Sox Can’t Keep It Going

The Red Sox were unable to sustain any momentum they may have started with Josh Beckett’s sparkling performance, as they got bombed by the previously hapless Tampa Rays 16-5 at Fenway Park last night. Get all the depressing coverage at RedSoxLinks.com.

The Celtics made the decision to concede the #2 seed in the East, and rested their “Big Four” last night. The result was a 95-94 OT loss to the Washington Wizards. The Celtics got a couple of good individual performances from Jeff Green (20 points, 15 rebounds) and Jermaine O’Neal (15 points, 13 rebounds 5 blocks) but also lost guard Delonte West to another ankle injury. Get the Celtics coverage at CelticsLinks.com. The Celtics will face the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.

Celtics have gone soft – Gerry Callahan says that Danny Ainge only screwed up by trusting that his four All Star players could actually act like professionals.

Game 1 return goal for Shaq – The Globe notebook has Shaquille O’Neal expected to be ready to begin the playoffs. A. Sherrod Blakely has Jermaine O’Neal giving the Celtics a taste of what they’ve missed.

Dice-K  reaction renews eerie memory – Mike Fine says that the postgame reaction from Daisuke Matsuzaka reminded him of a similar poor outing in the 2007 playoffs.

One hundred starts later, the Daisuke Matsuzaka mystery remains unsolved – Rob Bradford says that we still don’t know what Dice-K is.

Bruins report card – Stephen Harris has a regular season report card for the Bruins.

Task force – Fluto Shinzawa has the Bruins eager to move forward after their epic playoff meltdown last season.

Sitting Seguin needs to be among impact players – Mick Colageo says that sitting down the first round pick seems to confirm “the troubling reality that this wunderkind may not be made of the right stuff.”

Pats’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis training like a champ … a boxing champ, that is – Ian Rapoport has the Patriots running back training in the gym run by Muhammad Ali’s former trainer Angelo Dundee.

 

Bruins/Canadiens Series Hot On Both Sides, NESN Ratings Up

As the Bruins and Canadiens get ready to start their first round playoff series this week, ticket demand is already high. It is the most in-demand series, ticket-wise, of all the first round matchups. Ticket prices in Montreal are the highest, and the games in Boston the second highest. Click on the image for ticket information for Bruins/Canadiens.

On the Television side, NESN sent out a release today announcing that they set a new regular season ratings record by garnering a 3.1 average household rating – a 41% increase from the 2009/10 season. NESN’s previous best was a 2.5 household rating in both the 2008/09 and 1995/96 seasons. The numbers were also up in key demographic categories, including Adults 18-34 (2.1, up 99%), Adults 25-54 (2.9, up 54%) and Men 25-54 (4.3, up 55%).

All of NESN’s Bruins-related studio programs experienced double digit ratings gains over last season, including W.B. Mason Bruins FaceOff LIVE (+16%), Ace Ticket Bruins Overtime LIVE (+68%), The Big Bad Bruins Show with Kathryn Tappen (+18%), and The Instigators with Mike Milbury (+122%).

Here’s the rest of the release:

Expanded Playoff Pre-Game Coverage

NESN will deliver regionally exclusive coverage of every game during the Bruins first round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.  Each game night will begin with W.B. Mason Bruins Face-Off LIVE, which will expand from 30 minutes to one hour for every first round game. Host Kathryn Tappen will be joined by analysts Gord Kluzak and Barry Pederson, with Naoko Funayama reporting from ice level.  NESN’s pre-game coverage for Bruins home games will continue to originate from the network’s TD Garden set location.

Bruins post-season coverage on NESN gets started early this week with special editions of The Bricks and The Instigators. NESN’s Andy Brickley will host The Bricks: 2011 Post-Season Special on Tuesday, April 12 at 5:30 PM and preview the Bruins first round matchup against long-time rival Montreal. On Wednesday, April 13 at 5:30 PM, The Instigators with Mike Milbury will feature Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley as they discuss and debate the NHL’s best in 2010/11 and make their Stanley Cup predictions.  

