NBA lockout looming after this season?

NBA lockout looming after this season?

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
10:21 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

18. Will there be a lockout after this season?

It's still far too early to gauge whether a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will be reached prior to the 2011-12 NBA campaign and without more prior knowledge about labor negotiations, this writer isn't the one to get too deep into the current state of affairs, let alone the end result, such as a work stoppage. Still, it's worth it to at least probe the surface of the issues at hand.

In the wake of the spending by NBA franchises this offseason, an easy argument can be made that teams must be healthy financially to be able to line the pockets of its players, whether the various contracts deserving or dubious. The league, however, claims that franchises have suffered drastic losses--a major point of contention--and are hamstrung by constraints resulting from the last CBA.

"According to their theory, it's because of the system that's in place that forces them to spend the money, so it's not that they want to spend the money," a vice president on the NBPA's executive committee told CSNChicago.com. "It's the only option they have to be competitive, according to them."

"The thing is, it's still just posturing," the player, who wished to remain anonymous, continued. "We're still working off the last deal. From my standpoint, the last CBA has obviously been working for the last five, six years, so it's been doing what its supposed to do...the owners are trying to make it make a little more sense for them from their perspective. In their words, they're trying to make it make a little more sense for them from a business side."

"It's hard to know what goes into it from a player's perspective because there's really no rhyme or reason at times to why one player gets a deal versus another player. There's been numerous players that you can look at that should have got better deals than what they did, but for whatever reason they ended up having to go elsewhere," he went on to say, using Lakers point guard and NBPA executive committee president Derek Fisher--who he claims had to fight for a new extension despite always wanting to remain in Los Angeles--for an example. "That's the kind of stuff that needs to be stressed, as well. Allowing players to more easily move from team to team, allowing players to be secure, distributing the money to the correct players who are actually performing in those free-agent years."

After a three-hour meeting of the two sides last Wednesday--described as "cordial and constructive" in a joint statement issued afterwards by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)--all indications point to no progress in sight until after February's All-Star weekend (when the next meeting will occur), at the earliest. That leaves approximately four months--the current CBA expires on June, 30, 2011--to reach a resolution.

"It was more of a discussion on what can be done to make the game grow and what's our perspective and what's their perspective," the player described the negotiations to CSNChicago.com. "It's still no numbers, no nothing...it's basically setting the stage to bring forth changes and it was positive in the sense that they got a better understanding of where we're coming from and we got a better understanding of what they want. Somehow we can make it all work out and it makes sense where we don't shut down the business."

The league reportedly is in favor of imposing a hard cap, similar to the NFL, under which organizations wouldn't be able exceed the NBA-wide salary cap. That would mean the end of deep-pocketed owners being able to exceed the salary cap and pay a luxury tax, as well as player exceptions that enable veterans to re-sign with their teams, regardless of the cap.

While the NBPA objects to such an idea, the recent meeting in New York was more of a forum for proposals and was described as a "positive" interaction by the aforementioned source, a veteran who signed an offseason extension to remain with his current team.

"Just suggestions about making it easier for players to move from team to team, to loosen up restricted free agency so that when a guy who's performing well for his team, for example, doesn't have to be confined to that contract," the player, who indicated that base-year compensation is another told CSNChicago.com. If a player is still on his rookie wage scale, maybe he can get out of it a little sooner so he can go out and be a major player for another team if his team doesn't want to pay him."

"Things like that are ways to improve the game and allow it to even out the competitive balance and that's what one of the issues is," he added. "Every team wants the opportunity to be competitive every year. That goes into making decisions about who to draft and paying the right players. that goes back to the owners policing themselves."

The league and its owners, on the other hand, are more concerned with revenues, over half of which reportedly go to the players. The current economic climate plays its part in their concerns, but overall, they seemingly desire to have a new CBA go in the other direction, with lower player salaries one of the end results.

Although no marked progress was made at last week's meeting, it appears that the league and players are both committed to avoiding a lockout. For those who don't remember the last NBA work stoppage--which ended up abbreviating the 1998-99 season--the threat of fans resenting the pro game as a whole (players, owners, teams and the league alike) will hopefully spur the two sides to come to agreement before going down that less-than-scenic path.

"I don't think there's much frustration on either side because we both understand it's a process and we both understand that if we're both willing to take in each other's ideas and consider each other's ideas to grow the game for fans...people will continued to come out and support it. We both agree that the game is in a great place," the player optimistically told CSNChicago.com. "I think we're definitely on the right track...I don't know if it's going to be anything in place by All-Star weekend. I know that we're working to be further along in the process by All-Star, but how far along we come by that point remains to be seen."

