At thevery end of the players union press conference late Thursday night, a reporterasked executive director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher why theylooked so despondent.Hunterdeflected the question, saying the collective bargaining process had been along one, stretching back two-plus years. Hunter said the entire ordeal hasbeen draining, and thats no doubt true.ButHunter and Fisher may have been so forlorn because the realization of theirblowout loss to NBA owners was hitting home. Theres a chance that thefour-and-a-half month lockout could end by midweek.Thenagain, maybe the players reject the owners latest proposal and this wholething lingers. Or maybe even the players take the drastic step of decertifying,thereby throwing the stalemate into the courts and virtually ensuring acancelled season.Thats thepoint all the players options are pretty much awful, and it seems obvious Hunterand Fisher knew that on Thursday.NBAplayer representatives are meeting in New York on Monday, and its become clearmany rank-and-file players are pushing for a vote. Will Hunter and Fisher allowit to get that far? Well see.Also onMonday, commissioner David Stern issued another warning one of several duringthe past few weeks. He said the owners are done negotiating, and if the playerscome back with anything revised to the proposal theyre holding, the ownerswould go back to square one 47 percent BRI for the players; hard salary cap;rollbacks on existing salary.Whoknows? Maybe the NBA will be up and running by Wednesday or maybe this lockoutstill has a ways to go.Eitherway, its still all bad for the players. Hunter and Fisher knew that onThursday.
Late in the first half of Wednesday night's game against the Thunder, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia made hard contact with Russell Westbrook, sending the Oklahoma City star sprawling to the ground.
The referees reviewed the play and gave Pachulia a flagrant foul.
Replays show Pachulia appearing to stand over Westbrook and none of his Thunder teammates coming to his defense.
Raja Bell, a 12-year NBA veteran who was briefly a Warrior during the 2009-10 season, was not happy with the reaction of the Thunder players.
"You are supposed to come flying across the court. You don't have to punch him, because that's a lot of money. But he should catch a forearm across his shoulder, a shove in the back, you ain't gonna knock down Russell Westbrook, the everything to the team I'm playing on, who feeds me, who makes me better, you ain't gonna do that and just stand over him and ice grill him. Not a chance," Bell said on Thursday during the NBA Crossover show on CBS Sports.
The incident started a war of words between Westbrook a Pachulia following the game.
"I don't know. He hit me kind of hard. But it's alright. I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up," Westbrook said when asked about what happened on the play.
He was then asked if he noticed Pachulia standing over him.
"I didn't see that until just now, but I don't play that game. I'm going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don't know, but I don't play that game," Westbrook said.
Pachulia responded to Westbrook's comments moments later.
"I can't worry about that kind of comment. I'm part of an amazing team and we have a great goal of winning a championship. I'm all in with my energy, 100 percent. So we're thinking about this team, staying healthy, moving forward, getting better, getting to the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm not thinking about those kind of comments.
"That team is not there, so they may be thinking about other stuff like getting me back. Okay, you can get me back. But again, it's my 14th year, we all know what my game is, to play hard, not dirty. If it was a hard foul, it was a hard foul. It wasn't dirty at all. I'm not worried about this," Pachulia told the media.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James might make another run at Olympic gold with Gregg Popovich.
James, who already has two gold medals, said that Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. team will influence his decision on whether to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
"It factors a lot," James said Saturday as the Cavaliers prepared to host Popovich's San Antonio Spurs. "I've said that before. He's just a great mastermind of the game of basketball."
James skipped last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to get rest after leading Cleveland to an NBA championship. But he's still connected with Team USA and Popovich replacing outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski could be enough to draw James back to the Olympics.
James will be 36 in 2020, but his game is showing no signs of decay and the three-time NBA champ has relished his previous Olympic appearances. He was a key member of the American teams that captured gold in Beijing (2008) and (2012), performances that helped him and the U.S. squad erase some of the disappointment from taking bronze in Athens (2004).
Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals, had a hand in naming Popovich as his successor.
For James, the pick was perfect.
"Team USA is in good hands with him," James told The Associated Press in 2015. "It was in good hands with Coach K. It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now."
Earlier this week, James said he considers Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA titles, "the greatest coach of all time. I've said that over and over and over. You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ballclub. If you were an NFL player, it's probably the same as going against a (Bill) Belichick team.
"What they're going to do, they're going to do and you have to try to figure it out."
James has lost twice to teams coached by Popovich in the NBA Finals - in 2007 with Cleveland and in 2014 with Miami. He admires the way the 67-year-old coach has adjusted and adapted over the years.
"A guy that's been able to do what he's done in an era of basketball where it's changed so much and he's been able to have a growth mindset and be able to change with the game," James said. "Obviously Tim Duncan was a huge part of that because Timmy was allowed to change with the game as well, but he's just continued to build around Timmy and Manu (Ginobili) and Tony (Parker) and bring pieces in and out throughout his whole tenure."
On Saturday, the Spurs will play their first game without center Pau Gasol, sidelined indefinitely with a broken left hand.
James said that won't change San Antonio much - because of Popovich.
"It doesn't matter who is in the lineup for the Spurs," James said. "They'll play Spurs basketball and Pop will have them ready. I mean, what's their record, 33-9, I believe? And if you asked me how things would change without Timmy D., they still pushing forward, man. It's just nothing out of the ordinary."