Posted on: November 18, 2011 10:42 am

Doc Rivers misses his guys

By Matt Moore 

Doc Rivers was considering hanging it up, being with his family, going to a lot of Duke games, and taking it easy. But instead, he came back, immediately after the Celtics lost to the Heat in the playoffs, returning for another stretch with Boston to make one last run with the core. 

Or not.

Rivers isn't locked out, but his players are. He's a general without his troops, and it's been difficult for him to deal with it, especially considering how close Rivers is to this particular group of guys. From the Boston Herald: 
"It’s like I was telling Danny Ainge,” he said. “The blessing of this is that I’m nowhere near ready to not do this. I miss it. So there’s some good things to this too.”

The lack of contact with his players is probably the oddest aspect of the NBA lockout for Rivers, as evidenced by his chance encounter with Ray Allen during a recent golf tournament in Florida. Player and coach, walking in opposite directions, shook hands and kept moving.

“That was strange, really strange,” he said. “We walked by each other, so you could shake hands, but you couldn’t say much to each other. Just the way it is, but I miss it. I miss being around them – all of them."
via BostonHerald.com - Blogs: Celtics Insider» Blog Archive » Rivers anxious to return from the lockout vacuum.

The lockout is ridiculous from any angle, and this is another. Two people who won a championship together, who would bleed for one another can't talk at a golf tournament. This, my friends, is sheer idiocy.

But it's how it is. And if this thing plays out like it looks it will at this particular moment in time, Rivers may miss out on his last opportunity to make a run with this group of guys he believes in so much.

The damage of the lockout goes so much deeper than just owner and player money.  
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:15 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:24 pm

Players decline to offer owners counter-proposal

Posted by EOB Staff.

The situation, as Ken Berger put it so eloquently, is thus: "In other words, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, the excrement has hit the air conditioning."

The owners and players met Friday in an effort to make progress off of the owners' seemingly concilliatory last offer. The natural step in a negotiation is for the players to respond with another counter-proposal as the two move closer together. But after everyone thought the owners' proposal was a great step forward, the union went ballistic over it.

 The result? Beger reports that Jared Dudley told media Friday after the meeting that the players elected to not offer a counter-proposal, saying the two sides were "too far apart." With a Board of Governor's meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Berger reports that he players expect the owners to vote for the lockout at that meeting. 

It's been a long time coming, and we have a week to go with NBA players and owners agreeing to a "smaller bargaining session" on next Wednesday or Thursday, but the reality is here.

We're headed for an NBA lockout, without question.

If you're looking for subtext here, imagine that the goal is to get a plank balanced on a post. Both sides want as much weight added to their side of the plank while keeping it balanced up in the air. They add things the players want (and have) like guaranteed contracts and things the owners want (like restrictions) to try and get things balanced. After the owners' very Cold-War approach to negotiations for the last, really two years, their last proposal seemed like a move towards progress. But the players feel that the owners have simply moved the post far enough and counter-weighted their side to make it look like it's balanced. In reality, the players feel they's simply moved the post and gotten  more of what they want, by managing the story. 

The players' abrasive and ultimately toxic approach Friday represents the line in the sand. They're not going any further, and they're not going to let the ownership dictate terms any more. The players have been concilliatory about BRI, exceptions, revenue sharing, the works throughout this process. Now that the owners have tossed them what they feel are bread crumbs and called it progress,  the players have elected to throw the bread back in their face and walk out the door.

Berger reports Stern characterized his reaction to the decision as "disappointed."  I characterize his chracterization as "the work of Captain Obvious." 

Perhaps you're wondering why it's taken until a week before the end date of the current CBA to reach this point, why they couldn't have negotiated seriously earlier, to reach this point and then push through it instead of running up against the cliff. 

Welcome to the club.

There's almost no escaping it now. Barring a miracle or a significant coup among the owners by the voices of reason, it's game over.

