Players union pushes back on agents talking decertification

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Here is the bottom line — the division between the leaders of the NBA players union and agents pushing for decertification of the NBA players union is bad news for players trying to keep as much of the old system as they can in these labor negotiations. Divided they will fall. Hard.

Which is why you see union president Derek Fisher pushing back against five powerful agents who are talking about a coup, forcing decertification of the union. Fisher and union director Billy Hunter are taking a more patient approach, saving decertification and litigation for a last stand.

Fisher expressed frustration with the agents to Howard Beck of the New York Times.

“I find the position of these agents questionable, at best,” Derek Fisher, the union president, said by telephone Wednesday evening. “If they’re so concerned about the direction of the union, then why have they not contacted me at a minimum to share these concerns?”

When the players get together Thursday in Las Vegas to talk, you can bet decertification will come up. You can be just as sure that Fisher and Hunter will argue vociferously against it. But they need to have another plan in place — in a vacuum then decertification becomes the only plan for players to line up behind.

Both sides in the labor talks are waiting for the other side to break. There certainly are divisions among the owners — of the more than five-hour negotiating session on Tuesday, more than three of it was spent with the owners caucusing amongst themselves — right now they remain united behind wanting both a larger share of the “Basketball Related Income” pie and having a hard cap.

The union is not as unified.

NBC’s own Ira Winderman spoke to an agent not part of the breakaway group and wrote about it in his mailbag.

“If you’ve got a bunch of agents telling players not to trust Billy, then you’ve got a break in solidarity,” the agent said….

Yes, decertification might be the path toward a more-favorable agreement for the players in the long run, but such machinations would guarantee this being a long-haul lockout.

For agents, that might not be a bad thing, since their careers can span decades. But for players, whose careers average 4½ seasons, the loss of even months might mean money never recouped.

From a fans perspective, it’s hard to read any of this and see a path to an end to the lockout and the resumption of basketball anytime soon. And that is going to cut into the fan’s money flowing into the league the owners and players are arguing over how to divide up.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?