Tag:Kevin Garnett
Posted on: December 6, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 10:32 pm
 

Hornets engaged in serious CP3 talks

The Hornets began to seriously engage in trade discussions for superstar Chris Paul Tuesday, with the Celtics, Clippers, Warriors and Mavericks among the most serious suitors, sources told CBSSports.com.

UPDATE: The Clippers' opening salvo was an offer that included restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan and Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick, with L.A. hoping that the prospect of playing with electrifying forward Blake Griffin and the big stage of Los Angeles would be enticing enough to Paul that he would eventually commit to the team long term. Eric Gordon is not in the deal "at this time," a source said, though it is understood that any deal that would include a commitment from Paul would have to include the sharpshooting guard.

The details of offers surrounding talks with Dallas and Golden State weren't known, though Yahoo Sports reported that the Warriors' offer centered around Stephen Curry and rookie Klay Thompson. But the Celtics stepped forward with an offer that would not have to come with any commitment from Paul that he'd re-sign with Boston after the season. According to a person familiar with the discussions, the Celtics offered Rajon Rondo, two future first-round picks, and restricted free agent Jeff Green in a sign-and-trade for Paul.

The impetus behind the Celtics' potential rental offer for Paul was intriguing: Come to Boston, take a shot at winning a title with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett while the window is still open, and then have enough room to entice Dwight Howard to come on board as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Garnett and Allen come off the books July 1, leaving the Celtics with only $30.4 million in committed salary for next season, when Howard can opt out of his contract with Orlando.

Though Paul has never expressed a desire to play in Boston, if he liked his new surroundings and the Celtics' chances of luring Howard, he would be in a championship-contending situation and could get his max deal of five years, $100 million six months after the trade.

Independent of the Paul situation, the Warriors are among the teams with the most serious interest in free-agent center Tyson Chandler, and the interest is mutual. Paul reportedly has let it be known that a team like the Warriors or Clippers signing Chandler, his former teammate in New Orleans, would enhance its chances of getting a long-term commitment from him -- a scenario confirmed by front office executives Tuesday.

The Hornets also are open to the idea of sending out free-agent power forward David West in a sign-and-trade, possibly as part of a trade package for Paul, sources said. It was New Orleans' interest in Jordan that prompted the Clippers to step forward Tuesday with a reported five-year, $40 million offer for their restricted free agent -- though a person close to Jordan said he is intent on remaining in L.A.

The Knicks also were said to be trying to engage New Orleans in conversations, given that Paul has long coveted the chance to join his friends Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in New York. But the best the Knicks can offer at the moment is Chauncey Billups' expiring $14 million contract, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert and center Jerome Jordan, a solid prospect who has yet to play a minute in the NBA.

The "other" L.A. team, the Lakers, also have a strong hand in their efforts to try to land Paul, Howard, or in a dream world, both. The Lakers have no chance of clearing the cap space necessary to lure Paul next summer, so their best chance is their deep stockpile of assets, including Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Hornets GM Dell Demps has indicated a strong desire to reach a swift resolution to the Paul drama and not allow it to linger for months the way the Nuggets were held hostage last season by the Anthony saga. Denver, of course, was able to get a better deal from the Knicks at the February trade deadline than would've been available before the season. But that was largely due to two key provisions that have been muted in the new collective bargaining agreement: the same length and dollars in an extend-and-trade that Anthony could've received had he simply resigned with Denver, and the fallback option of a sign-and-trade.

Paul can get only one year added to his contract in an extend-and-trade, and he'd get the same money via a sign-and-trade next summer that he would get simply by leaving outright as a free agent for a team with room: four years and approximately $74 million, as opposed to the five-year, $100 million deal New Orleans could offer he he played out the season. Paul also could get a five-year max deal from a new team following a six-month window from the date he was traded.

But front office executives who've been in touch with Demps say that New Orleans has no appetite for a protracted and potentially ugly trade saga with Paul. Yahoo Sports reported that Demps may push for final offers and a resolution by the time training camps and free agency open Friday.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:31 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 9:58 am
 

On big day for NBA, why is the max so sacred?