Professional basketball stops on a dime at midnight Thursday night.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 11:52 am
Edited on: May 13, 2011 12:19 pm

Doc Rivers, Celtics agree to 5-year deal

Report: Doc Rivers agrees to five-year deal with Boston Celtics to remain head coach.

Posted by Matt Moore

Update 12:09 p.m. EST: Yahoo! Sports reports and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com confirms that the deal is five-years, $35 million. That's quite a bit, but Doc is worth every penny.  Berger reports this is the same deal that's been on the table for months. 

Original report: CSN is reporting Friday morning that the Boston Celtics have agreed to a new five-year deal with Doc Rivers to remain head coach.

Rivers said following Boston's Game 5 loss to the Heat that he was looking to remain a Celtic, and reports published Thursday indicated a long-term deal like this was in the works. 

It's a curious decision for Rivers, considering his son's imminent enrollment at Duke, and after it took such hand-wringing to convince him to return last year. Rivers was close to walking away after the Celtics' last run fell short, and there's little to indicate the Celtics' odds at a championship will improve, considering their age and cap situation, unless Danny Ainge gets really inventive really quickly.

But sometimes it's not about just your odds at a championship, and Rivers has obviously grown strong connections to the city, the franchise, and especially to its players. Doc will keep roaming the sidelines for a few more years, it seems. 

We'll have more updates as this story develops.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:26 am

Is Larry Drew already on the hot seat?

Larry Drew might already be on the hot seat with the way the Hawks have underperformed and are now melting down. 
Posted by Matt Moore

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's only slightly broke, you had better be sure you don't fix the wrong part because you could lose to the Bulls by 30 at home. 

After Tuesday night's pathetic performance against the Bulls, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wonders if first-year head coach Larry Drew isn't already on the hot seat. 
This is why you don’t promote the nice-guy assistant. Because the players who’ve known him only as the nice-guy assistant will quit on him. And if you think the Hawks are still playing hard for Larry Drew, how are we to explain the misdoings of the past three weeks?

The Hawks have lost six home games in 18 days. (By way of comparison, they lost seven home games all last season.) Only one of these six losses has been by fewer than 13 points. Average margin of the six losses — 17.2 points.
via Another home blowout tells us the Hawks have quit on Drew | Mark Bradley.

Hawks fans at the blog Peachtree Hoops are feeling similarly frustrated with Drew: 
This past off season, Atlanta changed directions at coach by not really changing. I think Larry Drew is a great person, a great basketball man with a great basketball mind. He is willing to try and answer anything that you ask him before games and I think has attempted to put up a good hard working front while the building is crumbling in around him. I think he is a deserving head coach but I am not positive that he is the different voice that this team needed.
via Chicago Bulls 114, Atlanta Hawks 81 Or This Is Embarrassing - Peachtree Hoops.

Firing Mike Woodson was kind of perplexing to begin with. Despite being under fire nearly every season, he helped the team improve in win totals progressively, taking them from a laughing stock full of young players to a team that swept the Celtics in the regular season last year and would have had a better time of it had it not ended up in a terrible series of matchups against first motivated and desperately emotional Milwaukee and then matchup-advantaged Orlando.  It got beat badly by Orlando... because Orlando was really good. Yes, the team had stagnated and change can be the thing that puts your team over the top. But Woodson looks pretty good after the debacle Tuesday night. Meanwhile, it was management's decision to re-sign Joe Johnson for more than he would be worth. But the fact remains that the Hawks have two All-Stars and a third very good near All-Star (Josh Smith) along with solid players like Kirk Hinrich and, well, every other game, Marvin Williams. But the Hawks have looked sporadic and confused for most of the season. What's worse, they seem to have lost their identity. 

