NBA: NOV 16 Pistons v Lakers

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.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.