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Lockout links: July 12

07.12.11 at 9:00 pm ET

We’re almost two weeks into the NBA lockout and while there’s a whole lot of nothing happening on the labor front — no talks, no proposals, no urgency to get a deal done — the league hasn’t quite gone to sleep. Here’s a look at some of the news that’s been making the rounds while we sit around and wait.

ITEM: Minnesota fires Kurt Rambis

Minnesota finally got around to firing Rambis three weeks after it had been reported that that was the plan all along. It was an embarrassing situation for a franchise that has devolved into train-wreck vaudeville under general manager David Kahn.

Rambis may not have earned a third season after winning just 32 games over two seasons with an ill-fitting triangle offense and not even a hint of defense (his resistance to playing Kevin Love in his first season didn’t help matters either). That’s fine, but the way this played out was unnecessarily silly. (Read this Yahoo report on how Kahn tried to kick Rambis upstairs).

Now the Wolves need a new coach and here’s where it gets interesting. Up and coming assistant J.B. Bickerstaff has reportedly left for Houston, along with former college coach Kelvin Sampson, to join Kevin McHale‘s new coaching staff. But Yahoo reports that Bickerstaff’s father, veteran coach Bernie Bickerstaff, is in the mix.

Also mentioned is University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, which is curious, and (shocker!) Don Nelson would be interested in coming out of retirement for a shot at the job. The jokes just write themselves.

Under normal circumstances, the Timberwolves would be an attractive opening as they have nowhere to go but up and a bevy of talented players including Love, rookie Derrick Williams and the mysterious Ricky Rubio. But then you remember that Kahn is calling the shots.

What was it that Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said as the lockout commenced?

“We need a sustainable business model that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship, fairly compensates our players, and provides teams, if well-managed, with an opportunity to be profitable.”

If well-managed. Right.

ITEM: Yao Ming retires

I was out of the country when news of Yao’s retirement first hit. A lively debate ensued about whether Yao was a Hall of Famer or not. I shouldn’t say lively. I was the only one arguing for it.

In his first three seasons Yao played 244 out of 246 games. In his next five he played just 252 and never won a playoff series with the Rockets. But when he did play he was dominant, as his former coach Jeff Van Gundy tells Jonathan Abrams in his excellent Grantland piece.

Yes, Yao opened up China in a way that no athlete has ever done, but more than that he took on stereotypes and blew them out of the water. No one was laughing at Yao after his rookie season in which he averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds and when he left the game there was nothing but a deep, abiding respect for one of the game’s true originals.

Yao as a Hall of Famer is no sure thing, of course, but it does merit serious consideration for his impact both on and off the court. Oh, and Bill Walton played just 468 games in his career. (Speaking of Walton, he recently biked 100 miles through Oregon, which is all kinds of awesome).

ITEM: Would Kevin Durant cross the pond?

Nets guard Deron Williams was the first big-name player to sign a contract with a European team and now comes word via SI’s Sam Amick that Durant’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, is also investigating the possibility. Still, it remains to be seen if Europe is actually a viable market for NBA players.

One other note from Amick’s story: Durant is planning an exhibition game between players from the Washington D.C.’s Goodman League and LA’s Drew League. There’s also talk of an exhibition game in the Philippines. If you want to know why a game there makes sense, I’d invite you to check out Rafe Bartholomew’s terrific book, Pacific Rims.

More good stuff:

Nobody knows the D-League like Scott Schroeder and he provides some interesting thoughts about how a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could benefit the D-League.

Sebastian Pruiti has been providing scouting reports on the rookies who will enter the league, presumably, this season. Here’s his take on Tristan Thompson, the surprise fourth pick by the Cavaliers.

Friend of Green Street, Tom Ziller is chronicling some of the most ridiculous signings under the old CBA — the one the owners claim is broken. (Wonder who broke it.) Here’s the Sixers re-signing forward Kenny Thomas for 6 years and $50 million in 2003.  Yes, really.

Read More: Kevin Durant, Kurt Rambis, NBA lockout, Yao Ming
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