Bruins vs. Canadiens Conference Quarterfinals on NESN 

Thursday April 14 Game #1 at TD Garden 7:00 PM
Saturday April 16 Game #2 at TD Garden 7:00 PM
Monday April 18 Game #3 at Montreal 7:30 PM
Thursday April 21 Game #4 at Montreal 7:00 PM
Saturday April 23 Game #5 at TD Garden 7:00 PM*
Tuesday April 26 Game #6 at Montreal TBD *
Wednesday April 27 Game #7 at TD Garden TBD *

 * = If Necessary

Mike Adams To Join Big Show, WEEI.com Partners with SB Nation

WEEI announced this afternoon that Mike Adams will be joining “The Big Show with Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley” effective today. He will serve as the flash guy for the program, will be in-studio, ready to weigh in with a thought from Bill Lee or memory of the 1978 Red Sox.

If they’re trying to appeal to a younger audience, this is the exact wrong move.

On the air, it was mentioned that the Planet Mikey show is not being impacted by this move,  but now that the Red Sox season has begun, most evenings are already scheduled with game broadcasts.

In another move, WEEI.com announced a content sharing partnership with the blog network SB Nation.

Some of the details about the deal, as outlined in the release from WEEI.com:

  • WEEI.com will feature headlines and content from SB Nation websites relevant to all the Boston teams, and SB Nation will bring WEEI.com’s highly-regarded reporting and personalities to its readers in Boston and beyond.
  •  A new feature on WEEI.com called “Behind Enemy Lines” will provide news and commentary from SB Nation’s network of team-focused blogs about upcoming Boston opponents. 
  •  A new, co-branded landing page will include links to SB Nation content appearing on WEEI.com as well as outbound links to national stories within the SB Nation network.
  •  WEEI.com and SB Nation will integrate relevant content within each other’s coverage of Boston sports teams, offering a unique diversity of perspectives on all the local teams.
  •  Content from each partner will appear on dedicated team pages & blogs in widget form for easy-to-use functionality.

Of interest from this desk is the fact that I write a weekly media column for SB Nation Boston. As far as I know, this does not impact me in any way. No one has said anything to me, anyway.  We’ll see.

Beckett Dominant As Sox Beat Yankees

At one point during last night’s ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast, play-by-play man Dan Shulman made the observation that this is a great time for Boston sports fans. He pointed out that that Bruins and Celtics are both going to the playoffs, and that the Red Sox season is just getting underway.

Such a comment reminded me that sometimes its good to get an outside perspective on what we have going on here. Earlier in the weekend, I had actually been leaning towards the belief that this was not a good time at all for Boston sports. The highly-touted Red Sox were off to their worst start since World War II, making them the nation-wide butt of jokes, the Celtics were doing a damn fine job of playing possum to their rivals in the East, absolutely laying down to the Bulls and Heat this week, the Bruins have been a positive, yet as they go into the playoffs, there is always a “how will they lose this year?” type of mentality to them until they actually get over the hump, and the Patriots are locked out, victims of  a labor war that I become convinced more each day will stretch into the regular season.

Shulman managed to remind us that perhaps a different view on things might be in order.

What is the local sports media’s role in the perception of how things are? Sports radio gives listeners an outlet to express their frustrations, if they can get on the air, but does it make for good listening? When I hear a caller – or a host for that matter – yelling about how Carl Crawford is a $140 million bust, or that “Danny gave away a championship when he traded Perk!” or “Fran-coma should be fired!” – I don’t sit there and think “This is great readio, I could listen to this all day long!” I generally flip the station as quickly as possible.

There is very much a divide in attitude between print (or written) and on-air sports media. The latter is much more bombastic, reactionary and vapid. This will always be the case. More and more, I’m simply not interested in what the on-air talking heads have to say about the local sports teams.

