Next week we find out if owners, players can save season

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Was there progress in the labor negotiations between the owners and the players last week? Depends on who you ask.

Ask Chris Sheridan (he formerly of ESPN and AP) and he says there is a 70 to 80 percent chance the NBA season will start on time Nov. 1. There are other whispers out there of optimism that deals will be offered and discussed as early as next week.

Ask CBS’s Ken Berger’s sources and you hear that there has been a lot of talk but not a lot of compromise.

“I don’t think they’ve made any progress there at all,” one of the people briefed on the negotiations told CBSSports.com. “They’re talking a lot, and the conversations are more cordial. But as far as the real numbers, I don’t think there’s anything there.”

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But either way we are going to find out next week.

My guess is that the two sides discussed some broad strokes of a deal and now they are going to bring in larger groups at a meeting Tuesday to look at those. Then on Thursday when the NBA Board of Governors (made up of the owners) meet and when the players get together for a meeting in Las Vegas, they will get to hear those same broad concepts and voice their opinions on them.

Then from there either both sides will start to hammer out the details or, if one side’s constituency (or both) reject what was discussed it will all go back to square one.

Either way, we will get an idea next week.

One other thought — getting that consensus from the constituency is not easy. There is a fantastic bit of reporting today by Henry Abbott at TrueHoop trying to break down where all 30 NBA owners stand — are they hawks or doves in these negotiations — and how they feel about revenue sharing. If you read one post today, make it that one.

What it paints is a complex picture. Sure there are big market owners like Jerry Buss of the Lakers and Jerry Reinsdorf of the Bulls who want to play and don’t really like the idea of revenue sharing. There are small market owners like Herb Kohl of the Bucks and Michael Heisley of the Grizzlies who want a radical change to the system and want aggressive revenue sharing.

But there are a lot of teams in the middle. For example, in some revenue sharing plans the small-market Oklahoma City Thunder could end up as payers, something their owner doesn’t want. Some smaller markets that are successful (San Antonio) are not looking for radical changes. And what do you do with teams like the Clippers and Nets — big market teams with more moderate revenue (certainly compared to the Lakers and Knicks). It defies easy description.

Can all those divergent views agree enough to agree on the broad strokes discussed last week? Maybe. But it’s not that simple.

One way or another, we’ll have a much better idea next week.

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.