In a condensed season that has lacked consistency in quality of play and top-notch rivalry games, the NBA fed its hungry fans with a prime time basketball feast on Wednesday night. Both the Thunder vs. Heat and Lakers vs. Clippers games were full of excitement and intensity, fueling the competition as the league prepares for the playoffs.
The Heat and Thunder proved that in fact, basketball is a game of runs, and typically the team that puts their foot on the gas last comes out the victor. Oklahoma City couldn’t sustain its early lead as the Heat came roaring back in what turned out to be a nail-biting 98-93 finish, good for Miami’s 17th consecutive home win, which is the longest streak in the league this season.
Sitting just two games behind the Bulls for first place in the East, Miami would do itself a huge favor by pulling ahead of Chicago as home court clearly means a lot to this team which is poised to, once again, do real damage to opponents come the playoffs.
That was just one of a few pertinent messages delivered by the Heat with a victory in which they overcame an 11-point second quarter deficit and were held to a dismal 37 percent shooting overall. Apparently, some people think the Heat are a bunch of wussie, prima donnas. Now, the latter might be true but this is one tough group of players that has battled injury, top-notch defenders and physical play throughout much of their careers.
Wednesday night brought more of the same as the Thunder weren’t the least bit intimidated by the defending runner-up Heatles. It was no guts, no glory for OKC which was evident in their chippy style of play and the willingness of Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins to go one or two body slams short of WWE on LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. With the evolution of Perky in OCK comes more and more of a Celtics-like attitude of entitlement and fearlessness that the Thunder need to survive the playoffs out West.
Despite relinquishing an early and ultimately losing the game, the Thunder made just as big of a statement as the hometown Heat in the fact that they are a forced to be reckoned with on the court, both physically and fundamentally. With the media’s coronation of these two as eventual Finals foes, both teams had to send a message and both did, even though only one team got the “W” at the end of the night.
Across the country in Downtown L.A., another edition of intra-Staples Center play commenced between the Lakers and Clippers, duking it out in front of a Red and White home crowd.
It is truly fascinating how one player can change the tone of a team, and thus the ambiance of an entire rivalry.
Blake Griffin brought boatloads of excitement and confidence to the Clippers in his debut NBA season last year and while the “other” L.A. team certainly improved, they didn’t exactly instill fear in their bully big brothers wearing Purple and Gold.
But this season is completely different. Not only are the Clippers in the playoff hunt - and by that, I mean actually going to make the post season, instead of hovering between 8th and 12th out West (and that’s during a good year!) - but the team’s attitude has undergone a complete makeover with the addition of Chris Paul.
It started with the first two pre-season games on the schedule for both teams, which saw the two LA squads playing each other. From opening tip, there were no smiles and only scowls, specifically on the face of Blake Griffin, which would soon spread to the rest of his Clippers teammates.
The Clipps put the Lake Show on notice: we’re no longer the lovable underdog who you share an arena with and whose fans buy our cheap season tickets just for the two games here at Staples where you, the Lakers are considered the “road team.” We have an All-Star-caliber lineup of our own with Paul, Griffin, De’Andre Jordan and Chauncy Billups (pre-injury, of course), so don’t mess with us or you’ll be sorry.
The Clippers carried that swag right into the regular season and have not let up against the Lakers. Heading into their third and final meeting of the regular season, the series was tied 1-1, with those two games consisting of 11 individual technical fouls between both teams.
A red-hot Kobe Bryant and the Lakers put the little Clipps in their place early on in the rubber match, but the Red and White fought back with a massive run of their own, making the Heat’s comeback look lame in comparison to CP3 & company’s comeback from a 15-point third quarter deficit.
There were dunks, threes, and fouls galore in a game full of high-flying antics and brutal physicality that scared the Lakers straight, as late-game defense coupled with the hoops-heroics of Bryant and Bynum sealed a 113-108 Lakers victory.
The Clippers are now 2 1/2 games behind the Lakers who own the 3-spot in the Western Conference, at least for the time being. More importantly, the Lakers own the tiebreak as they won the season series against the Clippers 2-1.
Including the two pre-season games, each of the five meetings between the Lakers and Clippers this season were worth watching as every one of them involved a sense of urgency, rivalry, bitterness and importance. A few years ago, when the Clippers made the playoffs for the first time in what felt like forever, there was a possibility that the Lakers would meet their neighbors in the second round, but that never came to fruition as the Phoenix Suns knocked out the Lakers in round one before giving the Clippers the same treatment in the second round.
A Lakers/Clippers playoff series could easily go seven games even though I think the Lakers are a stronger team on many levels at this point.
