Welcome to Wally and Coco

The Celtics dropped their first game of the Wally Szczerbiak era yesterday in a contest no in the Boston area was able to watch, thanks to ABC blackout restrictions. The 83-79 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was one in which Shira Springer says that the Celtics spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to best use their new toy, Szczerbiak. Steve Bulpett also reports on the Celtics still trying to get to know their new teammate and incorporate him into the game plan. You can also get a game story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The game was a sloppy one, and as Bulpett notes, it’s probably just as well there weren’t any TV cameras there. It did however, give WRKO broadcasters Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell an exclusive broadcast which they hope brings some return listeners.

Michael Muldoon talks to a college teammate of Szczerbiak, Anthony Taylor, who spends a lot of his time in Haverhill, and gets his thoughts on what Wally will bring to the Celtics. Tim Weisberg says that the deal can help the Celtics both now and in the future. Kevin Henkin says we shouldn’t be lamenting the loss of Ricky Davis’ defense. He lists out several players who had red hot nights against Davis. The Celtics and Timberwolves will play tonight, just a few days after making that huge trade. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and St Paul Pioneer Press are both already looking forward to the game, and the former paper has a feature on Ricky Davis. Springer’s notebook and Bulpett’s notebook each also preview tonight’s reunion between the ex-teammates.

Jerome Solomon looks at the Seahawks as they attempt to make themselves known the nation this week. John Altavilla and John Tomase each look at Seahawks fullback Mack Strong, the longest tenure member of the Seattle roster. Altavilla’s notebook has more on Seattle relying on veterans to lead the way this week.

Ron Borges has a look at former UMass head coach Mark Whipple, whose work with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback coach has drawn raves due to the performance of the second year QB. Michael Felger says that Patriots fans have plenty of reasons to hate the Steelers, which should be enough to make this game worth watching for them. For some reason, I thought a small saving grace to not having the Patriots in the Super Bowl this year would be not having to listen to local media people complain about the city of Detroit. I was wrong. Jim Donaldson leads off the whining…and he’s not even going.

There’s plenty more Super Bowl coverage in the New York Sports Pages and Bay Area Sports Pages.

Michael Parente looks at some of the off-season issues facing the Patriots.

Boston Sports Review published their sports media special this month, and there are some whopper quotes in there, from Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan gushing over how Dan Shaughnessy is the “bravest” columnist he’s ever seen and Larry Johnson lauding the “genius” of Glenn Ordway for keeping moronic callers on the air instead of blowing them up.

Note to Captain Courageous, when your employer starts giving away their product free to all those “unlucky” people who make less than $50,000 a year, then perhaps your premise yesterday might have some merit.

Rob Bradford talks to Johnny Damon, now that the Red Sox have acquired Coco Crisp and word has come out that they were looking at him last season as a possible replacement for Damon. Michael Silverman and Art Davidson each have articles on Crisp, with the latter talking to his former teammate, Lou Merloni. Steve Buckley says that the Red Sox should hang on to David Wells. Alex Speier looks at the 2006 Red Sox as presently constituted, and believes that they could be an upgrade over the team that was swept by the White Sox in the playoffs last October.

Steve Conroy and Nancy Marrapese-Burrell report on Andrew Raycroft making a rehab start in goal for the Providence Bruins. Mick Colageo says that Raycroft could make good bait before the trade deadline. Conroy’s notebook looks at the Bruins prepping for the 20-4-1 Ottawa Senators.

Michael Vega and Jeff Goodman report on Boston Colleges’ 66-64 win over Georgia Tech yesterday. Lenny Megliola says Bring on Duke.

FSN has Celtics/Timberwolves at 8:00. NESN has Bruins/Senators at 7:30. ESPN has Louisville/Villanova at 7:00. ESPN2 has Texas Tech/Kansas at 9:00. OLN has Flyers/Rangers at 7:00.

SporTView

A weekend without football of any kind?

Well, sort of. No NFL games. (There’s the Senior Bowl and Arena Football) I think this two week break before the Super Bowl is specifically designed to help wean viewers off the game. You’ve been watching games probably every week since August…now they skip a week, and give you one final game next week. And if you’re really desperate, you can watch the Pro Bowl the week after.

There’s plenty of college basketball on Saturday, and Sunday sees an NBA tripleheader between ABC and ESPN.

