NHL, NHLPA agree to undergo federal mediation

790836.jpg

NHL, NHLPA agree to undergo federal mediation

It was another day -- No. 72 of the lockout for those counting at home -- and another turn in the painfully slow CBA negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA.

On late Monday afternoon the news broke that both the players union and the league agreed to allow the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to sit down with both parties to attempt to find a workable solution. The FMCS will sit down to negotiations with both groups this week.

The two sides are 182 million apart in the make-whole provision and have hit road blocks in several areas of contract player rights with all NHL games now cancelled through Dec. 14.

So bringing in federal mediation services has a "cant hurt" appeal to both parties.

Perhaps a fresh set of eyes can help both sides see the fair deal thats sitting right in front of them and aid in saving the 2012-13 season while its still possible. But at the same time the federal mediation service doesnt have any binding power over either the NHL or the NHLPA, and will simply be providing suggestions to put a merciful end to the impasse.

George H. Cohen, a federal mediator and director of FMCS, has experience working in both the NFL and NBA lockouts, and his agency released the following statement on Monday.

"I have had separate, informal discussions with the key representatives of the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement," Cohen said. "At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices. I have assigned Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Director of Mediation Services John Sweeney, and Commissioner Guy Serota to serve as the mediators.

"Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCS's long-standing practice, the Agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule andor the status of the negotiations until further notice."

With rumblings coming out of the NHLPA that theyre seriously thinking about decertification dissolving the players union so they can file anti-trust lawsuits against the league and seek damages in a move that could cost both sides the season and the NHL scheduled for an important Dec. 5 meeting of the Board of Governors, it makes sense to go through the mediation process before either side jumps off their version of the fiscal cliff. In fact its the first logical, reasonable step thats happened in the NHL CBA process in a long, long time.

Before anybody gets their hopes up, however, take this into mind: the NHL and NHLPA also went through the federal mediation process in February of 2005 and cancelled the entire 2004-05 NHL season three days later.

So theres also that to think about.

The good news is that the NHL and NHLPA are entering into the process weeks before cancelling the 2012-13 regular season becomes even a remote possibility, and both parties have ample time and flexibility to work out the deal that everybody is hoping for.

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.