NEW YORK – A few thoughts on a very important day for the NBA:

• What does it mean that commissioner David Stern is giving mediator George Cohen one day to solve all the league’s problems before breaking away for two days of Board of Governors meetings? On one hand, it’s unrealistic that Cohen and his colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, could do in one day what Stern and Billy Hunter haven’t been able to do in two years. On the other, it creates a sense of urgency – without which nothing ever gets done in negotiations. “That’s David’s style,” one league executive said. “He likes deadlines.”

• There are rumblings in the agent community and among team executives that the hawkish position of the players’ association – its line in the sand at 53 percent and inflexibility over competitive aspects of the system – is a recipe for doom. “Sad to say, but I think (the owners) just want to sit the season out,” one prominent personnel man said. The involvement of superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the negotiations two weeks ago shook some team executives who believed the two sides were on their way to a deal. “It baffles me that a union of 400 guys is fighting for one or two guys, whereas hundreds of guys are the ones taking the loss,” another team executive told CBSSports.com.

• Several executives fear that Hunter and union president Derek Fisher have been swayed by star players and their agents into taking a hard-line position that could be devastating to hundreds of rank-and-file players if the season were lost. “The thing that they’re fighting for right now is not the middle-of-the-road guy, and that's who you would think the union would be fighting for,” one of the executives said. “They’re fighting for the max guys right now or the max-to-be guys.”

• Longtime agent Steve Kauffman, a player agent during the 1998-99 lockout who now represents coaches and management executives, agrees that not enough time has been spent examining how much money and system flexibility could be freed up by reducing max contracts. “The deal is there to be made,” Kauffman said. “It's ridiculous. The main thing is, tell me what the max salaries are going to be. Because if you want to really help your union, who does the union represent? Whose interests are they protecting? If it's supposed to be everybody, then you've got to strike a balance.”

• Among the negotiating points that the league has said it’s conceded is the initial goal of curtailing the size and length of max contracts. Kauffman believes that’s gotten in the way of getting a deal. “You can make the argument that the stars deserve to be paid 75 or 80 percent of the payroll,” Kauffman said. “But if the max got a 15 percent cut, there would be more room to do those contracts that (the agents) are complaining they can't do. … The superstars are always going to get theirs through endorsements and other avenues.”

• Does this point about max salaries bear out in the math? A 15 percent reduction in future max salaries would represent only 1 percent of BRI annually – about $54 million based on the 21 players who currently make $15 million or more. But over a six-year deal, that’s roughly $325 million – the difference between a players’ share of 52 percent, which sources indicate the union would accept, and 51 percent, a figure that owners likely also would agree to. If the league’s biggest stars took a pay cut, or at least agreed that future max contracts would be reduced by 15 percent, the difference could easily be made up by giving those players a bigger share of licensing money, which currently is divided equally among the players regardless of whether you’re Kobe with millions in jersey sales or Sasha Vujacic, whose only jersey sale likely was transacted by his finance, Maria Sharapova.

UPDATE:

• Some small-market executives are fearful that the amnesty provision being negotiated will turn out to be only another advantage for big-market teams. The provision would allow teams to release an underperforming player and spread the money left on his contract over twice the years remaining, plus one, for cap purposes. One small-market GM envisions this provision being used by big-market teams to collect players cast off by small-market teams. "It's a great idea until Baron Davis goes to Miami," the GM said.

• Do not underestimate the owners' obsession with creating a competitive system that mimics the NFL, through whatever vehicle gets them there. 
"In the NFL, every team has a chance," one team executive said. "That's what makes it great, and we don't have that. We're like Euro League. Until we have revenue sharing and a hard cap, we not going to be a fair league." 

• One final note on the two weeks of games that have been canceled so far. Given reports that league scheduling guru Matt Winick is working on a host of contingency plans, including an 82-game schedule that would begin Dec. 1, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that those games are lost forever. Of importance Tuesday in the mediation session with Cohen is that those games could enter the equation as a valuable bargaining chip. If the two sides reach another impasse on the BRI split, they could be enticed to move closer by getting back the $200 million each side “lost” when those games were canceled.

Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:56 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 10:29 pm
 

Source: League, players trying to arrange meeting

NEW YORK -- Top negotiators for the NBA and its players' association are trying to arrange a last-ditch bargaining session Sunday night before a deadline hits Monday to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season, a person briefed on the developments confirmed to CBSSports.com.

The New York Times first reported efforts to hold the meeting were under way.

Update: The two sides approached the four-hour mark Sunday night on Manhattan's Upper East Side with no word of when the session might end. Representing the league were commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and deputy general counsel Dan Rube. For the union, it was executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher, vice president Maurice Evans, general counsel Ron Klempner and outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.

Hunter did not travel to Miami Saturday night for the All-Star exhibition at Florida International University. His plans for a regional players' meeting in Los Angeles remain in place for Monday, two people with knowledge of his plans said -- but Hunter is not scheduled to fly to L.A. until Monday morning.

On Friday, the players proposed a meeting for Monday before games were canceled. The league agreed to meet, but advised the union that it was not moving off the 50-50 split of revenues it offered in Tuesday's bargaining session. Viewing this as a precondition it could not agree to, the union declined the meeting.

UPDATE: The 50-50 prerequisite was dropped in the scheduling of the Sunday evening meeting, one of the people familiar with the discussions told CBSSports.com.

From the standpoint of negotiating leverage, psychology and feeling the need to follow through on their threats, both sides seem willing to sacrifice the first two weeks of the regular season -- possibly more -- to get a deal. But from the standpoint of math and what's at stake economically by failing to reach an agreement by Monday, it is clear that a deal would be more advantageous to both sides than digging in.

As far as bargaining rhetoric is concerned, the players are holding firm at 53 percent of basketball-related income (BRI), while the owners are holding the line at 50 percent. But in the last movement of Tuesday's negotiation, the league offered a 49-51 range for the players, who countered with a 51-53 range. Both offers occurred during informal side conferences involving Stern, Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, Fisher, union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, and superstars Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

The split under the previous collective bargaining agreement that expired July 1 was 57-43 percent in favor of the players.

If you look at it from the midpoint of each side's range in their most recent offers -- 50 percent and 52 percent, respectively -- they are only $80 million apart in the first year of a new CBA. Each side would lose about $200 million by canceling the first two weeks of games.

A rational split of 51.5 percent for the players and 48.5 percent for the owners -- with most of the system issues remaining the same, as the players want -- would address most of the owners' stated annual losses of $300 million and preserve the flexibility the players wanted to maintain from the existing system. By holding out for 1.5 percent of BRI -- the owners at 50 percent and the players at 53 -- each side would be drawing a line in the sand over less than $400 million -- $393 million, to be exact -- over six years. And each side would lose half that amount by canceling the first two weeks of games.

In the simpler, shorter-term horizon of the first year of a new CBA, each side failing to move 1.5 percent to the 51.5-48.5 split would cost it $200 million compared to the $60 million that would be negotiated away by making the concession.



Posted on: June 24, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 8:10 pm
 

No counter from players; 'one more shot' at deal

NEW YORK – NBA owners and players ended a contentious week of negotiations and rhetoric Friday without a counter-offer from the players, leaving a slim chance that a deal can be reached by the June 30 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Despite reaching a stalemate on economic issues and the split of the league’s $4 billion in annual revenues, the two sides agreed to meet again Wednesday in Manhattan for one, or possibly two more days of bargaining before the current CBA expires at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.

"We think we’ll have one more shot at it," National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said. "Obviously, we’ll have some idea as to where they are in terms of owners -- whether there’s a chance to make a deal or whether there isn't."

Practically speaking, sources said it would be nearly impossible to write a new CBA in that time frame, leaving only two likely scenarios – a lockout imposed by the owners that would shut the sport down for the first time since the 1998-99 season, or an extension of the deadline to negotiate, which neither side has ruled out. But the latter option would require progress on narrowing the gap between the two sides’ bargaining positions, which remains hundreds of millions of dollars a year – and billions over the length of a new deal.