This week marks the 9th anniversary of BSMW. In blog years, this is an ancient site. Throughout the years, I’ve kind of had it in my head that I would do this for 10 years. That’s not set in stone, and a lot can happen in a year, but I thought I would throw that out there. We’ll see what happens as the year progresses, and as always, I’m open to suggestions, to input, to guest posting, anything that people are interested in seeing here. I’ve tossed the idea around of doing a sports media chat through Cover It Live, so that’s something that might happen soon as well.

In another milestone, the BSMW messageboard had its one millionth post over the weekend. I can’t even get my mind around that one.

But I digress. Josh Beckett was tremendous last night, exactly what the Red Sox, who still can’t get out of their own way at times, needed. They beat the Yankees 4-0 at Fenway last night, giving them a weekend series win over their rivals from New York. Get all the coverage at RedSoxLinks.com.

Here’s a sampling of quicklinks from this morning:

Best Beckett ever? Why Sunday’s outing may have been pitcher’s best with Red Sox - Alex Speier with a look at Beckett’s lights-out performance against the Yankees. More on Beckett: Dom Amore | Joe McDonald | Dan Shaughnessy | John Tomase | Maureen Mullen | Bill Burt | Ron Chimelis | Tony Lee

Red Sox committed to current rotation - Sean McAdam notes that with the extension given to Clay Buchholz over the weekend, the Red Sox rotation is set for the forseeable future.

For the Red Sox, it’s not all bad - Gordon Edes has 10 things to ponder nine games into the season.

Damon’s got ear to ground - Peter Abraham’s notebook has Johnny Damon expecting boos tonight as his Rays come to Fenway. Tim Britton’s Red Sox Journal has Mike Cameron adjusting to a new role. The Herald notebook from Scott Lauber has more on Buchholz’s new deal.

Celtics don’t seem to have plan - Chris Forsberg has the Celtics floundering as the playoffs approach.

Flops on the big stage - Gary Washburn describes the Celtics play as “like Frank Sinatra singing with the aid of a teleprompter.”

Heat kick sand in faces of once-proud Celtics - Steve Bulpett has the Celtics getting bullied in Miami.

Five things we learned from the regular season - DJ Bean looks at what we know about this Bruins team.

Bruins’ keys to beating Canadiens - James Murphy looks at what it will take to beat Montreal.

Bruins, Habs to clash in 33rd playoff meeting - Stephen Harris looks at another rite of spring.

0-6 Red Sox Look To Turn Things Around in Home Opener

0-6.

This has the potential to get really ugly this weekend, as the New York Yankees arrive in town to face the Red Sox for their opening series at Fenway Park. Worse, tomorrow’s game and Sunday’s night’s games will be broadcast to a national audience via FOX and ESPN respectively. The Yankees would like nothing better than to keep the Red Sox winless, and a target of ridicule.

Where do we begin?

One low point after another - Occasionally the misery of Dan Shaughnessy is actually called for. Today it is appropriate. Even enjoyed the dig at “the tone-deaf folks at FSM.”

Welcome home, Agony! - Brian McGrory, though, needs to get a clue. Badly.

A golden era, caught for all - Andrew Ryan reports on a treasure trove of vintage Boston baseball photos that will be unveiled online by the Boston Public Library starting today.

Home sweet home - Jon Couture says that a good showing against the Yankees can ease away the pain of the horrific start to the season.

Circumstance says stomp out pomp - Steve Buckley says that the pomp and circumstance should be cancelled today, and the Red Sox should just play baseball and try to win a game. The Herald has a pretty extensive section up today on the Red Sox.

The good news? It can only get better - Gordon Edes has the Sox aware they’ve let down the fans. Sean McAdam says the Sox could be walking into a hornets nest.

A look at how Terry Francona is going about finding the right Red Sox lineup- Rob Bradford looks at the manager’s quest to find the right combination.

Adrian Gonzalez deal looms - Scott Lauber’s notebook reports that the agent for the new slugger hopes to have a new deal with the Red Sox sometime in the next 10 days. The Red Sox Journal from Brian MacPherson has the clubhouse somber after another loss yesterday. The Globe notebook from Peter Abraham has Dustin Pedroia playing this season with a screw in his foot, to be removed after the season. The CSNNE notes from McAdam has the Red Sox bats silent in a strong effort from Jon Lester.