Aside from providing ratings gold for the NBA and various TV networks, both a Lakers vs Clippers and Heat vs Thunder playoff series would be a welcome treat for basketball fans.
Less than two days after Thanksgiving, it looks like I can toss out my depressing Halloween costume for good…or for at least the next 10 years.
On the 148th day of the NBA lockout, the owners and players reached a handshake deal to end the five-month work stoppage. News of the tentative agreement, which was first reported by cbssports.com, came after 16 hours of negotiations which ended after 3 a.m. in New York.
Aside from players, owners and team personnel, thousands of “peripheral workers,” such as stadium employees and outside vendors will get their sense of financial security back. Hopefully Staples Center employees will now have enough hours of work to qualify for health care benefits through their union, one of the many disasters threatened by a long-term work stoppage.
NBA commissioner David Stern said in a news conference (starting at 3:40 a.m. EST), “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season.” Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and player president Derek Fisher were with Stern as he made the announcement.
Assuming the tentative deal passes a player vote and is signed by both sides, Dec. 9 would be the start date for training camps and free agency while Dec. 25 would be the first day of a 66-game season. Stern said opening day on Christmas would feature a triple-header of the Celtics and Knicks in the early game followed by the Heat at the Mavericks and finishing off with the Bulls taking on the Lakers at Staples Center.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski explained how the players union will proceed from here:
"After disbanding as a union and filling an antitrust suit against the NBA, the Players Association can immediately reform as a union and hold a vote to ratify the deal. The terms of the agreement included a 50-50 revenue split, a source said."
After posting his story, Wojnarowski posted the following tweets:
@WojYahooNBA: One vet player texting me, doubting he’ll vote to approve deal. “We (bleeping) caved,” he said. He’s been entrenched on issues entire way.
@WojYahooNBA: There will be a significant number of players who will not vote to approve this deal, but there won’t be a majority. The deal will pass.
"Ratification requires a simple majority of the N.B.A.’s 30 teams and a simple majority of the 430-plus players," wrote Howard Beck, who has covered the lockout for the New York Times. "The players must first reconstitute their union and drop the antitrust lawsuit they filed against the league last week. The deal features a 50-50 split of revenues — a $300 million salary cut for the players — along with shorter contracts, smaller raises and harsher penalties on the top-spending teams. The 10-year agreement is the longest in N.B.A. history, although either side can opt out after the sixth year."
At a birthday party Saturday night, I stood in the kitchen with a group of my girlfriends’ husbands talking about the lockout. While the guys were adamant that there would be no NBA season (much to the delight of their wives) I was the only person who said I thought we would indeed get a shortened season. I told them that I just had a gut feeling that these latest negotiations would yield real results.
Less than two hours later, the phone rang, and it was one of the party guests calling me from a taxi cab to let me know the handshake deal had been reached. As usual, the girl was right, and the boys were wrong. ;)
To read Howard Beck’s article on the likely end of the NBA lockout, click here: http://nyti.ms/uxnSTP
At least somebody has found a way to make money off of NBA players during the lockout - that somebody is President Barack Obama who, according to his website is holding “a game featuring basketball’s greatest super stars in support of the Obama Victory Fund.”
Shell out $200 for a general admission ticket or up to $5k for a courtside seat at the first ever Obama Classic Basketball Game on Dec. 12 in Washington DC at a location to be announced later.
Here’s the roster of confirmed players thus far, straight from barackobama.com :
Ray Allen - Carmelo Anthony - Chris Bosh - Vince Carter - Tyson Chandler - Jamal Crawford - Kevin Durant - Baron Davis - Patrick Ewing - Derek Fisher - Rudy Gay - Blake Griffin - Tyler Hansbrough - Dwight Howard - Juwan Howard - Antawn Jamison - Dahntay Jones - Brandon Knight - Kevin Love - Jamal Mashburn - Cheryl Miller - Alonzo Mourning - Dikembe Mutombo - Chris Paul - Quentin Richardson - Doc Rivers - Steve Smith - Jerry Stackhouse - Amare Stoudemire - Tina Thompson - John Wall - Russell Westbrook
Nice mix of super stars, role players and retirees on the roster, but who will coach? I vote for either Doc Rivers and Cheryl Miller, or Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as surprise guest coaches. Just a thought.
Man, if I weren’t unemployed and without any income right now, I’d definitely be there (in the cheap seats, of course). Even if you don’t like President Obama’s politics, he has impeccable taste in various areas of the arts and entertainment, as was evident in the Motown tribute concert he and the First Lady hosted at the White House that I watched on PBS last night. DVR it if you get a chance; Martha Reeves’ diva on-stage takeover of the finale is absolutely classic.
