Late Thursday Bullets

  • There have been some reports here and there that the NBA and the Players Association may negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement sooner rather than later. Here is the suggestion (I don't know how realistic) that that could, theorerically, mean a new deal in place by the summer of 2010. Which could mean lower maximum salaries. Which could mean a new impetus for the vaunted free agents of 2010 -- LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and the like -- to re-sign where they are this summer.

  • Taking a stab at figuring out how different individual referees affect a team's points per 100 possessions. In theory you could use data like this to help you gameplan. Or gamble. This work was inspired by Mark Cuban, who said over the weekend that if you're measuring performance on the NBA court, you need to measure all 13 players who are out there.

  • John Hollinger on Stephon Marbury as a Celtic: "In Wednesday night's 111-102 loss to Miami, Marbury started and played 24 minutes without scoring -- a jarring result for a player whose forte as a point guard has been his ability to score, rather than pass. In 101 minutes as a Celtic, Marbury has only 14 points; more shockingly, he has earned just one free throw attempt. As a floor general, he hasn't lit the world on fire either, with 16 assists and 12 turnovers. While there have been occasional flashes of the old Starbury -- most notably a speedy crossover followed by a dish to Moore for a dunk in the Cleveland game -- for the most part he seems miles from being in basketball shape."

  • An assessment of which college programs do the best job preparing players for the NBA. I'd add a couple of other contenders to the list: Florida and Memphis. The NBA is covered with players who were recently coached by Billy Donovan and John Calipari, and Calipari certainly seems to play an NBA-friendly style.

  • In a radio interview, Charles Barkley talks about his time locked up, how much he hates Rush Limbaugh, and the 100-plus times he drove drunk without getting caught. He says he's thankful, now, to know that he ought not to do that. (A tad PG-13.)

  • Donnie Walsh says he's not thinking about who will be available in the summer of 2010. That makes one New Yorker.

  • Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog, reflecting on almost beating the Cavaliers -- a game that began and ended with ill-advised Clipper airballs: "There's a very low threshold of expectation among Clippers fans. Other than the tail end of Maurice Taylor's time with the team, the losing has always been tolerable. Most of those Clippers teams lacked talent, but that wasn't their fault. Some of those squads actually overachieved [the 39-win 2001-02 team] given the composition of their rosters. Wednesday felt like rock bottom, like franchise armageddon."

  • Ettore Messina, head coach of CSKA Moscow, makes an interesting point in his Sports.ru blog about building leads: "I think we had a good game, almost a playoff one, as we were building the game slowly and consistently, with the defensive pressure, with the ball movement, with the balance on offense. Usually, it doesn't pay you back immediately. You don't get 20 points advantage at once, even if you're better. You might need to stay in a close game for 20-25 minutes, which is very difficult to handle mentally. But we made it, and it was another important experience for our team."

  • Britt Robson of Secrets of the City re-visits O.J. Mayo vs. Kevin Love: "With 18 points, 2 rebounds and 5 assists tonight, Mayo statistically had the worst of his three games versus Minnesota this season, but there was still a lot to like. There was a crossover dribble to his left hand that seemed to presage a hard drive from the left wing tonight, but when the defender (I think it was Kevin Ollie) bit, Mayo abruptly pulled up and had the strength to jack up a quick-release fadeway j right-handed while going to his left. It was confirmation that, absent a sheer beast guarding him, Mayo can pretty much get his own shot whenever he wants. Another thing I like about Mayo is that in all three games versus the Wolves this season, he's understood pivotal moments and sought to rise to those occasions. Now the downside to that is that each time his reach has exceeded his grasp, putting him at risk of becoming Stephon Marbury, another guy who knew when to seize the spotlight but didn't look so hot in the heat of those kleigs. But couple that shooting prowess with a sense of context about game flows and throw in decent defense, and a good handle for an off-guard, and Mayo is a piece you want to keep on a contending team. Sure, the Wolves were able to exploit Miller's size advantage, just as Minnesota's opponents frequently do with 6-2 Randy Foye at the off-guard slot--and Mayo is a better defender than Foye. I wouldn't vote him rookie of the year--Russell Westbrook has excited me more than any other rook this season, and if Derrick Rose can get Chicago into the playoffs, he probably would be second in my voting, with Mayo probably third (haven't seen enough of Brook Lopez). But long-term, I'd rather have Kevin Love than OJ Mayo, and that's before Mike Miller and all the salary cap space from the draft day trade is factored in."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger with the Nets anecdote of the season, from San Francisco: "... as the Nets came out of their shootaround yesterday, they filed onto the bus parked at the curb on Sutter Street. Suddenly, somebody said, 'Naked lady!' and sure enough, there was a woman seated on a bench just across the street, totally starkers. So, of course, one by one the entire roster piles out to see the naked lady, who suddenly realizes she's causing a commotion and starts walking briskly -- everything's brisk when you're in your birthday suit and it's about 50 degrees -- and when she hits the corner of Mason and Sutter, there's a cop slapping the handcuffs on her and draping a blanket over her. The whole thing lasted about 30 seconds. Some figured she was just a model for the art school nearby, who was on a ... uh, coffee break? Doug Overton got the only picture with his cell camera, but he hasn't decided whether it's suitable for publication yet. The weird part? To a man, all the guys who jumped out of the bus as if it was on fire said she wasn't even particularly attractive. 'Neither is the Mona Lisa,' Overton said, 'but everybody goes to see that, don't they?'" (Via SLAM)