NBA labor talks break off, no talks scheduled. It’s that bad.

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Folks, we may not be seeing basketball for a long, long while. NBA fans should be wearing black on Friday in mourning.

Saying he was “saddened on behalf of the game” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said that talks had broken off between the NBA owners and its players association. No new talks are scheduled, with Spurs owner Peter Holt saying both sides could use a breather. (David Stern was not at the meeting due to having the flu.)

This came after about 30 hours of negotiations over three days led by federal mediator George Cohen. Silver said that Cohen and the mediation team wanted to keep going but both the owners and players saw too big a gap and wanted to call it quits. The players denied this, saying they wanted to stay at the table. So to be clear, the two sides can’t even agree on how the meeting ended. Cohen basically threw up his hands in disgust. It’s that bad.

No new cancellation of NBA games has been announced, but you can get that is coming in the next few days. Already the first two weeks of the season (through Nov. 14) have been cancelled and games beyond Thanksgiving are likely on the block. NBA union president Derek Fisher talked about that in his remarks after the meetings.

“This is not in any way about ego,” he said. “There are a lot of people’s livelihoods at stake separate from us.”

The issue — as it has been since the start — is money.

Specifically, the split of revenue, called basketball related income (or BRI). That is money the league and its teams take in from ticket sales, national television contracts, part of local television contracts, part of luxury box revenues, even part of the beer you buy at the games. It came to nearly $4 billion dollars last season.

The players, who got 57 percent of BRI under the old labor deal, came down to 52.5 percent, according to Silver. However, the owners didn’t want to go higher than a 50/50 split, he said.

“What Peter (Holt) and our other owners made clear to the players is that is as far as we would go,” Silver said.

“We think that’s a fair split,” Holt added.

Players union officials said after the meeting they were stunned by the owners “take it or leave it” position, thinking this was a negotiation. Fisher said that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the players need to “trust him.” (Good luck with that one.)

Union leaders said clearly something happened at the Board of Governor’s meeting (all the owners) that took place earlier in the day and the league negotiators came in with a hard-line stance. The union’s feeling is that it is the one giving up real dollars — from 57 percent down to 52.5 percent would be about $180 million next season — while the owners keep taking and not really talking.

The two sides had discussed “bands” where, for example, the players could get between 49 and 51 percent of BRI depending on how much came in. However, while their bands were close they never overlapped and neither side was willing to budge.

Right now, there seems to be little trust and a lot of animosity between the two sides. It’s ugly, really ugly. The owners want the players to feel the hurt of no paychecks, the players want the owners to feel the hurt of no revenue and angry fan bases. What both sides seem not to realize is that the fans are angry with both of them and the longer the game is shuttered the longer it will be before fans come back.

This is going to kill any momentum the league has built and if the two sides take much of a break David Stern’s gut feeling that Christmas Day games could be threatened could become a reality.

This is a dark, dark day for NBA fans.

Here’s LeBron James trying on Lonzo Ball’s weirdo jump shooting form (VIDEO)

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Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range this season. That’s up a little more than six percent from last season, and three percent better than his career average. He doesn’t need much help there this season, but you know that LeBron is always looking for ways to improve.

Including, apparently, trying on UCLA star Lonzo Ball’s shooting form.

During warmups on Thursday before the Cavaliers took on the Chicago Bulls, LeBron messed around with Ball’s awkward shooting form. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an odd draw from right-to-left, with the right-handed Ball almost shooting from the left side of this face.

Ball was a 41.3 percent shooter from deep during his one season at UCLA and will be a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, perhaps much to the chagrin of whichever team has to deal with his dad, LaVar.

Scottie Pippen throws blame for Knicks woes at feet of his former coach Phil Jackson

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Apparently, it’s not “be kind to your former boss month.”

Bulls legend and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was on ESPN’s “The Jump” — the Rachel Nichols hosted NBA show on each afternoon — and the topic turned to how much the Knicks stink. And why. Of course, there’s plenty of blame to go around for just about everyone on that front, but Pippen threw his former coach under the bus (transcription via the New York Daily News).

“To be honest with you, I’m going to have to go at my old coach Phil Jackson,” Pippen said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think he just hasn’t put the right pieces on the floor. I give a lot of credit to Carmelo who is being very professional in getting through these 82 game season. And now he’s being benched to some degree, they’re taking a lot of his minutes away. But this team just hasn’t had it. They haven’t had it since Phil Jackson landed there. There hasn’t been any upside.”

After saying “fans would love to see Carmelo in New York and Phil out,” Pippen was asked by host Rachel Nichols if he believes Jackson “should be out.”

“Yes,” Pippen replied emphatically.

Most of Jackson’s former players have his back, most recently Shaquille O’Neal who laid blame at the feet of the Knicks’ players. The ones that Jackson assembled into a mismatched team.

Phil Jackson’s record may be 77-162 since taking over the Knicks, but reports are he isn’t going anywhere. While owner James Dolan can flip like a pancake on a griddle, the sense is that Jackson will keep collecting his $12 million annual salary and will keep trying to build a triangle-offense team. That means Carmelo Anthony likely gets moved this summer.

Jackson has seemingly fallen into the trap the Knicks have been unable to climb out of for years — since James Dolan took over as owner seemingly — of not just picking a system, sticking to it, being patient and avoiding quick fixes. Triangle, Rhombus, pick-and-roll heavy, whatever offense the Knicks use should be built around getting Kristaps Porzingis touches and playing to his strengths. Get younger players who fit that system to go around him and let it grow together. Be patient. Instead, it’s Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Jackson deserves blame. A significant amount. So do the players. So does Jeff Hornacek as coach. But make sure Dolan gets a big slice too, this team has struggled since he was given control, and he is the one constant.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.