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.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy."