No deal, but best offer yet awaits union's response

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No deal, but best offer yet awaits union's response

NEW YORK After meeting for about 10 hours on Thursday, the NBA Players Association came away with a revised offer from the NBA that -- despite warnings from the owners that everything from here on in would get worse -- was actually better than the previous one.

Union officials acknowledge the new proposal does show the owners making strides towards meeting their concerns.

However, it wasn't enough to get a deal done.

"It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to try and close this deal out," said NBAPA president Derek Fisher. "And so at this point, we've decided to end things for now, take a step back."

The union will review the offer for the next couple days and gather its player representatives in New York on either Monday or Tuesday. Depending on how that goes, the proposal may be put to a vote among the membership. If a majority of players support it and the owners ratify it - which NBA commissioner David Stern is confident will happen if the players agree to its terms - we will indeed have a 72-game season, beginning on Dec. 15.

But before you dust off your Kevin Garnett jerseys and whip out your 'you Got Rondo'd' t-shirt, there's a lot - a lot - that can still go wrong and prevent the 2011-12 season from being delayed even more than it has already.

For starters, the growing faction of union players who want to decertify is growing.

It'll be interesting to see how player representatives respond to this latest offer, and what effect it will have on those - Celtics forward Paul Pierce is among the leaders of the movement to decertify - who are considering dissolving the union.

So for now, the pressure to get a deal done has quickly shifted back to the union.

While Fisher declined to reveal any specifics about the new plan, a league source said that it's still essentially a deal with a 50-50 split of the basketball-related income and an increased amount for the mid-level exception for tax-paying teams.

"I'm not sure if we can say on any one of the system issues that the NBA came all the way to where we wanted the NBA to come to," Fisher said. "All I can say is, on a couple of the issues, there was some revision, there was some change in their position from the last proposal that we saw. At this time, it's not enough to necessarily entice us to try and finish this out Thursday night."

While neither side would classify it as the best offer, Stern made it clear the time for negotiating with this revised proposal, is done.

Stern delivered a similar message earlier this week, only to have union chief Billy Hunter ignore his deadline and continue negotiating.

But this threat from Stern, more than any previously, seems legit.

Stern has put off all deadlines until Hunter has a chance to meet with the union's player representatives and potentially their membership, to vote on whether to accept this revised proposal.

"I met with Billy and said that, just as the clock had stopped at 5 o'clock on Wednesday, as we negotiated through to today, it would remain stopped through his meeting with his board," Stern said. "Then at that time if we don't get a positive response, the revised offer, starting at 47 percent, based on upon a flex cap, would be our revised negotiating position."

Stern had similar words earlier, and ultimately relented and continued to negotiate through the deadline and beyond.

"There's really nothing left to negotiate about," Stern said. "This is the best attempt by the Labor Relations Committee for the NBA to address the concerns that the players expressed coming out of their meeting of the player representatives."

Hunter agreed that there's very little for both sides to negotiate over at this point.

"We feel as though there's nothing else for us to talk about, short of our willingness to move off of where we are," Hunter said. "We don't feel we got very much more to move off. So that's why we need to go and confer with the player reps to see what their preference is and flesh this thing out a bit."

Even though neither side is overly thrilled with this offer, there has been enough of an improvement in it by which the NBAPA is at least open to the idea of presenting it to their full membership.

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world," Hunter said. "But I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership. So that's what we're going to do. We have the members of our executive board, and they all agree we need to sit down and discuss it with our reps and collectively decide what we should do."

While Stern hasn't given them a deadline to get back to him, it's clear he expects to hear back from Hunter by the middle of next week.

The league has already looked into having games begin Dec. 15, provided the union agrees to the revised proposal which Stern acknowledges hasn't exactly gone over well with every NBA team.

"We don't expect the union to like every aspect of our revised proposal," Stern said. "I would say that there are many teams that don't like every aspect of our revised proposal."

Which probably means this is the best deal for all involved.

Celtics overcome big game from George to beat Pacers, 109-100

Celtics overcome big game from George to beat Pacers, 109-100

BOSTON – Having already clinched a playoff spot prior to Wednesday’s game, no one would have been shocked to see them come out and play fat-and-happy basketball.

Especially against an Indiana Pacers team that’s hungry for a win to bolster their playoff position.

