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Fran Blinebury

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Will Dallas fans ever get to appropriately celebrate their new championship?
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Serving up an order of NBA lockout alphabet soup


Posted Nov 3 2011 10:55AM

From BRI to NBPA to NLRB, the four months of the NBA lockout have become an emotional stew as well as alphabet soup. So here is a serving of where we stand from A to Z:

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Arison, Mickey, of the Miami Heat, blatantly demonstrated what everyone had long suspected -- that not all of the owners are one the same page -- with his Twitter escapade that cost him a $500,000 fine from commissioner David Stern.

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Billy Hunter, Players Association executive director, made a defiant statement by walking out of last Friday's negotiating session and saying the union would never go below 52 percent on basketball-related income (BRI), but word is that his membership is not as adamant in that stand.

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Christmas Day and the full slate of nationally televised games that is generally regarded as the unofficial time when the sports viewing world tunes in en masse to the NBA should bring about the artificial deadline to both sides in the dispute, which means they've got to finish talking turkey by Thanksgiving.

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Dallas Mavericks fans had expected to be crammed into American Airlines Center on Halloween night screaming like happy banshees as the 2011 NBA champions unfurled their banner and received their rings prior to the season opener against the Chicago Bulls. Instead, the silence was deafening.

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Ego seems to be the only winner so far in the lockout as hardliners on both sides have dug in to intractable positions that have prevented a deal the New York Times called "95 percent complete" from getting pushed across the finish line.

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Free agents with the highest profiles and the most high-powered agents might be making the most noise and putting up the most opposition to a deal right now, but it's the middle-of-the-road journeyman who are missing their one chance at a payday that might fracture the union's solidarity if given a chance to go.

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George Cohen, the federal mediator who presided over three marathon days of talks in October, will not be returning to the bargaining table, according to Stern.

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Hard salary stays off the table, according to Stern, if the players will meet him at the 50-50 split of BRI.

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International basketball. Seriously, are Besiktas, Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Guangdong really going to satisfy the NBA cravings of Mavericks, Lakers, Knicks and Celtics fans?

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Jordan, Michael, takes a big hit due to the ongoing labor problems. No, not the $100,000 fine from Stern for giving a newspaper interview on the lockout, but having to give up his assistant captain's post on the U.S. team at the President's Cup in Melbourne, Australia.

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Keep in mind the real victims of the lockout. They are the workers -- waiters, ticket takers, ushers, etc. -- in and around arenas in every NBA city who use those game nights to pay the rent and put food on the table.

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Luxury cap particulars still have to be worked out. The current proposal that would have teams paying $1.50 for every $1 above a luxury tax threshold would have increased the L.A. Lakers' tax bill from $20 million to $45 million last season.

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Mid-level exception is one area where the owners seem willing to agree to a cut that is not as Draconian as originally sought. It would drop from $5.8 million to $5 million when the wish list from ownership was in the $3 million to $4 million range.

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No 82-game season under any circumstances, according to Stern. That ship sailed when talks fell apart last week. Never mind that Phil Jackson might be inclined to apply another asterisk to the 2012 champ from his retirement beanbag chair, active NBA coaches will be happy without the added wear-and-tear and injuries that a crammed-in schedule would have brought on.

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Off with their heads. Or at least with their contracts as a proposed amnesty clause will allow each team to waive one player, with pay, anytime during the length of the new collective bargaining agreement and that salary would be exempt from the salary cap and the luxury tax.

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Paychecks for most players begin around Nov. 15, so that's when the first bit of pain will be felt on that side of the ledger. By the time the second check is missed around Nov. 30, we'll see how committed the rank and file is to the teachings of Samuel Gompers.

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Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. You only thought there was something missing last season. Now The Q stands for real quiet.

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Rift in leadership is denied by Hunter and Derek Fisher, stemming from a published story that said the union president had met secretly with Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. Claims of solidarity all around, but a hastily-called meeting of the executive board in New York will take place nonetheless.

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Second Circuit Court and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings soon could provide short-term fixes to the problem as the scene shifts from meeting rooms to the court rooms. But most legal analysts don't believe either entity will get involved as long as the sides are talking. Aren't they?

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"Teen Wolf" marathon on NBA TV could finally end with a new labor agreement just before the entire basketball-craving world commits every line of Michael J. Fox's dialogue -- and every play of Scott Howard's quad-double -- to memory.

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Up until now, the truth is that despite the flash of the opening week of games that was just lost, no real harm has been done to the league while the World Series and a full slate of college football has crowded the sports calendar. But if December arrives with no settlement and it begins to look like a repeat of the 1999 lockout 50-game season is the best anyone can hope for, there will be blood. The hardliners on both sides will then be willing to push the entire season over the brink.

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Villains? If you must have them, cast an eye toward the hard-line group of agents who are pushing Hunter to draw a line in the sand. With the owners having had the leverage since Day One and only seen it grow over the past four months, their obvious goal is to take control of the union.

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With the players having already come down to a 52.5 percent split of BRI and the owners currently hunkered down at 50 percent, there is clearly a deal to be made sitting on the table. As soon as somebody blinks.

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Xactly how much longer are we going to have to wait to see the debut of the Big Aristotle-Cactus-Shamrock Shaquille O'Neal on the TNT set and watch the fireworks he's sure to set off with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson?

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You know that no matter how upset everyone sitting in front of their HDTVs is at both sides now, it will only take a week or two of slam dunks and 3-point shots to get everyone back on the same page for the real argument of our times. The Miami Heat: love 'em or hate 'em?

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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Wake us up when it's over.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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