The NBA playoffs have begun

(Sunday links by Bryan, [email protected])

Some abbreviated links this Sunday evening after watching back-and-forth beanballs and ejections during the Red Sox-Devil Rays game …

There have been several interesting articles today from the local press. The NFL Draft, Celtics, and baseball are all on tap. One last call to e-mail me your thoughts on the media coverage this weekend. I’m hoping to put together a mailbag of sorts later tonight.

Young guns spark Celtics
The playoffs began in roaring fashion for the Celtics with a 102-82 pasting of the Pacers last night at the Fleet (box score). The Boston bench, which broke open the game in the second quarter, is the subject of much praise by Jackie MacMullan. A column from Dan Shaughnessy, meanwhile, notes that the victory was the 12th straight in the playoffs for Boston’s major sports teams. Like MacMullan, Howard Bryant (online subscription required) is impressed with the Celtics’ second unit, and he writes that the fortunes of Al Jefferson, Marcus Banks, Delonte West, and Tony Allen have come a long way in the past year.

NFL Draft
The NFL Draft is complete, and Mike Reiss continues to provide the most up-to-date local coverage of New England’s selections in his Reiss’ Pieces blog.

On to the analyses of team’s performance yesterday, when the Patriots drafted Logan Mankins in the first round (No. 32 overall), and Ellis Hobbs III (No. 84) and Nick Kaczur (No. 100) in the third round.

Ron Borges delivers a positive review in the Globe:

When you are picking dead last, it is difficult to maximize your position, but Belichick and player personnel director Scott Pioli appeared to do that, then improved the team further with a solid trade, holding the Ravens up for three picks so they could get a shot at a player they wanted at the tail end of the second round.

It’s a decidedly different tune from the Herald’s Kevin Mannix. While he doesn’t bash the talent of Mankins, Mannix does question the wisdom of taking the offensive lineman in the first round:

Nobody's perfect, even three-time Super Bowl champions.

That's pretty much the bottom line on the Patriots' first day of activity in the NFL draft. When your first two picks net you a projected interior lineman (Fresno State's Logan Mankins) and an undersized, unheralded defensive back (Ellis Hobbs III) you haven't gotten the value of either pick.

In the ProJo, Tom E. Curran writes that Mankins will slide in nicely on the left side of the Patriots’ offensive line. Christopher Price also has a look at Mankins and his propensity for delivering “pancake-knockdown” blocks. Lamar Lopez reports on the Lankins selection for the Fresno Bee.

Lastly, Cold, Hard Football Facts examines the very inexact science of mock drafts, and rates the accuracy of this year’s first-round predictions from Borges and Mel Kiper, among others.

Around baseball
The best baseball read of the day is found not in a Boston paper but in the New York Times Magazine. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, has the story of two players’ journeys through the minor leagues (one is disabled Kansas City rookie Mark Teahen), and the pressures they face to abandon their natural hitting styles in favor of swings that will produce more power. As part of his article, Lewis also writes that organizations still struggle to accurately project a prospect’s professional baseball future.

While Lewis focuses on offense, Karen Guregian writes about defense in the major leagues, and more specifically, the lack of attention paid to accurate outfield throwing in today’s game. Guregian has former Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans lamenting teams’ failure to practice this seemingly lost defensive skill before games.

In their Sunday notes columns, Tony Massarotti and Gordon Edes both lead with reports on the fast start by the LA Dodgers. Without mentioning Bob Ryan’s controversial Friday column by name, Edes also has this:

Garciaparra has had a startling run of injuries, but in the absence of any evidence, it is treading very dangerous ground to suggest that they were the result of his intense training program, or the muscle-building supplements (like creatine) that he has acknowledged using, or illegal substances he has vociferously denied using, an assertion backed up by Red Sox medical officials and teammates.

The Ryan column was also a point of discussion on a Sunday NFL Draft edition of the “Dale and Holley Show” on WEEI earlier today. Expect the conversation to continue tomorrow.

Finally, on the baseball front, John Tomase has a salute to Tim Wakefield, and Dom Amore writes about the boos for A-Rod in the Bronx.

Odds and ends
Two last links in this posting: Bill Griffith checks in with a couple of Seans–McDonough and Grande–and Bobby Orr speaks out about the state of the NHL.