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.

Carmelo Anthony: 'I'm glad (Derrick Rose) is on my team'

Carmelo Anthony: 'I'm glad (Derrick Rose) is on my team'

by Jonathan Joffe

Derrick Rose has a new fan now that he's in New York: Carmelo Anthony.

Rose's new teammate and fellow multi-time all-star is a happy to be teaming up with the former Bull.

In addition to complimenting Rose's game, Anthony applauded the Knicks' front office for making moves that allow the team to be competitive in the upcoming season.

It was once thought that Melo and D-Rose could sport the same uniform aside from Olympic competitions. While it won't be in Chicago, the two will be making that thought a reality in New York.

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but Pau Gasol is hitting the market.

Gasol told the Bulls that he has declined his option for the 2016-17 season and will become a free agent, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal with the Bulls in the summer of 2014.

In two seasons with the Bulls, he averaged 17.6 points per game and 11.4 rebounds and made an All-Star appearance.

Bulls: NBA Validation for Valentine came in the United Center last season

Bulls: NBA Validation for Valentine came in the United Center last season

Denzel Valentine’s annual growth had long been noticed by NBA executives but perhaps fittingly, it was a game in Chicago that served as the reinforcement he needed to know the NBA was in his sights.

On a national stage and on the United Center floor last November, Valentine put up one of the best stat lines in college basketball, leading Michigan State to a comeback 79-73 win over Kansas, a team ranked No. 4 in the nation at the time.

If he had any doubts about his future, a 29-point, 12-rebound and 12-assist performance served as the confirmation he was on an upward trajectory.

“I knew I could play in the NBA when I started my career at Michigan State,” Valentine said to CSNChicago.com after his introductory news conference. “Playing against guys like (Victor) Oladipo, (Cody) Zeller and those guys, I knew I could play in the NBA but I didn’t know I would be a first round, 14th pick. But I realized that this year after my triple double against Kansas.

“I realized I could be the best player in the country. It was very important because I got off to a good start and it helped me throughout the year.”

That night, the Bulls were rolling right along at 7-3, headed out West for a four-game trip and looking every bit like a team that would be in the thick of Eastern Conference contention. The likelihood of a marriage between a player billed as a mid-lottery pick and the Bulls seemed improbable if not damn near impossible.

But the Bulls hit several roadblocks and landed in the draft lottery, while Valentine put together one of the more complete statistical seasons in recent memory, averaging nearly 20 points and almost eight rebounds and eight assists.

Valentine hit a roadblock of his own with draft preparation, as word about prospective teams red-flagging his left knee began to trickle out, raising questions about his long-term availability.

At least one team in the lottery definitively passed on Valentine because of fears surrounding his knee, which was surgically worked on in high school and followed by a minor procedure in December, causing him to miss four games.

“It did surprise me because I’m healthy now,” Valentine said. “I only missed four games. I can control what I can control and let the chips fall that it may. I was a little surprised, a little angry that people were texting me asking if I were hurt. And I was like ‘what?’ But at the same time, I could control what I could control and I’m happy to be here.”

Missing a few practices here and there seemed to be the biggest side effect for Valentine through the season, as accolades followed nonetheless with him winning National Player of the Year over Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, who went sixth in last Thursday’s draft.

“He’s gonna go out there and fight,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s been in so many high-pressure games at Michigan State. For a guy that played in Final Fours, made big play after big play. He’s been a part of winning cultures since high school. That’s huge, great experience for Denzel. If he can suit up, he can play.”

The awards are certainly not a precursor for pro success, as more than a few collegiate POY’s have wound up as professional carcasses in an unforgiving game.

But the qualities Valentine was noted for in college could translate to the NBA, and from the sounds of things he’ll get every opportunity with the Bulls to show off his versatility.

He’ll be thrown into the shallow end of the pool, so to speak, in Summer League next month. New acquisition Jerian Grant (via the Derrick Rose trade), Cristiano Felicio, Bobby Portis and Spencer Dinwiddie (acquired for Cameron Bairstow) will also join Valentine in Las Vegas.

“He's a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “That's the big thing I got from talking to coach (Tom) Izzo, is you can play him all over the court. He's a facilitator. He's an excellent positional rebounder. He can bust out with the ball. And he gives you the opportunity to play in so many ways.”

Valentine wasn’t given a definitive position, and perhaps there’s no natural one over the other. But having the ability to be a floor-spreading point guard with Jimmy Butler handling or even a small-ball power forward leaves Hoiberg and the Bulls plenty of options.

“And I think how we want to play with our young core, how Fred we wants to play, we think it's a perfect fit in regards to his skill level and his basketball IQ and what he brings to the floor,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said.