Derek Fisher says NBA far, far away from labor peace

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All that “substantial progress” in the NBA’s labor negotiations? Don’t hang your hat on it.

That’s essentially what National Basketball Players Assocition President Derek Fisher told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN 1050 radio in New York (via Sports Radio Interviews). And he was not backing down over a lockout.

“If the owners decide they want to lock us out because we don’t agree to the most dramatic rollback in professional sports history, then that’s the choice that they have.”

While the two sides continue to meet Fisher is clear that the two sides are far apart, in part because the two sides are coming from very different starting points, making it hard to agree on what a compromise in the middle looks like.

“Well, we’re hearing there’s some reports out there that there’s been significant progress made on things that the NBA and our owners are proposing to us, but in reality, there hasn’t been much substantial movement at all on a lot of key areas. So we’re still focused on getting a deal done, we’re going to continue to negotiate, and we’re going to meet again on Friday. But even with some of the things that are being released about what has been dropped out in proposals, there isn’t any agreement on anything at this point. We’re still working hard on that right now.”

The key issues remain the hard cap (or even “flex cap”) proposal of the owners, and the split of Basketball Related Income (BRI), of which players currently get 57 percent.

“We’ve expressed that a hard salary cap is a non-starter, we have no interest in that. We’ve tried to express that some of the losses that they’re experiencing. So we made a big move we feel. We talked about moving back $100 million dollars towards the owners each year over the course of a five-year deal, which would put another $500 million dollars back on their side of the ledger, so we feel like half of a billion dollars over the course of five years to give back to owners to help them address some of the things they’re going through was a good move to make right now. But we didn’t receive that type of response….

What’s going on with owners, as they’re reporting it, is not based solely on player expense. At the same time, we recognize that players expense is the single biggest expense that they have, so we’re willing to share some of the loss, our percentage of it. So if we share 57 percent of the gain, we’re willing to discuss 57 percent of the loss. So if you’re losing $300 million, we’re interested in discussing eating off 57 percent of 300. And we feel like that’s a fair discussion to have, and we just haven’t been able to get them to move towards that type of discussion. They’ve consistently remained at more like $900 million a year because they’re asking us to guarantee that each team will be profitable at the level of $20 million dollars per year.”

People, get ready for a lockout. Just pray it doesn’t impact games next fall.

Kevin Durant keeps building up superstar accolades with second All-Star MVP

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CHARLOTTE – When Kevin Durant won All-Star MVP in 2012, he was asked whether he considered himself a star, a label he had resisted.

“I wouldn’t say that just yet,” Durant said. “Hopefully. Hopefully soon I can say that.”

The notion was silly then. Durant had already made two All-NBA first teams and finished second for MVP.

But that All-Star MVP started to change how Durant presented himself. He made another All-NBA first team, again finished second for MVP and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals that season.

“In 2012, I started to feel like I started to hit that elite level,” Durant said. “All that stuff in one year was pretty exciting to me.”

The hits have kept rolling since.

Durant has added an MVP, two titles and two Finals MVPs. Tonight, he claimed another All-Star MVP. The Warriors star scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to lead LeBron James‘ team to a 178-164 win.

“I just keep trying to rack them up, I guess,” Durant said.

That’s seven years between his All-Star MVPs. Few players sustain that elite level – starring among stars – so long. Only LeBron James (12 years), Michael Jordan (10 years), Kobe Bryant (nine years), Oscar Robertson (eight years) have gone so long between their first and last All-Star MVPs.

Durant, 30, appears to have plenty left in the tank.

Of course, the impending question: Where? Durant can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and this weekend included plenty of speculation.

Tonight’s game gave Knicks fans reason to fanaticize. New York’s presumed targets with its double-max cap space, Durant and Kyrie Irving showed strong chemistry. Half Durant’s baskets were assisted by Irving, who sent five of his six assists to Durant (the other an alley-oop to former teammate LeBron).

Asked which of his All-Star teammates he best meshed with, Durant refused to name one.

“You don’t really have to do too much when you’re playing with so many great players,” Durant said. “You can do what you’re just best at.”

Team LeBron starts playing defense first, comes from 20 down to win All-Star Game

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s All-Star Game, Team LeBron started to care.

Down 20 at one point early in the third, Team LeBron came out of a mid-quarter timeout with a different energy. The “bench” guys on the court started defending with the kind of relative intensity usually reserved for the final minutes of this exhibition (when it’s close), the players on the bench were standing and cheering like it was a playoff game, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal started knocking down everything, and the game just shifted. It culminated when Damian Lillard tied the game up with a 35-foot three.

Team LeBron kept up the momentum, owned the fourth as Durant went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc in the quarter, and Team LeBron got the win 178-164.

“It was our second unit that came in — Dame, Klay, Brad Beal, LaMarcus, Ben Simmons, KAT,” LeBron said after the game about what turned the momentum. “They came in and just changed the whole complexion of the game. We got stops, and, obviously, Dame and Klay caught fire from beyond the arc, and that allowed us to get back in the game.”

Durant was named MVP, a clear choice with his second-half play in particular.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul George showed anyone that hasn’t seen him this season how well he’s playing — MVP conversation level — on his way to 20.

This All-Star Game opened with the level of defensive intensity we have come to expect in All-Star Games. Which is to say none.

Well, except when Stephen Curry was guarding Klay Thompson.

The one guy who was intense from the start was Antetokounmpo, who scored the first six points for Team Giannis. He didn’t slow down on his way to 20 first-half points, plus he had one of the game’s great highlights on a bounce pass alley-oop from Curry.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only Buck hot to start, Khris Middleton entered the game midway through the first quarter and drained three shots from beyond the arc in a row. In the first nine minutes of the game, the Bucks were beating Team LeBron 28-27.

The favorite crowd moment of the first half was when future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki walked on the court and splashed a couple of threes.

Dwyane Wade was the other Commissioner addition to the game, which means for one last time we got Wade throwing the alley-oop to LeBron.

Curry struggled late, going 3-of-11 in the fourth, but he still got to rub it in Thompson’s face a little.

“It was good to see Steph knock that shot down over Klay, because Klay is always talking trash to him,” Durant said after the game.

Team Giannis was in control most of the first half and was up 13 (95-82) at the half, not that 13 points is much of a deficit in the All-Star Game. Not when one team started to care.

Stephen Curry gets four-point play after Klay Thompson foul, Curry does some taunting

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stephen Curry is enjoying going against Klay Thompson. Maybe a little too much.

In the first half, Curry was matched up on his Warriors’ backcourt mate and enjoyed that Thompson missed the shot.

Then in the fourth quarter, with the game tight, Curry drained the contested three and drew the and-1 on Thompson — and did a little taunting.

That’s some All-Star fun.

Stephen Curry bounces alley-oop way above rim, Giannis Antetokounmpo slams it down (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Stephen Curry bounced this so high!

I suppose it helps that Giannis Antetokounmpo has such ridiculous reach.