Fisher, Hunter respond to Stern with tough words of their own

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After David Stern’s Magical Media Tour on Thursday and Friday, the players needed to respond before a mediator puts the lock on both sides next week. And after making an “armed and dangerous” reference, union executive director Billy Hunter continued along with union president Derek Fisher in pushing back hard against the commish. Various quotes from the AP and other sources:

Fisher expressed optimism that there would be a season, which is contrasted by the dour approach of both Stern and Hunter. Except Fisher’s assertion is based more on calling what he feels is Stern’s bluff.

“My gut tells me that there’s no way Commissioner Stern and the NBA would damage their business by making us miss a whole season,” Fisher said Friday after a union meeting at the Beverly Hilton.

Regarding David Stern’s assertion that the absence of a deal on Tuesday could lead the cancellation of games at Christmas, nearly two months away, Fisher shrugged it off as “arbitrary.”

“That’s an arbitrary deadline just to throw out on Commissioner Stern’s part,” Fisher said. “We don’t see it that way. That’s just arbitrary, with no other purpose than to sway player sentiment.”

Fisher also was quick to shut down talk of JaVale McGee’s comments about there being “guys ready to fold in the room,” a quote that McGee later denied on Twitter… despite about eight reporters having heard, and recorded, the comments. Fisher did not exactly cover McGee’s tail publicly.

“The person that spent the least amount of time in the room has no ability to make that statement,” Fisher said.

Billy Hunter commented that for nearly two years, the league had been pushing for “guaranteed profitability,” a term the union had shelved for several months, only to bring it back with a vengeance. Hunter said the union replied that a system that provided each NBA team with a guaranteed average profit of $10 to $30 million “simply did not exist.”

If you’re wondering if it was Rhetoric Day in the NBA Lockout, it was. Both sides were volleying shots at one another. But with McGee’s random and profoundly stupid comment, the NBPA still found a way to lose the day. The pressure is on players to comment whenever they’re at an event. The owners face no such pressure. And as a result, we’re learning why the union has been reticent to put its players first and forefront.

Finally, it’s important to note the disappointing turnout. Less than 30 players attended the meeting, with most players visiting colleges for Midnight Madness (Dwyane Wade, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins just to name a few).

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.