Haggerty: NHL needs to stop embarrassment, close deal

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Haggerty: NHL needs to stop embarrassment, close deal

The more the NHL tries to show theyre not reaching a level of desperation, the more they awkwardly reveal just how desperate theyre actually becoming.
In a move that reeked of weakness and last resort mode in their Bob Batterman-approved lockout playbook, reports surfaced on Thursday night that the NHL approached the NHLPA about taking a two-week moratorium in the negotiating process. Apparently its time to give up and take a knee for a few plays with both sides locked in a stalemate and Thanksgiving right around the corner.
Its easy to point at the salary pay checks lost by the players as the biggest weapon in the two-month old lockout, and maybe the NHL thinks the players will get weak in the knees after missing another one, but it also appears the NHL owners are starting to feel the financial pain of empty arenas as well, and getting a little punchy as a result.
Former Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward was the first to report on the moratorium for TSN, and it was later confirmed by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a series of hard-edged statements about the proposed hiatus.
We have made repeated moves in the Players direction with absolutely no reciprocation, said Daly, in a statement to TSN reacting to the moratorium news coming to light. Unfortunately we have determined we are involved with Union leadership that has no genuine interest in reaching an agreement. Regardless of what we propose or how we suggest to compromise the answer is no. At some point you have to say enough is enough.

Interesting the NHL wants to put a stop to talks they're accusing others of "having no genuine interest in reaching an agreement", and they're doing it while refusing to go the route of a federal mediator that's willing to provide his services for free. As in "interesting" is code for "makes no freakin' sense."

Actually, Mr. Daly, NHL fans dont want to hear the leagues leadership throwing their hands up in the air and waving em like they just dont care. Thats about the last thing loyal, hardcore hockey fans want to hear after 61 days of a lockout has already steamrolled over a quarter of the regular season along with the Winter Classic.
Furthermore there isnt a single gain, win or victory that the NHLPA can hang their hat on in any of the offers made by the league: theyll be drawing money from a much smaller piece of the revenue pie, enjoying fewer rights as players and losing salary from a locked out season that theyll never again earn back in their short careers.
It seems the players are prepared to lose the fight, but theyre just not going to let the NHL give them a trademarked Arron Asham nighty night wave on their way to the penalty box.  
The NHL has proven amazingly inept during this whole lockout process: theyre blasting away at their own feet during CBA negotiations with self-inflicted gunshots. The proposed moratorium is the latest major gaffe with frustration already running high on both sides. The NHL has stumbled over land mine after land mine starting with the Grinch-esque first offer back in July, and its been more embarrassment with each turn. All of the million dollar consultants and lockout lawyers in the world havent done a damn thing for them, and everybody knows it.  
Instead, the NHL is already turning away the casual fans that have helped pump their revenues up to a record 3.3 billion last season, and theyve done the unthinkable: theyve begun pushing their hardcore fans to vow theyll spend their hard-earned money somewhere a little more worthy than the lockout-happy NHL.
Both sides appeared to make progress in revenue sharing and the make whole provision last week during more than 20 hours of meetings, but the NHL is refusing to budge on player contract rights. Its hard to imagine that tweaks to free agency, arbitration and year-to-year salary variation on contracts could submarine an entire NHL season, but thats one of the places where the league has stretched out a line in the sand.
Its expected the NHL will cancel games through Dec. 15 if a deal isnt reached next week shortly after Thanksgiving, and there have been rumblings the league would consider cancelling the entire season if no deal is in place by early December. But that would be an awfully difficult sell from the NHL to the hockey-loving and ticket-purchasing public when the 2004-05 season wasnt officially cancelled until February. There hasnt been a single legitimate reason given as to why the NHL would need to whack the entire season in December with more than two months remaining to haggle over a new CBA.
You know why? Because there isnt one aside from the NHL trying to create a cliff the NHLPA will be afraid to peer over. The NHL has already shot one of the hostages by cancelling the Winter Classic, and they want the players to think Gary Bettman will be itching to do it again next month.
But that shouldnt happen, and it wont happen.
So heres some free advice to the NHL that comes a lot cheaper than Frank Luntz: quit this brinksmanship baloney that nobody is buying, get back to the negotiating table and give the players something that will truly allow them to believe theyre in a true partnership with the league. Allow Jeremy Jacobs to step up and take some level of credit for brokering a deal with the players that ended the lockout rather than his current role as JJ the lockout bus driver.
The players have already conceded theyre going to a 5050 split of hockey revenues, and the league knows they have to come back to earth on revenue sharing, making whole and player contract rights before they can drop the puck. Theres a deal just waiting to be made.
End the gong show. Quit the two-bit charade about two-week moratoriums that insult anyone in love with hockey or those unfortunately drawing a paycheck from the business of the NHL.
More fear, embarrassment and loathing waits for the NHL if they cant figure it out quickly, and the moratorium will end up being a lot more than two weeks.

