No deal, but best offer yet awaits union's response

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No deal, but best offer yet awaits union's response

NEW YORK After meeting for about 10 hours on Thursday, the NBA Players Association came away with a revised offer from the NBA that -- despite warnings from the owners that everything from here on in would get worse -- was actually better than the previous one.

Union officials acknowledge the new proposal does show the owners making strides towards meeting their concerns.

However, it wasn't enough to get a deal done.

"It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to try and close this deal out," said NBAPA president Derek Fisher. "And so at this point, we've decided to end things for now, take a step back."

The union will review the offer for the next couple days and gather its player representatives in New York on either Monday or Tuesday. Depending on how that goes, the proposal may be put to a vote among the membership. If a majority of players support it and the owners ratify it - which NBA commissioner David Stern is confident will happen if the players agree to its terms - we will indeed have a 72-game season, beginning on Dec. 15.

But before you dust off your Kevin Garnett jerseys and whip out your 'you Got Rondo'd' t-shirt, there's a lot - a lot - that can still go wrong and prevent the 2011-12 season from being delayed even more than it has already.

For starters, the growing faction of union players who want to decertify is growing.

It'll be interesting to see how player representatives respond to this latest offer, and what effect it will have on those - Celtics forward Paul Pierce is among the leaders of the movement to decertify - who are considering dissolving the union.

So for now, the pressure to get a deal done has quickly shifted back to the union.

While Fisher declined to reveal any specifics about the new plan, a league source said that it's still essentially a deal with a 50-50 split of the basketball-related income and an increased amount for the mid-level exception for tax-paying teams.

"I'm not sure if we can say on any one of the system issues that the NBA came all the way to where we wanted the NBA to come to," Fisher said. "All I can say is, on a couple of the issues, there was some revision, there was some change in their position from the last proposal that we saw. At this time, it's not enough to necessarily entice us to try and finish this out Thursday night."

While neither side would classify it as the best offer, Stern made it clear the time for negotiating with this revised proposal, is done.

Stern delivered a similar message earlier this week, only to have union chief Billy Hunter ignore his deadline and continue negotiating.

But this threat from Stern, more than any previously, seems legit.

Stern has put off all deadlines until Hunter has a chance to meet with the union's player representatives and potentially their membership, to vote on whether to accept this revised proposal.

"I met with Billy and said that, just as the clock had stopped at 5 o'clock on Wednesday, as we negotiated through to today, it would remain stopped through his meeting with his board," Stern said. "Then at that time if we don't get a positive response, the revised offer, starting at 47 percent, based on upon a flex cap, would be our revised negotiating position."

Stern had similar words earlier, and ultimately relented and continued to negotiate through the deadline and beyond.

"There's really nothing left to negotiate about," Stern said. "This is the best attempt by the Labor Relations Committee for the NBA to address the concerns that the players expressed coming out of their meeting of the player representatives."

Hunter agreed that there's very little for both sides to negotiate over at this point.

"We feel as though there's nothing else for us to talk about, short of our willingness to move off of where we are," Hunter said. "We don't feel we got very much more to move off. So that's why we need to go and confer with the player reps to see what their preference is and flesh this thing out a bit."

Even though neither side is overly thrilled with this offer, there has been enough of an improvement in it by which the NBAPA is at least open to the idea of presenting it to their full membership.

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world," Hunter said. "But I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership. So that's what we're going to do. We have the members of our executive board, and they all agree we need to sit down and discuss it with our reps and collectively decide what we should do."

While Stern hasn't given them a deadline to get back to him, it's clear he expects to hear back from Hunter by the middle of next week.

The league has already looked into having games begin Dec. 15, provided the union agrees to the revised proposal which Stern acknowledges hasn't exactly gone over well with every NBA team.

"We don't expect the union to like every aspect of our revised proposal," Stern said. "I would say that there are many teams that don't like every aspect of our revised proposal."

Which probably means this is the best deal for all involved.

NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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From now until training camps open, we'll be asking questions about the NBA and the upcoming season. Today: Who will be the NBA MVP?

BOSTON – It’ll be months before we have a feel for who the best players in the NBA will be this season.
 
But it’s never too soon to start looking at potential NBA candidates, is it?

This year’s MVP race will have plenty of contenders of course, some being familiar faces while there’s likely to be at least one or two who emerge as the season progresses.
 
