Surprising twist in NHL labor talks

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Surprising twist in NHL labor talks

From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- The NHL and its players' union are to resume bargaining Friday for the first time since the lockout began, although the talks will concentrate on secondary economic issues.Deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players' Association special counsel Steve Fehr met Tuesday in Toronto and set up the session, which will be in New York. These will be the first formal negotiations since Sept. 12, when the players and owners exchanged proposals.The lockout started Sept. 16, when training camps were to open. This is the third lockout since Gary Bettman became commissioner in 1993. The last lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season and ended when players accepted a salary cap.With the league and union far apart on money, both sides decided to discuss other economic issues that also are necessary for an agreement. Fehr said the topics will include pension and medical plans, schedule rules, drug testing and the grievance procedure.Top officials from the NHL and NHLPA met Monday to review last season's economics and complete escrow payments due players. The labor contract was not discussed."Obviously, we've got to talk before you can get a deal, so I think it's important to get the talks going again," Daly said Monday. "But you also have to have something to say. I think it's fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players' association in a meaningful way because I don't think that they've really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now."The St. Louis Blues laid off what is believed to just under 20 front-office workers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday. The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators already have had layoffs. Other teams have said they could do so depending on how long the lockout lasts.It took three months for the NHL and NHLPA to resume bargaining after the lockout began in 2004. Since this lockout started a handful of players have expressed concern that it could last the entire season. Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary said Monday he was "just trying to be realistic."The NHL has 3.3 billion in annual revenue. The league wants to reduce the players' share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent to a range between 49 percent and 47 percent, up from 43 percent in its original proposal. Players think management's alleged financial problems could be addressed by re-examining the teams' revenue-sharing formula.

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Report: Cousins won't sign with Redskins before getting tagged

Report: Cousins won't sign with Redskins before getting tagged

There may not be much drama when the March 1 franchise tag deadline comes around. It appears that a Kirk Cousins tag is inevitable.

According to a Pro Football Talk report, Cousins will not sign a long-term deal prior getting tagged by the Redskins. PFT cited a source with knowledge of the situation.

This is not exactly a surprising report. The situation has seemed to be destined to reach this point since minutes after the Redskins’ final game of the season when Cousins, whose one-year franchise tag deal expired when the game ended, was asked if he wanted to remain in Washington.

 “It’s really not my decision to make,” he said. “They chose to tag me and the same is true this year, so if they don’t choose to tag me then I think that question is answered at that point, but right now the ball’s not in my court.”

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Actually, the ball is in his court; he could instruct his agent to hammer out the best deal he can get to stay in Washington and then sign it. But apparently, he will choose the tag, a solid business decision for a number of reasons.

For one thing, if he gets tagged and quickly signs the tender as he did last year he would guarantee a salary of $23.94 million, a 20 percent raise over the $19.95 million he earned last year. If he plays out the season on the tag he would be virtually guaranteed of never getting tagged again since such a move would give him a 44 percent raise over his previous year’s cap number. The number is designed to make a third tag cost prohibitive and it does.

For the team’s part, there have been scattered reports that some in the Redskins organization pushed for letting Cousins hit the open market and letting his value be determined there. But that changed after Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator for the first two years of Cousins’ career and a big Cousins fan, became the head coach of the 49ers. There is no question that San Francisco would make a strong play for Cousins and the most likely scenario now is that the will tag him.

More Redskins: Under the radar issues

Where does this go after Cousins is tagged? The Redskins would have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term contract. It would still take a strong offer for the team to keep Cousins around for the long term.

Team president Bruce Allen seems to be optimistic about getting a deal done eventully.

"I don’t think it’s as complicated as everyone wants to make it,” he said earlier this month. “And we’ll get together with his agent, and I’m sure we’ll come to an agreement."

That remains to be seen. The only thing that seems certain in this saga is that it won’t be coming to a resolution any time soon.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Morning tip: Looking back and ahead with Wizards coming out of All-Star break

Morning tip: Looking back and ahead with Wizards coming out of All-Star break

NEW ORLEANS -- The Wizards are the NBA’s most surprising team going into the All-Star break. No one expected them to have 34 wins regardless of how this season shook out, but that was especially true after a 2-8 start. Now that we’re 55 games into an 82-game season -- and with the trade deadline approaching Thursday afternoon -- my takeaways on what's transpired, why and what has to happen next to solidify their standing and advance deep:

-- Bradley Beal has avoided injury. The revamping of the medical staff was headed up by VP Tommy Sheppard and has worked. The system that the Wizards put in place to be more clinical in dealing with how to treat injuries and be more forward-thinking has kept him stress-reaction free in his lower right leg. Beal missed three games with a right thigh strain early in the season and one game after rolling his ankle but he has played 51 of 55. Twenty-three more appearances and he sets a career-high for games played. And this is the healthiest that John Wall has been this deep into a season in several years and he had surgeries to both knees May 5.

