The Prodigal Son Returns?

So Antoine Walker is back with the Celtics. After a sleeping on it for a night, I feel a lot better about this, excited even. I can’t wait to see how he fits into what Doc Rivers is doing. It could very well be a prodigal son situation…Antoine returns to the family, humbled after traveling abroad and thankful for what he once took for granted. The larger questions at the moment are: Is Gary Payton going to return…and what is Antoine’s future beyond this year? A busy day today and lots to go through. We’ll look at the Walker deal, the media coverage of it, get spring training updates, a Tedy Bruschi update and one or two other items.

First, Antoine. Bob Ryan is in a difficult position. He’s been a Danny Ainge backer, but he was also a noted critic of Antoine Walker the basketball player. He was happy when Ainge shipped Walker out of town a year and a half ago, but now Ainge has seemingly done a 180 and brought Walker back. Ryan can’t quite figure it out. Lenny Megliola similarly has no idea is this is a good move or not for the Celtics. Bill Reynolds says at the very least, the team will be more interesting to follow for the rest of the season. Tim Weisberg says the move was a good one for the Celtics, even if Payton doesn’t return to the club. Walker could move into a point forward role in that. (Interestingly, the original NBA “point forward” is on the Celtics sidelines in the form of assistant coach Paul Pressey) Steve Bulpett says that with this move, the Celtics have sent the message that they’re looking to not only make the playoffs, but make some noise there as well.

Mark Murphy gets some quotes from Antoine, who is excited to be coming back, but hopes that this is not just a two month stay. Shira Springer also has the quotes, as well as an extensive look at the trade and what it means for the Celtics. She brings up the issues of uniform number – brought up by a couple others as well – apparently unaware that the NBA does not allow in-season uniform number changes, as stated by Ainge on WEEI this morning. Gabe Kahn has a look at his reactions on hearing the trade and Ainge’s press conference on it. Michael Gee (subscription only) does not understand the move, calling it “a case study of the devastating effects of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.” Christopher Price is glad to have Antoine back with the Celtics because he is someone who appreciates what it means to play for the Celtics. Carolyn Thornton also has coverage of the trade. The Celtics made another trade yesterday, shipping Jiri Welsch to Cleveland in exchange for a 2007 first round draft pick. Murphy also reports on the intriguing possibility that Payton could be returning to the Celtics after being waived by the Hawks. This would make the trade a slam dunk for Ainge.

Update – (2:00 PM) What’s the real deal with uniform numbers and the NBA? It might be that rookies can change their number. It’s happening in Philly with Chris Webber taking # 4 from rookie Andre Iguodala.

The coverage of the trade yesterday was dominated by WWZN. Yes, I realize that WEEI doesn’t care about the Celtics. (Even though they run that blurb “The 50,000 watt home of Boston Celtics Basketball…talk”) With Glenn Ordway not in the Big Chair yesterday to lend even a hint of basketball (and Antoine Walker) knowledge to the discussion, Celtics fans were left frustrated at the level of discussion on the program. The station did not even report the news until about 45 minutes after WWZN first had it. (Update – A WEEI offical tells me the difference was only 20 minutes) Pete Sheppard was hosting, along with Steve DeOssie and Steve Burton. It says something when DeOssie was arguably the one who knew the most about the Celtics and could talk at least a little bit about them. Burton, as usual, played the role of the empty vest. The fact that it was the NBA trade deadline day and they couldn’t schedule one co-host who knew at least a little basketball to work that day, shows how little the station cares about being a complete sports station. Come to think of it, who on the station really knows anything about the NBA? Michael Holley immediately becomes the leader in that clubhouse. Ordway still goes by how things were in the 1980’s.

