The NBA knows drama


The NBA knows drama

NEW YORK All we need is Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg in a director's chair delivering a Kevin Garnett yell of "Action!"

You've got group of all-star NBA players hastily arranging a clandestine conference call to discuss the possibility of decertifying their union. The camera soon pans away to a former all-star player questioning the negotiating acumen of the union's leaders.

And the backdrop to all this, is a report that the union leader has made a side deal with the owners, an arrangement he denies emphatically both to his constituents as well as publicly.

From there, you see one team owner - a former player who hauled in the largest single season payday (33 million) in league history - leading a small insurgent group better known as hard-liners for their insistence that costs be slashed by any means necessary.

And then there's the big money-making, talent-laden owner who wants to play - badly- and takes to social media in explaining that it's not him - but other owners - slowing up negotiations.

Is it an Academy Award worthy script?

Probably not.

But it does speak to one of the many mantras the NBA is known for in recent years.

Yes, folks.

The NBA knows drama.

Theatrics aside, both sides understand the serious nature of today's bargaining session which will go far in determining if there is indeed a 2011-2012 NBA season.

After things fell apart nearly six hours of negotiations last week, today's meeting will be the first since then.

Helping bridge the two sides to return to the bargaining table was George Cohen, Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. He served as a federal mediator during a three-day stretch of meetings that ended on October 20.

Cohen called Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBAPA, earlier this week to encourage the union and the owners to resume talks soon and that he would be available if they wanted him to be part of the process as a mediator.

Hunter was on board immediately, and the NBA soon followed.

The meeting in which Cohen will preside is very much like the bargaining sessions - in a constant state of uncertainty.

A representative from all 29 NBA teams met this morning among themselves, so it's unclear if any - or all - will attend this afternoon's bargaining session.

As for the union, they had a meeting on Thursday and it's unclear how many of their members will be in attendance at today's bargaining session.

Both sides have stated publicly that they want to get a deal done as soon as possible, so it would make sense for them to try and each limit the number of participants.

In the previous bargaining sessions, the most fruitful meetings have involved smaller groups.

At this point, the fact that they're willing to sit down and talk is seen as a positive.

In fact, that's about the only positive either side can take heading into a meeting that has potential for both sides to bury their differences and iron out a deal, or blow up quickly which would in all likelihood result in more canceled games - and potentially the entire 2011-2012 season.

There was never a point in which these bargaining sessions would have been classified as simple by anyone's definition.

But there's no doubt that a number of factors within the past couple of weeks have complicated matters for both sides.

Several reports indicated that a group of players, led by Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, had two conference calls where the idea of decertification was discussed. In fact, the players included famed anti-trust lawyer Len Simon on the conference calls which speaks to how serious they are in at least exploring it as a viable option.

It's hard to imagine that the conference calls weren't in some way connected to the rumors that NBAPA president Derek Fisher had promised the league that he could convince the players union to support a 50-50 split of the basketball-related income, and also that there was a rift between him and Billy Hunter, the NBAPA's executive director.

After a union members-only meeting on Thursday, Hunter and Fisher quickly put the rest - as best they could - that there was a rift between them. And in a letter to his fellow NBA players and to the media, Fisher has denied he met with NBA commissioner David Stern or that he promised he could convince his constituents to accept a 50-50 split of the BRI which in the last CBA, they took home 57 percent of it.

"Usually I wouldn't even dignify absorb media reports with a comment," Fisher wrote. "My loyalty has and always will be with the players. Anyone that questions that or doubts that does not know me, my history, and what I stand for. And quite frankly, how dare anyone call that into question."

Adding fuel to the fire were comments made by former NBA all-star Jerry Stackhouse while appearing on "Jim Rome is Burning" earlier this week.

"Not to say anything against Derek Fisher, it's not that I don't think he's a great guy," Stackhouse said. "But I don't want him negotiating my contract. I want an agent who knows the lingo negotiating my contract. Derek Fisher, he doesn't negotiate his own contract. He has an agent. So why would I want him negotiating something even bigger than his contract? This CBA is something more important to everybody."

Even with the presence of several union attorneys, Stackhouse still doesn't believe that's enough for the union to come out of this with a fair deal.

"Over the course of my career, the last 16 years, it seems like the executive committee is always making concessions," Stackhouse said. "More concessions, more concessions in each Collective Bargaining Agreement and this is no different. I don't think it's ever been a case where it seems like we have any leverage. We need to have more people capable of going toe-to-toe with David Stern and I just don't think players who spend most of their time playing basketball and Billy Hunter are geared to do that."

While that might lead one to believe the owners are sitting pretty, they have their issues among themselves as well.

Michael Jordan is leading the charge among owners to not budge off the 50-50 split of basketball-related income that Stern offered the players last week.

In fact, reports are that Jordan was upset that Stern moved off offering the players just a 47 percent cut of the BRI which would be 10 percentage points, or about 400 million less for the players and into the pockets of owners.

While Jordan certainly has a sizable share of owners who feel the way he does, by no means is it unanimous.

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison took to Twitter to speak his mind, and it wound up in a league-levied fine of 500,000.

"It was more about his timing," Stern told the New York Post. "We're trying very hard to get a deal done with the players, or we were, and we don't need any external distractions to that focus."

A post appeared on Arison's verified account, "Fans provide all the money you're fighting over you greedy pigs."

He responded, "Honestly u r barking at the wrong owner."

Someone later posted, "Then can you bark at the other owners? This is RIDICULOUS!!!"

