? Apparently he’s off it.

Via Twitter:

This is like that scene from Private Parts when Howard Stern hits No. 1 and he tells Paul Giamatti’s character to get lost.

Embiid had the chance to curve Rihanna (or whomever) and took it. Long live The Process.

Here are the weirdest NBA All-Star voting results for 2018

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NBA All-Star voting is over, and now we have the results. The starters are in, and what’s left is for us to wait until they announce the teams after they are picked in double secret ceremony.

Of course, the NBA did release the full voting results via their PR website this week, and as such there are some head scratchers. My boy Patrick Redford over at Deadspin did an excellent job rounding up some of the players who got exactly one (1) vote from other players.

The gag here is that these guys presumably voted for themselves.

Of course, what I found most interesting was actually the guys who got multiple votes from their compatriots without being All-Star caliber players.

My favorite list of player-voted non-All-Stars includes: Michael Beasley (4), Gordon Hayward (2), Boban Marjanovic (2), Jahlil Okafor (4), Quincy Acy (2), Tyler Zeller (4), T.J. McConnell (2), Elfrid Payton (2), Zaza Pachulia (3), Taj Gibson (6), Zach Randolph (5), Maurice Harkless (2), Deyonta Davis (3), Lonzo Ball (9), Mike Conley (3).

There’s a whole smattering of guys in there who either didn’t play enough, aren’t stars, are injured, or who aren’t very good.

That multiple players took time to vote for these guys really speaks to the frivolity of the NBA All-Star Game. At least outside of player contract incentives.

Bring on February!

LeBron James throws behind-the-back, nutmeg pass for assist (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is one of the best passers the NBA has ever seen, but even this is too hard to believe.

During Thursday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron through a ridiculous behind-the-back pass that nutmegged Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

The result of the play was a bucket for Dwyane Wade.

Via Twitter:

I mean, that’s just … insane.