Posts Tagged ‘Boston Globe’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 174) Featuring Bob Ryan

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve been having these arguments for years. In barber shops and sports bars, basement man caves and back porches. No one ever wins or loses either, because the debate never ends.

Would Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell be as dominant today as they were in their day? What about Oscar Robertson today or Shaq, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James back then?

Whose game transcends time?

Everyone will pick Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and other members of the NBA’s all-time elite. But for the rest of the mere mortals … who’s to say a great athlete in today’s game would automatically dominate a bygone era when athleticism was not at the premium it is now?

No one can answer with certainty. Educated guesses are still the best anyone can do in this regard.  Unless, of course, you are Bob Ryan, the retired Boston Globe columnist and living and breathing basketball encyclopedia, a man who has literally seen it all, from one era to another and another and another. His new memoir, “SCRIBE: My Life in Sports” is a must read, by the way.

He joins us on Episode 174 of the Hang Time Podcast to stoke the age-old debate we revisit often around here. Whose game could shuffle through time and remain as potent in one dimension as it would in another?  

Dive into Episode 174 to find out where we all stand …

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Boston’s Ryan shares stories from press-row seat in ‘Scribe’ memoir


VIDEO: Bob Ryan recaps the surprising end to the 2013-14 season

Bob Ryan covered 11 Olympics in his sportswriting career, as well as dozens of World Series, Super Bowls, Stanley Cup finals and NCAA championships across multiple sports. He spent 44 years, give or take, chasing and breaking stories big and small for the Boston Globe, worked in local TV in that sports-crazed market and still entertains, informs and cracks wise on a global stage as a frequent ESPN contributor.

But he set a standard for NBA coverage during his years on the Boston Celtics beat and, later, as a Globe columnist that arguably never has been surpassed. And while Ryan’s new memoir, “SCRIBE: My Life in Sports” (Bloomsbury USA), set for release Tuesday, cuts across all the sports he has covered in his career, it returns again and again to pro basketball. And the Celtics. And the NBA.

“The NBA was the centerpiece for me,” Ryan said in a recent phone chat. “It launched my so-called career and it gave me the chance to make a name for myself. I grew up playing basketball – it was the one sport I could play through prep school.

“If I’d been presented with the opportunity in 1969 to cover the Red Sox, I’d have been a very happy baseball writer. … But I’m very proud of my basketball-writing career and, frankly, I think I wrote game stories as well as anybody wrote ‘em.”

Game stories, for fans who might not be familiar with them, were newspaper accounts of what actually transpired in the previous night’s game. Now it is assumed that everyone already knows that from TV and the Internet, so writers working a game wind up spinning forward a little mini-feature or quickie analysis instead.

Newspapers? OK, for fans who might not be familiar with them

“I’m so glad I did it when I did it,” said Ryan, who retired from the Globe in 2012 and spent eight months of 2013 working on “SCRIBE.” “I’m grateful. There’s no way it’s as enjoyable now. Because of the relationships and the access.”

Ryan, 68, did some MLB coverage, columnist duty and TV work in his early-to-mid career but returned time and again to the Celtics beat in Boston in the 1970s and ’80s. Back then, he could chat up players in the locker room before practice, then sit in the gym to watch the entire workout. Teams flew on commercial flights same as the writers back then, so a delay or cancellation would keep them elbow to elbow in coffee shops or airport lounges. And the players’ six-figure salaries didn’t dredge the moat between them that exists in an eight-figure sports salary world.

“The two biggest things to ruin life for the beat writers were charter flights and the Chicago Bulls,” Ryan said. “The charter flights are self-evident – you no longer traveled with them. The Bulls, because they became the rock-star team that traveled with security and then they built the Berto Center [practice facility] where you could no longer even figure out where their cars were. And because they were successful, naturally, everybody wanted to follow suit. That changed everything and it’s never going back.”

