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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.