Great, we have a handshake deal. So now what happens?

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David Stern and Billy Hunter shook hands. Figuratively, but there is a handshake deal in place for an NBA labor settlement. The framework for a full blown new NBA collective bargaining agreement is in place.

But that is a long way from an actual signed deal and NBA games starting on Christmas Day.

So, what happens next?

First, the negotiations never stop. Stern and Hunter may get to sleep in for a day but the attorneys for the two sides will be meeting long hours over the next week to 10 days to hammer out the “B-List” issues. Those are things like the draft age, the drug testing program, who can be assigned to the D-League and a host of other issues that need to be resolved. The two sides don’t always agree on those things, but none are deal breakers. They horse-trade these items for a while.

Meanwhile, the players will ask to have their anti-trust lawsuit in Minnesota dismissed and the owners will ask to have their preemptive lawsuit in New York on decertification issues dismissed as well.

Not long after, the NBA players union will be reformed. Just as it was before. As if nothing had happened.

Eventually the deal will be finalized and put to separate votes of the players and the owners. In both cases the vote will not be unanimous, there are hardliners on both sides that think their side gave up too much. But in both cases a majority want games and can live with this deal, and barring some dramatic turn it will pass.

Right after that, team facilities will re-open to players and coaches can contact their charges and start talking about the season.

Then training camps will open on Dec. 9, the same day that maybe the most wild and frenzied free agency period in NBA history will open. The talent on the market this year is not what it was in years past, but teams will move fast to get their free agents in place and into camp working with their new teammates.

Then on Christmas Day — tip off.

And while this season promises to be a roller coaster, it will be much more fun than the ups and downs of the lockout.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.