Ryan’s memoir is more thematic than chronological, though the early chapters track his youth and steps toward scribe-dom in straightforward fashion (“Trenton Born,” “Boston College,” “Becoming a Reporter”). He devotes chapters, too, to baseball, football (“I Can Hardly Believe It’s Legal”), hockey, golf, ESPN, the Olympics and major college sports (“Smitten By a Lady of Low Repute”). He saves room near the end to write about music, another of his great passions alongside hoops and his wife Elaine.

Dave Cowens (left) battled with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (right) and other powerhouses in his era.

Dave Cowens (left) battled with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (right) and other powerhouses in his era.

But Ryan’s embrace of the NBA permeates the project. He gives Red Auerbach, the Dream Team, Chuck Daly, Bob Knight and the 2008 Celtics title season their own chapters. And there is no mistaking the topics addressed in those entitled “This Guy Ain’t No Hick” and “Michael v. LeBron.”

Former Celtics center Dave Cowens, however, gets both a chapter of his own and the prologue. Ryan starts the book with the tale of Cowens’ unexpected decision to retire at age 31 in October 1980. Cowens wanted Ryan’s help editing his retirement statement and he wanted it to run in the Globe:

The truth is it was very nicely and powerfully written, which did not surprise me because this was not the first time I had recognized his writing ability. …

“I’ll need some time,” I told him. “Maybe an hour.”

He was heading out the door when he turned around. “Do you mind if I call Red first?” he inquired.

Excuse me? Do I, Bob Ryan, mind if he, Dave Cowens, calls the hallowed Red Auerbach, Mr. Celtics, on my phone to inform him he is retiring from active duty in the National Basketball Association, effective immediately?

I gave him my blessing.

“He’s the most interesting person I’ve covered by far,” Ryan said of Cowens on the phone. “I love Larry [Bird], Larry and I are friends, and watching Larry play was a joy. But watching Dave play was an other-worldly experience and watching him compete against [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar and [Bob] Lanier and [Willis] Reed and everyone else, spotting those guys size and running them into the ground and being their equal and very often their superior was a fan-inviting experience.

“But knowing him was the payoff. For his world view on basketball and on other things… He’s one of those guys who is a standard of something that people try to compare others to and find the next one, and in vain they have not found the next Dave Cowens.”

Ryan considers the Celtics’ John Havlicek to be the most underappreciated player he covered. “When he first retired, there was no issue, he was a demigod,” the writer said. “But Jordan comes and now LeBron, other guys come, and when the dust settles 36 years later, he’s still the greatest forward-guard, two-position player there ever was – and don’t give me Scottie Pippen.”

Given Ryan’s press-row seat before, during and after the dual arrival of Bird and Magic Johnson in 1979, he can attest that the NBA was in trouble for several years prior to that. “A down period artistically and every way,” he said.

“The great fallacy is that Bird and Magic instantly saved the league,” Ryan added. “They stopped the slide. They focused attention on the game, the passing was great and they revived Kareem, which was good. It’s interesting to think how [Abdul-Jabbar] would have been regarded if Magic had gone to another team and he stayed in that [bored] attitude that he had in the late ’70s. I think he would have quit probably two or three years into the ['80s] and gone on to do something else.”

Here is Ryan at one point on Bird:

For me, his arrival was as if I were an art student and into the classroom walked the new professor – Michelangelo. Who could be prepared for that? … I had been covering the NBA for 10 years. … I didn’t expect to be surprised and educated and thrilled by anything new.

And Ryan on officiating:

I came to realize that in any given game the referees had an influence that made them the equivalent of a good player, if not necessarily a great one. Referees decide who will stay on the court and how the game will be played. They cannot be ignored. I didn’t reference the officiating every night, and not all references were negative. But I was always on the lookout for exceptionally smooth, well-officiated games.

Then there’s the serendipity of his own career, which began at age 11 with his self-published column “The Sportster” growing up at home in Trenton, N.J.:

I have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time on many occasions. I received a Globe internship interview when my roommate turned it down. I was handed the Celtics beat at age 23 because there was no one else in the department with either the interest or the basketball feel to take the job. They got very good after one year and I rode the wave. I lucked into doing a TV show because the guy who bought it was an old friend.

