LAS VEGAS – What looked like it might be a complete rebuilding job for the Boston Celtics in January is turning out to be more of a refurbishing effort by the somewhat surprising Eastern Conference finalists.
Green’s agent, David Falk, would not reveal the specific length or value of the contract, but confirmed that the details have been ironed out and a deal likely will be consummated after the leaguewide moratorium on new business lifts Wednesday.
“This is where Jeff always wanted to be,” said Falk, who continued to heap praise on the Celtics organization for the way it handled Green’s heart ailment last season.
Falk stressed that Boston’s goodwill played a major factor in his decision to return and said he’s not surprised a deal got hammered out since the two sides were on the same page from the start of the process.
Both Falk and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge expressed optimism that a contract would get done earlier this week and, after watching Ray Allen elect to sign with the Miami Heat on Friday night, the Celtics appear to have moved quickly to finalize with Green.
Green, traded to Boston in February 2011, sat out all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm that was detected in training camp as the two sides prepared to sign a one-year, $9 million deal.
It looked like time was running out on Boston’s Big 3 as they struggled during the early stages of the lockout-shortened season, part of that due to the sudden twist of not having Green available.
But the Celtics rebounded and slugged their way to the conference finals, falling to the Heat in seven games. Instead of breaking things up with Allen, Kevin Garnett and Green all set to hit free agency, the Celtics went about trying to keep the band together.
At last February’s trade deadline, Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge sounded like he was ready to break up the team’s vaunted Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to start over in 2012-13, either rebuilding around Rajon Rondo or dealing Rondo and starting over altogether. But a few months later, the Celtics look like they are determined to keep the band together and make another run at a championship next season with their veteran core.
The Celtics, according to sources, are increasingly optimistic they’ll be able to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Jeff Green to a new contract, and are also more hopeful now they can keep Allen in the fold instead of losing him to the Miami Heat. The final decision is Allen’s, of course, and he’ll weigh offers from several teams (including the Heat and Grizzlies) in the next few days.
But Boston is hopeful that the last few days’ worth of events, starting with Garnett’s decision to agree on a three-year extension, combined with the selection of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in last Thursday’s Draft and the team’s strong showing in the East finals, will convince the 36-year-old Allen to accept the team’s two-year, $12 million offer.
That offer is more than what Miami, which only has its mini mid-level exception starting at $3.09 million, can offer Allen. The Grizzlies have their full mid-level exception starting at $5 million, however, and want to sign Allen to replace O.J. Mayo, the now-unrestricted free agent that Memphis did not tender with a qualifying offer last week. The Celtics had initially targeted Mayo as a primary free agent possibility, but now believe he’s going to get more money elsewhere. Several other teams, including the Pacers, are interested in him.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Opinions on the current state of affairs between the NBA and its players are flying in every direction and from all manner of so-called expert, with the emphasis on the “so-called’ portion of the equation.
The blame-game is still in the first quarter with everyone from former union director Billy Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern to the attorneys for both sides and the hundreds of players that comprise(d) the union all being identified in one way or another as the main culprits for this fiasco that has cost us games through at least Dec. 15, and counting.
But we are admittedly in unfamiliar territory here. No one is quite sure where this process goes from here … because we’ve never been here before.
So we figured a little perspective is needed. And in trying times, that perspective might come from unexpected places. We found one of those places on this morning’s playback of NBA TV’s Game Time from Tuesday night.
David Falk, once a super agent and the man that helped guide the likes of Michael Jordan during the zenith of his career, provided a sobering perspective on where things stand right now in this labor dispute:
Speculation about the 2011-12 season, and if and/or when it might get stated, remains the hottest topic on the minds of most. Hopeful is the magic word being used here at the hideout.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Depending on what you choose to believe, we’re either days away from the beginning of a resolution to the NBA’s labor mess … or on the verge of an even bigger chasm between the owners and players.
No one seems to know for sure, but everyone seems to have a theory (or two or three) about how this weekend’s meetings (things begin Friday in New York) will play out.
In order for an on-time start to the regular season, the sides have to come together as soon as possible. So there is a very obvious reason for all of the extra emphasis on the coming talks (as expressed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Derek Fisher):
Players Prepared To Sit?
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: Unless major concessions are made by the owners by then, the sources said players are prepared to show a united front and express their willingness to sit out the entire season — if not more. There is a growing sentiment that missing the start of the regular season could mean missing the entire season, one that was recently reflected in the comments of agent David Falk. There has even been renewed talk of players starting a league of their own, which may or may not be realistic but is certainly indicative of their level of frustration and the types of strategies being considered.
There were hints of this we-determine-our-own-destiny approach in the latest letter from NBPA president Derek Fisher to the league’s players, which was first obtained by ESPN.com.
“We are a group of some of the most talented, savvy businessmen and business owners in the world,” Fisher wrote. “We have built our own brands, launched our own and other people’s companies, helped our communities. I keep that in the forefront of my mind each time we go into a negotiating session.
“If a Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Russell Simmons were in this, there is no way they would take a deal that is unfair. Not when we are the talent, the most coveted asset, the most valuable resource that drives this business. Keep that in your mind as we walk down this road shoulder to shoulder.”
