NBA cancels first two weeks of season after talks stall out

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NBA owners and players met for more than seven hours on Monday, but that was not enough to save the start of the season.

NBA Commissioner David Stern emerged from the talks, said he was sad then added the first two weeks of the NBA’s regular season have been canceled. Those games were set to start Nov. 1 and most teams will lose between six and eight games. Stern added there is now no chance of a full 82 game regular season.

And you might want to expect more to be canceled. Here is what Stern said, via tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

Stern: “we remain very, very apart on all issues.”

Stern: “With every day that goes by, there will be further reductions on what’s left of the season”

NBA players union head Billy Hunter said that the players probably had to miss some games — and maybe some paychecks — to show the owners their resolve and unity. The bad news for fans is that it would be Nov. 15 before the players actually do not get a paycheck they would have otherwise received.

Usually in negotiations, once you pass this point where games are canceled, both sides dig in a little more. This is going to get worse before it gets better, both sides may take a step back from their last offer. Stern has said previously once games are missed the offer from the owners would get worse for the players, not better. Meaning it is possible it could be a while — weeks or more — before we see real movement again.

There are no new meetings scheduled, although Stern said the two sides would remain in touch.

Stern said the two sides could not get together on “system issues,” which means things like the salary cap, luxury tax and contract lengths. In this case it really means a hard salary cap, as seen in the NHL and NFL. Some owners want it. While the owners officially took a hard cap off the table, their replacement system of an escalating luxury tax was a hard cap by another name. The union did not like that. There was said to be progress on little things over the past couple days — such as the sides being near a deal on the mid-level exception — but that is just one piece of a large puzzle. And not the key pieces.

The bigger issue remains the split of “basketball related income,” which is all the money that comes into the league through ticket sales, national television deals, jersey sales and just about everything else. The players want 53 percent of that pie, the owners are only offering 47 percent, Stern said. (In the old deal the players got 57 percent.) While there had been talk of the owners offering a 50/50 split of BRI, Stern after the meeting talked of only 47 percent.  Players who spoke to PBT Sunday night were adamant they would not drop below 53 percent.

The system and BRI issues are linked — the less stiff the taxes the more the owners will want in BRI. For Stern to say they could not work out the system issues is to say they couldn’t strike a balance on the two issues.

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.