Wed, 17 February 2016
The Celtics are H-O-T hot. Brad Steven's crew is on a 10-2 run leading up to the All-Star break, and have a feel of the “it” team right now. With thrilling wins over psuedo-rival Lebron James and his top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, and the four seed in the west Clippers, the green team has created a buzz around it not seen in a few years. And I'm not just talking locally either - the Cs are making noise and being heard around the league.
The problem is the Celtics don't have a superstar. And in the star-driven NBA, in order for them to win and beat quality opponents, they have to play good team basketball, and play it with grit, determination and resilience. That's the kind of ball we love in Boston. We will give a team a lot of slack on wins and losses if they are busting their asses and giving a real effort every game. Yet, its been a long time since any NBA team won it all without a superstar, or two, or three. So if the Cs are ever going to be more than a gritty pretender, they need to do some wheeling and dealing, and do it by noon tomorrow the 18th. Fortunately, trader Danny Ainge is, as usual, very active in the talks. He didn't get the nickname trader Danny by accident. A new name is attached to trade rumors every day; Dwight Howard (no, please no), James Harden, Kevin Love (yes), Blake Griffin, Al Horford, Boogie Cousins . . . perhaps a combination of some such. I'm betting something gets done, too much noise and too many possibilities.
However, Celtics ownership has come out and low-keyed things, professing no urgency to get a deal done or bring in a big man superstar to get them to the next level. I call BS on that. When does a professional sports franchise front office ever tell the truth to the media around the trade deadline? Yeah, never. And to his credit, trader Danny is an accomplished, experienced fibber in this arena. I think we will see a blockbuster trade this week that at least significantly if not drastically improves the team.
I'm officially getting stoked on the Cs. Imagine: Ainge gets Love, he fits in here like the missing link, Thomas and Love light it up, we get to Game 7 in the East finals against the Cavs . . . Would that not be a blast? Boston would be bathed in green in May and June, and not because it's springtime.
Which brings me around to my admission of being a C's band-wagon rider. I keep an eye on them always, but I make no disguise of my diminished love of the NBA game and the Celtics. There was a time when I was a steady, regular fan. I loved the Big Three in the 80's, just as I was becoming a young sports fan. That impressionable time in one's life when you legit LOVE your local sports team, go ga-ga over them. Your emotions swing with their highs and lows. And when Magic drops a last-second baby hook runner to tear your heart out, it feels like the end of the world. That's what the Celtics meant to me thirty years ago. The Reggie Lewis years and the Walker-Pierce run of 2003-04 were fun, but by then the game had changed and the NBA had sunk to a distant 4th in my sports priorities.
The new Big Three run with Garnett, Pierce and Allen was awesome; I was back on the wagon then. It didn't last long though did it? I'm not alone in thinking we got gypped out of at least that 2nd championship, and a few more years of high-level play. The new Big Three got old quickly. Ask the Brooklyn Nets about that.
Besides rooting for the Celtics being at times difficult, the game itself is not as entertaining. It has become one in which a team must have a superstar or two to compete for a championship. There is no parity. There is no sense that on any given Sunday . . . And the games themselves are dominated by hero ball, ticky-tack fouls, superstar favoritism, and long-stretches of irrelevant play. Too often only the last several minutes are important in deciding the outcome. The first 3 quarters are frequently meaningless and unentertaining.
Even with all that working against it, I can be sucked back in quite easily. Just give me a dynamic, exciting team and some hope for the games to mean something in the Spring and I'm in. So bring in Kevin Love, give Cleveland or New York a Brooklyn pick. Leverage the assets we have for a big-time player. Let's get this team deep into the playoffs. We already have a piece to build with, IT, our All-Star. Give him a playmate or two and see if coach Stevens can get this team to game 7 or beyond. Boston will be a green town once again, and I'm on board.
Category:general -- posted at: 7:34am EST
Thu, 4 February 2016
The Sports Fan's Dead Zone
It's January 31st and it's 60 degrees outside. It feels like spring is in the air, but don't be fooled. On this day last year winter was just getting going on its way to a record-breaking month of snowfall and blizzards. Remember getting 3 feet of snow, then 2 feet, then a foot, then another 2 feet, day after day, week after week; it just kept falling, piling up to heights not seen before in this corner of the world.
At least we had that excitement last year. The sports fan's Dead Zone is upon us and there aren't any Winter Hurricane Blizzard Super Storm Whomevers coming to keep us occupied. The Dead Zone lasts from whenever the Patriots season ends (1 game too soon this year) to when the Red Sox season begins. The Dead Zone can be delayed by a compelling Super Bowl, which I think this year's is. Roughly we are talking about the period of time from late January to early April. It encompasses the whole month of March. Sure March Madness occurs during this time, but who cares? Seriously, does anybody around here give two flips about college basketball? I haven't paid close attention since the great UMASS teams of the nineties. Sure, every so often Boston College will make some noise and I'll pay attention, and maybe I'll tune in for the Final Four and beyond. But other than that, if the Bruins and Celtics aren't interesting, this time of year is dead.
