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."

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

The post-deadline era has begun for the Bulls, with the directives clear on developing their young players and seeing what can be done in the last third of the season.

And while their youth sparked them early, it was the headliners who stepped up late in their 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at the United Center, as the team was clearly adjusting to life without Taj Gibson, who was traded Thursday.

Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade each had sluggish starts, to say the least. Each looked like he was going through an island-like malaise through the better part of three quarters before waking up.

Butler finally ignored the snooze button at the most opportune time, nearly winning the game in regulation with a tying triple, then a fadeaway 15-footer over Eric Bledsoe to cap off a late comeback that saw the Bulls rebound from an eight-point deficit with a few minutes left in the fourth.

"That's what great players do," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They step up when you need them the most. Jimmy obviously had a tough night shooting the ball (early). ... What he's been doing all year, taking over the game in the fourth, and tonight was no different."

Then Wade, in one of his few post-halftime mistakes, controversially fouled Suns sharpshooter Devin Booker on a triple with 1.5 seconds left, but Booker missed the last of the three free throws to send the game into overtime.

"I think it was good defense," said Butler before giving a nod to his controversial whistle that went his way a week ago. "We don't wanna go back too far, but a foul's a foul."

Wade and Butler continued the assault into the extra session, with Wade rising for a late flush over Suns center Alex Len and raising his arms in celebration — having put together a 23-point performance after a scoreless first half.

"That dunk he had was unbelievable," Hoiberg said. "I should give him another week off."

In the early stages, Butler wasn't as futile as Wade, but he wasn't much better, scoring just eight before the fourth but being more aggressive and assertive with his moments and jump shots, finishing with 22 to go along with nine assists and four steals.

"Just keep shooting the ball and eventually it'll go in," Butler said. "And they did. Coaches put the ball in my hands, I kept taking the same shots, making the same plays. Then they went in."

The Suns led most of the way, mostly due to their team-wide speed and athleticism, getting out on the break the way they did in the first meeting two weeks ago. Booker scored 27, while Bledsoe, TJ Warren and Marquese Chriss each scored 17. Bledsoe added 10 assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

They dominated the fast-break department at a 27-16 clip, and the Bulls actually countered with 3-point shooting, hitting 12 triples and shooting 46 percent from 3.

Nikola Mirotic was 4-for-7 from deep on the way to a 20-point night, while Denzel Valentine put together his best showing as a pro with 15 points, all coming on five made 3s.

Three straight triples from Valentine pulled the Bulls to within one late in the third quarter. The shots were decisive and confident — perhaps as he knew he wouldn't be removed for anyone at the first mistake.

"I like it, take the shots when you're open. Sometimes when you're not open, still shoot it and we know to get back," Butler said.

There were plenty of mishaps and things to complain about as the Bulls hit a new wave, but at least it started with some positive vibes after a day of uncertainty and confusion.

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Two Chicago legends were spotted courtside before the Bulls tipped off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. 

Chance the Rapper, recent winner of three Grammy Awards, snapped a photo with Benny the Bull at the United Center.

The south sider is spending a few months back in his hometown before starting a nationwide tour in April. His stop at the Bulls game should come as no surprise, as the "Coloring Book" rapper has become big friends with Jimmy Butler. Tough to name a more talented duo than that. 

Chance was also seen in New Orleans last weekend for the NBA All-Star festivities.

We know he's already a White Sox team ambassador, but are the Bulls next up?