Arison replied, "Now u r making some sense."

But this lockout, now in Day No. 128, makes little sense to those on the outside, looking in.

So far, the negotiations have made for great theatre from both sides.

Whether it's LaValle McGee speaking about there being some player division and immediately being hit with a verbal smack down by Fisher, or Stern missing a bargaining session with "flu-like symptoms" that just so happened to be the day when the bargaining session blow-up was one of the worst - if not the worst - throughout the bargaining session process.

Theatre is cool.

But folks want to see the real show - NBA basketball games - soon.

There's no mistaking that the theatrics of these negotiations has created a cacophony of emotions.

But the league and its players, need to be careful.

The longer this lockout drags on, one of the strongest emotions right now among fans - anger - will soon change into apathy.

And at that point, getting fans back on board to watch the real show - NBA games - will be a tougher sell than either side can imagine.

Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate


Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, a good friend of Brad Stevens, is out in Indiana.

Pacers president Larry Bird made the official announcement on Thursday.

Vogel’s contract was up in Indiana and Bird elected to not renew it. That, according to Bird, was hard for Vogel to hear.

Both Bird and Vogel spoke shortly before Bird’s press conference with members of the media, and that’s when Bird gave him the news.

There is speculation now as to who will take over as head coach. With Kevin McHale removing himself from consideration for the Sacramento Kings job, there was some thought that he could become the head coach of the Pacers under good friend and former teammate Bird.

That isn’t going to happen either.

Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?


Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA Draft, nobody has the flexibility to address a need the way the Celtics can this year.
If you are a draft-eligible player expected to be among the 60 names called next month, you are within the Celtics’ reach of being drafted.
That’s what having eight draft picks (three in the first round and five in the second) can do for you.
And while the Celtics have lots of needs, here’s a look at five specifically that they can address through the draft, and the best players to fill those voids.
5. Undervalued talent: Marquese Chriss
Getting players whose talent exceeds where they are drafted is certainly something the Celtics would love to do in a year when they have so many picks. Marquese Chriss of Washington could be that player. He’s a 6-9 forward who in this small-ball era in the NBA, can play both forward positions and have a matchup advantage at both spots. He’s targeted to be selected in the middle of the first round which makes him a prime target of the Celtics who could tab him with their second, first-round selection which will be the 16th overall pick.
4. Rim Protection
You have to give the Celtics props for having a defense that ranked 4th in the NBA despite no legit rim protector other than 6-9 Amir Johnson. As good as Johnson was, the Celtics need to add at least another player or two with rim protection as their strength. Enter Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis. He’s limited offensively in terms of what he can do, but his knack for blocking/altering shots, lateral quickness, vertical leap and overall strength makes him a force in the middle. He too is a player Boston has to give some thought to selecting if he’s still on the board (he’s considered a possible late-lottery pick) when it’s time for the Celtics to choose at No. 16.
3. Defensive versatility
One of the reasons Boston’s defense was so good this season was because of its ability to make defensive switches and it not create huge mismatches. Having players with the talent and skill to defend multiple positions will remain something the Celtics will also value on draft night. That’s why Jaylen Brown of Cal could be in the mix depending on where the pick Boston gets from Brooklyn, eventually falls. If it’s outside of the top-4, Brown becomes a viable possibility. He gets props for his strength and ability to use it as a means of scoring. But NBA teams are just as excited about his potential as a defender, already possessing an NBA-ready body with the tools to potentially defend all three perimeter positions.
2. Wing scoring
The Celtics ranked 11th in 3-pointers taken per game (26.1) but only 28th in 3-point percentage (.335) which shows that they were getting plenty of long-range shots but unable to make them with any consistency. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield could change all that. He was hands-down the best shooter in college basketball this past season. And with him being a senior, he’s more likely to come in and make an immediate impact than many of his younger draft brethren who are judged more on potential than proven work. If the Celtics wind up with a top-3 pick, Hield would be a bit of a stretch. But if Boston is on the clock with the No. 4, 5 or 6th pick, he should be on their short list of possible targets.
1. Superstar potential
The best shot Boston has of landing that superstar they’ve longed for, is to land the top overall pick. And with that pick, there’s a growing consensus that Duke’s Brandon Ingram should be that guy rather than LSU’s Ben Simmons. Ingram has a game that in many ways is reminiscent to a young Kevin Durant. But at this stage, Ingram is a better 3-point shooter (he shot 41 percent on 3s in his lone season at Duke) which is one of the many areas Boston could use a boost through the draft.

Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'


Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

If you know anything about basketball in the 1980s and early 1990s, you know it was a physical game. And in the playoffs, that physicality multiplied.

The Boston Celtics were no exception to that. There are countless highlights of Celtics players getting into it with their opponents, but perhaps the most famous incident was when Kevin McHale clothelined the Lakers' Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was a member of that team, and discussed that play on Thursday morning with the guys from the Toucher and Rich Show.

“I remember that we were at shootaround the morning of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline incident,” Ainge said. “They had just beat us by 30 . . . it was Hollywood showtime Lakers all the way and we were humiliated. We came to practice the next day and we had some guys chirping about that, like, ‘We have to take some hard fouls. We cannot let these guys fast break over us and dunk on us in transition. We have to take some hard fouls.’ And I said to the whole team, I like screamed at them, I said, ‘Hey listen, I’m booed in every arena in this league because I’m the only guy who takes hard fouls. I need some of you guys to take some hard fouls. And sure enough Kevin clothelined Kurt Rambis and that was sweet.”