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Rajon Rondo doing Rajon Rondo things 10.13.11 at 11:02 pm ET
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This pass from Rajon Rondo to Denver rookie Kenneth Faried presented without further comment:

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The NBA stares into the abyss 09.22.11 at 11:36 pm ET
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Reports out of New York where the NBA and the player’s association on Thursday were not encouraging. Nothing seems to have changed since last week’s meeting when cautious optimism turned into hard-line pessimism. Not much was expected on Thursday and apparently not much was given.

Now the clock is ticking quickly toward what would have been the opening of training camps and a preseason schedule that is in jeopardy. As commissioner David Stern told reporters, “the calendar is not our friend.” Stern is scheduled to talk with the owners on the labor committee on Friday and both sides said they would try to talk next week, but there appears to be little, if any, momentum toward a new deal.

The NBA is expected to announce as early as Friday that the opening of camps — set for the first week in October — will be delayed and the first stretch of preseason games will also be canceled. Yahoo! is reporting that preseason games will be canceled through Oct. 15 and then the situation will be reevaluated on Oct. 1.

Officially delaying the start of training camps and trimming the preseason schedule is only the first step, but it’s a meaningful one. It would be the first time that the league has lost games, preseason or regular season, since the 1998 lockout.

There is still some room to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the regular season to start as scheduled on Nov. 1, but not much. It will likely take at least four weeks from the time an agreement is reached to prepare for the beginning of the season and time is running out.

Neither Stern nor union president Derek Fisher would categorize Thursday’s meetings with reporters, but the lack of progress seemed evident. The union has offered to reduce their take of basketball-related income (BRI) from 57 to around 54 percent, which equates to more than $100 million in salaries, but not without retaining the current soft cap system. The owners have wanted a 50-50 split and a new structure with a hard cap.

The willingness to negotiate on the revenue split was the reason for the optimism, but neither side seems willing to concede on the cap question and it doesn’t appear as if the player’s proposal is enough to satisfy the owners, who have claimed losses in excess of $300 million.

Also left hanging in the balance are questions about whether the two camps are split internally. For the owners, it’s a matter of big markets vs. small markets, or more accurately hard-liners and those willing to find middle ground. There are issues of revenue sharing as well that have not yet been addressed publicly. And for the players, there have been reports of high-powered agents who are unhappy with the union’s direction. The word “decertification” hangs uncomfortably in the air, which would likely mean antitrust lawsuits.

The NBA and the union have been pushed to the brink and the deadlines become more real with each passing day.

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Mike Longabardi is Celtics new defensive coordinator 09.19.11 at 12:21 pm ET
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WESTON — For the last four years the Celtics have gathered for a charity golf tournament to raise money for their Shamrock Foundation. Traditionally, it’s been a kickoff of sorts as the team gets ready to head to training camp. This year, of course, is different.

With the NBA lockout raging, there were no current players at this year’s event and Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers could only deflect questions about the upcoming season. There was one bit of confirmation about the makeup of Rivers’ coaching staff, as Rivers said recently-promoted assistant coach Mike Longabardi will be primarily focused on the defensive side of the ball.

The role of defensive coordinator, for lack of a better term, has been ably filled in the past by Tom Thibodeau, who was named Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bulls, and by Lawrence Frank, who left to take over the head coaching job with the Pistons.

“Defensively, Longo will be the leader but everyone will have the same input that they had before,” Rivers said. “Kevin Eastman was really important for Lawrence and Thibs. I think that role won’t change much at all.”

Longabardi, who has been with the team since Thibodeau arrived in 2007, has big shoes to fill. Over the last four seasons, the Celtics have ranked in the top five in points allowed per 100 possessions and have generally been regarded as one of the NBA’s top defensive units. It’s a renaissance that began with the hiring of Thibodeau, as well as the addition of Kevin Garnett, one of the top defensive players the league has ever seen.

“I kept looking for the right one,” Rivers said. “Thibs for me was that guy. He loved doing it. That’s what he wanted to do and it really allowed you to coach the team, so it’s really important.”

