NBA labor talks to resume Saturday

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UPDATE 4:58 pm: Union VP Roger Mason Jr. — he of “how u” fame — has confirmed that talks will resume on Saturday, according to a tweet from Chris Manix of Sports Illustrated.

Mason was also ringing the “union is unified” bell loud in every interview today. He says there was no real divide there. He said there is still a big divide between the owners and players.

But the are talking again. We’ll see if it amounts to anything.

11:33 am: We’ll see if this follows the pattern of previous negotiations — a few days of long hours, intense negotiations followed by a hostile breakup and saying there is no deal — but at least they are talking again.

The NBA owners and players union are set to resume negotiations Saturday in New York, reports the Boston Herald.

After breaking off talks last Friday, the NBA and players’ union are expected to resume face-to-face negotiations this Saturday in New York, according to involved sources. We’re still awaiting confirmation from the league office, but sources say the plan is pretty much set.

As this is not from the usual suspects covering the lockout intently (guys doing insanely good work, by the way) take the report with a grain of salt. But it is expected the two sides would start talking again soon, so this fits.

The meeting will come two days after Thursday’s meeting of union brass where they will formulate a plan and try to get everyone back on the same page after some splintering in recent days.

There remain two key issues keeping a deal from being reached, and they are intertwined. One is the split of basketball related income (BRI), the revenue that comes into the league. The owners want a 50/50 split (after their expenses are taken out) the players are at 52.5 percent (down from 57 percent in the last labor deal). The other issues are “system issues” such as if teams paying the luxury tax can use the mid-level exception or do sign-and-trade deals.

The players have thought if they gave on some system issues the owners would come up on the percentage of BRI, they want to trade one for the other. The owners have maintained they need both for both financial reasons and to have a more competitive league. Both sides have dug in and are not moving.

Still, both sides say they are about 95 percent of the way to a deal. We’ll see if they can push it over the finish line with one last drive starting Saturday.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.