Had someone else taken over the show, he would have hired his friends. Some great things have happened to me over which I had zero control.

Michael who? Ryan says he prefers to watch LeBron more.

Michael who? Ryan says he prefers to watch LeBron James play more.

As for Ryan’s take on the growing debate of Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, you can read the book in search of his answer. Over the phone, Ryan just said: “Do I think that Michael is clearly a ruthless competitor and his six championships will stand the test of time in the non-Bill Russell category? Yes. But I’d rather watch LeBron play. I just love the full scope of his game.”

Ryan’s memoir gives you the full scope of his game, from filing stories by wire with a young Chris Wallace (future news anchor) at a Western Union office in Harrisburg, Pa., to his appearances on “Around The Horn,” from his very modern squabbles with the analytics crowd over their beloved WAR theories to the irritated phone call he received one day from Amelia Earhart‘s sister.

Said Ryan, “I was thinking 37 years was the statute of limitations.”

Pierce Not Done With Boston … Yet?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Just because Paul Pierce wears the black and white of the Brooklyn Nets these days it does not mean he isn’t Boston Celtics green at his core.

And I’m not mad at him. In a day and age when loyalty in professional sports is strictly a seven-letter word, it’s refreshing to hear Pierce, a Celtic for his entire NBA career prior to this summer’s trade between Brooklyn and Boston, speak as fondly as he does about the city he called home for the bulk of his adult life.

Pierce didn’t roll off to chase championships in Brooklyn with a bitter taste in his mouth. Sure, he and Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Nets will be on a mission this season. But a veteran like Pierce is wise to think about life after his playing days are over. And as he told Boston Globe columnist Gary Washburn, Boston will play a prominent role in his life when he’s finished playing:

Pierce said he wants to be a fixture in Boston following his playing days, not just showing up for his retirement ceremony and heading to Malibu, Calif., the next morning. Pierce said he wants to establish something substantial in Boston, having grown attached to the city despite growing up in Inglewood, Calif., as a Lakers fan.

“Ultimately, what I would like to do is have a business in Boston,” he said. “Maybe like a sports bar. I would love to do something like that here. None of the former Celtic great players have come and done that. I thought about it, and why hasn’t anyone come and opened up a nice restaurant? You see the Don Shula restaurant, the Michael Jordan restaurant, and Magic [Johnson] got the theaters in LA. Why nobody here? All this history, all these championships and love, why has nobody done that?

“I am going to still have relationships here. I’m always going to come to this city. Every year, when I’m done, I’m going to have a reason to come here.”

Pierce said he holds no grudges toward the Celtics, and again pointed to a future relationship with the organization.

“Who knows? I may be working for Wyc Grousbeck or Danny Ainge,” he said. “A lot of players don’t understand it. I’ve always understood it. And [other players] let their pride and ego get in the way. I’ve made a lot of money here, I’ve built relationships, won a championship here, I thank y’all for everything y’all gave me. How can I be mad for everything they’ve given me. I’m thankful.”

The prospect of reaching the championship pinnacle again with the Nets is intriguing.

“Me and my best friend growing up were talking and he said, ‘Man, what if you win a championship in Brooklyn? Then what?’ ” Pierce said. “It’s another level then. There’s a chance I could move up in the [all-time] ranks if I get another championship. So I am still going. And they’ve given me more tools and I’ve got something to build.”

Pierce said the Celtics should have no trouble attracting major free agents. “The city of Boston has changed so much since I’ve been here,” he said. “There are so many more things to do and the city has grown. I think it would be a great place to play.

“I enjoyed it here. Hopefully, the fact that guys like me and Kevin liked it here is a sign to other players that it’s a good city to play in. I’m excited about playing in Brooklyn, though. There weren’t too many places I wanted to go if I had to leave Boston, but Brooklyn is one of them.”

The Nets, at least on paper, should have a much more manageable road to the postseason this season than the Celtics, who are fully rebuilding. But Pierce is right, the work done during his time in Boston helped change the perception of that city for many.