And it may take a coach with a stronger sense of what he wants from his team to help them find it again. 
Posted on: March 23, 2011 10:23 am

Phil Jackson talks about decision to return

Phil Jackson decided to return after winning the title last June, but that won't influence his decision after this year. 
Posted by Matt Moore

After the Lakers won their second NBA championship last summer, Phil Jackson took his sweet time deciding to come back. He mosied on over to Montana, and spent some time reflecting upon lake waters, communing with geese, or whatever it is that Zen Masters do when they're contemplating whether to deal with Ron Artest for another season. In the end, Jackson elected to return. And in an interview with reporters Tuesday, Jackson admitted that winning the title was a big propulsion to bring him back

So if winning was enough to bring him back last year, the same thing could happen after this season should the Lakers once again hoist the trophy, right? 
"No," said Jackson with a wry smile, sticking to his "last stand" stance for this year. "Theres no such thing as four-peats."
via Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson says winning title fueled return - ESPN Los Angeles.

Jackson is right to end the talk now, to say unequivocably he won't be back. It provides extra motivation for the players, to ensure that he goes out on top. And that's as it should be. It's fitting that Jackson end his stellar career by finishing off the fourth three-peat, and then riding off into the sunset. Anything else would leave open the possibility of holding on too long. 

Now all the Lakers have to do is get through the Mavericks, Spurs, Thunder, and the Celtics/Bulls. But really, the hard part's just the decision. Okay, not really. 
Posted on: March 22, 2011 9:55 am

Pistons nickname Kuester "Sean Penn"

Pistons veterans have mocking nickname for head coach John Kuester. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The Detroit Pistons' reaction to John Kuester has been baffling at points. Their confusion and frustration at lineups and practice habits is understandable, but the abject void of respect they seem to nearly instantaneously developed for Kuester goes into territory rarely seen in a league of professionals. Take the most recent example from ESPN:
Despite the justified Heat Detroit's vets got for their unpardonable mutiny, that apparently hasn't stopped some of them from privately referring to their coach as Sean Penn ... as in "Dead Man Walking."
via Weekend Dime: NBA coaching carousel - ESPN via Pistons blog Pistons Powered

How is anyone supposed to work in that kind of environment. Coaches in the NBA are about ten times more expendable than players, but there's little question that Kuester has been cut off at the knees with this kind of behavior from the veterans on the Pistons. 

Kuester likely is on his way out, after so many gaffes, be they his creation or not. But Pistons ownership, whenever it's resolved, and management, particularly Joe Dumars, should be aware that the veterans on this team have to be removed. It's fine for these players to oust someone who hasn't been able to make any headway in two seasons. But the signal has to be sent that players cannot act as snakes in the grass, no matter how weeded the coaching situation may be.

Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:07 pm

Phil Jackson talks about the next Lakers coach

Phil Jackson discusses the future of the Lakers' head coaching situation.
Posted by Matt Moore

One way or another, next season will be one of considerable change for the Los Angeles Lakers. Phil Jackson is retiring, win or lose, and the organization will have to sort through the drastically different world under the next CBA for exactly where they want to go with their franchise and who will lead it. On Tuesday, Jackson spoke to reporters about the process of selecting a new head coach for the Lakers and what his role will be in that. For starters, he makes it clear that it's the gents upstairs that will have to make that decision once and for all: 
Jackson said he expected to be consulted by the Lakers' front office for his opinion on who the next coach should be when the opportunity presents itself, but said the decision will ultimately be general manager Mitch Kupchak's and owner Dr. Jerry Buss' to make.

"I'm sure we're going to talk about it at some level, but that's got to be a fit," Jackson said. "It has to be someone that Mitch is comfortable with; it has to be something that Dr. Buss sees as the program ahead."
via Phil Jackson: GM, owner will pick next Los Angeles Lakers coach - ESPN Los Angeles.

It's surprising that Brian Shaw, who was a candidate for the Cavaliers job this summer (talk about dodging a bullet) isn't the assumed heir to the chair, as it were, with Kurt Rambis in Minnesota. Shaw has long thought to be the guy going forward, but it does go to show how things could dramtically change for the Lakers in a new CBA. If their ability to keep all their high-priced-but-discounted-for-L.A.
stars is impacted, or if the core proves to be unable to sustain their success in the playoffs at their age, it's possible, though unlikely, that the Lakers could opt for a full-scale blow-up in preparation for the summer of 2012. 