The 38-year-old Longabardi has worked up the classic’s assistant coach ladder with stops at small schools including Pfeiffer University, Adelphi University, Lafayette College and Towson University before joining the Rockets as an assistant coach/video coordinator.

While he wasn’t as visible, Longabardi was one of a handful of invaluable behind the scenes coaches. (Darren Ermen was also in that category until he left for an assistant job with Golden State). No one knows when the season may start, but Rivers sounds confident that his team will continue their defensive success. “We pretty much know who we are,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to change our identity defensively and stuff like that.”

NOTES: If there was a benefit to the lockout, it allowed Rivers to travel with his son Austin and the Duke University basketball team as they played in China and Dubai. “China was awesome,” Rivers said. “It was a neat trip. China and Dubai. It was a great trip. I got to watch my son play and got to do a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have done. I really enjoyed it.”

Per NBA rules, Ainge wouldn’t comment on any question regarding the league, European players or the D-League, but he did say the summer allowed his staff time to take a step back and look at the league with fresh eyes. Ainge said that Ryan McDonough is in Lithuania for EuroBasket and the front office has watched the games.

“It gives us some time to step back and really reevaluate the entire league and European players, anticipate the draft,” Ainge said. “We’ve been doing all the little things and getting organized.”

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The NBA lockout is finally getting serious 09.07.11 at 6:19 pm ET
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NBA commissioner David Stern said there were three weeks left to start the season on time. (AP)

For more than two months, the NBA has remained locked out and stagnant. In the interim, basketball heads have turned their attention to EuroBasket and salivated over highlights from the handful of barnstorming exhibitions and street-ball games. They have watched Kevin Durant become the breakout superstar of the summer, due to his appearances at summer-league hot spots like the Rucker in New York and the Goodman League in his native Washington, D.C. (Try and watch the highlights from the Goodman-Melo exhibition in Baltimore and tell me you don’t miss basketball).

The NBA, however, has remained in a deep freeze. For most of the summer, the only thing the two sides have agreed on is that they disagree on just about everything. David Stern went on Bill Simmons’ podcast and couldn’t help baring his sarcastic fangs. The union talked about a gap of $7.6 billion, which is at once true and also overstated.

Yet there are signs – even hopeful signs – that things are about to get serious. That doesn’t mean solved. The lockout has really only just begun and we are coming to the time when the days finally begin to mean something. Training camps are less than a month away and soon the players will start to miss paychecks, while owners will start to lose gate receipts. This is when everyone waits for someone to blink and the staredown is in full effect.

But they are talking. The two sides met last week and they did so again on Wednesday with a plan to meet Thursday and possibly Friday.

“We agreed that we’re going to stay here for as many days as we can to see if we’re going to make progress,” Stern told reporters after a five-plus hour session on Wednesday. Both Stern and Hunter said there was still time to come to an agreement and begin the season on time with Stern pegging the timeframe as “three weeks.”

In and of itself, that doesn’t constitute any progress and so far the only concession that has been made public is the tacit agreement to tone down the rhetoric. This was a good move, not only for civility, but also because neither side has done much to move the public opinion needle. If anything, the players have been seen in a slightly more favorable light than usual during a work stoppage – even one imposed by the owners – possibly due to the perceived staggering demands of management.

But that’s a pyrrhic victory at best. In this era of labor unrest, fans (and this is a sweeping generalization) don’t care about wrong and right when it comes to these matters. They simply want the games back. Public relations matter far less than action, and that’s where we stand. Waiting for action.

To that end, two different storylines have emerged. One, as articulated by veteran hoops writer Chris Sheridan, is that the two sides are closer than they have let on. The other, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! is that the agents are growing restless with the tactics of Hunter and the union and are pushing for decertification, much like the NFL union did in their labor situation.

The next few weeks — if not days — will be critical if the NBA is to emerge with a new collective bargaining agreement in time to start the season as scheduled.

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Would you take Paul Pierce over Kevin Garnett? 08.15.11 at 1:55 pm ET
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Who's better: Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce? (AP)

Every so often a question is posed regarding the Celtics’ four All-Stars. In short: Which one is the most valuable/best/indispensable? What makes this question so intriguing is that there is a legitimate case to be made for all four.