But the Celtics continue to show us that they are a different team than the one that far too often failed to stack strong performances on top of one another.

That was not the case on Wednesday as they pulled away in the second half for an impressive 109-100 win over the Pacers.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 25 points and five assists. His backcourt mate Avery Bradley was solid as well, scoring 18 points to go with eight rebounds. Jae Crowder and Al Horford each had 15 points while Kelly Olynyk had another strong showing off the bench with 11 points and eight rebounds along with four assists.

With the win, Boston (46-26) swept the regular season series 3-0. While it’s unlikely they will finish in a tie record-wise with the Pacers, there is the possibility that they could meet in the first round of the playoffs next month.

Knowing they haven’t lost to the Pacers all season could be a huge mental plus for Boston if in fact their first-round foe was Indiana.  

Wednesday’s game was the first between these two with most of their respective rosters at full strength.

And the Celtics at full strength, regardless of the opponent, have been pretty tough to beat.

But the Pacers (36-35) weren’t going to make this easy for Boston, even as they fell behind by as many as 17 points to the Celtics.

Paul George, who led all scorers with 37 points, began to lead the Pacers back into the game with a strong fourth quarter showing.

And when Boston’s defense tried to adjust to George’s jacuzzi-hot scoring, he got others like Jeff Teague involved.

Teague, who had 25 points, made a 3-pointer that cut Boston’s lead to 93-86 with 6:31.

That was enough for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who called a time-out.

After a pair of Isaiah Thomas misses, the Celtics got a little more cushion following a mid-range jumper by Olynyk.

While Indiana continued to get timely offensive rebounds, the Celtics went into bend-but-don’t-break mode defensively down the stretch.

And while the Pacers certainly were in the game, there was never a moment down the stretch when Boston’s impending victory was in doubt.

Both teams set the tone defensively in the first half which was a relatively low-scoring affair.

That should not come as a surprise considering how well each team has played of late at that end of the floor.

Since the All-Star break, Boston has the third-best defense in the NBA while the Pacers aren’t far behind, coming in at No. 6.

A 3-pointer by Bradley to close out the second quarter gave Boston a 49-42 lead at the half.

Boston’s control of the game remained solid through most of the third, but an 8-3 spurt by the Celtics to close out the third put ahead 88-74 going into the fourth.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Strong defense standing out

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Strong defense standing out

BOSTON – Boston and Indiana know there’s a chance they could face off next month in the playoffs, with both teams delivering the kind of defensive performance on Wednesday that highlighted two teams playing with a heightened sense of urgency fueled by tough, physical defense.

It was indeed a “Both Teams Played Hard” kind of first half which ended with Boston ahead 49-42.

Avery Bradley drained a 3-pointer that just beat the halftime horn which gave Boston its biggest lead of the half.  

The tone was set by both teams with a low-scoring first quarter in which the defenses for both teams stood out.

It really should not have been that big a surprise considering how well both teams have defended since the all-star break.

Boston has the third-best defense in the NBA since the break, while the Pacers have proven to be no slouch coming in at No. 6.

After falling behind 37-36 in the second, Boston ran off eight straight to lead 44-37 which was their largest lead of the game at this point.

But the Pacers stayed within striking distance in large part because the Celtics’ unusually high number of turnovers.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers.

 

STARS

Paul George

A four-time All-Star, George was scoring but the Celtics made him work a lot harder than he would like. He leads all scorers with 14 points, but has done so on 4-for-11 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

Like George, the opposing team’s defense made for a rough first half. Thomas still managed to lead the Celtics with 10 points.

 

STUDS

Jeff Teague

He really went at Isaiah Thomas to start the game, and for the most part it was working for him. He had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the first half.

Jae Crowder

Solid defense and timely shot-making made for a solid first half for Crowder. He had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Avery Bradley

He did more than deliver a timely shot to end the half for Boston. He had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in addition to grabbing four rebounds while being one of the main contributors defensively to Paul George not having an efficient night shooting the ball.  

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

By far the biggest concern Boston has heading into the second half. The Celtics average 13.2 turnovers per game. They had 14 in the first half, which led to 17 points for the Pacers. Boston’s season-high for turnovers is 24 which they racked up against Philadelphia on Feb. 15.