Haggerty: NHL talks will go the distance

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Haggerty: NHL talks will go the distance

It probably couldnt have ended any other kind of way.
Both the NHL and NHLPA appear to be wholly uncomfortable with actual discussions and good faith negotiations simply because thats the quickest way to a CBA solution. Instead, both sides continue to mistrust the other, and with good reason. The NHL players and league officials have made great progress this week on a number of Collective Bargaining fronts, but the players are also miffed that the league has backed away from previous commitments made to the pension plan.
Theres also an issue with Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) that became the only topic of face-to-face conversation between the players and league. NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr never showed up at the NHL offices for any of the negotiations, and instead was focused on putting together another vote to potentially dissolve the union. The renewed disclaimer of interest vote is necessary because the NHL was acting very differently on Thursday without the threat of decertification hanging over their collective heads.
It seems that neither Fehr nor NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appear willing to close a deal before staring down the barrel of the season cancellation gun at the end of next week. In fact, the Winnipeg Free Press quoted a veteran Board of Governors member on Thursday night saying that Bettman is prepared to cancel the season on Thursday if a deal has not been reached or appears to be imminent.
Despite this, the NHLPA believes Bettman will flinch when it comes to whacking the entire 2013 NHL season given the pressure from media, fans, sponsors, advertisers and some very unhappy owners that have watched a three-ring negotiating circus sully the leagues reputation.
The NHL believes it can threaten, bully and browbeat the players as theyve done in the past, and that eventually their tried and true techniques of schoolyard negotiating will work once again. But this is a different time and a different group of players that dont trust the league, and feel like they must stand up for themselves after getting pounded in 2004-05.
Both are resolute in their strategies at this point. But both the owners and the players know they cant cancel this season without permanently damaging their 3.3 billion brand, and so NHL employees around the league are being told that the season will begin on Jan. 19. A 48-game regular season has been in the works for weeks, and it will start with rivalry games in nearly every corner of North America. It will be a shining beacon of the best that NHL hockey can represent when everything else doesnt get in the way.
But it will also be a stark reminder of the searing stupidity and morbid selfishness that allowed things to spin so monumentally out of control, and once brought the NHL to its knees without even a single game being played.
Things like threatening the cancellation of the season and disclaimer of interest movements are seemingly the only language that moves anybody once it has reached this level of trench warfare. At least both sides had consistently traded offers over the last few days and significant progress had been made on year-to-year variance, CBA length, amnesty buyouts (teams have two rather than one now) among other things.
But it doesnt really matter whether its the pension plan, the salary cap during the second year of the CBA or term limits on individual player contracts. This was a deal destined to never get done until there is exactly one second left on the stopwatch to a cancelled season, and both sides had made their final attempt to scrounge up any remaining scraps left on the table.
That means there is still a week of wiggle room left to harass the other side, show up two hours late for meetings or perhaps stage one last take it or leave it offer before storming out of a conference room.
Sadly it appears that Bettman and Fehr wouldnt have it any other way.

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

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Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

CINCINNATI -- For most of the game, A.J. Green piled up more yards than the entire Miami Dolphins offense in a virtuoso performance. As an encore, he thrilled the crowd by juggling some Florida citrus.

The Bengals receiver followed his disappointing game with a dominating one - 173 yards and a touchdown - and a Cincinnati defense that was inspired by Vontaze Burfict's return clamped down on the Dolphins for a 22-7 victory Thursday night.

The Bengals (2-2) rebounded from a 29-17 home loss to Denver on Sunday with a solid all-around game against a depleted team.

Green led the way, beating the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route . He was upset with himself after he dropped a pivotal third-down pass and failed to make an impact against the Broncos.

"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Green, who had 10 catches. "I know what I'm capable of. Last week I didn't perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week."

During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.

Afterward, Green and Andy Dalton appeared on the postgame show, and the receiver entertained the dozens of Bengals fans who stayed around by smoothly juggling three oranges at the interview desk.

"Any time he was one-on-one, he was able to make the play," Dalton said.

The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron. They had one big play - Ryan Tannehill threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills - but couldn't do anything else on offense.

"We've got to get it fixed and quick, and by that I mean Monday," Tannehill said. "We're kind of in a dark spot right now. It's squarely on our shoulders."

The Bengals' defense expected to get a lift from Burfict's return. The volatile linebacker was suspended by the NFL for the first three games because of his illegal hits. He got a loud ovation when he ran onto the field during introductions wearing a baseball cap. Burfict knocked down a pass and had three tackles.

"He's amazing," end Carlos Dunlap said. "Did you see the plays he made? Those aren't plays you can coach. He came off his couch and played great. It's good to have him back."

Mostly, it was Green's show. He caught a 51-yard pass off Dalton's scramble in the first half, and had a 43-yard catch that set up another field goal in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

REMEMBERING FERNANDEZ

A large fan banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium honored Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died with two friends in a boat crash early Sunday near Miami Beach. The banner read: "Jose 16 Heaven's Bright."

STILL CAN'T RUN

The Bengals rushed for 77 yards and only a 2.1-yard average against the second-worst run defense in the league, one missing two starting linebackers.

SLOPPY DOLPHINS

Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal out of it.

INJURIES

Dolphins: LT Branden Albert and C Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles. Also missing were LBs Koa Misi (neck) and Jelani Jenkins (groin). C Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.

Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was inactive again, contributing to the Bengals' trouble close to the goal line. He's recovering from offseason ankle surgery and returned to practice on a limited basis last week. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was inactive with a hamstring injury suffered Sunday. G Clint Boling sat out most of the fourth quarter with an injured left shoulder.

ANTHEM STATEMENTS

Stills and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas knelt with their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

FANTASY IMPACT

Tannehill was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks. Dalton was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack.

UP NEXT

The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They're 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They've dropped their last six at New England, last winning in 1986.