Salaries cut by one third? Contraction? What we have here is a red herring.

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When you walk into a negotiation you start by asking for the moon. Doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell a house in Cleveland or dates at a Persian bazaar, negotiations are all the same. And part of that is the first offer put out there is big. The moon. It’s not what you will settle for; it’s not even what you expect. But you start high so you can come down to a price you can live with.

Now, meet David Stern. He came out talking big for the owners Thursday.

After two days of owners meetings where they discussed what they need out of a new collective bargaining agreement, he came out talking about slashing total players salaries by $750 million or more — cutting back salaries by more than a third in total.

There also was a report from CBS that the league is even looking at contraction — that the owners were considering whether the league really needs to be this large and if it is really in the best markets. Cutting out teams thins the losses and also strengthens teams’ depth. The product would be better.

Of course, from the Players Union perspective, Stern came out talking about pay cuts and fewer jobs for union members. Both things they will fight.

Contraction is simply a red herring. Nothing more. The owners aren’t serious about it. They want salary reductions but know they would never get that much (the NHL locked out for an entire season and got 24 percent roll backs, in a league worse off economically).

But this is the first step in the dance, and Stern needed to put some things on the table he knew he could give back.

There is no way Stern and the league — meaning the other owners — are going to pay another owner $300 million or more to go away (which might well be the cost to buy out a team and shut it down). Stern doesn’t want a ton of news stories about all the people who would lose their jobs in Memphis or New Orleans or whatever city would see it’s team fold. The stories about the pub owner near the arena with three kids who is watching his livelihood be ripped form him. Nope, the NBA will not go there.

But Stern can look at union director Billy Hunter and say, “Okay, we’ll take contraction off the table, but what are you going to give us?”

And the dance continues.

What Stern said yesterday is where the team enters negotiations, not what it hopes or even expects to leave with. Don’t take everything he said to heart. But you can see one thing he does hope to get some of — the owners want to find a way to reduce the salaries they have been handing out to players.

Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest

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Want to see more dunks like this and this?

Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.

But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.

The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.

Bulls’ Wendell Carter reportedly out 8-12 weeks following thumb surgery

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Wendell Carter Jr. has had a strong rookie season in Chicago: 10.3 points a game, 7 rebounds, showing real strength and touch inside and getting 67 percent of his shot attempts in the paint. The advanced stats like him: He’s got an above average PER and Value over Replacement Player, something very rare for a rookie. He looks like a key part of the future in Chicago.

And he’s out for the next two-to-three months.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune first reported that Carter might have ligament damage in his left thumb requiring surgery, and that coach Jim Boylen said Carter was seeing a specialist. Shams Charania of The Athletic took it to the next step.

That’s a blow to his development but doesn’t really change the trajectory of a Bulls team that will pick high in next June’s draft.

This does not change the Bulls’ plans heading into the trade deadline — big man Robin Lopez is still available (but likely will end up a buyout candidate) reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Bobby Portis will get more run with Carter out.

The young Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season.  Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Portis have all missed time, and Denzel Valentine has yet to play a game for Chicago this season.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: ‘We will never, ever tank’

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Before the season, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stated his goals: 50 wins and the conference finals.

Washington is 19-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Time to shift priorities?

NBC Sports Washington:

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards are too talented to tank right now. Led by Bradley Beal, they have a roster of capable veterans. They just traded for Trevor Ariza, making that even more true.

As bad as they’ve been, the Wizards are just 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position. They will likely miss the postseason, but there’s no alternative better than trying to get there. They’re too far down the road toward winning now to simply pivot into a rebuilding.

But what about if the Wizards get eliminated from playoff contention with games left in the season? They won’t tank down the stretch to improve their draft position? What’s the point of that?

And what about future seasons? Washington will have a tough time building a satisfactory winner after signing John Wall to a super-max extension that kicks in next season. That difficult-to-move contract almost mandates the Wizards prioritize the present. A healthy Wall is good enough to ensure Washington can’t bottom out – for now.

Wall be 32 in the final year of that deal. The Wizards could be in ruins by then. Taking the option to tank off the table would be a mistake.

To be fair, I’m not totally sure Leonsis is doing that. Owners almost never admit to tanking. Most deny it.

But this goes a level beyond. This is far more forceful than Leonsis had to be, which makes me believe it’s actually his plan.

That’s fine right now. Eventually, it could make a futile situation far worse.

Agent: LeBron James would play if it were playoffs

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LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, gave a 3-6-week recovery timeline for LeBron’s groin injury, which the Lakers superstar suffered just over three weeks ago.

Chris Broussard on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday:

I was in contact with Rich Paul this morning, and he told me, if this were the playoffs, that LeBron would be playing.

The Lakers have gone 5-7 without LeBron, slipping into a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference. What if LeBron feels Los Angeles could miss the playoffs without him? Would he return before fully healthy? That’s the big question.

Ideally, LeBron rests until fully recovered. Groin injuries can worsen and linger longer if played through. The only way for LeBron to get this completely behind him is sitting.

But this is also apparently an injury he could play through. It’d be hard for LeBron to watch from the sideline as the Lakers’ playoff odds drop precipitously.

Right now, they’re hanging in the mix. But any slump over the next few weeks will immediately turn attention to LeBron and how he’ll respond.