OFFSEASON

Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

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Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

LOS ANGELES - Just two games into the U.S. basketball team's pre-Olympic tour, coach Mike Krzyzewski already sees the start of something big.

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, Klay Thompson added 17 and the Americans rolled to a second straight blowout exhibition victory, 106-57 over China on Sunday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points in his hometown, and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second stop on the five-city tour leading the Americans to Rio de Janeiro. The victory over an overmatched opponent was impressive, but Krzyzewski liked it more for the composed, cohesive manner in which the new teammates worked together.

"We should have won, but the way we won was excellent," Krzyzewski said. "We're really growing together as a group."

After opening their showcase tour by trouncing Argentina in Las Vegas on Friday night, the U.S. team posted another rout at a packed Staples Center. Krzyzewski is finding it difficult to disguise his early optimism, praising his team's work in their brief practice time together.

And while they're still learning their teammates' tendencies and solidifying player rotations, the U.S. team looked remarkably connected for long stretches against China, which has no current NBA players.

Durant noticed it, as did Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who kicked off the festivities by blocking a shot on China's first possession and throwing down an alley-oop dunk on the Americans' first possession.

"We've only been together a week, but it seems like we've been teammates for years," Jordan said.

Jordan scored 12 points and led a strong defensive effort with three blocks for the Americans, who held the Chinese to 30.9 percent shooting. Krzyzewski believes the American team will excel at defensive switching because of its abundance of versatile players.

"I think we're learning more about one another, and our defense was there pretty much the whole game," Krzyzewski said.

The Americans haven't lost a game since the 2006 world championships, winning 65 straight games. They're 47-1 in exhibitions since NBA stars took over the roster in 1992, going undefeated since 2004.

While LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard all declined the chance to play in Rio, the Americans who accepted the opportunity appear to be serious about winning without some of the nation's top stars.

"We're young, but we've got a bunch of seasoned pros," said Kyrie Irving, who had 10 points and four assists. "We've been on a lot of journeys, and we've crossed paths before, but now we're all coming together at the right time."

Anthony was the only holdover in the Americans' starting lineup from Las Vegas while Krzyzewski works on chemistry and coordination. He put Paul George in with the starters alongside Anthony, Jordan, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, whose family watched from courtside.

Both teams had early shooting struggles, but the Americans took charge with impressive speed late in the first quarter.

Durant, one of the two returning American gold medalists from London, heard boos from the LA crowd during pregame introductions. He quickly found his outside stroke with 14 points and four assists in the first half, and Cousins overpowered the Chinese down low for 12 first-half points on the way to a 55-29 halftime lead.

The Chinese team's most recognizable name to North Americans is Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks' choice with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He spent five seasons with four NBA teams before heading back to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Yi led the Chinese with 18 points. Zhou Qi, the 7-foot-2 center drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round last month, scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Exciting guard Zhao Jiwei scored 14 points.

The teams meet again Tuesday in Oakland, where Durant will play in front of his new home fans for the first time since defecting from Oklahoma City to the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.

They'll also meet Aug. 6 in the opening game of Olympic competition in Brazil.

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

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White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox were set to wear throwback uniforms. Chris Sale had other ideas.

The White Sox suspended their ace five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The team announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 - the cost of the destroyed jerseys - according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Obviously we're all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris' perspective," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale's name circulating in trade rumors.

"The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships," Hahn said. "It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events."

The incident does raise some questions in general about throwback uniforms, how players feel about them and whether they should be forced to wear jerseys that aren't comfortable - particularly starting pitchers.

"If I'm playing with Chris Sale I want him to pitch," Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "If he wants to play with no shirt, we play with no shirt. I just want him to pitch."

New York Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve said: "Pitchers like their stuff. Me, it doesn't bother me, but for him, obviously it does. It's crazy. I don't think I'm that bad."

White Sox pitcher James Shields wouldn't comment on whether players should be made to wear throwback jerseys. But he did say: "I don't really mind the throwbacks. I haven't had any issues with that."

Manager Robin Ventura said players occasionally wearing uniforms they don't like comes with the job.

"But you wear it," he said. "If you want to rip it after, you can rip it up after. I've seen guys rip it up after."

Hahn said throwback uniforms the White Sox wore last season were a bit baggy so the team took measurements in spring training so they would fit the players better. He also mentioned the money the uniforms generate.

"Part of the element of being in position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable requests to increase revenue," Hahn said.

This wasn't the first flare-up involving the 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches' jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals' Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.

Hahn said the punishment was unrelated to previous incidents. He also said the two had a "very candid" meeting in his office with Sale after the pitcher had some exchanges with staff members in the clubhouse and that both "expressed remorse." They spoke again on Sunday.

"At that point last night Chris stood by his actions," Hahn said. "Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment. We've seen that sometimes spill out from between the white lines. Yesterday was one of those instances and it unfortunately led to events that required discipline."