And the talent is far from happy.
According to sources who have been briefed on the talks in New York this week, the discussion over basketball-related income and how it is divvied up is the most maddening for the NBPA. While the owners have shown a willingness to give between 46 percent and 48 percent to the players (depending on other components of the deal that are in play), it is believed that the players — who received 57 percent in the previous deal — won’t accept anything less than 53 percent (again, depending on other aspect of the potential agreement). With the league’s revenues totaling about $4 billion last season, each percentage point represents approximately $40 million.
Season Hangs In Balance
Marc Stein of ESPN.com: When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.
Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.
Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”
In 1998-99, the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.
It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks Thursday will have the intended “scare” effect and convince players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time.
At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.
That’s the hard truth, the hard road to labor peace. Stern’s job is convincing the owners to pull off the press, take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity.
This has been rigged for years and months and weeks, and here’s how a deal happens this weekend: In the carnage of a devastating collective bargaining loss for the union with billions of dollars redirected into owners’ pockets, Stern has to give Hunter something to take back to the players, so that the union’s bloodied, bruised and beaten executive director can still raise his arms and declare that, yes, we won.
BOSTON – No practice today here at the NBA Finals.
That means we’ve got more time to snoop around and see what else is going on in the world of basketball, namely the continuing coaching carousel, the Draft and everybody’s favorite, the free-agent frenzy.
– First and foremost is this on-one-minute, gone-the-next free-agent summit. Hang Time sources have indicated that many of the central figures and even players that are not free agents this summer have been in contact with each other already regarding who does what come July 1.
They haven’t set up shop in a backroom at some restaurant or anything, but who needs to do that in this day and age of social networking?
Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony was at Game 2 of the Finals in Los Angeles and admitted that he was supposed to be meeting LeBron James there, only to have James back out at the last-minute, per Yahoo! Sports. Chris Bosh did show up that night, making the rounds around courtside and getting recruiting pitches from Lakers fans non-stop as he made his way around the court.
Free agents Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson have been in LA the past few days for a Brand Jordan photo shoot where they’ve mingled with (non-free agents) Chris Paul and Anthony, surely they’ve had some conversations about what will go on in a few weeks.
So it’s obvious these guys have been in constant contact with each other, making sure to stay on top of who is going to do what when the free agent alarm clock goes off in a few weeks.
And we didn’t even get to Amar’e Stoudemire yet:
SUNS REMAIN ‘PLAN A’ FOR STOUDEMIRE
Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: Amar’e Stoudemire has wavered on favoring the Suns in this process, especially after another round of trade talks involving him. He was back to prioritizing the Suns on Thursday, a day after his agent, Happy Walters, met with Suns General Manager Steve Kerr for the first time since April. Stoudemire said no offer was made but “it sounds like the Suns definitely want to make an effort. I’m just not sure what type of effort. They’re definitely looking to keep me around. So we’ve just got to figure out what the proper math is.” They have until June 30 to agree to an extension or Stoudemire becomes an unrestricted free agent. He said they plan to meet again this month. “I’ve established great relationships around town,” Stoudemire said. “My family is now pretty much from here because all my kids were born and are being raised here. It’d be great to remain a Phoenix Sun for my whole career. “That’s my ultimate goal. And then to win a championship with the team. But we’ve just got to make sure that we can try to get that done sooner than later because we want to capitalize on the opportunity. We did a great job this season but we definitely want to have a better season and go further the next few years.” Even if he gets to free agency, Stoudemire said he would give the Suns a chance to counter any offer he would receive. “My loyalty is here with the Phoenix Suns,” he said. “Once free agency starts and teams are offering me X amount of dollars, then I would definitely say, ‘You know what, Phoenix? These guys are offering this much. So if you guys want to step up to the plate, we can hit a home run.’ If not, then I could settle for an inside-the-park home run. Just as long as I make it home.”
HT’s TAKE: Give Stoudemire credit for taking the proactive approach. It’s up to the Suns at this point. If they are willing to offer the max, Stoudemire isn’t going anywhere. But the Suns always seem to make the summer interesting. And no one loves the spotlight or the drama more than Stoudemire, so this saga is probably just getting started.
STILL NO DECISION FROM IZZO ON CLEVELAND
Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer: Tom Izzo came, he saw, he dined. What he’ll do next, however, remains uncertain. The Michigan State coach and his family spent all Thursday afternoon and evening with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, General Manager Chris Grant, and assistant general manager Lance Blanks. According to multiple sources, the visit went well and Izzo and his family were impressed with the Cavs’ facilities and the city. But Izzo left town after nearly nine hours without accepting Gilbert’s offer. After arriving on one of Dan Gilbert’s private jets around 1 p.m., Izzo and his family were ushered away in two black SUVs. He visited Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, met Cavs staff and then had dinner. As Izzo was spending the day in Cleveland, Spartans fans in East Lansing, Mich., held a rally at the university hoping the coach who has led the team to six Final Fours in the past 12 years would stay. When he got back home, Izzo declined to talk about what happened in Cleveland and told reporters he felt bad about the situation. “I feel bad about that, I feel bad about all that stuff,” Izzo said. “But I do feel good that I did what I had to do and I will, uh, apologize to everybody for not commenting.”
