Celtics

No deal, but best offer yet awaits union's response

585304.jpg

No deal, but best offer yet awaits union's response

NEW YORK After meeting for about 10 hours on Thursday, the NBA Players Association came away with a revised offer from the NBA that -- despite warnings from the owners that everything from here on in would get worse -- was actually better than the previous one.

Union officials acknowledge the new proposal does show the owners making strides towards meeting their concerns.

However, it wasn't enough to get a deal done.

"It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to try and close this deal out," said NBAPA president Derek Fisher. "And so at this point, we've decided to end things for now, take a step back."

The union will review the offer for the next couple days and gather its player representatives in New York on either Monday or Tuesday. Depending on how that goes, the proposal may be put to a vote among the membership. If a majority of players support it and the owners ratify it - which NBA commissioner David Stern is confident will happen if the players agree to its terms - we will indeed have a 72-game season, beginning on Dec. 15.

But before you dust off your Kevin Garnett jerseys and whip out your 'you Got Rondo'd' t-shirt, there's a lot - a lot - that can still go wrong and prevent the 2011-12 season from being delayed even more than it has already.

For starters, the growing faction of union players who want to decertify is growing.

It'll be interesting to see how player representatives respond to this latest offer, and what effect it will have on those - Celtics forward Paul Pierce is among the leaders of the movement to decertify - who are considering dissolving the union.

So for now, the pressure to get a deal done has quickly shifted back to the union.

While Fisher declined to reveal any specifics about the new plan, a league source said that it's still essentially a deal with a 50-50 split of the basketball-related income and an increased amount for the mid-level exception for tax-paying teams.

"I'm not sure if we can say on any one of the system issues that the NBA came all the way to where we wanted the NBA to come to," Fisher said. "All I can say is, on a couple of the issues, there was some revision, there was some change in their position from the last proposal that we saw. At this time, it's not enough to necessarily entice us to try and finish this out Thursday night."

While neither side would classify it as the best offer, Stern made it clear the time for negotiating with this revised proposal, is done.

Stern delivered a similar message earlier this week, only to have union chief Billy Hunter ignore his deadline and continue negotiating.

But this threat from Stern, more than any previously, seems legit.

Stern has put off all deadlines until Hunter has a chance to meet with the union's player representatives and potentially their membership, to vote on whether to accept this revised proposal.

"I met with Billy and said that, just as the clock had stopped at 5 o'clock on Wednesday, as we negotiated through to today, it would remain stopped through his meeting with his board," Stern said. "Then at that time if we don't get a positive response, the revised offer, starting at 47 percent, based on upon a flex cap, would be our revised negotiating position."

Stern had similar words earlier, and ultimately relented and continued to negotiate through the deadline and beyond.

"There's really nothing left to negotiate about," Stern said. "This is the best attempt by the Labor Relations Committee for the NBA to address the concerns that the players expressed coming out of their meeting of the player representatives."

Hunter agreed that there's very little for both sides to negotiate over at this point.

"We feel as though there's nothing else for us to talk about, short of our willingness to move off of where we are," Hunter said. "We don't feel we got very much more to move off. So that's why we need to go and confer with the player reps to see what their preference is and flesh this thing out a bit."

Even though neither side is overly thrilled with this offer, there has been enough of an improvement in it by which the NBAPA is at least open to the idea of presenting it to their full membership.

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world," Hunter said. "But I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership. So that's what we're going to do. We have the members of our executive board, and they all agree we need to sit down and discuss it with our reps and collectively decide what we should do."

While Stern hasn't given them a deadline to get back to him, it's clear he expects to hear back from Hunter by the middle of next week.

The league has already looked into having games begin Dec. 15, provided the union agrees to the revised proposal which Stern acknowledges hasn't exactly gone over well with every NBA team.

"We don't expect the union to like every aspect of our revised proposal," Stern said. "I would say that there are many teams that don't like every aspect of our revised proposal."

Which probably means this is the best deal for all involved.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

stream-celtics-mavs.jpg

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE