Sunday, November 27, 2011

The NBA Post-Lockout Template to Appeasing Fans

This clip has plenty of funny and heartfelt moments in what can called a league-wide 'welcome back' lovefest. You have a baby-faced Steve Nash introducing himself to the Dallas community, and Dikembe Mutombo having a bro session with the Hawks mascot. Notice how fat Kemp is. They did it right in '99, even if there was a significant drop in attendance. Open up practices and team scrimmages to the public. Have the players greet all the fans and offer countless autograph sessions, photo opportunities, and free giveaways. The goal now may be to drastically discount the price on NBA League Pass and preseason games. We'll see by the end of this '11-'12 season and playoffs how big of a drop-off in attendance and revenues occurs. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NBA Lockout Day...NO MORE!

Just a few hours into Day 149, and we have a tentative deal that all parties seem to indicate will be completed within the coming two weeks when free agency and training camps open up December 9th with David Stern getting his Christmas tripleheader start. 66 games are better than none. We finally get to focus on basketball. Magic fans get to focus on its roster and the Dwight issue. Let's see who Otis uses the amnesty clause on, or if he'll even use it at all. Oh yeah, ORLANDO KEEPS ITS ALL-STAR GAME!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

On This Day, November 25th: NBA Lockout Day 148 & Talks Fall Apart Once More


This is worse than a yo-yo at this point. Oh, and Billy Hunter is still an imbecile. Hunter decided to not present an offer to his players for a vote. Sound familiar?

The NBA labor impasse has become a high-stakes game of chicken, and neither side is ready to give in.

With the cancellation of the entire season between two and three weeks away, NBA owners called off a bargaining session scheduled for Saturday when the players union refused to alter its previous positions.

Billy Hunter, union executive director, responded by blasting the NBA owners, concluding their threat to cancel the entire season is merely a bluff.

``I do not believe they [owners) have been negotiating in good faith,'' Hunter said.

``We find it incredible that they would, in the 12th hour, say they are not prepared to meet. They are trying to play mind games with the players. It's not going to work.''

Saturday's much-anticipated meeting was canceled at 2 p.m. Wednesday when Hunter informed league officials that the players would not agree to the three conditions the owners wanted.

The owners want to alter free agency and the ability of teams to exceed the salary cap. They want player salaries limited to a set percentage (52 percent) of basketball revenues, and they want a bigger escrow tax on salaries than the players are willing to give.

``We are not going to negotiate with a gun to our heads,'' Hunter said. ``We're prepared to bargain. We are ready and willing to meet around the clock to do this. But the owners seem to have another agenda.''

The league already has canceled all games up to Christmas Day. Although no official date for canceling the entire season has been announced, various sources have estimated that date at Dec. 14.

Both sides agree it would take between three and four weeks to start the season after an agreement is signed.

``Whether [NBA Commissioner) David Stern would do it [cancel the season) remains to be seen. The odds are against it,'' Hunter said. ``Obviously, he has threatened.''

The two sides last met formally last Friday in New York, with both sides then expressing optimism that a deal could be finalized. When Hunter and National Basketball Players Association President Patrick Ewing met briefly Monday with Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, however, the optimism disappeared.

NBA officials declined to comment Wednesday on the cancellation of Saturday's meeting. On Tuesday, Granik said: ``There is no reason to meet.''

When asked whether he thought the majority of players would accept the current deal the league has offered, Hunter declined to speculate.

``I wouldn't present it to them the way it is now,'' Hunter said defiantly. ``So there won't be a vote.''

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Justin Harper's All-Star Hype is Legitimate

By All-Star hype, I'm still talking about France where he's been playing for a few months now. Instead of moping around, waiting to officially become an NBA rookie, Justin Harper has thrown himself into the European fires and improved his game in all its facets. It's been a long time since I posted an update on his progress, but the young Richmond product is really coming along at Strasbourg. 