Pierce left town a winner, as a vital piece in the timeline of one of the most storied franchises in the history of professional sports in this country. That can’t be a bad way to go out, especially when you consider what his profile was prior to the assembly of Boston’s Big 3 of Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen.

Allen made it clear that there is indeed plenty of glory left to chase elsewhere when he departed for Miami and added another title to his Hall of Fame credentials. But he’ll never be received in Boston the way Pierce and even Garnett will years from now.

Pierce will go down as one of the Celtics’ all-time greats not only for his accomplishments, but also for the length of his service to the Celtics and their fans. Fifteen years … that’s an eternity in professional sports.

So if Pierce says he’s not done with Boston yet, that’s probably a good thing for all involved.

Celtics Thank Pierce And Garnett



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The departure of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston will no doubt be a painful one for Celtics fans who had grown accustomed to championship runs and high drama from the backbones of the franchise.

The Celtics, as an organization, took the high road with their classy farewell gesture for the stars they traded to Brooklyn in this summer’s blockbuster deal. A full-page ad in the Boston Globe praised Pierce and Garnett for their years of service, hard work, dedication, leadership and “Banner 17.”

Celtics boss Danny Ainge knew he had to begin the rebuilding process in Boston by moving Pierce and Garnett after Doc Rivers left for the Los Angeles Clippers. The full-page ad might not be the closure on the Big 3 era some are looking for, but it’s a classy start!

The Celtics-Clippers Saga Continues …





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Admit it, you’re going to miss DeAndre Jordan in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform. You’re going to miss the dunks and the off-court comic pairing with Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin.

But if we are reading this Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Clippers-Doc Rivers trade situation right, Jordan is headed to Boston in one part of a complex potential trade scenario that also will include Rivers departing Boston for the Clippers and the chance to chase championships with a few familiar faces (Kevin Garnett and perhaps Paul Pierce) as well as a few new ones (Griffin and potentially Chris Paul).

Monday’s hot name, Eric Bledsoe, the player both sides refused to budge on, is apparently out of the deal now.

It’s complicated, I know. But aren’t these blockbuster scenarios always a bit more complicated than the average trade?

The latest from around the basketball world on this saga …

Celtics ready to deal for Jordan and two first-round Draft picks …

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: After pushing for the Clippers to take back long-term contracts, the Celtics relented and have shown willingness to complete the deal for DeAndre Jordan and two first-round draft picks, sources said. The Clippers are willing to give the Celtics Jordan and one draft pick, but were resisting a second future pick, sources said.

The two teams are planning to talk again on Tuesday morning, and the fragile negotiations could climax over the draft pick compensation, sources said.

If the Clippers become the championship contenders that they expected this trade will make them, the additional draft pick would likely be near the end of the first round.

 The financial investment in this deal for Los Angeles is unprecedented for the franchise, and it could be giving it 11th-hour pause. The Clippers must pay a $3.5 million trade kicker on Jordan’s contract and finalize an agreement with Rivers on a five-year deal worth approximately $35 million, league sources said.

Serious talks but still no deal …

Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com: Sources close to the process told ESPN.com that the Celtics and Clippers held “substantive discussions” Monday on the proposed multilayered transactions that would send Rivers and Celtics star Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles. But the teams, sources say, remain unable to agree on a final trade framework to go through with the two deals, even after Boston relented on its insistence that the Clippers include prized young guard Eric Bledsoe as part of the package for Rivers and Garnett.

Another element of the talks, sources said, is the negotiations between Rivers and the Clippers on a coaching contract. Rivers has three years left on his original five-year, $35 million deal with the Celtics and will be looking to stay in the same salary range if Boston ultimately receives what it deems sufficient compensation to let the 51-year-old out of that deal.

So the Clippers, in what NBA coaching sources are terming a “separate process,” have moved ahead with their coaching search just in case, for one reason or another, they’ll be unable to pry Rivers out of Boston. They’ve arranged sitdowns this week for Byron Scott (Tuesday) and Brian Shaw (Wednesday) with Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Lionel Hollins, the other finalist for the Clippers’ job before the pursuit of Rivers got serious, already met with Sterling.