Here’s a look at five players who should emerge as league MVP candidates this season:
 

5. Damian Lillard, Portland
 
Only 26 years old, the former rookie of the year award winner has been selected to a pair of All-Star games. But that’s not what will make him an MVP candidate this season. He plays for the Blazers, a team whose rebuild following LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure to San Antonio, has taken off quicker than expected.
 
Expectations were extremely low for a Portland team that shocked the NBA world and finished with the fifth-best record in the West and advanced to the second round last season.
 
Terry Stotts emerged as one of the league’s better coaches and guard C.J. McCollum garnered the league’s Most Improved Player award.
 
But the engine that makes the Blazers go is Lillard.
 
The 6-foot-2 guard’s ability to score from the perimeter, off the dribble and all points on the floor, makes him an extremely difficult cover.
 
And while the addition of ex-Celtic Evan Turner will help take some of the playmaking pressure off Lillard, this is still his team and will go only as far as he can lead them.
 

4. LeBron James, Cleveland
 
As we saw in Cleveland’s run towards the franchise’s first NBA title last season, James can become the most dominant player at both ends of the floor when the game matters most. And while those qualities will certainly make him one of the best in the game, James isn’t likely to be as dominant as we’ve seen in past years.
 
And the reason can be summed up in two words: Kyrie Irving.
 
Irving really had a coming out of sorts in the NBA Finals when he outplayed two-time league MVP Stephen Curry which was one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland’s championship aspirations coming to fruition.
 
And let’s face it.
 
James can win this award every year and those who vote for him would have plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.
 
But this season, James will likely be sharing more of the limelight than ever with Irving who may be called upon to pick up more of the offensive slack depending on how things play out with free agent J.R. Smith.
 

3. Stephen Curry, Golden State
 
As the reigning league MVP each of the past two seasons, it will be difficult for Curry to do enough to garner a 3-peat.
 
When he won his first MVP award, Golden State was poised to win its first NBA title in 40 years. And last season’s MVP hardware came at the tail-end of an unprecedented season in which Golden State became the gold standard for regular season success with 73 wins.

But this regular season will be one in which Curry’s numbers are likely to take a dip with the arrival of Kevin Durant.

Still, Curry will continue to be the player most of the league’s shooting guards are measured against and far more often than not, fall short in their efforts to be as good as Curry.
 
The addition of Durant will certainly shift some of the immense on-the-floor attention Curry usually gets, which should make for an easier time for Curry.
 
But here’s the thing.
 
Just like opponents will be focusing more attention towards Durant, the same holds true for the media and fans which means Curry may in fact become a more efficient player this year with fewer folks actually recognizing it.
 

2. Paul George, Indiana
 
With a year back in the game following a horrific knee injury, Paul George is poised to re-enter the league MVP race with a vengeance.
 
The 6-9 George comes into this season with a number of factors working out in his favor to at least give his candidacy a legitimate shot of getting started.
 
For starters, he’s as healthy as he has been in years. In the past few years, that has been one of the biggest factors that has kept him from being in the league MVP conversation. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has assembled a talented group whose collective strengths work well with what George brings to the game.
 
And speaking of the Pacers, those additions along with George’s ability should lift Indiana into being among the top five or six teams in the East. The closer to the top they finish, the better George’s chances become.
 

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State

Even though Durant has joined a Golden State team that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons, he will come in and immediately become the alpha male of this team.

Durant probably won't wind up winning a fifth scoring title, but he will still be among the leagues’ top scorers and lead the Warriors offensively.
 
And while the success of Golden State will hinge heavily on the contributions of many, their regular season success will be credited in large part to the addition of Durant which can only enhance his chances of winning league MVP for a second time in his career.
 
He will be the first to tell you that his focus going into this season has absolutely nothing to do with being the NBA’s MVP.
 
And I believe him.
 
Durant signed with Golden State to win a championship; it’s that simple.
 
And in doing so, he bypassed the comfort of staying with Oklahoma City or penning a new narrative in his basketball journey by joining a team trending towards a championship but not quite there yet.
 
But for him to win a championship, it would mean continuing to be a dominant force while meshing his skills with an even more talented group of teammates.
 
For Durant to put up numbers similar to those he has in the past AND win more games towards a title, will be more than enough to assert his place among the game’s top players.
 
It’s what you would expect from the MVP.