Despite the likelihood of a final blast of superheated rhetoric over the next week, the owners and the union are inching their way closer to a deal on a new CBA that could save the 2011-12 season.
The owners have swapped out their call for a hard cap with a proposal that features the continued use of a soft cap with some poison pills, including: 1) a more restrictive set of penalties for excessive spending and 2) new limitations on the use of the MLE and the applicability of Bird rights. There’s also the potential for the long-rumored amnesty clause that would allow teams to buy out the contracts of their biggest salary albatrosses without the money counting against the salary cap.
The roadblock remains the split of BRI, where the players are looking for something around an equal split whereas the owners want the players to work for something around the starting wage at Wal-Mart.
If you haven’t kept up with the latest, check the links above as we head into a crucial weekend of bargaining. But assuming cooler heads prevail, and names are signed on the line which is dotted, we’ll soon be in a position to report on some actual news related to the Boston Celtics.
It will be a lot of news.
The Celtics have only the following players under contract for 2011-12:
Of these, Bradley is unlikely to make a major contribution this year and O’Neal remains a prime candidate for an explicable injury followed by an inexplicably long recovery time. As Bill Simmons suggests in this piece on Grantland, Ainge could also just pay the unreliable O’Neal’s first-year membership dues for the National Basketball Retired Players Association and be done with him.
So, let’s project forward 10-12 days. A deal’s done. While Doc Rivers is putting together some semblance of a training camp, Ainge will have to close deals for more than half his roster, including half his likely playoff rotation. That’s problematic for a few reasons:
1) The Celtics can’t afford to burn out their big four early on while the newbies get acclimated to the on-court systems and the off-court culture. They need greater contributions from the bench from day one to avoid a third straight second-half collapse.
2) In the KG-PP-RA era, Ainge’s strengths as a GM have only intermittently included an ability to find an appropriate supporting cast, even when given a full summer. This time, he’ll have around two weeks. You could make a credible argument the 2010-11 team was sabotaged when Ainge loaded up on aged veterans last summer. He can’t make that kind of mistake again if the Celtics harbor legitimate hopes for another finals run.
3) Ainge and Rivers may see the condensed off-season/pre-season as a legitimate reason to bring back Jeff Green and Glen Davis, neither of whom inspires much confidence after last season’s failures. Both will also be seeking multi-year deals, the kind that suck up 2012 cap space.
With those concerns noted, I hereby declare it is almost time to get cautiously excited about the prospect of normal NBA activity.
Not exactly the textbook definition of joy, is it?
But after a summer of NBA discontent, we gotta take what we can get.