On the other hand, Ryen Russillo broke the news on WWZN right around the 3:00 deadline, and the rest of the afternoon was dedicated to the topic, even bringing on guests to discuss the move, such as Bill Simmons from ESPN.com and Tim Weisberg from the New Bedford Standard-Times. Simmons was able to explain a lot of the reasoning behind the trade, and asserted that his gut told him that Payton would be returning, as it just didn’t make sense for Ainge to be making a playoff push with Walker, yet be throwing two young point guards into the fire at the same time. He also told us a lot about meeting the janitor from The Breakfast Club. Weisberg said that Mark Blount would likely be the one to lose minutes as a result of this trade. (Ainge on WEEI this morning said it might be Perkins that would lose minutes – he’s not as down on Blount as many people are.) They also discussed the number issue – stating that the NBA doesn’t allow in-season number changes. They discussed how the move consolidated three expiring contracts (Payton, Stewart and Gugliotta) into one (Walker) for this coming offseason. Russillo also quickly discussed the idea of Payton being released by the Hawks and being re-signed, an idea shouted down by Pete Sheppard when a caller brought it up on WEEI. Steve Burton insisted that Payton could report to Atlanta, because everybody said he wouldn’t report here and yet he did. A little different situation, Steve.

Curt takes the mound

Curt Schilling threw off a mound for the first time since game two of the World Series yesterday and said he felt no pain in the ankle, however Jeff Horrigan and David Borges report that Schilling was dissatisfied with how “sluggish” his arm felt throwing the ball for the first time. David Heuschkel also reports on the session, noting how Schilling was “expecting a lot more” out himself. Steven Krasner also looks at Schilling’s self-proclaimed “disappointing” outing. Karen Guregian says that Schilling seemed to give some people a false alarm with his reaction to his throwing session as he limped off, shaking his head.

Dan Shaughnessy gives us random thoughts on Spring Training thus far, touching on topics such as Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds, the Ghost of Nomar, and Hunter S Thompson. He bravely says that the best thing about spring training thus far is that people aren’t walking around saying “Is this the year?” Gerry Callahan (subscription only) tells us that David Wells is a good replacement for Pedro Martinez…in attitude and mannerisms. It’s been amusing/frustrating this week hearing Dennis & Callahan trash people…Jim Rice, Kevin Millar and Wells to name a few and then be all nice and complimentary to them on the air. Yesterday John Dennis said very vehemently how Wells was such a “sour” person and that he put new meaning into the phrase “bitches and catchers” reporting. Yet today, Wells was on the program and they were as nice as can be to him, buddying up with him, talking about his hunting lodge in Michigan and other niceties.

David Scott files installment two of the BSMW spring training caravan. Jeff Jacobs and Nick Taveres look at Barry Bonds comments earlier this week, with Jacobs calling the session an “HBO comedy special”. Michael Gee has an article on how the Red Sox and Yankees being in the same division is boring for baseball and the other teams in the division. Horrigan’s notebook reveals that even guys like Abe Alverez and Brandon Puffer are going to be getting World Series rings from the Red Sox. Chris Snow’s notebook looks at Schilling’s mound session. Krasner’s notebook reports on Keith Foulke and Wade Miller’s long toss sessions. Borges’ notebook has the last Red Sox captain, Jim Rice, endorsing the captaincy of Jason Varitek.

Things looking up for Tedy?

Michael Felger says reports are encouraging on Tedy Bruschi, who is expected to conduct some interviews sometime next week. He also reports on what the Patriots might be doing at the combine. I think today’s piece is an example of what Felger brings to the table. He gets stories. He misses on some, but all reporters do. He’s consistently got stuff however, that most of the others don’t. Jerome Solomon reports on Maurice Clarett at the combine for the Globe. It appears that Solomon might’ve inherited Nick Cafardo’s Rolodex as Tom Donahoe and Mike Mularkey are quoted throughout the piece.

BC Angry

Make Shalin reports on the BC Eagles feeling the sting of the loss to Villanova, while Michael Vega says the team is still in excellent shape to wrap up the Big East regular season title and top seed.

Media/Tonight

Jim Baker looks at College basketball taking over the airwaves. Bill Griffith looks at the possible acquisition of FSN New England by Comcast and what that could mean for programming. Andrew Neff takes a look at the spring training TV schedule for the Red Sox.