Okay, I digress. From filling out brackets on ESPN to sitting courtside at the Carrier Classic on Veteran’s Day, it’s no secret that President Obama loves hoops. He has hosted a BBQ and pick-up game for NBA players in the past and even got elbowed in the lip (requiring several stitches) while playing with his staffers.
According to ESPN.com, “Proceeds will go to the Obama Victory Fund, which is jointly held by the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s re-election campaign. Whether Obama will directly take part in the event was left an open question.”
For the sake of entertainment, I hope Obama suits up and even better, since it’s a co-ed event, I would love to see Michelle out there too. I bet she could post guys up, no problem.
Since the event is a fundraiser, I doubt it could be televised on a network because of equal time laws, but what about Pay-Per-View? People could pay $60 to watch from their couch for a cause. This way folks who might not normally pay attention to politics can find a way to get involved while simultaneously getting perhaps the only opportunity to watch NBA players this season.
Good call on this one Obama. Sounds like fun. Now, if you could somehow convince both parties to compromise…. and by both parties, I mean the owners and players :)
For more information or to purchase a ticket to the Obama Classic Basketball Game, click here https://donate.barackobama.com/page/contribute/o2012-decemberobamaclassic?source=20111118_Athletes
Update - 11:00pm est : Apparently, the NBA read this blog post and got the message, loud and clear, from the media and fans regarding the confusion surrounding the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement offer to the Players Association. Check out a summary of the owners’ latest offer, from the NBA itself… http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/11/14/sports/basketball/20111114-nba-proposals.html?src=tp
I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher are fighting. No they’re not.
Players can be sent to the D-League and have their salary dropped to $75k in their first five seasons. Not true.
Players have no idea what is going on and team reps aren’t effective. Yes they are, everybody is informed.
If they players don’t take this deal, the league will stop negotiating. Not true.
Well which is it? What the hell is going on with this lockout?
Chris Sheridan attempts to clear the air in his piece, “Lockout Update: Misinformation Rules,” by exposing allegedly false reports that nobody has bothered to correct (read his entire piece here, it is quite enlightening: http://shar.es/onN4z ).
I say “allegedly” because I don’t know who to believe at this point. It seems like neither side can be trusted, nor have their words taken at face value.
One point of contention is the story about the owners’ right to send players down to the D-league during their first five NBA seasons and drop their salaries to $75,000. This notion had twitter abuzz as fans, media and players alike openly criticized this part of the owners’ latest proposal.
But according to Sheridan, this clause is nowhere to be found in the owners’ current proposal. HUH!?!?!
Sheridan cites a New York Times article by Howard Beck (that includes comments from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver) in trying to make sense of this nonsense.
From Beck’s story, “These and other concerns filled Twitter timelines on Friday, a day after labor talks concluded. They turned out to be unfounded, speculative or simply false. The D-League is not mentioned anywhere in the seven-page proposal that was delivered to the union on Friday — a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. Nor are there any measures that could curtail “Bird” rights. While some provisions might crimp the N.B.A.’s middle class, others could boost it. In the absence of official documentation — neither the league nor the union released the proposal publicly — the rumors have prevailed.”
I’m at the point of becoming a nutty conspiracy theorist. Since the documents have not been made public, how can the New York Times be positive they have the actual proposal given to the players?
Meanwhile, some players are skeptical of the owners’ alleged need to split basketball related income 50-50. Months ago, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that 22 of the 30 teams in the league were losing a combined $300 million.
Check out this tweet from Omri Casspi of the Cleveland Cavaliers:
@Casspi18 : I have a question! I wasn’t really involve in all the talks between the Nba and the players… My question is…If the NBA claim loses of 300mil dollars, why they aren’t opening the books to the players and letting us see it?
Casspi is saying quite a bit in this tweet. First of all, the union has representatives for a reason, but I get the feeling A LOT of players are in the dark and don’t know any more about the situation than the public does.
Casspi went on to tweet about his desire for union decertification as well as the public relations mess caused by the lockout:
@Casspi18: It’s sounds like we are the bad guys here after we agreed to 50/50 which means 2.8 billion dollars to the owners in the course of 10 years.
I’m pretty close to giving up on this situation considering I can’t believe any of the information, rhetoric or gossip coming from either side. I wish the mediator (who has been present during some of the negotiations) could disseminate information to the public so we could trust somebody, anybody to tell us the truth.
In the mean time, thousands of working and middle class families are without paychecks as the lockout not only keeps players off the court, but leaves every day employees struggling to stay above water.
Kudos to Sheridan for attempting to sort it all out. http://shar.es/onN4z . Hopefully the league and it’s players will soon do the same.
**In case you were wondering, I went as the “NBA Lockout” for Halloween. Sad, but true.**