Will players acknowledge defeat in NBA lockout?

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Will players acknowledge defeat in NBA lockout?

NEW YORK To some, the idea might seem a bit crazy and just plain scary.

But when you look at the 2011-2012 NBA season, its fate, to a large degree, now rests in the hands of players like Glen Davis, and Delonte West, Landry Fields and just about every non-superstar you can think of in the NBA.

I told you it was kind of scary, didn't I?

When all the dust settles and the smoke-blowing by both the NBA players union and the owners subsides, you're left with the hard-core reality that the position those role players take will ultimately determine if there will in fact be a season.

After more than eight hours of negotiations on Saturday that went into the wee hours of Sunday morning, a blurry-eyed NBA commissioner David Stern emerged with an ultimatum for the players, setting a deadline to respond at the end of business on Wednesday.

He rattled off five items specifically in the proposal, all of which were recommendations from federal mediator George Cohen who presided over the bargaining session.

The details of what's in the proposal don't matter as much as what they mean collectively.

It's really quite simple.

The players can swallow their pride and accept a deal that they don't particularly care for, or turn it down and run the risk of having an even worse deal (47 percent cut of the basketball-related income instead of the 50 percent that's on the table; and an NHL-like flex cap) shoved down their throats.

"We hope that this juxtaposition will cause the union to access its position and accept the deal," Stern said. "We'd love to see the union accept the proposal that's now on the table."

Union president Derek Fisher was clear in stating that the proposal, as it stands now, was unacceptable. But unacceptable to who? Fisher didn't sound all that eager to present Stern's proposal to the union body.

"Our job is to take a deal to our players that we're comfortable presenting, and we feel will get passed and will receive the votes to get basketball up and running," Fisher said. "At this point, we don't have a deal to propose. That would be our position right now."

I'm glad he tagged out of that with, "right now," because there's a very good chance Fisher won't have a choice but to change his tune on presenting this to the union between now and Wednesday's Stern-appointed deadline.

Players aren't stupid.

They recognize how close a deal is to being reached.

And while they know the union has stretched itself much more than the owners, these players are wise enough (I think) to know that as important as they are to the growth and development of the NBA, they are still the employee; important employees, but employees nonetheless.

And as much as they want to preserve as much as they can for future generations of NBA players, they have a responsibility -- I would argue a greater responsibility -- to the rank-and-file members of today, like Glen Davis and Delonte West and a host of other legitimate, but not elite, NBA talent.

Those are the guys more than anyone, who are being hurt by this lockout.

Davis is an undersized power forward in the NBA, the kind of player who has a limited shelf life regardless of how talented he may be in his prime.

And Delonte West has been a solid role player on just about every team he's suited up for, and while he's not getting any younger, the competition for his job is.

To wipe out a year of their careers in order to hold out for systematic issues for future generations -- issues that at this point, aren't going to go the way of the union, anyway -- is just wrong.

The principles that the union is fighting for are right, and just. But this isn't about doing what's right, or being just. It's about getting a deal done.

And as much as most folks dislike the strong-arm tactics used by Stern and his ownership group, even when they were a splintered group, their one-minded focus never wavered -- to tilt the scales of the new CBA significantly more in their favor.

That's why when talks began in July, they came at the union with so many ridiculous demands and requests.

A hard cap? Come on. Nobody, including the owners, ever thought that had a chance of sticking.

The owners knew they would move off such silly requests, and could then legitimately claim that they were indeed trying to meet the union halfway -- even if they took about five steps back before the bargaining sessions began.

Meanwhile, the union came into the bargaining session the way most do -- looking to negotiate. Big mistake.

The owners have totally taken advantage of the union's willingness to deal, and in return have already won this battle and right now are simply trying to run up the score.

Stern has made a couple mea culpas of his own (he offered the 50-50 split way too soon), but for the most part has played the heavy throughout these negotiations, while the union has seemingly been on its heels trying to gain some footing, some semblance of leverage.

Fisher talked about the desire to give on the economics so that the players would, in return, get a break on system-related issues from the owners.

It sounds good, and it's certainly the right way to approach things if you're in a fair fight. But these owners are not interested in doing what is good or right. And this fight never has been, and frankly, never will be a fair one.

Fuh-get-tah-ah-bot-it!

You don't get these kind of lopsided results in a fair fight. Take a look at the score card:

Basketball Related Income - owners win.

Contract lengths - owners win.

Luxury tax system - owners win.

Annual raises - owners win.

Sign-and-trades - owners win.

Pick an issue, any issue, and the winner in just about every instance has been the owners. But as the union's lead counsel Jeffrey Kessler pointed out, coming out ahead is not enough for these owners.

"The big story is they want it all," Kessler said.

He's right. And the only shot that the players have at this point in avoiding that, is to take the deal that's currently on the table.

Whether Stern's bluffing about taking the current deal off the table by Wednesday remains to be seen.

But multiple sources contacted this past week and again this weekend, have all indicated that the deal on the table for the union will only get worse if the players don't take it.

"Even if there was a desire to sweeten the deal, that's not going to happen because of all the lost games," said one Western Conference front-office executive. "The players are in a tough spot. They know it, and so do the owners. That's why the squeeze is on."

While it's clear that the players have lost this battle, they still have the potential to completely change up the game by de-certifying the union which would expose the NBA to a host of potential anti-trust lawsuits.

But here's the problem with that course of action. Because such a move would put the players fate in the courts and cause an unbelievable amount of chaos for all involved, it would take months before things were settled.