FSN has Celtics/Jazz at 9:00 (Ainge said that he hopes to have Walker in uniform for tonight) ESPN has Cavs/Pacers at 8:00 and Pistons/Lakers at 10:30.

‘Toine back in town

Ryen Russillo of 1510 the Zone first reported locally that Antoine Walker is back with the Celtics in a trade for Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta and Michael Stewart. Russillo has become the Celtics insider in the Boston media, as no one has broken as many stories about the team as he has the last couple years.

It was also reported at 3:18 in an ESPN Insider chat. It’s now also on the homepage of ESPN.com, along with a short report. The Herald has the story as well, with Steve Bulpett, who also says that the Celtics will surrender the “lesser of their first round picks this season”. Boston.com finally has an update as well, with Shira Springer saying that the Celtics are “in the process of reaquiring Walker”.

While I was a big Antoine fan while he was here before, I was initially pretty shocked and baffled by this move. Gary Payton can’t be happy about going to the Hawks, either. There’s some speculation that Payton will simply not report to the Hawks, be cut by them and then be free to sign with a Western contender. (or as a very remote possibility, back here in Boston) WWZN is now also reporting that Payton is expected to be released by the Hawks.

It will be interesting to see how Walker plays under Doc Rivers and not Jim O’Brien. I think he can bring some leadership to the team, and will take the heat…something that he always did willingly during his tenure here, but where does he fit? Is it just a rental through this season? Does Ainge have a free agent target for the offseason?

Has anyone checked on Bob Ryan?

Rough night on the road

It was a rough night on the hardwood for the locals last night, as both the Celtics and Boston College fell on the road. Also on tap are a couple Mark Bellhorn articles, reports on the Opening day ring ceremony, a note from Howard Bryant, and some interesting speculation on the Patriots from Michael Felger.

Shira Springer and Steve Bulpett bring us the reports of the Celtics getting routed in Denver by the Nuggets. The trade deadline is at 3:00 PM this afternoon, and according the Bulpett’s notebook, it doesn’t look like Gary Payton is going anywhere, in fact, he cites a league source that says Payton and the Celtics are talking about a new contract. He does say though that Jeri Welsch is a strong candidate to be traded today. Tim Weisberg has an article on possible moves involving the Celtics today. Springer’s notebook has Danny Ainge saying that there is “nothing going on” in regards to the trade front. An excellent resource for tracking the Celtics trades and rumored trades today is the Celtics Blog.

BC Falls

Michael Vega and Mike Shalin have the details of BC’s 76-70 loss at Villanova last night, only the second of the season for the #3 ranked Eagles. Ted Sarandis was going nuts over the officiating last night on his broadcast, and the home town calls for Villanova is the subject of Shalin’s notebook, in which Craig Smith muses over the favorable officiating received by the Wildcats.

Red Sox ringing in the new season

David Scott is once again providing a Spring Training caravan (still looking for sponsors) for BSMW. Today is the first entry in the series as he hits Florida running in anticipation of today’s visit to the Nationals training site.

Jeff Horrigan and Chris Snow each have articles on Mark Bellhorn this morning, as the Red Sox second baseman is looking to put together productive back-to-back seasons, something that has eluded the extremely quiet Bellhorn for a number of years now. Dan Shaughnessy tells us the tale of a Red Sox film that will never be seen by the public…Mike Timlin’s “The New Red Sox Movie”, shot by Timlin during the playoffs last year and then sent to a professional videomaker for touching up. Timlin sent a copy to all his teammates, members of the front office and clubhouse personnel. Karen Guregian has a short look at reserve outfielder Jay Payton.

Yes, the rabid dogs can be called off…the Red Sox will receive their World Series rings during a ceremony on Opening Day. David Heuschkel reports on the decision and also has reaction from George Steinbrenner and Derek Jeter. David Borges also looks at the planned celebration, which is planned to happen in a “triple crown” fashion. Steven Krasner and Karen Guregian have more on the plans. Snow’s notebook also mentions the event as does Horrigan’s notebook. Krasner’s notebook looks at the Red Sox…including Pedro Martinez…being invited to the White House on March 2. Borges’ notebook also reports on the invitation.