HT’s TAKE: Izzo won’t drag this out much longer. After speaking with one of Izzo’s closest confidants who is here in Boston for the Finals, it’s clear that Izzo wants to take the NBA leap. There are $30 million reasons for him to step into the void, whether the Cavaliers can retain James or not.
SCOTT IN THE CLEVELAND MIX, TOO
Sam Amick of Fanhouse: Byron Scott had an hour-long phone interview with Cleveland general manager Chris Grant and assistant general manager Lance Blanks today, according to his agent. Brian McInerney, who has represented Scott for more than 20 years, exclusively told FanHouse that the discussion focused on Scott’s championship pedigree and how it might fit with a Cavaliers organization that will continue to pursue a title with or without LeBron James. There were no future plans made for another interview or conversation, in part because of the looming issue of what Tom Izzo will do. The Michigan State coach was in Cleveland on Thursday to meet with Cavs officials and tour the team’s facility. While Izzo has reportedly been offered the job, it’s clear Cleveland is considering other options while it remains unclear what Izzo will do. McInerney said Izzo was not discussed. Scott’s appeal is simple, as he won three championships with the Lakers as a player and had much postseason success as a coach. His New Jersey Nets team went to the Finals in 2002 and 2003, and his New Orleans Hornets made a surprise run to the Western Conference semifinals in 2008. The winning history was the main topic discussed in the interview that was heavy on coaching philosophy, according to McInerney. “They asked him what his view was on championships, talked about his mentality that you either win or you come home on your shield trying,” McInerney said. “That being said, everything (information-wise) should go through the team.”
HT’s TAKE: Scott is by far the safer choice for the Cavaliers. He’s already won and won big in the NBA, even though he’s been fired everywhere he’s been. And if his hiring would give the Cavaliers the best chance of keeping James, the Cavs would be foolish to dismiss that. The Cavs are wise to carry on simultaneous discussions with he and Izzo, making sure to cover all bases.
WIZARDS TALKING JOHN WALL AT NO. 1
Michael Lee of the Washington Post: When asked on Thursday if the Wizards planned to take Kentucky point guard John Wall with the No. 1 overall pick, new owner Ted Leonsis said he was “not allowed to” make that announcement. “It’s good theater for the NBA to have people wondering what we’re going to do,” Leonsis said at his introductory press conference at Verizon Center. “I won’t make the pick, our General Manager Ernie Grunfeld, will make the pick.” Wonder no more. Although the Wizards have yet to saying anything official, Wall will be Grunfeld’s choice for the June 24 NBA draft. There was little mystery with the decision, but Wall is the only player the Wizards have scheduled for a workout for the top choice – and that will remain the case. David Falk, agent for Ohio State junior Evan Turner, said that his client would not work out for the Wizards. Falk and Turner were both in attendance at Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Boston. Falk said Turner would only work out for Philadelphia, which holds the No. 2 pick, on June 17 – the same day Wall will work out for the Wizards. Wall is currently scheduled to workout for the 76ers the day before.
HT’s TAKE: We’re still not sure this is even news. As soon as the Wizards snagged that No. 1 pick at the Draft lottery, Wall should have started house hunting in the D.C. area. The Wizards not only need a new face of the franchise, they need a potential superstar at his position. And by most estimates, Wall is the only player that fits that mold in this Draft.
HAWKS STILL COACHLESS
Jeff Schutlz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: If general manager Rick Sund and owners were waiting on the conclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics’ series to talk to a coach, the wait would be understandable. But there’s no indication they’re waiting to talk to an assistant on either staff (Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau already has accepted the Chicago Bulls’ job). There’s the longest of long shots that former Hawks star Glenn “Doc” Rivers could be available. But Rivers has a year left on his contract. He is likely to either return to the Celtics for one more season or take a one-to-two-year break from coaching to spend more time with his wife in Orlando. What exactly is going on now? Nobody can be certain. Avery Johnson, the strongest of the four candidates, took the New Jersey job. That leaves Minnesota assistant Dwane Casey, Hawks assistant Larry Drew and ESPN commentator Mark Jackson as the known finalists. All have been interviewed. All are waiting. It had been expected that a decision would come by this week. The lack of a decision thus far has fueled speculation in the media and among fans that Sund and owners are not in complete agreement on a choice. For the record, this is generally how things work: Sund makes a recommendation and the owners take it from there. Sund has said that ownership has accepted his recommendation in the past, such as the decisions to give Woodson a two-year contract in 2008 and the one to let him go after this season. So what do you think? Are you concerned neither franchise has a coach yet?
HT’s TAKE: Multiple sources confirmed for us Friday morning that this is a Drew-Casey debate between the front office and the owners, not a dispute between the owners, as has been reported elsewhere. The owners are in the Drew camp while Sund and his staff are steadfast about Casey being the best choice to replace Mike Woodson. Expect a resolution by the end of the weekend and an announcement on the new coach as early as Monday morning, if not sooner. The minute Avery Johnson accepted the Nets’ offer (below), the Hawks were forced to adjust their plans.