Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony

Players talk lockout, sticking together at Durant’s event

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Fans are pretty sick of the appetizers — charity games like the one Kevin Durant hosted Sunday in Oklahoma City — they are ready for the main course. They want NBA basketball back.

As it was at every one of these games for the past month, most of the questions thrown at the players are about the lockout. And when it’s going to end.

Like, when Royce Young of Eye on Basketball asked Durant if we’d see NBA games by Christmas.

“I wish,” he said. “But I really can’t say right now. We’re just trying to work to get a deal done. We’re going to continue to play in these games and show the fans that we love the game and we want to play.”

There are a number of things holding up the negotiations, but at the core of it is money — specifically the split of basketball related income (which is essentially most of the revenue that flows into the league). Last labor deal the players got 57 percent of that, now the owners want a 50/50 split (which really isn’t 50/50 because they want to take more off the top) and the players are saying 53 percent (or 52.5 which was their last offer according to reports).

“No, no. Fifty-three. That’s where we’re staying at. We’ve had plenty of talks and we’re not dropping,” (James) Harden said. “We already dropped and set our number at 53 so that’s what we’re sticking to.”

We can debate who is winning the public relations battle, I think the owners are taking a black eye but players who make millions cannot really win that fight. Bottom line, everyone is a loser. But Chris Paul — a vice president in the union — said all the players can do is keep playing games and preaching their side of things.

“We try to explain (the situation) as much as we can, but it’s really hard to understand unless you’re in the situation. But I just want the fans to trust us and know that we’re far from greedy. We just want a fair deal. We want to get out there and play more than anybody. But we understand that at the end of the day, we’re the product. We’re the reason the fans come and we just want a fair deal.”

Most fans just want basketball.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.

PBT Podcast: NBA All-Star Weekend talk, predictions with Sean Highkin

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NBA All-Star weekend descends upon frigid Toronto starting Friday, with everything from the Rookie/Sophomore… er, Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Dunk Contest/Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and the main event on Sunday.

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk break it all down, from Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler to predictions on the Dunk Contest and if anyone can knock off Zach LaVine. Plus, there is plenty of “why Sting?” talk.

PBT will be in Toronto with reports from the event all weekend, so come back early and often for all the latest (plus trade talk, as all the GMs get together in one city where it’s too cold for them to go outside).

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Pistons retire Chauncey Billups’ jersey at halftime (VIDEO)

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Moments before his jersey went up to the rafters, Chauncey Billups spoke to the crowd about the night the Detroit Pistons wrapped up the 2004 NBA title by routing the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Finals.

“We had one motivation,” he said. “We wanted to win it here at home.”

Billups was the most valuable player in the Finals that year, and he had his No. 1 jersey retired by the Pistons on Wednesday night at halftime of their game against Denver.

He was the second player from that 2004 team honored by the Pistons this year. The Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s jersey last month at a similar ceremony – in front of a packed house on a night Detroit beat Golden State.

There were some empty seats in the upper level Wednesday, but Billups wanted to be honored while the Pistons were playing the Nuggets. Billups is a Denver native and played for the Nuggets for two stints during his career.

“This was by design, only because there’s a lot of people that contributed to my success as a player and as a man, in Denver, my hometown,” Billups said before the game. “There were several dates that I could have chosen. This one obviously stuck out.”

Billups does have a mild regret about his run of success with the Pistons. He figures they could have won more titles.

“I felt like, two and maybe three championships – we were that good,” he said.

Ben Wallace was on hand Wednesday, and so were Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 champions. Pistons great Isiah Thomas was also at the Palace for the ceremony.

“This is what tradition looks like,” Thomas told the crowd. “This is what it feels like.”