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April 18, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Chris Sheridan

Chris Sheridan
  (2:02 PM)

Good afternoon from Boston, where this city is breathing a sigh of relief after last night's thriller against the Knicks. I imagine we will have some panic from LA and San Antonio to deal with today, but I'd also like to take a few NBA labor/lockout questions because I covered the NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York last Friday. As I wrote in my column afterward, I still believe the sides will settle without going through a work stoppage. Makes too much sense, although not many people are with me on that one. Off we go ...

Spree (South Carolina)

On a scale of 1-10 how bad did you find the officiating of the last 22 seconds of the Knicks/Celtics game? Between the Melo offensive foul and ignoring a blatant trip by Garnett on the Allen gamewinner I can't decide which was worse. What was your observation?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:04 PM)

If you look at the replays of the Melo foul, and you look at the angle Monty McCutcheon was viewing the play from, it was a very, very high elbow that Anthony was freeing himself from Pierce with, and it was 10 feet away from Monty. Carmelo was saying at practice today that similar contact was happening all game, and it was odd to have that call go against him at that point in the game. But that being said, he needs to know better than to have his elbow up where it was.

Latilleon (Memphis)

I was amazed by the officiating of the Grizzlies / Spurs game. Free throws kept the game as close as it was. I know I am biased as a Grizzlies fan, but it didn't appear refs blew whistles on equal footing. For the rest of the series, shouldn't I be more worried about the refs than a Manu Ginobli return?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:08 PM)

Well, I see that SportsNation is already up in arms about the officiating, and I haven't even gotten to any posts about K.Perkins (whose fingers were in the net, though I thought the ball was out of the cylinder).

Andy (Chicago)

The Pacers took advantage of a weak Chicago defense in Game 1. They also seemed to play better against the Bulls than they have all season. Do you see Chicago coming back stronger and taking control of the series or the Pacers surprisingly making a series out of this matchup?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:11 PM)

What you saw out of the Pacers down the stretch, and what you saw from the Grizzlies (Gasol, Allen 0-for-4 FTs before Battier's 3) is what you are going to see from inexperienced teams when the pressure if raised up. I think the Pacers blew their chance, and I reserve judgment on the Spurs until I see them play with Manu. If Richard Jefferson hits that wide open shot, which he is paid to do, we would be debating what went down in overtime.

Tanuj (NYC)

With Billups most likely out, does TD or Anthony Carter get the start? Either way, how do you think Toney responds? Like he did when Billups sat for 6 games (i.e., well) or poor distributor?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:13 PM)

Douglas will probably get the start, and the thing to watch with him is whether he hits his first shot. He is an incredibly streaky offensive player, and he always runs hot or cold, never in between. He also defends much better than Chauncey, so he will help them in that area, and Carter can steady the ship if Toney is running cold.

Tyler (MI)

C'mon Chris! You open the chat with two bitter fans crying about the officiating? Why is it as fans we only point out the calls that DIDN'T go our way?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:14 PM)

Sorry, Tyler. Ref questions were bunched up like crazy.

C (Charlotte)

Lockout question - if the worst-case scenario happens and the entire season next year is cancelled, what happens to the contracts of guys who would be entering the upcoming season on expiring contracts? Does that final year shift to the 2012-13 season or does it come off the books without being paid anything in 2011-12? Just wondering how much longer we're going to have to deal with Boris Diaw here...

Chris Sheridan
  (2:20 PM)

All contracts that are due to expire in 2012 would still expire in 2012. But as I said in my opening, I don't buy all the doomday lockout talk. The business is booming, ratings went through the roof this season, the league has spent six years building up goodwill toward the players through the NBA Cares and Basketball Without Borders program, football is in a work stoppage, etcetera. When there was a lockout in 1998, there was good reason for it -- MJ's a career was ending and the new faces of the league, i.e. K.Garnett, were signing nine-figure contracts. There was a need to get things under control. Now, there is merely a need to cut the players' share of the pie. The owners say they are losing $300 million this season, but they asked for $800 million in their initial proposal. That should give you an idea of how ludirous each side's opening proposal was, but that's the way these two sides have grown accustomed to negotiating with each other.

