Celts Blaze Their Way Back

After trailing by 17 points at one point in the first half, the Celtics finally got their act together last night, and stormed back for a 112-102 win over the Portland Trailblazers last night. Paul Pierce had 30 points to lead the way for the Celtics.

On Oscar night, Steve Bulpett has the Celtics starring in their own version of “Atonement” up in Portland. Peter May says that the Celtics big guys and their defense finally showed up for a game on this West coast road trip. Check the coverage and reaction from Portland on the game in the OregonLive Blazers Blog.

Michael Wilbon in the Washington Post this morning says that despite their recent struggles, the Celtics are still ahead of the curve in the East. in Portland, Geoffrey C. Arnold has a look at how native son (From Eugene, OR) Danny Ainge finally got the Celtics turned around. Bill Doyle looks at the second round proving successful for the Celtics. Tim Weisberg says that the recent losses are reason for concern, but not worry.

May’s notebook has a look at some names that the Celtics might be considering this week as they attempt to bulk up their bench for the stretch run. Bulpett’s notebook has Pierce and Ray Allen shooting a combined 19-22 last night, bouncing back nicely after their 5-25 showing in Phoenix.

Red Sox

Theo Epstein got his manager locked up for at least the next three years yesterday, as Terry Francona and the Red Sox agreed on a contract extension that will keep the manager here through the 2011 season, with a couple of option years after that. Amalie Benjamin and Gordon Edes report on the new deal for the skipper, which places him in the upper echelon of the managerial salary scale. Rob Bradford says that in these negotiations, Francona had the leverage, and it paid off handsomely for him. Sean McAdam says that Francona and the Red Sox are a perfect fit for each other, and has reaction from several players on the new deal for their boss. Joe Haggerty says that Francona can now put his focus back on baseball. Jeff Goldberg has Epstein offering high praise for his skipper with the extension now done. Rob Duca says that it was only a matter of time before this extension got done.

Michael Silverman examines the different routes that top prospects Clay Buchholz and Joba Chamberlain have taken in their development by the organizations to which they belong. Michael Levenson examines the difficulty of obtaining Red Sox spring training tickets, which are the highest priced in the majors. Silverman has several of the Red Sox pitchers, including Josh Beckett, getting their first batting practice of spring training yesterday and looking pretty impressive. Bradford has a brief report on the Red Sox agreeing to terms on a minor league make-good deal with Bartolo Colon.

Bradford’s notebook has a look at Jon Lester, who is projected as the Red Sox #3 starter, with no limitations placed on his workload this spring. Edes’ notebook has the Red Sox not making the announcement on Colon until he can pass a physical. McAdam’s notebook has more on the contingent deal for Colon, who would give the Red Sox some insurance if Curt Schilling can’t come back. Goldberg’s notebook also reports on the minor deal for Colon. Duca’s notebook has player reaction to Francona’s extension.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa says that the Bruins might do well to take a chemistry lesson from the Anaheim Ducks of last season. Stephen Harris has Peter Chiarelli working the phones furiously prior to tomorrow’s NHL trading deadline. Mick Colageo says that the Bruins need to determine whether Phil Kessel is a trading chip or a building block. Shinzawa has Patrice Bergeron taking a 10-minute skate yesterday, while Harris also reports on Bergeron’s return to the ice.

Patriots

Karen Guregian has former Patriot Ted Johnson insisting that his quote about getting a sheet of the opponent’s audibles an hour before each game was taken out of context and that to attach it to the spygate scandal would be irresponsible. He says he never saw evidence of illegal videotaping during his time here. Mike Reiss and Christopher L. Gasper report that the Jets Jonathan Vilma has permission from the Jets to seek a trade to any team in the NFL…except of course, the Patriots.

John Tomase examines Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and the possibility that he could be the first pick in the NFL draft this season. He looks over what scouts like about him, and what reservations they have.

Shalise Manza Young has the Patriots looking to bolster their defense this offseason. Rich Garven has number of Patriots notes, leading off with the fact that even Bill Polian wants spygate to go away. Douglas Flynn says that the Patriots offensive backfield is one area where the team shouldn’t have to do much shopping this offseason.

Guregian’s notebook has BC safety Jamie Silva as a big fan of the Patriots Rodney Harrison.

Globe Magazine Takes Its Shots At Belichick

In the Boston Globe Magazine this morning, Doug Most has the latest rip job on Bill Belichick.

What an original subject. And timely, too. Let’s kick the guy further while we can.

He states as fact:

The only reason Boston sports fans have put up with Belichick’s act is because he’s won, not because they like him.

Let’s put aside the fact of whether Patriots fans actually like Belichick or not. How exactly does whether or not he wins make Bill Belichick different from every other coach that has come through here? Don’t we ultimately judge every coach/manager on whether or not they win? The “likable” Pete Carroll years sure worked out well here. Dick Mcpherson too. We loved Mac, but he didn’t win. Belichick has won like no other coach.

I’ve heard a handful of sanctimonious Patriots do some moralizing on Belichick for the events of the past year, but it was truly just a few, not this swelling undercurrent sweeping through the region as Most apparently wants to believe.

The real problem, as is always the case in these type of stories, is Belichick’s cooperation with the media. Most slams Belichick for his reaction to the truly gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss. He says how in the post-game, Belichick never mentioned “the Giants’ tremendous play.”

