Celtics Too Much For Kobe, Lakers

It feels like the NBA season officially started yesterday, with a hangover from the Patriots season still lingering over the region.

The Celtics used a strong second half to pull away from the Los Angeles Lakers and post a 109-96 victory  at the Staples Center. Get all the links at CelticsLinks.com. Check the LA view from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN Los Angeles.

Celtics set tone against Lakers - Chris Forsberg has the Celtics sending a message to the Lakers and the NBA.

Duel does what’s needed - Steve Bulpett has Paul Pierce (32 points) buckling on his holster and shooting it out with Kobe Bryant (41 points) yesterday.

Fluid Rondo found the flow - Gary Washburn has the Celtics point guard coming alive in the second half and boosting Boston to the win.

Celtics prove they’re NBA’s best - Paul Flannery says that when the Celtics play at their best, you wonder how they can ever lose.

Lakers have trouble with elite; cut fires up KG - A. Sherrod Blakely’s CSNNE notes has an elbow to the head perking up Kevin Garnett. The Globe notebook from Julian Benbow has Pierce and Ray Allen taking turns on Kobe. The Herald notebook from Mark Murphy has Ray Allen talking about defending Kobe.

Exec Hausmann retires after 19 years - Mike Reiss looks at what the retirement of  Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Hausmann means to the Patriots.

Family matters most with McCourty twins - Karen Guregian looks at the bond between Devin McCourty, and his twin brother Jason, who plays for the Titans. Guregian also has Logan Mankins and Bill Belichick having a private chat after the Pro Bowl.

Red Sox outfield should be strong defensively - Mike Fine looks at the Red Sox outfield for 2011.

Making pitches for Red Sox relief roles - Scott Lauber looks at how the bullpen might shake out.

Bruins in shaky shape - Mike Loftus says that the next two months will be crucial for the Bruins.

Celtics Start West Coast Trip With Win

The Celtics got their first West coast swing of the season off to a good start with an 88-78 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Get full links at CelticsLinks.com.

A highlight of last night’s CSNNE broadcast was the debut of Bill Walton as a guest analyst for the West coast trip alongside the venerable Mike Gorman. Walton was his usual high-energy, entertaining, confusing, occasionally enlightening self, as he told viewers his advice that he gave to Greg Oden before the game was to “move to Hawaii lose a lot of weight and become a yoga master.”

While I enjoyed Walton and will enjoy him tonight in the Phoenix game, I think he’s best taken in smaller doses, meaning the handful of games he’s going to do for CSNNE this season is just about right.

All-Star wrinkle adds drama - Chad Finn’s media column has a look at the new format for the NHL All Star game, and has Dennis and Callahan reclaiming the top spot in the morning over Toucher and Rich – something D&C have been crowing about this week, including a “D&C #1″ sign visible on the NESN telecast.

10 Observations, From Bill Walton To The Bruins To Sports Talk Radio - My SB Nation Boston media column offers up 10 items from the sports media world.

Antoine Walker’s sights set on redemption - Greg Dickerson catches up with the former Celtic, who is toiling in the D-League, trying to make a comeback.

Depth isn’t a big issue - Gary Washburn looks at how stockpiling depth at center has paid off for the Celtics.

Return of Franchise Tag Indicates NFL May Avoid Lockout in March - Jeff Howe is reading the tea leaves, and thinks the owners may cave in the NFL Labor dispute.

Brandon Meriweather won’t be bothered by naysayers - Karen Guregian has the Patriots safety not fazed by criticism.

It’s time for real bargaining, NFL - Ron Borges says that the sides need to get down to business.

MVP performance by Tim Thomas has B’s in happy place - Mick Colageo has the Bruins in good position thanks to Tim Thomas.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Pressure is on to improve the pass rush -  Greg A Bedard looks at the prospects that might be of interest. Nick Underhill is losing patience with the Patriots in this regard.

Nick Caserio is a Patriots mystery man - Ian Rapoport checks in with Bill Belichick’s personnel guru.

