Thornton 'disappointed' about Winter Classic cancellation

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Thornton 'disappointed' about Winter Classic cancellation

The NHL players are feeling the pain of hockey fans when it comes to Fridays cancellation of the Winter Classic. But it also hasnt hurt their funny bone when it comes to a sense of gallows humor around a lockout situation that appears grim at first glance.

Were all disappointed that it had to come to the Winter Classic being cancelled. I know that personally I just want to get back to work, said Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton, who was making a Saturday morning appearance at the Thomas Joyce Memorial Playground 5K in South Boston on Saturday morning. "But (Bettman) makes 8 million a year, doesnt he? You expect he would have 250 grand kicking around in an ash tray somewhere to keep the Winter Classic alive."

Thornton was clearly kidding while taking a dig at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a CBA negotiation thats grown contentious in the 50 days since the lockout began. The 250,000 he referenced is the early November contractual payment to the University of Michigan that the NHL avoided by cancelling the Winter Classic on Nov. 2. While the players are still feeling embattled by the two months worth of paychecks wiped out by the lockout, there are glimmers of hope amid the mounting cancellations.

The No. 2 in command for the NHL, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, and NHLPA, head counsel Steve Fehr, were scheduled to meet at an undisclosed location on Saturday afternoon to continue negotiations. It will be the first face-to-face meeting for the two sides in CBA negotiations since the acrimonious Oct. 18 exchange of ideas at the NHLPA offices in Toronto.
It will also be the first chance for both sides to offer olive branches in negotiations including the owners footing a portion of the make whole provision that appears to be the biggest sticking point for the players. In essence its a cap on escrow and will provide strict guidelines for just how much of a bit the NHL owners can take out of existing NHL contracts before things drop down to a strict 5050 split in Hockey Related Revenue.

The overwhelming question is why it took this long and the cancellation of a Winter Classic game expected to draw in upwards of 120,000 spectators to spur on both sides toward a discussion. But all Thornton and the rest of the NHL players care about at this point is getting back to work, and making sure there is a 2012-13 regular season along with a new CBA that they can live within.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”