Without Ray Allen‘s shooting ability the Celtics’ vaunted floor spacing begins to shrink and coach Doc Rivers loves to make use of Allen’s ability to use screens in their halfcourt sets.

Rajon Rondo is the playmaker, the only reliable point guard on the roster the last four years, and one of the few Celtics who can change pace and tempo with the flick of a switch. When Rondo has been out of the lineup — or gone through a prolonged slump — the Celtics inevitably struggle to score points.

Kevin Garnett is the defensive anchor and that doesn’t begin to do him justice. Simply put, when Garnett plays at the level he played at last season the Celtics defense is ferocious.

Then there is Paul Pierce, who does just about everything well and is the one player the Celtics reliably use to create his own shot when everything else breaks down.

You can go round and round in circles on this question and never come to a definitive answer, which is a large reason why this foursome has been so successful. Ubuntu may have been a clever rallying cry, but its tenets hold true for this collection of players. “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Take any one of these parts away and the whole suffers for it.

That’s why I watched with great interest as Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe unveiled his top 100 players list. One way or another Lowe would have to parse this group and assign a ranking. Lowe had Allen ranked 48th and Rondo 27th, which left the top spot to be decided between Garnett and Pierce. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dennis Rodman’s emotional Hall of Fame Speech 08.13.11 at 11:05 am ET
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Dennis Rodman at his Hall of Fame induction speech. (AP)

There have rarely been more polarizing figures in the NBA than Dennis Rodman. While some admired his relentless, and selfless, approach to rebounding and defense, others chafed at his vainglorious self-promotion and indulgent behavior, both on and off the court.

Rodman rarely asked for forgiveness on either count and seemed to hover between two lives: entirely self-confident and filled with doubt. It was these two polar extremes that were on display in his Hall of Fame induction speech on Friday in Springfield that hovered between moving and at times almost despondent.

Rodman talked about the father that left him when he was five years old and sought to capitalize on his fame by writing a book about him but never seeking to make contact, while at the same time apologizing to his mother, wife and kids. “I had one regret,” Rodman said, choking up. “I wish I was a better father.”

His broke down often during his speech that also supplied some humor. Rodman relayed the story of his arrival in Chicago when coach Phil Jackson asked if he’d like to play with the Bulls. “Go in the kitchen and tell Scottie Pippen you’re sorry,” Jackson told him.

It has been said many times that we will never see another player like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan. That may be true, but it is practically assured that we will never see another personality like Rodman.


Dennis Rodman 2011 Hall Of Fame Speech (VIDEO) by 3030fm

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NBA releases Basketball Related Income audit 07.22.11 at 6:03 pm ET
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The NBA and NBPA released its audit of basketball related income (BRI) for the 2010-11 season late on Friday afternoon and among the findings revealed by the league:

  • BRI increased by 4.8 percent from $3.643 billion in 2009-10 to $3.817 billion in 2010-11.
  • Total player compensation also increased by 4.8 percent from $2.076 billion in 2009-10 to $2.176 billion in 2010-11.  This marks the sixth consecutive season that player compensation increased under the expired CBA.
  • Total player compensation equaled 57 percent of BRI.
  • The average player salary for the 2010-11 season was $5.15 million. Over the six-year term of the expired CBA, the average player salary increased by a total of 16 percent.

A couple of things to keep in mind from the league’s release.

Under the expired CBA, player salaries are directly tied into the BRI with 57 percent set as the cut-off figure. In other words, the system worked as it was intended as the players received 57 percent of the BRI. Their salaries are tied to basketball revenues and so when the latter increases, so does the former.

The key word in the last part is total: as in the cumulative total over a six-year period is 16 percent, not a 16 percent rise from one year to the next.

This is spin on the part of the NBA, which has claimed that teams are losing money even as revenue has increased, owing mostly to rising player salaries. They will also undoubtedly counter that other expenses are rising that don’t affect the BRI and thus the player’s salaries. The union has proposed cutting that 57 percent number, but the owners want a total overhaul of the system.

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