NBA owners, union head to court in legal battle Wednesday

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The Miami Heat will not travel to face the Knicks and officially christen the renovated Madison Square Garden Wednesday as originally planned. The lockout drags on and the NBA and its players union are not even scheduled to meet and talk in the near future.

But good news — some NBA lawyers are going to make a lot more money Wednesday.

That’s because Wednesday the two sides will be in a New York courtroom having their first arguments in a preemptive lawsuit filed by the league. The goal of that lawsuit was to throw water on any plans the union had to decertify. The league’s suit asks that the lockout be ruled as lawful so it cannot be attacked by anti-trust lawsuits — the primary goal of decertifying the union is to sue the league on anti-trust grounds.

But wait a second, you say — the union has not even tried to decertify yet. You’re right (and that’s what the union says). But the league wanted to squelch that idea back on Aug. 2 when it filed the lawsuit.

That same suit asks that if decertification of the union is allowed, the league should be able to void all existing NBA contracts.

The union filed to have this case thrown out, basically calling it frivolous. That is what the two sides will be arguing today, whether the case should even go forward.

What the owners were really doing with this lawsuit is what is called “forum shopping” in legal circles — filing a pre-emptive strike in a district considered more favorable to your case so that the other side doesn’t get to choose the venue. So long as this suit is alive pretty much all NBA anti-trust issues would be heard in the same district in New York (where the league has gotten favorable rulings in he past).

Also at the heart of this is the union’s outside legal counsel Jeffrey Kessler. He is a bulldog in negotiations and was the guy that advised the NFL players union to decertify. The league and owners can’t stand him. He has been a known proponent of decertification for the NBA (or at least was early in the process) and the league says their case is valid because Kessler brought the issue in the media and elsewhere.

This is all legal wrangling for the hypothetical situation that the players union goes the route of decertifying and then having players sue he league on anti-trust grounds.

Frankly, if we get to that at this point the entire NBA season is toast. So NBA fans shouldn’t really care who wins today’s legal wrangling, they should care that soon it all becomes moot.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.