Billy Hunter

Report: Players were led to believe breakthrough was near

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Before last week’s big meeting on Tuesday, there was a lot of optimism in the air — plenty of people were suggesting a labor deal could be close (whether they meant to tweet it or not).

Then Tuesday broke up with both sides disappointed. The players agreed to drop their share of basketball related income to 52 or 53 percent (down from 57 percent in the old deal) but the owners wanted that AND a hard salary cap. Or at least enough of them did for Stern to say Thursday after a Board of Governors meeting that the owners were unified behind a hard cap. The players remain united against that.

A report from David Aldridge of NBA.com said the players were led to believe that the concession they made was going to be a huge breakthrough.

But two sources who have been briefed on the talks indicated the following: sometime during the last of the small sessions between the two sides in New York, on Sept. 7 and 8, the union made its 53 percent concept to the owners. After the proposal was made, according to the sources, the union believed it had assurances from the other side that the offer would be viewed favorably by the owners’ Labor Relations Committee. That was the basis of player optimism — including union executive committee member Roger Mason’s infamous “looks like a season” tweet a few days later. And that’s why the union was so crestfallen on Sept. 13, when the meeting with each side’s full negotiating committees failed to produce a breakthrough.

If the hard cap is mandatory, we are in for a long lockout. The owners may be able to get another percentage point or two off the BRI, but that with a hard cap is asking a lot of the players. Still, it seems like a lot of owners want it, including big market ones.

Training camps are supposed to open the first couple days of October, with the first games Oct. 9. To show you how much everyone expects that to happen, the Drew and Goodman leagues scheduled their rematch for Oct. 9. If the season is going to start close to on time, the two sides need to reach a deal in the next couple of weeks.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—’ (video)

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Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.

Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”

You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.

Russell Westbrook commits epic travel (video)

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Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.

The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.

And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:

Are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on speaking terms after apparent conversation? Westbrook: ‘Nah’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.

That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.

Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.

ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.

After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:

 

  • Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
  • Westbrook: “Nah.”
  • Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
  • Westbrook: “What exchange?”
  • Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
  • Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”

This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.

That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.

I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.