Celtics

Blakely: NFL has new deal; NBA, it's your turn

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Blakely: NFL has new deal; NBA, it's your turn

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
BOSTON The NFL and its players have come to terms on a new deal, just in time to avoid doing very little harm or damage to the league's image moving forward.

If only the NBA can be that lucky.

In the coming months, it's inevitable that comparisons will be made between the two leagues and the issues that ultimately led to work stoppages in both sports.

Don't be fooled.

The truth is, the NBA has it worse - a lot worse - than the NFL.

One league is making money (NFL) and was trying to figure out the best way to divvy up the dinero among all the outstretched hands.

And to think, it took them 137 days and they're making money, folks!

The NBA is trying to change the way money is distributed, with the goal being to set up a system that essentially guarantees profits.

"I'm dreaming" by Christopher Williams immediately comes to mind whenever I think of the owners and that pie-in-the-sky goal.

Meanwhile, the players would much rather see things stay as they are, which is understandable when the average NBA player makes north of 5 million a season.

Clearly the deal to be made is somewhere in between, but getting there won't be easy.

For the NBA to have a new collective bargaining agreement in place in the same amount of time it took the NFL, we'd be looking at rejoicing in the season to be on Nov. 14 which means even if they finished at the same rate as the NFL, games would be missed.

And with both sides nowhere close to reaching an agreement, it is setting the stage for what will likely be a very acrimonious, drawn out labor battle that in the end, is sure to do more harm than good to the league.

Forget about the name-calling and all that other nonsense that has gone on and will continue to in varying degrees as both sides draw out the lines for battle. Even as both sides steadily point the finger at the other for holding up a deal getting done, it won't matter.

Fans ultimately could care less about who is the blame.

The only thing fans know for sure now, is that everything they have seen, read and heard thus far indicates that the NBA won't start on time and that the potential for an entire season to be lost, is very real.

For Celtics Nation, this isn't as big a concern here as it is in some other small to mid-size markets.

Winners of 17 NBA titles - more than any NBA team - the Celtics have a strong global fan base.

Take the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While Oklahoma City isn't exactly the most exciting city on the NBA circuit, they have some of the best pro basketball fans that you'll find.

In a market so heavily entrenched in college football, the Thunder's fan base might look radically different - and a hell of a lot smaller - if an entire NBA season passes by without any games.

That's not good for business, for players, but maybe most important, for fans.

Without them, there would be no interest in the NBA, no need for shoe companies to fight over the next big this or that or for those ridiculous (faux) reality TV shows involving ex-spouses, girlfriends, whatever you want to call them, of former and current professional basketball players.

No one is diminishing the fact that getting a new collective bargaining agreement is no easy task for the NBA, even when the money was rolling in for players and owners alike. Yes, we'll talk about Basketball Related Income and guaranteed contract years and mid-level exceptions and salary caps, hard or soft.

It's all nice to know, but fans don't give a damn about that stuff.

When are the games coming back, and when can I get tickets? That's what they truly care about.

Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the players and owners.

While we all would love to see the NBA as just a game, the league is clearly more than that. It is a multi-billion industry that has made a lot of folks rich over time. But often overlooked at times like this when we talk about the league's growth, is the growth in its fan base.

One of the first owners to speak following the NFL and the league's players union striking an agreement, was Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Among his first comments was to apologize to the fans.

It was a classy move by Kraft to take note that while the deal certainly is one the owners and players feel good about, there was still a loser in all this - the fans - who had to endure months of uncertainty about a game they love to follow.

Fortunately for them, the games will go on and the NFL's image didn't get dinged up too bad in the process.

Will the NBA be that lucky?

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

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”