Winderman: If union rank-and-file would approve 50/50, take it

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The goal for Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and the players’ union is not to win. It is to serve their constituency.

If their constituency accepts a deal that Hunter, Fisher and other National Basketball Players Association officials have worked so tirelessly to avoid, then it should not translate into a moment of shame.

Considering what the owners wanted (everything) and what they have relented on (a few things) it is not as if these past four months have been in vain.

Amid this recent he said-he said back and forth about Hunter and Fisher, it is overwhelmingly clear that those with political agendas have entered the process, or at least become more vocal (in the most surreptitious of manners).

Just as politicians know that virtually any new tax put up for vote (even one essential to the infrastructure) will fail, so, too, does union leadership remain keenly aware that if the latest owners’ proposal (or almost any owner plan) were to be put up for a vote, it would pass, because it would restart the pay cycle.

So Thursday, the union executive board, but not the entire union, will meet in New York to address the current stalemate.

But what the union and the league truly need is the means to take the current temperature. Is the current deal good enough for the masses? Would it be accepted?

On one hand, a collective-bargaining agreement cannot be voted upon piecemeal. That simply is impractical. There can’t first be a vote on the revenue split, then one on the system issues and then another on ancillary issues (drug testing, minimum draft age, etc.).

But there can be a straw poll on 50-50 or 51-49. And based on some of the Twitter offerings posted by the constituency that Hunter and Fisher represent, good enough appears to be good enough at this stage.

What JaVale McGee was mocked for last month is proving closer to reality. He said “some guys” were ready to fold. “Some” could be moving closer to “many” (or even most) and “fold” might simply have advanced to “relent.”

Over the past few days, there has been a clandestine move afoot to paint Fisher, Hunter or others (agents, publicists) as the villains on the union side.

Yet if a majority of those in the union are good to go, then Hunter and Fisher should go with an agreement they personally might not find palatable.

Because this is not about them. This is about the union. As a whole.

If Hunter and Fisher have already crafted a deal the majority of players are willing to accept, then they have won. They would have fulfilled their mandate.

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.

Devin Booker to play in Suns’ opener Wednesday

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Devin Booker — the Suns’ newly minted max contract player — had been working hard to recover from off-season hand surgery in time for the opening of the season (the original timeline after surgery had him missing the first week or two of the season).

Looks like he made it, according to coach Igor Kokoskov, via Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

Booker is young, 21, and hopefully he just healed quickly. There is no reason to rush Booker back here, the Suns need to approach this season with a long-term view, not thinking win now.

This is going to be an interesting young Suns team with Booker, rookie Deandre Ayton, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Mikal Bridges, and now with some veteran voices in Trevor Ariza and the newly added Jamal Crawford in the locker room. This team is not playoff bound in the West, but nightly they will be improved and not a pushover.

Portland, NBA community react to passing of Paul Allen

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For 30 years, Paul Allen has owned the Portland Trail Blazers. In that time the team made the NBA Finals a couple of times, was a model of consistency making the playoffs 23 times, and providing a city unforgettable memories filled with some of the biggest personalities and best players in the game.

Allen passed away Monday, losing his battle to cancer. He was just 65 years old.

It has led to an outpouring from the entire NBA community, especially around Portland.

“Paul Allen was the ultimate trail blazer – in business, philanthropy and in sports,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “As one of the longest-tenured owners in the NBA, Paul brought a sense of discovery and vision to every league matter large and small.  He was generous with his time on committee work, and his expertise helped lay the foundation for the league’s growth internationally and our embrace of new technologies.  He was a valued voice who challenged assumptions and conventional wisdom and one we will deeply miss as we start a new season without him.  Our condolences go to his family, friends and the entire Trail Blazers organization.”

Russell Westbrook listed as out for season opener vs. Warriors

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No Russell Westbrook. No Andre Roberson. Maybe no Steven Adams.

This is not what the NBA had in mind when they sent Oklahoma City to Golden State for the second game of the NBA’s opening night doubleheader on national television. But, that’s the reality due to injury.

Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on right knee back on Sept. 12 and it was expected to be re-evaluated around the start of the season. However, with the marathon of the NBA season about to start no way the Thunder were never going to rush him back, national television and the Warriors or not. While it’s less than ideal, getting it dealt with and missing training camp and a few games is better than to risk something worse during the season (or miss a month of the season in a Western Conference where there is little margin for error because of the depth of quality teams).

The Thunder called it “maintenance,” but this is Westbrook’s fourth surgery on that knee, although it’s the first in more than four years. His issues with this knee date back to the 2013 playoffs when Patrick Beverley crashed into it and tore the meniscus.

Westbrook is about to turn 30, has some heavy-usage miles on that body, and just signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension.

Alvin Gentry: Pelicans wouldn’t trade Anthony Davis for anyone – ‘not even Beyonce’

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Pelicans star Anthony Davis said he’s the best player in the NBA.

His coach, Alvin Gentry, agreed then expanded.

Gentry:

If you don’t want to call him the best player, I call him the most valuable. Because if you can trade him for anybody, then he is the most valuable guy. Not that we would ever consider that. Don’t you guys take some kind of spin and put it on top. There is no one in the league that we would trade him for. There is no one out of the league. Not even Beyonce. If we wouldn’t trade him for her, then he’s probably untouchable.

I’d trade Davis for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s also in the MVP race, even younger and locked up an extra season.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden are better, older and locked up for longer than Davis. I’d probably trade Davis for LeBron or Curry, though not Harden.

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum are worse, younger but also locked up for longer than Davis. I probably wouldn’t trade Davis for any of them, though the additional team control makes it worth considering.

Really, Davis is already at the point – as few as two years from unrestricted free agency – trade speculation hits high gear. The possibility of him leaving New Orleans high and dry in 2020 is too great to ignore.

As far as Davis for Beyonce… I guess it depends on your priorities.