NBA players show solidarity at Thursday meeting

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NBA players show solidarity at Thursday meeting

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

LAS VEGAS NBA players from all over the economic stratosphere, from rookies yet to receive their first NBA check to former All-Stars like Jermaine O'Neal, were flocked behind Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter and other members of the NBA players association's executive board.

Fisher, the NBAPA's president had a simple message following the three-plus hour meeting among the union and its members.

But the image behind Fisher - NBA players, shoulder to shoulder, all donning the same gray t-shirts with the word 'Stand' in the center - said it all.

"At the end of the day, we come out of our meeting continuing to be unified and as together as we've been throughout this process," Fisher said. "We continue to express our desire to negotiate, to get a fair deal; one that is fair to all our players, not just our star players . . . that's who we're standing for. We'll continue to take that stand until our team owners are in a position where they want to come to the table and get a fair deal done.

"We haven't pretended to walk into the room during negotiations and have expectations or entitlement to anything other than what's fair to the body of players that make up the game of professional basketball."

Having the image of a strong, united front was clearly the thrust of what the union hoped to accomplish.

Moves in that direction were on the radar screen prior to Thursday's meeting, which included about 30 NBA players.

Prior to the meeting, Fisher sent an e-mail to the NBAPA's membership, which was to "best update you personally as to where the leadership of the National Basketball Players Association stands, where the negotiations stand where we are headed and the reasons why."

In the letter, which was obtained by SI.com, Fisher made a point to reiterate that he and the union's executive committee "will not agree to an unfair deal on behalf of you and our players. Period."

Maurice Evans, vice president of the NBAPA, told CSNNE.com that the biggest issue impacting the union and its members is misinformation coming from a variety of sources.

"We were able to really bring calmness and clarity to their situation," he said. "I don't think we'll have too many problems moving forward."

Evans has heard much of the talk recently that a handful of agents are pushing for the league to de-certify, which some believe just might be what the union needs to do in order to get progress towards a new CBA with the owners.

"That was a significant portion of the meeting, getting them players to understand their rights and their power," Evans said. "And just educating these guys on how to grow as a man, represent yourself and your family and to work alongside your agent, work together with your agent."

Evans understands the bond that players have with their agents.

But that bond, he said, needs to be put in perspective.

"Just trying to show players where they stand, and how the agents in some instances can be a great help, as some are, but some can be a detriment," he said.

Inside the meeting, Evans said the players were also presented with questions to get them to better understand the nature of their relationship with the union and their respective agents.

"We engaged them, we enlightened them and we asked them questions," Evans said. "'Who do you come to when you have arbitration or an issue with your agent? Who resolves that issue? In extreme and general situations, we were able to ask these guys questions . . . and it gave them their answers."

Driving the united front home even more was the presence of DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL players association.

Smith was invited to the meeting by Fisher.

"The one point that Smith made, was in regards to decertification, it's not the silver bullet," said Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA players' association. "The real key to all of this is player solidarity. Our players are united; they're with us. They understand the position we've adopted. We've kept them fully informed. Any decisions made will be made by the group of players behind us as well as their colleagues."

Hunter and the players union filed a lawsuit against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board, which he hopes to have a ruling on within the next three weeks.

If the NLRB rules in favor of the union, they could rule that the lockout is illegal and thus, bring it to an end.

But until that option is exhausted, don't anticipate the union will give any serious thoughts about decertifying.

The players will try and carry themselves akin to the grey t-shirts they adorned which had players, side-by-side, with the word 'Stand' in front of them.

"The one thing that does come out of this meeting, we've kind of dispelled the notion that the players were not together; that they were not in support of the union," Hunter said. "So if the owners were looking for some division or break in the ranks, that it might weaken our resolve, I think that's been put to bed."

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

Thomas becoming one of the NBA's best in the fourth quarter

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Thomas becoming one of the NBA's best in the fourth quarter

Isaiah Thomas has established himself as one of the NBA’s top players in the fourth quarter of games this season.

“I’d rather play that than any other quarter,” Thomas said.

But there will be times when the game’s flow or head coach Brad Stevens’ gut will tell him to go in a different direction with Thomas’ minutes which is something the two have had conversations about which has helped eliminate any confusion or misunderstandings.

“We’ve had player-coach talks, how he feels and how I feel,” Thomas said. “That’s the relationship we have. We changed it up a little bit (in the win over Sacramento) and I’m just happy we got the win.”

In that game, Thomas was replaced by Terry Rozier with 3:20 to play in the quarter and Boston trailing 66-63. He returned to the floor at the 8:31 mark and the Celtics were down 76-74.

“The key is, there are some times where you feel like those last few minutes of the third quarter will be real important moving forward,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “Especially based on how your team is playing. And you just have to make that decision. You have to make that decision, you take him out early in the third like we did (against Sacramento) and put him back in earlier; or play him through until the two or one-minute mark in the third, and then give him his rest up until the seven or six. Either way, we’ve talked about it like I do with all our guys, especially the guys that are playing and big in the rotation.

Stevens would love to come up with a game plan and stick to it with little to no changes being made.

But the NBA game is unpredictable and his job as the head coach is to make the necessary on-the-fly changes that best position the Celtics for victory.

“Ultimately there will be days that it will be very consistent and there might be a time or two where I’m gonna go with my gut,” Stevens said. “They know that and we’ve talked about it.”

And while Stevens’ decision may not sit well with some, players understand it’s all done to achieve one goal – win. 

“There’s a number of reasons why you make a decision to leave someone in or take someone out,” Stevens said. “Ultimately, we have to figure out game to game, moment to moment, what’s best for our team. That’s what I’m charged with. That doesn’t mean I’m always right. I’m not gonna act like that. Ultimately, those guys know I’m thinking about it all the time.”

C's Mickey sent to D-League

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C's Mickey sent to D-League

Jordan Mickey, inactive in five of the Boston Celtics’ last six games, has been assigned to the Maine Red Claws of the Development League.

“He’s been inactive in a few of these games here,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game at Philadelphia. “And rather than being inactive and being here in a suit and tie, we knew there was a hockey game this afternoon and it was going to be unlikely to get much action on the court at all today. So it made a lot more sense to play for a couple days and fly down to Houston and meet us.”

Mickey has appeared in just eight games this season, averaging 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field.

Tonight will be the former second-round pick’s 10th missed game this season, five in which he did not play (coaches decision) and another five in which he will be inactive.

The lack of playing time for the second-year player has more to do with Boston’s depth in the frontcourt than anything specific to his game.

“He’s done a good job,” Stevens said of Mickey. “It’s the same old thing that last year although we’re not quite as deep at that spot. But it’s still, at the end of the day we have to make a decision of, are we going to play more traditional or are we going to slide like a Jonas (Jerebko) or Jae (Crowder) over to the four (power forward) and play more spaced which limits the amount of bigs you can have in a game.

Stevens added, “he’s done a good job.  He’s made progress. I don’t think there’s any question we think he’s a guy that can help us not only down the road but this year.”

Mickey is in the lineup for the Red Claws’ game tonight against Santa Cruz and he’s also scheduled to play in Sunday’s game against the Raptors 905 with both games being televised via Facebook Live.