Update: Check out Boston Sports Review’s Sports Media Special

On The Air This Week:

The Red Sox dominated the airwaves this week (Until Friday, that is, after the Celtics traded Ricky Davis.) after their announcement last week that Theo Epstein would be returning to the organization. Last weekend, as well as Monday and Tuesday were filled with speculation of what Epstein’s role with the club would be. There was some talk of the potential acquisition of outfielder Coco Crisp, but the majority of time revolved around Epstein whether his return meant he had won a power struggle with Larry Lucchino.

Late on Tuesday afternoon the Red Sox issued a lengthy release outlining that Epstein would be returning to his role as General Manager. Wednesday was filled with reaction to the move. With the Patriots not in the Super Bowl and the Celtics and Bruins struggling through the winter, the Red Sox rule the airwaves.

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The team spread themselves over the airwaves nicely on Wednesday, with Epstein and Larry Lucchino appearing on Dennis & Callahan, Jed Hoyer on Dale & Holley and John Henry on The Big Show. On the latter appearance, Henry said that he was shocked that Hoyer and Cherington were not introduced at “interim” Co-GM’s at that infamous press conference. Steve Burton said that an early draft of the press release that day had the word “interim” in it, but the official release contained no reference to the word. Epstein and Lucchino appeared on Mike Barnicle’s show on 96.9 WTKK FM, (A wiseguy wondered if Barnicle was just going to replay the Dennis & Callahan interview) and there was an appearance on ESPN 890 as well as on NESN and FSN. Michael Silverman in Thursday’s Herald put the totals at “19 publications, 11 television stations

Welcome To Wally World

Boston fans were awaiting news of a trade all day yesterday. But when the trigger was pulled on a blockbuster deal last night, it was Danny Ainge, not Theo Epstein, who was making the trade. The Celtics shipped out Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and two second round draft picks and received back Michael Olowokandi, Wally Szczerbiak, Dwayne Jones and a conditional first round pick. Shira Springer looks at the deal, talking to the agents for a few of the players involved. It is possible that Olowokandi may never play for the Celtics. Steve Bulpett says that the object of this trade, in addition to creating better cap flexibility, was to provide a better compliment to their best player, Paul Pierce. The Celtics feel that Wally Szczerbiak can provide better support to Pierce with his outside shooting. Shalise Manza Young also looks at the Celtics shaking things up. Peter May weighs in on the deal, but isn’t sure what the point of it is. In the middle of May’s column is this curious passage.

But, having said that, the team Ainge blew up to get Davis was a .500 team with a coach who preached defense and whose players played defense. The team Ainge tweaked to get Szczerbiak is, two years later, well below .500 and has a coach who preaches defense. It's not all on Ricky, that's for sure. This team is younger, more accident prone, and doesn't defend as well.

Ah yes. A reference to “The Day the Music Died”. Never has the breaking up of a bad team been more lamented. I’m guessing that May might think the whole Ricky Davis era was a waste. Perhaps Ainge should’ve hung on to Eric Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown? May admits he’s never been a Ricky fan and hints that there must be a deeper, darker reason why the Celtics are trading him. Mary Murphy looks at Davis moving on this fifth NBA team. Ricky handled the news with class, as the Celtics PR guy tells us that the statement he released about loving Boston really came from Davis, and wasn’t one of those manufactured marketing quotes. Bulpett looks at how crazy Wally’s world is going to be for the next few days. His wife is due to give birth on Monday, which is the same day the Celtics play the Timberwolves in Minnesota. You can get reaction to trade from the twin cities in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In the latter paper, Tom Powers has a column entitled “No one got the better of this dismal deal”, and he says:

If nothing else, this trade is going to cost me a few dollars. I had a friendly wager with a buddy that no NBA general manager would be dumb enough to accept Michael Olowokandi in a trade.

I forgot about Danny Ainge.

Guess we know how highly he “Kandi Man” is thought of out in Minnesota. Thought…if Olowokandi never plays for the Celtics, does Powers still have to pay up? The BSMW Full Court Press has reaction to the trade, and after initially being furious with the deal, they see some sense in the move. Springer’s notebook and Bulpett’s notebook look ahead to Ron Artest’s debut with the Sacramento Kings tonight at the Garden against the Celtics. You can get more on Artest from the Bay Area Sports Pages, which includes the Sacramento Bee.