It wasn’t much better for the Celtics, who were stampeded by the Bulls in Chicago last night, 97-81. 

No statement from Celtics - Paul Flannery has the Celtics unable to make a statement last night.

Celtics short on time to turn around - Chris Forsberg says that the Celtics are running out of time.

Point is abundantly clear - Gary Washburn has the Bulls with a clear advantage at point guard in a matchup between the two teams.

Tom Thibodeau talks up old pals - Steve Bulpett’s notebook has the former Celtics assistant with plenty of praise for his former team. The CSNNE notes from A. Sherrod Blakely has the Celtics aware that they can’t just flip a switch this season. The Globe notes from Julian Benbow has Thibodeau bringing the Boston blueprint to Chicago.

Doctor diagnosed problems early on - Chad Finn’s media column has Dr. Jack Ramsay ahead of the curve when it came to the Heat’s problems.

2011 Masters Television Coverage Highlighted By Golf In 3D - My SB Nation media column has the Masters getting 3D coverage every day of the tournament.

Nothing Left To Say About Sox

Can they possibly be this bad?

I don’t think so, but with each ugly loss in which you felt they had no chance of coming back and winning, or that they could even win the next game, confidence fades on what is such a promising 2011 season for the Boston Red Sox.

Yes, they lost again last night, 8-4 to the Indians. What else is left to say? Get all the depressing stories from RedSoxLinks.com.

They get back in action today today at 12:05 with Jon Lester on the mound.

Anyone figure out yet what John Henry and Tom Werner are thinking by teaming up with LeBron James? They give him a minority stake in their soccer team in exchance for some of the rights to market him? (His own firm retains rights as well.) They do this with a basketball player who is hated in this town, and in large part, nationwide? With the Red Sox off the 0-5 start, this just rubs a little salt in the wound.

Red Sox brass sign ‘powerful’ alliance with King James - Jerry Kronenberg in the Herald looks at the deal.

Henry and Werner swing King-sized deal - Nick Cafardo says that the Celtics are likely hoping this is yet another distraction for James.

Take your talents elsewhere, LeBron - John Tomase says that Henry and Werner “forged a partnership that redefines out of touch.”

LeBron and the Sox? Hah? - The guys on Comcast SportsNet can’t figure this one, either.

Bruins get the result, not the effort, they want - Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins getting  a win last night, but not in the style that they wanted.

B’s lacking effort as season ends - Joe Haggerty says that the Bruins need to snap out of it.

Shawn Thornton a perfect 10 - Stephen Harris has the tough guy getting his career-best 10th goal of the season last night.

Daniel Paille’s time might be right now - Steve Conroy’s notebook has the winger continuing his strong play of late. DJ Bean has more on Paille making his case for postseason playing time. The Globe notebook from Kevin Paul Dupont has Tomas Kaberle still working out the kinks in his game for his new team. The CSNNE notes from Joe Haggerty have Tyler Seguin not happy with a potential playoff benching.

J. O’Neal is showing the Celtics what he can do - A. Sherrod Blakely has the big man making an impact on defense for the Celtics.

Tonight’s matchup with Bulls a playoff test - Tim Weisberg looks at a big game tonight for the Celtics.

Celtics whetting appetite - Julian Benbow has more on the battle of the Eastern powers.

Judge’s lockout ruling likely to take 2 weeks - Greg A Bedard, who was on the scene in St Paul, reports on the NFL labor hearings yesterday.

WBZ-FM announced yesterday they have signed afternoon hosts Tony Massarotti and Michael Felger to contract extentions. Chad Finn (first link below) says that it is a three-year extension.

New deal for Felger and Massarotti

Felger & Massarotti ink new deal with Sports Hub

Fenway Sports Group Signs Deal With LeBron James

From the Wall Street Journal this afternoon:

LeBron James in Deal With Fenway Sports

In this deal, LeBron gets a minority ownership stake in the FSG-owned Liverpool soccer club, and FSG along with James’ LRMR Branding and Marketing become the business representatives for LeBron James.

Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner is quoted in the piece:

“We’re not interested in talent or athlete representation but we think he is one of the most remarkable athletes of his time,” Mr. Werner said in an interview Tuesday. “We believe we can open doors for LeBron and LeBron can open doors for us.”

With LeBron’s popularity sunk since “The Decision”, is this a case of the Fenway Sports Group “buying low” on an athlete to see what they can get from marketing-wise? Disdain for James aside, this is a very interesting move for the FSG, as they continue to position themselves as a global player in the sports world.

I just hope that this doesn’t mean that soon we’ll be seeing reruns of “The Decision” alongside replays of the 2007 Red Sox “Mother’s Day Miracle” game.

Sad Sack Sox Still Can’t Win

For the first three games of the season, it was the pitching that did in the Red Sox, as they were battered by the Texas Rangers lineup. Last night in Cleveland, the Red Sox got decent pitching, but couldn’t hit, and dropped their fourth straight game to begin season, losing 3-1 to the Indians. Get all the coverage at RedSoxLinks.com.

The 0-4 start has caused the predictable uproar, which is not aided by such silly tweets like this one

[blackbirdpie id="55625156655194112"]

And blog posts like this one – Is the season over already for Red Sox?

The substance of that Tweet was repeated by most of the reporters on the Red Sox beat at some point. These are the professional writers. Not reactionary fanboy bloggers (and I mean that in the nicest way possible).

Almost all teams have four (or even five) game losing streaks. Most just don’t happen at the start of the season. The Sox hopes for their first win now rest with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

As players press, offense stalls - Sean McAdam has the Sox offense pressing, and getting out of the patient style they normally approach at-bats with.

Not enough of an effort - John Tomase says that Josh Beckett’s performance (5 innings, 3 runs) was not acceptable.

Red Sox in search of their swagger (and a win - Rob Bradford has the Sox in need of a boost.

Pressure mounting on winless Red Sox - Gordon Edes has the Sox feeling the pressure to get a win. Nick Cafardo has the Sox trying to remain optimistic.

Top prospect Iglesias discovering his comfort zone - Tim Britton has the phenom shortstop feeling comfortable at AAA Pawtucket.

Kalish eager to develop down at Pawtucket - Maureen Mullen has the outfielder looking to keep improving his game.

Carl Crawford out of order - Scott Lauber’s notebook in the Herald has the outfielder with another hitless night. The Globe notebook from Peter Abraham has Beckett unable to pick up his teammates. The CSNNE notes from Sean McAdam have the Indians working Beckett hard.

The Celtics used a strong second half to defeat their Atlantic division rivals the Philadelphia 76ers last night at the Garden, 99-82. Get the full coverage from CelticsLinks.com.

Starting to come together - Paul Flannery has the Celtics as a team, and specifically the bench, starting to put things together.

Green’s energy lights way - Frank Dell’Apa has the Celtics last night getting the kind of all-around game they’ve been seeking from Jeff Green since they acquired him.

Nenad Krstic takes off his thinking cap - Steve Bulpett has the center returning to action and looking better than he did before his injury. A. Sherrod Blakely has Krstic able to play freely.

Celtics-Sixers could spark old fire - Peter May says a potential playoff matchup between these old foes could be interesting. Steve Bulpett says that the matchup seems likely to happen.

O’Neal enjoys a fresh start - The Globe notebook has Jermaine O’Neal looking good last night, and ready to take on more minutes. The Herald notebook from Mark Murphy has Green blossoming last night. The MetroWest notes from Scott Souza have Krstic adjusting to coming off the bench. The CSNNE.com notes have more on Green accepting a challenge from Doc Rivers.

This ‘contributor’ was at the heart of Celtics Pride - Joe Fitzgerald says that Satch Sanders was what being a champion is all about.

