Star power at weekend talks won't end lockout

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Star power at weekend talks won't end lockout

NEW YORK--Saturday's round of NBA labor negotiations are decidedly less high profile than Friday's session. Superstars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony departed the Big Apple for various obligations, including union executive committee member Chris Paul's charity exhibition game Saturday in North Carolina.

And after reports of tension-filled discussions Friday, prior notions of a make-or-break weekend for the upcoming regular season haven't yet taken root.

Tales of a confrontation between Wade league commissioner David Stern, All-Star Paul Pierce's impassioned reasoning and even James taking a vocal role are certainly nice material during a time when there are misgivings about whether or not there will be NBA basketball in the near future--while the Paul-hosted contest, a Drew League-Goodman League rematch and an exhibition game put together by Miami's "Big 3" are sure to be captivating one-day spectacles, there will almost surely be more clunkers, like Friday night's not-as-advertised Goodman League vs. Rucker League showdown in Brooklyn--as fans clamor for any signs of optimism to be read between the lines amidst the talks.

"In a long meeting of this magnitude you're going to have volatility back and forth," union president Derek Fisher, said Saturday. "We tried to do the best job we can--stepping out of the room when necessary, continuing dialogue when necessary.

"It's an open room. Everyone is an adult. We can say things we feel need to be said. At the same time, this is business and there's a certain level of professionalism that is required," he continued, as James, Wade, Anthony, Pierce, Ray Allen, Andre Iguodala, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, Ben Gordon and Maurice Evans stood behind him at a press conference in a Manhattan hotel conference room. "Anytime it gets personal, emotional, then it's our responsibility to bring it back and keep everybody focused on what the goal is, and that's to get an agreement done."

So, as reporters wait out long bargaining sessions in posh hotel lobbies, to deliver scant evidence of either progress or stare-downs, bolstered by "sources" (agenda-less, of course) describing scenes from the board room, and agents and other league power brokers attempt to wield power behind the curtains, the glacial pace of the discussions steadily increases and concessions are made.

But beyond percentages of basketball-related income, hard or soft salary caps, luxury taxes, revenue sharing, television rights, star-powered shows of support and even league-union conference-room skirmishes, it seems that the gap could be closing in the once-extreme differences in the two sides' philosophy.

Whether this is due to putting on a brave face for the media or that resolving a deal in time to save the season could be coming soon, only time will tell, and unfortunately, it doesn't look like this weekend is likely to yield the final result.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

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USA TODAY

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tomorrow on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 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. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

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When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”