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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NBA cancels first 2 weeks of season - Will Hillis Remain a Brown? - Terrelle Pryor’s suspension ends

Terrelle Pryor’s suspension ends
On the first day after the first game that the Raiders have played without long-time owner Al Davis, the last player drafted by Al Davis can now prepare for his first game with the team.
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s five-game suspension has ended, and he may practice with the team and play in the Raiders’ games.
The Raiders have received a one-game roster exemption, allowing Pryor to practice with the team. If/when the team activates Pryor, the exemption will expire.
Pryor has been permitted to work out at the team’s facility and participate in meetings.
The suspension (which the league resisted calling a suspension, even though Pryor was placed on the “reserve/suspended” list) ostensibly arose from the manner in which Pryor made himself eligible for the 2011 supplemental draft. Many believe that the suspension represented an effort by the NFL to give extra teeth to NCAA regulations — and to likewise put college players and college coaches on notice that the NFL can and will delay their entry to the NFL.

Hillis defends decision to not play, sees uncertain future with Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Peyton Hillis wanted to retire with the Browns. Now, he's wondering and worrying if he has a future in Cleveland beyond the next 12 games.
Hillis, whose stalled negotiations with the team on a contract extension have spawned weeks of analysis, conjecture and rumor, said Monday he has no regrets about sitting out the Sept. 25 game against Miami with strep throat, a decision -- reached with the advice of his agent -- that fueled reports he missed the game to protest not getting a new deal.
Hillis is in the final year of his rookie deal and will make a base salary of $600,000 this season. As for next season, he beginning to doubt he'll be around.
"Whenever something's not set in stone, then I guess anything is possible, which means your career's not here," he said. "So, yeah, that definitely worries me."
The Browns returned from their bye week with the Hillis matter remaining a hot topic. Following the team's first practice since last Wednesday, Hillis stood in the middle of Cleveland's locker room with his arms folded across his chest for more than 10 minutes answering questions about his contract.
Hillis could have ended the controversy.
Instead, it lingers.
Last week, agent Kennard McGuire told The Associated Press that he cautioned his client not to play against the Dolphins for fear Hillis had been weakened by the illness and could have jeopardized his career by playing and getting hurt. Hillis said he considered McGuire's guidance before deciding it was best to sit out.
"It was his recommendation, but it was ultimately my choice in the end," Hillis said. "We both knew how sick I was and how bad it could be for the team and for myself if I had tried to play, so it wasn't just my agent's decision. It was mine also and he was just looking out for me."
Hillis said without McGuire's counsel he might have tried to play.
"I am stubborn and I am hardheaded," he said. "By the way I was feeling, I just needed somebody else's opinion."
Hillis' absence from the Browns' win over the Dolphins was followed by an ESPN report, citing unidentified sources, that some unnamed players in Cleveland's locker room felt his contract situation may have been a factor in him skipping the game. Hillis said he was not disturbed by the report and that he and McGuire decided to keep the story fresh in the media because he wants to remain a Brown.
McGuire also told the AP that Hillis has been affected by the ongoing contract talks and feels "underappreciated" in Cleveland.
Hillis downplayed being distracted by his uncertain future in Cleveland, but acknowledged he wishes his contract situation could be resolved.
"You feel unappreciated because you want to get something done and nothing has gotten done at this point," said Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. "You don't know the ultimate feelings in the end of what's going on up top (in the front office). You take it with a grain of salt and you keep moving on."
Hillis insists the talks aren't putting any extra pressure on him to perform.
"I wouldn't say weighing on me. I'd rather say just being patient," he said. "I've got to be patient and ultimately the decision's not up to me. You've got to go out there and play your best. It's about what you do on the football field."
Part of Hillis' frustration stems from the Browns taking care of other players.
The team has signed several of its young "core" to extensions, and to this point, Hillis isn't one of them. In the past two months, Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas, tight end Evan Moore, defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin and linebacker Chris Gocong have received new deals.
Team president Mike Holmgren recently said the Browns were "trying like crazy" to sign Hillis, a comment that may have led to unrealistic expectations around the talks.
McGuire has remained in "close contact" with the Browns throughout the season, but the sides remain apart. Hillis said he doesn't know where things stand at the moment and his only focus is getting ready for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
"Perception is reality," he said. "People take what they want to from things. I feel I play hard every time I step on the field. I think everyone can see that I give my full effort, so whatever people think that's their opinion, but it really doesn't affect me."
Although Hillis' situation has been a constant around the team, Moore said it's not a distraction.
He believes it will all go away.
"Peyton and those guys upstairs will get the situation handled the right way," Moore said. "It's definitely not for us to concern ourselves with. If we start to get involved with that, we can quickly be told to keep our mouths shut and go back to work. We all have a job to do and that's definitely not our job to worry about that.
"Peyton will be fine. They'll get that thing worked out."