Howard Bryant (subscription only) examines how the Blue Jays, Orioles and Devil Rays can possibly hope to compete while in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox. Their payrolls are 50 million, 48 million and 26 million respectively. The Yankees will spend over 200 million, while the Red Sox will spend 135 million. Speaking of Bryant, I had wondered out loud yesterday about his reference to Gary Sheffield as a “cool cat”. Bryant sent me an email last night and with his permission it is reprinted here:

----- Original Message -----
From: Howard Bryant
To: Bruce Allen
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2005 7:02 PM
Subject: Cool cats

Hi Bruce,

I've been alerted that you wondered aloud about my calling Gary Sheffield one of the "coolest cats around." I took a look on the site and saw the reference. My response is very simple:

He is.

Sheffield is totally unvarished. Never off the record, sometimes contradictory, but always interesting. He does not shy away from uncomfortable topics and will tell you that you're full of sh*t, if indeed you are. He's not a polished pol like Alex Rodriguez, whose image is so carefully cultivated that you don't really know if he knows himself. Nor is he like Nomar Garciaparra, who has strong opinions and could be a very interesting person but whose quirks and suspicions (and hatred of my profession) are so strong that he will never let you see him.

There are others, guys who "get it" in a lot of ways. They make the job easier; you can talk to them about everything, instead of standing in the middle of the room with the other hacks. They give you insight about the life and have, unimpeachable style.

My cool cat list is short, but I will defend it:

Gary Sheffield
David Ortiz
Jason Giambi
Dmitri Young (the only one on the list I never covered)
Robin Ventura
Frank Menechino
Pokey Reese
Barry Zito
Ellis Burks
Tony Phillips (Sorry, he belongs on the Krazy Kat list)
Rondell White
Orlando Hernandez

They all get that designation from me. The problem is that three of those guys have already retired.

Feel free to publish my response.

HB

It wasn’t a big deal, but I appreciate the response. I guess I was just wondering what image is being presented when a guy who has admitted to using steroids, (though he claims is was unknowing use) is being called one of the “coolest cats around”. I understand what Bryant was trying to say here, I guess I’m just uncomfortable with the word “cool” being associated in any context with a steroid user. That doesn’t take into consideration the admission from Sheffield that he was deliberately making errors in an effort to get himself traded from the early 1990’s Brewers.

BB as OC of the NEP?

Michael Felger reports on the Patriots hiring a couple assistant coaches and releasing four players yesterday. Joel Collier was hired as assistant secondary coach, and you might recall as pointed out by Felger that he was promoted to be the Dolphins offensive coordinator last year, but quickly stepped down from that position. He served as the Dolphins running backs coach, but had also coached on the defensive side of the ball for his first four season in Miami. He had also coached on the Patriots under Dick MacPherson. Here is an article on Collier from last year on the NFLHS website. Felger also speculates that the Patriots may not name an offensive coordinator at all, instead perhaps choosing to spread out the duties among several members of the staff. Michael Parente and Tom E Curran also have reports on the moves. Nothing from the Globe.

Misc

Bill Reynolds has a piece on Jimmy Walker, who was passed last night by Ryan Gomes as Providence College’s all time leading scorer. Jackie MacMullan has a feature on Boston College women’s basketball player Jessalyn Deveny, who was the team’s captain and top scorer, but who suffered a torn right Achilles’ which ended her college career.

Media/Tonight

Bill Griffith, Lenny Megliola and Dean Johnson all have reports on WEEI announcing the hiring of Michael Holley to co-host alongside Dale Arnold the 10-2 “Dale & Holley” show, which will begin March 1st. John Molori’s Media Blitz has Steve DeOssie weighing in on the steroid issue.

TNT has Sixers/Knicks at 7:00 and Kings/Mavs at 9:30. ESPN2 has Marquette/Cincinnati at 9:00 and Gonzaga/Portland at 11:00. NESN has the replay of World Series Game 3 Red Sox/Cardinals.