Can a full 82 game season be saved? Maybe, but it shouldn’t.

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Thursday morning’s 4 a.m. press conference following a marathon 15-hour negotiating session between the NBA and its players took a few interesting turns.

Specifically when discussion turned to how much of an NBA season there would be if a deal could be reached soon. (That’s a big if, there’s a lot of ground to cover and the hardliners keep blowing any progress made up, but let’s go with it for now.)

Union director Billy Hunter said he thought a full 82-game schedule could be fit in if the two sides reached a deal by “Sunday or Monday.” He added that there would have to be more back-to-backs and a very condensed schedule, but he was working on it.

NBA Commissioner David Stern was more diplomatic.

“We’re going to knock ourselves out….” Stern said. “If we can make a deal this week, whether that is 82 games or not, is really dependent on so many things that have to be checked. We have building issues. We have building issues versus hockey issues. We have travel schedules. We have all kinds of things that are difficult for us. We have the sheer volume of games that have to be compressed and the amount of back-to-backs that players could be asked to play.”

From whatever day the league and players reach a handshake agreement, it will take about a month to start playing games. Maybe that can be condensed into three weeks, maybe, but a month is what happened when games were missed with the 1998-99 lockout.

It’s almost the end of October now. If a deal were to be reached this weekend games likely would start around Dec. 1 — a full month after the NBA’s scheduled start. Teams would need to make up about 14-16 games each to get in a full 82 games. With Olympics looming next summer — team USA was expected to open camp around July 4 — the league cannot push its schedule back far into June.

Cramming in 82 games is a bad idea.

Additional back-to-backs will lead to worse basketball. Already for every NBA team there are what are called “scheduled losses” where coaches look at the schedule, see four games in five nights and that last game is against a well-rested team and they know what is going to happen. Or they get a back-to-back where the second game is at altitude in Denver. Coaches know that means an almost certain loss. There are other such scenarios.

A condensed 82-game season would mean more of those. It would mean some back-to-back-to-backs as was seen in 1999.

What matters more when the players come back is good basketball. Quality play that wins the fans back.

If games are to start around Dec. 1, put in a 70-game schedule. Yes, maybe the Lakers or Celtics will not travel to your town for a season. Maybe the schedule will be a little off balance. But the games will be spaced out to provide quality play.

And that is what the NBA needs right now — to remind people how good the game is. Not to meet some artificial number of games played.

Tom Thibodeau on Timberwolves not getting first-rounder in Jimmy Butler trade: ‘Getting good players was a priority’

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The Heat offered Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. The Rockets offered four first-round picks or Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks. The Pelicans reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick.

But the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a deal that included no first-round picks and Minnesota getting only one second-rounder.

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau:

We wanted quality players. I think that that was important for us.

When you look at, to get two starters off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young, and they’re going to get better, and they’re both very good defensively. They both shoot the 3, so we think they fit well with the guys that we do have.

And so once we once got to that point where felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal.

It was what was best for the organization. Obviously, getting good players was a priority. But the pick part is important, and we felt we got a good pick from Philly.

It was what does it mean for the team? If you get two rotational players, that’s good. And then if you can get a pick, that allows you to do more things. And so I think that’s all part of it. You always try to think about what the possibilities could be.

Thibodeau might have taken the best offer for the the Timberwolves by the time he actually accepted a deal. Miami pulled the Richardson offer after his strong start to the season. Getting four first-rounders from Houston required taking Brandon Knight‘s negative-value contract, and it’s unclear exactly how the picks were protected. New Orleans has the best record of those three teams, so an unprotected pick carries less value.

But it’s also impossible to overlook Thibodeau’s present-minded attitude. That’s how he already approached everything. Now, he appears to be coaching for his job this season. Nobody ever expected him to prioritize long-term assets.

Covington and Saric are good players, but Minnesota was also 4-9 at the time of the trade. Are Covington and Saric good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of this hole and into the playoffs? It’s a tough ask. In 2020-21, Saric will be up for a big raise, and the Timberwolves already have a lot of money committed. They might have to downgrade the rest of the roster to keep Saric and avoid the luxury tax. This is a narrow window for Minnesota to get value from this trade.

That said, blame Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for creating this situation. By allowing Thibodeau to remain in charge without much job security, Taylor is practically demanding Thibodeau emphasize the present. If Taylor wanted draft picks, he should have fired Thibodeau earlier.

Caris LeVert suffers injury so horrific, it brings teammates to tears and opponents to prayer (video)

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Caris LeVert has been one of the Nets’ biggest bright spots. The hard-working 24-year-old was a Most Improved Player candidate, and he seems well-liked throughout the organization. He’s even already hit a couple gamewinners this season.

But LeVert’s breakout campaign hit a devastating snag tonight, as he injured his leg.

The reactions of both his Brooklyn teammates and the Timberwolves say everything. This is a tough one.

Markelle Fultz takes ugly pump-fake free throw

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A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?

Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.

Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.

But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.