Tough stretch for Celts and B’s

Good morning, Brian Beaupre here again filling in for Bruce on vacation.  A team wearing Celtics jerseys played in Miami last night, and gave a valiant effort, but could not complete a fourth quarter comeback against Dwayne Wade and the Heat.  The Pats made a few signings official yesterday, Jonathan Papelbon finally said what we already knew about Manny, and everyone is still trying to figure out what is going on with the Bruins.  Let’s get started.

 

Celtics

The Celtics injury woes are well-documented at this point, as KG, Rondo, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, and Scalabrine all did not make the trip last night to Miami.  I continue to be amazed at the difference KG alone makes on the floor defensively, as he just makes everyone around him better defenders, and it seems like the Celts can’t stop anyone from dropping 100 on them now.  Throw in the absence of Rajon Rondo and you got major issues on both ends of the floor now.  Mark Murphy has Doc insisting on staying patient with his injured players, wanting them at 100% for the playoffs rather than rush them back for home court.  I think we can agree homecourt is out the window at this point.  Marc Spears has the Celtics once again digging themselves a big hole and unable to find stops down the stretch with a depleted lineup.  Murphy’s notebook discusses how close Marbury was to signing with the Heat, Bill Walker reuinted with his former college teammate last night, Leon Powe’s workload last night, and a gem of a quote from Doc Rivers on the Celtics playoff splits last year; “But I love how everyone quotes our playoff road record from last year, but they should quote everyone’s record.  Everyone sucked on the road last year.”  Spears’ notebook has more on Marbury’s decision, along with newcomers Marbury and Mikki Moore disappointed with their slow starts.

Red Sox

On the heels of their stunning upset of The Dominican Republic in thw WBC, Alex Speier discusses the Red Sox investment in player development in the Netherlands in recent years.  Ron Borges has the Red Sox glad to finally have David Ortiz returning to camp after playing first base in the WBC.  John Tomase has Pedroia/Youkilis playing nice with Jeter at the WBC, with all parties gushing over each other’s personalities.  Tomase has more on USA manager Davey Johnson proud of his former Dutch team defeating the DR this week.

Michael Silverman looks at the decision the Red Sox must make on their #1 pick Casey Kelly, between developing him at pitcher or shortstop, and it appears they’re going to do both, if you can believe it.  Lenny Megliola takes a look at old friend Nomar taking his last shot with Oakland this year.  Maureen Mullen has a piece on Sox minor leaguer Nick Green, who came over the Sox organization from the Yankees this season.  Finally, Silverman has Jonathan Papelbon speaking out on Manny Ramirez yesterday, claiming he was a “cancer” and “on a different train,” and that the decision to move him was approved by the veterans.

Patriots

The Pats yesterday made official their signings of cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden, continuing to address their needs at secondary.  Sadly, it’s one year too late.  Christopher Gasper has details on Bodden’s signing as well as a new long-snapper for the Pats.  Karen Guregian has Shawn Springs meeting with the media yesterday and discussing his long-standing rivalry with TO, dating back to their days in the NFC West.  Mike Petraglia has more from Springs about his decision to come to Foxboro.  Shalize Manza Young has more on what brought Springs to New England.  Mark Farinella has Springs claiming he’s got plenty in the tank at age 34.

In another sign that the Patriots are officially changing the old guard, Karen Guregian’s notebook has special teams star and captain Larry Izzo signed with the New York Jets.  Christopher Gasper has more on the Izzo signing for the Jets.  Mark Farinella has more on Izzo joining the hated rivals yesterday.  Glen Farley also looks at Izzo’s decision to switch to the green. Gasper’s notebook discusses Springs & TO, the official Bodden signing, and an update on negotiations with backup NT Mike Wright.  Shalize Manza Young discusses the changing landscape of the AFC East, and points out the most overlooked aspect of the Matt Cassel deal, in that it is a clear indicator that Tom Brady will be healthy and taking snaps come week one, the best addition any team could make.  Chris Warner has a Q&A with Penn State left tackle Gerald Cadogan over at Patriots Daily.  In a case of the old adage “the best deals are the ones you don’t do,” PFT had an item yesterday about the Leigh Bodden signing, with sources indicating that the Pats actually made a 4 year, $16 million offer back on Feb. 27th when free agency started, but Bodden wanted to test the market.  He ended up signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal with a commitment the Pats won’t franchise him.  News of the Pats supposed offer makes me a feel a little bit better about the guy.

