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NBA labor talks hit a major wall

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NBA labor talks hit a major wall

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Three days and 30 hours' worth of talks couldn't produce a new labor deal, so NBA owners and players walked away without knowing when they will meet again. That's happened a few times during the lockout, but this one felt different. There was a nasty tone, including accusations of lying, and an acknowledgement from Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver that he misjudged just how far apart the sides were. More games seem sure to be canceled, and the entire season could be in jeopardy. "I hate to use the expression gloves are off.' But for all intents and purposes, the gloves are off," players' association vice president Maurice Evans said. "With the press conference that they had -- don't want to get into he said, she said, but that just wasn't very accurate. It's evident of the time we spent in the room that we were here, we were bargaining, we were making progress. For it all to suddenly end -- that should speak volumes in itself." The sides remained divided over two main issues -- the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system. The dollars were the obstacle Thursday, after the system caused most recent breakdown. "We understand the ramifications of where we are," Silver said. "We're saddened on behalf of the game." Both sides had said there was progress on minor issues in the first two days in the presence of federal mediator George Cohen, and Silver said he brought more optimism than usual into Thursday's session. "But obviously I was disappointed and sort of maybe overestimated where it turns out we were," Silver said. Without a deal, NBA Commissioner David Stern, who missed Thursday's session with the flu, almost certainly will decide more games must be dropped. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 -- 100 in total -- already have been scrapped, costing players about 170 million in salaries. Stern said previously that he thought games through Christmas were in jeopardy without a deal this week. Silver said the labor committee would speak with Stern on Friday about the future schedule, though no further cancellations are expected yet. Union officials were upset with Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt's account of the events and felt owners were never serious about trying to make a deal, with union executive director Billy Hunter saying the lockout was "preordained." "They knew when they presented what they were presenting to us that it wasn't going to fly," Hunter said. The union said owners essentially gave it an ultimatum to accept a 50-50 split of revenues. Attorney Jeffrey Kessler said the meeting was "hijacked." "We were shocked," he said. "We went in there trying to negotiate and they came in and they said you either accept 50-50 or we're done and we won't discuss anything else." Both sides praised Cohen and had honored his request not to speak about the process after the first two days. But it was clear by the time talks broke down that there were bad feelings. "We've spent the last few days making our best effort to try and find a resolution here. Not one that was necessarily a win-win. It wouldn't be a win for us. It wouldn't be a win for them. But one that we felt like would get our game back ... and get our guys back on the court, get our vendors back to work, get the arenas open, get these communities revitalized," union president Derek Fisher said. "And in our opinion, that's not what the NBA and the league is interested in at this point. They're interested in telling you one side of the stories that are not true and this is very serious to us. This is not in any way about ego. There are a lot of people's livelihoods at stake separate from us." Hunter said the union made "concession after concession after concession ... and it's just not enough." "We're not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes all our increases," he said. "We're saying no way. We fought too long and made too many sacrifices to get where we are." Previously each side had proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement. Silver said the league formally proposed a 50-50 revenue split Wednesday. The union said its proposal would have been a band that would have allowed it to collect as much as 53 percent but no less than 50, based on the league's revenues. "Hopefully, we can get back to the table, but certainly a tough day, a very tough day," said Holt, the labor relations committee chair. Asked whether the players would drop to 50 percent, Holt said he didn't think it was that big of a jump but that the union did. He said the league would not go above 50 percent "as of today. But never say never on anything." Hunter said Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert told players to trust that if they took the 50-50 split, the salary cap issues could be worked out. Hunter's response? "I can't trust your gut. I got to trust my own gut," he said. "There's no way in the world I'm going to trust your gut on whether or not you're going to be open and amenable to making the changes in the system that we think are necessary and appropriate." Owners and players met with Cohen for 16 hours Tuesday, ending around 2 a.m. Wednesday, then returned just eight hours later and spent another 8 hours in discussions. The sides then met for about five hours Thursday, before calling it quits. "Am I worried about the season, per se? Yeah. But I'm more so worried about us standing up for what we believe in," New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack said. "I think that's the bigger issue at hand." Cohen didn't recommend that the two sides continue the mediation process as they weren't able to resolve the "strongly held, competing positions that separated them on core issues." Though the sides have said they believe bargaining is the only route to a deal, the process could end up in the courts. Each brought an unfair labor practice charge against the other with the National Labor Relations Board, and the league also filed a federal lawsuit against the union attempting to block it from decertifying. Union officials, so far, have been opposed to decertification, a route the NFL players initially chose during their lockout. However, Hunter said Thursday that "all of our options are on the table. Everything."

Report: Butler camp upset with "ownership mouthpieces"

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USA TODAY

Report: Butler camp upset with "ownership mouthpieces"

In a report released Friday morning, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Joe Cowley stated that sources close to Jimmy Butler's camp think that "ownership mouthpieces" have "manufactured" rumors that Butler's number one concern in demanding a trade was money.

