Lockout talks lead to no November games

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Lockout talks lead to no November games

After all of the optimism surrounding the past two days of NBA lockout negotiations, Friday's talks in New York ended--somewhat briefly, compared to Wednesday's marathon session--with a much less positive outlook. League commissioner David Stern subsequently announced that league would cancel an additional two weeks of regular-season games, wiping the November schedule clean, an anticipated measure.

"Our games are cancelled through," said a grim-looking Stern, in contrast to his jovial demeanor after Wednesday's session. "The end of the month of November."

"It's not practical, possible or prudent," he continued. "There will not be a full NBA season."

No further bargaining sessions are scheduled for this weekend--Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the players' association president, told NBA.com he was flying back to Los Angeles--or otherwise. Friday's breakdown occurred because of the continued impasse over the division of basketball-related income--and the animus between the two sides apparently returned.

Union executive director Billy Hunter claimed Stern was "snookering" the media when the commissioner confirmed he was prepared to make a major economic move Friday.

"What he was trying to do was position himself on those other system issues (such as the luxury tax and mid-level exception) so he could get his number on BRI," said Hunter. "It appears that more we give on the system, we may be painting ourselves into a corner."

"They got to the place again where it was, '50-50, take it or leave it,'" he continued. "Today, we're leaving it, like we left it last week.

"Derek and I may it clear that we could not sell a 50-50 deal to our membership, not with the system."

Added Fisher: "We've dropped our BRI percentage from 57 percent to 52.5.

"Right now, it's still not enough for them to feel that this deal should be closed," continued the veteran guard, who cited "artificial pressure" as a reason to not rush through a deal that would last his constituents 10 more years. "We're still not sure if they're at 50 or they're at 47.

"Today just wasn't the day."

Stern confirmed that no further bargaining sessions are scheduled.

"I'm not going to project future negotiations," he said. "We've had, until this afternoon, several good days of give-and-take."

"We've made some major progress on length of contract," the commissioner continued. "We spent a fair amount of time talking about revenue sharing today.

"We made a fair number of concessions."

The commissioner revealed his take on how the negotiations ended for the day.

"Billy Hunter said he wasn't willing to go a penny below 52 percent," he said. "He closed up his books and walked out of the room."

"We were at 47," Stern added. "Today, our offer was 50."

Predictably, Hunter's view on the situation was very different.

"We did what it was the league said they needed," he said. "Their eyes got bigger and they wanted more and more and more, so finally, we had to shut it down and say, 'it can't be.'"

"Our number was our number," Hunter continued. "We just couldn't bridge the gap."

"I know that we have gotten a deal by this weekend, it was very likely, highly probable that we could have gotten a full season."

Ominously, Stern indicated the league's next offer--when the two sides meet again--will be less favorable.

"We're going to have to recalculate," said Stern.

"We've lost approaching 200 million," he continued. "We'll lose several hundred million dollars more."

"You can assume that our offer will change to reflect the changed economic circumstances."

So, despite progress on significant system issues, such as the mid-level exception and even some movement on the luxury-tax policy, it appears that if not back to square one, the two parties are again at odds, with conflicting opinions on their respective stances. One thing, however, is for certain, as Stern glumly summarized.

"The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary and the amount of dollars lost to the players is also extraordinary," said the commissioner. "In the short run, the owners will not be able to make it back and I know for a fact, in the short run, the players will not be able to make it back, and probably will never be able to make it back."

Neither will the dozens, even hundreds of people employed by the league and its teams or the people making their livelihoods based on games being played, not to mention the fans currently being deprived of NBA basketball.

Bulls finalize training camp roster

Bulls finalize training camp roster

The Bulls finalized their training camp roster on Monday morning, in the lead-up to the start of the team's official media day.

The team will carry 19 players into the preseason before cutting that number down a maximum of 15 in late October.

No. 0 Isaiah Canaan, guard: Signed to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in July, Canaan will compete with Spencer Dinwiddie and Jerian Grant for minutes behind Rajon Rondo.

No. 2 Jerian Grant, guard: The combo guard will get a fresh start in Chicago after an inconsistent rookie season with the Knicks.

No. 3 Dwyane Wade, guard: The three-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer begins the next chapter of his famed career after 13 seasons in Miami.

No. 5 Bobby Portis, forward: After showing flashes of potential in his rookie season, the 6-foot-11 Portis will be in line for an extended role following Joakim Noah's and Pau Gasol's departures.

No. 6 Cristiano Felicio, center: The Brazilian impressed plenty in last season's final month, and he should see significant minutes behind Robin Lopez.

No. 7 D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard: The undrafted rookie averaged 14.8 points per game in his senior season at Georgetown.

No. 8 Robin Lopez, center: One of the league's most underrated centers, Lopez was one of five players to average 10 points, 7 rebounds and play in all 82 games a year ago.

No. 9 Rajon Rondo, guard: The veteran point guard led the NBA in assists last season, but playing on his fourth team in three seasons means his best days may be behind him.

No. 11 Doug McDermott, forward: The sharpshooter showed significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, finishing sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Now about the defense...

No. 15 Thomas Walkup, guard: The All-American honorable mention went for 33 points in No. 14 Stephen F. Austin's opening-round upset win over No. 3 West Virginia.

No. 16 Paul Zipser, forward: The Bulls' 2016 second-round pick can do a bit of everything, and at 22 years old he could be ready to contribute sooner than later.

No. 20 Tony Snell, forward: It may be difficult for the former first-rounder to crack the rotation after a forgettable third season.

No. 21 Jimmy Butler, guard: An All-Star in each of the last two seasons, the 27-year-old Butler is poised for yet another career year.

No. 22 Taj Gibson, forward: The 31-year-old veteran is in a contract year, and should see an even more expanded role after starting 55 games last season - even if Nikola Mirotic replaces him in the starting lineup.

No. 24 Vince Hunter, forward: The 6-foot-8 Hunter averaged 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Reno Bighorns last season as rookie.

No. 25 Spencer Dinwiddie, guard: A casuality of the Pistons' crowded backcourt, Dinwiddie has a chance to carve out a role in Chicago behind Rajon Rondo.

No 31 J.J. Avila, forward: A standout at Colorado State who graduated in 2015, Avila appeared in four Summer League games for the Knicks, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.

No. 44 Nikola Mirotic, forward: The Bulls will be relying on Mirotic's outside shot, which improved mightily in his second season from 31.6 percent to 39 percent.

No. 45 Denzel Valentine, guard: The jack-of-all-trades will need some time to find his role, but he's an apt passer and outside shooter with good size on the wing.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?