It was players’ idea to decertify, but did they really understand?

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How did this all go down? How did a Monday meeting where the union representatives were expected to reject the latest offer from the owners and make a counter proposal turn into dissolving the entire union and likely blowing up the NBA season with it?

The whole idea came from the players… well, if you think the players sit around and discuss the merits of different tactics of NBA labor law. So maybe we should look to the agents, except they are not thrilled with this move. Billy Hunter said did not come from union leadership. But while nobody will take credit, everybody had a hand in it at some level.

In the end, it comes back to the players. It’s their union. And this is how athletes react — they are competitive and will fight to win. They can make emotional decisions about winning that may not play out well in board rooms. They’ve been losing the negotiations so they responded in the most aggressive way they could. They took out the biggest club in their bag, even if this was not the best play at the time. And now here we are, staring at a lost season.

Here is what happened in Monday’s NBPA meeting, as reported by Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

As Hunter described, union officials explained the owners’ proposal, which would’ve been replaced by a far worse one if the players didn’t accept it. He then laid out the options: present it to the full body for a vote; reject it; make a counterproposal; or give the NBPA the authority to “do whatever they deem necessary and appropriate going forward,” Hunter said.

“And then all of a sudden, the players said, ‘No, we want to talk about decertification or disclaimer,’ ” Hunter said. “So it actually came from the floor. And when it came from the floor, then that’s when we began to engage on the issue….

Players are not stupid and they understood the basic idea here, but did they really think through all the consequences? It’s hard to see enough guys getting behind this without a push from their agents, some of whom wanted to decertify July 1. That said, agents had been pushing for a player-led decertification effort that would have taken at least another 45 days (leaving time for negotiations). The disclaimer method — essentially the union disavowing the players — is much faster but much riskier. It’s not a move most agents wanted.

The decision to disclaim, announced after the nearly four-hour player meeting, stunned even those agents who had been clamoring for the players to decertify for months. Agents held a conference call late Monday afternoon, and according to a person who was briefed on it, hardly any of them were happy with the path the union chose….

“This is honestly the last thing I would’ve done,” one moderate agent said of the union’s disclaimer. “I can’t imagine these [players] truly know what they’ve gotten themselves into. … I don’t know an agent, including the decert agents, who are happy with this move.”

Did the players really get the consequences, that this may well have cost the NBA an entire season? And over what? Full mid-level exceptions for the seven teams playing the tax every season and to eliminate the repeater tax hikes for those teams? I get they players want a system that allows them more freedom of movement, but they got painted into a corner by Stern and rather than throwing the ball back in his court (with a counter proposal) they blew up the entire season. Stern gets to win the PR game again.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo pulled no punches on what he thought happened.

Too many of the player reps didn’t know the difference between a disclaimer of interest, decertification and “Dancing with the Stars” when they walked into that meeting. As it usually goes in these labor talks, whoever gets the players’ ears last can talk them in and out of almost any directive. The agents were locked out, cell phones confiscated at the door, and Hunter had a captive audience with some big fancy antitrust lawyers to make his case. Too many of those player reps are young kids who were given the task as a locker-room punishment, or older guys looking for the free annual meeting in the Caribbean.

Before they went this route, the NBA players should have talked to their NHL brethren and asked if losing a season was worth it, or if those guys regret the lost chances and lost salary more? It doesn’t feel like this strategy was really thought out all the way around the block.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.