Celtics

Time, 'dirty tricks' pose issues in NHL lockout negotiations

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Time, 'dirty tricks' pose issues in NHL lockout negotiations

The CBA process in the NHL has been rife with roadblocks and ruts, and the last couple of days have fit squarely in that category.

The NHL and NHLPA spent Friday afternoon meeting separately with a federal mediator at different locations in New York City, and there has been no word of an actual face-to-face negotiating session as the day of business is coming to a close. Federal mediator Scott Beckenbaugh has been moving back-and-forth between locations while looking to patch things up between the two groups after a rocky previous 24 hours.

Some quarters of the NHLPA are upset feeling that the NHL attempted a fine print stunt against the players by reverting back to a previous definition of HRR (Hockey Related Revenue) in the latest offer both sides are working from. In essence both sides had agreed on stiff penalties for NHL clubs if they were found guilty of attempting to hide revenue away from their books.

In the version that rankled players, it was worded within the CBA draft that any attempts to hide revenue would be punished only at the discretion of the commissioner. Its pretty easy to see why the NHLPA had an issue with that kind of stunt, though it should be noted the NHL claimed it was an honest mistake in drafting a nearly 300-page proposal.

Some players like Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips felt like it was the NHL trying to pull the wool over their eyes and dirty tricks while other players told CSNNE.com it was simply businessmen doing what they do.

One of the real problems is the timing as any potholes in the process put into danger the aim to have a completed agreement by the end of next week. That would in turn put into jeopardy the efforts by the NHL to put a 48-game shortened regular season into place that would begin by Jan. 19, and cause both the owners and players to walk down a road theyd rather not.

The NHL and NHLPA still must agree on:

An acceptable cap number for the second year of any new CBA with the players hoping for 65 million and the NHL standing firm at 60 million. This is an important subject given that a lowered salary cap number could do serious damage to next years free agent class while a higher number means the escrow on players salaries could go through the roof.

A pension plan that both sides can agree on given that its a difficult process that requires outset personnel to settle it between the NHL and NHLPA.

An acceptable term for the entire CBA with the NHL hoping for 10 and the players looking for something closer to eight years. It sounds like there might be traction on an eight-year CBA, but much like everything else that appears to be fluid at this point.

A salary variance for year-to-year of player contracts: the NHL has reportedly upped their offer to 30 percent limits with no year 60 percent higher than the lowest paid season in an effort to wipe out back-diving contracts. Thats something the players can probably live with in the next CBA.

Term limits for individual player contracts as the NHL continues to offer six years (with seven if a player is re-signing with his own team) and the players are pushing for seven year limits across the board.

So now fear, loathing and distrust have entered back into the equation at a late point in negotiations as Gary Bettman is reportedly threatening to cancel the season late next week if the two sides arent close to a deal. Theres a chance the NHL and NHLPA could finally sit down and talk at some point on Friday night, but theres just as good a chance that the newest silent stalemate continues.

Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

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Celtics need to let Morris continue feasting on seconds

It gets harder to find problematic areas when a team wins 15 straight, like the Boston Celtics have.
 
But there are some. Boston’s inability to develop a consistent scoring threat when the second-unit players are on the floor hasn’t cost them a game yet, but you can see it coming if they don’t address this at some point.
 
Well, the answer to their second-unit struggles may be staring them right in the face – Marcus Morris.
 
While he does go back and forth as a starter, keeping him on the floor in the second quarter with the second unit makes sense for all involved.
 
Morris is a better scorer than many expected, but opportunities aren’t as plentiful with the first group. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are the top two options. The team’s young wings, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, probably stack up slightly higher in the scoring pecking order than Morris.
 
So for him to get quality looks with the second unit in the second quarter not only helps the team offensively, but it keeps Morris even more engaged than he already is.
 
We saw that in Saturday’s win over the Hawks.
 
Morris had 14 points, with 10 coming in the second quarter when he was surrounded primarily with players off the bench.
 
 “We need Marcus quite a bit,” said coach Brad Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back.”
 
Morris missed the first eight games of the season because of a sore left knee. Since his return, his minutes have been capped at around 25 or less, in addition to not playing back-to-back nights..

But as he continues to play a more significant role, look for his minutes -- and his role as a primary scorer in the second quarter -- to increase.
 
“He brings us scoring," Stevens said. "He brings us defense, he brings us toughness, and we really needed his scoring (against Atlanta), his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”
 
Here’s a look at five other takeaways from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta to extend the team’s winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.



 
JAYLEN BROWN'S EMERGENCE

The improvement in Jaylen Brown has been evident all season, but it's really spiked the last two games. The second-year wing player dropped 22 points on Golden State Thursday, then followed that up with a career-high 27 Saturday. Conventional wisdom tells you not to bank on Brown delivering like that on a consistent basis. But as a former No. 3 overall pick who works as hard as Brown does . . . would anyone be surprised if this becomes a new-norm when it comes to Brown?


 
HORFORD STREAK CONTINUES
 
Early foul trouble and an overall lack of flow offensively had Al Horford looking at having his first game of the season with a negative plus/minus. At the half he was at -16. Then came the Celtics’ second half surge which saw them turn a 16-point deficit in the first half into a double-digit victory. And Horford’s plus/minus? For the game he stood at +2, keeping his streak alive of having a positive plus/minus in every game played this season.

KYRIE IRVING
 
An efficient scoring Kyrie Irving is an NBA team’s worst nightmare. One of the league’s well-established scorers, Irving was just too much for the Atlanta Hawks to handle. And the end result was one of the most efficient scoring nights in Irving’s career as he tallied a game-high 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting.


 
TATUM'S SECOND-HALF SURGE
 
For the second straight game, Jayson Tatum did not begin playing his best basketball until the second half. Against the Hawks, Tatum scored all of his 14 points in the second half. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, 10 of his 12 points came in the second half. “For whatever reason he was pretty tentative (in the first half),” said Stevens. “He’s a good player, so struggles aren’t going to last long. He’ll figure it out.”


 
SMART'S SHOOTING (SLIGHTLY) BETTER
 
There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to Marcus Smart’s shooting. Against the Hawks, he had 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Now the numbers won’t wow you, but they are a huge step in the right direction in comparison to how he has been chucking up shots lately. In Boston’s previous five games, Smart was a face-cringing 10-for-52 shooting, or 19.2 percent from the field. Even with all the impact he makes consistently with his defense and effort, that number has to continue to improve if Boston is able to continue along its winning ways.

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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