Billy Hunter sends another letter to players urging unity

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Is this starting to sound a little desperate to anyone else?

One day after NBA players union President Derek Fisher sent a letter to players dismissing media reports and urging unity, union director Billy Hunter sent out a similar letter reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

He adds that the union’s negotiating committee is getting together Thursday in New York to go over strategy. There are currently no meetings scheduled between the owners and players to end the lockout, which as of Tuesday had stretched into what would have been the start of the NBA season.

In his letter, Hunter also refutes reports that he and Fisher had a falling out and are on different pages of the negotiating playbook.

“Derek is a fearless defender of player rights both at the bargaining table and behind the scenes, and he carries out his duties as president with the same degree of courage, focus and tenacity that he has exhibited on the court as a five-time champion,” Hunter said.

Amid a push by members of the NBA players union to refute rumors and signs of a divide, Hunter told the players they need to stand together.

“Your role is an important one,” Hunter told players in the letter, obtained by ESPN.com. “The owners need to know that we will stand strong until they are ready to finish negotiating a fair deal — not one reached with preconditions, and not one forced down our throat with the threat of missed paychecks….

“Without question, we have given more than the owners, but at bottom, we are determined to defend the principles we have fought for throughout — guaranteed contracts, healthy minimums, fair maximums, a strong middle class, and a true market for free agency.

A second unity letter in a couple days still has the feel of a union trying hard to keep its members in line. It feels like there is a growing divide. (It feels like that among the owners as well.)

But for now the players are standing strong. As are the owners. Which means fans willing to spend money have no NBA basketball, but a bunch of labor lawyers continue to make big bucks. Only in America.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.