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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Thursday, Dec. 6

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 5:08 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: NEW YORK - Greetings, all, from the site of the NHL's ongoing - and increasingly bizarre - negotiations toward ending this senseless lockout. Away we go ...

Comment From Devin: I've read alot about Mario, Burkle, & Crosby in talks to bring the sides together before this week. Doesn't that break the leagues requirement that management not speak with players privately?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hope you had a chance to catch my column this morning regarding the Penguins' involvement. That will answer some of your question, not all.

The league and the union discourage contact, but you've also seen through Rob Rossi's reporting that Crosby flew to these very meetings on Ron Burkle's plane. (Craig Adams came independently.) Put simply, it's not the end of the world if they communicate.

And, as the column stresses, Bettman is embracing everything the Penguins are doing right now to try to save this season.

Comment From Gaucho: Dejan, it seems the players have flat out rejected the NHL's last offer. I tend to be in the players side, but I don't know anymore what they are looking for. Help me out?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm moving toward that side myself, actually. Just this morning, seeing the details of the owners' last offer - 50/50, dropping most contractual demands, above-and-beyond "Make Whole" - I have a VERY hard time accepting the players' rejection if it's based mostly on the league wanting to go 10 years rather than 5-6. Do these guys really want to go through another of these so soon?

Wouldn't they rather have another generation of players deal with it?

Comment From Jason81: If talks break down after the progress made over the last two days, will that push the NHL closer to cancelling the whole season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hate to say it, but I think so. Tempers here are hot the past couple days, and not just because all concerned have kept some crazy hours. Don't discount the human element. If they put that much into this round of talks, and the owners essentially concede on major points only to have the LENGTH OF THE DEAL derail things ... yeah, that'll be bad.

Comment From Seth: Why do you continually put out garbage articles and say things that make you look like a spiteful fool in regards to the Pirates? Is it for the attention? Equating this FO and Russell Martin to Littlefield and Morris was beyond absurd and nothing more than an attention grabbing headline.

Dejan Kovacevic: I love you guys. Please, never change.

Comment From Jose "No Pants" Lind: How do we make a commitment to spend $17 mill on a catcher, but we aren't aggressively looking for another starting pitcher?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hey, stop being so mean-spirited and vindictive.

Neal Huntington called the two-year, $17 million signing of Russell Martin - he of the .211/.303/.403 line and six straight years of decline - the Pirates' "biggest move" they'll make this offseason. The comparison I made to Matt Morris, for those who actually read it, wasn't between the players but between the situations in comparing ineffective, desperate general managers.

The fact that they also cut a decent starting pitcher in Jeff Karstens and GUARANTEED $2 million to a rehabbing pitcher in Charlie Morton ... well, I think those are all FINE moves and should be roundly applauded.

And if you don't applaud, you clearly have some personal ax to grind.

Comment From Charles8842: Hey Dejan - Is there any hope for the Steelers running game doing anything else besides the back taking it into the pile of 8 or 10 linemen? Why can't our O.C. come up with some other imaginative type of plays? We have all said that you can't run Rainey like that - you would kill him eventually - and look at the plays that have gained big yardage and scores because they have bounced off the big pile-up and ran outside. Whatever happened to the famous Steeler trap and other things like tosses and misdirections. Explain it all to me, please.

Dejan Kovacevic: Y ou know, I'm glad you brought that up. For all else I thought the Steelers did well offensively in Baltimore, you almost never saw them - and never see them - running to the edges. It's all between the tackles. That makes sense at times. I especially like it when Jonathan Dwyer pinballs off the pack, then moves to the outside.

But I have a hard time accepting that an offense Todd Haley claims is tailored to the personnel, rather than the other way around, thinks it's a great idea to send all of his backs - even Chris Rainey - right into all the beef.

I know the interior line has played well and did again Sunday. But I trust at least Max Starks and Heath Miller to be good run-blockers to the outside.

Why not use them?

Comment From Oliver Onion: So ... we've got A.J. and Wandy for the top two starters. We've got the inconsistent J-Mac as No. 3, I guess. Who fills 4 and 5? Is there any hope at all for a free agent there?

Dejan Kovacevic: Silence! No negativity regarding the Pirates. You people are just vicious!

Comment From Mike Jones: If Paul Chryst were to leave, should he be seen in the same light at as Graham? or does he get a pass?

