Chauncey Billups doesn’t trust players’ collective ability to remain strong for a full season

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This lockout has never been as simple as one side negotiating against another in an effort to produce a fair deal. There are a number of factors circling the negotiations that inevitably have an impact on their progress and timeline. The NBPA still holds the threat of decertification, a breaking point from which there is no coming back. The NBA itself continues a campaign of half-truths and misinformation, as every press conference is turned into an opportunity to shape the opinions of the general public. The legal system attempts to unravel this mess from one end, and ineffective National Labor Relations Board hearings try to do so from the other.

All while the players fail to escape the most basic of lockout truths: due to simple economics, their adversaries are much more equipped to deal with a lockout than they are. Not only will the NBA’s offers get progressively worse as more and more games are missed, but those lost paychecks will hit some players hard and others harder. Chauncey Billups spoke on that subject when he joined Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio in New York (via Sports Radio Interviews):

What are you hearing from other players? Is it getting to a point where they feel like it’s just time to make a deal even if it’s a 50-50 split because it’s better than no deal at all?:

“Honestly, you’ve got 400-some players and obviously the general body of the league are not in my position … that are maybe as in stable position of myself or some of the older, aging veterans. We have to be sensitive to the fact that some of those guys are young, although we, for the last two and a half, three years, said, ‘Prepare yourself; save your money.’ … We’ve got to know that some guys didn’t. … Then you’ve the guys that are really, really involved in the situation saying, ‘No, you don’t really understand what that 50-50′s really going to do going forward. You’re just worried about today.”

…Do you expect there to be a season?:

“Man, I think the only way I can really answer that question is just with being hopeful and saying, ‘Yeah, I hope so.’ I hope so, but I could see it going either way.”

You really think the players would be able to do that?:

“I’ve spoken to a lot of players and I could see a lot of players wanting to do that. If you’re asking me if the general body of the NBA is willing to do that, willing to lose a year’s salary, I don’t think guys would be willing to do that. That’s going to be a position and a bridge that we’re going to have to cross when we come that.”

Billups is merely articulating what most of us already know, but it’s an important point that shouldn’t be forgotten at any stage in these negotiations. Even with help from the Kobe Bryants of the bunch, there will be players who didn’t prepare well enough for the lockout, there are those who are still on their rookie deals and didn’t heed warnings to save, and there are minimum salary guys who simply may not have the coin on hand. The ticking of the negotiating clock is audible; the players have only so long before the union’s internal pressures reach their brink, and when that moment comes, all bets are off. Maybe the players will buckle and take a poor deal, or maybe they’ll decertify in desperation. All we know is that things are only going to get more tense for the players as the conversation continues, making each meeting in the short-term all the more valuable.

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.”

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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.