I was a bit worried after Justin's performance against Le Havre. Harper at that point was getting almost zero free throw attempts. 4-of-10 shooting (2-for-5 from downtown) isn't bad in 30 minutes. Neither were the 5 rebounds. But I was having my doubts on whether or not coach Vincent Collet would feed the 22-year-old more touches. One can't complain though if you're winning, which is what Strasbourg did for that home match. Here's the postmatch presser. Also, one postgame article as well as a second piece

Then it happened, against 3rd division side Charleville-Mezieres. The beginning of French cup action marked the true starting point of the Richmond graduate making a name for himself in France. In 27 minutes, Justin posted 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting and 7 rebounds Both statistics were team highs, and the driving force necessary to prevail on the road while other teammates struggled to provide assistance. Strasbourg now play their Round of 32 match on January 10th against second division Chalons-Reims. I'd imagine that Collet's goal is to reach the Quarterfinals in April. 

The Pro A road trip to Orleans wasn't a fun one, losing 73-66. Strasbourg won the physical battle, but too many turnovers and few free throws were SIG's downfall. Mental lapses and defensive breakdowns are what SIG still haven't been able to avoid going into early November. Great teams know how to finish 4th quarters strong, and lack of chemistry will assist in preventing that. Harper again couldn't get to the free throw line, and showed defensive consistencies of his own. 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting (2-of-6 from downtown) and another 5 rebounds in a decreased 22 minutes of play is more than respectable. Coach Collet clearly wanted to rest his 6'9" forward after exerting himself plenty just a few days previously in the cup match. Collet wasn't shy to show his great disdain towards his team that really should have won at Orleans. Another away match showed a similar losing result. An 80-70 defeat to Elan Chalon. 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (3-for-5 on 3s) and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes brought consistency in which others could not. 

Then came 2 straight at home, starting with Roanne. A 93-80 beautiful showing. Coach Collet stated that Harper played by far his best match in a Strasbourg jersey. Justin was selected in the top 5 of foreigners in the league for the first time this season. Other media certainly agreed. 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting (2-for-4 from downtown) and 7 rebounds will definitely make any tactician happy with a young player. I'm definitely happy to see from free throws out of the kid (4-of-5). "We really played as a team", said Collet in the postgame. The Magic rookie played all but 2 minutes of the contest. Highlights are here, and the Richmond product was certainly very active. Magic fans, you may recognize the not so familiar face of Andre Barrett who plays for Roanne. Justin also expressed his NBA Lockout concerns, basically saying all the right things. Then there was this Collet interview where he calls Justin 'soft' and not ready for the NBA. Then again, coach could be doing his all to keep Harper in France for the remainder of the season even if the NBA gets back in session. Nice try, Vincent. You don't give a guy all of these minutes, win games, and still choose to contradict yourself with these types of statements. Justin's keeping himself in fantastic shape, learning to bang around, as well as improving his jumper. Harper could very well be beastly in Orlando pinstripes. 

November 19th finally saw SIG earn their first road victory against Poitiers. The 78-79 win was hard fought to the final whistle. The 32nd overall pick in this summer's NBA Draft posted 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting (4-of-6 from long range) and 6 rebounds. Justin was by far Strasbourg's best player. Here are the game highlights that include Justin Harper's super clutch 4-point play in the final 2 minutes of the contest. The team is gelling more and more each week, and those 4th quarter meltdowns are almost a thing of the past. What Strasbourg lacks in experience replace with pure guts. Talent no matter how young is still talent. 

Harper's French Pro A season averages are continuously on the rise. He currently stands at 13.6 points per game, 47.3 FG%, 42.4 3-PT%, and 6.2 rebounds per contest. There are rumors that Justin may get voted into the league's All-Star Game as well which would be very impressive. Strasbourg are 3-0 at home, and their first road win of the season against Poitiers will add to their courage necessary to knock off a behemoth next. For the 2nd consecutive week, Harper was picked among the top 5 foreigners league wide.

Here's where you can vote for Justin Harper to be selected to play in the French Pro A All-Star Game. It's French players versus foreigners, so obviously Justin is in the foreigner side.

We get to see an exciting showdown on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. EST. This game will be streamed for sure, as SIG will have their hands full against ASVEL. Yes, that's Tony Parker's team. Ronny Turiaf and Hilton Armstrong are also on the squad, with Boris Diaw possibly being a future edition (because his fat ass couldn't handle the 'B' division). Yes, it's a battle of the best French player in the world, (Parker) against the French national team coach (Collet). ASVEL see this road test as a huge deal, and bring some young Americans of their own to the table. Otherwise, Tony Parker wouldn't have sat out his squad's Eurocup match against Sofia. ASVEL are only 3-4 as they have only had legitimate NBA assistance for a few weeks now. SIG sit at 4-3 and are looking to rapidly mature into a contender for a top table finish. They went from two straight losses to their current 2-game win streak. We'll find out if Strasbourg can create a sizable win streak. The home fans should help.