Numerous sources connected to talks continued to express optimism Monday that the Celtics and Clippers will eventually agree to terms this week, with some interpreting the Clippers’ plans to resume talks with the likes of Shaw and Scott as their latest thinly veiled message to the Celtics that they aren’t afraid to walk away from the table.

“It’s a dance right now,” said one source close to the process. “I think it’ll eventually happen. They’re just staring at each other.”

Is Ainge satisfied with this haul?

Sam Amick of USA Today: The only question that matters at the moment is whether Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge eventually will decide that acquiring fifth-year center DeAndre Jordan and two future first-round picks is fair compensation for losing his coach and his 37-year-old big man.

If he does, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, this deal will likely get done. If he doesn’t, and instead insists that third-year Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe must also be in the trade, then Rivers and Garnett would stay put and the Clippers would simply hire one of the coaching candidates who have interviewed for their vacant job (former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw lead that group).

While Celtics small forward Paul Pierce is not part of the trade talks, he could be bought out of the final year of his contract this July ($5 million of his $15.3 million) and join Rivers and Garnett with the Clippers as a free agent if this deal went down. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.

While Rivers would not technically be part of the trade, the Celtics would allow the Clippers to sign him as part of the agreement. Rivers has a non-compete clause in his contract that would be nullified, and he would forgo the three years and $21 million remaining on his Celtics contract.The Clippers are prepared to pay him just less than $7 million annually, but only if they can bring him in without mortgaging their future by losing Bledsoe.

Yet if Rivers were willing consider giving back some of his earnings as a way to ease Ainge’s pain, that could be a way to nudge these negotiations along. The Celtics could move forward with a new coach whose salary would be, in essence, paid for by the old coach.

Rivers still grappling with his decision?

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: If the Celtics plan to part with Rivers, they want a young piece, draft picks and salary cap relief. Realizing that signing [Jason] Terry and [Courtney] Lee to multiyear deals at the mid-level exception (5-plus million) was a mistake, the Celtics would prefer the Clippers accept those deals to facilitate clearance to negotiate a contract with Rivers.

Meanwhile, a source close to Rivers told the Globe that Rivers is still grappling with the decision, especially as the trade gets more complicated and negotiations more contentious. The talk of the Clippers acquiring Paul Pierce in the trade are remote, especially since the Celtics would have to honor his deal and send him to the Clippers with a $15 million salary.

And don’t expect the Celtics to waive Pierce just to see him sign with the Clippers during free agency. If they decide to trade Pierce, and NBA sources said the team is open to the possibility, they want a return for his services unless waiving him will allow him enough salary cap space to sign a solid free agent.

The consensus around the league is that a decision on this has to be made this week and Rivers is looking worse by the day because of his indecisiveness.

Key decision makers, Ainge and Sacks, stuck in neutral … 

Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times: The main characters are Boston Coach Doc Rivers and All-Star forward Kevin Garnett, trying to get to the Clippers as a duo. The men calling the shots — Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and Clippers vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks — can’t seem to reach agreement on a mutually satisfactory deal.

So both organizations were stuck in neutral by Monday evening after player names were tossed back and forth, the talks at a standstill but not completely over, according to NBA executives who did not want to be identified by name because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the situation.

The two sides intend to keep the talks alive Tuesday. But the Clippers also plan to have coaching candidates Byron Scott and Brian Shaw meet with owner Donald Sterling this week in case the team can’t make a deal to get Rivers, executives said.

Shaw, associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers, on Tuesday is scheduled to meet for the second time with the Denver Nuggets about their head-coach vacancy. Then Shaw is to meet with Sterling on Wednesday. Shaw interviewed face to face with the Clippers last week, but this will be his first sit-down with Sterling, executives said.

Scott, former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets, is scheduled to meet with Sterling on Tuesday afternoon, the executives said. Scott also met with the Clippers last Tuesday but didn’t talk with Sterling.