“There's still such a large gap,” said NBPA president Derek Fisher of the Lakers. “We feel that any move for us is real dollars we'd be giving back from where we currently stand, as opposed to where our owners have proposed numbers that in our estimation don’t exist right now. They're asking us to go to the place where they want us to go. We've expressed our reasons why we don't want to continue to move economically.”

In a display of unity and force that commissioner David Stern said he welcomed, more than 30 players arrived for meetings at the Omni Berkshire Hotel wearing tan NBPA T-shirts with the word, “STAND” printed on the front. The bargaining session included various player representatives who previously had only been briefed by union officials and executive committee members on the progress – or lack thereof – in negotiations.

The players streamed out onto 52nd Street around 3:30 p.m. after a four-hour bargaining session, many of them boarding a luxury touring bus and declining to comment. Several stopped to sign autographs. The scene – including a throng of media camped out on the sidewalk – caused such a spectacle that at one point, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo cut a swath through the crowd and was noticed by only a couple of reporters.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett of the Celtics, among the most vocal players in the room Friday and the players who devised the T-shirt idea, were driven away in a black SUV with executive committee member Theo Ratliff. In the meeting, Pierce accused the owners of taking a disingenuous stance by disguising their insistence on slashing salaries under the cloak of creating a new system that would allow more teams to be competitive.

“Is it more about money or being competitive?” Pierce said to the owners, according to Suns player rep Jared Dudley. “What does this have to do with? If it’s about being competitive, let’s come up with a system we can all be competitive in. If it’s about money, that’s a different story that we’re talking about.”

Hunter reiterated that he expects the owners to vote on imposing a lockout during the meeting of their full Board of Governors Tuesday in Dallas, but sources said there were no plans for such a vote – which would be procedural, anyway, and no surprise to anyone given that the threat of a lockout has loomed over the negotiations for more than two years. But with the attendance and engagement of a large group of players Friday, Hunter said owners “may find it difficult to pull the trigger” on a lockout vote.

“Even though we didn’t make an progress, I think they felt that the energy and attitude within the room was such that it might necessitate further discussion,” Hunter said.

In a softening of the rhetoric that marked the week of labor meetings -- the tone of which Stern said became "incendiary" at times -- Stern declined to discuss details of Friday's bargaining points. It was his public revelation of a $62 million "flex cap" system proposed by owners, along with a guarantee of no less than $2 billion in salary and benefits during the league's 10-year CBA proposal, that infuriated union officials who felt blindsided -- and subsequently conducted one small and one large media briefing to go on the attack.

Stern also sidestepped the possibility of a lockout vote, which typically would be taken by the Board of Governors to authorize the owners’ labor relations committee to impose one upon expiration of the current CBA.

“We can do whatever we need to do, whenever we need to do it, however we need to do it,” Stern said. “It's not about the formality of a meeting. … For us, the best time we're going to spend next week hopefully is on a meeting with the players on Wednesday that with any luck goes over to Thursday. And that’s where we are.”

The primary purpose of the owners’ meetings in Dallas Tuesday is for the labor relations committee – featuring such big-market representatives as the Knicks’ James Dolan and Lakers’ Jeanie Buss and small-market owners such as the Thunder’s Clay Bennett and Spurs’ Peter Holt, the committee chairman – to update representatives from all 30 teams about the state of negotiations. The owners’ planning committee also will brief the board on the status of a new revenue sharing plan, the lack of inclusion of which in the bargaining process has been an irritant for union officials.

Hunter told reporters this week that owners have not divulged “one iota” of their plans to enhance the sharing of revenue as a way to help small-market teams compete, and that rancor among high- and low-revenue teams continues to divide the owners. Stern disputed that notion Friday, saying, “We’ve had a full discussion with the players about everything, and we're prepared to discuss everything with them.”

The players and union officials have tried to get the owners to include their revenue-sharing plan as part of the new CBA, saying competitive balance could be improved through sharing more revenue – such as gate receipts and local broadcast revenues – without trying to solve the league’s stated annual losses of at least $300 million strictly through salary reductions.

