Posted on: September 20, 2010 11:04 am
Ah, it seems like The Decision was only yesterday. This week, CBSSports.com will be rolling out our team-by-team training camp primers, which can be found here in the BergerSphere and in the informative, snarky, rollicking neighborhood known as the Facts & Rumors blog . I'm starting with the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics. You know, the Vintage Big Three. (I'm so 2008.) In keeping with the cloak of secrecy surrounding the Miami Heat's training camp, you will need a security clearance to find out when we're dropping the camp primer on the South Beach version of the Big Three.
Training camp site: Newport, R.I.
Training camp starts: Sept. 28
Key additions: Shaquille O’Neal (free agent), Jermaine O’Neal (free agent), Von Wafer (free agent), Delonte West (free agent)
Key subtractions: Tony Allen (free agent), Shelden Williams (free agent). • Likely starting lineup: Rajon Rondo, PG; Ray Allen, SG; Paul Pierce, SF; Kevin Garnett, PF; Jermaine O’Neal, C.
Player to watch: Kevin Garnett. Getting the Big Ticket back to health is of no small importance for the defending Eastern Conference champs. During the Celtics’ surprising run to the NBA Finals, KG finally started to move around better and was able to log substantial minutes without any obvious consequences. Will Garnett ever get back the explosiveness that he possessed before his knees started breaking down? No way. But if he can lose the limp and get some of his lateral mobility back – which he showed glimpses of during the Finals – his impact on the Celtics’ success cannot be overstated.
Chemistry check: Under Doc Rivers’ leadership, the Celtics have been more adept than any team in the league at incorporating new (and mostly zany) personalities into an established locker room. If the Celtics can withstand the potentially disruptive additions of Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson and Rasheed Wallace, then bringing Shaq into the fold should be easy. But it’s worth wondering how enthusiastic O’Neal will be if asked to accept a secondary role – first to Jermaine O’Neal, and then to Kendrick Perkins once Perk recovers from his knee injury. Prediction: If Shaq didn’t make waves in Cleveland with the way Mike Brown underutilized him, there’s no way he causes trouble for Rivers. One thing about Shaq is that he respects those who’ve earned it. As for Delonte West: If anyone can harness his talents and help him get his personal life under control, it’s Rivers.
Camp battles: Boston has plenty of frontcourt depth. What Rivers will be looking to establish in camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., is a dependable backcourt rotation. Tony Allen, who became a defensive stopper of sorts during the playoffs, is a big loss. Rivers will be counting on Daniels, Robinson, West and perhaps someone who isn’t on the roster yet to give him quality minutes behind Rondo and Ray Allen.
Long shots: The Celtics recently worked out Adam Morrison, Rashad McCants, Cuttino Mobley and Trenton Hassell. There isn't much room at the inn, but it's a sign of how badly Boston needs some backcourt depth. Mobley, who has been cleared by doctors to resume his career after retiring due to a heart ailment, is the longest of these long shots.
Biggest strength: Experience. From the championship in ’08, to Garnett’s injuries, to Glen Davis’ shirtless, bloody fistfight in a moving car, to Rondo’s growth as the undisputed leader of the Big Four, to Perkins’ series-altering knee injury in the ’10 Finals, the Celtics have been galvanized by experiencing ups and downs together. Rivers’ decision to return for another season, coupled with extensions signed by Pierce and Ray Allen, has set the table for one more run with the Celtics’ core group before age catches up to them.
Glaring weakness: The glass-half-full version of the above says experience, exshmerience: The Celtics are too old for this stuff. But that’s what everybody thought last year when Boston played .500 ball from Christmas Day to the end of the regular season. At that point, my preseason Celtics-Spurs prediction for the Finals was looking about as dead in the water as the Celtics were. As it turned out, I was only half wrong. I wouldn’t advise counting them out until someone beats a fully healthy Celtics team in a seven-game series.
Posted on: August 12, 2010 9:00 pm
NEW YORK -- With star-studded attendance and a conciliatory tone, collective bargaining talks Thursday between the NBA's owners and players changed the attitude, if not the substance, of the debate. Even with union vice president Mo Evans calling the players "partners" with the owners -- what's next, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert double-dating? -- the two sides are still far from a deal to avoid a lockout after the 2010-11 season.
