NBA, Player's Association work to avoid lockout


NBA, Player's Association work to avoid lockout

By A. Sherrod Blakely

LOS ANGELES As expected, the NBA and the player's union met on Friday during all-star weekend for about two hours in Beverly Hills, Calif.

And as expected, no consensus was reached on the best course of action to avoid a lockout with the current deal between the two factions set to expire June 30.

Union Executive Director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher met with the media following Friday's meeting with the ownership.

Fisher described the meeting as "constructive," with both sides showing a "commitment to trying to get this process done."

That will be easier said than done.

Because the NBA is looking for significant changes to the new CBA, avoiding a work stoppage will be difficult.

A hard salary cap, changes to the way guaranteed contracts are done, salary cuts and revenue sharing were among the topics discussed between the two sides.

"We talked about our willingness to negotiate and get a deal," Hunter said. "We spelled out some things we thought were impediments to getting a deal."

The fact that both sides are having dialogue is a definite sign of progress after some acrimonious exchanges a year ago.

Paul Pierce is the Celtics' union representative.

Although he was relatively new to the league, Pierce said he did attend meetings prior to the league's last work stoppage that delayed the start of the 1998-1999 season.

"I was part of it in 1998. I was a rookie, so I didn't know too much about it but I attended meetings," Pierce said. "This year, the players are really unified and carrying our league forward in the future. Not only veterans such as myself, but the young guys which is going to make itassociation we're trying to make the league great moving forward."

Avoiding a lockout would certainly help those efforts along.

While there are many who are pessimistic about a deal being struck between the players and the owners, Miami's LeBron James remains hopeful.

"I'm optimistic about it," he said. "Hopefully both sides can come away with an agreement that benefits both sides. No one wants to see a lockout, not the fans, not the players, not the owners. This game is too big and everyone enjoys it so much. Hopefully things can get situated before the start of the season."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

BOSTON – The Al Horford love fest continues with the veteran big man delivering yet another impressive performance for the Boston Celtics.

And this one?

Unlike his play in the preseason, Wednesday night's game counts.

Horford’s all-around play was pivotal to Boston holding on for a 122-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

CELTICS 122, NETS 117:

The four-time All-Star made several high-basketball IQ-type plays that in hindsight, were major key moments in Boston pushing its lead to as many as 23 points.

In the third quarter with Boston ahead 71-65, Horford took advantage of Brooklyn closing out too hard on him and drove into the lane. As the Nets defenders collapsed to take away a shot attempt in the lane, Horford swung the ball to Jae Crowder whose jumper triggered a 14-5 run.

Boston would lead by double figures until the last couple of minutes of the game.

“We have to keep playing the right way, for 48 minutes,” Horford said when asked about the team’s late-game collapse.

The late-game struggles aside, there was a lot to like about how the Celtics played throughout the first 40 minutes.

And a big part of that strong play has to be credited to Horford whose ability to help keep the ball moving allowed the Celtics to finish with 36 assists on 48 made field goals, the kind of opening night assist numbers that haven’t been seen around these parts in decades.

Horford was among those getting into the act, scoring 11 points to go with five rebounds and six assists.

To see him racking up guard-like assist numbers isn’t unusual when you consider he was third in the league last season in assists per game (3.2) for a center.

“Guys were moving the ball very well,” Horford said. “It’s kind of contagious.”

Said Crowder: “I never saw coaches clap on a three-second call. We moved the ball in the first quarter so much we got a three-second call. We passed up a lot of open shots. It just shows how unselfish we are playing as a unit.”

And while that selfless brand of basketball was on display at times last season, the addition of Horford seems to have taken it to another level.

“He opens the floor, he makes it easier for everybody; he’s always in the right spots, he’s a threat at all times,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He can hit the 3, hit the mid-range, and also post up so he has the full package; a guy that makes it easy for everybody.”