“As we've said repeatedly, if we lose money on an aggregate basis, we can’t possibly revenue-share our way to profitability,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

Stern would not divulge whether owners would reveal to the players the substance of their revenue-sharing plan that will be discussed among owners in Dallas. And sources told CBSSports.com that the union seems disinclined to use a legal tool at their disposal – asking a court to rule on whether revenue-sharing should be included as a “mandatory subject” in collective bargaining.

“We can’t make the final sort of push on revenue sharing until we know what the yield or not of the labor deal is,” Stern said. “… The revenue sharing is moving as well. We're setting things up, I would hope, on both fronts.”

Setting things up for a deal or a lockout? After two years of negotiations with no results, you be the judge.

Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Rivers' return keeps Celtics whole

How the Celtics bounce back from getting toppled by the Heat, that is a question for another day. Priority No. 1 was taken care of Friday when coach Doc Rivers agreed to a five-year extension to remain a Celtic.

This is what Rivers said he was at his core the other night, gracious and optimistic in defeat after the Heat beat the Celtics 97-87 to evict the defending Eastern Conference champs from the postseason in five games. At a time when his players and assistant coaches were hurting -- and worse, uncertain about the future -- Rivers threw them a lifeline when he calmly revealed in the postgame news conference that he was "leaning heavily" toward coming back.

The finer points of a five-year, $35 million extension were still being discussed, but there will be no hang-ups here. Rivers and general manager Danny Ainge work together like left hand and right, and Rivers revealed in a quiet moment after that Game 5 loss Wednesday night that he was serious about returning. Several weeks ago, he basically informed Celtics management that whatever they worked out with his agent, Lonnie Cooper, he'd agree to.

The five-year deal at $7 million annually has been on the table for three months -- perhaps longer, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Friday. Rivers alluded to the offer Wednesday night on his way out of American Airlines Arena.

"There’s been a contract basically for three months there and Danny and Wyc (Grousbeck) and them have been on the other side of patience," Rivers said. "And it gave us a long time to talk about it as a family. So I haven't signed anything or done anything. But it’s there and I probably will sign it."

The only job that would've remotely tempted Rivers, the person with knowledge of Rivers' situation said, was replacing Phil Jackson with the Lakers. But that wasn't happening, not with Rivers -- not with a Celtic.  

"Leaving the Celtics to go to the Lakers would be akin to selling out," the person said. "He's old fashioned in a good way that way. That's the only job that would've been of any interest."

As for the Knicks, a team Rivers played for, New York executives are not believed to have explored whether Rivers would be available or interested. Mike D'Antoni has a year left on his contract, and team president Donnie Walsh is committed to giving D'Antoni a full season with a stable roster before making any rash decisions. But make no mistake: It wouldn't have mattered. Rivers has grown as close with his players in Boston as any coach in the league, and simply couldn't walk away -- even though some retooling at minimum and rebuilding at worst will be part of the job.

Does Ainge give in to the temptation to trade one of the Big Three at draft time -- the same way he acquired Ray Allen in the first place? Does Paul Pierce accept a secondary role, or even go to the bench? Does Jeff Green stay? How do the Celtics upgrade the size and toughness that was lost in the Kendrick Perkins trade?

All these decisions will be made with Rivers completely in the mix, working as effectively with Ainge as any coach and GM tandem in basketball. And don't forget this: Whatever challenges confront the Celtics, Rivers was adamant about showing the organization the same kind of loyalty it showed him. Before the Big Three were formed, Ainge stuck with Rivers and ignored the groundswell of opinions and speculation that he should be fired. It's no surprise they're finding a way to stick together now.

So close are Rivers and Ainge that one person familiar with their relationship suggested that Ainge may have been inclined to leave if Rivers did. That would've brought about a swift and painful end to the Celtics of the Big Three era, who progress now into a transition period with the most important piece of the puzzle firmly in place.

Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:06 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Another tough call for Rivers

MIAMI – In the opening minutes of overtime, in a game the Celtics had to have, Doc Rivers faced a decision he never imagined he’d have to confront.

Badly in need of a basket and unable to afford another turnover from the Heat’s relentless trapping of Rajon Rondo, Rivers had to sit his courageous point guard in the hopes that a healthier Delonte West would handle the ball better and Jeff Green would provide better floor-spacing in the most important minutes of the season.

This was barely a minute-and-a-half into overtime of Game 4 against Miami on Monday night, and it was a problem for which there was no good answer. Take Rondo out? With the inspiration he’d provided and desperation he’d infused into the Celtics after returning from what should’ve been a season-ending dislocated elbow in Game 3? Put the heart and soul of the Celtics on the bench?

“I don’t know what the right call was,” Rivers candidly admitted after the 98-90 overtime loss to Miami, which put the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.

With the Celtics facing elimination Wednesday night in Miami, this was not the last difficult decision Rivers will have to make. However and whenever this series ends, Rivers’ next dilemma will be personal and will affect just what happens to the Big Three era Celtics from here.

Five players remain from the Celtics’ 2008 championship. Rondo’s emergence as one of the top point guards in the league and also a leader with incalculable toughness has since transformed the Big Three into the Big Four. But you can’t mention Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen without mentioning the coach who held them all together.

Rivers has stated that he soon plans to take a sabbatical from coaching to watch his son, Austin, play college ball at Duke. It is a father’s dream, to have the freedom and security to enjoy his children’s accomplishments – especially when those accomplishments intersect on the basketball court.

Rivers hasn’t officially proclaimed his intentions, not wanting to become a distraction for a team that he believed had one more championship run in it. Also, Rivers is a basketball coach, not a basketball spectator. It is a hard game to walk away from if it is ingrained in you as it is in Rivers.

But the reality is that the Celtics’ core isn’t getting any younger, and Rivers’ son figures to play one season at Duke before following in his father’s footsteps to the NBA. It’s a now-or-never moment for Rivers, who is needed away from the court in the same way he was needed in Boston to coax enough sacrifice out of his trio of stars to hang a 17th championship banner from the rafters at the new Garden. If Rivers’ legacy as Celtics coach is two Finals appearances and a championship, he can walk away with his head held high.

Pierce has three years left on his contract, while Garnett and Allen have one each. Rivers and the members of his coaching staff are up after this season, and with at least a truncated lockout looming, there could be no basketball work to do until September or so. If you’re Rivers, how do you view the impending labor crisis as it relates to you? Do you chalk up the potentially shortened season to your sabbatical, and get the best of both worlds – some games with your son and one more chance with the Celtics? Or do you walk away and not look back?

Whatever he decides, Rivers must now prepare for more than the diabolical talents of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who would like nothing better than to slam the window shut on the Celtics’ run of success. He must prepare for some serious soul searching, and for the accompanying speculation that goes with any accomplished coach who steps down with work still to be done.

The Lakers’ Phil Jackson hasn’t even gotten to Montana yet and already the rumor mill has him coaching the Knicks after next season. The hype machine will churn even more vigorously for Rivers, who will be able to name his team and price whenever he decides to come back.

His history with the Knicks makes him a logical fit in New York if Mike D’Antoni doesn’t last beyond next season. His championship pedigree and ability to manage stars and their egos makes him one of the few men breathing who are up to the task of coaching the Lakers. One high-level coaching source told me recently that the most fitting place for Rivers is Orlando, where he lives. In addition to sons Austin and Jeremiah, who played at Georgetown before transferring to Indiana, Rivers has a daughter, Callie, who played volleyball at the University of Florida.