The most likely scenario, however, is a 12th coaching title for Jackson, who walks away on top, and the Lakers pushing forward under Brian Shaw, who has the respect of the veterans on the team and who would continue the use of Jackson's triangle.  It may not be a seamless transition, but it's as close as they're going to get. You can bet that Jackson will have a signficant influence on the decision, however, not only as the former coach but as the partner of Buss' daughter. Jackson's fingerprints will be on the Lakers for years to come, which is in no way a bad thing.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 4:53 pm

CBA Talks: Could coaches, execs face cap?

Could coaches and excecutives be facing limits to their salaries as the NBA labor restructuring process unfolds?
Posted by Matt Moore

Sports Illustrated reports today the CBA talks and financial restructuring of the NBA and its business policies will not only impact the relationship between ownership and players. It may influence the creation of an informal cap structure for both coaches and executives. From SI:

The players aren't alone in worrying about the values of their future paychecks. Several coaches and team executives have told me they believe they'll be threatened with a major cut in salary next season as part of a new cost-savings approach that will affect all areas of NBA business. 
"The players are going to require it," said a team executive with knowledge of the owners' agenda. "The players aren't going to accept a rollback of 35 percent, and then allow some team to pay Phil Jackson $15 million." 
Two team executives predict that each team will be given a standardized budget (not yet determined, but let's say it's $4 million per team) from which to pay the entire coaching staff, and another budget to cover the salaries of the entire front office. Because there is no collective bargaining agreement between owners and coaches or front-office employees, the owners won't be able to cap their salaries. However, the league could attempt to punish teams that "overpay" coaches by refusing to share certain revenues with them, in much the same way that high-spending is prohibited from receiving their share of revenues from the luxury-tax pool.
via Salary cuts, coaches' pay to come into play at NBA labor talks - Ian Thomsen - SI.com.

Well, then.

This escalates things significantly. 

SI also reports that coaches are concerned for their pensions. And those pensions are the line in the sand for the coaches. One coach tells SI there will be a coaches walkout, which should surprise no one. 

A significant key here is that this is a feeling among coaches and executives, not coming from the league. While a league representative has shown significant interest in coaching contracts, this isn't a league-leaked initiative. Which means it could be a phantom concern. But if it's real, this isn't just a fear for coaches and execs, this is a legal apocalypse waiting to happen. You're talking about an unmandated policy being enforced by arbitrary revenue dispersal. Trying to shove that through would be like rolling out a welcome mat to the mongol lawyer hordes waiting behind every coach's representative agency. 

It make sense within the context of the NBA's rather significant initiative to completely revamp the costs of doing business in a league that sees little to no profit for a significant portion of its representative owners, but the same issues will arise here as they do in the player talks. At what point is the balance struck for owners between curbing salaries within their industry and maintaining the ability of their more fortunate representatives to commit whatever resources they choose to winning? Or, to put it another way, are the Jerry Busses of the NBA going to be comfortable with a situation which decreases their advantage in inking coaches like Phil Jackson? But even that isn't the largest quarrel that will be raised here. It's the same one at the heart of the labor talks. 

At what point is ownership responsible for the decisions it makes? 

That's the central point in this. If a coach elicits $5 million per year, and an owner is willing to pay him that, why should there be a ceiling to what that coach can be paid? Isn't it up to the owners to show discretion in spending, and won't that be the most effective way to curb salaries? The NBA and its owners are seeking to set up guidelines, fences, controls to keep the spending beasts penned in.  But in a situation like this, coaches, who often have the most stress of anyone in the league, will be faced with the question of why their money is being trimmed while player salaries are guaranteed? Finally, again, those pensions are the lifeblood of the coaching fraternity. If the coaches have any ability to organize themselves, they'll put everything they have in front of those pensions to protect their futures. 

The next six months look bloodier and bloodier by the minute. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com