Title Dreamers, Beware Of Boston





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Go ahead and mark it down now — the two cities that every team dreaming of a championship needs to avoid at all costs during the playoffs are Memphis and Boston.

Just like the Grizzlies in the Western Conference, the Celtics have given everyone ample warning that they will be in the business of crushing hopes come playoff time. Their work since the All-Star break has been well documented. They have all of the components needed to derail the title aspirations of any other team in the playoff field, just as the Grizzlies did to the Spurs last year.

From a coach in Doc Rivers (who is arguably the best in the business at taking whatever parts he has and crafting them into a cohesive unit) to a clear leader in Rajon Rondo (who has finally asserted himself as the true catalyst for this club) to the fading-but-still-furious-glory of future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (who have all had to accept diminished or drastically different roles than they are used to at this stage of their careers), the Celtics have everything in place to squash dreams and realize their own.

Their demolition of the Miami Heat twice in the past 10 days is no fluke. The Celtics, the league’s nastiest defensive team, showed last night that when they’re knocking down shots, they are nearly impossible to deal with. The Heat scrapped their way back into the game and still couldn’t overcome the Celtics, who shot a blistering 61 percent.

With Rondo directing the traffic, the ball moves all over the floor, making it hard for any team — even one as talented as the Heat — to concentrate its defensive focus in any one place. Garnett and Pierce both turned back the clock last night.

(more…)

Rondo On The Trading Block … Again!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Welcome back to the swirl and twirl of the trade rumor mill Rajon Rondo. We missed you!

What’s it been, four months?

After seeing his name mentioned prominently in trade speculation at the start of this season, the Celtics’ point guard is making a return trip with the March 15 trade deadline looming and the team needing to do something to shake things up.

Rondo, according to the Boston Globe, is in the crosshairs once more as the Celtics are reportedly, “listening” to offers for the man who has become their best player:

An ESPN.com report said the Celtics have decided to trade Rondo after his attitude and personality have become too burdensome for the organization. An NBA source told the Globe the Celtics aren’t trying to dump Rondo but his name is being mentioned in deals, similar to the way it was when the team made a play for Chris Paul in December.

Rondo collected his 16th career triple-double and third this season in last night’s 102-96 victory over the Bucks. He has endured a difficult season with the trade rumors, an eight-game absence because of a sprained right wrist, and two because of a NBA suspension for throwing the ball at official Sean Wright.

Rondo also was upset at originally being left off the All-Star team and responded with one of his worst games of the season Feb. 10 against the Raptors in Toronto. On Tuesday in Cleveland he missed all six shots from the field and dished out 11 assists but committed five turnovers.

Last night he bounced back with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Coach Doc Rivers lauded Rondo for his orchestration of the offense and pushing the pace. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, it’s uncertain if the organization feels it can begin the post-Big Three era around Rondo.

He has three years and $36 million left on his contract after this season.

If the Celtics listen long and hard enough, they’ll find a suitor for one of the best point guards in the game. But good luck getting back a player of comparable talent.

Then again, if these reports are true, a comparable talent doesn’t matter as much as someone whose “attitude and personality” is compatible with what the organization is looking for while they rebuild for the future.

One thing is clear, though. If Rondo is moved, it’s time to blow taps on the Big 3 era!

Somewhere In The Middle

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For anyone that decided to parachute into the NBA lockout saga today, you made it just in time for a rather interesting edition of “He said, He said.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern told the Boston Globe that the union cancelled a scheduled meeting. Players Association officials disputed that claim to Yahoo! Sports, saying there was no meeting with Stern and the league’s negotiating team scheduled, and then countered with this twist:

“The NBA refused to have a staff meeting [Thursday],” a union official said. “Billy Hunter has been with the [National Labor Relations Board] the entire week, including Thursday, and the NBPA was told that Stern would be completely unavailable to meet for the next two weeks.”

