Mark Cuban, David Stern

NBA owner, union talks “engaging,” will continue Saturday

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There is no NBA labor deal yet.

And a source has told PBT there is still a healthy gap between the NBA owners and players on key issues.

But there appears to be a real push and commitment from both sides to try and get a deal done this weekend, and that’s a huge leap forward from a month ago.

NBA owners and players union representatives — including a number of big name players such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant — met for nearly five hours in midtown New York Friday and will be back at it Saturday morning. Here is a quote from union president Derek Fisher, via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

“We did not come out of here with a deal today, but we will be back here at 10 a.m.”

David Stern echoed that, saying “both sides expressed a willingness to make a deal” (again via Berger tweets). He said it was good to have owners and players in the room together to hear each others perspectives. However, he added that once regular season games are lost both sides are likely to harden their positions and it may be harder to reach an agreement.

If a deal is not reached this weekend or by the first part of next week, the start of the NBA season will have to be postponed. There would not be enough time to finalize the deal, have a free agency period, truncated training camps and exhibition games, and still start on Nov. 1.

Fisher told reporters that the talks were wide ranging, at time contentious and “engaging.” No formal proposals have been exchanged and neither side would say that a deal could be reached this weekend. Fisher also said that he’s not sure they are any closer to a deal now than they were when talks ended on Wednesday.

The main issue has been how to both define and split “basketball related income.” The players got 57 percent in the old labor deal and have formally offered to go down to 54 percent, with hints they would go even lower. The owners highest offer was reportedly to give the players 48 percent. Then there are issues of what kind of restrictions — how many exceptions and how steep a luxury tax — there would be on any salary structure for players. The two sides remain fairly far apart on these issues.

Stern did say that the owners seem to have come to some level of agreement on a new revenue sharing plan. It would start with nearly three times the current revenue sharing levels and would go up to four times last year’s $60 million in four years.

The good news takeaway is that the two sides seem to be working hard to make a deal. Multiple reporters and others with knowledge of the talks described “spirit of cooperation” and said both sides seemed serious about making a deal. There were reports that even hardline owners were now looking for a way to find common ground.

Is that going to be enough? Who knows? But there seems to be a real effort going on, and that’s where any deal starts.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.