NBA draft gatherings commence

A quick trip around the NBA:

1. The first big pre-draft workout is right around the corner — with New Jersey, New York and Houston conducting a workout of 44 prospects May 7-8 at the Nets practice facility. And these aren’t just any prospects. Every prospect who matters (and representatives from every NBA team) will be there.

2. The timing of the workout is interesting, since underclassmen have until May 8 to decide whether or not to withdraw from the draft pool. In other words, if you stink it up in Jersey, you had better be ready to go back to school.

3. After the New Jersey workout, the next big gathering of draft prospects will take place May 18-21 in Chicago. That’s the biggie, much like the NFL’s combine each year in Indianapolis, where players are tested for speed and strength. In the NBA, it’s usually more skill-oriented (although still not skill-oriented enough). Anyway, the Chicago pre-draft camp begins one day after the May 17 lottery.

4. What makes all this interesting is how many guys seemed to play their way into the second-round via the Portsmouth Invitational. The list includes guard Brad Wannamaker (Pittsburgh), guard Andrew Goudelock (Charleston), Jimmy Butler (Marquette), Casey Mitchell (West Virginia) and Vernon Macklin (Florida).

5. Point being, a lot can change between now and June 23, the day of the draft. So get-togethers like the ones in New Jersey and Chicago, as well as all the pre-draft individual workouts, will go a long way in determining what happens on selection day. And more this year than maybe ever.

6. Finally, word is things may not be as gloomy as originally reported on the labor front. Those in NBA circles are now saying they are hopeful a lockout can be avoided altogether — or at least resolved by the time training camps begin in October. That’s a lot different than a few weeks ago, when everyone seemed to be expecting the worst. The league’s collective-bargaining agreement expires July 1.

7. Yes, NBA summer league could still happen. Keep your fingers crossed, fans of lottery teams.

8. Oh, and one last thing: Anyone else notice that Oklahoma City looks like the best team in the playoffs so far? And everyone’s favorite pick to suffer an upset in the first round, Dallas, is a close second. Both the Thunder (vs. Denver) and Mavericks (vs. Portland) lead their series, 2-0.