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NBA lockout: Doomsday or a happy ending?

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NBA lockout: Doomsday or a happy ending?

Friday, Sept. 16, 2011Posted: 4:56 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Follow @CSNBullsInsider
From NBPA president Derek Fisher's letter to his constituents to NFLPA union chief DeMaurice Smith's presence in Las Vegas -- where several NBA players have congregated for Impact Basketball's Competitive Training Series -- and even reports of the league's owners not being completely unified (the issues of revenue sharing and willingness to miss an entire season are supposedly the divides) at both Tuesday's negotiating session in New York and the subsequent Board of Governors meeting in Dallas, one could glean that significant developments favoring the players are occurring on the lockout front. On the other hand, multiple reports of agents pushing for the union to decertify -- a tactic used by the NFLPA, but something the aforementioned Smith downplayed as a road to success -- and signs of dissatisfaction from various players can be interpreted as bad signs for the "millionaires" (players) in their fight against their "billionaire" counterparts (owners).

Due to the "gag order" that's been mostly adhered to by the union and league, it's hard to know which way, if any, the tide is turning in the ongoing NBA lockout. However, it's clear that although there's continued to be a trickle of players signing contracts to play abroad -- for example, veteran Nuggets guard J.R. Smith, a free agent, reportedly inked a deal to play in China with no "out clause" -- the anticipated mass exodus of players overseas (Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who has already started to play in Turkey, remains the lone true superstar to cross the waters) hasn't happened as of yet.

At the same time, how much leverage the union would gain from players plying their trade in far-off destinations for a fraction of what they make in the NBA is dubious, as is the idea that participating in the "lockout league" in Vegas (or the one former NBA player and coach John Lucas has proposed for Houston) or star-powered exhibition games would pose a threat to the owners. But what's clear is that both sides have dug in their heels for a battle that could potentially jeopardize the entire season, a reality that's beginning to sink in, despite recent reports of optimism.

Not to say that any of my peers would stretch the truth in order to get a scoop, but without being in the actual meetings and having to rely on translating the posturing rhetoric from Fisher, NBA commissioner David Stern, NBPA chief Billy Hunter and others, even information from the most well-placed sources are subject to scrutiny. Besides the fans, the people who are truly affected by this lockout are those who don't make millions or billions -- whether they're minimum-contract veterans who have to make a decision on the behalf of their families, team employees who have been laid off, draft picks who haven't yet collected a professional salary or people whose livelihood depend on the game, like arena security guards, concession-stand workers and in some cases, even media.

Their plight is unfortunately secondary in this drama, but without fervently arguing a case for either side (the expired CBA clearly favors the players, but while the owners did agree to it and the players have a right to want to keep the system the same, they'll likely have to concede more than a small percentage of their split of basketball-related income, something they reportedly proposed recently, for this ordeal to end, although the owners must come to their own conclusion regarding revenue sharing first), it seems that it might take their own examples of hardship to get somebody to crack. Maybe it's a group of players admitting they're not financially prepared to go a season without pay after overseas opportunities dry up or the owner of a profitable franchise finally having their fill of a dispute that puts a cramp in their style (and team's earning potential, such as Micky Arison's star-studded Heat, James Dolan's resurgent Knicks, Jerry Buss' perennial power Lakers, even Donald Sterling's Clippers, led by Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin and yes, Jerry Reinsdorf's Bulls, back in the NBA's upper echelon behind reigning league MVP Derrick Rose; like politics, owners have been categorized as "hawks" and "doves") that puts a chink in the armor of one party or another.

What are your thoughts on the situation? Do you see the season starting on time or an entire year without the NBA?

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.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."