NBA owners, players back at bargaining table Thursday

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This is good. There is a growing sense of optimism from both the NBA owners and players sides that a deal is there to be had — and now they are both actually working hard toward it.

Less than 11 hours after they walked away from the bargaining table at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, representatives of the NBA owners and players returned to the conference room of a fancy New York hotel to complain about their financial pain.

Sure, there’s some irony there, but in a 15-hour session yesterday the two sides made progress on key system issues. Issues such as contract length, the mid-level exception and other issues that will be the framework of a new labor deal saw progress.

How much progress depends on who you ask. You’ll hear “some” in certain quarters, “significant” in others. Either way, it’s progress and we’ll take it. Especially after talks blew up last Thursday and a storm of pessimism swept over the NBA landscape.

But know there are three key hurdles yet to clear.

First is the luxury tax. The owners want a more punitive tax to keep the highest-spending teams in line, the players do not. Zach Lowe sums it up well at Sports Illustrated.

Sources close to the talks indicated last Thursday that the league had softened the tax ratios, but that the multiplying penalties for routine payers remained. A source close to the talks tells me that remains true today-that the league has stood by the multiplied penalties for teams that pay the tax three or more times during a five-year span.

Second remains the split of “basketball related income, or BRI, which is the revenue that flows into the league. There are those that believe that if a system framework can be put in place, the BRI will slide right into that and not remain such a huge issue. Or to be honest, if the players feel they can get enough give from the owners on the system issues they’ll come down closer to or at the 50 percent the owners want. The players’ only real leverage is to give up points of BRI to get system gains. That’s what they are trying to do, but the players have yet to come down from 52.5 percent of BRI — which is a $100 million difference from the owners offer. That’s a lot of cash. This will not be that easy to close.

Finally, whatever deal is struck is going to leave both sides unhappy. Which is how a good negotiations usually ends. But both Commissioner David Stern and union head Billy Hunter are going to have to sell this deal to their hardline constituents. When larger groups have gotten involved in the past is when talks have blown up. That is a risk again.

But, for the second straight day they are talking. Which is good.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.

Carmelo Anthony leaves without speaking to media, will probably get fined

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Lately, Carmelo Anthony has parsed whether the Thunder are frustrated or angry and said he’s going through the roughest stretch of his career.

It didn’t get any better last night.

Anthony scored 11 points on 12 shots with three turnovers, and Oklahoma City got outscored by 21 points with him on the floor in a home loss to the Hornets. The Thunder have now lost two of three, falling to the lowly Nets and Hornets and needing overtime to beat the freefalling Grizzlies.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Anthony today:

I’m sorry. My bad. I had a FaceTime session with my son, so I skipped out on you guys yesterday. I apologize. It’s true, though. That’s true. It’s true. He had a school night.

The NBA’s media-access rules state: “All players must be available to the media for a minimum of five to 10 minutes during the postgame media access period.” It’s been a while since someone got punished for violating the policy, but Kevin Garnett was fined $25,000 for not speaking to the media after Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

I’m sympathetic to Anthony wanting to speak to his son, who’s still in New York. But the league tends not to take these personal concerns into consideration, which is probably for the best. There’s a rule. Anthony violated it. Assessing which personal calls should supersede the rule is a can of worms not worth opening. Besides, Anthony probably could have returned to the locker room for an interview after concluding the call.

Anthony earns a lot of money. If he wanted to risk a $25,000 fine to speak with his son, I have absolutely no problem with that. But that’s probably the choice he made.

In my experience, Anthony has been forthright with the media. He spent years as the face of the Knicks, dutifully answering for problems created by James Dolan and Phil Jackson. Because he was available nearly daily while his superiors avoided interviews, Anthony was the grilled by the New York media.

I bet he expected a reprieve in Oklahoma City. Instead, the spotlight has shined on him as a problem with the underwhelming Thunder.

It’s understandable he’d rather talk to his son than reporters. But it’s also understandable the NBA wants to promote its business through the media, and the league has power to enforce its rules.

Grizzlies fan absolutely owns kids halftime scrimmage (video)

AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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The Grizzlies lost for the 15th time in their last 16 games, a 25-point drubbing at home against the Heat, last night.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in Memphis.

This young fan – while playing in the halftime scrimmage – stopped his dribble, stepped on the ball, whipped off his youth jersey to reveal a Marc Gasol jersey, flexed, re-started his dribbled then drove for a basket.

Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation:

The Grizzlies don’t deserve this hero.