Special thanks as always to Frank Tellier for continuously providing me with countless updates, statistics, articles, and multimedia of Justin Harper and the rest of Strasbourg. He's been going on some of SIG's road trips as well. A very dedicated fan. Tellier says that they could sell out a stadium that's double the size of SIG's current 6,100 facility for this ASVEL match. So the hype is enormous for this contest.

On This Day, November 24th: NBA Lockout Day 147 & No Christmas For You


Happy Turkey Day, folks. While the players and ownership are in super quiet and secret negotiations currently to salvage basketball, that wasn't the case 13 years ago. There are those dreaded words again haunting our dreams: "optimism" and "progress". If a deal isn't done by Friday or Saturday, Santa Claus is the only thing you'll be cheering for on December 25th. 

Santa Claus won't be leaving any presents under the NBA's tree this Christmas.

The NBA on Tuesday officially canceled its annual Christmas Day doubleheader on NBC as the owners and players continue struggling with labor problem.

Although both sides had expressed some optimism last week, the bargaining process took a turn for the worse Tuesday when they began disagreeing over a luxury tax they had previously agreed upon.

The latest argument threatened to cancel Saturday's scheduled resumption of talks.

``The central part of the deal is no longer on the table, which means we didn't make any progress at all Friday,'' said Russ Granik, NBA deputy commissioner. ``The owners feel there's no point in having any more meetings right now.''

In place of the New York Knicks at the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Phoenix Suns doubleheader, NBC will show It's A Wonderful Life, a Christmas movie starring Jimmy Stewart.

The NBA now also has canceled every other game leading up to Christmas Day.

``The whole season is in jeopardy,'' Granik said. ``We're still so far apart on so many issues that we're really a long way from a deal. We had no other choice.''

After the Christmas Day doubleheader, NBC is not scheduled to begin its weekly telecasts until Jan. 16 with regional coverage.

The loss of the Christmas Day doubleheader is not a crushing blow for the league or its owners. The NBA will be paid - even if no games are played - by both NBC and Turner Broadcasting under the terms of its four-year, $2.64 billion contract.

If no games are played this season, the television networks will receive reduced fees in the final year of the contract - or receive additional games to televise at no charge.

At issue is how to split the estimated $2 billion in annual revenue generated by the NBA.

Last season, the players received 57 percent. The owners want to cut that figure to no more than 53 percent, while the players have dropped their demands to 57 percent.

The new dispute centers on the details of a ``backup tax'' that would have been charged to the highest-spending owners in the final three or four years of a six-or seven-year agreement.

The tax would only be collected if a previously agreed upon escrow tax - 10 to 15 percent of players' paychecks - failed to provide enough to reduce the players share of revenues to an agreed upon percentage.

Also at issue now is a major change in free agency rules that the owners are trying to change. The proposed rule would force teams who sign another team's free agent to give up the right to re-sign their own players under the Larry Bird exception, which allows them to exceed the salary cap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 146

I've got some very solid NBA highlight mix videos to help you get over your 'Hump Day'. At least the union and owners surprised us by stating they've been talking since Tuesday and that their meetings may extend into Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 145

Dwight Howard won't play in any exhibitions, but he's got no problems being a coach in one. As was the case for Lou Williams' Atlanta charity game that saw current professionals and past guys like Allen Iverson put on a show in a tiny Metropolitan College gym.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On This Day, November 21st: NBA Lockout Day 144 & Scrimmaging With Professionals


If you go to a specific 24-Hour Fitness in town during this work stoppage, you'll occasionally see guys like Dwight Howard, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Gilbert Arenas, and other famous basketball players participate in pick-up games with average gym members. The same thing occurred at the RDV Sportsplex 13 years ago. Penny, Bo, and Nick were among the usual Magic men who scrimmaged there. Read more to see even more famous names as I'm only posting a small portion. It really is a dream scenario for any diehard fan.

Mike Dalfonso has a new playmate.

Maybe you've heard of him. About 6 feet 7 inches tall. Has an impish alter ego. Currently looking for work. Friends call him Penny.