There are plenty of decisions to be made, not the least of which have to do with trying to keep this season alive for the Celtics Wednesday night in an elimination game on the road. But the bigger dilemma is looming on the horizon for Rivers, and it might just have everything to do with whether the Celtics as we know them are finished.
Posted on: May 6, 2011 2:38 pm
 

What ails Celtics? Don't jump to conclusions

The Celtics' defense has been a constant during the Big Three era, and their defense wasn't the main culprit that sent them home to Boston in a 2-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Their top players' birth certificates also have been far down the list of things occupying Doc Rivers and his coaching staff over the past 72 hours. Rather, it's the Celtics' offense -- in particular, their shot selection and location -- that put Boston in precarious circumstances against the younger, more athletic Heat

The rampaging work of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, of course, will continue to be of utmost concern when the series shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Saturday night. But in reality, the Celtics did as good a job as can be reasonably expected in forcing Wade and LeBron to rely on jump shots. According to HoopData.com, 20 of Wade's 41 field-goal attempts in the first two games came from beyond 15 feet. For James, it was 21 of 44. 

The kind of jump shots are important, not just the fact that they're jumpers. The Celtics would prefer Wade and James to take more spot-ups, where they're much less effective, as opposed to jumpers as the pick-and-roll ball-handler or coming off a screen. But all in all, the Celtics can't be too unhappy with Wade shooting 5-for-12 from the field between 16-23 feet in the series (including 0-for-5 in Game 2) and James shooting 4-for-14 from the same distance. If Boston's defense can force them to take more spot-ups in particular and more mid-range jumpers in general, it's logical to assume they'll shoot the same or worse on the road. 

The bigger problem for the Celtics has been the failure of their own mid-range game, especially when it comes to their biggest mid-range threats, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Using HoopData.com to extend the distance for Pierce and Garnett to the 10-23 foot range, they've both been abysmal in this series. 

Garnett got only four mid-range shots in Game 1 and missed all of them. He got more opportunities in Game 2, but was only 6-for-14 for a 6-for-18 total from 10-23 feet in the first two games. Pierce's problem isn't just ineffectiveness, it's the fact that somehow a player who has spent his entire career carving up opponents with an assortment of deadly mid-range jumpers has attempted only five shots between 10-23 feet in the first two games against Miami; he's 2-for-5. Some of that can be explained by his ejection with seven minutes left in Game 1 and his stretch in the locker room due to a strained left Achilles' tendon in Game 2. Some of the rest can be explained by Miami's defense, which has been superb -- and when it hasn't, has benefited from speed, length and strength that the Celtics can only dream about. But Pierce has still found room to attempt 11 3-pointers, making only four of them. That's too many 3's for a player who is accustomed to doing his best work inside the arc. Pierce attempting more 3-pointers (11) than Ray Allen (10) is no recipe for beating the Heat. 

If the Celtics are going to protect their home court, quell the talk about how they're too old and ready to be ushered out of the championship mix by Miami, and give themselves a chance to get back into the series if and when it shifts back to South Beach, it's all about the jumpers. Defensively, Boston has to force Miami's two stars to keep taking them -- and more of the spot-up variety as opposed to off pick-and-roll or screen action. On the other end, Garnett and Pierce simply have to regain their mid-range effectiveness. If they do, it'll open up dump-downs to Glen Davis or Jermaine O'Neal for easy baskets and also loosen up the double teams on Allen beyond the 3-point arc. 

If not, it'll only fuel more talk about how the Celtics are too old -- which may be true, but isn't the biggest reason they're in this predicament in the first place.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 3:04 pm
 

Do LeBron and Wade share a brain?

MIAMI – From the day LeBron James and Dwyane Wade became teammates, they were the focal point of a social and basketball experiment. How they would react – to the pressure, to the spotlight, to each other – would be the subject of daily curiosity. 

After 82 regular season games and six playoff games – a very public journey that was launched in the seclusion of training camp on a Florida Air Force base – the questions are still coming about the on-court aspects of their relationship. In the huddle before the final possession, they were asked Tuesday in the hours before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics, who gets the last shot? Who demands the ball? Does one back off when the other has the hot hand? 

But those who have followed the first steps in the Heat’s playoff run may have noticed something else about this superstar duo that is even harder to explain. For months, LeBron and Wade have been conducting postgame interviews while seated side-by-side at a table in the interview room. There is no one-on-one time with either star, and the only opportunity to ask James a question without Wade hearing the answer came in LeBron’s customary availability on game nights, about an hour before tipoff in the locker room. 