Bruins

Well the question on everyone’s mind right now with the Bruins is quite simple; what’s wrong with the Bruins?  Kevin Paul Dupont’s notebook has Cam Neely visibly irritated with the Bruins lack of retaliation against Jiri Novotny’s hit on Tim Thomas Tuesday night, as well as coach Claude Julien mum about the mysterious absence of David Kejci and Phil Kessel at practice yesterday and their status for tonight’s game.  Steve Conroy’s notebook has the Bruins getting after it at practice yesterday without Krejci and Kessel.  Joe Haggerty discusses how the Bruins toughness and physical play all starts with Milan Lucic, who is finally feeling healthy and strong again.  Mike Loftus has Bruins newcomer Steve Montador excited about the Bruins and positive about their potential, regardless of their recent struggles.

Misc.

In a must-read for me, Mike Felger has a new mailbag up.  With the ACC tourney kicking off tonight, Bob Ryan has Al Skinner patient and consistent with his BC Eagles, depsite their up-and-down season.  Julian Benbow takes a look at fiery BC guard Reggie Jackson and how he has developed this season.  Dan Shaughnessy has a piece on the travels of the Mass Bay Community College men’s basketball team and the daily lives on their students.  Finally, Providence defeated DePaul yesterday, setting them up with a must-win today against Louisville at noon to get into the tournament.

That’s all for today.  Please shoot me any questions or concerns to [email protected].  Have a good one.

Up and Down Weekend

Good morning, Brian Beaupre here filling in for Bruce on vacation.  The weekend started off with promise, as the Celtics pulled out their best win of the season on Friday night against the Cavs (and the stripes), and the Bruins bounced back on Saturday with a strong home win against Chicago, however, both suffered tough losses yesterday.  We did receive a bit of good news on the Red Sox front last night though with news of Jon Lester close to a 5-year, $30MM deal to stay in a Sox uniform potentially through 2014. 

Finally, we say goodbye to the sports abyss, which for me ends this week with the Big East/ACC tournaments, transitioning right into Selection Sunday.  Let’s get started.

Celtics

Well it looks like the injuries finally caught up to the green yesterday in a tough home loss to Orlando, as Rajon Rondo was a late scratch due to the ankle injury suffered Friday night, and Glen Davis had to leave after rolling an ankle as well.  The Celts fought hard to grind their way back into this game, and were it not for an Eddie House three that basically hit the bottom of the net, Ray Allen’s missed three after closing to within three, or the atrocious off-the-ball foul call on Powe with 30 seconds left, the Celts could’ve pulled this one out.  Not to be that insufferable homer complaining about the officials, but some of the calls this weekend in the Celts games were mind-boggling, especially Friday night’s 38-12 advantage in free throws for Cleveland, and the refs giving Rashard Lewis two free throws to expand the lead to five and basically handing Orlando the game with 20 seconds left.  But I digress.  Mark Murphy looks at the tough loss for the C’s and wonders whether Rajon Rondo’s absence, if extended, will be more difficult to overcome than any other injury.  Frank Dell’Apa has the Celtics finally waking up in the final quarter, but too late to dig out of the hole they dug themselves.  He also has Doc Rivers second-guessing his decision to start Stephon Marbury over Eddie House.  Shalize Manza Young has the Celtics struggling offensively without Rondo is the lineup.  Lenny Megliola has the Celts not using injuries as an excuse for the loss, rather the lack of defensive intensity.  Bill Doyle looks at Doc’s decision not to start Eddie House and how it impacted the slow start for the offense.  Steve Bulpett looks at the excellent play of Ray Allen down the stretch, as he single handedly put the green on his shoulders in the final frame.  Jessica Camerato highlights yesterday’s game as the toughest game for the Celts to win without KG.