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The Bruins won their third in a row last night, 3-2 over the Washington Capitals. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell, Steve Conroy and Joe McDonald have the accounts of the game. Douglas Flynn says that Tim Thomas just might be saving the season for the Boston Bruins. Steve Buckley (subscription only) also has a look at Thomas, who is just happy to be in the NHL instead of toiling in the minors. Nick Tavares looks at how the Bruins appear to have turned things around.

Kevin Paul Dupont gushes over 20 year old Washington star Alexander Ovechkin. Mick Colageo has more on the Russian superstar. Conroy examines how the fit thrown by Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere may have been out of the same frustrations felt by a lot of goaltenders this season. Burrell’s notebook has more on Thomas being a factor in the Bruins’ recent turnaround. McDonald’s notebook looks at the Bruins starting to get healthier, but Conroy’s notebook looks at Brad Isbister injuring his leg last night.

Michael Silverman runs down all the things that happened while Theo Epstein was “away”. Jim Donaldson says that Theo needs to get to work now. Larry is off the hook and Theo is on the hot seat. Silverman’s notebook says that things aren’t looking good as far as Coco Crisp coming to Boston. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has coverage as well.

Jackie MacMullan looks at former NFL player Roy Simmons, who might be the poster boy for “Super Bowl casualties sucked in by the excitement and the nightlife and the adulation.” Nick Cafardo has a look at the Seahawks defense.

Scott’s Shots has a look at the media coverage of the Celtics trade last night, a look at Bill Simmons’ email interview with Curt Schilling and a plethora of other ideas.

Check back later for this week’s version of BSMW SporTView.

Celtics Deal Ricky, Blount?

Update: The Celtics have issued a Press Release on the trade.

Shira Springer and Steve Bulpett report the deal on their papers websites.

Boston trades:

Ricky Davis
Mark Blount
Justin Reed
Marcus Banks
Two second round picks

to Minnesota for:

Wally Szerbiack
Michael Olowakandi
Dwayne Jones
A conditional first round pick.

ESPN.com has the headline on their front page, but no story yet.

01.26.06 Afternoon

A few links while everyone scours the internet for the latest Crisp rumors…

Rob Bradford has former Red Sox team physician Dr. Bill Morgan trashing the club over their decision not to require physicals before acquiring certain players. Bob Stern looks at Wednesday being a day of closure for the Red Sox. Kevin Thomas also has a look at the Fenway makeover.

Bill Simmons has an insanely long email interview with Curt Schilling, who has something to say on almost every topic, including the media:

The thing that I find funny is that some of the better writers suck at their jobs from my standpoint: Shaughnessy and [Bill] Conlin are two that come to mind. Two separate incidents from each of them told me all I needed to know about how bad members of the media can be. Dan wrote a column basically calling Pedro a piece of trash after he left the ball park on Opening Day 2004, talking about what a bad guy and horrible person he was for doing so. This is the same guy who waxed poetic years earlier when Roger Clemens did the exact same thing, calling Roger a gamer, someone that despised losing. Don't get me wrong, there is no bigger Clemens fan than me, but the two opposing viewpoints on two people doing the same exact thing paint a stark picture into how these guys look at what they do.

There’s plenty more, as Schilling weighs in on Johnny Damon, Theo, The Fans, Manny and the future.

Jim Fenton and Mike Fine have a look back at last night’s Celtics loss to Washington. Mike Grenier has a look at how Paul Pierce is being patient as his young teammates grow as players. Fine’s notebook says that it will be a zoo tomorrow night when Ron Artest makes his debut with the Kings.

Dr Z. has his annual NFL TV Commentator awards.

Deja Vu All Over Again

The last time the Celtics played the Wizards, the game came down to Gilbert Arenas driving to the hoop and picking up a foul with no time left. Usually the adage in the NBA is that down the stretch, the officials should let the players decide the outcome of the game. That call was very questionable, and it cost the Celtics a close game. Last night the exact same thing happened, with the same player getting a call and making free throws to win the game for the Wizards. This time, a little better case could be made for the foul, but still, you don’t like to see the refs determine the outcome of the game. Shira Springer notes that while the Celtics are frustrated about the call, they know that they let this game get away from them, after seeming to have things in control for much of the evening. Steve Bulpett has Doc Rives noting that there were some other calls (and non-calls) down the stretch that seemed to favor Washington. Shalise Manza Young also has the Celtics frustrated that they didn’t close out the Wizards when they had the chance to do so. Lenny Megliola has more on Arenas breaking the Celtics hearts again last night. You can also check out coverage of this game from the Washington Post.

