Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

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Players considering NHLPA decertification as an option

"Decertification" become a buzzword for the NHLNHLPA labor battle, and theres little wonder why: A move to bust up the players union in the NBA directly preceded an agreement during its lockout last year.

But decertification could have uncertain consequences.

The NBA Players Association decertified quickly, filed two lawsuits, and the league settled within a couple of weeks. The NFL players had to wait four months for a settlement after decertifying, but they opted for it at the beginning of negotiations rather than toward the tail end.

A move by the NHLPA to decertify could drop the league into turmoil. Stripping the NHL of its anti-trust immunity would wipe out the entry draft, blow up all the rules governing free agency, arbitration and the salary cap and create a Wild West atmosphere where players could go to the highest bidder. Understandably its an option the NHL claims would wipe out the rest of this season while throwing the league into chaos, but its also the kind of leverage point the NHLPA hasnt enjoyed during these one-sided negotiations.

The mere threat of NHL control being wrested from the 30 owners and put into the court rooms is a viable weapon in negotiations. There is much more bite to a potential union decertification than to what's gone on this week between federal mediators and the two sides.

Bruins players polled after their Monday morning voluntary skate indicated that union decertification has definitely been mentioned in discussion, but all of them were waiting to hear it explained to them more fully. Sounds like grounds for an NHLPA conference call.

Im not really educated enough on decertification to make a comment either way, said Shawn Thornton. Its an option we are aware of, but nobody has really been educated on it.

But if the specter of decertification leads the NHL to back off some of their player contract right demands or pushes them to raise the make-whole number, then its something the players will view as a positive.

"We want to play," Thornton said. "But there hasnt been one bone thrown our way by the owners to where guys would say if it went to a vote right now we could live with it. There are things that have to be addressed. If there were a couple of bones thrown in there then thered be enough moderates to voice their opinions to Don Fehr. But it hasnt been that way at all. We keep giving and they keep saying Thanks . . . what else have you guys got? Until that changes, nothing is going to change."

In essence the players are looking at potential decertification as one of the only possible ways to bring the lockout conflict to an end. That end game is what intrigues out-of-work players, or those in Europe.

"Ive tried to read a couple of articles on it and talked with my sister, who is a lawyer, about it," Gregory Campbell said. "It seems like something like its an awfully serious decision. I dont know what the ramifications would be if we went down that road. I dont know if a lot people understand what would happen if we decertified. I think everybody just wants a solution to this.

"In searching the other lockouts it looks like it might be an option. It may come to that. But I dont understand enough about it to make a statement of whether we should do it or not."

Here are the basics of decertification:

First the NHLPA would sign a petition to decertify. If at least 30 percent of the members sign, the process begins.

The petition goes to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If 30 to 49 percent of the membership signed the petition, the board sets a decertification election date, usually about 60 days after approving the player membership petition.

If 50 percent or more signed, the employer may immediately withdraw recognition of the union. But the NHL would be unlikely to do so because it would allow the players to immediately begin filing antitrust lawsuits against them.

Once the labor relations board sets an election date, the union holds a decertification vote on that date. If a majority votes in favor, the union is decertified and its status changes to a trade association.

The trade association can file antitrust lawsuits against the employer and sue for damages on wages lost with triple the damages if the NHL is found to be guilty of bad bargaining practices.

It would likely take at least two months for the NHL Players Association to decertify, so the filing of antitrust lawsuits couldnt begin until the beginning of February. Even if the NHL buckled immediately, that would probably be too late to save the season. But even the submission of a qualifying petition could pose enough of a threat to push the NHL into action. Both sides can continue to negotiate while the decertification process is taking place.

Thats essentially what happened with the NBA last year, and what might be the NHLPA's only weapon to get the league back to the bargaining table.

Carson Smith 'had to take a step back' in recovery from Tommy John

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Carson Smith 'had to take a step back' in recovery from Tommy John

Neither set-up man the Red Sox traded for under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith, is throwing off a mound presently.

Smith, on his way back from Tommy John surgery, felt soreness after throwing a bullpen session and is back to doing long toss. 

"He’s had to slow down," Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday. "Once he got on the mound with some aggression and good intensity, was throwing the ball well. And as a result there’s been some soreness that has kind of reared its head. So have had to back him off, back into long toss, he’s thrown out to about 110 feet here today. We’re hopeful that in the very near future that mound progression resumes.

"The unique thing about Tommy John recovery is that every situation is going to be different. In this case, we’ve had to take a step back a little bit and get back to flat ground."

Smith is in Boston as part of a previously scheduled meet-up with the team, Farrell said. When the season began, Smith was rehabbing in Florida. He was put on the 60-day disabled list on Thursday, a formality that opened up a 40-man roster spot for new acquisition Chase d'Arnaud.

Smith was put on the disabled list on April 3, so he can return June 2 at the earliest, but may now need more time.

Thornburg (right shoulder impingement) is building up his long-toss distance.

In other injury news, Brock Holt (vertigo) may begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday or Saturday, Farrell said.

Despite series lead, Celtics lament their inability to hit open shots

Despite series lead, Celtics lament their inability to hit open shots

BOSTON – There are many factors you can point to in the regular season as indicators of what may happen when two NBA  teams meet in the playoffs.

You don't have to be inside the Chicago Bulls' locker room to know that when it comes to the Celtics, they were fully prepared to face a team that took a lot of 3's but wasn’t necessarily shooting them at a high percentage. 
 
That reality has certainly come into focus in Boston’s first-round series against the Chicago, one the C’s lead 3-2 as they continue to try and 3-point shoot their way on to the next round – without giving a damn how many long-range shots it takes to get the job done. 

In five playoff games, Boston is shooting 45.3 percent from the field, which puts them in the middle of the pack (eighth overall) among the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason.
 
But when it comes to the long ball, they are on the back-nine of playoff teams, ranking 10th while shooting 32.4 percent from 3-point range while leading all postseason clubs with 38.7 3-point attempts per game.

In the regular season, the Celtics ranked 16th in field-goal percentage (.454) and 14th in 3-point shooting (35.9 percent) while attempting 33.4 3's per game, which trailed only Houston (40.3) and Cleveland (33.9) this season.  

Boston's shooting from the field mirrors what it did in the regular season, but they know all too well that their shooting percentage in this series should be much higher due to the high number of open shots they have missed. 
 
Take a look at Game 5.
 
In the 108-97 win, the Celtics shot an impressive 53.1 percent when their shots were contested.
 
But let the Bulls have a defensive breakdown like a failed switch, or a guy gets beat for what turns into a great opportunity for Boston to score with no resistance, and instead of burying the open shot, the Celtics have  consistently blown those opportunities. That’s evident by the C’s connecting on just 30.8 percent (12-for-39) of their uncontested field-goal attempts in Game 5.
 
Even the usually reliable Isaiah Thomas had issues making uncontested shots in Game 5 and this series as a whole.
 
He had 24 points and shared game-high scoring honors with Avery Bradley on Wednesday night, but Thomas probably should have led everyone outright in scoring when you consider he had five open shots and wound up missing four of them.
 
That’s why when it comes to Boston’s offense, the last thing Thomas or any of his teammates complains about is getting the shots they want.
 
“I’ve been getting good open looks,” he said. “My teammates have been getting me open. We just got to knock down the shots. Coach [Stevens] keeps saying one day soon we’re going to knock down the open shots that we are missing and it might be [Game 6].”