The truth (the whole truth and nothing but the truth) is clearly somewhere in the middle of this seemingly harmless mix up. Stern and Hunter are big boys, so whatever tweaking that goes on between the two sides is tolerable so long as the end result is one that leaves everyone smiling.

Plus, with the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on tap Friday night and Hunter with the National Labor Relations Board all week, it’s obvious there were not going to be any big time face-to-face negotiations this week. If a smaller session was proposed, by either side, and then scrapped for whatever reasons, we can live with that … provided there are more substantive talks planned for the near future.

Besides, after weeks of grim news, Stern did offer some encouraging news to the Globe when he said that he expects there will eventually be a deal struck that would keep us from hoops Armageddon for the 2011-12 season:

“I expect that we’ll make a deal because the alternative is very destructive,” he said. “It’s destructive of $2 billion worth of player salaries and it’s destructive most important to our fans of the game. And if it spirals badly everyone gets hurt. But in some ways I worry because the players have more to lose, especially those in the later stages of their career. So we’re going to do everything we can when the rhetoric slows down to get this thing back on track.”

That’s a much different tone than what we heard in the hours after the first full negotiating session between the two sides just a couple of weeks ago, when the league filed that unfair labor practice charge against the union with the NLRB to prevent a potential decertification.

That’s a much rosier outlook than what Hunter provided last week, when he suggested to a conference at the National Bar Association in Baltimore that the 2011-12 season could be in jeopardy if things don’t change drastically in the coming weeks.

Obviously, things might get a little messier before they get better.

But at least they’re talking … well, sort of.

Labor Pains … Here We Go!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – At least we can all agree on one thing where this lockout is concerned, no one — and we mean NO ONE — is happy about it!

The news out of New York Thursday afternoon prepared us all for what was to come, the NBA’s first lockout in 13 years commenced at 12:01 this morning. It didn’t take long for the feedback to start rolling in from the assembled punditry.

Here is a brief morning sampling of opinions from around the country …

Ian Thomsen of SI.com: How long will this go on? Union chief Billy Hunter anticipated that another meeting will be called in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, he and union president Derek Fisher must consider the unlikely option of decertifying and putting their case into the court system, if they believe they can’t get a fair hearing from the owners.

The alternative is to continue to talk over the summer with the small goal of finding some minimal terms on which both sides can agree. As the next season approaches and both sides are confronted by real pain — a loss of income for the players, and a loss of fan support for the franchises should games be canceled — maybe then there will be a willingness to meet in the middle, with an understanding that their shared business must continue on, even if neither side is particularly happy with the terms.

(more…)

Pacers Boss Bird At The Crossroads

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eight years are a mere blip in time, but it seems like an eternity in the NBA.

It’s certainly rare for executives and coaches to last that long.

So when you read that Larry Bird is eight years deep into his tenure as the boss of the Indiana Pacers, it seems a bit strange. I was there for the start, standing in the crowd at Bird’s introductory news conference and wondering, like most in that surprised sea of faces staring at him, how long the man known as “Larry Legend” would last as an executive.

Now, eight trying years later for Bird and the Pacers, Bird appears to be at the crossroads. The Pacers finally recovered fully from the infamous brawl at the Palace, making their first playoff appearance since 2006 earlier this year and pushing the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in all five games of their first round series.

In a thorough and wide-ranging piece on Bird, Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe touched on not only Bird’s lingering connections to the Celtics but also his tumultuous journey running the Pacers and how much longer he plans on doing so:

He’s been the Pacers’ top executive for eight seasons, but said that after next season he’s considering stepping away. He took the Pacers to the Finals as coach in 2000. But he’s spent the last six seasons trying to rebuild a franchise stained by the brawl with the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

With Indiana coming off its first playoff appearance since 2006, the franchise is at a turning point. Bird and Pacers owner Herb Simon agreed that Bird would continue to guide the franchise on a year-to-year basis.

“It’s a handshake deal,’’ said Bird, who will be honored tomorrow at TD Garden as part of the Sports Museum’s The Tradition. “I don’t want a [long-term] contract.’’
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