Ron Artest is coming to Boston, but not to wear the green. Peter May looks at Artest coming to Boston Friday night as a member of the Sacramento Kings, who finished off a deal for the former Pacers forward yesterday afternoon. It promises to be quite a media circus at the TD Banknorth Garden that night. Mike Fine has a midseason report card for the Celtics, with the only “A” going to captain Paul Pierce. Bulpett looks at Al Jefferson’s poor defense forcing Doc Rivers to take Mark Blount out of mothballs and play him some minutes last night. Springer’s notebook looks at Paul Pierce missing eight free throws last night and blaming himself for the loss. Young’s notebook has Rivers saying that he’s no longer a big fan of the inactive list. Bulpett’s notebook has more on Artest coming to the Garden Friday night with the Kings.

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It was the Larry and Theo show yesterday, with a little Jed and Ben and John Henry thrown in for good measure. Michael Silverman looks at the Red Sox media blitz from yesterday and what they accomplished. Gordon Edes also has a look at the feel good story that is the front office reunion in the Red Sox organization. Sean McAdam looks at everyone getting on the same page again. Paul Doyle looks at the Red Sox plans to become a more tight-lipped organization in the mold of the Patriots. David Borges has more on the Red Sox trying to become more like the Patriots when it comes to the release of information.

Chris Snow has John Henry’s thoughts on his newly reunited baseball operations department. Art Martone has the Red Sox saying that they are a stronger unit for the turmoil that they have gone through in the last few months. Lenny Megliola looks at the new foundation that the Red Sox have made with this saga. Alex Speier says that it is now time for the Sox to get to work.

Dan Shaughnessy focuses on Theo and his words yesterday about the 85 day self imposed exile and what the future holds. Shaughnessy says at one point:

It's hard to say what to make of all this. We know the fans want us to move on, pretend none of this ever happened. Get to the bottom of the cereal bowl and find out what's going on with Coco Crisp.

That somewhat echos the sentiment that Shaughnessy expressed on SportsPlus on NESN yesterday about what the fans want from the Red Sox media. What’s interesting to me is how Dan feels that he has a pulse on what the fans want, and second, that the media has an obligation here to dig more and talk about this soap opera stuff and not just ignore it. It’s their responsibility. Well, it is when its a good story. You try to get certain media members to dig a little deeper on other topics, and the response is that the sports section is the “toy department”. You can’t have it both ways. Talking about “responsibility” in one breath and then discounting sports as just the “toy department” in the next.

Mike Fine has a good article looking the the witch hunt that the media has been on recently and offering a little commentary on how the group as a whole has done their jobs during this drama. Bill Reynolds also says that the fans want to just move on to actual baseball and put this episode behind them. Steve Buckley (subscription only), however, says that because of the events of the last three months, Theo Epstein is now fair game to be criticized in the media. Even Margery Eagan (subscription only) gets into the Theo action, mocking the GM for his “vision” and “philosophy” on the job.

Joan Vennochi looks at the Red Sox struggling with Mayor Menino over public funds. Silverman has Jed Hoyer saying that Guillermo Mota passed the medical standards set down by the Red Sox when they acquired him from the Marlins in the Josh Beckett trade. Snow says that Mota could still be a part of a trade with Cleveland. Silverman’s notebook has the Red Sox keeping mum on the reworking of the Coco Crisp trade.

Michael Vega and Mark Murphy look at Boston College going into Chapel Hill, NC and defeating the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome. Vega’s notebook has the team still shaken up over their bus striking and killing a cyclist on Tuesday night. Murphy’s notebook has a look at Al Skinner getting his 300th win.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell and Stephen Harris look at the math getting a little easier for the Bruins as they try to find their way into the playoff picture.

NESN has Bruins/Capitals at 7:00. ESPN has Duke/Virgina Tech at 7:00. TNT has Heat/Suns at 8:00 and Mavs/Sonics at 10:30. FSN has UCLA/Oregon at 10:30.

