Boston Celtics

Stern, Hunter to sit down with mediator

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Stern, Hunter to sit down with mediator

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

Unable to make much progress towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it looks like the NBA and the players union will look for some help from a third party.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA's players union, told WFAN-AM in New York that he and league commissioner David Stern will sit down and meet with a federal mediator on Monday.

While it's highly unlikely the mediator's presence will bring about a new deal on the spot, the mere acknowledgment that a third party needs to be injected in talks speaks volumes as to how far apart both sides are in reaching a new CBA.

There's no mistaking that progress has been made since the lockout began July 1, but there hasn't been nearly enough in the three-plus months since then to give any hope that a new deal will be forthcoming in the near future.

That lack of progress is at the heart of why both sides see the need for an impartial third party - sorry, NBA agents, you don't count - to engage in the discourse of a new CBA.

Both sides remain far apart on several issues, including how to divvy up the Basketball-Related Income as well as whether to have a hard salary cap (owners preference) or keep the current soft salary cap format (players preference) in place.

The meeting on Monday comes on the heels of several meetings the past couple of weeks between the players and owners, with nothing of significance achieved that pushes them closer to a new deal. During that time, the league canceled the entire preseason and on Monday, Stern announced that the first two weeks of the regular season will be canceled.

By the end of this month, you can expect another round of canceled games to be announced unless significant progress can be made toward establishing at the very least, a framework for a new deal.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Horford: 'Trying to figure out the best way to help' after Hurricane Maria

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Horford: 'Trying to figure out the best way to help' after Hurricane Maria

CANTON, Mass. –  Hurricane Maria ravaged a number of Caribbean Islands, including the Dominican Republic – the home of Boston Celtics big man Al Horford.

“My immediate family is OK,” Horford told CSNNE.com during Boston’s Media Day on Monday. “But we look at everything in the big picture. We were very lucky in comparison to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, a lot of smaller islands.”

Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic with heavy wind and rain but delivered a much more powerful punch to other islands.

Puerto Rico has been devastated by the storm which has knocked out most of the electricity on the island along with heavy flooding.

The U.S. Virgin Islands was hit hard as well.

While the Dominican Republic wasn’t hit quite as hard as some other islands, they too are going through what’s likely to be an extended recovery period.

“We do have a lot of flooding,” Horford said of the Dominican Republic. “There’s a lot of need.”

Horford intends to address that need in some capacity.

“Right now, we’re trying to figure out the best way to help down there,” he said. “We want to make sure whatever we do as far as money and help-wise, it’s going to the people in need.”

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Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

Stevens says new challenges haven't changed Celtics' expectations

CANTON, Mass. – There is no way around it.

When conversations shift towards the best teams in the NBA, the Boston Celtics are one of the first teams talked about.

With that elevated status comes increased expectations, the kind that will kick into full gear when the team begins practice.

But within those expectations is the reality that despite the increased talent pool Brad Stevens will have to work with this season, there will still be an adjustment period.

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Increased expectations and maintaining a sense of urgency while being patient with the team gelling, will be among the biggest challenges awaiting Boston this season.

But head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t believe it will be an issue his team will contend with this season.

“Our expectations haven’t changed so there’s no balance,” Stevens said. “You do what you do, work every day to try to be the best you can be. We know what goal is in Boston; that’s stated pretty clearly with the banners that hang above us. Ultimately that has nothing to do with how good we become tomorrow and the next day. We just focus on the process.”

And that process begins in earnest on Tuesday with the first day of training camp.

“We’re looking forward to getting to work as a full team,” Stevens said.

Despite having a team with 10 new players, the expectations have not been any higher than they are now for Stevens who is entering his fifth season as Boston’s head coach.

He has a roster that includes a trio of All-Stars in Al Horford (4), Gordon Hayward (1) and Kyrie Irving (4), with a combined nine All-Star appearances among them.

Boston also has a talented but youthful roster outside of their Big Three that includes second-year wing Jaylen Brown and first-round pick Jayson Tatum not to mention returners Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier who will both be competing for prominent roles in the Celtics’ rotation this season.

The additions made by Boston should help balance out an offense that will continue to look for ways to score.

“We have a lot of new pieces,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But I feel like we’re moving in the right direction as a team.”

Part of that progress involves not only getting the new guys up to speed, but also internal growth from among the handful of players back from last season’s squad.

The most talked about returnee on Monday was Marcus Smart, who comes into training camp having lost nearly 20 pounds.

Smart said he weighed 223 points after having weighed himself earlier on Monday, which is down from his playing weight of last season which hovered around the 240-pound mark.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said the organization talked to Smart about the need for him to lose weight this summer.

Smart agreed.

The added weight began to bother him during the playoffs, leading to increased back pain and sleepless nights.

“I remember times putting on my shirt and tucking my stomach in because I didn’t like how it looked,” Smart said. “And that pain was causing me, I was always tired, I wasn’t as explosive and I was exerting so much energy to go out there every day and do the things I been doing my whole life. I wasn’t too fond of that. I knew I had to change.”

And when it comes to the Celtics heading into this season, change is indeed an appropriate description for this team.

But for newcomer Kyrie Irving, dealing with change is nothing new.

When LeBron James returned to Cleveland three years ago, it was expected to usher in a wave of victories from the outset.

Instead, the Cavs opened the season with a 5-6 start before getting on track and advancing to the first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

“It definitely, definitely attributes to figuring out how patient you are at that moment,” Irving said when I asked him about that slow start in Cleveland. That takes a while. You have to be very patient in your approach. I speak on that pretty often. So it’s not trying to figure out one thing or a few things in one day or after one game. It’s going to come in waves, man. These ups and downs we’re about to face as a team, as a collective group it’s going to be fairly interesting.  It’ll really echo in terms of our identity, how we respond. I’m looking forward to that aspect.”

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