Wednesday meeting raises NBA lockout hopes

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Wednesday meeting raises NBA lockout hopes

We've been down this road before. Sure, the situation is different every time -- the players are willing to take an equal split of basketball-related income, NBA commissioner David Stern has the power to tweak the owners' proposal in order to make a deal. According to Yahoo!, a meeting, now in progress, was agreed to before Wednesday afternoon's deadline for the union to take the current offer.

Compared to recent events in sports, like the death of boxing legend Joe Frazier, the awful Penn State scandal, Stevie Williams' racist remarks about Tiger Woods and the aftermath of the epic LSU-Alabama clash (or for the musically-inclined, the passing of Heavy D), the latest developments in the saga of the NBA lockout don't amount to much. But in this sensationalized society, even the comments of lawyers make headlines, as witnessed when union attorney Jeffrey Kessler brought race into his characterization of Stern -- the commissioner defended himself, unlike he did when Bryant Gumbel hurled similar words his way -- before apologizing.

Indeed, the subplots of this drama have alternately enhanced and subtracted from the issues. Being that negotiations take place in New York, at times this feels like the "Gangs of New York," with all of the different factions -- players for union decertification, the so-called NBA middle-class wanting to take the deal, pro-Derek Fisher players, international players urging the players' association to make an agreement, hard-line stars and even powerful agents working behind the scenes to influence union strategy; the two main groups for owners seem to be small-market teams and major markets, or is it "hawks" and "doves," or Michael Jordan and Paul Allen vs. Micky Arison? -- pushing their agendas.

Regardless of all the distractions present, the small groups on both sides in the room Wednesday (doesn't it seem as if small groups have been more effective throughout this process) seemingly have some clarity going into these discussions, even after the players' association Tuesday rejected the deal on the table. The union has continuously conceded on various points of contention, most obviously the revenue split, and now what remains are must-have -- at least for the players -- system issues that won't restrict player movement, such as teams that pay the luxury tax not being prevented from making sign-and-trades or being otherwise discouraged from going over the tax threshold, like not receiving a full mid-level exception.

With so many other points of contention now agreed upon, surely the two parties can swallow their pride and instead of the next announcement being that games are canceled through Christmas, a less frustrating, more positive message will be heard, jamming Twitter, leading local and national news broadcasts and allowing players, employees, fans and media alike to rejoice? It's possible, but even as leaks from the discussions provide third-party insights of any progress, don't get your hopes up just yet.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."