NBA players ponder uncertain future

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NBA players ponder uncertain future

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

LAS VEGAS Leaders from within the NBA players union are expected in town on Thursday to bring its membership up to speed on what's next in the seemingly ongoing labor battle with NBA owners.

Following Tuesday's meeting, all indications are that the NBA season will not start on time.

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players union, went a step further and indicated that players should plan on missing half of the season before a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can be reached.

With the overseas basketball market already drying up, opportunities to make decent money playing basketball won't be plentiful.

And while NBA players rake in millions, there's no question that there are some who live check-to-check.

With no timetable for when those checks will start coming in again, you can expect a lot of 'what-do-we-do-now?' chatter when the players gather among themselves.

"Guys will look at other options," Charlotte Bobcats guardforward Corey Maggette told Comcast SportsNet when asked about what he anticipates will happen in the players union meeting this week. Right now, we're unemployed. When you're unemployed, you have to find another gig. And hopefully you can make end's meet on the things you need to do."

For players like Maggette, money isn't nearly as big a factor as it is for younger, less-established NBA players.

To put Maggette's finances in perspective, he signed six-year, 42 million contract in 2003 and later signed a five-year, 48 million contract in 2008.

Maggette said he will consider playing overseas, depending on how long the lockout lasts.

"You have to be open to every option," he said. I think it's important. Some guys can hold out, financially wait. For me, if it's an opportunity to play, it's a good opportunity to stay in shape."

Still, there's no way to ignore the impact of not having an NBA season will have on younger players like Boston's Avery Bradley.

Heading into this third season, Bradley is more concerned with being somewhere - anywhere - working on his game.

"If going overseas is going to be good for me, that's what I'm going to do," Bradley told Comcast SportsNet New England. "If I can improve my game overseas, that's what I'm going to do."

Players seem to understand that with the late start to the season all but a given now, the league's fan base will surely shrink some. That's why it's so important for players to do what they can to be ready to play whenever the season starts.

In 1998, the first NBA lockout ever, Rashard Lewis was just a rookie. He recalls a number of players, not exactly coming into camp ready to play despite the late start.

"Some guys came in overweight," Lewis said. "A lot of injuries happened. If you start late, they're going to cram games in. Sometimes we played four games in one week. Back-to-back, day off, back-to-back."

Because the nature of talks are so fluid, there's no telling when a deal might be struck.

"When they say it's over, it's almost like they say you have to report that day or the next day and hit the ground running," Lewis said. "Playing here in Vegas in the Impact league is good for all NBA players, to get yourself in shape, work on your game and just wait to see what happens on the other side of the fence."

Added Maggette, "Whenever the league starts, wewant to be ready. We want our fans to know we appreciate them, and we're ready to come back and play basketball."

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

How the 1956 draft changed the Celtics franchise

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How the 1956 draft changed the Celtics franchise

We take a look at how the 1956 Boston Celtics draft landed them three All-Stars and changed the franchise forever.

Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

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Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

BOSTON -- It seems that while Avery Bradley comes back every season with something new that he’s added to his game offensively, his defense has always been solid.

But this past year, Bradley, 26, was more committed to being not just a great on-the-ball defender, but also to expanding his game at that end of the floor to be a better help defender, too.

Bradley’s efforts didn't go unnoticed. The NBA announced Wednesday that he was among the players named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team.

It was Bradley's first time being named to the first team. His only other all-league recognition defensively came in 2013, when he was named to the league's second unit.

Bradley's play certainly was pivotal in his selection. But it didn't hurt that Portland's C.J. McCollum praised Bradley via social media as the best perimeter defender in the NBA.

"I don't think it's close," tweeted McCollum. 

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard was the lone unanimous choice on the first team. In addition to Leonard and Bradley, the first team also included Golden State’s Draymond Green, Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan’s teammate Chris Paul.

Of the first-team players, Bradley was third in total points (149), which included 62 first-team votes and 25 second-team votes. The only players with more first-team votes were Leonard (130) and Green (123).

Players were awarded two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.

The All-NBA Defensive Second team included Paul Millsap of Atlanta, Paul George of Indiana, Hassan Whiteside of Miami, ex-Celtic and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.