Eamon (Chi)

How about the massive FT disparity in the Dallas-PDX game? 18-2 in favor of Dallas, while they were still outscored by double digits in the paint by Portland. Lots of touch fouls that hadn't been called all game on Dirk started popping up in the last 10 minutes. Even Nate complained, and he's not normally one for post-game chatter.

Chris Sheridan
  (2:21 PM)

See what I mean, Tyler? Critiquing the officiating is a major part of playoff basketball. It is just starting earlier (and in more places) than usual this spring.

Logan (Memphis)

Do you think the Grizzlies have a legit chance to upset the Spurs? Do you think it will go to seven?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:24 PM)

I warned of this being a potentially bad matchup for the Spurs in last week's chat, but then I didn't back it up with any kind of a bold prediction because I picked the Spurs in 5. I will say this: If Memphis wins Game 2, they are better than 50-50 to steal the series. Game 2 is the biggest game in that franchise's history.

Akiva (Brookline, MA)

What are your thoughts on the Celtics really trying to get out and run on New York. It seemed that there was really a concerted effort made by Rondo to really push and try to get easy hoops in transition. Do you think that will be our strategy throughout the series? Or do you think Rondo was pushing it solely because the half court offense was super stagnant in the first half?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:26 PM)

Rondo needs to push it because that is how he is most effective. In the halfcourt, the Knicks back off him and that stagnates the Celtics' offense. Bostn's ability to score in transition is the second-most important factor in that series (the first being which team wins the final 3 minutes, which I have been saying a lot lately).

Justin (Las Vegas)

Chris - I know you're more optimistic than others, but how realistic is it that the players will be willing to agree to concessions such as lower salaries and shorter contracts in order to avoid a work stoppage? Is a deal possible without those concessions?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:30 PM)

The players will likely agree to shorter contracts. They did in the last CBA, and they will probably do so again -- five years max if you stay with your old team, four years max if you leave as a free agent. As for the lower salaries, I don't see any agreement with rollbacks of existing salaries being ratified. As I have said before, if Billy Hunter brings that kind of a deal to the players for a vote, it'll get turned down and he'll be out of a job. (Also, remember that they already have a system in place called the escrow tax in which 9 percent of players salaries are withheld in case they players' percentage of revenues exceds 57 percent. If it doesn't, they get the money back. If they kept the escrow system in place and changed the way they calculate BRI, the players could live with that.)

Vinnie (ATL)

I am a business man. I see ratings, revenues, and even attendance all being up. I imagine merchandise sales are also up. How can the league lose $300 million? Either you have mismanagement or your labor is too high. I am using business terms and not minimizing anyone.

Chris Sheridan
  (2:34 PM)

The union claims half of those losses are from depreciation, and from interest paid on the loans taken out to acquire several of the teams. In other words, the union does not see that portion of the money as a legitimate operating expense. So if the union agrees to start including operating expenses as part of a new cap calculation formula, they will insist on excluding those types of costs.

Quintin (Richmond, VA)

How much trouble are the Magic in this series? I'm smelling Hawks in 6 games now.

Chris Sheridan
  (2:35 PM)

I took Game 1 as an aberration. I think Orlando will win the next four.

Kyle (Cleveland, OH)

Do you think those two overthrown passes by Rondo on fast breaks are a sign that the Celts are pressing? Those were very uncharacteristic.

Chris Sheridan
  (2:37 PM)

I thought it was more of a sign on how much emphasis they are putting on transition offense.

ronald frazier (michigan)

with the bulls, celtics and magic looking rough out of the gates and with how good the heat played does this show they are truely the team to beat in the east?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:40 PM)

Chill, Ronald. It was one game, no matter which series you want to talk about. This is a two-month process. We've been at it for two days. And I think what the two days have shown is that there are an awful lot of quality teams out there that will make this an interesting postseason. Back in mid-February, it looked like the Celtics would be the class of the East and the Lakers would be able to get out of the West unless the Spurs knocked them off. Now, it's like a 12-team discussion when you talk about who could emerge from the two conferences.