Dejan Kovacevic: Chryst isn't leaving. You might have missed it about an hour ago, but Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez just bluntly stated he isn't pursuing Chryst, in part because he feels it wouldn't be "right" for Chryst to leave after being a head coach somewhere for just a year. Interesting candor from Alvarez.

Would Chryst's departure be as bad as that of Todd Graham?

Actually, I think it would, but maybe not the way you think. I'd much more easily imagine the public turning on Steve Pederson in that event than Chryst.

But that's not going to happen, so ...

Comment From Ryan: Hey Dejan, I was just thinking back to when you called for Bill O'Brien to get payed higher for the job he did this year. I agree that under normal circumstances he might get a raise but with the $60 million dollar sanction and how much money this whole scandal is gonna cost PSU can you really justify spending even more money on giving a football coach a raise after just 1 season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Every available account of Penn State's financial situation is that they'll be able to weather the storm of the sanctions, even the pending lawsuits, because of huge reserves.

Would I rather see an extra $1 million or $2 million go toward curing diseases and a lot of the other great work they do in State College?

Sure, but this is the world we live in. O'Brien has made a big contribution there, an invaluable one in some ways. He must be retained.

But again here, we might just be discussing nothing. O'Brien has given every indication he intends to stay.

Comment From Jeff G in TX: Bigger concern on Sunday - losing Ike Taylor or Big Ben's readiness to play?

Dejan Kovacevic: That would be Ben by a mile. All eyes will be on his every move out there. I wrote in a column last week that there was no way on earth Ben should have played in Baltimore, and I'm delighted he didn't. But there are promising indications he's in a much better place this week.

Still ...

As for Ike, first of all, he assured me a couple days ago he's going to exceed people's expectations for how long he'll be out. But even if it's the 3-6 weeks being forecast, I really liked what I saw of Cortez Allen in Baltimore. Don't isolate on that one boom-boom drive where the Ravens hit Torrey Smith twice. Smith pushed off on one of those and didn't get flagged.

Comment From andrew long island: What prevents the Pirates from signing, trading for, or otherwise improving the team enough to make them relevant... After 20 years, just go do it already.. I feel ownership and management is fighting themselves at times and is making this much more difficult than it had to be, financial constraints be damned!

Dejan Kovacevic: Ownership is taking payroll into the $65 million-$70 million range, and this is the year BEFORE the TV money comes into play in 2014. That's not the Yankees, not even the Brewers, but it's a move upward.

I'll say this until blue in the face: It's not about the money with the Pirates. It's about how the money's been wasted.

Wait. Was that negative?

I repent!

Comment From andrew long island: Rob B is reporting Grilli is still in the mix and if no one offers 3 years, he will be back with the Pirates for 2. Is this decision holding up a J Hanrahan trade?

Dejan Kovacevic: Indeed, our Rob Biertempfel has reported this morning that Grilli is still in the mix, but there's been some hedging on the Pirates' part since the first of those reports. We'll see.

To put this on the record in the chat, as I did yesterday on Twitter: IF the Pirates retain Grilli, it will mark their first intelligent move of the offseason.

That's kind of how it works. When they do good things, you praise them, as I did publicly and vociferously last season for the acquisitions of A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez. But when they do stupid things, they're going to hear about how they're doing stupid things.

Chances are excellent that, if you view ANYTHING to one extreme or another, you're not being terribly honest with yourself.

The Pirates are a losing team run by a losing management.

That's not even an opinion.

Comment From Guest: What's it like staking out the Westin Hotel on a day like yesterday? A lot of off the record stuff happening? Teaming up with Rob Rossi or other reporters? Been following on twitter and just curious what the 12+ hour days are like

Dejan Kovacevic: It's very unusual, because there's no real schedule, no plan. You just kind of wing it. I spent much of my yesterday in the Westin lobby, while Rossi went a block away to the NHL's PR firm where the Board of Governors meeting was going on. You try to pick off people as they pass, and you try to pass the time most commonly by talking to reporters or playing with the iPhone or drinking even more coffee. (Starbucks right in the Westin lobby.)

As for on or off the record, it's almost impossible right now to get anyone on the record. When Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey emerged this morning at 1 a.m. and agreed to speak, you'd think Wayne Gretzky had just shown up from the media reaction.

