What's Ainge's plan?

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What's Ainge's plan?

With two days left before all hell breaks loose across the NBA, Danny Ainges objective is as clear as Todd Day:

1. Trade Rondo and whomever else (seriously, take everything!) to the Hornets for Chris Paul: Dont worry about the extension. Just get him to Boston.

2. Play out the season with a core of Paul, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and an assortment of other pieces with an emphasis on a serviceable swing man and a center capable of playing more than 15 minutes without his knees turning to goo. Is that enough to win the 2012 title? Probably not, but neither is the alternative.

3. Pray that Orlando doesnt trade Dwight Howard: While that may not make a ton of sense in the big picture for the Magic, there are a few short-term benefits: 1) Theyre opening a new arena. 2) Theyre hosting the 2012 All-Star Game. (What a disaster if he comes back in another uniform.) 3) Howards still a Top 10 player, the No. 1 center in the league and maybe the most dominant defender in NBA history. With him in the middle, the Magic are contenders; at least more than theyll be for a long time after his eventual exit. So why not bite the bullet and roll the dice on one last run? Ainge hopes they do.

4. At seasons end, with KG and Ray off the books, make a simultaneous push at Paul and Howard: In Pauls case, the temptation to join his buddies in NYC will still exist, but at that point, no one can offer more money than Boston (Bird Rights). Plus, wheres his best chance to win: In New York, with a core of defenseless Melo, Amare and Coach X, or in Boston with Howard, Pierce and Doc Rivers?

With Howard, you make the same pitch. Give him a call preferably sober and before 1 am and say: Dwight! Three things: Max contract, Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. What do you think?

You play the two off each other, sell them on the dream and hope it clicks.

5. Spend the rest of the decade building around Paul and Howard, and consistently field one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Not bad, right?

Right. All emotions aside, no Celtics fan in his or her right mind would or could have a problem with this. Its realistically Bostons last chance to build a legitimate contender for a long time to come.

Look at it like this: In the last 30 years, only one team has won an NBA title without a legitimate superstar. It was the 2005 Pistons, and they possessed a level of balance and depth that will become exceedingly difficult in todays NBA, especially given the Celtics current predicament. So, Bostons best and perhaps only chance to contend is to immediately land a superstar (or in this case, two). The league is going the way of the super team, and if Boston misses out now, it will be a while before they can recover.

Danny Ainge knows this.

But, of course, its not that easy. We cant present this five-step plan without asking a few obvious questions. Celtics Nations version of Lloyd's: What if they shot you in the face?

What if Howard does get traded? What if Paul still loves New York? Or, before we even get there: What if the Clippers or Warriors make the Hornets a better offer? What if the clock strikes midnight on Friday morning and Dannys still staring at the same aging, depleted roster thats haunted him for the extent of this extra long offseason?

One common suggestion: Sign-and-trade Jeff Green or Big Baby for as much you can and patch together the rest of the roster through free agency. Make one last run with this core, hope for the best and try to make a splash next summer.

A few problems:

1. This cores not good enough to win another title.

2. Its hard to make a splash when youre jumping into the kiddie pool.

I say that because, assuming the Celtics find themselves in this scenario, Paul and Howard will both be out of reach next summer. Without Howard, they're also unlikely to woo Deron Williams.

Take Paul, Howard and Williams out of the mix, and heres the list of former and current All-Stars who will be unrestricted free agents next summer: Mehmet Okur, Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, Steve Nash, Elton Brand, Jameer Nelson, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, Chris Kaman, Ben Wallace, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd, Baron Davis and Antawn Jamison.

Short of a time machine, theres nothing there. Certainly not enough to compete with a League of Extraordinary Super Teams.

Danny Ainge knows this.

Which brings us back to the present, two days away from all hell breaking loose, and Ainge is scrambling. His team's title hopes are fading like LeBron's hairline, and Ainge is shooting for the moon. Call him crazy, but which would you prefer: That he tries and fails, or merely accepts failure?

That's not Ainge, and he's proved it again albeit behind the scenes over the course of this past week.

Surely, there will be consequences. It's hard to imagine the relationship with Rondo will get much better after this string of well-publicized and highly-believable rumors. Given Boston's current situation (and those potential burned bridges), it's hard to see Rondo back here at all. He's still their only viable chip. Even if he can't help bring Chris Paul to town, trading Rondo is still Boston's best chance to completely overhaul a roster that, if we're being realistic, badly needs it.

What other choice do the Celtics have? Trade KG? Blow the whole the thing up?

Would anything shock you? If your answer was "yes," you've got two more days to prepare.

Because while no one knows exactly what Danny will do, we all know what he won't.

And that's stand pat and die.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

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Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

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Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.