-- The evolution of Jason Smith. He was all thumbs when the season started, so much so that Brooks joked that he was starting to question his spot on the roster (pre-emptive strike: It was said in jest so do NOT hastily extract this nugget to fashion into your own blog post that misrepresents the tone). Smith has grown into a fan favorite because of his effort, hustle and energy he brings off the bench. He’s hitting the mid-range jumper when he pops on the pick-and-roll and is flashing some of his underrated athleticism with highlight-reel blocks and dunks diving to the basket. Most nights, he’s the best player off the bench.

-- The second-biggest free-agent acquisition, Andrew Nicholson, is completely out of the rotation. He has the old-man game but appears out of place when the game is played at a faster pace. Nicholson is a bench player so there was no mystery as to what his role would be. But he has accrued 25 DNP-CDs (did not play coach’s decision). Nicholson last played double-digit minutes Jan. 14. Given the length of his contract (four years), moving him will be next to impossible unless the Wizards sacrafice a  draft pick to do so.

-- Wall’s decision-making late in games or at the end of quarters has gone through the roof. He’s had his hero-ball moments but that was early. As his judgment has become more sound, so has everyone else’s. The Wizards late-game execution is a strength and it’s why they’re 11-4 in games decided by six points or less since Dec. 1.

-- The diversity in the offense has taken the ball out of Wall's hands more often but he's actually more productive.  generates 108.1 points per game (seventh). Since Dec. 1 when the turnaround began, the Wizards average 110.4 points (fifth), shoot 49.1%  from the field (second) and 39% from three (tied for second). They're 28-10 in that stretch. For the season, Wall is 15th in the league in passes made per game at 59.8 and third in passes received at 76.3. Last season, Wall made 70.9 passes and recevied 83.9 which was the most per game of any player in the NBA in both categories. He created 24.7 points which was second-best in the league then. By involving more players in the offense, even though Wall handles the ball less to pass and receives fewer passes per game, he's actually averaging more points created at 25.3, second only to James Harden (Rockets).

-- Kelly Oubre has had an up-and-down season, but the 6-7 forward being inserted into the rotation with Otto Porter as the "stretch" option is what led to the surge. So Oubre's stat line (6.2 points, 29.6% three-point shooting) isn't neccessarily indicative of his importance to the Wizards. When he was dispensed to defend Isaiah Thomas in the fourth quarter of the last meeting with the Celtics, it solidified his spot as three-position defender. He held Thomas to four points in the fourth. His 7-2 wingspan and athleticism can't be duplicated anywhere else on the roster.

-- Beal isn’t an All-Star is one thing, but that he received so little respect in the initial voting process was stunning. He was 14th among fans and eighth among media voting. It shouldn’t have come down to a commissioner’s pick as to whether or not he made it. Defensively, he's been the most consistent perimeter defender all season.

-- If Sheldon McClellan or Marcus Thornton has to fill void behind Beal as a scorer, a trade has to happen. Tomas Satoransky has had mixed results, but he's 6-7, starting to be more confident in his shot and can defend because of his size helps him bother smaller guards. To give up on Satoransky would be a mistake because his IQ and effort can't be taught. 

-- Otto Porter’s three-point shooting. That he’d become better with the deep ball isn’t a surprise. He was sub-par for most of last season shooting in the low 30s. Then he raised it to about 37% by season’s end which is better than average. But he’s now almost 10% better and taking a career-high 4.6 three-pointers per game.

-- Brooks is an elite coach. I’ve never been a fan of the logic that states because a coach either didn’t win at a previous stop or didn’t take a team with a lot of talent far enough (see Brooks with the Oklahoma City Thunder) then that coach isn’t a good coach. That’s not how you measure coaches. The same was said about Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat. First, coaching is about much more than what happens during 48 minutes on the court. It has to do with more than Xs and Os. And it has to do with having players who allow themselves to be coached. College basketball is about coaches. It’s their system vs the other coach’s system. The NBA is about players. It’s no coincidence that those who make the most money determine that tone. It was proven in last year’s Western Conference finals that Brooks wasn’t the problem with Oklahoma City. Boxscores don’t necessarily tell you who are the best players in a game. Neither does a coaching record. And Brooks’ was already pretty good.