After another marathon bargaining session yesterday, one that mercifully avoided another David Stern sickie, Paul Allen’s grim reaper act and Derek Fisher lobbying accusations of lying in the presser, we saw our first mutually-agreed-upon evidence of negotiating progress in over two years.
It’s beginning to look like time for push to come to shove and for the lockout, well into its fourth month, to have its best chance of coming to an end.
“This has been a very arduous and difficult day, and productive,” commissioner David Stern said after 4 a.m. in a conference room of a Manhattan luxury hotel. “(Thursday) is going to be just as arduous and difficult, if not more so. We hope that it can be as productive.”
The two sides are reconvening at 2 p.m., with National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter saying an 82-game season remains “possible” if a deal were reached by Sunday or Monday.
“We initially wanted to miss none,” Stern said. “It’s sad that we’ve missed two weeks. We’re trying to apply a tourniquet and go forward. That’s always been our goal.”
Assuming a deal’s done by the end of the weekend, the regular season would probably start in the window between Thanksgiving and December 1st. In the intervening month, we’d go through a ludicrous speed free agency period and an abbreviated training camp before lurching into a jam-packed regular season.
Over at True Hoop, Henry Abbott wonders if Stern should forgo the tourniquet and let the patient bleed out a little more:
Maybe the NBA has long had contingency schedules, with late starts, in place. Maybe they can push the playoffs a bit later, even with the Olympics starting shortly thereafter.
Or maybe it really is just a big ol’ scheduling nightmare, which will result in a tough-to-watch, too-long season with ridiculous travel and far too many back-to-backs.
As basketball fans, we have been pining for a full season. But now that it’s the end of October, in the name of seeing energetic players at their best, maybe it’s time to embrace the idea of lost games. Put down your shoehorns, oh schedule makers.
As much as we have been rooting for 82 games, the calendar says it’s time to root for top-quality NBA basketball instead.
For the Celtics, the ideal schedule requires some tricky calculation. Doc Rivers will be trying to incorporate as many as 6-7 new players into his team, which requires practice time that will be in short supply over the next month. He’ll also try not to burn out Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and even Rajon Rondo, who wore down after the all-star break last season. And now that the Celtics have fallen back to the Eastern conference pack, he’ll again have to weigh the value of pushing for a top 1-2 Eastern Conference playoff seed versus the effort it will take to get it.
A time-shortened schedule that still incorporates 82 games (and no missed gates for the owners or missed games for broadcasters) would, for the players, involve more back-to-back games, more three-games-in-four-nights scenarios, perhaps the odd three-games-in-three nights stretch, less practice time and more wear on everyone involved.
For a Celtics team that looks like a strong player for the title but hardly a favorite, that could spell doom.
Boston’s best case may be a reduced schedule of 72-74 games, one that leads to, as Abbott suggests, the best possible brand of basketball.
This means, painful as it might be, a few extra days, perhaps a week, of negotiations may actually help the Celtics in that it’ll make an 82-game schedule more difficult to pull together. We’re all hoping for a resumption of normal “off-season” basketball activities, but Celtics fans (and Celtics management) may prefer seeing a joint Stern-Hunter press conference next week, instead of this one.