It was odd and sad to see Peter King complaining about the election of Sanders to the Hall of Fame, and even odder to see him complain about “16 Celtics in 24 years” being elected. I’m still trying to figure out which 24 year period he is talking about. If it is the last 24 years, that list includes at least seven players who played most of their career elsewhere, like Dominique Wilkins, Pete Maravich and Dave Bing. He has no problem though, with 13 Steelers being elected in 15 years though.

No dispute: Today is key to labor fight - Greg A Bedard says that today’s hearing is critical to the NFL’s future.

Bill Belichick Could Trade Up to Land Top-10 Pick and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts - Jeff Howe with some draft thoughts.

Lucic, Krejci and Horton head for playoffs as Boston Bruins’ top line - Mike Loftus says that this line is the key to the Bruins playoff success.

Setting things right - Mark Farinella wants to rule the world, and in that world, Joe Castiglione would no longer be able to register disappointment in the Red Sox when a rally fails.

Taking a shot in the dark - Brendan Hall on ESPNBoston has the story of a  kid from Catholic Memorial High School who is going to shoot hoops for 24 hours straight on Saturday to raise money for brain cancer research.

With the Bruins and Red Sox both in action tonight, the Red Sox are being pushed over to NESN Plus tonight. Check this NESN webpage for NESN Plus on your TV system.

Here’s a peek at a new ESPN documentary – The Brady 6:

The Brady 6

It’s hard to believe that Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion, was ever considered an underdog. Yet in the 2000 NFL Draft, six other quarterbacks came off the board before Brady’s name was called at number 199 in the sixth round. ESPN’s Year of the Quarterback and NFL Films tell the story of how a future MVP came to be so wrongly misjudged during his quest to make it to the NFL—and what ever happened to the six quarterbacks taken ahead of him. The hour-long documentary The Brady 6 airs Tuesday, April 12, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Sox Seek First Win

The winless Red Sox look to Josh Beckett to turn their fortunes around tonight in Cleveland as they begin a three game series with the Indians.

Winless Red Sox turn to Josh Beckett - Gordon Edes says that the Sox put Beckett fourth in the rotation to ease him in after a rough 2010 season, but they need him to come up big tonight. Peter Abraham has the Sox needing Beckett to be the stopper he once was. Scott Lauber says Beckett has plenty to prove. Sean McAdam has Beckett determined to start things off right.

Red Sox banking on Josh Beckett - Gerry Callahan says that signing Josh Beckett to an extension last year might be the worst decision of Theo Epstein’s eight year tenure as GM of the Red Sox.

Disastrous weekend over, Sox look to right the ship - Brian MacPherson has the Sox a little grumpy heading into tonight’s game. John Tomase has some early observations on the Sox after the disastrous opening weekend. Dave D’Onofrio says that it is time for the Sox to flip the switch and get things started.

Remembering the birth of a closer, five years later - Alex Speier looks back at Jonathan Papelbon’s ascension to the closer role. Brian MacPherson has Papelbon hoping that a slight tweak to his mechanics will help him.

Pitching coach unfazed by brutal start - Lauber’s notebook has Curt Young looking to get his staff straightened out. The Globe Red Sox notebook from Abraham has signs pointing to a start for Jason Varitek behind the plate tonight.

Bruins get cute, take ugly loss vs. Rangers - Fluto Shinzawa has the Bruins blowing a lead against the Rangers.

B’s not good enough to take East - Joe Haggerty says that any hope of getting the top seed in the East was lost last night. DJ Bean says that it looks like the Bruins will be the third seed in the East.

Paille pushes fast-forward button - Stephen Harris has the winger making a statement with his play last night. The Globe notebook from Fluto Shinzawa has David Krejci ready to get back onto the penalty-killer squad. The CSNNE notes from Joe Haggerty have Tyler Seguin still looking to prove his worth.

Shaquille O’Neal may be back by weekend - Steve Bulpett says that the big man may play again as soon as Friday. Jim Fenton says that the center position will be a worry spot the rest of the way for the Celtics. A. Sherrod Blakely has more on the center situation.

