Haggerty: NHL talks will go the distance

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Haggerty: NHL talks will go the distance

It probably couldnt have ended any other kind of way.
Both the NHL and NHLPA appear to be wholly uncomfortable with actual discussions and good faith negotiations simply because thats the quickest way to a CBA solution. Instead, both sides continue to mistrust the other, and with good reason. The NHL players and league officials have made great progress this week on a number of Collective Bargaining fronts, but the players are also miffed that the league has backed away from previous commitments made to the pension plan.
Theres also an issue with Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) that became the only topic of face-to-face conversation between the players and league. NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr never showed up at the NHL offices for any of the negotiations, and instead was focused on putting together another vote to potentially dissolve the union. The renewed disclaimer of interest vote is necessary because the NHL was acting very differently on Thursday without the threat of decertification hanging over their collective heads.
It seems that neither Fehr nor NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appear willing to close a deal before staring down the barrel of the season cancellation gun at the end of next week. In fact, the Winnipeg Free Press quoted a veteran Board of Governors member on Thursday night saying that Bettman is prepared to cancel the season on Thursday if a deal has not been reached or appears to be imminent.
Despite this, the NHLPA believes Bettman will flinch when it comes to whacking the entire 2013 NHL season given the pressure from media, fans, sponsors, advertisers and some very unhappy owners that have watched a three-ring negotiating circus sully the leagues reputation.
The NHL believes it can threaten, bully and browbeat the players as theyve done in the past, and that eventually their tried and true techniques of schoolyard negotiating will work once again. But this is a different time and a different group of players that dont trust the league, and feel like they must stand up for themselves after getting pounded in 2004-05.
Both are resolute in their strategies at this point. But both the owners and the players know they cant cancel this season without permanently damaging their 3.3 billion brand, and so NHL employees around the league are being told that the season will begin on Jan. 19. A 48-game regular season has been in the works for weeks, and it will start with rivalry games in nearly every corner of North America. It will be a shining beacon of the best that NHL hockey can represent when everything else doesnt get in the way.
But it will also be a stark reminder of the searing stupidity and morbid selfishness that allowed things to spin so monumentally out of control, and once brought the NHL to its knees without even a single game being played.
Things like threatening the cancellation of the season and disclaimer of interest movements are seemingly the only language that moves anybody once it has reached this level of trench warfare. At least both sides had consistently traded offers over the last few days and significant progress had been made on year-to-year variance, CBA length, amnesty buyouts (teams have two rather than one now) among other things.
But it doesnt really matter whether its the pension plan, the salary cap during the second year of the CBA or term limits on individual player contracts. This was a deal destined to never get done until there is exactly one second left on the stopwatch to a cancelled season, and both sides had made their final attempt to scrounge up any remaining scraps left on the table.
That means there is still a week of wiggle room left to harass the other side, show up two hours late for meetings or perhaps stage one last take it or leave it offer before storming out of a conference room.
Sadly it appears that Bettman and Fehr wouldnt have it any other way.

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.