Dalfonso, the 43-year-old owner of an industrial supplies company, has hooked up on a real Dream Team.

While rush-hour traffic squeezes commuters along Interstate 4, a handful of accountants, lawyers, consultants and students are playing out their wildest Walter Mitty fantasies on a basketball court at the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland.

Running the court with Penny Hardaway. Checking Nick Anderson as he drives toward the basket. Battling with Bo Outlaw underneath the boards. Trying to maintain eye contact with the frenetic, hip-hop Jason Williams.

Locked out by the NBA and with nowhere to go, professional players with local ties are bonding with their extended Orlando family to get in a good run of 5-on-5.

It has been a wonderful public relations coup for our millionaires in labor limbo, who have reached out to make friends and help break down perceptions of their petulant image.

``It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing,'' Dalfonso said. ``A real thrill. You get some people who would pay to play with all-stars and players like this. ... This is pretty much unheard of.''

With the NBA lockout barring them from using the team's practice facility inside the RDV complex, the Magic players mingle with members in the two open courts inside the health club portion of the facility to stay in some semblance of shape. Although better ``runs'' are available in Houston and Los Angeles, where a greater number of professionals work and play, most local players are doing the economical and logical thing by driving their Range Rovers, Beamers and Navigators to Maitland for 2 or 3 hours of pickup ball.

Anderson and Outlaw are regulars in the mix of 30-some-odd players. Williams, the former Florida point guard who was the seventh pick in the NBA draft, has been coming since summer. Toronto Raptors guard Dee Brown and Hardaway hooked up last week.

Raptors rookie Vince Carter of Daytona Beach recently became a regular. Dennis Scott and Shaquille O'Neal (oh, get over it) have made a few cameo appearances. (``Yo, Harry, you check him'').

Their running mates are an eclectic mix of basketball junkies whose ages span from 18 to 62, and whose level of expertise runs the gamut of college and high school experience to earthbound clumsiness.


Cue in Paul Porter. Stand and cheer, for your Orlannnndooo Magic Lockout Squad: Pete Sansouci, a 38-year-old who works in industrial sales. Brian Fucile, 38, who played at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Roni ``Ronlando'' Elias, a stocky 18-year-old who is a freshman at the University of Central Florida. Bill Branner, a 62-year-old business consultant from Winter Park. Rick Skogen, a 40-year-old business printing consultant.

Danny Anderson, a 43-year-old assigned to Humana's workers compensation services.

Hopefully, Danny Anderson's health plan covers industrial-strength pain killers. He had to match up against Carter for one game.

``I'll need about three or four Advil later,'' Anderson said afterward. ``I can't even talk, I'm so out of shape. My back will be hurting next morning, I can assure you.

``But it's been worth it. When you travel around people say, `Oh, you play ball. `Yeah I was playing with Nick Anderson and Penny Hardaway last night.' They say, `What are you talking about?'''


Basic rules of pickup basketball apply: Winner has to score 15 baskets in increments of 1, though a shot from beyond the 3-point arc counts for 2 points. Teams stay on the court as long as it wins. Players call their own fouls. Teams are determined by sign-up order on a chalkboard, though a bit of creative editing needs to be monitored daily by an RDV employee. Seems that some guys are inclined to ``vaporize'' other players from the board for a chance to run the court with Nick or Penny.

You'd be tempted, too. Let's see, team up with Hardaway, one of the most creative players in professional basketball, or Phil the produce manager at the local grocery store?

Other than an occasional mishap in the pecking order, the experience has been exhilarating for many of the Happy Hour regulars.

``I never thought I would get to play against these guys,'' Elias said. ``The closest I thought I'd get would be the O-rena or TV.''


This strange brew of full-court basketball is as perplexing as Zsa Zsa and Liz slumming for shoes at Kmart, or The Donald piling on the macaroni and cheese in the buffet line at Golden Corral.

It's actually two games in one. Professionals usually match up against each other, while those who are vertically challenged guard each other. Most of the NBA guys are careful not to drive to the basket unless their path is unimpeded (the improvisational Williams and no-fear Carter are exceptions). Their worlds often collide anyway, given the bumpy nature of the game and screens that force defensive switches.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On This Day, November 20th: NBA Lockout Day 143 & Tim Legler Buckles


I hope Danny Schayes was on some type of airline rewards/loyalty miles program, because he was doing a lot of flying during this extended offseason being the Magic's player representative. The pressure rises when employees have lost a quarter of a billion dollars. Funny that another Washington play 13 years ago, Tim Legler, would play the role of JaVale McGee as far as disobeying the union and speaking out on how other players wanted the work stoppage ended. Legler went further stating that only 'middle class' ballers were sacrificing too much for 'superstars'.