Unless your thing is All-Star games, of course. And if it is, you have some explaining to do. Hard-core gamblers, okay, I understand it, gotta feed your jones - gamble on. But if you're not risking your paycheck on the NFL Pro Bowl, then why the hell are you watching it?! Team Irvin, team Rice, or whatever the new gimmick was this year - nobody is playing real football, it's not entertaining. How about Team I Don't Give a Crap?
The NHL All-Star game is kind of a joke too. Like the Pro Bowl, the NHL now tries a new gimmick every year to try and make it relevant, aka get higher ratings. This year's 3 on 3 play was a brave attempt at entertainment by the NHL, and its skills competitions are kind of cool. But there was no game to watch, no competition where the stakes are high. The saga of John Scott was the most noteworthy thing about the game.
These all-star events are becoming less about a game where the outcome matters, and more about a weekend of events and irrelevant mini-competitions designed to get ratings. They aren't a showcase of the best at their sport doing what they do at the highest level, and trying to win an important game in their given sport. Perhaps a league will get the formula right some day and an all-star event will mean something again. Until then, they are denizens of the Dead Zone.
What about the Bruins and Celtics? First of all, they are very clearly the 3rd and 4th most important sports in New England. When one of them makes a playoff run or builds a consistent winner, they become more relevant but still won't ever top the Sox and Pats. Secondly, even when the Bs and Cs are competitive, which they both are to some degree this year, February and March can be a real drag. Hockey and basketball teams only play two or three games a week and given that their schedules are bloated and need trimming, some of these games can get dull. Even the players take nights off during the season. They get bored this time of year too!
Spring training at JetBlue Park, with its sun-splashed palm trees and golf-course tanned broadcasters, does provide some relief from the Dead Zone, but it's still a tease. Getting up to speed on the new guys, Greg Kimbrel and David Price most notably, and wondering if Hanley Ramirez will yank a hammy the first time he bends over at first base, will only make us crave the real deal. Watching spring training games is not my idea of a good time. It's similar to watching all-star games; the results don't matter, it's not real competition.
So we take comfort in an old New Englander habit, desperately looking forward to the Spring. The coming of Spring is a time of hope and rebirth, when daylight holds on a little longer every day, mud-colored snow piles slowly give way to grass and pavement and the robins return to signal in each new day. It's a time to assess what was, the Patriots' season was a bust, and anticipate what could be, the Red Sox look like a potential contender.
After all, truck day is only a week away and pitchers and catchers report on February 18th.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:46pm EST
Sun, 20 December 2015
Gronk is the Patriots MVP
But isn't Brady winning the league MVP?
BP 2: 12/17/2015
Rob Gronkowski is the most valuable player on this 2015 Patriots roster. He showed us why over the past 2-3 weeks. I’m talking about the injury to his knee, which looked worse than it turned out to be. Whose stomach didn’t plummet when they saw him go down and writhe in pain? Would we have the same sinking feeling if Tom Brady went down like that? YES, YES, YES! Sixty-nine thousand Yeses!
In fact, I think both players are the heart and soul of the team. Losing either of them would devastate the chances this team has to win its 5th Superbowl title.
Tom Brady is the Greatest Of All Time finally and firmly recognized as the GOAT after Superbowl win number four last year. To conclude his GOATness became easy after last year. Brady is simply the best all-around quarterback who ever played, period. He wins games, division titles, leads the Pats to conference championship games. He battles in Superbowls at an astonishing rate. If you’re being honest with yourself, Patriot fan or not, you know he is the winningest quarterback who ever played. The only two pieces I (and I suspect many others) needed to have in place in order for me to fully consider him the GOAT, were career stats excellence (not just volume but consistency, efficiency, passer rating etc.) and that fourth, glimmering, audacious ring.
Done and done. Tom Brady is the GOAT.
He is having an exceptional 2015. This is why I almost cannot believe I am making this argument, I love Brady, like in a - he’s my hero even though I’m 42 and have never met him – way. Its incredible to see him put together this late career burst of elite-level play. From 2010 – 2014 he averaged 4,482 yards passing, a 63.82 completion percentage, 7.62 yards per attempt, 33 touchdowns, less than 9 picks, 280 yards per game, a passer rating of exactly 100 and a microscopic 1.46% pick ratio; all either leading the league or in the top 10. Now this year - Brady is only exceeding each of those numbers, and a dozen more, all the while leading a wickedly injured offense to the #1 seed in the AFC as of week 15. He is the GOAT indeed.
However, he’s not the Patriots 2015 MVP. The team is more dependent on Gronk to create wins with not only his performance, but his presence. He alters opponent game plans, creates multiple mismatches with the opponent’s secondary. His presence alone allows the Pats to execute their offense to the high degree of efficiency and productivity that has become their norm since 2010. Now throw in Gronk’s performance; the catches, runs, touchdowns, blocks; whatever else he so astonishingly and recklessly does on the gridiron, and you have a player that is the functioning heart of the team.