Vinnie (ATL)

So the owners all bought high and now claim this should be calculated as an OP loss?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:41 PM)

Some of them did, yes. Not all.

adam (idaho)

with all having played 1 game thus far, who had the most impressive outing over the weekend; who can keep it up going forward?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:44 PM)

Aside from what New Orleans did, Atlanta was the most impressive to me. Who can keep it up going foward? As I was saying earlier in this chat, I think the Grizzlies have an opportunity to win their series if they win Game 2 at San Antonio. They really do match up well with the Spurs. With the Hawks and the Hornets, I see their opponents' talent and depth winning out when it's all said and done.

J. Ricardo (St. Charles, MO)

Do you see Melo's terrible shot last night as an example of this epidemic that the media is responsible for when it comes to 'closer' situations? You guys have put Kobe on such a pedestal over the years for taking terrible shots at the end of games that we're now seeing it trickle down?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:48 PM)

I don't see it quite that way. He made a shot almost identical to that one a week and a half ago in Philadelphia. He has been making 3s from well behind the arc at a pretty impressive clip. But that being said, I think in that instance he should have realized he had enough time to get closer to the hoop and either draw a foul or pass out of a collapsing defense. But the Knicks are going to put the ball in his hands at the end of games, just like the Lakers do with Kobe. So get used to it, it'll be happening for four more years. And like Kobe, sometimes he'll make and sometimes he'll miss. But both of them are equally confident in their ability to hit those types of shots, and they live for moments like those.

Damon (Santa Cruz)

It's easier for billionaires (owners) to wait it out than for millionaires (players). I see the owners holding steady to their demands and waiting for the players to cave. Accurate?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:51 PM)

I believe reasonable minds will prevail. I think your argument is more valid in the NFL labor standoff than the NBA one. Usually, fans side with owners in sports labor disputes, but it seems that is not so much the case in the NFL right now. But the bottom line is that a work stoppage would hurt the product in basketball more than it will in football.

Eric (Memphis)

Memphis future has to be looking very bright. With Randolph locked up and the rest of their core guys as well, Gay could put them over the top. They have everything, Tony Allen the signing of the summer?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:53 PM)

Tony Allen was my preseason Defensive Player of the Year pick, and he finished fourth (the vote totals were announced earlier today). But the signing of the summer? No way, Eric. That award was won by the Miami Heat.

Wade (Miami)

I agree with you. This has been one of the most exciting season/playoffs in recent memories. David Stern does not want a lock out as it will deminish what he has accomplished in raising fan support for almost all teams. How can attendance be up, TV contracts are all up but half the teams losing money? Again goes to fundamnetal problem in our country where the rich argue with the richer while the poor (fans) are the ones who would suffer. Wake up NBA, as without the fans you are nothing.

Chris Sheridan
  (2:55 PM)

Finally, someone who agrees with me. I think people are understating how much damage a work stoppage does to a sport. The rule of thumb is that it takes five years to recover. Why would the NBA want to shoot itself in the foot like that when they are on a 20-year upward growth spurt?

Amaru (Anchorage, AK)

Harrison Barnes just decided to go back to UNC. Is this year a bad year to have more than one draft pick in the first round?

Chris Sheridan
  (2:57 PM)

Yes, because the fear of a lockout is impacting players who are deciding to stay in school an extra year rather than take a gamble on an uncertain labor situation in which the doomsday rhetoric has made a work stoppage seem like a fait accompli.

Dan (Maine)

How would a work stoppage hurt basketball more than football? It seems a truncated regular season that's mostly meaningless might make things more excited, whereas every game counts so much in football.

Chris Sheridan
  (3:02 PM)

Because in basketball, the public is quicker to place the "greedy" label on the players rather than the owners. That immediately changes the public perception of the NBA players that the league has worked so hard to change, and years and years of built-up goodwill is lost in an instant. Also, the NBA is much more of a star-driven and personality-driven league than the NFL. And when you vilify those stars and those personalities, you penalize the product.

David (Indonesia)

The Nuggets (amazing Game 1 loss aside) have been playing like nuts these 20 games - but they lack a superstar leader. How unusual is it for a team to be this impressive but lack a clear number one best player?

Chris Sheridan
  (3:03 PM)

The Pistons did it for several years in a row. How soon we forget, eh?

Chris Sheridan
  (3:04 PM)

Thank for joining this week's chat, folks. Sorry I could not get to more questions. The queue is especially packed today. We'll do this again next week at 2 p.m. EDT.