In response, the Butler camp has stated that Butler's reasons for wanting to leave are about having a serious shot at competing:

According to the source, this is about a philosophy in making an impact in the Western Conference, and in Butler’s mind you can’t run down a dynasty like Golden State when two of the so-called dogs in the pack are in fact kittens.

-Chicago Sun-Times reporter Joe Cowley

With the nature of public trade demands, it is tough to sort out what is true. And with Butler helping Minnesota end the NBA's longest playoff drought, it is clear that the Timberwolves have enough talent to be a playoff contender.

None of the team's on Butler's list of preferred destinations would have a serious shot at taking down the Warriors, or even making an Eastern Conference playoff run.

From the outside, it would appear that reported friction between Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns is the true reason the rift has become this big of an issue. But Butler maintains that this is not the case.

If Butler is not moved by Monday's media day in Minnesota, things could get (even more) messy.

With the ongoing public feuds between Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Jackson, the Butler camp and the TWolves organization, and the Towns contract extension situation, more drama is the last thing Minnesota  needs.

Baseball comes second for Cubs in Addison Russell situation

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USA TODAY

Baseball comes second for Cubs in Addison Russell situation

Two years after Theo Epstein sat in the visiting dugout on the South Side addressing the Cubs' trade for Aroldis Chapman in the same season he was suspended by Major League Baseball for domestic violence, the president of baseball operations once again had to touch on a similar topic in the same ballpark.

Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave early Friday afternoon, hours after a blog post surfaced from his ex-wife detailing physical and psychological abuse throughout their relationship.

"Disturbing" is how Epstein described Melisa Reidy's account when he saw it late Thursday night and said he immediately reached out to MLB's investigative body to see if they could verify any of the details.

Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had a phone call with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the league office Friday morning, during which it was revealed the league would be placing Russell on administrative leave.

Russell can remain on leave for up to seven days and that leave can be extended by the league if need be after that time.

Epstein and Ricketts then met with Russell to inform him of the league's decision and questioned the shortstop on the details in Reidy's post.

"He reaffirmed his stance that he did not do what he is accused of having done," Epstein said.

The Cubs have no idea if Russell will play again this season as the team is in the midst of a tight pennant race in the final 10 days of September. But they also acknowledge baseball comes second in a time like this.

"Any time there are accusations of this nature, they have to be taken very seriously and timing or inconvenience doesn't play into it," Epstein said. "All parties have an obligation to get to a just and fair resolution and if that includes discipline if appropriate, then so be it. If it doesn't, then so be it.

"But the important thing here is that justice and fairness is ultimately found. Timing is not ideal, but it doesn't matter. What matters is getting to a just and fair resolution and we're supportive of the league's step."

There's not much the Cubs can do over the next week, as the matter "is in the league's court to do the investigation," Ricketts said.

Joe Maddon addressed the team with Epstein and Ricketts before Friday's game and has shifted his focus toward trying to win ballgames with the rest of the roster, stepping back to let the league handle the matter.

Between Epstein, Ricketts and Maddon, the word "process" was brought up over and over again in more than 20 minutes of press conferences.

Step 1 in that process was Russell being placed on administrative leave. Step 2 is the fact-finding mission as the league attempts to verify the "disturbing" claims.

The league opened an investigation on Russell last June after a domestic violence allegation was brought to light in a comment by Reidy's friend on an Instagram post. The comment was later deleted and Reidy did not cooperate with the MLB investigation, though the investigation remained open and Epstein admitted he has checked in with the league from time to time about the matter.

Russell spent only a couple days away from the team last June and was not placed on any official leave.

There is no word yet on if Reidy will cooperate with MLB's investigation this time around.

"Last year, it was a third-party accusation on social media," Epstein said. "And now, this is a direct accusation from the accuser, from the potential victim. The situation has changed. He was not placed on administrative leave last year. He was away from the team briefly, but we think this step is appropriate in light of the post."

Despite the accusation last June, reading the comments from Reidy's blog post was jarring for everybody involved.

"It always is," Maddon said, "whether it's on the baseball team, in your own personal family, wherever you may work. That just seems to be the way things are today."

The Cubs distanced themselves from making any sort of statement on Russell's character away from how they know him in a professional setting - as a ballplayer at the ballpark.

The next few days will determine Russell's standing with the Cubs and in the league for the rest of this season and possibly beyond.

"That balancing act that comes with an accusation and validating the rights of the accuser and providing an appropriate forum is something that's really difficult," Epstein said. "We don't have the answer for that, except that we know we have to take it as seriously as we possibly can to follow the process, because the process is designed to defend everyone's rights and to lead to a fair and just outcome."