Thursday Topics

Day Four of Manny talk continued today, along with discussion of this weekend’s TRAP GAME with the Detroit Lions. Mixed in was some talk about whether J.D. Drew is “tough enough” to play IN THIS TOWN.

* Bob Ryan’s little skirmish with Theo Epstein during yesterday’s conference call was another topic brought up many times today. Curt Schilling’s phone call to Dennis & Callahan was also rehashed a few times throughout the course of the day, with Tom E Curran knocking Schilling for coming on the air to knock Ryan. And so the circle turns…

* Looking back through the Celtics game stories from this morning, it’s amazing that none of them really focused too much on the play of the Nets’ rookie guard Hassan Adams. The Arizona product doubled his previous season highs in both points (16) and rebounds (8). In fact, coming into the game, Adams had only scored points in two of the Nets first 14 games. Yet, Adams changed the game, as his coach told the Newark Star-Ledger after the game. Watching last night from my seat in the Garden, I had to grab the free game program that I usually don’t look at and find out where he was from.

* What WEEI Hosts Are Obsessing About Today:

Gerry Callahan: Delonte West’s tattoos, especially on his neck.
John Dennis: Bryant Gumbel
Dale Arnold: Michael Strahan
Michael Holley: Manny doesn’t want to be here. Why do the fans love him?
Glenn Ordway: J.D. Drew – IN THIS TOWN
Tony Massarotti: Scott Boras would “shoot the hostage.”
Tom E Curran: Curt in the car

* The difference between Mike Reiss and the other bloggers in town comes down to Mike’s ability to get information down to the smallest detail. Check out this example today. Here’s a portion of an entry in The Point After:

– As a side note, P Ken Walter, for one reason or another, has a ton of candy in his locker. And I mean, a ton. Slim Jims, Tootsie Rolls, Junior Mints … everything.

And here’s a portion of Reiss’ Pieces today:

… P Ken Walter continued a tradition by stocking his locker with candy, which he first started doing in Carolina and brought to New England from 2001-2003. Walter recently explained that the tradition started in Carolina because his locker was located in an area that his teammates would walk by regularly, and it gave them a reason to stop by and build camaraderie.

Well, I guess we can give credit to the Herald guys for telling us what kind of candy was in the locker…

* Checking out the new edition of Patriots Football Weekly, there’s a nice article from Erik Scalavino on the broadcasting team of Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti. The piece looks at the background of the duo, how they came into the business and how much they both enjoy working together. In fact, both state that it is their wish that when the time comes, they retire together.

* Bill Barnwell of BSMW Game Day has an interesting study today as he examines wide receivers and how the conference in which they play in college can actually help determine what kind of player they’re going to be in the NFL.

* If you’re one of the lucky few to have scored a Verizon FiOS TV/Internet connection, you’ll be soon be able to watch NFL games and programming from the NFL Network in an agreement announced today by the two sides. The programming will begin with next Thursday’s game between the Steelers and Browns.

* Lowell Spinners owner Joann Weber has died after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Celtics Fade Down the Stretch

The Celtics looked like they had New Jersey right where they wanted them, as they built a double-digit lead in the second half, thanks to some hot shooting. However Jason Kidd and Vince Carter soon took control of the game, leading the Nets back and beating Boston 106-103 at the Garden.

Shira Springer says it was only a matter of time before the Nets showed up and “took advantage of the Celtics’ defensive miscues and other on-court indiscretions.” Steve Bulpett admits that the Celtics had some good stretches last night, but that they were “still young and fragile enough to let the advantage, and the game, slip through their grasp like a handful of sand.” Scott Souza looks at the Celtics playing “arguably their best game of the season for long stretches of the night,” but letting it slip away from them in the end. Bill Doyle says that the Celtics don’t have to be embarrassed about being in first place with a losing record anymore.

Peter May looks at the Nets early struggles, noting that they’ve been unable to get off the ground this season…and sometimes that has literally been the case, such as yesterday when they had to fly into Boston on game day. Tony Massarotti can’t figure out if he should praise the Celtics for playing well much of the night, or bury them for blowing the game in the end. Gary Fitz says there is a lot not to like about this Celtics squad. Mike Fine looks at how Rajon Rondo’s minutes have been limited, and that his playing time will likely depend on the opposition.

Check the coverage from the New York area on the New York Sports Pages.

Springer’s notebook looks at a disagreement between Doc Rivers and Wally Szczerbiak, which was ironed out at halftime. Bulpett’s notebook has Rivers seeming to finally come up with a rotation. Souza’s notebook has an injury update on center Theo Ratliff, who remains out with a herniated disc. Doyle’s notebook has Rajon Rondo nailed to the bench while the man selected a pick after him, Marcus Williams, plays a large role for the New Jersey Nets.

