Salaries cut by one third? Contraction? What we have here is a red herring.

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When you walk into a negotiation you start by asking for the moon. Doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell a house in Cleveland or dates at a Persian bazaar, negotiations are all the same. And part of that is the first offer put out there is big. The moon. It’s not what you will settle for; it’s not even what you expect. But you start high so you can come down to a price you can live with.

Now, meet David Stern. He came out talking big for the owners Thursday.

After two days of owners meetings where they discussed what they need out of a new collective bargaining agreement, he came out talking about slashing total players salaries by $750 million or more — cutting back salaries by more than a third in total.

There also was a report from CBS that the league is even looking at contraction — that the owners were considering whether the league really needs to be this large and if it is really in the best markets. Cutting out teams thins the losses and also strengthens teams’ depth. The product would be better.

Of course, from the Players Union perspective, Stern came out talking about pay cuts and fewer jobs for union members. Both things they will fight.

Contraction is simply a red herring. Nothing more. The owners aren’t serious about it. They want salary reductions but know they would never get that much (the NHL locked out for an entire season and got 24 percent roll backs, in a league worse off economically).

But this is the first step in the dance, and Stern needed to put some things on the table he knew he could give back.

There is no way Stern and the league — meaning the other owners — are going to pay another owner $300 million or more to go away (which might well be the cost to buy out a team and shut it down). Stern doesn’t want a ton of news stories about all the people who would lose their jobs in Memphis or New Orleans or whatever city would see it’s team fold. The stories about the pub owner near the arena with three kids who is watching his livelihood be ripped form him. Nope, the NBA will not go there.

But Stern can look at union director Billy Hunter and say, “Okay, we’ll take contraction off the table, but what are you going to give us?”

And the dance continues.

What Stern said yesterday is where the team enters negotiations, not what it hopes or even expects to leave with. Don’t take everything he said to heart. But you can see one thing he does hope to get some of — the owners want to find a way to reduce the salaries they have been handing out to players.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.