10 Questions — No. 4: Who’s on the bench? - Gordon Edes continues his series on the Sox with a look at the bench.

NESN Announces Red Sox Spring Training Plans

NESN just released plans for their 2011 Spring training coverage. Highlights are below:

NESN’s 2011 Red Sox Spring Training Game Broadcast Schedule

DATE PROGRAM TIME
Friday, March 4                 Red Sox at New York Yankees (Tampa) 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 5             Florida Marlins at Red Sox 1:00 PM
Sunday, March 6                                                           Red Sox at New York Mets (Port St. Lucie) 1:00 PM
Wednesday, March 9 Baltimore Orioles at Red Sox 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 12           Florida Marlins at Red Sox 1:00 PM
Sunday, March 13             Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton) 1:00 PM
Monday, March 14            New York Yankees at Red Sox 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 19           Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates (Bradenton) 1:00 PM
Sunday, March 20                                                         St. Louis Cardinals at Red Sox 1:00 PM
Friday, March 25 Toronto Blue Jays at Red Sox 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 26 Minnesota Twins at Red Sox 7:00 PM
Sunday, March 27 Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (Sarasota) 1:00 PM
Wednesday, March 30 Red Sox at Houston Astros (Houston,TX) 8:00 PM

 Additional programming highlights include:

NESN’s coverage line-up also includes:

· Red Sox LIVE from Fort Myers presented by Jordan’s Furniture – 16 hours of live coverage over 13 days with Tom Caron, Peter Gammons, Heidi Watney & Don Orsillo

· The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show – 15 hours live from Fort Myers
John Dennis, Gerry Callahan and Jon Meterparel

· Red Sox Spring Training Baseball on NESN – 13 games beginning Friday, March 4
Don Orsillo, Jerry Remy & Heidi Watney

· NESN Daily – On location reports featuring the latest news from Fort Myers
Heidi Watney and Don Orsillo

· Special Edition of Red Sox GameDay LIVE from Houston – March 30 at 7:00 PM ET
Tom Caron, Don Orsillo, Jerry Remy and Heidi Watney

· NESN.com – Daily posts, live blogs of every game and fan participation
Tony Lee, Don Orsillo, Tom Caron and Heidi Watney

In addition, on January 31st, (this coming Monday) at 9:00PM,  NESN will air their Red Sox Town Hall event. The event is described as “a special town hall style meeting for fans on Monday, January 31 at 7:00 pm. The 2011 Red Sox Town Hall presented by Bigelow Tea will feature a lively and interactive conversation between fans and Red Sox executives.  It will be held at WGBH’s Calderwood Studio, and televised in its entirety on NESN at 9:00 pm.

The Red Sox executive panel is expected to include Chairman Tom Werner, President/CEO Larry Lucchino, Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein and Manager Terry Francona. NESN’s Tom Caron and Heidi Watney will serve as hosts for the one-hour event.”

Bruins Hit Break With Win Over Panthers

The Bruins have reached the All Star break following last night’s 2-1 home victory over the Florida Panthers. The Bruins hit the break in first place in the Northeast division, and third in the Eastern Conference.

Hang time - Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins going an impressive 11-4-3 over their last 18 games prior to the break.

Hot Brad Marchand for real - Rich Thompson says that the rookie has outgrown his limited role in the Bruins offense. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell has more on the winger.

Milan Lucic finds success with linemate - Joe McDonald has the forward notching his 20th goal of the season, with some help from David Krejci.

Peter Chiarelli on all things Bruins: ‘I’m not going to stop trying to improve the team’ - DJ Bean has the Bruins GM ok with tweaking his roster going forward.

Savard should consider calling it a career - Joe Haggerty thinks the Bruins center should seriously think of retiring.

David Krejci bounces back quickly from injury scare - Steve Conroy’s notebook has the center returning to the game after a hard hit left him writhing on the ice. The Globe notebook by Kevin Paul Dupont has Marc Savard headed home to rest. The CSNNE notes from Joe Haggerty has more on Krejci.

Brown: Marriage between Ochocinco, Patriots would work - Christopher Price has Troy Brown saying that the former Chad Johnson would be a good fit for the Patriots.

Not standing Pat - Michael Felger has a Patriots-centric mailbag this week.

Logan Mankins at head of line - Karen Guregian has the free agent-to-be not closing the door on the Patriots. Tom E. Curran has a different view of things.

Herzlich out to bowl ’em over - Shalise Manza Young has the BC linebacker looking to open some eyes.

It’s Casey Matthews’ turn at bat - Ian Rapoport’s notebook has Clay’s younger brother looking to make his own mark.

It’s time the West was won - Peter May takes a game-by-game look at the Celtics West coast road trip which begins tonight in Portland. Paul Flannery and Mark Murphy have more on the trip.

Celts heading back to their house of horrors - Scott Souza has Sunday’s game in the Staples Center looking large on the trip.

Celtics/Lakers – Finals vs. Regular Season Prices

Interesting comparison here between prices in Los Angeles for the NBA Finals last June, and for this Sunday’s regular season rematch.

If you’re a Celtics fan who happens to be in Los Angeles – there are 37 tickets still available for less than $190, and the best deals can be found in the 300-level TiqZones.