Bradley wasn’t the only Celtic to receive some all-Defensive love from voters. Jae Crowder had a total of 47 points, which included 3 first-team votes. His 47 points were the third-highest among players not named to the first or second team.  Also, Celtics guard Marcus Smart received seven points which included 2 first-team votes.

Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

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Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

BOXFORD, Mass. -- It was just last week that Kelly Olynyk underwent right shoulder surgery that will keep him from playing for the Canadian National Team this summer in their quest for an Olympics berth in Rio, as well as have him sidelined until sometime in October. 

And yet there was the Celtics center on Wednesday with his right arm in a sling, chatting it up with kids at Spofford Pond School as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab during an unveiling ceremony, courtesy of the Celts and National Grid.

The C's and National Grid purchased 25 Chromebooks, 13 Samsung Galaxy Tablets and a 65-inch Samsung Smart TV as well as other high-tech, education-related items.

“I love the opportunity to come out, give back to the community,” said Olynyk who was also joined by former Celtic Leon Powe and Terry Sobolewski, the Chief Customer Officer for National Grid Massachusetts. “I’ve been sitting in my living room the last eight days, looking at the same four walls.”

And for Olynyk, the days of going stir crazy won’t end anytime soon.

The 7-footer had surgery on May 16, the day after he told CSNNE.com that if he elected to have surgery he would be sidelined for five months.

On Wednesday, Olynyk reiterated that the timeline for him to resume full contact had not changed.

Olynyk told CSNNE.com earlier that the surgery was “inevitable,” but that didn’t make it any easier.

“Probably the hardest decision of my life,” Olynyk said. “As far as weighing the national team, the opportunity to play in the Olympics. I played with Team Canada the last eight years, waiting for this opportunity, waiting for this day to come where we’d be on this stage, have this before us. But with the Celtics . . . talking to a bunch of people, it was inevitable that I was going to need surgery.”

Among the biggest concerns for Olynyk was the possibility of playing with Team Canada and suffering another right shoulder injury that would require surgery and potentially lead to him missing the start of the season.

By having the surgery last week Olynyk is expected to resume practicing with the Celts in the middle of October, which would give him a couple weeks of having been cleared before the season starts.

“I couldn’t miss next year,” said Olynyk who added that the decision to have the surgery was his and did not involve the Celtics pressuring him to do so. “We’re moving in the right direction. You want to keep that momentum going. It was a really tough decision. But it was something I needed to do.”

Olynyk said he will be in a sling for at least two weeks, adding that he will be in it for another 10 days or so.

“My guess is you progress, getting that motion back, making sure everything is fine, all that kind of stuff,” he said.

A healthy Olynyk could prove vital to the growth of his game as well as the Celtics’ desire to build off of last season’s 48-win club that made it to the playoffs for the second year in a row but also suffered a second consecutive first-round defeat.

Last season, Olynyk averaged 10.0 points per game and shot a career-best 40.5 percent from 3-point range. A stronger Olynyk could give the Celtics more options in how they want to use him going forward. For the most part, Boston likes to have Olynyk on the floor because of his perimeter shooting, which helps with spacing. But if he’s physically stronger, Boston can look to post him up from time to time as well, which would make him a much more dangerous weapon offensively.

No one anticipates Olynyk will suddenly morph into a dominant, inside-outside scoring threat. But added strength does give him a chance to improve as both a rebounder and defender, two areas in which Olynyk was up and down this past season.

And admittedly he was at his worst during the playoffs, when the Celtics desperately needed someone -- anyone -- to help space the floor as the Hawks packed in the paint, which limited the drives to the basket by Isaiah Thomas.

“(I was) cleared [medically to play], but I wasn’t able to help the team at all. I couldn’t do anything,” Olynyk said. “My arm . . . I couldn’t hold off one of these kids with my arm. Shooting pains, it was giving out. Motions without contact were okay. But once you put any contact on my arm, it was done. So I couldn’t do anything.”

Olynyk is hopeful the surgery will alleviate the issues with the shoulder, which sidelined him for 12 games in addition to limiting his effectiveness in the playoffs.

“[The doctors] tell me [I’m] going to be stronger than [I’ve] ever felt, ever been,” Olynyk said.