"I think, for the most part, again, as players and the perspective that we're taking, it's a partnership and we're trying to be open to...hearing their suggestions," the NBPA vice president, who ironically took part in the league's Leadership and Development program--designed to help players move into coaching or management positions after their playing days are over; one of the sessions included in the July session in Las Vegas was a CBA tutorial--continued. "We're trying to be open to trying to grow the game, to make it better...I think the owners will hopefully be willing to continue to see that and again, it's so early in the bargaining stage."

Time is on their side--both sides--but it's not too early to consider a potentially negative outcome, no matter how much none of us wants to right now.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

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USA TODAY

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

Championship moments rarely occur in the first round. With a playoff format that drags the postseason out for more than two months, with playoff series taking as long as two weeks, the second season feels like just that. It’s far too early to say what exactly Friday night in Chicago will mean for the top-seeded Celtics, but a sense of a team coming together under unfathomable circumstances may prove to be the turning point in a season that a week ago appeared hanging by a thread.

It happened in three parts.

On the floor the Celtics looked every bit the part of a 51-win team that edged out LeBron’s Cavs for the top spot in the East. Brad Stevens’ small-ball approach came full-circle as the Boston guards lived in the paint against the Bulls, kicking out to open shooters for 16 3-pointers that helped the Celtics put away the game (and series) midway through the third quarter.

Avery Bradley starred for a second consecutive night, tallying 23 points while making Jimmy Butler work for his, while eight different Celtics hit a 3-pointer and the team shot 49 percent. For the first time in the series the Celtics looked dominant, like a team poised to contend with the Cavaliers for supremacy in the East.

“It felt good to play Celtic basketball again,” Avery Bradley said. “We were all smiling, having fun, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s how hard we worked this entire year, to play that type of basketball.”

Isaiah Thomas was naturally somber much of the series. The well-documented death of his 22-year-old sister put a damper on the series before it began, and the MVP candidate understandably chose not to address it on the few occassions he spoke with the media. But Thomas looked more like himself as the series went on. Not only did his numbers improve, he appeared more vocal after made baskets, laughed off trash talk from Bulls point guard Isaiah Canaan, and engineered the Celtics' offense to near-perfection.

His defining moment came late in the third quarter with the Celtics nearing a 30-point lead. After a hard foul he gathered his four teammates in a huddle near the baseline and shouted that the series for the Bulls was "a wrap for these m------------!" This was the same player who two weeks earlier was brought to tears prior to Game 1, and who will bury his sister on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. Under unthinkable circumstances, Thomas averaged 23.0 points and 5.7 assists in 34.8 minutes in the series.

“I feel like he has grown,” Al Horford said. "And we all have in a way with all the adversity that has gone on. It could have easily gone the other way, but I feel like especially tonight when we got the game in hand, in control, we all just kept on repeating to stay focused to keep it going, keep pushing. We didn’t want to give them any life and we were a focused group and we were enjoying the moment.”

Thomas' journey won't get easier. He'll have another short turnaround to get ready for Sunday's second-round matchup against the Celtics. But like his teammates did in Games 3 and 4, when Thomas flew by himself to Chicago following his return home to Tacoma to mourn with his family, they'll have another opporuntity to grow closer. Brad Stevens kept an incredible perspective on the situation throughout the series, and applauded his team for doing the same while still fighting for wins.

"Bigger things than basketball happened, and that took precedent and it takes precdedent," he said. "I was really proud of our guys for how they treated each other, how they stood together, stuck together. And how nobody pointed fingers, they were just a great support for one another, especially Isaiah."

When Thomas does return, and when the Celtics gear up for their next postseason journey, expectations will have remained the same. Though the Wizards were one of the league's best teams in the second half, and with John Wall and Bradley Beal playing on another level, it'll take more performances like Friday night - both on the court and collectively staying together - for Boston to advance. A 2-0 hole against the Wizards will feel a whole lot different than it did against the Bulls.

That sort of letdown doesn't feel like it will happen again. Though no one would have wished such tragedy to force it, the Celtics came together at a critical moment and came out better for it. Their work isn't done, and they know it. But the way they were able to handle the adversity in Round 1, anything seems possible for Stevens, Thomas the top seed in the East.

"We just try to stay the course in the day-to-day. And if that results in us winning more games or winning in the playoffs, or whatever the case may be, there’s only one goal in the Boston," Stevens said. "Seventeen (NBA championship) banners above us. We don’t have a choice. We only shoot for one thing there."

BullsTalk Podcast: Top-seeded Celtics too much to handle for Bulls

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AP

BullsTalk Podcast: Top-seeded Celtics too much to handle for Bulls

In the latest episode of the BullsTalk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Stacey King break down the final game of the Bulls' season, a 105-83 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.

Also, hear postgame press conferences from head coach Fred Hoiberg and All-Star forward Jimmy Butler. And the guys look ahead to the offseason and the NBA Draft.

Listen to the latest episode below: