Winderman: If union rank-and-file would approve 50/50, take it

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The goal for Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and the players’ union is not to win. It is to serve their constituency.

If their constituency accepts a deal that Hunter, Fisher and other National Basketball Players Association officials have worked so tirelessly to avoid, then it should not translate into a moment of shame.

Considering what the owners wanted (everything) and what they have relented on (a few things) it is not as if these past four months have been in vain.

Amid this recent he said-he said back and forth about Hunter and Fisher, it is overwhelmingly clear that those with political agendas have entered the process, or at least become more vocal (in the most surreptitious of manners).

Just as politicians know that virtually any new tax put up for vote (even one essential to the infrastructure) will fail, so, too, does union leadership remain keenly aware that if the latest owners’ proposal (or almost any owner plan) were to be put up for a vote, it would pass, because it would restart the pay cycle.

So Thursday, the union executive board, but not the entire union, will meet in New York to address the current stalemate.

But what the union and the league truly need is the means to take the current temperature. Is the current deal good enough for the masses? Would it be accepted?

On one hand, a collective-bargaining agreement cannot be voted upon piecemeal. That simply is impractical. There can’t first be a vote on the revenue split, then one on the system issues and then another on ancillary issues (drug testing, minimum draft age, etc.).

But there can be a straw poll on 50-50 or 51-49. And based on some of the Twitter offerings posted by the constituency that Hunter and Fisher represent, good enough appears to be good enough at this stage.

What JaVale McGee was mocked for last month is proving closer to reality. He said “some guys” were ready to fold. “Some” could be moving closer to “many” (or even most) and “fold” might simply have advanced to “relent.”

Over the past few days, there has been a clandestine move afoot to paint Fisher, Hunter or others (agents, publicists) as the villains on the union side.

Yet if a majority of those in the union are good to go, then Hunter and Fisher should go with an agreement they personally might not find palatable.

Because this is not about them. This is about the union. As a whole.

If Hunter and Fisher have already crafted a deal the majority of players are willing to accept, then they have won. They would have fulfilled their mandate.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.