Haggerty: Two sides remain so close, so far away

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Haggerty: Two sides remain so close, so far away

The NHL lockout isnt going to get done until two things happen: the NHL players swallow their petty hatred of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL owners stop trying to exterminate NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.

Both Bettman and Fehr have spacious egos, of course, and those have become obstacles. But they also both hold the innate ability to negotiate the best deal possible for their side of the aisle. That's why they're in their respective positions. Lets not forget that NHL players didnt just ask Fehr to come represent them in these negotiations two years ago.

They begged Fehr to get involved. Therefore the Fehr Brothers are exactly the kind of intimidating, clever, sometimes off-putting bad cop negotiators the NHLPA wanted after years of having their lunch fed to them in CBA negotiations.

Its not surprising the players responded the way they did on Wednesday when it was intimated to them by the "group of six" owners that re-introducing Fehr to the playerowner discussion was a deal breaker, according to Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey.

"The owners attempted to argue it. This was not a debatable decision, said Hainsey to Hockey Night in Canada Radio on Friday. We do not tell them who to bring in and obviously they can't tell us. It was told to me directly Fehr coming back in could be a deal-breaker.

St. Louis Blues forward David Backes backed up those claims a day later.

That seems much more plausible than statements from NHL owners Ron Burkle, Larry Tanenbaum, Mark Chipman and Jeff Vinik that things mysteriously fell apart at the negotiating table on Wednesday. Or the anonymous player source that claimed to the Denver Post that Fehr told over 700 NHLPA members to "keep holding out" because they could get a better deal in a few weeks or a month.

Perhaps that happened, but there hasnt been a second player on or off the record who has backed up that account of the NHLPA conference call despite an overwhelming number of players that simply want to play. Instead it seems last weeks playersowners negotiation accomplished a goal that may or may not have been its intent: to make it appear things fell apart when Fehr got involved and stir unrest within the players union.

The NHL has been trying for months to create a wedge between the players and Fehr, and thereby claim they defeated the Fehr brothers when Major League Baseball never could.

Certainly the NHLPA Exec Director didnt do himself any favors with the disingenuous, grandstanding press conference Thursday that essentially announced to hockey fans that the two sides should have a done deal. It was a dead giveaway that things werent going well when Fehr publicly released the details of the NHLPA offer. Thats all part of the oversized The Donald persona that has infuriated NHL leadership and ownership, but also allowed him to stare down billionaire owners in the past.

That abrasive adversary is also somebody the NHL is going to have to endure if they want to have an NHL season.

The truth of the matter is this: the NHL and NHLPA are way too close to let things fall apart despite Thursdays embarrassing three-ring circus. The overwhelming majority of NHL players have told CSNNE.com they have zero problems with a 10-year CBA. Its assumed that's being used by the Fehrs as a negotiating leverage point with the NHL. The five-year contract maximums and five percent variance rules are a different story, however.

Most have pointed at the relatively small number of players with contracts longer than five years (roughly 10 percent), and postulated the NHLPA is willing to die on the hill for something that serves an elite few players. But thats completely missing the point. If strict five-year contract term limits are imposed the NHL becomes a league where two or three elite players on each team get big money deals that come with 8-12 million per year cap hits.

That kind of thing will virtually eliminate the NHL middle class in a league with a strict salary cap ceiling.

Its something thats already happening in the NBA, and would, in fact, affect large numbers of NHL players in the 2-4 million salary range. Not just the 10 percent enjoying long term, back-diving contracts. The NHLPA has offered other ways to eliminate those back-diving deals, but so far Bettman and the NHL owners have been resistant to anything constructed by the NHLPA.

There has also been some outside urging for the NHLPA to suddenly usurp the process and demand that Fehr allow the membership to immediately vote on the leagues last offer.

Theres only one problem with all this: there is no more NHL offer. In a fit of pique Bettman pulled the NHLs offer from the table and said that anything the two sides agreed to last week is gone. That includes the 300 million in make whole money, the reversion of free agency and arbitration rules to the prior CBA and a key agreement on the players pension plan.

If the NHL is trying to get the players to rise up against NHLPA leadership, they once again botched things. They should have left their 10-year CBA offer on the table through the weekend and given the players an opportunity to push for a vote if the 700 plus players were truly antsy to get playing.

Instead the NHLs offer went up in a mushroom cloud on Thursday, and the players have nothing to even consider. The sides have agreed on money, theyve agreed on a pension plan and they sit just a couple of years apart on key contractual issues. But theyre also vowing not to speak this weekend while they cool off from their equally off-key media sessions last week.

Forget the vendettas toward the opposing leadership. Cram the rhetoric and keyed up emotions when neither side has shown an inkling of concern for the fans or business owners dependent on the NHL through the entire process.

Just get in the room and get the deal done, and save the hatred for the next CBA smack down 10 years from now.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."