Time Warp

So Theo Epstein is back, and he is back in the role of General Manager of the Boston Red Sox. The last 10 weeks never happened. The Red Sox issued a lengthy release yesterday which included statements from all parties involved and affected. Michael Silverman, who was first with the story yesterday, says that Theo saw the light that the Red Sox left on for him, and worked out his differences with the club so that all are on the same page now. Chris Snow notes that Epstein is now an “Executive” Vice President, rather than just a “Senior” Vice President, so perhaps he did get a little more clout, though the long release from the team stated that Larry Lucchino’s role has not changed at all. Sean McAdam says that Epstein is expected to receive $1.5 million annually – the amount the sides had agreed to before Epstein broke off the talks earlier this fall. David Heuschkel notes that we don’t know the length of the new deal, as Larry Lucchino states that the “team doesn’t reveal the duration of contracts for management.” Sounds like a new policy to me. David Borges and Joe Haggerty also look at the return of Theo as outlined in the 2,526 word press release.

Bob Ryan attempts to sort out the meaning of the slightly changed title and of the voluminous press release in which he feel John Henry contradicts himself. Steve Buckley (subscription only) writes that a lot of this all still doesn’t make sense. He’s not sure which parts to believe of the release and finds it ironic that it took the Red Sox several pages to state that everyone is on the same page. The story made the New York sports pages, with Jack Curry in the Times being one to weigh in on the return of Theo.

John Molori’s Media Blitz goes after Glenn Ordway for how he attacked Theo for leaving and returning, and the Red Sox for how they handled it. Molori notes that several Big Show staffers, as well as other WEEI and Boston media personalities have left jobs only to return to the same one later. David Scott also weighs in on the release and how the Red Sox have handled things.

Meanwhile, Theo will have some work to do as he returns to the post of General Manager. The deal with Cleveland for Coco Crisp may have hit a snag last night as it was reported by WIP in Philadelphia that Guillermo Mota had failed his physical. Chris Snow has Mota’s agent stating that his client “did not flunk his physical” but that sometimes the acquiring club is allowed to have higher standards. Silverman’s notebook states that Epstein and the Indians front office were working last night to restructure the deal. Sean McAdam also says that the Red Sox and Indians will look to restructure the deal to make it work for both parties. The Cleveland Plain Dealer also reports on the progress of the trade and what might be next for the two clubs.

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The Bruins made it two wins in a row last night with a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports on the game, which was won on a goal by P.J. Axelsson with seven minutes left in the game. Steve Conroy also reports on the win, which moved the Bruins a bit closer to the final playoff spot. Karen Guregian weighs in on Mario Lemieux announcing his retirement yesterday. Burrell’s notebook looks at Axelsson playing his role perfectly with the Bruins. Conroy’s notebook has Mike Sullivan talking about how valuable Brad Stuart has been to the Bruins since coming over from the Sharks in the Joe Thornton deal.

Peter May looks at how the Celtics are feeling a bit better about themselves these days and feel ready to make a run at the postseason. He examines their remaining schedule as well as their roster to try to figure out if it can actually happen. Shalise Manza Young has Doc Rivers also hopeful that his young club can go on a bit of a run and make things interesting for the second half of the season. Scott Souza also look at the Celtics chances of going on a run. Steve Bulpett reports that Paul Pierce will at least get an interview from Jerry Colangelo about possibly being a member of this summer’s World Championships team and the 2008 Olympic club. The Celtics face the Wizards tonight, who currently occupy the eighth spot in the eastern conference. Bulpett’s notebook observes that a win tonight could be a big step for the Celtics in their quest towards that spot.

Bob Ryan weighs in on Kobe vs. Wilt after Bryant’s 81 point performance the other night.

Michael Felger says that if they want to, the Patriots can spend some money in free agency. He looks at where the money could come from, and examines their free agent signings of the last few years to see what type of player they could target this spring. Jerome Solomon looks at how the Steelers got off to a 7-5 start this season, but haven’t lost since. Jim Donaldson asserts that former UMass and Brown coach Mark Whipple might have a lot to do with the success that Ben Roethlisberger has had while Whipple has been his quarterbacks coach.

