Signs of optimism after Wednesday's meetings?

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Signs of optimism after Wednesday's meetings?

Don't get your hopes up just yet, but as representatives of the league and the players' association resumed labor negotiations Wednesday in New York, various media reports are suddenly showing signs of optimism in regards to a potential end to the NBA lockout.

A league source, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to CSNChicago.com that progress was made in talks between the league and the union.

It was widely expected that the NBA would announce the cancellation of another two weeks of regular-season games Tuesday. Instead, in addition to talks continuing, various players--including league MVP Derrick Rose and LeBron James--reportedly opted to not participate in the star-studded World All-Star Classic, scheduled to begin Sunday in Puerto Rico. Some observers are interpreting the decisions as a sign that an end to the lockout is somewhat imminent.

At the same time, a New York Times report revealed that two arenas--Chicago's United Center and Los Angeles' Staples Center--have scheduled events on dates previously earmarked for NBA games, although assurances were reportedly made that the games can be rescheduled if and when the lockout ends.

With the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season, the NBA schedule would have to be reworked and certain dates," said, in part, a statement released by the league and published in the Orange County Register, a Southern California newspaper. "Including Dec. 13 for a Lakers game at Staples Centerwould not be part of any revised schedule."

In both cities, the dates will now accommodate concert dates for rapper Jay-Z and Windy City native Kanye West. The Chicago stop of the tour will take place Nov. 30, a night when the Bulls would have hosted the San Antonio Spurs.

Meanwhile Rose, who is currently in Hawaii on a USO-sponsored "Hoops for Troops" tour, continued his recent trend of speaking out about labor issues, this time tackling the salary cap.

"I wish it was back like where it was in the old days where there wasn't a cap," the Bulls All-Star point guard told reporters Tuesday. "Back in the day, they were giving guys coming out of college with multimillion-dollar contracts, so why stop it now? The game is growing. There's no need to stop it."

An outspoken Rose again expressed his take on the ongoing work stoppage, echoing comments he made in Chicago during events related to the release of his new signature sneaker.

"Greed is not on our the players' side," he said. "We're not greedy. What they're the owners trying to do to us is dead wrong.

"The most difficult part is, every day you wake up and you see games canceled," he continued. "The fans are fiending for it. I know we're itching to play. And I know that it'll hurt the game because our fans are loyal and for us not to be playing, I think it'll hurt them more.

"I put a lot of work into my game. I take my basketball life very serious. That's just my life," the youngest MVP in NBA history went on to say. "For people to still talk negative about you, I think that's just life, period. You just go with it. But I feed off of it."

Rose also commented on his experience with the troops in Hawaii.

"They're around my age and younger than I am," he said. "Just seeing that they're fighting for us, I just let them know we're not taking them for granted.

"Supporting our nations military community has always been important to me. Whether I am extending my thanks to our troops on the front lines, visiting military families back at home, playing ball with wounded warriors, or participating on USO tours like this that are designed to uplift the spirits of those stationed around the globe, it is an honor for me anytime I am able to give."

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

Who are the Bulls? The team that beat Cleveland and Toronto or lost to Dallas, Minnesota and Milwaukee?

That's the question Bulls fans are currently asking and the one Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill posed in the video above.

The Bulls have had impressive wins and shocking losses, but neither of those should be surprising at this point. The Bulls are, as Goodwill put it, consistently inconsistent.

The first half of the season has proven that Dwyane Wade still has some memorable moments left to give and Jimmy Butler continues to approach superstardom. On the downside, the drama surrounding Rajon Rondo has meant the 'three alphas' that were hyped up in the preseason haven't been the dynamic trio some Bulls fans had hoped.

Coach Fred Hoiberg doesn't have the shooters his system needs, but can he still rally the troops and get something out of Rondo?

Watch the video to see Goodwill's look back on the Bulls' first half and what could be ahead.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls host Mavericks in search of third straight win

Five Things to Watch: Bulls host Mavericks in search of third straight win

Watch as the Bulls take on the Mavericks tonight on CSN+ and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. What's Jimmy Butler got in store? On paper, Butler's performance Sunday night against the Grizzlies was nothing special. In fact, in many ways it fell short of his season averages. But Jimmy G. Buckets was on his game in the fourth quarter when the Bulls needed him most, helping them to a crucial road victory in Memphis. Tonight a fast start will be key against a Mavericks team that struggles to play from behind.

2. Dirk Nowitzki is back. The Mavericks are finally getting back to full-strength, and the main contributor to that is Dirk Nowtizki. The future Hall-of-Famer is finally rounding into form after an Achilles injury kept him out of the lineup most of the year. In his last three games, Nowitzki is averaging 20.3 points on 49 percent shooting.

3. There was at least some rumblings that the Bulls might have considered going after Ames native Harrison Barnes this past offseason. Instead, Barnes wound up in Dallas a potential building block for the Mavs. And he's looked pretty solid through the season's first half. Barnes is averaging 20.7 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and nearly a steal per game in 36 minutes. It'll be a fun matchup watching him go against Jimmy Butler.

4. More 3-pointers on the way? It's easy to say that a 31-point outing will get you going, but maybe Doug McDermott can build on his career night against the Grizzlies. He hit 3 of 6 triples, made 10 of 11 free throws and even added six rebounds and a(nother) block. The Bulls will be able to run more against the Mavs than they were the Grizzlies, meaning more spacing for McDermott to find open shots. If he's hitting early, the Bulls are in good shape.

5. A three-game winning streak on the line. The last time the Bulls won three straight -- earlier this month -- it pushed them over .500. Now they've got a chance to reel off a third straight and again get back over .500. As poorly as the Bulls have played as a whole, the Eastern Conference is wide open at the bottom half of the playoff bracket, so these are opportunities they don't want to miss against a struggling team.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

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