Los Angeles Lakers Fisher speaks at a news conference alongside Executive Director of the NBA player's association Hunter in New York

NBA labor meetings rolling along with little word


If you’re desperately looking for good news out of the NBA labor talks, after nearly eight hours of negotiations on Friday there is almost no news out of the room.

No news may be good news, or at least a sign that the two sides have gotten serious. There have always seemed to be leaks out of the negotiations before, that is not the case on Friday. That may be good news. Or not. Kind of a “glass half full” thing.

Representatives of the NBA owners and players started meeting earlier in the week and, after a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, were back at it Friday. The goal is to have a deal in place at the start of next week so there can be NBA games on Christmas to kick off a 66-game season. The calendar is the real pressure on the two sides now.

One thing we do know about this Friday meeting is who is in the room. For the owners there is commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Peter Holt (the Spurs owner), and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube. For the players it is NBPA director Billy Hunter, NBPA president Derek Fisher, Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy.

Those are basically all the same people that have been in the room since July 1. Big gun players’ attorneys David Boies and Jeffry Kessler are not participating on Friday.

So it’s the same people arguing the same issues, essentially. The difference is one of semantics — technically this is a lawsuit settlement conference, not a collective bargaining agreement negotiations. There is no more NBA union since the Nov. 14 “disclaimer of interest.” Of course, it’s the same people arguing over the same things, just with a different name. Meet the new talks, same as the old talks.

Just with fewer leaks.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.