Celtics’ matchups have playoff feel - Chris Forsberg says there will be no pushovers the rest of the way for the Celtics. Paul Flannery says that while the Celtics will try to win these games, it won’t come at the expense of health. The Globe notebook from Gary Washburn has more on the stretch run.

Sanders Hall election a nod to working man - Bob Ryan looks at former Celtic Satch Sanders being elected to the Hall of Fame. The Herald notebook from Steve Bulpett has more on Sanders, as does the Celtics notebook from Fenton.

UConn Beats Butler 53-41 For Third National Title - Mike Anthony has UConn winning their third national title.

Three For Calhoun In The Blink Of An Eye - Jeff Jacobs looks at the third title for the UConn head coach.

Prince Amukamara Could Be Surprise Draft Target For Patriots - Jeff Howe thinks that the Nebraska cornerback could draw interest from the Patriots.

Vrabel is arrested, charged with theft at casino - Shalise Manza Young reports on the former Patriot being arrested.

Lost Opening Weekend For Sox, Celtics Get Shaq, Lose Shaq

The Texas Rangers looked very much like a squad out to remind everyone, especially the much-hyped Red Sox, that they are the reigning American League champions. They pounded Red Sox pitching in all three games this weekend, sweeping the season opening series for both teams. Get the full coverage at RedSoxLinks.com. Dan Shaughnessy can have his fun today, I still think the Red Sox will be fine in the end.

Shaquille O’Neal returned to the Celtics last night, but the big man only lasted five and a half minutes on the floor before having to exit with what turned out to be a calf injury. The Celtics used a huge third quarter to defeat the Detroit Pistons 101-90 at the Garden last night. Get all the stories at CelticsLinks.com.

Red Sox suffer from Worst Timing Ever - Michael Silverman attempts to convince the masses that this was “nothing more, or less, than one god-awful, three-game series.” Jeremy Lundblad also attempts perspective. Tony Lee has the Sox looking for positives after their worst start since 1996.

10 Things We Learned from the Red Sox’ opening weekend - Alex Speier with a look back at what we can take from this weekend.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes long view - Gordon Edes has the young catcher trying not to let the horrible openign series get to him. Nick Cafardo has more on “Salty.”

Carl Crawford down, not out - John Tomase says that the Sox $100 million man is too good to have an extended slump.

Beckett of old could be just the right medicine - Brian MacPherson’s Red Sox Journal says that a vintage Josh Beckett could be huge for the Red Sox tomorrow. The Globe notebook from Peter Abraham has more on Crawford’s slow start. The Herald notebook from Scott Lauber has more on Saltalamacchia.

Shaquille O’Neal impressive before new injury - Steve Bulpett has the big man showing his skills before limping off with yet another injury. Peter May says that the short glimpse we got just proved that the Celtics need Shaq in the postseason.

Latest Shaq injury leaves Celtics looking for answers - Paul Flannery notes that the silver lining is that Nenad Krstic should be ready to go tomorrow night. A. Sherrod Blakely notes that the Celtics still have yet to get their ideal playoff roster together.

Ray Allen shows signs of shaking slump - Mark Murphy’s notebook in the Herald has the guard looking to get more comfortable in the offense as the playoffs near. The Globe notebook from Gary Washburn has more on Krstic’s encouraging news on his knee. The Gatehouse notebook from Scott Souza has Jermaine O’Neal looking to play every game the rest of the way.

Claude Julien tries to keep Bruins loose - Joe McDonald has the Bruins coach mixing things up at practice yesterday.

Bruins hope to maintain momentum - Mike Loftus has the Bruins trying to stay sharp with a game against the desperate New York Rangers.

Who’s Howard? Answer man - Bob Ryan profiles Butler senior forward Matt Howard, who along with his teammates will play UConn for the national championship tonight.

UConn Men Face Butler For National Title Monday Night - Mike Anthony says that this UConn team will be remembered forever.

Tom Brady puts image on line in union fight - Ian Rapoport says that the Patriots QB could be costing himself endorsement dollars with his front-line role in the labor fight.