And time is the one thing players don't have on their side.

So there is the potential for them to de-certify, start the process involved with that, only to have the NBA come around and give them some of the concessions they were looking for -- and still wind up losing an entire season.

And guess who the fans would blame for that? The players. Once again, the owners would come out as winners.

"They want a win, win, win, win," said Kessler, who declined to discuss the union's options if they turned down Stern's proposal. "We wanted to compromise. They're not giving the players a lot of choice."

Pick or trade?: Celtics find themselves in similar position to 2014 Cavs

Pick or trade?: Celtics find themselves in similar position to 2014 Cavs

BOSTON – Even before the Boston Celtics landed the top overall pick in next month’s NBA draft, there has been talk about Boston potentially trading it away.

While Danny Ainge has made no secret about being open to all options involving the top overall pick, there are a couple of things to remember.

Moving the number one overall pick is not a decision that’s made lightly.

That’s why only twice since the ABA-NBA merge in 1976, has the number one overall pick not played for the team that selected him.

But in looking at the two instances when it did happen, 1993 with Chris Webber (drafted by Orlando, traded to Golden State) and 2014 with Andrew Wiggins (drafted by Cleveland, traded to Minnesota), the Wiggins deal best resembles the kind of situation that the Celtics now find themselves in with the top overall pick in hand.

In 2014, Cleveland wound up with the number one overall pick for the second straight year. In 2013, they shocked many in selecting UNLV’s Anthony Bennett which turned out to be a huge mistake.

But the following year, taking Andrew Wiggins out of Kansas with the top pick was more of a no-brainer.

The Cavs were soon faced with the kind of problem every team would love to have.

Just a couple weeks after the draft, LeBron James announced that he was taking his talents back to Cleveland.

The number one pick and James returning to Cleveland?

Does it get much better than that for a Cavs fan?

As it turned out … yeah. It got a hell of a lot better, actually.

While a James-Wiggins-Kyrie Irving Big Three will probably win you a lot of console championships, in the real world of NBA basketball it wasn’t going to work.

The Cavs knew this, which is why they made no secret about willing to part ways with the top pick (Wiggins) for the right player.

That player was Kevin Love, who had grown tired of all the struggles he endured with the Timberpups who never grew up enough to win enough games to get to the playoffs.  

Minnesota, understanding that they may be better off down the road without Love, decided to move him for a bunch of pieces centered around Wiggins who went on to become the league’s Rookie of the Year.

Cleveland’s motivation for making the deal had a lot to do with being in the best position to compete for a title right now, without having to do major work at the front-end of their rotation.

LeBron James. Kyrie Irving. Kevin Love.

Fill in the rest of the roster with good players who are great fits, and just like that ... you're a title contender. 

Boston finds itself in a similar position to the Cavs in 2014.

Unlike most franchises with the top overall pick, Boston doesn’t need that player to come in and carry the franchise from Day One.

Remember, Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference finals this season with one of the younger teams in the playoffs.

Of the players under contract for next season, Al Horford – he’ll be 31 years old on Saturday – is the oldest player.

So with all that youth still developing their games, still figuring out how best to impact the Celtics, Boston knows they would be much better served if they can convert that top overall pick into a proven, established All-Star that can move them that much closer to title contention sooner rather than later.

That’s why Cleveland was so eager to trade the pick, knowing it would likely return a proven star for a team that at the time felt they were one piece away from being a true title contender.

Boston, which lost to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals last week, is at least one high-impact performer (I believe two personally) from posing a stronger threat to the Cavs’ dominance than we saw in a conference finals that Cleveland ended in five games.

There are a few big names that the Celtics have shown interest in the past, and they could once again come into play this offseason.

Indiana’s Paul George is a player Boston has had its sights on for a while now. The only real concern the Celtics have with George is whether he’ll re-sign with them next summer when he becomes a free agent.

Rumors have circulated for a few months that the Palmdale, Calif. native is longing to be closer to home and play for the Los Angeles Lakers who have identified him as a primary free agent target when he becomes available.

Indiana might be motivated to move him sooner to ensure they’ll get something for him if he does, in fact, decide to move on.

But are the Celtics willing to risk giving up the number one overall pick (along with other key assets) for a player who may only be around for one season?

And while it is a long shot and on paper makes little sense, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis shouldn’t totally be discounted, either.

The Pelicans are a franchise right now that’s not going anywhere with their current allotment of talent, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

They gave up their first-round pick this year as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, so they’re not on the clock until the 40th selection, or 10th pick in the second round.

It would take a significant amount of assets to acquire Davis, but considering his age (he’s just 24 years old), talent, and versatility at both ends of the floor, he becomes an instant game-changer if the Celtics can get him.

Boston also likes Jimmy Butler of Chicago, although the Celtics aren’t likely to need to give up the number one pick to get him.

The Bulls have been hesitant to move Butler for many reasons.

For one thing, he’s a hell of player.

In addition, his contract (he has three years left on a five-year, $92.3 million deal that began with the 2015-2016 season) is very team-friendly for a player regarded as being among the top-15, top-20 in the NBA.

With the salary cap steadily rising, Chicago would likely have to pay significantly more than that if they traded for say, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, who each hit free agency in the summer of 2018.

No matter what direction the Celtics decide to go with the number one overall pick, there will be some risk involved.

But with that risk comes the tremendous potential to be rewarded with a great player who could be just what this franchise needs in order to bring home Banner 18. 

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.