NBA cancels first 2 weeks of season
By Marc Stein
After roughly 13 hours of negotiations over two days failed to close what he termed a significant gulf "on virtually all issues," NBA commissioner David Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season Monday night.
Stern also suggested that the cancellations imposed on the 102nd day of the NBA lockout -- just the second work stoppage in league history to bleed into the regular season -- essentially guarantee that a full 82-game season has also been lost after fruitless talks found NBA owners and players unable to agree on key items such as luxury-tax specifics, contract lengths and annual raises.
Those were not seen as the sort of issues that would derail negotiations as recently as last week, but they became as big over the last 48 hours as the sides' ongoing inability to agree on a workable split of annual Basketball Related Income.
"We think that we made very fair proposals," Stern told reporters in New York, describing himself as both sorry and sad about the parties' inability to get close to the framework of a deal before Monday's deadline to start the regular season on Nov. 1 as scheduled.
"I'm sure the players think the same thing," Stern said. "But the gap is so significant that we just can't bridge it at this time."
Asked if he was prepared to rule out an 82-game schedule now that all games through Nov. 14 have been formally scrapped and not merely postponed, Stern said: "Yes, I think that's right. And with every day that goes by, we need to look at further reductions in what's left in the season."
Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter were in similar positions in 1998, when a 204-day lockout only left time for a 50-game regular season.
Said Hunter on Monday, intimating that cancelling games and forcing NBA players to miss checks has been the owners' intent for months: "I'm convinced that this is all just part of the plan.
"I think everybody's waiting for the players to cave," Hunter added. "They figure that once a player misses a check or two, it's all over. I'm saying ... that would be a horrible mistake if they think that's going to happen, because it's not going to happen. The players are all going to hang in."
NBA players displayed their solidarity all day long with dozens of "LET US PLAY" tweets and #StayUnited hash tags at the urging of union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul. Yet as one source close to the talks observed: "People were tweeting 'LET US PLAY' all day long and the owners' offers got worse by the end of the day."
Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard that the primary stumbling block in Tuesday's talks centered around a punitive luxury-tax system being pushed by the owners that the union views as a virtual hard salary cap.
Stern cited the owners' willingness to surrender their longstanding insistence on an actual hard cap as an example of how the league "made concession after concession." But sources told Bucher and Broussard that owners proposed system changes this week that included a luxury tax of $2 for every $1 that teams strayed above the tax threshold -- doubling the tax that was applied in the previous collective bargaining agreement -- and didn't stop there.
The owners, sources said, also want teams that stray beyond the tax line three times in a five-season span to pay $3 for every $1 over the tax limit. Sources said that the proposed tax penalties would rise to $4 for every $1 dollar over the threshold for any team that crossed into tax territory in five straight seasons.
Sources said that owners also pushed for contract limits of four years for free agents re-signing with their current teams and three years for free agents joining new teams, with the union proposing five years and four years, respectively. Sources say that the league, as ESPN.com reported last week, likewise continues to push for tax-paying teams to be denied the use of their Larry Bird and mid-level exceptions and is still pushing for the mid-level exception to be reduced from a maximum of $5.8 million annually over five years in the previous CBA to a two- or three-year maximum contract that can't exceed $3 million annually.
"It makes no sense for us to operate under the current model, where taxpayers ... have a huge advantage over other teams," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.
Referring to suggested penalties for big-spending teams, union president Fisher said: "It's still as close as you can get (to) a hard cap."
No further negotiating sessions have been scheduled and none are expected before next week, sources said, with Hunter and Fisher scheduling a meeting with union members Thursday in Los Angeles.
(The owners) figure that once a player misses a check or two it's all over. I'm Fisher acknowledged Monday that decertification remains an option, but it remains to be seen whether a group of agents that for much of the summer has favored decertification will renew that push.
ESPN.com reported last week that those agents -- Mark Bartelstein, Bill Duffy, Dan Fegan, Leon Rose, Jeff Schwartz, Arn Tellem and Henry Thomas -- were no longer advocating a decertification strategy, partly because of fears that the time to do so and impact negotiations had been missed.
One source with knowledge of the agents' thinking insisted on Monday night that the latest demise of negotiations would not reignite a decertification pushing, telling ESPN.com: "There's still time for talks to heat up again."
Hunter echoed that sentiment, insisting that he doesn't think the entire 2011-12 season is in jeopardy.
"I think it would be foolish for them to kill the season," Hunter said. "We're coming off the best season in the history of the NBA (in terms of revenues of TV ratings) and I'm not so sure, in this kind of economy, that if there is a protracted lockout whether the league will recover.
"It took us a while to recover from the '98 lockout," Hunter continued, "and I think it will take us even longer to recover this time around."
Monday's cancellations total exactly 100 games and include such early marquee matchups as Chicago at Dallas on Nov. 1 in the first season opener between the reigning MVP (Derrick Rose) and reigning Finals MVP (Dirk Nowitzki) since 2002. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat, beaten in six games by Nowitzki's Mavericks in the Finals in June, were scheduled to open their season Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks' star duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire.
Stern said that affected arenas have been authorized to release dates through Nov. 1.The NBA has been down this road once before, cancelling the first 32 games of the 1998-99 season.
Season-ticket holders, however, get refunds, plus interest, for all cancelled games. And an ESPN spokesman said the network "has a contingency plan consisting mostly of college football and basketball" to replace locked-out NBA games.
"We just have a gulf that separates us," Stern said.
Despite the negotiating focus on system issues over the past 48 hours, resolving the BRI split between the owners and players remains at the heart of that gulf. The players continue to hold out for a 53 percent share of BRI, down from 57 percent in the previous labor agreement. The owners last week unexpectedly proposed a 50-50 split, but Stern said after Monday's breakdown in talks that the league has reverted to its previous position of offering the players just 47 percent of BRI in a new deal.
Union officials, though, contend that they have been preparing for this dour day for a long time, convinced for months that a lockout that shortened the season similar to 1998-99's work stoppage was inevitable.
"I think it goes back to a comment that David made to me several years ago when he said, 'Look, this is what my owners have to have,' " Hunter recounted. "And I said, 'The only way you're going to get that is if you're prepared to lock us out for a year or two,' and (this) indicated to me that they're willing to do it.
"So my belief, my contention, is that everything he's done has kind of demonstrated that he's following that script."
Said Fisher: "To be here at this point is disappointing in some ways, but also as we've said all along, this is what we anticipated would probably happen. And here we are. So we'll deal with this with our chin up."
The participants in Monday's meetings were Stern, Silver, owners Peter Holt (San Antonio), Glen Taylor (Minnesota) and James Dolan (New York) and NBA officials Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube on the league side, with Hunter, Fisher, union vice president Maurice Evans and lawyers Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner on the union side.