Patriots

Mike Reiss looks at how the Patriots linebacker corps will be reshuffled now with the season ending injury to Junior Seau. Chris Ryan has more on the Patriots adjusting to life without Junior. Chris Kennedy notes that making adjustments is nothing new or out of the ordinary for Patriots players. Dan Pires says that the shuffling of positions isn’t something that concerns the players, who look at themselves as interchangeable parts. Rich Garven says that the Patriots defense has been stout for the most part this season, but still needs to improve on third down.

John Tomase attempts to call out Bill Belichick for his statements on the Lions, saying that the Patriots coach is hyping up a squad that is not worthy of what he attributes to them. What would Tomase like Belichick to say about the Lions, exactly? Trash them? Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t. Granted, Tomase isn’t exactly ripping Belichick in this piece, but some have in this area, and you get the idea of the point I’m making. Joe McDonald has Belichick and the Patriots stressing the importance of taking the Lions seriously, which McDonald points out, obviously works for them. Albert Breer looks at the challenge that a Mike Martz coached offense brings to an opposing defense. Michael Parente has the Patriots on guard against the unpredictability of a Martz offense.

Steve Buckley looks at Ken Walter, who is taking a totally business-like approach to his return to the Patriots. Alan Greenberg says that the distance on Walter’s punts Sunday may not have been that impressive, but his hangtime held the Bears without a return. Eric McHugh has a thorough Patriots report card for their game against the Bears. Ian Clark has Kevin Faulk as a reliable, quiet weapon for the Patriots. Mark Farinella notes that Faulk has once again been on a bit of a roll with the Patriots offense as of late. Christopher Price examines Faulk and the rest of the Patriots running backs and their ability to pick up blitzes and block. Glen Farley says that Richard Seymour made a huge statement – more like a paragraph – with his play against the Bears.

Jeff Howe looks at Lions receiver Roy Williams and his “Friday Night Lights” background in Texas high school football. Check the coverage from the Motor City in the pages of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. The latter has a mini-feature on Tom Brady, as it says that the former Michigan quarterback is motivated only by championships.

Reiss’ notebook has Bill Belichick working his squad hard in practice yesterday in an effort to avoid any post-Bears letdown. Tomase’s notebook says that the calendar with turn to December tomorrow, which mean it is Tom Brady’s time. McDonald’s notebook has Asante Samuel garnering the AFC Defensive player of the week award. Parente’s notebook has Mike Vrabel having no problems with making the move to inside linebacker. Garven’s notebook has more on Vrabel making the move inside. Farinella’s notebook has the Patriots aiming to stay focused and take care of business this week against the Lions.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes has a look at a tight-lipped Theo Epstein on a conference call yesterday. The Red Sox did announce that Lowell Spinners manager Luis Alicea has been named as their new first base coach. The conference call was noteworthy for an exchange that Bob Ryan had with the GM, which has been played several times on WEEI yesterday and today. The Globe columnist first asked what the fascination with J.D. Drew was, Epstein declined to answer, Ryan then asked why they were there, to which Epstein replied that Ryan’s colleagues had requested that Epstein be made available periodically in the offseason, and then Ryan closed things up by saying on behalf of the fans that he hoped the Drew rumors were not true. It was a humorous exchange, but at the same time Ryan could be criticized for the approach. “Curt in the Car” called Dennis and Callahan this morning to criticize Ryan for the exchange that he had with Epstein. Jeff Goldberg has more on the call.

Rob Bradford says that the offseason is starting to get a little crazy for the Red Sox, and he looks at the top issues facing the club heading into the Winter meetings. Sean McAdam has a look at the Red Sox latest target, Japanese lefty reliever Hideki Okajima. Michael Silverman and Tony Massarotti team up to report that the Red Sox could announce the signing of Okajima as soon as today. Alex Speier notes that in recent years, the Red Sox have seemed to have been “on the wrong side of market analysis.” Noting that they’ve seemingly misjudged the market on a number of occasions. David Borges has a Red Sox notebook, where he looks at Mark Loretta, who appears to have had a one-and-done stay in Boston.

Bruins

Steve Conroy notes that the Bruins have turned to an old mantra – teamwork – in order to make improvements on the ice. Bob Duffy looks at Paul Mara sitting out practice after an encounter with the glass in Toronto. He also reports that coach Dave Lewis just finished “Patriot Reign.” Douglas Flynn examines how much the Bruins have changed in the year that has passed since they traded Joe Thornton. Bud Barth looks at Tim Thomas answering all questions in net.