The proof is in the results; you can’t escape the facts. The team doesn’t have as much of a chance to win games when Gronk is not playing. With Gronk the Pats are 11-1, without Gronk they are 0-1. Yes, a very skewed sample and Julian Edelman is out also. But a closer look at the loss to the Eagles shows an offense that struggled mightily without Gronk’s presence. Brady threw for a very Tebow-ish 51.8% completion percentage, 5.6 yards/attempt, and a 71.40 passer rating, both season lows. Tossing around a couple picks completely stuck a fork in it
It was an awful game all around for the Patriots. Did the special teams decide to take a day off? Were they depressed or something? They played like they were dosed on Sereoquel. And the offense didn’t - couldn’t– perform well. A sub 50% 3rd-down percentage (7/17) and the inability of the pass catching core to get open left Brady with no one else to throw to but the ghost of Brandon LaFell. No joke, I saw a BOLO for Jojo on one of those LED Highway billboards over the Mass Pike.
Brady was there doing the best he could, but the difference between victory and defeat was the lack of big number eighty-seven out there.
It hurts to say it, I feel like I’m betraying #12.
Where is my loyalty as a fan?
I should always want him to win the MVP every year! I think he should most years! But I can’t ignore what my eyes and the results on the field are telling me.
After all that I have to tell you I think Cam Newton is the MVP before either of them!
Category:general -- posted at: 2:31am EST
Fri, 17 April 2015
Cam Neely and Charlie Jacobs made the first good decision necessary to turn the Bruins’ fortunes around. They canned GM Peter Chiarelli. I’ve been saying this team may need to start over for months, conditioned upon how the regular season played out, playoffs or no playoffs, how deep they go in the playoffs. Hockey and professional sports in general are results based enterprises. Just like much of professional life, results determine your future, your salary, your position and relative power and responsibilities. And of course whether or not you remain employed.
This season’s result - the Bruins failing to make the playoffs heads have to roll. It is unacceptable in Boston to have a team fail that is supposed to be in their championship window. Chiarelli, and soon Head Coach Claude Julien, suffer the consequences.
Julien has to go for two reasons as I see it – for not adapting to the speed game the NHL is adopting and for not being willing and/or able to develop young forwards past and future.
If the Bruins are going to turn it around and get back to being an elite team in the east, they need to do a better job of bringing along and accepting the mistakes of young talented forwards Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak, not punishing them every time they don’t get back on defense quickly or effectively. Julien’s impatience with young forwards, as opposed to his patience with young defensemen, was evident in how he handled Spooner early this season, criticizing him the media and limiting his ice time.
The team needs offense! My concern is that Julien won’t develop Spooner and Pastrnak and we will see more offensive talent wasted, as has happened in recent years with Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel. Julien is great defensive coach, no doubt, but he is not the coach to have in place if the team is going to move towards a faster game with more offensive potential.
Make no mistake, the players deserve a large slice of the blame pie too. Perhaps the biggest slice. They are getting theirs. Danny Paille and Greg Campbell won’t be resigned. There will be more changes coming.
Kudos Cam and Mr. Jacobs, bouncing Chiarelli is the right first move. Let’s hope more of the same is on the way.
Category:general -- posted at: 5:44pm EST
Fri, 6 February 2015
How glorious was that Super Bowl win?!
Four days on and I am still mentally pinching myself a few times a day. Did that really happen? Did we finally get the elusive 4th title? Did it really happen in such dramatic fashion, in doubt until the very end?
The euphoria we all felt when our new local hero, Malcolm Butler, grabbed that interception made it all worth it. It - the anguish and mini heart attacks, the moments of despair, the roller coaster ride of a season.
After week four, some of us (myself included? nah . . .) were ready to put Jimmy G in. Brady was done, his skills had fallen off the cliff. Yeah sure. That’s the same guy who went 13 for 15 for 116 yards and 2 TDs for a passer rating over 140 in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.
You can have Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning et al. Give me TB12 all day any day. He didn’t throw for 55 TDs and 5,000 yards this year, but so what. Manning did that last year and look what it got him. But that’s an old story with Manning, big regular season stats small postseason results. 12 showed what he is all about in that 4th quarter. He went 8 for 8 on the final drive and threw for the game winning TD against the best secondary in the game, the “Legion of Boom.” He was stepping up in the pocket, unleashing laser-guided bullets, while staying calm and cool and displaying the leadership his team needed in that high pressure, high stakes moment.
Malcolm Butler is the hero, and he deserves to be. The play he made to seal the win was All-Pro, clutch, ballsy, you name it. The more I watch that play the more impressed I am. It was the synthesis of preparation, awareness and athletic ability. It was the perfect storm of everything that makes the Patriots winners - coaching and situational execution at the most important moment of the season. However, Malcolm Butler isn’t in position to make that play unless Tom Brady engineers the comeback in the 4th quarter.
Is Brady the best quarterback in the game right now? Maybe not, Aaron Rodgers is pretty damn good.
Is Brady the best quarterback of all time? Yes he is; but I thought he was before the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX.
And if 12 is still doing his thing, then the Patriots are capable of winning Lombardis year in year out.
Don’t sleep on Brady; he’s not done yet.
Category:general -- posted at: 1:25pm EST
Sun, 13 July 2014
Joe and Shawn return from a summer hiatus to discuss Lebron, World Cup action, the youth movement of the Red Sox and predictions for the Patriots season.