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Reason for NBA optimism; kudos to Pac-12 boss Scott; thumbs down on Stoops' act; are Mariners stuck with Ichiro?

Bouncing around on a few sports issues on my mind ...

• I'm still not convinced we're going to have NBA games before January, but after speaking with a source close to the collective-bargaining negotiations last week, I'm a little more optimistic.

In fact, the source feels there is a chance the league might be able to come to an agreement that would allow it to open the regular season as scheduled on Nov. 1.

'We're a lot closer than we were,' the source says. 'I'm hopeful we don't lose any of the season.'

The key issue, of course, is the split of basketball-related income between the players and owners. Last season, players received 57 percent. According to ESPN.com, league officials have offered players 46 percent. The players union has offered to reduce its percentage to 54, with the stipulation that a mechanism would be instituted to reward the players if future revenue increases.

Owners want a hard salary cap, another major sticking point. At the least, loopholes must be erased through exceptions that allowed the Lakers to spend $91 million and Sacramento only $29 million in 2010-11.

It's good that small-group meetings have continued this week, including one set for Wednesday in New York.

'We'll know more after (Wednesday's) session,' Commissioner David Stern told reporters.

But a deal must be struck by Oct. 15 to preserve the scheduled Nov. 1 start to the season. I can't see that happening, but I hope I'm wrong.

• Kobe Bryant has been offered $800,000 to play in the first three games of Virtus Bologna's season in the Italian Pro League, and he has reportedly been househunting in Montecavalo. So much for solidarity among the ranks of the NBA players.

• I'm becoming more a fan of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott as time goes on.

Good for him for thumbing his nose at Texas and declaring expansion not in the plans for the immediate future.

The Longhorns TV Network was the deal-breaker. The Longhorns would have to share equally in revenue with the other Pac-12 - Pac-16 - schools for anything to work, and the 'Horns weren't willing.

That could change down the road, of course. It's not out of the question that in another year or two, the landscape could change and the Pac-12 could decide to include Texas in expansion plans.

I suppose it's inevitable that we'll wind up with four 16-team super conferences in Division I. I'm enough of a traditionalist that I'd rather see the conference alignments we have now, allowing for diversity and for underdog schools such as Boise State and Texas Christian to rise up and knock off the powerhouses.

I liked the old Pac-10, and in particular the round-robin football schedule that allowed for a true champion to be crowned at season's end. Now, it's as much about which opponents you miss during a season as anything.

And I'll always feel Utah and Colorado benefitted more than any of the original Pac-10 members when the conference expanded. Of course, a $3 billion TV contract makes that point moot.

• I've tried to be open-minded about Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who deserves a lot of credit for resurrecting a moribund Wildcat program to make it competitive in recent years.

But after watching him rant and rave on the sidelines in the Oregon game last Saturday, I'd like to see the loony bird take a long walk off a short dock.

I'll never understand how Stoops gets away with running onto the field - ostensibly to check on an injured player - and get in the face of an official, and Oregon coach Chip Kelly, without incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

In baseball, Stoops would get the boot. Makes the officials look gutless. They should add aprons to their uniforms.

• Looks like Ichiro Suzuki will play out his final season next year with Seattle.

The veteran outfielder, who turns 38 in October, will be paid $17 million next season, making him the Mariners' second-highest-paid player behind Felix Hernandez ($18.5 million in 2012).

Not bad for a player hitting .273 with 30 extra-base hits and a .310 on-base percentage going into the Mariners' final game.

As a 10-and-5 player - 10 years major-league service, the past five with the same team - Ichiro has full trade-veto rights.

'He doesn't want to be moved,' agent Tony Attanasio tells the Seattle Times. 'His attitude is he came to Seattle because he loves Seattle. He built a home there, and he wants to stay in Seattle.'

Attanasio indicates the Mariners want to negotiate a new contract, but Ichiro isn't in any hurry.

Says Attanasio: 'Ichiro, as always, has said, 'We'll start talking about a new contract when other things get done. I already have a contract for next year. I know there are guys who don't have contracts and there may be trades and free agents. Go ahead and do that first. I'm not going anyplace.' He's not putting a gun to anyone's head."

How altruistic of Suzuki, who will fall short of the 200-hit mark for the first time in his 11-year career in Seattle. Through Tuesday, he has 184 hits and 40 stolen bases - not bad, but not up the standard he has set over the years.

According to the Seattle Times, extension talks could begin in December. What remains to be seen is how much of a pay cut Ichiro would accept.

I'll say this. When Ichiro came to Seattle in 2000 at age 27, I saw no way he would make the Hall of Fame. Now, with more than 2,400 career hits, a record 10 straight 200-hit seasons and 10 gold glove awards, he's a shoo-in first-ballot selection.