John Dennis feels last night’s

John Dennis feels last night’s Vin Baker performance (9 points, 3 rebounds) is cause for celebration, because Vinny “tried” and was “fired up” and “aggressive”. The papers focus on different storylines from the game. Shira Springer writes about the Celtics managing to barely hang on after building a 23 point third quarter lead. She mentions almost casually that “Boston managed to pull out the victory despite…losing Paul Pierce (14 points in 16 minutes) to a mild right groin strain at the end of the second quarter.” Steve Bulpett, however focuses on Pierce’s injury, noting that he is doubtful for the next game on the trip, in Portland. As for Baker, Peter May notes that he was not a distraction to the team last night, and includes some snippy quotes from Walker directed at reporters at the end. Bulpett looks at some of the reactions Bakers return elicited in Seattle, from ads on radios stations, to parodies for the “Vin Baker Lack of Energy Bar”. Hopefully that bonehead from Seattle that was on WWZN last week did in fact go into shock at seeing Baker appear. Seattle may be laughing at the Celtics for the trade, but the Celtics have pretty much laughed at the Sonics on the court in two meetings this season. Springer also gets some thoughts from the Boston lockerroom on Bakers’ performance. Bulpett’s notebook has Pierce and Walker pretty steamed over their benching in the All Star game.

The Bruins didn’t start out their trip so well. They got stonewalled by the guy who replaced Jeff Hackett as Montreal’s backup goalie. Stephen Harris looks at the lack of scoring at the reason for the B’s loss and recent slide. Kevin Paul Dupont says the effort was there, and the Bruins did a lot of things well…except win. Dan Hickling says the Bruins simply didn’t know enough about Mathieu Garon to do anything with him. Harris’ notebook looks Garon, the Montreal goalie, whereas Dupont’s notebook looks at Hackett finally being able to move on, and Joe Thornton coming up early to get his green card. Hickling’s notebook looks at some bad feelings between the Bruins and Canadiens.

It’s time for the annual “Questions heading into Spring training” articles. Tony Massarotti addresses nine questions going in, he’s positive at some times, skeptical at others. (How many of these are really “burning” questions though?) John Tomase puts forth five questions, while noting that Sox do need another starter. Gordon Edes profiles the Red Sox Aussie contingent, led by assistant GM Craig Shipley, and roster hopeful Dave Nilsson. Jeff Horigan catches up with Jeremy Giambi, who arrived at camp yesterday and started work immediately. He says all the right things, and it’s possible the guy could have a breakout year. Horrigan’s notebook has Pedro set to arrive on time, and to Steve Buckley’s chagrin, Giambi has been given uniform number 25. (Tony C’s number) Who has odds on when Buck writes that Giambi is a disgrace to that number? Edes’ notebook looks at a possible resolution in the Millar drama, and some pitching notes. Dave Dyer looks at Haverhill’s Carlos Pena, hoping to make an impact with the Tigers this year.

Alan Greenberg looks at Belichick and company holed up in the bunker, looking to improve the team. Greenberg notes Belichick’s “mediocre” draft record and says the Pats will likely be saying goodbye to Willie McGinest. Michael Felger disagrees, noting that the Patriots and McGinest are already talking about a new deal to keep in him New England for the rest of his career. McGinest wants to stay, and the team is trying to put it together. Nick Cafardo is pushing for the Pats to draft a couple D-lineman and has an update on Tebucky Jones and a couple other sundry items. Gerry Callahan thinks the whole minority interviewing mandate from the NFL is a joke. Teams get labeled as insensitive racially, when they hire the best coach out there, as Dallas and Detroit did, but teams that go through the charade of interviewing minority candidates and then hire a retread from the good ol’ boys network, like the 49ers did, get praised for their interviews of Crennel, Cottrell and Blache. Callahan asserts that there is no racism in the NFL, teams will hire who they think gives them the best chance to win. The black coaches are being used as shields in the interviewing process.

Bill Griffth and Jim Baker look at announcements made by the TV networks yesterday.

NESN has Boston CollegeProvidence hoops at 7:00. ESPN has Virginia/North Carolina at 7:00 and Mavs/Bucks at 9:00. ESPN2 has Maple Leafs/Blackhawks at 8:00.

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