Orlando Magic center Danny Schayes left for New York on Thursday evening, and he packed enough clothes to last a week.

The NBA labor negotiations finally could be getting serious.

Schayes and the rest of the players union negotiating team will re-open bargaining with NBA owners this morning, still hoping to reach an agreement that could start the 1998-99 season.

``You hope that getting everyone in the same room again, with both sides motivated, can provide the impetus to get a deal done,'' Schayes said Thursday on his way to the airport from his home in Denver. ``You certainly have a much better chance with everyone in the same room, instead of nobody in the same town.''

It will be the first full-scale bargaining session in two weeks. A few representative from each side met Tuesday, but accomplished little except to set up today's meeting.

The players already have lost more than $250 million in salaries for games lost since Nov. 3, which would have been opening night. Although the union has been adamant about not giving up too much in bargaining, there are signs that the union's stance is softening.

Some middle-class players have been grumbling quietly about sacrificing too much to make sure the superstar players don't have caps put on their earning potential as the owners are proposing.

To the dismay of union leaders, Tim Legler of the Washington Wizards, in The Washington Post Thursday, blasted union leadership for sacrificing the interests of the majority to protect the superstars.

``That's why the deal is not being signed,'' Legler told The Post. ``What this whole thing boils down to is the superstar players don't want to be maxed out on what they get paid individually. We're fighting now for stuff only a few guys are going to benefit from.''

The players union also has struggled to put together the exhibition games it keeps promising. Although several agents announced plans for a game early next month in Las Vegas, those plans have been scrapped because of organizational problems.

Union leaders have informed players coming to New York for talks to plan on staying for several days, knowing they are reaching a critical stage of negotiations.

The owners, conversely, have shown no signs of giving up their latest proposal, which would limit the maximum a star could make but still increase the average NBA salary of $2.6 million.

``The fact is, we're not going to play a season under the rules the players want us to play under,'' Commissioner David Stern said. ``We just want to find a workable agreement.''

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On This Day, November 19th: NBA Lockout Day 142 & Gloomy Times for Sunshine


I'm sure your average person could care less about television networks, but they're victims in this ordeal as well. Nice job, Jerry Greene. 

It's the lost eyeballs, not lost basketballs, that hurts Jim Liberatore, Sunshine Network general manager.

You know how well you're coping without the Orlando Magic and the rest of the NBA (``No Basketball League''). And based on all the polls, you're probably coping pretty well.

But over at Sunshine Network, Liberatore is not the happiest guy in the world - because you may not be watching.

And it's not lost financial profit that concerns him, at least not directly. It's a little more complicated than that.

``The rights fees are so high that we don't make a ton of money from the Magic any way,'' Liberatore said, ``but, of course, we're not making a cent right now.

``It's the loss of eyeballs that hurts.''

Sounds painful to me, but let Liberatore explain ...

``The Magic would give us ratings of 5 to 8, meaning 50,000 to 80,000 viewers, and we could promote our other programming during the games. That's a huge marketing loss, which diminishes the value of the station.''

Sunshine was going to televise 44 games, mostly from the Orlando Arena, this season. Meanwhile, over at WKCF-Channel 18, the original schedule called for 25 Magic games, mostly away.

Dave Ward, WKCF programming director, is out of town this week, so I didn't get his input.

But WKCF is in a different position than Sunshine as it carries the Magic TV Network broadcasts. That means it's the Magic who sell the advertising and make the profit - if they had anything to sell.

Back at Sunshine, they are trying to keep advertisers satisfied by giving them more display for their bucks during broadcasts of college basketball and other events.

And finding programming to schedule hasn't been much of a problem.

Still, Liberatore worries about losing one of the network's cornerstones. He lists the Big Five as the Magic/Heat, the Lightning, Florida, Florida State and Central Florida.
``It's like losing a finger.''

Eeeeeuuuuuu. Eyeballs, fingers - this lockout is making Liberatore positively morbid. And he's normally a happy guy.