Belichick’s first comments in the post game press conference:

“Congratulations to the Giants. They made some plays there at the end and we didn’t. It’s disappointing.”

Most then makes a spectacular leap, bringing up the name Grady Little. Yes, he wants Belichick to be more like Grady Little. He talks about how Grady stood before the assembled masses after the crushing game 7 loss in the 2003 and how in a “folksy, grandfatherly way, he explained why he did what he did with sincerity and in detail.” What he did of course, was leave Pedro Martinez in the game too long.

The funny thing is, if you read Little’s comments, as quoted in the piece, they sound very much like something that Bill Belichick would say.

Most says that dealing with the media is part of the job that any coach or manager in Boston has to embrace. Why?

Think about Bill Belichick’s job for a moment. Think about all the things he does. It’s goes well beyond standing on the sideline in the hoodie, which of course is the image most choose to have of him. There’s scouting to be do. Game planning. Interviewing draftees and free agents. Running the organization. Planning, running, and analyzing practices every day. Off season analysis of every game from the past season, and planning for every game of the coming season.

What percentage of his job would you says involves dealing with the media? 5%? Surely not a whole lot more than that. Is he supposed to let other aspects of his job suffer so he can kowtow to the ink-stained wretches?

There are things that you can criticize Belichick for. He’s not perfect, and he’ll be the first to admit that. How many times has he said that he needed to do a better job coaching the team? His relationship with the media (which is what this article is about…not spygate, or running-up-the-score-gate or not-winning-by-enough-gate) and whether or not the fans “like” him is certainly not something that the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine needs to devote space to.

Manny Has Arrived

Manny Ramirez showing up on time to camp is the top story in the papers this morning, and him speaking to the media on his arrival is an even bigger one.

Steve Buckley has Ramirez happy, upbeat and wanting to stay in Boston for the rest of his career. Jeff Goldberg has Manny stating that he wants to be here for the next two years, but that he’ll leave that decision to the Red Sox. Amalie Benjamin says Manny didn’t stick around for long yesterday, but it was enough just that he was there at all. Buckley add that the Red Sox are in an ideal position to be able to deal with Manny and dictate whether he remains here and stays productive for the next two seasons. Rob Bradford says that Manny’s arrival made Theo Epstein a happy GM.

Sean McAdam notes that as is the case with players, only certain managers can thrive in Boston. Terry Francona has certainly proved that he can not only survive, but be wildly successful. Rob Bradford examines how keeping a journal has made a huge difference for Josh Beckett. Garry Brown says that the future is now for Jacoby Ellsbury. Joe Haggerty has a Q&A session with new Sox reliever Danny Kolb, who recalls his first trip to Fenway Park.

McAdam’s notebook has more on Manny’s acceptance of his situation with the option years. Bradford’s notebook revisits a winter of discontent for Alex Cora. Gordon Edes’ notebook has more on Kolb trying a win a job with the Red Sox. Goldberg’s notebook has Epstein addressing the Coco Crisp situation.

Patriots

The Patriots did not tag Randy Moss with the franchise designation yesterday, leaving some to speculate that the team is close to an extension with the record setting receiver. Karen Guregian says that no tag means that the two sides likely have a verbal agreement. (The Patriots can’t officially sign him until the new league year starts at the end of next week.) Mike Reiss also has a look at the situation for the two sides. David Heuschkel and Shalise Manza Young each also speculate that the absence of the tag could mean a long term deal between the sides in in the works.

John Tomase has quotes from around the league at the NFL combine on camera-gate. Young also has quotes from that event, including comments from the infamous NFL Competition Committee on the matter. Tomase also reports on the Patriots adding Dom Capers to their coaching staff. Over on Patriots Daily, Scott Benson also speculates as to the significance of the addition of a veteran NFL defensive mind to the coaching staff.

Capers, as you might recall, was a candidate for the head coaching job with the Patriots before Bill Belichick was hired. There was talk of a Tom Donahoe/Capers GM/Head Coach combination, a situation that then-Patriots beat man Nick Cafardo was strongly in favor of.

Reiss’s notebook has more on Capers, noting that the addition could free of Belichick to work more elsewhere with his club. The Herald notebook has the Patriots declining the option on Donte Stallworth’s contract, making him free to sign elsewhere.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa and Stephen Harris have the Bruins rallying for a 5-4 shootout win over the Florida Panthers last night. The win puts the Bruins at 3-0-1 on their five game trip.

Shinzawa has Richard Zednik speaking for the first time since his gruesome injury. Harris’ notebook has GM Peter Chiarelli mum on any possible deal for Atlanta’s Marian Hossa. Shinzawa’s notebook has more on Chiarelli’s options at the trade deadline.

Celtics

The Celtics are in Phoenix tonight to take on the Suns and their new acquisition, Shaquille O’Neal, who made his debut with the club earlier this week. After giving up 243 points over the last two games, Marc J. Spears and Steve Bulpett have the Celtics looking to get back to what got them the league’s best record – defense. On the BSMW Full Court Press, Shirley Coshatt says that defensive guru Tom Thibodeau needs to stick around beyond this season for what he has brought to the Celtics.

Spears’ notebook has the Celtics believing that the addition of O’Neal makes the Suns more imposing. Bulpett’s notebook looks at a quite trade deadline day for Danny Ainge. Jeff Howe has more on the deadline passing with no deals for the Celtics.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell chats with new channel 7 sports reporter/anchor Julie Donaldson.