Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

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Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

"Decertification" become a buzzword for the NHLNHLPA labor battle, and theres little wonder why: A move to bust up the players union in the NBA directly preceded an agreement during its lockout last year.

But decertification could have uncertain consequences.

The NBA Players Association decertified quickly, filed two lawsuits, and the league settled within a couple of weeks. The NFL players had to wait four months for a settlement after decertifying, but they opted for it at the beginning of negotiations rather than toward the tail end.

A move by the NHLPA to decertify could drop the league into turmoil. Stripping the NHL of its anti-trust immunity would wipe out the entry draft, blow up all the rules governing free agency, arbitration and the salary cap and create a Wild West atmosphere where players could go to the highest bidder. Understandably its an option the NHL claims would wipe out the rest of this season while throwing the league into chaos, but its also the kind of leverage point the NHLPA hasnt enjoyed during these one-sided negotiations.

The mere threat of NHL control being wrested from the 30 owners and put into the court rooms is a viable weapon in negotiations. There is much more bite to a potential union decertification than to what's gone on this week between federal mediators and the two sides.

Bruins players polled after their Monday morning voluntary skate indicated that union decertification has definitely been mentioned in discussion, but all of them were waiting to hear it explained to them more fully. Sounds like grounds for an NHLPA conference call.

Im not really educated enough on decertification to make a comment either way, said Shawn Thornton. Its an option we are aware of, but nobody has really been educated on it.

But if the specter of decertification leads the NHL to back off some of their player contract right demands or pushes them to raise the make-whole number, then its something the players will view as a positive.

"We want to play," Thornton said. "But there hasnt been one bone thrown our way by the owners to where guys would say if it went to a vote right now we could live with it. There are things that have to be addressed. If there were a couple of bones thrown in there then thered be enough moderates to voice their opinions to Don Fehr. But it hasnt been that way at all. We keep giving and they keep saying Thanks . . . what else have you guys got? Until that changes, nothing is going to change."

In essence the players are looking at potential decertification as one of the only possible ways to bring the lockout conflict to an end. That end game is what intrigues out-of-work players, or those in Europe.

"Ive tried to read a couple of articles on it and talked with my sister, who is a lawyer, about it," Gregory Campbell said. "It seems like something like its an awfully serious decision. I dont know what the ramifications would be if we went down that road. I dont know if a lot people understand what would happen if we decertified. I think everybody just wants a solution to this.

"In searching the other lockouts it looks like it might be an option. It may come to that. But I dont understand enough about it to make a statement of whether we should do it or not."

Here are the basics of decertification:

First the NHLPA would sign a petition to decertify. If at least 30 percent of the members sign, the process begins.

The petition goes to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If 30 to 49 percent of the membership signed the petition, the board sets a decertification election date, usually about 60 days after approving the player membership petition.

If 50 percent or more signed, the employer may immediately withdraw recognition of the union. But the NHL would be unlikely to do so because it would allow the players to immediately begin filing antitrust lawsuits against them.

Once the labor relations board sets an election date, the union holds a decertification vote on that date. If a majority votes in favor, the union is decertified and its status changes to a trade association.

The trade association can file antitrust lawsuits against the employer and sue for damages on wages lost with triple the damages if the NHL is found to be guilty of bad bargaining practices.

It would likely take at least two months for the NHL Players Association to decertify, so the filing of antitrust lawsuits couldnt begin until the beginning of February. Even if the NHL buckled immediately, that would probably be too late to save the season. But even the submission of a qualifying petition could pose enough of a threat to push the NHL into action. Both sides can continue to negotiate while the decertification process is taking place.

Thats essentially what happened with the NBA last year, and what might be the NHLPA's only weapon to get the league back to the bargaining table.

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON -- Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players -- not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, which ended the Celtics season.

While the C's won more regular-season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight in the playoffs than last April's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having it all end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where it was a year ago.

“You go from 40 (wins), under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking in at the end by winning six straight, to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “And so, yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s when you hold that trophy up,” said  Jae Crowder. “So until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do, obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there.

"And the next (task, which is becoming a legitimate championship contender) is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

In doing so, they look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a truly successful season . . . which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “Last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first-round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.