Players vote to reject offer, decertify union. Season likely doomed.

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This is Armageddon. Nuclear winter is upon NBA fans.

The players got together in New York on Monday and not only voted to reject the league’s ultimatum offer, but voted to start the process to decertify the union.

“We’ve arrived at the conclusion that the collective bargaining process has completely broken down, and as a result in the last hour we have served a notice of disclaimer on (David) Stern and the NBA,” union director Billy Hunter said after the meeting. “We plan to disseminate that to all 30 teams. …

“The players are not ready to accept the ultimatum. They thought it was completely unfair on the part of the NBA ownership and management. … We have negotiated in good faith for two years, but the players have felt they have given enough.”

That step — a notice of disclaimer essentially says the union has no interest in representing the players in negotiations any longer and is abandoning that right — is the first step in anti-trust lawsuits that will be filed by players in the coming days. This is the step the NFL players’ union took and something agents have pushed the NBA union to do since July. The timing essentially blows up the negotiating process when there wasn’t a lot of time left to save the 2011-12 season.

The courts move slowly, but the union has reached its breaking point. It has gone to the one, big card it could play.

The reaction of the owners will be to hunker down, play hardball and try to force their entire wish list — such as salary rollbacks and a hard salary cap — on the players. The owners are not going to be scared by this at all.

Basically, Commissioner Stern is going to let his hardliners have the run of the place. Guys who were already willing to miss a season get to have their way.

Meanwhile, NBA fans lose. And so does the league.

“This is where it stops for us as a union,” said Derek Fisher, union president.

It might be where a lot of fans stop if a full season is lost. But the union is moving forward with these plans.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo, several players have hired top anti-trust attorney David Boies. If the name is familiar, he was involved in the NFL’s anti-trust cases. Boies is the guy who had the anti-trust cases against Microsoft (and had some success there) and he was they guy representing Al Gore in Gore vs. Bush.

Technically, what this legal move does is turn the union into a “trade association” that works for the players but does not represent them in negotiating a CBA. Ultimately when a deal is struck, the union will reform.

Stern did not back down in an interview on ESPN, saying the players got bad advice on negotiating tactics if this was their move.

“It’s not going to work,” Stern said. “If they were going to do this, maybe they should have done this a long time ago so we had a chance to save the season. But they seem hell-bent on self-destruction.”

The league already has filed a lawsuit trying to block decertification of the union, and there have been arguments on the players’ efforts to have that case dismissed (but no ruling yet). That situation just becomes a lot more messy.

The players’ announcement came after about a four-hour meeting where about 50 players were looking at a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the league. That deal offered the players a 50/50 share of league revenue (once the owners took a healthy cut of expenses off the top) and a much more restrictive system of player movement than had been allowed before. The offer the players had wanted would have returned about $280 million a season (in last year’s dollars) to the owners, but the players wanted a less restrictive system. The owners had long said the two were not tied. It wanted both the money and the system changes.

Stern has said that if the players rejected this offer, the owners would counter with a “reset” offer that would give the players just 47 percent of basketball related income (down from 50 in the last offer and 57 percent last season) and a hard salary cap. The players’ meeting was well-attended and featured not only team representatives but also Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and many other star players. They all raised their hands in the press conference and said they supported this move.

Stern has warned the players against decertification and called it a “nuclear option.” The players just pushed the button.

It is a dark, dark day for the NBA.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.

Raptors’ ‘culture reset’ shines in Game 5 win over Wizards

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The Raptors promoted ball movement. They emphasized 3-point shooting. They empowered their reserves.

This was why.

Backups Delon Wright and C.J. Miles and starting center Jonas Valanciunas – who was benched in previous postseasons due to his old-fashioned style, but expanded his game beyond the arc this year – scored Toronto’s final 18 points in a 108-98 Game 5 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Stars DeMar DeRozan (0-for-4 from the field) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-1 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws) struggled down the stretch, as the Raptors burst open what had been a one-point lead.

Though DeRozan (32 points) and Lowry (17 points and 10 assists) were good overall, they succumbed late in previous playoff games. Toronto didn’t want that duo stuck with the burden of creating so much in a stagnate offense.

Hence, Masai Ujiri’s famous “culture reset.”

The results have been mixed so far against a tougher-than-average-eight-seed Washington. But at least the Raptors – up 3-2 entering Friday’s Game 6 in Washington – are on the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

Raptors honor victims of van attack before Game 5 (photos)

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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors honored the victims the deadly van attack Monday with a moment of silence Wednesday night before Game 5 of their playoff series against the Washington Wizards.

Players from both teams held up banners with the hashtag #TORONTOSTRONG as they stood on the court during the tribute and the national anthems that followed:

The Raptors, the Wizards and the NBA will make a donation to a fund for victims and those affected by the incident.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke about the attack after the Raptors practiced Tuesday.

“What we do doesn’t really matter sometimes,” Ujiri said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on that sidewalk.”

Guard Kyle Lowry said he was impressed by the actions of Const. Ken Lam, who earned international acclaim for peacefully arresting of suspect Alek Minassian.

“In America he would definitely have been shot up,” Lowry said. “He did an amazing job of making a judgment call. I think more people could learn from that.”

Coach Dwane Casey was struck by how close the carnage occurred to his own Toronto neighborhood,

“It’s not too far from up the street from where I live,” Casey said.

Casey and his coaches were in the midst of a meeting Monday afternoon when assistant Rex Kalamian’s phone buzzed with someone informing him of the tragedy. The coaches stopped their meeting and turned on a television to find out what had happened.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Casey said. “Just this weekend I was talking to people saying how safe Toronto is, how it’s a melting pot and you don’t have the same crime. Hopefully though, sport can offer a relief, some reprieve.”

Like Casey, Ujiri said he is proud of Toronto’s reputation as a safe, welcoming place.

“Everywhere I go, I brag about this city,” Ujiri said. “It’s the safest place in the world. It’s the best city in the world and it’s going to continue to be the best place and the best city in the world.”

Toronto police said the 10 people killed and 14 injured in the attack were “predominantly” women, but have declined so far to discuss a motive. The 25-year-old Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.