But wait ... He closed by saying something truly horrible. Don't read any more unless you are strong enough to watch an old Army film on the dangers of ``social diseases'' without flinching.

``What's it like to be going into December without the NBA for us?'' Liberatore said, setting us up: ``It's like you putting out the newspaper each day without a sports section.''
Hush your mouth!

I know you're unhappy, Jim, but that's no call for talking like that. Of course there will always be a sports section, just like there will always be a baseball team in Brooklyn, a pro football team in Los Angeles and a World Series.

Friday, November 18, 2011

On This Day, November 18th: NBA Lockout Day 141 & Think of the Children!


Dear NBA owners and players, forget about us diehards that are old enough to drive and drink. Think about the little kids that look up to you (literally and figuratively) and dream about being a professional basketball player. I want to see these supposed grown-ups explain to children why they've stepped away from the game they allegedly love. 

It's like splitting a candy bar, or the last piece of gum, with your best friend. Do you split it evenly, or do you give your friend a bigger piece?

That's how General Manager John Gabriel and the rest of the Orlando Magic staff were answering the obvious question from children during the Orange County Teach-In on Wednesday.

``Why aren't the Magic playing?'' was repeated all over town.

``Everyone wants to know,'' Gabriel said after his brief stint as a teacher at Rock Lake Elementary School. ``With the kids, you have to relate it to something they can understand. Should we split the candy bar 50-50, or should we break off a bigger portion and give it away?''

Paralyzing the entire NBA today is the issue of how to split that metaphorical candy bar - an estimated $2 billion in annual revenue. Until that's decided, there will be no collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players and no Magic games.

Labor negotiations will resume Friday in New York, and neither side is expected to move far from its original demand. Yet both sides know that time is running short. Already six weeks of the season have been lost. The rest isn't far behind.

The players union has asked for 60 percent of the revenues. The owners have insisted on a 50-50 split. Last year, the players took 57 percent in salaries and revenue, causing the owners to pursue a new arrangement.

More than 100 members of the Magic/RDV Sports staff were spread throughout Orange County schools Wednesday morning, explaining what they do to elementary, middle and high school students.

Explaining what they were doing now in the middle of a labor dispute made their jobs a little tougher. But the children seemed to understand.

Since Magic owner Rich DeVos met with some players last week, the organization has been re-emphasizing its commitment to the community. DeVos taped a message to season ticket-holders, thanking them for their patience.

Magic Coach Chuck Daly was reading to elementary schoolchildren Tuesday. He was back in the classroom Wednesday with the other staff members.

Julius Erving, an executive vice president and former NBA star, will be featured at an autograph session at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Magic's downtown FanAttic store.

On Friday, 250 tickets to the session will be given away at the FanAttic. Autographs to people without tickets will be given as time permits Saturday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On This Day, November 17th: NBA Lockout Day 140 & Breaking the Silence


It'll be interesting which side breaks now when it comes to initiating more negotiations...and when that'll occur. Russ Granik's wording was always precise, but super effective. Also, I wonder if Rich DeVos will find a different way to apologize to Magic season ticket holders aside from a taped phone message. 

After 11 days with hardly a word spoken, NBA players and team owners will resume full-scale labor negotiations Friday, hoping to save at least part of this season.

With both sides still sounding as if they are entrenched in their positions, there was a brief and unproductive meeting Tuesday involving the league negotiators.

``It was, as usual, cordial but unproductive,'' said Russ Granik, NBA deputy commissioner. ``We didn't get anywhere.''

Friday's meeting in New York will include the full negotiating teams for both sides, the first time they have met since Oct. 28.

``We sort of sense that with the holidays approaching, if we don't start making progress soon, the season is in jeopardy,'' Granik said. ``We'll give it one more try on Friday.''

The union recently held conference calls with 24 of the 29 teams, trying to better gauge their opinions on the latest positions.

Those calls led directly to the lack of bargaining this past week.

``The players already think they've given up too much in negotiations. That's what they've told us during the calls,'' Dan Wasserman, spokesman for the players union, said Tuesday. ``There is no panic among the players, no willingness to give in now.

Until the league was willing to give some ground, there was no point in talking.''

The first six weeks of the season already have been scrapped, although both sides still hope to start by Christmas. After an agreement is signed, players and owners agree that at least three weeks are needed before the season could start.