FSN has Celtics/Wizards at 7:30. ESPN has Maryland/Georgia Tech at 7:00 (HD) and Timberwolves/Grizzlies at 9:00. UPN38 has Boston College/North Carolina at 9:00.

01.24.06 Afternoon

A few afternoon links to pass the time for you…

(updated 4:30 PM) Michael Silverman on the Herald Clubhouse Insider blog reports that Theo Epstein will be named Red Sox GM with pretty much the same role and power he had before.

Mike Fine looks at the Celtics win over the Hornets last night, and notes that with this Boston team, you have no idea how they are going to play from one night to the next. Jim Fenton looks at the Celtics reaching the halfway point of the season, and urging us not to hope that they can make a second half run like they did last year, which resulted in an Atlantic division title. Fine’s notebook looks at the hot streak Ricky Davis had last night, and how he had to keep pushing it until he finally missed. CelticsBlog takes a look at Gerald Green.

Rob Bradford has another look at Coco Crisp today as the outfielder awaits word as to whether he is officially a member of the Red Sox. Bob Stern and Alan Greenwood also have articles on Crisp. Chad Finn weighs in with his thoughts on Crisp, as well as on Alex Gonzalez and the return of Theo Epstein. Chaz Scoggins looks at how the Red Sox are attempting to develop young players, save money and remain competitive all at the same time. The Boston.com Extra Bases blog has a recap of this morning’s Curt Schilling appearance on Dennis & Callahan.

Mike Reiss takes a look ahead to the Patriots offseason plans in today’s edition of the Ask Reiss Mailbag.

Deadspin trots out another edition of “Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks” and this week it features beleaguered Globe scribe Ron Borges.

Double Wins for the Locals

The Celtics used a third quarter burst keyed by some hot shooting by Raef LaFrentz and Ricky Davis to cruise to a rare easy victory last night 91-78 over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Peter May, Steve Bulpett and Shalise Manza Young all report on the same from TD Banknorth Garden. Ricky Davis most decidedly did not “suck” in the second half last night, lighting up the scoreboard for 23 second half points, including 17 in the third quarter alone. Mark Murphy and Lenny Megliola report on the hot night for Davis after a few less than stellar games from the Celtics swingman.

Dan Shaughnessy looks at how Hurricane Katrina has affected the Hornets, who have been displaced every bit as much as the New Orleans Saints, but with less fanfare. Bulpett looks at Paul Pierce, whom Doc River feels is a different player from the one who had issues during the 2002 World Championships and deserves a second look from the national team. Murphy gets some reaction from the Celtics regarding Kobe Bryant’s 81 point game the other night. May’s notebook and Young’s notebook each have more reaction on Bryant. Bulpett’s notebook says the trade winds are quiet for now, though he does bring up the name of Seattle’s “Flip” Murray as someone the Celtics might be looking at.

It’s a rare night these days when both Boston winter sports teams come out with a victory, but thanks to the Bruins’ 3-2 victory in Washington over the Capitals, that’s exactly what happened last night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell, Steve Conroy and Dan Hickling report with details of the Bruins going up 3-0 and then hanging on for the victory with Tim Thomas in net. Conroy reports on the defense of P.J. Axelsson being a big factor last night. With two goals last night, Wayne Primeau has shown more scoring that the Bruins could’ve hoped for when they traded for him. Hickling’s notebook and Conroy’s notebook each look at the tenacious Primeau. Burrell’s notebook looks at what another new addition, Marco Sturm has done for the Bruins since coming over.

Jeff Horrigan says that the additions of Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez to the Red Sox are imminent, and examines what Crisp will bring to the Red Sox. Rob Bradford had a profile of Crisp in yesterday’s Eagle-Tribune, with the scout who originally signed him saying that they are going to love him in Boston. Dan Shaughnessy has a short report stating that the Red Sox will issue a statement, rather than hold a press conference to outline what Theo Epstein’s new role with the Red Sox will be. David Borges looks at some minor league veterans signed by the Pawtucket Red Sox that could see time in Fenway this season. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) says that this years version of the Red Sox is an upgrade on the field over last year’s edition. The column is basically a rebuttal to what Ken Rosenthal wrote for FOXsports.com yesterday.

