Winderman: Charity games show fans’ passion, market to see NBA elite

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How intense is the demand from the NBA market for product?

Tickets to the Saturday lockout exhibition at Florida International University that LeBron James is helping promote sold out within two hours Monday.

Even though there were no on-line or phone sales, and even though some windows at the school’s box office only took cash for the tickets priced at $50 and $100.

How intense is the demand from the NBA secondary market for product?

Even before the tickets went on sale, they already were being offered for resale by some outlets, with prices posted as high as $500 while ticket sales still were under way. Now Stubhub has them listed for $1,700 a pop.

Granted, selling tickets in a 5,000-seat arena for a game featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony is different than trying to sell 17,000 seats in Sacramento to see the Kings play. And, granted, these exhibitions hardly have gone off smoothly, with a reported counterfeiting issue at Chris Paul’s game in Winston-Salem, N.C., this past weekend the latest snafu.

But what games such as these show is the players, at least in limited quantity, can market their own game, can push their own product.

In this case, proceeds will go to the charity organized by Florida International coach Isiah Thomas in honor of his late mother.

If anything, it should send another signal to those negotiating in New York of just how passionate the following is for their games and their stars. And how it is the stars who truly drive the product.

For years, offseason charity exhibitions had annually been staged at the Heat’s arena, with interest not quite as robust as what was witnessed Monday at the school on the west side of Miami.

Yet Monday, those negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement in New York were dealing with proposals on how to trim the league’s highest salaries.

Tuesday, many earning those highest salaries will be back at the side of union boss Billy Hunter, facing down the owners who have taken the attitude that this is their game, their product, their show.

In a perfect world, Saturday’s exhibition will serve as a climax to the lockout exhibition season, before players return to training camps.

Otherwise, it will stand as a reminder of how deep the passion for the game, and particularly the game’s elite, runs among fans, as those $50 and $100 tickets are scalped for prices that exceed those of even the real games.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Paul George: I wanted Pacers to trade me to Spurs over Lakers

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When Paul George told the Pacers in 2017 he’d opt out the following year, the widespread assumption – fueled by George himself – was he wanted to join the Lakers.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

George had another team on top of his wish list.

“I wanted to be traded to San Antonio,” George says. “We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen.”

A league source confirmed that the Pacers and Spurs talked, but San Antonio lacked the assets to pair George with Leonard.

Despite Kawhi Leonard trying to persuade the Spurs to deal for George, Indiana traded George to the Thunder. George spent a couple years in Oklahoma City and appeared mostly happy. But he requested and received a trade to join Leonard on the Clippers last summer, finally uniting the star forwards.

At the time of George’s Pacers trade saga, there was a theory he was using a veneer of Lakers interest to help his new team maintain assets. The threat of George leaving in 2018 free agency for Los Angeles reduced the quality of offers to Indiana. The Thunder’s package certainly looked meager (though Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis blossomed with the Pacers). Then, George re-signed with Oklahoma City without even meeting with the Lakers. This revelation only further supports that theory.

Is it true, though? George now plays with Leonard on L.A.’s rival team. He might want to show his affinity for Leonard and distance himself from the Lakers. This story accomplishes both.

I’ll definitely give George this: Whatever his motivations, he said on the record the Spurs were his first choice in 2017. He didn’t hide behind the cloak of anonymity. So, I’m inclined to believe him.

Bulls unveil blue uniforms (photo)

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Michael Jordan famously wore a pair of North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform.

Now, Chicago will bring baby blue to the surface.

Bulls:

These are a major-departure from the Bulls’ red-and-black color scheme. Even the logo is altered.

Such deviations are becoming normalized. The Magic will wear orange. Expect other teams to get more radical.

These jerseys will certainly sell. The short-term revenue boost of all these alternate uniforms is the entire idea.

But I wonder whether there’s a cost to teams diluting their identities. These don’t look like Chicago uniforms. It could become increasingly difficult to value the prestige of NBA jerseys if they’re so loosely associated with a team.

Bucks to wear ‘Cream City’ jerseys (photos)

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The Bucks making cream one of their colors? Great! It was distinctive and local, celebrating the cream-colored bricks throughout Milwaukee.

These uniforms?

Bucks:

Not so great. Everything about the uniforms is fine except the words on the front of the jersey.

I’m sure nobody will crack immature jokes about those.

Reporter: Charles Barkley told me, ‘I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you’

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Charles Barkley has a history of sexist comments.

The crudest publicly came in 1990. Los Angeles Times:

Barkley, who said the remarks were meant as a joke, was quoted as saying after a tough Nov. 3 win over the underdog New Jersey Nets that “this is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”

But since becoming beloved for his outspokenness as a commentator, there have been others – calling the Warriors’ style “little-girly basketball,” mocking the weight of female Spurs fans.

Now, Barkley has again run his mouth in this direction.

Alexi McCammond of Axios:

Turner Sports:

This was obviously inappropriate for Barkley to say. I’m not sure how else to characterize it. It doesn’t sound like a threat. It’s not related to domestic violence. It’s just not the way to speak to someone working professionally.

I’m glad he apologized, and I hope he learned from this. But history suggests he’ll continue to make off-color jokes. In fact, he’s rewarded for repeatedly pushing the line.

That might eventually get him into serious trouble. I don’t think these remarks should be the ones to spark mass outrage.