Ference in New York for NHL CBA discussions

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Ference in New York for NHL CBA discussions

Andrew Ference has always been a strong voice when it comes to NHLPA issues, and things concerning players in the NHL workplace. Because of his passion, the Bruins defenseman has found himself in the middle of some hot button events and conversations over the last few years. But it also means Ference is a welcomed players voice of reason when it comes to things like the NHL lockout.

So its a very good thing the 33-year-old Ference has been present in New York City for the last two days of face-to-face negotiations with the NHL as part of the NHLPAs negotiating committee. Ference was also present for discussions at the very beginning of the lockout in September, but had been in the Czech Republic playing hockey for the bulk of the last three months.

Ferences stint in Europe ended right around Christmas, and the Bs defenseman has been back on the East Coast for the last week. He even skated with the Noble and Greenough hockey team several days ago according to his twitter account, and took the short commute to New York City for a pivotal round of CBA negotiations. Joining Ference among the NHL players at the negotiating table are: Craig Adams, Brad Boyes, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Rich DiPietro, Shane Doan, Ron Hainsey, Jamal Mayers, George Parros, Marty St. Louis and Kevin Westgarth.

Thats a nice mix of superstars, blue collar players and veterans that have the respect of the entire NHLPA membership. NHLPA and NHL officials are meeting for a second straight day after trading CBA offers prior to a midnight deadline for the players association to decide if theyre willing to go through with a disclaimer of interest to potentially dissolve the union. That would potentially lead to the players filing anti-trust lawsuits against the NHL, and thats a path that neither side really wants to walk down if at all possible.

Meanwhile both sides have closed the gap on a number of issues, and are still in discussions on significant issues like pension and cap numbers in subsequent seasons before they can sign off on a workable CBA document. The two sides are getting closer and working toward a hopeful Jan. 19 start to the NHL season that would yield a 48-game shortened regular season.

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”