Shaughnessy Column Corrected

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post – Fun With NFL Payrolls and Draft “Value”

From the Globe this morning:

Correction: Because of a reporting error, the ranking of the Patriots’ payroll among NFL teams was incorrect in a column about the Jets-Steelers game in Sunday’s Sports section. The NFL salary cap can be tabulated in different ways, but in three of the most-commonly acknowledged ones, the Patriots are ranked second, ninth, and 12th.

So did he just Google “NFL Payroll?”

Perk Returns, Celtics Whip Hapless Cavs

Kendrick Perkins made a surprise return to the active roster last night, and took part in the Celtics 112-95 beatdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have now lost 28 of 29 games.

A new force was at work - Bob Ryan has a look at the return of Perkins, and what he means to the Celtics. More on Perkins:  Mark Murphy | Chris Forsberg | Jessica Camerato (with 1-on-1 sitdown interview video)| Paul Flannery | Evans Clinchy

Celtics maintain focus against lesser opponent - Rich Levine has the Celtics handling a situation that has given them some problems this season.

Glad to mix it up a bit - Frank Dell’Apa looks at a strong night from the bench.

Captain exits early to treat ankle - Dan Duggan’s notebook has Paul Pierce leaving a bit early to get some treatment on his tweaked ankle. The Celtics Journal by Kevin McNamara has more on Perkins’ return. The Globe notebook by Gary Washburn has more on the Celtics not taking the Cavs lightly. The notebook from Jim Fenton has the Cavs losing their 18th straight game.

Bill Belichick Could Engineer Donte Stallworth Reunion With Patriots and 19 Other NFL Thoughts - Jeff Howe with 20 observations on the NFL.

State of the Patriots is strong, indeed - Jim Donaldson says “The State of Patriot Nation, it appears, is better than the State of the Union.”

Jerod Mayo turns to Ravens’ Ray Lewis - Karen Guregian has the Patriots All Pro looking to get some tips from the Ravens future Hall of Famer.

Super Bowl matchup worth watching - Jonathan Comey tells us that this Super Bowl is worth watching even without the Patriots.

Quick hits from the Senior Bowl - Greg A Bedard has some good observations from the Senior Bowl. There is also Part II. For the Herald, Ian R. Rapoport has also been all over the Senior Bowl practices.

Improved, but Bruins need to get better - Stephen Harris says that while the Bruins have shown improvement as of late, they still have a ways to go.

10 Questions — No. 2: Lingering injuries? - Gordon Edes wonders if the Red Sox will be healthy in 2011.

Fun With NFL Payrolls and Draft “Value”

It seems that the payrolls of NFL teams can be interpreted in many different ways. This is apparent from a pair of statements in articles over the last couple of days.

On Sunday, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the following:

If the Jets win the AFC Championship at Heinz Field, perhaps the Krafts will be inspired to spend a little more money on payroll next year (are we supposed to feel good that the Patriots have the third-lowest payroll in the NFL?).

Today, Mike Reiss has this:

“We’re comparing teams by a simple, bottom-line metric: Player payroll dollars spent per regular-season victory,” Hruby writes. “Using the most recent and accurate salary figures available, we’re also examining which clubs have been penny-wise and which have been pound-foolish.”

Hruby ranks the Patriots fourth in the NFL — their $152.73 million was the second highest in the league and the team produced 14 regular-season wins.

So which is it?

This is a game I’ve heard the likes of Ron Borges, Michael Felger, and Shaughnessy play. They interpret the payroll one way so that they can accuse the Krafts of being “cheap” and others calculate things out so that it shows that the Patriots are near the top of the league in payroll. They cite bonuses, “dead money” and actual salary paid for that season as variables that can be swapped out, apparently to make your argument either way.

Where did Shaughnessy get his information? If you type NFL Payrolls into Google, this page is the second result, and has the Patriots third-lowest in the NFL. The problem is that the data on that page is from at least 2008.

I’d like to think that Shaughnessy used better information than just a quick Google search.

Shaughnessy also snuck in: Maybe New England will stop trading down to get “value’’ for high draft picks.

I think that strategy, while criticized, has worked out pretty well the last two years. In 2010, they traded down twice in the first round, and still ended up with Pro Bowler and Second Team NFL All Pro cornerback Devin McCourty. In trading down from their original position at 22, the Patriots obtained the picks used to later select Taylor Price (3rd round, from Dallas) and Aaron Hernandez (4th round, from Denver).

Then check out this maneuver - During the 2009 draft, the Patriots obtained the #47 pick in 2010 in exchange for a third round pick in 2009. Then in this year’s draft, the Patriots traded that second round pick (47 overall) to Arizona for a later second round pick (58 overall) and a third round pick (89 overall).  They then sent the #58 pick to Houston for #62 (Brandon Spikes) and #150 (Zoltan Mesko). They then took that #89 pick and sent it to Carolina for their 2011 second round pick, which is now the top pick in the second round.