Even that tradition, the last proof that James and Wade were, in fact, separate humans, was scratched off their itineraries recently. Of late, James has stopped going solo with the media before games and instead sits at the interview table next to Wade before shootaround, as he did Tuesday morning. 

A few weeks ago, the two actually began the somewhat bizarre and unprecedented habit of answering questions on practice days while standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the court. It has led to some awkward camera footage -- you may have noticed Wade answering questions on TV while LeBron stands in the background, using up valuable oxygen – and has produced some awkward moments. How do you ask Wade about a last-second shot James missed when the guy who missed it is standing right next to him? 



Instead of shooting from the hip, LeBron and Wade are attached there.

The Celtics’ Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen started the trend of group interviews, but LeBron and Wade have taken it to a level never before seen in professional sports as far as I can tell. Their calculated decision to function as one not only on the court, but also in the court of public opinion, says so much about the relationship they have forged and the pitfalls that have always been present for two stars and friends joining forces in the prime of their careers. 

“I think from Day 1, we kind of understood even from our teammates that we’re going to be the two guys that everyone looked at – to see how we reacted to things, to see how we could handle the change, to see how we could handle playing with each other,” Wade said Tuesday. “We realized that. And that’s something that we communicated and talked about, even from the beginning, that we had to be always on the same page. If we're not on the same page, always communicating with each other and just having each other's backs, no matter if it's bad times or it's good times. We're always going to stay even-keeled, so that helps the success of our team.” 

Their refusal to be divided and/or conquered isn’t unique. During media availability at All-Star weekend, James sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul on the scorer’s table and ran interference for his friends when difficult questions about trades or free agency came up. James even chided the media for harping on his fellow All-Stars’ futures, when it was James who had escalated the trend of stars teaming up and put so much pressure on Melo and CP3 to find better teammates in the first place. 



But more than camaraderie and protectiveness, the controlled way James and Wade present themselves publicly speaks to a certain level of paranoia about what outside forces would try to do to them if they were separated and forced to stray off message. It was interesting that James referred collectively to himself and Wade Tuesday as “the voice” of the team. Do they not have their own thoughts and voices? Would James’ head explode if Wade expressed an independent thought, or vice versa? 

This strategy is straight from the playbook of team president Pat Riley’s “one voice” approach to maintaining organizational control. Riley, who orchestrated this three-headed monster of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh, has conducted a grand total of two media availabilities the entire season – brief Q&A’s at two charity events. As with the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick model in football, the one and only voice belongs to the coach. As a corollary, the two stars share a voice – rarely, if ever, saying something the other isn’t thinking or wouldn’t say. 

“I’m louder than D-Wade, D-Wade is louder than CB,” James said. “You can hear my voice from here to, anywhere obviously. Here to Akron. And D-Wade, he voices his opinion. He does it sometimes, also. But we don’t step on each other’s toes or anything like that. But at the same time, it's not a bed of roses with me and D-Wade and CB. We get on each other if we feel like you’re not doing your job. It's constructive criticism that we need to have with one another to help our team win.” 

It is a fascinating sidebar to the Heat’s journey through the playoffs, perfectly encapsulating the mindset of two superstars as they try to put the Celtics in the first 0-2 playoff hole of the Big Three era Tuesday night. And it highlights the luxury that they have off the court – the ability to look to each other for guidance before answering a question, exchanging small talk under their breath before deciding which one will speak – is one that does not exist on the court. The island they share in the public eye can be more easily divided in the course of a game, when split-second decisions must be made and when credit or blame unavoidably must be be assigned. 

“I also think that people forget that me and 'Bron were the best of friends before we played together,” Wade said. “We got criticized for being friends and hanging out before games with each other, when I'd go to Cleveland and go to his house. We got criticized for that: ‘Back in the day, the Lakers didn’t do that. Boston didn’t do that.’ Well, today, obviously that worked, because we're here together.” 

Together? Inseparable is more like it.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com