Hardliners from both sides try to send message before talks

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On one side, you have a group of renegade players threatening decertification of the union — threatening to blow up any chance of this season if the owners don’t give in. The owners don’t want to lose a full season and they feared decertification enough to file a pre-emptive lawsuit to block it.

On the other side are some owners telling David Stern he didn’t have the right to offer a 50/50 deal and that that BRI split number should be walked back. Those owners would like to throw the “flex cap” idea back on the table, a suggestion the union called a “hard cap” said it would never accept.

Both of those sides get their stories leaked into media reports so that the other side can be sure to hear it.

What all that means is the hardliners on both sides (however you choose to define them) are trying to keep their leaders from doing the logical thing on Saturday when labor talks restart — compromising, meeting in the middle and getting on with the season.

And so long as those hardliners are the ones making the decisions, there will be no end to the lockout. There will be no NBA games.

The threat of decertification is the last, best card the players have to play. To in essence do away with the union and sue the league on anti-trust grounds is a powerful card and about the only thing the players can do the owners might fear because the courts are unpredictable and if the union wins the damages would be stiff.

The players should have done it — in July. Like the NFL players union, it should have decertified the second the lockout was imposed. At the time the union thought that could slow negotiations, but the reality is the two sides didn’t really start negotiating until September anyway.

But right now the threat is muted, unless there are a majority of players who would be willing to blow up the entire season. I’m not really sure here are. My guess is if you put to a vote of the full 400 plus NBA players either decertification or taking the owners 50/50 offer, the players would cave. By a wide margin.

The owners have not been bargaining in good faith throughout this process. They have had the leverage and used it to radically overhaul the system.

But in doing so they have given the players little, and that’s why we are still here. Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter need a path out of this, something they can sell to their constituents that is not a total defeat. They need the owners to give a little to make this end and the owners — and particularly David Stern — have not. The owners are up 40 points with the clock winding down and will not call off the full-court-press.

Stern and Hunter could get a deal done Saturday, a deal both sides could live with. A deal that would mean games before Christmas. It’s right there for the taking.

If their hardliners will back off and let them.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”