Are things looking up in labor negotiations or not?

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Nature abhors a vacuum. So do news agencies, blogs (including us) and apparently agents.

So the fact that there has been no talk from the principles involved in a series of owner/player meetings —  a six-hour meeting last week, a more than five hour meeting Wednesday and another planned for Thursday — has led to all sorts of speculation. Some optimistic, some negative, and some from people still looking for Billy Hunter’s head on a silver platter. All of it just filling the void. A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Frankly, we don’t know. Not yet.

That said there is a more optimistic vibe of late. A feeling that at least the talks are serious and maybe some ground is being covered.

That said, lots of things are blowing up. Which includes a tweet that showed up on union vice president Roger Mason’s twitter Wednesday night.

Looking like a season. How u

That abbreviated message was up about half an hour before Mason took it down and claimed his twitter account was hacked. Right. People gullible enough to send money to that poor Nigerian prince who keeps emailing are not buying that. Everyone who tweets something they don’t like says they were hacked. (Now, some people do get hacked, we just tend not to believe it.) Pretty soon Mason had these tweets up in response.

Today’s meetings were cordial and there is a pure since of urgency on both parts to end the lockout. However, there is still a HUGE gap..

Tomorrow we have more meetings and I’m hoping there is progress. Today’s meetings did nothing to make me feel more optimistic.

My guess, Mason was either texting or direct messaging someone on twitter and messed up (something not that hard to do from a phone program). That’s the consensus out there.

But that does mean we are really close to a deal? No.

And we should add that agents (used to being in the middle of negotiations involving their livelihood, they don’t like being on the sidelines) are showing more and more frustration with union director Billy Hunter. Many think he is without a plan. A number of agents wanted to go the aggressive, decertification route from July 1 and have been frustrated with Hunter’s more patient approach.

Now, decertification would be a scary thing for all involved. Sam Amick explains why at Sports Illustrated.

The pressure is indeed building, but these last eight days have been good for the union head. Two small-group sessions featuring Hunter and Stern are already in the books, with another scheduled for Thursday and possibly another on Friday. Hunter will need to deliver results in the coming weeks or risk a mutiny, but the incremental progress has continued if only because the two sides are talking again…..

Decertification remains an option, no matter how tricky it might be, but the message sent by taking that route will have changed dramatically if that’s the path the players choose. On July 1, it would have been a punch-first strategy intended to help the union and the players gain a badly-needed edge. From here on out, it would be a clear indication that Hunter’s approval rating was at an all-time low and an almost-certain sign that the season would be lost.

We’ve long said that by mid-September we’d see a sense of urgency and start to get a feel for where things really stand, if things are really that bleak. Well, we do see a sense of urgency. As for if things are looking up in the lockout, well, they are at least meeting. Stay tuned to see where things really stand in the next few weeks. And how Hunter acts may be the best indicator.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: “We can use some more defensive players”

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For all the flipping between the triangle and a more modern offense, despite ball stopping by Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks offense is 17th in the NBA for the season. Not good, but the middle of the pack, right around Oklahoma City, Miami, and Memphis — all playoff teams (or potential ones in Miami’s case).

The reason the Knicks season ends in seven games is their defense — 25th in the NBA. Put the triangle in (and get players who fit the system) or don’t, but that’s not the end of the court where the Knicks need to improve. And while system matters on defense, the fact of the matter the Knicks roster is loaded with poor and/or indifferent individual defenders.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek emphasized all this speaking to ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“I think if you look at our defense this year, we can use some more defensive players,” Hornacek said. “[Management] will look at that. [General manager] Steve [Mills] and [president] Phil [Jackson] and those guys will look at whatever can help us out. We know we need some help there.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Now comes the time for action.

The Knicks are going to have a Top 10 draft pick (currently sixth) plus max-player money in free agency. Also, they are looking to move Anthony this summer (he has a no-trade clause so he will have to agree to it). All of which is to say they have a chance to reshape this roster into one that will have more of a defensive focus. Or any defensive focus for that matter.

It will be interesting to see if the Knicks target more defensive minded free agents this summer, ones who might fit the triangle offense such as Thabo Sefolosha, or to a lesser extent Tony Allen. It’s going to be a fascinating summer in New York.

Master P says Pelicans should hire him as assistant coach: ‘I’m serious’

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Did you know Master P had two NBA contracts?

Percy Miller was with the Hornets before the 1999 season and the Raptors before the 1999-00 season. But he was cut in the preseason both times.

These were mostly publicity stunts. Still, the rapper could actually play a bit. NBA quality? He long insisted yes, though his music career provided a convenient and lucrative excuse for sidetracking his basketball ambitions.

Yet, now, the New Orleans native says he wants back in the NBA with the Pelicans — in a different role.

Master P, via TMZ:

I think they need me to be an assistant coach.

I’m serious about coaching.

I don’t think he’s actually serious.

But if he is, would it be a good idea? Probably not. The Pelicans have real issues integrating Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and they need devoted coaches, not passing entertainers, to solve this.

Would it be fun? Heck yeah.

Pistons’ D-League team wins on buzzer-beater unlike any you’ve ever seen (video)

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Sending an inbound pass through the rim is, of course, a turnover.

But sending an inbound pass off the rim to a teammate who converts the shot? Sure, that counts.

Ray McCallum and Ramon Harris gave the Pistons-affiliated Grand Rapids Drive a win over the Pacers-affiliated Fort Wayne Mad Ants on a play the D-League amusingly dubbed a “put-back.”

Duke’s Harry Giles, once a potential No. 1 pick, declares for NBA draft

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About a year ago, Harry Giles looked like he could be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

But multiple knee injuries have added up and contributed to a lackluster freshman year at Duke, especially considering Giles started the season late due to his latest knee surgery.

Where does this leave him with the NBA?

We’ll find out.

Duke release:

Duke freshman forward Harry Giles has announced that he will enter his name in the 2017 NBA Draft.

At his best, Giles is an athletic power forward who plays with skill and energy. But we didn’t see much, if any, of that player during 11.5 minutes per game in just 26 contests at Duke.

Medical testing will define everything for Giles. He’s projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round, but that’s a wide range with so much uncertainty about his knees.

Helping Giles: Joel Embiid‘s success after entering the NBA with major red flags about his health. Even though Embiid is again injured, he was so good while on the court for the 76ers. That’s a favorable recent comparison for Giles.