National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern answers questions from members of the media regarding failed contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York

Report: Owners move off demand for hard salary cap, sort of

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For the NBA players union, the idea of a team-by-team hard salary cap — as is seen in the NFL and NHL — was a “blood issue.” They saw it as a way owners were trying to keep down salaries and force more non-guaranteed contracts. Some owners were insistent on a hard cap, and that has reportedly stalled out past negotiations.

But with the 11th hour to save the start of the season approaching, the owners reportedly have moved off their hard cap demand. Well, technically.

Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports broke the story (which has since been confirmed by others).

The owners proposed at Tuesday’s negotiating session an idea similar to the current system that allows teams to pay a luxury tax for going over the cap. Only, now there would be ultra-punitive measures against higher-spending teams. The current system has teams pay a dollar-for-dollar tax for exceeding the cap….

The owners’ proposal on Tuesday “would still have the affects of a hard cap,” one source with knowledge of the talks said.

This is something suggested earlier to PBT by someone close to the talks — there are ways to call something a “soft cap” but essentially make it a hard cap by making the penalties for going over it so severe.

In the previous labor deal (the most recent year), the salary cap was $58 million but the luxury tax was set at $70 million and teams had to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax. That didn’t deter teams like the Lakers, which had a payroll in excess of $91 million before the tax kicked in.

A system could be set up where the tax gets gradually higher — $2 for $1, $3 for $1, etc. — the more a team spends, in effect putting in a much harder cap.

The two sides went their ways to think about this, and it could potentially be a breakthrough on the question of the next salary cap system.

There seems to be a sense that Wednesday could be a big negotiating session (although we’ve heard that before). If the two sides fail to find a lot of common ground on the system, this could fall back to an ugly stalemate for a while.

Even if there is some agreement on the cap system, on the bigger issue of how to deal with the split of “basketball related income” (BRI) the two sides remain far apart, Woj reports.

The owners didn’t budge on a desire to change the basketball-related income percentage (BRI) to a split that takes the players from 57 percent to the mid 40s, sources said. The players had offered to drop from a 57-43 split to 54-46 at a meeting last week in New York.

That is the bigger issue, the bigger sticking point. And until one side moves significantly on that issue, there will be no labor peace in the NBA.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: