Kurt Helin

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NBA players’ union head optimistic lockout can be avoided

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During the Las Vegas during Summer League, I heard people with some knowledge of the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement talks between the NBA and players’ union speak very differently about the proceedings.

The conventional wisdom side says there will be no lockout — or at least one that costs regular season games — essentially because there is so much money on the table for both sides after the new television contract that a deal is getting and will get done. The other side wisely does not underestimate human greed, saying that in the wake of Kevin Durant leaving a small market to help form a superteam there will be a push from some owners for steps to stop that kind of player movement, steps that would certainly lead to a lockout.

The principles involved continue to speak optimistically — that includes in the past NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and again players’ union executive director Michele Roberts to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“I can’t [discuss the talks] because I promised [not to],” she said. “I’m not going to be too terribly substantive but I will say I do believe and [Commissioner] Adam [Silver], I hope he agrees, he and I continue to maintain a civil relationship. I actually like him. I think that he’s a pro.

“We’ve had discussions. Our teams have been in discussions for some months now and we have made progress and we’re inclined to continue along those lines. We have meetings this summer and we’re meeting next week and [consistently] after that. We’re trying to get a deal as quickly as we can, ideally before the start of the season….

“I’ve heard Adam proclaim his optimism,” she said. “I’ve proclaimed mine, so I would like to sooner rather than later be able to have a press conference where we both stand together and announce together that we have a deal and there will be no work stoppage. There will be no lockout. Having said that, I gotta be ready for anything. But I am optimistic.”

By this December, either side can opt out of the current CBA — unless a new deal is in place by then you can be sure that one side will. That will put a real deadline on the talks because if a new deal isn’t in place by next July 1 there will be a lockout.

Both sides have done an excellent job of keeping what is being discussed in those ongoing CBA talks private, they are not trying to negotiate through the media. That’s a good sign. When both sides start working to spin their stories to the press, it’s to pressure negotiations in the room, to sway public opinion, and that’s rarely ever good for talks.

Last time around the owners won big, pushing the players’ percentage of the league’s “basketball related income” (BRI includes national television deal money, jersey sales, a percentage of local ticket sales and on down the list of nearly all the money generated by the league) from 57 percent to a scale between 49-51 percent. It’s essentially a 50/50 split now. That’s the only number that ultimately matters — that’s the bottom line. The age limit, PED testing, appeals process for league fines, anything else is secondary to the money. If the two sides can figure out the BRI, the rest falls into line and wouldn’t lead to a lockout.

We’ll see if a deal gets done.

Kyle Lowry ridiculous alley-oop to DeMar DeRozan punctuates USA exhibition win

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Kyle Lowry was forced into extra duty Monday night for Team USA, due to Kyrie Irving getting the night off with a thigh bruise.

Lowry played fairly well, finishing with 8 points and 11 assists. Not shockingly, he showed his best chemistry with fellow Raptor DeMar DeRozan — including this exclamation point in the final seconds of the game.

Nobody had a better highlight video out of the USA exhibition season than DeRozan.

Threes fall again, Carmelo scores 19 as USA routs Nigeria in final pre-Rio exhibition

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Now things get serious.

Not that the games suddenly will be closer or more interesting, but the stakes go way up starting Saturday.

That’s when USA Basketball tips off its Rio Olympics run, taking on China in the opener.

The Americans finished their pre-Olympics preparations with another blowout win knocking off Nigeria 110-66 Monday night in Houston. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 19 points for the USA (and postgame he apologized to Vanessa Carlton), Klay Thompson had 17, but more importantly, the USA was knocking down threes again (39.4 percent) and continued to play impressive defense.

Team USA looked ready.

“Yeah, and we hope to get even more ready during the pool play, because then it’s one-and-done once you get into the medal round,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a televised interview post game, referring to the five group-stage games the USA will play first.

The USA struggled from three in its last exhibition against Venezuela hitting 19 percent, but against Nigeria they hit 39.4 percent (13-of-33) led by Thompson’s 5-of-9 from deep. Kevin Durant was also 3-of-4.

What changed with the USA’s shooting?

“I thought we played really good defense,” Krzyzewski said, falling back on the coaching axiom that good defense leads to good offense. “We had played good defense, but (tonight) it led to some fast breaks. And these guys are too good a shooters not to be good shooters. They might have a bad night shooting, but it hasn’t affected their defense.”

There was a bit of a stumble for the USA early as another makeshift starting lineup didn’t blow anyone away — Nigeria went on an 8-2 run to make it a one-point game in the middle of the first quarter. The USA defense was fairly solid, particularly with Houston native DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint, but the starters were 4-of-11 shooting and were not taking quality shots. But when in came more of the projected starters — Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins — things turned quickly. Thompson hit 3-of-4 from deep to start, the ball moved better, and the USA was up 13 after one and 24 at the half.

Nothing changed after that. Nigeria wanted to run and have an up-tempo game, which is smart in the sense they didn’t want to face the USA’s half court defense, but trouble because they didn’t have the athletes to run with the Americans. So things like this happened.

The USA did that without Kyrie Irving (left thigh bruise) and Paul George Paul Geroge (left calf injury), both of whom sat the game out. Coach K said after the game neither injury was at all serious and both will be ready to play in Rio come Saturday.

Nigeria was led by Chamberlain Oguchi, who played his college ball at Oregon and Illinois State. He had 21 points and his four made threes were the only ones that Nigeria had all evening.

If you’re searching for negatives with Team USA, you could point to Draymond Green’s offensive performance so far, or that point guards who can attack off the dribble may give them trouble. But you’re just looking for the negatives — while this team isn’t perfect they look far better and deeper than any other team heading to Rio. The USA is just far more talented and is the clear gold medal favorites for good reason.

Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan dunking on Nigeria in USA exhibition

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Nigeria played hard. But they wanted to run and play an up-tempo game against the Americans in the final exhibition game for both teams before the Rio Olympics. You can see why Nigeria wanted to run —they didn’t want to face the USA’s half court defense. The problem is they didn’t have the athletes to run with the Americans.

The results were another USA blowout win. And some highlights. Like Kevin Durant‘s Eurostep dunk above.

Or DeMar DeRozan going baseline and skying for the slam.

 

 

Report: Warriors sign journeyman Elliott Williams to partially guaranteed contract

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The Golden State Warriors have 14 guaranteed spots on their roster filled. They also don’t have a ton on minutes remaining in the backcourt: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will start, Shaun Livingston comes off the bench.

But the Warriors are going to give veteran Elliott Williams a chance, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Not exactly sure what a “strong guarantee” means, but Williams will get the chance to show he is back from the torn Achilles he suffered in 2012. He’s a combo guard, something the Warriors like. He’s been a D-League All-Star two years running and averaged 28.4 points a game for Santa Cruz last season (and shot 34 percent from three). He was picked up on a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies but didn’t stick. He has never really stuck in the NBA.

Is he now going to suddenly stick on the best roster in the NBA? I’m not sure he’s going to be a step up over rookie Patrick McCaw on the bench, but Williams will get his chance.