But quietly, modest breakthroughs were made Thursday on several big-picture points relevant to the new financial structure owners and players are trying to create. According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, here are the key points that owners and players actually agreed on -- or at least, agreed to disagree:
* First, there seems to be agreement on both sides that something needs to be done to improve the competitive balance of the league. How to do it, however, remains hotly contested. The players believe many of the owners’ woes can be solved through broader revenue sharing, for which they included a plan in their proposal. The owners continue to believe that how the owners divvy up hundreds of millions in annual losses doesn’t solve the problem that expenses are too high. According to sources, the owners seem to be hunkered down in their pursuit of shorter contracts with less guaranteed money – and they appear to be focusing on those issues even more than reducing the 57 percent share of basketball-related income (BRI) that the players receive. In the owners’ view, shorter contracts and the ability to restructure them midway through – a provision that exists in the NFL’s CBA – would help teams become more competitive faster. The players acknowledge the problem with the current system when teams burdened with bad contracts get “stuck in the mud,” according to a source, and need 3-4 years to clean up the mess. But the players disagree with the owners’ desire to shorten contracts and limit guarantees, even with the long history under the current CBA of players with declining ability becoming contractual albatrosses for their teams. Tracy McGrady and his $24 million salary getting dumped on the Knicks as an expiring asset last season is an extreme, but not rare example.
* With top players such as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Richard Jefferson taking significant pay cuts on new deals this summer, there also seems to be common belief that payrolls will decline during the 2010-11 season for the second consecutive year – even after the biggest free-agent spectacle in league history. Since some rosters aren’t complete and the NBA’s fiscal year hasn’t closed yet, the amount of the decrease isn’t known, and the two sides differ on what the amount will be. The owners seem ready to acknowledge a 1 or 2 percent decline, while the players believe 5 percent is more realistic.
* Regardless of the amount of the payroll decline, one team executive said owners were rattled by the bold free-agent coup pulled off by star players this summer – with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami – and have become focused on limiting player movement as a result. Any efforts to curb players’ free-agent rights would be staunchly opposed by the union. But there is a real sense from the owners, according to this executive, that they’re determined to write provisions into the new CBA that would provide stronger disincentives for free agents to leave their teams.
“If there’s anything I’d love to see happen in collective bargaining, it’s for the term ‘free agent’ to go away and I’d love to see the term ‘mid-level’ go away,” the executive said. “There’s nothing free about it, when you’re making the mid-level, you’re making more than two-thirds of the league. Mid-level sounds like mid-major, Holiday Inn, Applebee’s. It’s inappropriately termed.”
* Sources also revealed new details of the players’ proposal, which National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has declined to specifically discuss publicly. In perhaps the first concession of the year-long negotiations, sources say the players have proposed issuing owners a credit on their books for capital improvements to their arenas. The Knicks, who are investing as much as $850 million to renovate Madison Square Garden, would benefit handsomely from such a provision. The players presented this as a way to encourage owners to modernize old arenas and thus create additional revenue streams.
Posted on: July 5, 2010 3:28 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2010 7:04 pm
Ray Allen will give the Celtics “every chance of re-signing him,” but has been in contact with the top-tier free agents and wants to wait until they choose a team before making a decision, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Monday.
Allen’s conversations with Celtics brass have been “productive and cordial,” the person said. But Allen, like other free agents, can’t have a complete picture of his value or the best situation for him until the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decide where to sign. It is not clear whether Allen, 34, has spoken with those players, but a person close to one high-profile free agent said Allen has been in contact via text message as the Big Three try to assemble a supporting cast for next season and beyond.
“I don’t think Player X has asked him, ‘If I sign here, will you come with me?’” the person said. “It hasn’t been in any formal way, but they’ve been in contact.”
Allen also has received “general inquiries” from several teams, including those with significant cap space, including the Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Nets, one of the sources said. The Celtics have been informed that Allen would prefer not to make a decision until the so-called cap-room teams find out which players they’ll be able to attract.
With Doc Rivers back for one more season and Paul Pierce returning on a four-year, $61 million deal, Allen will feel tremendous pull from within the Celtics’ organization to re-up for one more championship run. But Allen is seeking a three-year deal, and could be presented with some intriguing options once James and Wade decide where to play. According to people familiar with their strategies, both players have prioritized recruiting a low-post scorer and 3-point shooter as they decide whether to stay with their existing teams or venture elsewhere.
Now that the Knicks have agreed to terms with free-agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire, the process of surrounding him with talent capable of winning a championship begins.
"The Knicks are back," Stoudemire told the assembled media at Madison Square Garden Monday after agreeing in principle to a five-year, $99.8 million deal.
Stoudemire also said that he'd be reaching out to LeBron James with a recruiting pitch. If that doesn't work, what are the Knicks' other options? Sources confirmed Monday that the primary target would be Carmelo Anthony, who'd be an unrestricted free agent next summer -- or available at the February trade deadline -- if he doesn't accept the Nuggets' three-year, $65 million extension offer. CBSSports.com first reported Saturday that there's "zero chance" Denver officials will agree to trade Anthony this summer.
