First real tests of new labor deal will be Howard, Paul, Williams

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Chris Bosh is right. Part of what is fueling this hardline stance by owners is about Miami and New York. This is what I mean.

What LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony did last year shook small market owners to their core. Those guys pay the bills for owners, yet franchise cornerstones moved on because they didn’t like what Cleveland and Denver had built around them. Owners want to be able to keep their stars (but make it easier to move role players around them) and the last offer from David Stern and the owners was built to do that.

Which makes Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul — next summer’s big free agents — the real test cases for owners.

If Williams decides to leave the Nets next summer, and the latest offer from the owners had been the approved, it would have cost him $25 million, according to Nets Daily.

Whether there’s a season or not, if the Nets re-sign Williams to a new contract this summer, he will be owed roughly $101 million over five years. But if he opts out of his $17.7 million final year and signs with a new team, he’ll get $76 million over four. That’s $25 million.

How so? The owners’ final proposal (much of which the players agreed to) permits teams who hold “Bird Rights” on their own players to re-sign them to five-year deals with 6.5% increase. That drops to four years with 3.5% increases for new teams.

He’s right. But a lot of that was in place for LeBron and Bosh and it didn’t matter.

Cleveland could offer one more year (a sixth, Miami could only offer five) and bigger raises to LeBron, which meant their offer in total was about $30 million more guaranteed than anyone else. And LeBron still left and actually took less than max money to get out of Cleveland (they did a shotgun sign-and-trade that let LeBron and Bosh get a sixth year, but both were gone either way). It may be harder for teams to create cap space under the new system, but teams will do it — how many teams contorted themselves to make room for LeBron? Miami stripped their roster down to two players to make their move.

It’s hard for any team to keep stars. Kobe Bryant almost left the Lakers in 2004, and that’s a destination team. Tim Duncan is an exception to the rule and there were still temptations for him to leave San Antonio, but they had built a team around him that could win rings. Elite players are going to be well compensated, so even if a team can offer more money it will be about the secondary factors — is this a team that can win a title? Do I want to live here?

That’s where New York and Miami and a handful of other cities will always have an advantage. And while the small market owners may have better financial footing under any new labor deal, they will still struggle to keep their stars if the organization is not well run. It’s always going to be that way. Sorry.

But we’ll see what the Nets, Magic and Hornets are able to do with the new rules. Whenever we get them.

Watch Lance Stephenson get into flopping battle in China

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You can take the flopper out of the NBA but you can’t take the flopping out of his game.

Unable to land an NBA contract this season, Lance Stephenson signed with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. He has taken his flopping skills to China.

However, he may have met his match with one Chinese player, who tried to sell a non-contact, off-the-ball, sniper-in-the-grassy-knoll level flop that even legendary flopper Vlade Divac would have called extreme. The Chinese referees saw through that and awarded a technical to Stephenson’s team.

Then Stephenson drew another foul later in the game with a flop as he tried to grab the ball away from a player after the play. That drew a foul on the opposing player, who complained and then got his own technical.

It’s all just Lance being Lance.

Kyrie Irving out Saturday vs. Bulls due to shoulder injury

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Already without Caris LeVert for a couple of weeks due to thumb surgery, the Nets just lost their primary playmaker for at least one game.

Kyrie Irving is out Saturday night for Brooklyn’s game in Chicago.

Irving has been battling this pain for some time. This is the kind of injury often seen in swimmers where, due to usage, the bones in the shoulder impinge on the tendons or bursa (the sac of fluid in the joint that makes movement smooth and painless).

The treatment for this is generally rest and time off, it would not be surprising if Irving missed more time to get his shoulder healthy and right (a specialist told the New York Post exactly this). Call it load management or whatever you want, better to get Irving healthy now rather than have this be a chronic thing all season long.

Irving is leading the Nets averaging 28.5 points and 7.2 assists a game, hitting 34.1 percent of his threes, and he’s the guy with the ball in his hands being asked to make plays. The Nets offense is 10.4 points per 100 possessions better when Irving is on the court this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who has struggled some with his shooting and efficiency to start the season, now will be asked to step up and carry the load. With the Nets off to a 4-7 start, they don’t want to give up a lot more ground in the East playoff chase (the Nets are currently in a four-way tie for the nine-seed, just half a game out of the playoffs).

Kings’ Dwayne Dedmon snags french fry from Lakers’ fan during game (VIDEO)

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The french fries at Staples Center are pretty good. Better than the popcorn.

Kings’ center Dwayne Dedmon was on the bench at one point Saturday night during the Kings’ loss to the Lakers, looked at the dude sitting next to him in fan seats (and look at that guy, he’s a “dude”), and asks if he can have a french fry.

No ketchup or sauce, but the fries seem to get Dedmon’s seal of approval.

A player like Dedmon burns a lot of calories during a game, you got to keep that energy level up with a few carbs. Plus, french fries are awesome. Can’t blame the guy.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Malcolm Brogdon: ‘Definitely wish he was still here’

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Malcolm Brogdon is thriving with the Pacers.

The Bucks are doing just fine without him.

But with Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s super-max decision rapidly approaching, Milwaukee’s controversial decision to sign-and-trade Brogdon during restricted free agency last summer looms over the entire NBA.

The Bucks visit Indiana tomorrow. So, it’s an opportunity to take Antetokounmpo’s temperature on the move.

Jack Maloney of CBS Sports:

“Wish he was still here” because that’s a nice thing to say about a friend? Or “wish he was still here” because Antetokounmpo wanted the Bucks to handle last offseason differently?

The difference means everything to Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo has consistently said he wants to stay with the Bucks as long as they prioritize winning. Though there were also basketball reasons to move Brogdon, losing him also kept Milwaukee out of the luxury tax. That financial motivation is impossible to overlook.

If the Bucks wanted to keep Brogdon, they could have. They wouldn’t have a first-rounder and two second-rounders incoming from Indiana. They might not have lured Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver in free agency. They’d likely be in the luxury tax. But they would have had Brogdon.

As Antetokounmpo pointed out, Brogdon was complicit in his own exit. Brogdon wanted to play point guard, wanted to have a bigger role. That wasn’t happening in Milwaukee with Eric Bledsoe at point guard and Antetokounmpo as focal point. So, one some level, Antetokounmpo might appreciate the Bucks helping Brogdon get to a more desirable situation rather than leveraging restricted rights over him.

But, at the end of the playoffs, how will Antetokounmpo feel about Brogdon not being at his side for the postseason run? That’s the big question that will determine everything. For now, we’re getting only clues.