Haggerty: Where does the NHL go from here?

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Haggerty: Where does the NHL go from here?

Everybody had to know Gary Bettman and Jeremy Jacobs werent going to burst out into cartwheels no matter how good the offer was from the NHLPA Wednesday.
Spontaneous song or hilarious Montgomery BurnsSmithers comedy act skits? Possibly.
But cartwheels? No way and no how.
The players made significant movement toward the NHL with a six-page offer that went away from a set monetary figure for next seasons revenue, and instead aimed toward the leagues request of a set percentage of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) along with a raise in make whole money.
"There was movement from the players association on some issues, which was appreciated," said Bettman. "There was some movement by us. Hopefully there will be some momentum from todays session that we can build off of."
So the NHL should have been satisfied with the movement, but instead they acted like one of the NHLPA contingent clogged up their toilets during the Wednesday visit to the league offices.
The NHL had previously offered 211 million in make whole deferment money to guarantee the player contracts already signed, and the NHLPA asked for an additional 182 million to that kitty over the course of the CBAs first four years.
In essence you could say the two sides sit 182 million apart along with a bevy of player contract rights they also still dont see eye-to-eye on. To put the 182 million into perspective: it amounts to little more than a million dollars per team, per year over the course of a five-year contract.
Thats chump change in the world of professional sports. It also makes it all the more insulting to the fans that the league simply rejected the players proposal rather than making an effort to work off the numbers.
Unsurprisingly, the players moved toward the league on a number of fronts, and the NHL did almost nothing to meet the players in the spacious middle. Instead the NHL pushed entry level contracts back to the three years as they existed in the previous CBA from a two-year proposal. In their infinite wisdom, the NHL also went to the extent of pushing the players arbitration eligibility back one season.
In essence, the NHLPA gave in to the players on some important areas that put the two parties within shouting distance of each other. But it didnt matter to an almighty Board of Governors thats expected to whack all regular season games until Dec. 15 and the NHL All-Star game by the end of this week. Hows that for a nice holiday surprise to the businesses of Columbus, Ohio that expected a nice business boom at the end of January?
Maybe the Blue Jackets' owners should have checked the fine print on this years NHL blueprint for the CBA.
So where do the NHL and NHLPA go from here with Fehr at his bemused breaking point on Wednesday and Bettman overflowing with smugness as he conversed with an angry Flyers fan during his post-meeting press conference?  
Both sides are expected to hold discussions on Friday about where to go from here, and one would hope that means a counter-offer from the NHL bringing them closer together. Instead, the league continues to sound the alarm that theyve already released their best offer, and that circumstances will only get worse for the players as the NHL hemorrhages 18-20 million per day. Its also not helping that NHL sponsors like Kraft and Molson are either asking for refunds, or simply walking away to spend their money elsewhere.
The New York Post is reporting the NHL Board of Governors will sit down for a Dec. 5 meeting, and its difficult to glean whether thats a positive or negative development for the 2012-13 season.
The NHLPA has its share of frustration as well. They finally had their first union member go broken arrow when defenseman Roman Hamrlik angrily mentioned getting rid of Fehr if the season is cancelled. Hamrliks lockout rant doesnt speak for many players, but it was only a matter of time before one of the voices struck out against the rest of the players singing in harmony.
The mention of potentially decertifying the union was first brought up in a conference call earlier this week, and could become a possibility if the NHLPA gets desperate for leverage. The NBA and their players union were going through a similar impasse last season when the basketball players got serious about breaking up their union, and lo and behold the NBA regular season began a few weeks later.
The decertification process allows the players to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league and even sue for damages in some instances, so its a tangled web the NHL probably doesnt want to delve into too deeply. But it might also give the NHLPA a chance to crumble the leagues salary cap structure once decertification takes place. That kind of action would mean a certifiable World War III with NHL owners that have built their business model around the salary cap.
But it would also mean players have some leverage they dont currently enjoy as Bettman lightly pats them on the head after watching the NHLPA stretch toward the league in negotiations. As stated previously at this address, the players already know theyre going to lose this head-to-head battle with the NHL. Theyre already feeling the urgency to return to work before the game they loved is wrecked beyond belief by the ugly business side of the league.
Unfortunately, the NHL appears to have a date in mind when theyd like to return, and that date will mean a couple of things have happened: the league can still play a maximum number of games played in the 60 range combined with five or more paycheck cycles missed that out-of-work players will never see again.
In the end, the owners will have lopped off the least profitable months of the season while still getting things into gear when the NHL historically tends to take off around Christmas.
Thats the theory, anyway.
Bettmans abhorrence for the NHLPAs gamesmanship and the leagues unwashed arrogance toward the players could always push the entire league over the cliff, and force them to miss another season.
But that moment is still more than a month away, and theyd have to be foolish enough to blow through deadlines on Dec. 15 and January 1. It could still happen, but its difficult to see the NHL unable to field some manner of shortened regular season given the middle ground both sides are dealing with.
Thats a little NHL silver lining on a day that turned out much worse than most had hoped or anticipated it would. At least we have that to be thankful for.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.