Comment From Jon D.: What drives Pitt's decision to play a terrible non-conference basketball schedule? Will that change next year in the ACC?

Dejan Kovacevic: Jamie Dixon - who first of all would never acknowledge any such thing and, in fact, talks about every opponent as if it's Duke - prefers to use the exhibition schedule to prep his team on fundamentals, notably defense. An argument could be made that he's better off doing that against softer opponents where maybe the focus isn't as results-based as it would be.

But hey, in fairness, Michigan's a pretty good team, and Pitt did well to reach that point of the preseason NIT and face them here in New York.

Comment From dillonerd: Dejan - With everyone knowing that the lockout was coming, wouldn't the NHL have been smart to not allow any free agent signings this off season before they knew how a new CBA would come together?

Dejan Kovacevic: You just put "NHL" and "smart" in the same sentence. Pretty sure your grammar check should have blown that up.

Comment From Jon D.: How will the NHL scheduling work if/when the season resumes? Is it adjusted at all or does the original schedule basically just pick up as planned on whatever the start date is?

Dejan Kovacevic: It'll be completely new. Throw out the existing schedules. (And cancel any flights you might have to Winnipeg, as I did last week.) What we're hearing here now is a Dec. 26 start and a schedule in the 50-game range. But that means pretty much nothing at this point.

Comment From JamesinNYC: Loved your writing as always, but I don't think most Pens fans think Bettman is an "enemy" of the Pens ...generally speaking I think he has been very good to them. Now if your talking NFL and Goodell......well the perception there is another alltogether.

Dejan Kovacevic: The enemy reference, James, was to the notion that the Penguins are doing something against Bettman's wishes by trying to be mediators here. They aren't. Bettman very much hopes they succeed, now that Plan A of shoving Jeremy Jacobs down the union's throats has failed.

That's what I meant.

Comment From john: How are the Pirates going to compete with these jokers in the front office. They have to go before they make a monster mistake and set the team back even further than they are. They are an embarrassment to the city and its fans.

Dejan Kovacevic: As is your negativity, sir!

Comment From James_Nolo: D ejan, any hope for the Pirates rotation in 2013? I think they will be adding someone like John Lannan. The rotation should look like A.J. Burnett, Rodriguez, McDonald, Kyle McPherson, and some pitcher from the garbage bin such as John Lannan.

Dejan Kovacevic: McPherson was just shut down in Dominican winter ball, for those who haven't heard, because of a shoulder issue. It's apparently non-surgical, but it might be even more of a reach now to project he should be part of the rotation.

Counting on James McDonald after what happened to him in the second half - as close to an outright meltdown as you'll see for a pitcher - would be crazy.

That leaves A.J., Wandy and ...

I'd better stop there. Might go negative.

Comment From JamesinNYC: Dejan you are a bigger man then I if I got some of the "questions" you do they would end up in the electronic wastebasket. Why do you bother posting them? Just to be fair? Heck I even read the soccer article and I loath soccer, keep up the great work.

Dejan Kovacevic: I appreciate that you read the Riverhounds' column, which, very surprisingly, ranks among the top 10 most-read things I've written this year. Great feedback from the local soccer community, which sounds hungry for this endeavor to succeed.

As for that question up there, I get only a handful. To the best of my ability to discern who writes or tweets regularly, the number of people who obsessively defend the Pirates' front office is VERY small but, at the same time, peculiarly vocal.

To me, that's just the other extreme of those who blame Bob Nutting and the Pirates for everything from climate change to the devaluing of the Euro.

Takes all kinds.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hey, it's well past Tampa Bay Lightning time. And I do believe Steve Yzerman is even in this building right now. Short Qs, short As ...

Comment From Jon D.: Does an MLS team or an NBA team have a better chance of a) coming to the Pittsburgh market? b) succeeding in it?

Dejan Kovacevic: Soccer by a colossal margin, and not just because pro basketball has failed here several times. It has more to do with the corporate dollar in the market and the limited general dollar.

Pittsburgh isn't a "small market," as baseball types commonly deride. It's one of America's top 20 metropolitan areas, and it has a disproportionately good economy and good corporate presence. Still, it's asking a lot to support four major professional teams, with sponsorships, suites and all.

That - and not a difference in the sports - is why I see soccer as a better fit. The MLS itself is a long, long way from being a league priced in the stratosphere of the top four. So it would take less community wealth to support it.

NOT a short answer, I know.

Comment From dillonerd: Dejan - Do you still allow yourself to be a fan of the teams you cover?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. But at the same time, I??m a born and raised Pittsburgher. You'll see my passion for the city, for its people and yeah, for some of the people associated with our teams shine through on occasion. I'll never apologize for that.

In general, my readers are people passionate about their sports or specific teams. I try to be an accurate reflection of that intensity.

Not sure if ANY of that made sense.

Comment From Rob: Dejan, I must admit I have not read your work and followed your chats until recently and I must say I really enjoy your work. Now that the schmoozing is out of the way what are your thoughts on Brown and Allen starting Sunday? I thought Allen handled himself well.

Dejan Kovacevic: I really appreciate that. I've hoped to see Curtis Brown on the field more for a while. He's got maybe the best athleticism of any of the DBs, and that's saying something. But it also was easy to understand why the Steelers soured on him after a series of injuries.

It's become a really fun secondary to watch, overall, hasn't it?

Comment From MickTD: Dejan, If Cole is impressive in spring training, will he come north with the team?

Dejan Kovacevic: I would certainly hope not, but then, desperate times bring desperate measures. Remember that Dave Littlefield in his final year insanely drafted Daniel Moskos in part because he thought Moskos could get to Pittsburgh faster. Never know.

Comment From TS: Sounds like Neal's latest quote, and I'm paraphrasing, about the "fair" contract offer and that we "loved" having Jason Grilli here..." smacks of dismissiveness. What say you, oh great one?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure what you mean by dismissiveness. You mean that the Pirates won't get him?

Can't say. We'll see.

I'll repeat: It would be intelligent to keep Grilli.

Comment From PirateApologist: Non-sports lightning round - I read my first comic book this week based upon following your blogs throughout the years. "Watchmen." Loved it. Wouldn't say I'm hooked on comics, but name the next one I should read.

Dejan Kovacevic: Best piece of literature - any kind - I've ever read.

Next on your list is Frank Miller's original "Dark Knight." We'll go from there.

Comment From NHL Podium: I need a visitor

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! It's funny, but I'm typing in the room right now where the Twitter-famous podium would normally be. Alas, the stage is sadly empty.

Comment From Guest: Any noticeable change in access that you've received from the Pirates front office over the past few months?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean beyond the half-hour sitdown interview I just got with Bob Nutting two weeks ago?

At his invitation?

Comment From carisi_99: What does it say about Max Starks that his name is rarely mentioned? I rarely hear his name, either positive or negative, during games or in analysis and coverage after the games. LT was a disaster before he got here last year, hope he sticks around for awhile.

Dejan Kovacevic: Best possible thing. Max has graded well all season. A true pro. Let's hope the Steelers and Starks don't go through another summer-long charade next year and just acknowledge he'll be their left tackle.

Couple more today ...

Comment From Drew6668: Bucs resigned Grilli!

Dejan Kovacevic: No, apparently not yet. I'm checking the Twitter feed in between Qs, and Grilli just vehemently denied the reports, adding, "They're not helping my situation."

Pirates fans should hope he DOES sign. Good pitcher.

Comment From IndefenseofDejan: With attribution and apologies to H L Mencken: "The notion that Dejan is a radical who hates the Pittsburgh Pirates is naïve and idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes the Pittsburgh Pirates as much or more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees the Pittsburgh Pirates being destroyed and debauched by their management every year. He is not a bad citizen turning to ridicule and negativity; he is a good citizen driven to despair."

Dejan Kovacevic: Nicely played. One more today, and let's go with hockey since I'm here ...

Comment From andrew long island: nhl season or fiscal cliff averted first?

Dejan Kovacevic: I can guarantee you that federal mediators in the fiscal cliff talks wouldn't storm out after two days, as they did here last week.

If you're asking me to predict what happens here now, to me, this is all just way too close to let fall apart now. Last word we've gotten even during this chat session is that they're now debating pensions. That's not a deal-breaker.

Someone above asked about my being a fan. I'm a fan of the beautiful sport of hockey, and I can't wait to watch it again. Hoping it happens.

Thanks to all for participating.

Columns run Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The radio show is Tuesday, this chat Thursday. And all the blanks are filled in by the blog, which could clean you on a faceoff right now.

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