Players union executive board to meet, try to get on same page

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The National Basketball Players Association needs a new plan to push the owners to compromise, get a deal they can live with and end the NBA lockout.

But first, they have to stop fighting amongst themselves.

The union’s executive board is set to meet Thursday in New York. That means union president Derek Fisher, long time director Billy Hunter and eight other players in a room together.

First order of business, making sure the rift between Fisher and Hunter has closed. That rift came to light Saturday with a Fox Sports report that Fisher had secret meetings with David Stern and was trying to broker a deal on the side. Everything comes down to the split of basketball related income (or league revenue) the players will get in the new deal — the owners are offering 50/50 (after they get expenses off the top); the union officially says they have come down to 52.5 percent, after getting 57 percent in the old deal, and that is enough.

Howard Beck at the New York Times explains the rest from his sources.

According to a person with ties to both men, Fisher believes that a 50-50 deal should at least be considered, if it would salvage more of the season. Hunter is more adamant about holding firm, believing the long-term gain justifies the short-term losses….

The picture is also muddled at the bargaining table, where Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s outside counsel (and a 52.5 percent hardliner), serves as the lead negotiator. According to people involved in the talks, Kessler does 80 percent of the speaking, while Hunter, who has a reputation for not being detail-oriented, takes a secondary role.

The rift between Fisher and Hunter’s positions has spilled over to the players speaking out. Some players are saying to end this and that 50/50 is fine, while others say Fisher should not be the one working side deals.

The union division even worries the league — they can’t strike a deal with a fractured union. Both Fisher and Hunter need to be unified in any deal made to be able to sell that to the players when it comes time to vote, right now it’s hard to see that happening.

Which makes Thursday’s meeting key. The sides need to clear the air (something the NY Times reports happened Tuesday in a conference call) and get on the same page. Then they have to figure out their next plan of attack in these talks. Because whatever deal the players strike will impact salaries and player movement for at least another six years and maybe a decade.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.