For the first time since the lockout began, the NBA 10 days ago started allowing individual teams to contact players. They have notified teams, though, that contact once again will be prohibited.

Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos, meanwhile, has sent a taped phone message to season ticket-holders, thanking them for their patience.

``We hope you understand what we're trying to go through to get a fair and proper settlement,'' DeVos said on the recording. ``Thanks for waiting.''

A good portion of the Magic front-office staff was in New York Monday and Tuesday for the WNBA league meetings. The Orlando WNBA team, which still remains nameless, will begin play this summer.

Many members of the Magic management staff will fan out this morning to visit schools as part of the Orange County Teach-In program.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 139

I'm picking on another Youtuber today, because there's not much else to really post during these quiet non-negotiating times. So this guy decided to do videos on how to pronounce the names of the entire Orlando Magic roster. It's meant to be funny, but in reality, it makes you want to break something. Here are some of the worst. The clips are more annoying than this work stoppage.

That's more than enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dwight Howard Charity Game Highlights

In case you didn't see me tweet out all of my own recordings from the D12 Foundation charity game at the UCF Arena, here they all are. Sorry for the bad sound, music was becoming an issue.The contest had its ugly moments, but it was well worth the price of admission. Got to see some old school Magic men and potentially Dwight Howard's final game representing Orlando.

NBA Lockout Day 138

Here's a T-MAC highlight mix from his Orlando Magic days.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 137

We're doomed. Start praying that one side backs down now or else we won't see basketball for 1,137 days.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On This Day, November 13th: NBA Lockout Day 136 & A Magical Reunion


I'll be at that Dwight Howard charity game tonight, so keep an eye out for some video footage. It's appropriate that today's flashback involves Penny and other Magic men who gathered together to get a better feel for the Lockout situation. 

Penny Hardaway left Thursday's meeting with Orlando Magic management feeling good about playing again in Central Florida but also knowing it won't happen anytime soon.

In the first face-to-face meeting since the NBA's work stoppage began July 1, Hardaway and four other Magic players spent more than an hour with management personnel at the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland.

Although the players left happy with what they heard, there was no indication that a working agreement between the owners and players was close.

``Everyone's wish is that we start playing again very soon,'' Hardaway said. ``But I think late December or early January might be more realistic.''

The meeting was attended by Hardaway, Gerald Wilkins, Darrell Armstrong, Johnny Taylor and Bo Outlaw. Magic President Bob Vander Weide and General Manager John Gabriel also were in attendance. Owner Rich DeVos addressed the group by satellite hookup.

Surprisingly, there was very little talk about the details of the stalled negotiations between the union and the owners.

``It was more of a good-to-see-you-again meeting,'' Wilkins said. ``There wasn't any attempt at persuasion.''

Most of the talk centered on what the future might be like when play does resume, and how they might win back disgruntled fans.

``I didn't know what to expect coming into the meeting,'' Hardaway said. ``But it turned out to be enjoyable. I think everyone agreed that once this thing is over, we won't come back and be mad at each other. When this thing gets settled, we're partners again.''

Although all Magic players were invited to attend, many didn't show up. Nick Anderson declined to attend, preferring to play basketball at the health club downstairs from where the meeting was held. Outlaw arrived 30 minutes after the start.

Roy Hinson, former NBA player who works for the union, was distributing literature outside the complex to arriving players.

``I wish more guys could have come, but it was worth it for me,'' said Darrell Armstrong, who came from Atlanta and will leave town today. ``I liked what I heard from Mr. DeVos.

We talked mostly about the fans, and how we can try to win them back once this is over. And that's important.''

Armstrong, who missed the second half of last season after shoulder surgery, said he is healthy again but frustrated.

``I'm playing too much golf. I'm knocking someone's window out every day,'' Armstrong said. ``And I'm losing money right there because I have to pay for windows. I want to go back to work.''

Vander Weide and Gabriel declined to comment on the meeting. In New York, meanwhile, NBA Commissioner David Stern was not optimistic about a settlement any time soon.

``They [players) have told us that unless we are prepared to continue paying the same percentage [of revenues) that we're currently paying, then they are prepared to have the season canceled,'' Stern said. ``So they haven't given the owners much of an option.''