Ron Borges notes that the Seahawks struggled against the only 3-4 defense they faced this season, and now they are going against “perhaps the best 3-4 defense in football” in the Pittsburgh Steelers. He looks at how they must address this potential problem. Jonathan Comey says that the Steelers are going to win this game as it is clearly their year. Jim Donaldson has a “thoughts” column where he says the Seahawks are being disrespected. John Altavilla has some ideas for those who can’t go without football for the next 12 days.

NESN has Bruins/Thrashers at 7:00. ESPN has Kentucky/Auburn at 7:00 and Indiana/Iowa at 9:00. (HD) OLN has Coyotes/Wild at 8:00.

Loco for Coco

The Red Sox and Indians continue to work towards a deal that would send outfielder Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. After the Herald had the details of the deal first yesterday, Tony Massarotti says today that physicals are the only thing holding up the deal from being made official. He also says in that same report that the Sox are also awaiting a physical on free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and once he passes, he will also be a member of the Red Sox. He talks to Gonzalez’s former manager, Jack McKeon, who raves about his defensive abilities. Massarotti and the Herald had Crisp and Gonzalez coming to the Red Sox in yesterday’s paper, giving them a good scoop over the Globe. Chris Snow in today’s Globe also reports on the deal, and says that that only possible deal killer could be Guillermo Mota’s physical status. However Snow’s version of the trade is expanded somewhat to include six players today. The Red Sox would send Andy Marte, Mota, and Kelly Shoppach to Cleveland and in return would receive Crisp, reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard. Elsewhere, David Heuschkel builds on the Herald report from yesterday in reporting about Crisp and Gonzalez coming to Boston.

Vin Sylvia in the Union Leader on Saturday asserted that Theo Epstein must now have control of the baseball operations department. There could be no other reason for his return. Steve Buckley (subscription only) says that the Red Sox cannot spin this situation. They need to address it with candor, and not try to make it seem like Larry Lucchino had nothing to do with Theo’s temporary exile from the franchise. Lenny Megliola says that we can always count on one thing in Boston with the Red Sox. There is never a dull moment. He too is looking forward to how the Red Sox spin this return.

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Michael Felger says that the Patriots would’ve had their hands full with the Steelers yesterday had that game be held at Gillette, and Pittsburgh deserves to be going to the Super Bowl. Jerome Solomon reports on the Steelers upsetting the Denver Broncos 34-17 to earn a trip to Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Bob Ryan looks at the maturation of Ben Roethlisberger into a playoff tested QB. Solomon’s notebook looks at Jerome Bettis going home to Detroit for what is likely the last game of his career.

Nick Cafardo was in Seattle to report on the Seahawks 34-14 win over Carolina to clinch the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth. Cafardo’s running mate, Ron Borges reports on Seattle getting off to a quick start yesterday and never looking back. Cafardo’s notebook looks at Mike Holmgren getting back to the Super Bowl.

Get more on the conference championships and other sports on the New York and Bay Area sports pages.

At the moment, there are still no Celtics trades to report, though the rumor mill has been grinding all weekend. Despite the lackluster blowout loss to the Nets on Saturday night, there is still some reason for optimism around the Celtics given the play of their own young version of the twin towers, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins. Steve Bulpett says that the Celtics need to raise their own expectations as well as their mental toughness. Shira Springer says that the Celtics just need to develop more consistency from quarter to quarter and game to game. Tim Weisberg notes that the Celtics youngsters are getting their shot, and seem to be taking advantage of it. He also has a report on Gerald Green from the NBA Developmental League. Kevin Henkin says that we need to ease up on Doc Rivers. Yesterday, Lenny Megliola caught up with former Celtics coach John Carroll, who is now coaching his son at Belmont Hill and doing some work for ESPN.com.

Stephen Harris takes the unusual (and difficult) task of trying to defend Mike O’Connell. Harris argues that more of the blame should be directed to Jeremy Jacobs and Harry Sinden. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports on Tim Thomas volunteering for some extra work during yesterday’s workout. Harris’ notebook says that Sergei Samsonov should be good to go for the Bruins next game.

OLN/INHD has Bruins/Capitals at 7:00. FSN has Celtics/Hornets at 7:30 (HD). ESPN has Syracuse/Pitt at 7:00 (HD) Oklahoma St/Texas at 9:00 (HD) and Utah State/Nevada at midnight (HD). OLN also has Mighty Ducks/Kings at 10:30.