Haggerty: NHL, NHLPA need encore to optimistic weekend

932535.jpg

Haggerty: NHL, NHLPA need encore to optimistic weekend

There appears to be a wide-held notion the NHL owners are about to pack up their hockey nicknacks and call it a season because their Winter Classic cash cow has now been slaughtered.

On its face that might hold some logic with a National Hockey League that wont be enjoying the benefit of the doubt on collective bargaining anytime soon. But its actually had quite the opposite effect.

The NHL used the long-range marketing, advertising and planning needs required for a logistically imposing event like the Winter Classic as an excuse to whack the Jan. 1 outdoor hockey game, but its not nearly that simple. The league could have pushed things back until the Nov. 15-20 range before truly being forced to cancel the New Years Day game. But that wasn't the plan in the Bob Batterman "How to run a lockout" playbook.

Instead the 30 Lords of the Boards used the centerpiece event as a leverage point in CBA negotiations with the NHLPA, and erased the game before the players could wield it as a negotiating hammer against the owners.

Interestingly enough the cancellation of the Winter Classic opened things up for both sides to have open, frank discussions about a wide range of topics on Saturday night. Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, the No.2 in command for the NHL and NHLPA respectively, met at an undisclosed location for a wide-ranging conversation, and according to one source met continuously for 13 hours until long after midnight had passed on Sunday morning.

Thats by far the longest face-to-face meeting thats taken place during this CBA negotiation and indicates that a number of different subjects and concepts were broached in much greater detail. In other words two sides probably had to agree on a few things if they were chewing the fat for 13 hours.

That means inclusion of the make whole provision so important to players that want to be paid to the letter of their current contracts, and that means a drop to a 5050 split in Hockey Related Revenue between the owners and players. The middle ground on those two doesn't seem all that difficult to attain given where the players and owners currently stand, and it doesn't figure to be a very gnarly negotiation once the two sides begin trusting each other even a little bit.

The players know the two sides are slowly crawling closer to an agreement, and pushed their union leadership to get back into the negotiating room after an NHLPA conference call to action last weekend. Thats the kind of ripple of concern that can flow through the NHLPA rank and file when the NHL blows up their most beloved midseason event.

The Winter Classic cancellation left the players with the belief that the entire season could be cancelled in December, and that Gary Bettman was just crazy enough to do it again for the second time in eight years. So it appears that strategy might just have worked for the league.

Interestngly enough, however, the NHL is enacting one of several contingency plans for a shortened season, and looks poised for a 64-game shortened regular season set to begin on Dec. 1. The expectation is that a shortened schedule would also include a reduced travel schedule where Eastern and Western Conference teams dont play any non-conference opponents in the 2012-13 regular season.

That's a blow to some Western Conference teams that enjoy some of their largest crowds when the Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Flyers and Rangers come to town, but that's also the reality of a shortened season.

Stay seated for the next part.

There are even some wild whispers in the hockey world that some kind of Winter Classic could be reinstated after the fact once a CBA is completed. It might not be the Red WingsMaple Leafs game on the University of Michigan campus that was supposed to take place on Jan. 1, but could instead pit a pair of popular American teams to be announced in an outdoor event cobbled together in the month plus leading up to the Jan. 1 date.

Think about it: the NHL and NHLPA would be given credit for both saving the regular season and finding a way to save the Winter Classic if they can utilize Saturdays gathering momentum to broker a deal. That's a nice little reward for a union and league that have been behaving pretty badly toward each other since the LA Kings hoisted the Cup.

Much of the current bad mojo and harsh words directed at the NHL will be long forgotten if the NHL can still produce a 60 plus game regular season, a suitable Winter Classic and a full Stanley Cup postseason that manages to resolve before July. A long conversation between Daly and Fehr on Saturday night is a nice start to those things becoming reality, but it now needs to be matched by a pair of adversarial groups intent on closing a deal.

The NHL will need to bring Gary Bettman, Bruins owner Jerry Jacobs and some of his hawk brethren willingly into the mix, and the Fehr brothers will have to find a deal that over 700 disparate NHLPA members can agree on.

Neither is an easy task, but at least theres some traction in the talks for the first time in weeks. Daly and Fehr have built the groundwork for this weeks discussions and theyll expand things with another face-to-face negotiation session on Tuesday in New York City. That's one of the few known details and that's a very good thing.

One of the really encouraging signs of negotiations over the last few days is that very little information has leaked out from either side of the aisle. That's usually when one knows things have gotten serious in the CBA negotiations.

Instead both the NHL and NHLPA finally appear intent on making a deal rather than winning the PR war, and that means a new CBA should be in the offing within the next few weeks provided things spin forward.

That seemed almost impossible 72 hours ago, but dont ever underestimate two negotiating parties that are finally seeing the light. There was optimism for the first time in weeks after the Saturday's late night DalyFehr meeting, and theres nobody but the NHL and NHLPA to blame if they cant somehow build on all of it now.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics take a slim 47-46 lead into the half over Sacramento, a team they have dominated at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics are looking to extend their winning streak at home over the Kings to nine in a row with a victory tonight. 

But the Kings are not going to go down easily, as they rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter. 

After Boston went ahead 29-19, the Kings scored the final 10 points of the quarter to tie it at 29. 

Sacramento took a couple of brief leads in the second, only for the Celtics to get a clutch shot or a timely stop defensively. 

The final points of the half came on a put-back basket by Al Horford which gave Boston a one-point lead that would serve as the margin going into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Friday’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

After taking just five shots in Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, Horford had as many in the first six minutes. He would finish the half with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included a pair of three-pointers.

DeMarcus Cousins

He had a horrible first half shooting the ball, but there was no denying Cousins’ presence and impact on the game. Despite missing six of his nine shot attempts he still led them with nine points and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

He looked a lot more like the Avery Bradley we’ve seen most of this season, and not the one who was a non-factor for most of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit. At the half he had nine points and four rebounds.

Matt Barnes

The oldest player on the floor certainly didn’t look past his prime. The 36-year-old small forward came off the Kings bench to score six points along with grabbing eight rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

A 19.6 points per game scorer this season, Gay couldn’t get into any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. At the half, he had four points on 2-for-8 shooting which included him missing all four of his three-pointers.

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”