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On This Day, November 12th: NBA Lockout Day 135 & College Ball Rules


Jerry Greene did a nice job conveying the potential feelings of past college and high school ballers that were now sitting on the sidelines doing absolutely nothing. 

Vince Carter, where are you?

Sure, the day is going to come when the former Daytona Beach Mainland standout will be making gazillions of dollars in the NBA, but right now, you have to wonder what he's doing while North Carolina and the rest of the college basketball world moves on without him.

And also without Antawn Jamison at North Carolina, without Mike Bibby at Arizona, without Paul Pierce at Kansas, without Robert Traylor at Michigan, and without Nazr Mohammed at Kentucky.

There's more, but you get the point.

And then we have guys such as Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis and Korleone Young, who chose to pass on the entire college experience. Wonder what they're doing?

Probably a pickup game in the neighborhood.

Funny how things work out.

But like we said, college basketball stops for no star. In fact, it's already going strong. It's almost as if the college hoops rushed in to fill the void created by the NBA.

Fine by me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On This Day, November 11th: NBA Lockout Day 134 & Billy Stands Ground


Title says it all. Back then Hunter didn't want to take a bad deal. Well, he ended up taking a bad deal. History may very well repeat itself. Paychecks are officially about to be lost for good in a few days. 

NBA players union Executive Director Billy Hunter said Wednesday that the Orlando Magic will be wasting their breath today when they address a handful of their players in their first face-to-face meeting in more than four months.

The Magic have invited the players to an informal gathering to discuss the league's latest proposal in collective bargaining talks, hoping to win some support for a deal that would allow the 1998-99 season to begin.

The two sides have been without a working agreement since July 1, costing the NBA at least the first six weeks of the season.

``Under no circumstances will we accept a bad deal, and that's what's out there now,'' Hunter said Wednesday after a meeting of union representatives in New York. ``Our players already know that. There won't be any breaking of the ranks [in the union].''

Since NBA Commissioner David Stern last week lifted his ban against any contact with the players, management personnel from around the league have been calling and meeting with players.

The league maintains that its latest proposal would benefit the vast majority of the players but says that the union leadership is misinforming them to protect the superstars who would be hurt by the deal.

``It's really just a negotiating ploy,'' said veteran center Danny Schayes, the Magic's player representative who attended Wednesday's meeting in New York. ``I'm sure ownership will try to pressure the union into signing this deal. But that's not going to happen. The players know what's going on. In some cases, I've found, the players already are more versed on the issues than some of the owners.''

The owners and the union have not met since Friday, although Hunter said he would talk with Stern today in an attempt to re-open negotiations. Neither side was optimistic Wednesday.

In the union meeting Wednesday, Hunter informed the player reps that a handful of agents are trying to organize an exhibition game in Las Vegas for the first week of December. He told them Michael Jordan would be involved, either as a player or as a coach.

``Right now, we're prepared to engage in compromise bargaining,'' Hunter said. ``But we've already made too many concessions. They [owners] haven't made any. We won't negotiate against ourselves.''

At issue is how to divide the estimated $2 billion in annual revenues. The owners want to restrict the players' share in salary and benefits to 50 percent. The players union wants that figure closer to 60 percent.

If no agreement is reached before the first week of December, the season would not start until 1999. If the bargaining continues through mid-December, the entire season could be canceled.

``We'll do everything in our power, short of taking a bad deal, to make sure there is a season,'' Hunter said. ``We're bogged down now, but I don't think the owners want to cancel the season either. They don't want to play Russian roulette.''

Under normal circumstances, the players would have been receiving their first paychecks on Sunday. They have no idea now when those first checks will come.

``He [Stern] has indicated that he does have another proposal. When he puts it out there remains to be seen,'' Hunter said. ``I think what he wants to do is sweat our players a little more and see whether there's any inclination on our part to want to submit. But we're committed to getting a good deal, however long it takes.''

At today's meeting, Bob Vander Weide, Magic team president, and John Gabriel, general manager, will address the players. Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, Bo Outlaw, Gerald Wilkins and Johnny Taylor were in Orlando on Wednesday and are expected to attend.

Schayes will remain in New York with other union representatives from around the league. Derek Strong is in Los Angeles, and Darrell Armstrong is in Atlanta. Former Magic player Dennis Scott, who played last season with Phoenix, said he expects to be on a conference call with Suns officials Friday.