NBA players prepare to sit out half a season

366304.jpg

NBA players prepare to sit out half a season

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn LAS VEGAS After meeting for more than five hours on Tuesday, it appears the NBA is well on its way to a shortened season.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the players union, told reporters after Tuesday's meeting that the union is advising players that "they may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal."

Derek Fisher, president of the players union, added, "it's discouraging and it's unfortunate, but that's the reality of where we are right now."

Fisher added, "We can't come out of here thinking that training camps and preseason (games) are going to start on time at this point."

It didn't take long for the news out of New York, to make its way to Las Vegas where a number of NBA players are currently participating in the Impact Basketball Training Series.

"As you know, the meetings didn't go the way we planned for them to go," Charlotte Bobcats forward Corey Maggette told Comcast SportsNet. "We're so far apart, between both sides. Hopefully Derek as well as Billy, can figure out a way to fix this, and the owners can work this out."

When told about Hunter's comments, Boston Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal's first thoughts turned toward the NBA's expanding fan base.

"I feel bad for the fans that support this great league," he told CSNNE.com. "We want the league to be a great league, but we want it to be a fair league. We want to be fair to the owners, but we want to be fair to us, too. We don't want to be locked into something that's not fair to us."

The owners, for now at least, will not budge on insisting on a hard salary cap in addition to what will amount to reduced salaries.

Washington Wizards forward Rashard Lewis said he's not surprised that talks have stalled to the point where now the season's start is in jeopardy.

"Billy Hunter has prepared us for this situation," Lewis said. "A lot of the NBA guys were pretty much expecting. It's disappointing, but it's not a big surprise."

NBA commissioner David Stern addressed the media following Tuesday's talks which lasted more than five hours - most of which was spent with the owners talking among themselves, according to Hunter.

He told reporters that the players union was willing to make some concessions on divvying up the Basketball-Related Income, provided the current soft salary cap remain in effect.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver chimed in by saying the players had an "emotional attachment" to the current soft salary cap system.

"The owners are unwilling to move off of the position on which they've anchored themselves," said Hunter, who added that the owners did not present a different proposal.

Tuesday's meetings were a sharp departure from the seemingly upbeat nature of talks last week. Part of that had to do with Tuesday's meetings involving more members from both sides, which brought about a much deeper discussion on critical issues such as salary cap and the league's economic structure - both of which the owners want to change significantly from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement that expired on June 30.

"We understand that the world has changed and we need to make some changes," O'Neal said. "But what they're asking for ... it's just not fair to us."

O'Neal wonders why the owners aren't talking more among themselves about modifying their revenue sharing system to better spread the wealth to smaller-market teams which would create more parity and what he believes could potentially keep salaries across the league more in check.

"We can get a deal done, and we will get one done," O'Neal said. "But what the owners are talking about right now ... it's just not good for us or the league."

And unlike the last labor stoppage in 1998, there seems to be a greater sense of unity among the union members.

However, that bond will be put to the test in the coming weeks when NBA players start missing checks.

While veterans such as O'Neal have no plans to play overseas, some of the league's younger players will certainly look to keep playing somewhere.

Celtics guard Avery Bradley told Comcast SportsNet that his preference is to wait out the late start and begin the season with the Celtics.

But he wouldn't rule out taking his talents overseas.

"I'm going to do what's best for me," Bradley said. "If going overseas is what's best for me, then that's what I'm going to do."

Maggette said he too would consider playing overseas.

"Right now, we're unemployed," Maggette said. "When you're unemployed, you have to find another gig. it's not the NBA, but we need to find another solution."

Added former Celtic Tony Allen, now with the Memphis Grizzlies: "I don't care what job you have; NBA player, whatever, you don't want to miss any checks. None of us want to be out of work. But hey, we have to get the best deal we can. If we have to wait a minute on that, we have to wait."

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

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

MORE:

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.

MORE:

“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


STUDS

Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.

 

DUDS

Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.