So from that one third round pick in 2009, they turned it into Brandon Spikes, Zoltan Mesko and the top pick in the second round in this coming draft.

Instead of sarcastically refering to that as “value,” I’m going to say they got VALUE from that one pick and a couple of trades.

For some reason, the media and fans HATE when the Patriots trade around in the draft. It generates snide remarks like the one from Shaughnessy, who can’t be bothered to see what actually comes of those moves.

Still Picking Up The Pieces

With the sudden end to the Patriots season still stinging, things are slowly starting to return to normal, as we settle into the winter, another Patriots offseason, enjoy the Celtics and look forward to the Red Sox. The Bruins, well, will continue to be the Bruins.

Despite sour ending, Pats’ season had its moments - Robert Lee looks at some top moments from the 2010 season.

A look inside my 2010 All Pro ballot - Tom E Curran tells us who he selected as NFL All Pros.

Patriots enter offseason with variety of questions - Christopher Price has a look at where the Patriots will look to improve this offseason.

Wes Welker: I regret press conference - Karen Guregian has the Patriots receiver acknowledging his error in judgment.

Ben Roethlisberger’s a zero, not a hero - Gerry Callahan says that someone needs to stop Roethlisberger, who has had his way for far too long.

Matchup fine by any measure - Bob Ryan approves of this Super Bowl matchup. Greg A. Bedard notes that the teams are very similar.

Should David Ortiz be worried after Manny Ramirez’ $2 million deal? - Rob Bradford looks at the declining salary of the DH position.

Lester focusing on October - Peter Abraham has the lefty making sure he’s in good shape for October.

Still finding themselves short on big men - Frank Dell’Apa’s notebook has the Celtics again with a shortage up front. Dan Duggan has Shaq looking to return on the West coast trip.

Bruins late show a dud - Stephen Harris has the Bruins getting shut out in Los Angeles.

Jets Vanquished, Patriots Fans Can Now Move On

Now that the New York Jets have been silenced for the season, Patriots fans can now look forward to a quiet couple of weeks before the Super Bowl, and then the start of Red Sox spring training.

Even with the Jets eliminated, you may want to turn away from football completely for the next couple of weeks as the “Steelers Dynasty” talk heats up (Ron Borges is all over that this morning) and the Roethlisberger vs. Brady comparisons are hashed out.

I’ll get this out there. I thought I could root for the Jets yesterday, as the idea of the Steelers getting their third Super Bowl title since the Patriots last won one is sickening, but once the game started yesterday, the hatred for the Jets trumped all. I can respect the Steelers as a franchise and organization that has been consistently great for many, many years, and they have a great tradition there in Pittsburgh. That’s worthy of respect.

Nothing about the Jets is worthy of respect.

All that said, go Green Bay!

First Super Bowl was bittersweet - Mark Farinella has a very nice look back 25 years ago to the Patriots first Super Bowl trip, and his experience covering it. I do hope though, that Mark knows how pretentious this paragraph sounds:

Rubbing elbows with celebrities is no big thing for me after some 30-plus years of covering the NFL. I’ve seen the great and the near-great over that time. Remember, I stood next to Gisele Bündchen in the bowels of Qualcomm Stadium on the very day when she first met Tom Brady. I wasn’t impressed. He was, apparently.

Lining up the Patriots’ biggest needs - Mike Reiss looks at the Patriots biggest offseason needs.

Rapoport’s postseason awards - Ian Rapoport applies high school-yearbook style awards to the 2010 Patriots.

High-flying Celts fear looking down - Steve Bulpett looks at the Celtics odd issues with the weak sisters of the NBA.

The Celtics About To Perk Up - Alan Segal with a look at the imminent return of Kendrick Perkins to the Celtics. (with audio interview with Perk.) Gary Washburn also has a look at Perkins this morning.

What to watch in 2nd half - Peter May looks ahead to the major storylines of the second half of the season for the Celtics.

No alternative: Why Crawford’s deal looks even better in light of Wells trade - Alex Speier notes the extremely high price the Angels paid for Vernon Wells.

Dropping Carl Crawford to Fifth Creates Potent Red Sox Lineup, Keeps Sluggers in ‘Normal’ Slots - Tony Lee looks at why batting fifth might be the best spot for Crawford.

Just thinking: Rays not Idiots - John Tomase looks at the Rays landing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.

Big hit sends Savard home for tests - Stephen Harris has the Bruins center reeling after yet another big hit to the head.