Two Weeks' Notice
Notable games canceled by NBA on Monday night.

Bulls at Mavericks, Nov. 1

One of three games scheduled for Opening Night. The Bulls won both games with Mavs last season; meeting between reigning MVP (Derrick Rose) and Finals MVP (Dirk Nowitzki).
Thunder at Lakers, Nov. 1

Teams split the four regular season meetings last season; Lakers have won 14 of the last 16 meetings. Prior to 2010-11 the Lakers had won 12 straight vs the Thunder.
Heat at Knicks, Nov. 2

Teams split the four meetings last season; Carmelo Anthony was on the Knicks for one game vs the Heat, scoring a game-high 29 points in a win at Miami; LeBron James has averaged 30.5 PPG at Madison Square Garden.
Magic at Heat, Nov. 3

Teams splits the four meetings last season; LeBron James averaged 30.0 PPG against the Magic last season.
Mavericks at Spurs, Nov. 4

Spurs won 3 of the 4 meetings last season; Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki have faced off 41 times in the regular season with the Spurs winning 22.
Hawks at Bulls, Nov. 5

Rematch of last season's East semifinals won by the Bulls in 6. The Hawks are now 0-15 all-time in the conference semis under the current format set in 1970-71.
Thunder at Mavericks, Nov. 5

Rematch of 2011 West finals won by Dallas in 5. The home team won each of the regular-season meetings last season; Games 4 and 5 of the WCF were both big comeback wins for the Mavs.
Spurs at Lakers, Nov. 9

Last season marked the first time since 2006 that neither the Lakers nor Spurs made it to the West finals. Tim Duncan is 24-20 all-time against Kobe Bryant.
Thunder at Bulls, Nov. 10

Teams split the two meetings last season (home team won both); Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant have played each other six times, with both players each winning three games;
-- Compiled by Micah Adams and ESPN Stats & Information

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a pretty deflating weekend in Lincoln for Ohio State fans who watched their team cough up a 21-point lead in the second half.
They also watched their young quarterback leave the game with an injury just when he was starting to play the best football of his brief OSU career.
The good news on Monday was that Braxton Miller appeared as the starting quarterback on the latest depth chart released by the Buckeyes for their upcoming game at Illinois.
Senior Joe Bauserman—fresh off his 1-for-10 showing at Memorial Stadium—is once again listed as the backup quarterback this week.

Here is a two-minute rundown of the rest of the new depth chart.

Offensive Updates
Junior Jordan Hall still listed as the starting RB this week and Carlos Hyde is listed as the backup.
That means senior Boom Herron is not listed despite the fact he is returning from suspension after missing the first six games of the season.
Marcus Hall returns to the depth chart after serving his one-game suspension.
After starting the first 5 games at RG, Hall is listed as the backup to Andrew Norwell at LG.
Jack Mewhort continues to be listed as the starter at RG with Corey Linsley as the backup.
Philly Brown still listed as a co-starter at WR with Chris Fields.
FB Adam Homan returns to the depth chart this week. David Durham had replaced him as the backup FB to Zach Boren while Homan was recovering from an injury.

Defensive Updates
There were no noticeable changes to the defensive depth chart this week.
Seniors DE Nathan Williams still not listed and neither is DE Solomon Thomas.
J.T. Moore continues to be listed as the No. 1 Leo with freshman Steve Miller as the backup.

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