College/Misc

Michael Vega and Jeff Goodman report on BC’s 65-58 win over Michigan State last night. Lenny Megliola has more on the effort put forth by the Eagles last night. Bob Ryan says that BC’s Jared Dudley is the best forward in the country right now. Ryan also has a look at Spartan coach Tom Izzo, who he describes as college basketball coaching royalty.

Karen Guregian has a mini-feature on Ayla Brown the Boston College womens basketball freshman, who finished 13th in the most recent “American Idol” competition.

NESN has Bruins/Lightning at 7:00. NFL Network has Ravens/Bengals at 8:00. TNT has Pistons/Heat at 8:15 and Jazz/Lakers at 10:30.

Wednesday Wrap

Pondering on Michael Felger’s interesting Patriots Insider column this morning, I wondered about the last item, where he talks about why Bill Parcells and the Cowboys didn’t pursue Adam Vinatieri this past offseason. He cites John Czarnecki of Fox television and Foxsports.com as having reported that

Parcells had a nod-and-wink agreement with Belichick and Pats personnel director Scott Pioli not to make the first offer for Vinatieri in free agency.

The problem with this statement is that this story originated in Czarnecki’s blog on Foxsports.com, and is not sourced at all. It’s more of a musing rather than a “report.” The actual bit from Czarnecki: reads:

You have to wonder why Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch playoff kicker in the past five seasons, ended up in Indianapolis and not in Dallas?

The best story is that Colts GM Bill Polian gave Vinatieri a contract offer and told him if he left the building and visited the Cowboys the offer was off the table. Vinatieri took the deal and the Cowboys had to settle for Vanderjagt, the kicker the Colts discarded.

Another version is that Parcells told Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, New England’s brain trust, that he wouldn’t pursue Vinatieri as a free-agent unless another team spoke to him first. Believe me, the Patriots probably wish they didn’t make any verbal deal with Parcells.

So are these “stories” considered actual “reports” or what? Czarnecki doesn’t mention any sourcing or how these anecdotes came to him. (My own inquiries into this matter say that this “story” is entirely false.) Despite his use of the phrase “If this is true” a couple times regarding these claims, Felger sure treats them like they are real.

I’m not really trying to be overly critical here, but this is incredibly misleading. He’s treating them as fact and then building on them with further speculation. He makes it seem like Pioli called Parcells up and told that if the Cowboys made the first offer to Vinatieri that he’d never see his grandchildren again…

Felger mentioned that these were more examples of the Patriots “hardball tactics” that they employ during contract negotiations. I think (and Czarnecki seems to as well) that the Polian story, if true seems to be more “hardball.”

In any event, I’m not saying that Felger should not have included these in his column today. I do wish he had been a little less misleading and bit more forthcoming about the veracity of the stories.

* Chad Finn weighs on on the possible (probable?) departure of Manny Ramirez. My favorite part:

It seems most of the Trade Manny advocates blame him solely for the gruesome demise of the 2006 Sox, ignoring the indisputable fact that virtually everyone else on the roster either got hurt or, pardon my French, royally sucked down the stretch. Oh, the anti-Manny brigade will yelp and yowl and wait on hold for 45 minutes just to agree with that third-rate lounge act Mike Adams that they deserve someone reliable, a DIRT DAWGGG, A GAME-AH, not a QUITTAH like Manny.

Gerry Callahan was at his outraged, indignant, miserable best (worst?) this morning when talking about Manny and how his contract has been an “Albatross” and shouting at callers (Why the need to shout?) that “Manny has not lived up to his contract!!” It seems Finn would like a word with the Callahans of the world:

Well, guess what, ya basement-dwelling dope? He's one of the most reliable players in the history of the sport. During his six seasons with the Red Sox, he's batted .316, with an average of 39 homers and 116 RBIs. He has been the Gehrig to Papi's Babe, or vice versa, and you can check the numbers, adjust them for their era, and you'll realize that's not at all hyperbolic. Even with the headaches and midsummer vacations, he's been worth every goddamn Benjamin of his $160 million contract. You want reliable? Despite missing 42 games with a busted finger in 2001, he's averaged 142 games per season with Sox, a number his supposed successor in the cleanup spot, the infamously indifferent Drew, has surpassed twice in his nine-year career.

* Bill Simmons says that the NBA Eastern Conference is the worst in sports.

* Can you imagine the reaction among the Boston media if Bill Belichick and the Patriots did this? (Indy Star)

And we wonder why the organization is so careful about what is said? Does it make more sense that they’re intentionally trying to be difficult with the press, or that they understand the nature of the beast that is the media and try to avoid these types of situations? And where is our Dallas Clark injury update? The fans deserve to know!

Or how about this? (Denver Post)

The writers in town who seem to have the league offices on their cell phone speed dial would be on the phone in about two minutes to lodge a complaint.

I’m off to the Garden to witness the first place battle between the Celtics and Nets…