The First NBA Transaction Rumors Begin; UNLV Upsets Top-Ranked UNC

Our Saturday started off as perfectly as possible with news greeting us as our alarm clocks rang that a tentative labor agreement had been reached, and that the lockout was finally, if unofficially, over. For now, we can’t completely invest ourselves in a new season – scheduled to be 66 games, starting on Christmas day – but pretty much everyone agrees on one thing: this deal will get approved and will get done. Book it. So who won and who lost? With the cancellation of games, everyone loses: the fans, the owners and the players. But as far as the approved deal, many of the leading names on both sides came out of this looking as good as they could’ve under the current circumstances. David Stern saves face. Billy Hunter possibly saves his job. Derek Fisher didn’t save anything, but looked every bit the leader the players needed, and we’re assuming this experience will help him down the road in whatever new challenge he takes on. The stars of the 2012 free agent class – Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard – are big winners after the owners dropped their insistence on the Carmelo Anthony rule, which would’ve restricted flexibility in sign-n-trades. Those big names might not bounce from Orlando, Brooklyn and New Orleans, but their options are wider now. But teams above the luxury tax, like the Lakers, won’t be able to spend as they did in the past. While we don’t yet know certain details such as revenue sharing and what will happen with the age limit (although most believe it’ll stay the same), the fact that they pulled this out at the last minute leaves mostly everyone feeling pretty excited … Does anyone think this lockout will have a big effect on the game’s popularity? It took forever to come back after the 50-game season in 1998-99, but much of that probably had to do with a certain player retiring. The NFL came right back this season because people love the NFL. The NBA has fans who love it, but they also have an unhealthy number of people who seem to go out of their way to hate on it … What does the end of the lockout really mean: no more no-defense charity games. At first they were awesome. The original “Capital Punishment” game was epic. But by the start of fall, everything was dropping off. We were kinda tired of talking about them simply because we knew nearly every basketball fan was sick of hearing about them. The Obama game may still happen, but we are hearing without current NBA players. What does that mean? Just run Democrats vs. Republicans and hope they beat each other up … Now we can start speculating, as Jeff Van Gundy has, about next season. JVG thinks the Knicks are only one big piece away from contending for a championship. One more elite player, and they’ll be right there with the Heat. Van Gundy told ESPN New York that the Knicks have the base to build off of this season and that they could easily be a top four team in the East. He also doesn’t think enough credit is being given to the job Donnie Walsh did while he was there in getting Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. In an age of big threes, getting two superstars in their prime is starting to sound easy, when it reality it’s so difficult. The Knicks can win with those two – despite their defensive problems. They just have to surround them with some role players who do everything those guys don’t. Or, if you want to believe Van Gundy, they just need another star … Hit page two for two big names the Lakers may go after and some unreal college/high school facials…

Two names are already being mentioned by The Los Angeles Times as possible Laker targets: Baron Davis and Rashard Lewis, should they get cut by their current teams for financial reasons. We don’t like the Davis suggestion at all, even though he’d be a major talent upgrade at that spot. B-Diddy and Hollywood just wouldn’t mix right. Too many distractions. But Lewis could work. They need shooters in the worst way, and Lewis would give them a big target who could step out and make shots. Two problems though: would he agree to play for less on a team where he literally would play less? And he’s not exactly the strongest defender. Do you think either of these players would fit? … As for the college ball still going on: Texas A&M, Cal, Wisconsin and Gonzaga all won easily. But No. 1-ranked UNC took it on the chin … You could feel it right from the start: playing in basically a home game in Las Vegas, UNLV had the crowd and energy pulsating immediately, and in the second half they used a barrage of threes to run away from North Carolina, 90-80. It started with a 14-0 spurt near the beginning of the second half, and every time the Heels made a push, Mike Moser (16 points, 17 rebounds) or Oscar Bellfield (18 points, nine assists) would bang a three. Drive and kick. Drive and kick. Over and over. As a team, they made 13-32 treys, and were paced by Chace Stanback (28 points, 10 boards). UNC could never catch up, and started playing completely out of character (sloppy, selfish, in a rush) … Jay Bilas made an interesting point during the first half: Kendall Marshall (eight dimes) is probably just as fast, if not faster than Ty Lawson was. He didn’t mean it literally. It’s just when Marshall pushes the rock through the pass, he’s rushing the tempo up higher than even Lawson could with his jet-like speed. And any coach will tell you: the ball moves faster with the pass … UConn, coming off a shocking collapse against UCF, nearly lost again. Shabazz Napier, who played pretty badly against the Knights, responded with 26 points, and Ryan Boatwright (14 points, another guard playing in his first game for the Huskies) hit big free throws as UConn survived in overtime against Florida St., 78-76. The ‘Noles had a shot to win it, but Michael Snaer‘s (20 points) trey was off at the buzzer. Jeremy Lamb added 19, and Andre Drummond went for 12 points, 10 boards and seven blocks … Portland played Kentucky pretty even for the first 25 minutes, but the ‘Cats turned up the pressure and ran away in the second half, 87-63. On one sequence, they had two consecutive steals in the backcourt, the first one resulting in an oop from Marquis Teague to Anthony Davis. The second ended up in a disgusting facial handed out by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, crowning some unlucky kid from Portland. Nasty … And you know something ain’t right when a high school kid has his own top 10 dunk video AFTER TWO GAMES. Shaquille Johnson has been a regular around these parts for a while, but this video is still wild … We’re out like the lockout.

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