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He’s locked in on lockout

Stern confident sides will work with urgency

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / June 1, 2011

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MIAMI — NBA commissioner David Stern wants to avoid at all costs the kind of lockout that his brethren in the NFL are currently embroiled in. He spoke before last night’s opening game of the NBA Finals with urgency, as the league’s collective bargaining agreement expires in one month.

The NBA Players Association filed a grievance last week, hoping to avoid a lockout, and Stern responded by announcing that the sides will ramp up negotiations beginning today in Miami.

The owners want a hard salary cap, an increase in nonguaranteed contracts, and some contracts retroactively reduced. The players haven’t appeared impressed with the league’s proposals, and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter has repeatedly said there has been little progress, despite the amicable discussions.

“I don’t even want to make guesses,’’ Stern said in his state-of-the-league address before Miami won Game 1, “because I know that both sides will make their best offers before the lockout. Because if they don’t, then there’s going to be a lockout that would be destructive for our business from the owners’ perspective and the players’ perspective.’’

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver went so far as to call out the Miami Big Three. He pointed out that the contracts of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh all call for 10 percent increases each season but the league’s revenue is growing only at 4 percent. Stern has claimed that half the league’s 30 teams are losing money. The players association disputes that number.

“All our attention is focused on trying to get a deal before July 1,’’ Silver said. “We’ve been asked this before, and that is whether we’ve already begun to incur damage to our business before the expiration of this deal, and the fact is we have.’’

Stern said neither side has suggested a “franchise tag’’ to help smaller-market teams keep their standout players longer.

It’s House’s party Eddie House is back in the NBA Finals, three years after helping the Celtics win the crown with clutch shooting off the bench. He was signed to drain 3-pointers in Miami’s up-tempo offense, but with the emergence of Mike Miller and James Jones, his responsibilities have been reduced.

House was a great help in getting the Heat home-court advantage in the Finals. Miami needed a victory in its season finale at Toronto to edge Dallas for the NBA’s third-best record. And when San Antonio, Chicago, and the Lakers were all eliminated, the Heat were left with the best record.

Displaying vintage shooting, House dropped a career-best 35 points as the Heat overcame the Raptors that day, 97-79. He played 45 minutes and canned seven 3-pointers.

“I was just happy to be out on the court,’’ he said. “It had been some time since I’d been out there, got my number called, and you just go out there when you get the opportunity and go as hard as you can.

“You are a competitor and want to get out there and play, but you are not the one out there making the substitutions or putting together the rotations. If Coach [Erik Spoelstra] calls my number, I’ll be ready; if not, it will be just like the rest of the playoffs.’’

House is in the unique position of reaching the NBA Finals with both recent versions of the Big Three. He averaged 7.5 points and shot 39 percent from the 3-point line in 21 postseason games during the Celtics’ title run. This year, however, he had been limited to just five games as of last night.

He said there is little comparison between the experiences.

“It’s two different teams, two totally different situations,’’ he said. “It’s not the same. We were more up and down this year with the rocky start and rotation change. Just a lot of stuff that we went through.

“In ’08, we knew what we were doing. There wasn’t any bumps in the road.’’

James supports Tressel Ohio native LeBron James has long had an affinity for Ohio State, even though he entered the NBA out of high school. He offered his support for the university after the resignation of football coach Jim Tressel amid a scandal involving players trading memorabilia for tattoos. “I think it’s unfortunate,’’ James said. “He’s done some great things for the university. It’s unfortunate all the allegations that have come out. Everybody knows how important he was for the university. I wish him the best. And the university will come back. It’s one of the best universities we have in America.’’

Nowitzki injures finger Dirk Nowitzki tore a tendon in his left index finger last night and will be forced to wear a splint for the rest of the series. The righthanded Nowitzki was hurt trying to steal the ball from Bosh during the fourth quarter . . . For Game 1, Spoelstra placed veteran center Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the inactive list, opting for former Maverick Erick Dampier, who has played sparingly in the postseason . . . Stern said the sale of the Pistons to Tom Gores has been approved, ensuring that the franchise will stay in Detroit. There has been speculation that Gores would like to move the Pistons from Auburn Hills back to downtown Detroit. The Pistons reportedly will fire coach Jon Kuester but were waiting for the sale to become official.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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