Celtics

NBA players prepare to sit out half a season

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NBA players prepare to sit out half a season

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn LAS VEGAS After meeting for more than five hours on Tuesday, it appears the NBA is well on its way to a shortened season.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the players union, told reporters after Tuesday's meeting that the union is advising players that "they may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal."

Derek Fisher, president of the players union, added, "it's discouraging and it's unfortunate, but that's the reality of where we are right now."

Fisher added, "We can't come out of here thinking that training camps and preseason (games) are going to start on time at this point."

It didn't take long for the news out of New York, to make its way to Las Vegas where a number of NBA players are currently participating in the Impact Basketball Training Series.

"As you know, the meetings didn't go the way we planned for them to go," Charlotte Bobcats forward Corey Maggette told Comcast SportsNet. "We're so far apart, between both sides. Hopefully Derek as well as Billy, can figure out a way to fix this, and the owners can work this out."

When told about Hunter's comments, Boston Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal's first thoughts turned toward the NBA's expanding fan base.

"I feel bad for the fans that support this great league," he told CSNNE.com. "We want the league to be a great league, but we want it to be a fair league. We want to be fair to the owners, but we want to be fair to us, too. We don't want to be locked into something that's not fair to us."

The owners, for now at least, will not budge on insisting on a hard salary cap in addition to what will amount to reduced salaries.

Washington Wizards forward Rashard Lewis said he's not surprised that talks have stalled to the point where now the season's start is in jeopardy.

"Billy Hunter has prepared us for this situation," Lewis said. "A lot of the NBA guys were pretty much expecting. It's disappointing, but it's not a big surprise."

NBA commissioner David Stern addressed the media following Tuesday's talks which lasted more than five hours - most of which was spent with the owners talking among themselves, according to Hunter.

He told reporters that the players union was willing to make some concessions on divvying up the Basketball-Related Income, provided the current soft salary cap remain in effect.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver chimed in by saying the players had an "emotional attachment" to the current soft salary cap system.

"The owners are unwilling to move off of the position on which they've anchored themselves," said Hunter, who added that the owners did not present a different proposal.

Tuesday's meetings were a sharp departure from the seemingly upbeat nature of talks last week. Part of that had to do with Tuesday's meetings involving more members from both sides, which brought about a much deeper discussion on critical issues such as salary cap and the league's economic structure - both of which the owners want to change significantly from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement that expired on June 30.

"We understand that the world has changed and we need to make some changes," O'Neal said. "But what they're asking for ... it's just not fair to us."

O'Neal wonders why the owners aren't talking more among themselves about modifying their revenue sharing system to better spread the wealth to smaller-market teams which would create more parity and what he believes could potentially keep salaries across the league more in check.

"We can get a deal done, and we will get one done," O'Neal said. "But what the owners are talking about right now ... it's just not good for us or the league."

And unlike the last labor stoppage in 1998, there seems to be a greater sense of unity among the union members.

However, that bond will be put to the test in the coming weeks when NBA players start missing checks.

While veterans such as O'Neal have no plans to play overseas, some of the league's younger players will certainly look to keep playing somewhere.

Celtics guard Avery Bradley told Comcast SportsNet that his preference is to wait out the late start and begin the season with the Celtics.

But he wouldn't rule out taking his talents overseas.

"I'm going to do what's best for me," Bradley said. "If going overseas is what's best for me, then that's what I'm going to do."

Maggette said he too would consider playing overseas.

"Right now, we're unemployed," Maggette said. "When you're unemployed, you have to find another gig. it's not the NBA, but we need to find another solution."

Added former Celtic Tony Allen, now with the Memphis Grizzlies: "I don't care what job you have; NBA player, whatever, you don't want to miss any checks. None of us want to be out of work. But hey, we have to get the best deal we can. If we have to wait a minute on that, we have to wait."

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

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“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.”

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