In the meantime, the Knicks will continue searching for a pick-and-roll partner for Stoudemire to operate with -- and if it isn't James, free-agent point guard Raymond Felton will be a primary target. The Knicks have had discussions about a sign-and-trade for Felton that would involve their own free-agent power forward, David Lee, a person with knowledge of the talks said Monday. But the Bobcats are lukewarm on such a proposal for the same reason they've had zero conversations with Felton's agent, Tony Dutt, about re-signing him -- the luxury-tax implications. But don't rule out such a scenario yet; a person with close ties to Felton said Monday that the Bobcats point guard is intrigued by the possibility of pairing with Stoudemire in coach Mike D'Antoni's triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense.
Bobcats coach Larry Brown was not with the organization's summer-league team Monday when play opened in Orlando. But don't draw any conspiratorial conclusions. A person close to Brown told CBSSports.com that the coach is on a previously planned family vacation and that the team is proceeding under the assumption that Brown will return to coach the team next season.
"We're looking at it as status quo," the person said.
Posted on: July 3, 2010 11:45 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2010 12:02 am
Paul Pierce is officially staying in green-and-white, finalizing his four-year, $61 million contract with the Celtics Saturday night, a person with knowledge of the agreement told CBSSports.com.
Pierce had opted out of the final year of his contract, which would've paid him $21.5 million, in part to give the Celtics flexibility to retain free agent Ray Allen and make a run at another championship with coach Doc Rivers, who announced this week he was returning for the final year of his contract. Pierce, 32, accepted less than the maximum the Celtics could have paid him as a 10-plus-year veteran, which was $96 million over four years. But a person familiar with the situation said the fourth year was fully guaranteed, which had been a sticking point in the negotiations.
Now, the Celtics will focus on retaining Allen, a move that would keep the Big Three -- and point guard Rajon Rondo -- intact for a run at the franchise's 18th championship. Also Saturday night, NBA.com's David Aldridge reported that forward Rasheed Wallace -- who informed the team after the NBA Finals that he planned to retire -- is possibly reconsidering that decision.
Posted on: July 1, 2010 8:33 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 9:35 am
Paul Pierce, who opted out of the final year of his contract and walked away for $21.5 million, is close to agreeing to a new four-year, $61 million contract, a person familiar with the deal told CBSSports.com.
Two sources cautioned that there's still work to be done on details, but the framework of the deal has been agreed to and is expected to be completed by Saturday.
Pierce, 32, has been negotiating exclusively with the Celtics and was motivated by Doc Rivers’ return to the sideline and his desire to make one more championship run with the core group that has been together since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were acquired in blockbuster trades this time of year in 2007. The challenge for Pierce and Allen, both free agents, is that both will have to give up some money to fit into the Celtics’ financial plans.
“Guys are going to have to decide, ‘Do you want to chase every last dollar, or do you want to be a Celtic?’” a person familiar with the team’s strategy said.
The question for Pierce was whether to push for a four-year deal or accept a more realistic three-year deal. One of the key issues still to be resolved is the guaranteed amount in the fourth year, sources said. Pierce will turn 37 in the fourth year of the deal.
Nonetheless, it was sensible for Pierce to opt out for several reasons. For one, he wants to help keep Boston’s core together, and a longer-term deal would give him more money in the long run while giving the Celtics more flexibility. Like other free agents, he’s facing uncertainty about a collective bargaining agreement that will be more punitive towards the players next summer. If negotiations with the Celtics had broken down, Pierce would've had no trouble getting a commitment from teams unable to satisfy their needs in the current chase for free agents.
Though he’ll turn 33 next season, Pierce is still capable of being the primary scorer on a winning team and probably could put up better numbers on a team without as many offensive options as the Celtics have.
Posted on: July 1, 2010 6:34 pm
Nobody was staking out Phil Jackson's ranch in Montana Thursday. There were no banners, no protests, no fleets of Mercedes, no fancy presentations, and certainly no Gulfstream jets. Depending on what happens with all this LeBron-o-mania in Cleveland, the most impactful transaction of this crazy NBA summer may very well have happened somewhere far, far away.
Phil Jackson is coming back.
For days, a person with close ties to Jackson was saying that all signs pointed to Jackson coming back. There were no early signals from his season-ending physical exam that indicated his health would be the factor preventing him from returning. Once Jackson got the green light from doctors to coach one more season, the only other question was money. That, evidently, was handled, too.
How could it not be?
"The money will be there," the person with ties to Jackson said.
Jackson, 64, follows Doc Rivers from the precipice of vacation/semi-retirement and comes back for one more run at one more title. Rivers may have a few left him, though only one with the current core in Boston -- assuming that core stays together. For Jackson, this will be it.
"It'll be the last stand for me," he said in a statement released by the Lakers, "and I hope a grand one."
