Bulls

Lockout talks lead to no November games

570906.jpg

Lockout talks lead to no November games

After all of the optimism surrounding the past two days of NBA lockout negotiations, Friday's talks in New York ended--somewhat briefly, compared to Wednesday's marathon session--with a much less positive outlook. League commissioner David Stern subsequently announced that league would cancel an additional two weeks of regular-season games, wiping the November schedule clean, an anticipated measure.

"Our games are cancelled through," said a grim-looking Stern, in contrast to his jovial demeanor after Wednesday's session. "The end of the month of November."

"It's not practical, possible or prudent," he continued. "There will not be a full NBA season."

No further bargaining sessions are scheduled for this weekend--Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the players' association president, told NBA.com he was flying back to Los Angeles--or otherwise. Friday's breakdown occurred because of the continued impasse over the division of basketball-related income--and the animus between the two sides apparently returned.

Union executive director Billy Hunter claimed Stern was "snookering" the media when the commissioner confirmed he was prepared to make a major economic move Friday.

"What he was trying to do was position himself on those other system issues (such as the luxury tax and mid-level exception) so he could get his number on BRI," said Hunter. "It appears that more we give on the system, we may be painting ourselves into a corner."

"They got to the place again where it was, '50-50, take it or leave it,'" he continued. "Today, we're leaving it, like we left it last week.

"Derek and I may it clear that we could not sell a 50-50 deal to our membership, not with the system."

Added Fisher: "We've dropped our BRI percentage from 57 percent to 52.5.

"Right now, it's still not enough for them to feel that this deal should be closed," continued the veteran guard, who cited "artificial pressure" as a reason to not rush through a deal that would last his constituents 10 more years. "We're still not sure if they're at 50 or they're at 47.

"Today just wasn't the day."

Stern confirmed that no further bargaining sessions are scheduled.

"I'm not going to project future negotiations," he said. "We've had, until this afternoon, several good days of give-and-take."

"We've made some major progress on length of contract," the commissioner continued. "We spent a fair amount of time talking about revenue sharing today.

"We made a fair number of concessions."

The commissioner revealed his take on how the negotiations ended for the day.

"Billy Hunter said he wasn't willing to go a penny below 52 percent," he said. "He closed up his books and walked out of the room."

"We were at 47," Stern added. "Today, our offer was 50."

Predictably, Hunter's view on the situation was very different.

"We did what it was the league said they needed," he said. "Their eyes got bigger and they wanted more and more and more, so finally, we had to shut it down and say, 'it can't be.'"

"Our number was our number," Hunter continued. "We just couldn't bridge the gap."

"I know that we have gotten a deal by this weekend, it was very likely, highly probable that we could have gotten a full season."

Ominously, Stern indicated the league's next offer--when the two sides meet again--will be less favorable.

"We're going to have to recalculate," said Stern.

"We've lost approaching 200 million," he continued. "We'll lose several hundred million dollars more."

"You can assume that our offer will change to reflect the changed economic circumstances."

So, despite progress on significant system issues, such as the mid-level exception and even some movement on the luxury-tax policy, it appears that if not back to square one, the two parties are again at odds, with conflicting opinions on their respective stances. One thing, however, is for certain, as Stern glumly summarized.

"The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary and the amount of dollars lost to the players is also extraordinary," said the commissioner. "In the short run, the owners will not be able to make it back and I know for a fact, in the short run, the players will not be able to make it back, and probably will never be able to make it back."

Neither will the dozens, even hundreds of people employed by the league and its teams or the people making their livelihoods based on games being played, not to mention the fans currently being deprived of NBA basketball.

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

2-18_markkanen_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.