There was little doubt that Jackson would be back, barring any physical reasons preventing it. But with Jackson, with the drama-prone Lakers, you never know until the i's are dotted and t's crossed. The financial arrangement tied to Jackson's return was still being finalized Thursday, according to a source. But the bottom line is that the Lakers -- in the face of the possible pie-in-the-sky creation of some dream team in Miami, or other bizarre, free-agent creations -- will be back to forcefully defend their title.
All that is left to do, aside from exploring sign-and-trade creations of their own, is to re-sign Derek Fisher, who will do what I expect Paul Pierce and probably Ray Allen to do in Boston: Follow the best chance for another ring. That chance rests with Rivers in Boston and with Jackson in L.A.
As if there was ever any doubt.
Posted on: June 30, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 2:03 pm
Doc Rivers has decided to return for the final year of his contract to coach the Celtics, a person familiar with the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com Wednesday. Rivers had been thinking about stepping down to spend more time with his family.
The news of Rivers' return for one more year, first reported by the Boston Herald, should calm nerves across New England as the Celtics faced the destruction of their successful nucleus with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce hitting the unrestricted free-agent market at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Rivers, though, is the glue that has held the Big Three together. With his commitment to return, the Celtics almost certainly will focus on upgrading the supporting cast rather than replacing Allen or Pierce.
Though Rivers, according to Yahoo! Sports, received a raise over the $5.5 million he was due for next season, his indecision about returning was not about the money. Those close to Rivers say he was seriously conflicted about returning to the bench vs. taking a year or two off to watch his children play high school and college sports. In fact, Rivers has been in San Antonio watching his son, Austin, dominate the FIBA Under-18 World Championships. As you can see, Austin has a little more hang time than his pop.
Rivers was emotional in the postgame news conference after the Celtics lost to the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, seemingly melancholy about the uncertain future for the Celtics of the Big Three era. Rasheed Wallace, recruited by Rivers, team president Danny Ainge, and the Celtics' veteran core to join them this past season, has decided to retire. Kevin Garnett has two more years on his contract, and Rajon Rondo has five years left. But Allen is unrestricted and Pierce opted out of his $21.5 million deal for next season. Both intend to return, but nothing is a given in the frenzied free-agent negotiating period that will begin about 11 hours after Rivers' decision became public.
The timing of Rivers' decision was no coincidence; only he in the Celtics' organization has the persuasive powers to convince Pierce and Allen to forego potentially lucrative invitations to compete for a championship elsewhere, possibly with other marquee free agents. Those invitations will come fast and furious, but the knowledge that Rivers will be back certainly will give Pierce and Allen pause about leaving.
Ainge has every intention of keeping Pierce and Allen, and both players prefer to stay in Boston and make at least one more run at a title together. Rivers is the best negotiating tool Ainge has.
On his way out of Staples Center after an emotional locker room session with his players and the emotional news conference, Rivers encountered a heckling Lakers fan who'd somehow gotten past security. The fan taunted Rivers, asking him how it felt to lose to the Lakers -- a team Rivers' Celtics had beaten in the Finals two years earlier. NBA security director Bernie Tolbert shooed the fan away. Rivers, displaying the class that has made him one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, offered no reaction -- just kept walking, into a summer of uncertainty that looks a lot more promising now for the Celtics.
Posted on: June 29, 2010 11:05 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 12:31 am
Add Paul Pierce to the growing list of elite free agents. The Celtics' star notified the team Tuesday that, as expected, he'll exercise the early termination option in his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, said his agent, Jeff Schwartz.
Under normal circumstances, Pierce, 32, would be pretty well assured of returning to Boston in an attempt to chase down another championship. But these are not normal times for the Celtics. Ray Allen is an unrestricted free agent, too, and coach Doc Rivers continues to wrestle with the decision of whether to return to the bench next season or watch his children play college sports.
In some ways, it's a risky move for Pierce to leave $21.5 million on the table next season. But with so many teams chaseing free agents, Pierce will generate plenty of interest from those who strike out on the top-tier players. If nothing else, Pierce re-ups with the Celtics and surpasses that amount with a multi-year deal.
Though the Celtics want to retain Pierce, it's actually welcome news that he's opting out. Even if Boston pays Pierce the max -- $20.8 million next season for a player of his experience -- they still save $1.5 million due to luxury tax implications. Pierce will make up the difference on the back end, while also locking in for three or four more years under the current salary rules, which will be tilted in the owners' favor in the next collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, the Celtics will set about trying to determine if their core -- including Rivers -- is staying together.
Even in the unlikely event that Allen and Pierce both leave, it's farfetched for the Celtics to have enough cap room to afford a marquee free agent. They would have flexibility, however, for sign-and-trades.