Marc Spears has the injuries really starting to pile up for the Celtics, creating some serious lineup issues for Doc Rivers during a critical stretch of the season.  Steve Bulpett looks at the timetable for Kevin Garnett’s return, with the Celts indicating he may be held out beyond next weekend and the 3-week timeframe given a few weeks ago.  Paul Flannery has more on the injuries coming at the worst time for the Celts.  Frank Dell’Apa’s notebook has more on the potential return of KG, and Paul Pierce entering some elite company yesterday, passing Robert Parish as the third-highest scorer in Celts history.  Steve Buckley has Pierce excited about his place in Celtics history, but more proud of the fact his name is attached to a championship along with the all-time greats.  Young’s notebook has more on Doc’s second-guessing, KG’s injury, and Pierce’s milestone.  Doyle’s notebook looks at the Celtics struggles at home on Sunday’s during these early tip-off’s.  Scott Souza has a piece on how Doc Rivers continues to get on Leon Powe, despite his recent play.

Bruins

The Bruins lost a tough one on national TV yesterday behind some, er, less than stellar goaltending from Manny Fernandez.  Stephen Harris has the Rangers more lucky than good yesterday in their win over the Bruins, with Fernandez suffering from some unlucky bounces.  Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins feeling good about their play depsite the struggles of Fernandez, but ultimately unable to overcome a tough game by their goalie.  Harris’ notebook has more on Manny’s struggles, and highlights the “moral code” of fighting displayed by Shawn Thornton yesterday during his fight with ex-Bruin Colton Orr.  Mike Milbury was loving this on the air.  Dupont’s notebook has more on the gesture from Thornton, as well as Byron Bitz playing some center in yesterday’s game, earning praise from his head coach.  Joe Haggerty discusses the challenges the Bruins face for the stretch run, as their eastern conference foes also improved at the trade deadline.

Red Sox

In a continued effort to lock up young, homegrown talent on the rise, we received word yesterday that the Sox were close with Jon Lester on a 5 year, $30 million extension, with a club option for 2014.  This is one of those stories that makes you smile when thinking back to what Lester has had to overcome at such a young age, and how quickly he has established himself as an elite pitcher, as the financials around the deal suggest.  As broke by Yahoo! Sports, Amalie Benjamin references the story and gets some vague comments from the tight-lipped sox brass on rumors of the deal.  Alex Speier has more on Lester staying true to his desire to stay in a Red sox uniform for the long haul.  Ron Borges’ notebook has more on the potential extension for Lester, as it represents the largest deal ever given to a pitcher with only two years of service time.  Joe McDonald has more on the potential extension for Lester and Theo’s continued efforts to show money to homegrown talent that buys into the Red Sox system.  John Tomase has Pedroia and Youkilis in Toronto excited for Lester’s new deal.  Jon Couture has more on the rumor of Lester’s extension.

Borges has Julio Lugo remaining confident in his abilities and making his case to be the starter both on and off the field.  Dan Barbarisi has more on Lugo not pleased with needing to compete with Jed Lowrie for the starting shortstop job, but hoping it brings out the best in him.  I’m not quite sure what Lugo has done around here to think that the SS job was going to be handed to him, or that he’s better than a utlity player, which he so vehemently opposes in this piece.  Maureen Mullen has more on Lugo with something to prove and confident he will bounce back.  It hurts to wrap my head around the fact that Lugo is making $8MM/year with the Sox and has produced 95 RBI’s in two seasons, while players like Bobby Abreu (100 RBI last year) and Adam Dunn (40+ HR in past 5 seasons) will make $5 and $10MM, respectively, in 2009.  Ouch.  Tomase has New England leading Team USA in a rout of Venezuela last night in the WBC, with Pedroia, Youkilis, and RI-native Chris Iannetta providing the offense.  Adam Kilgore’s notebook has Brad Penny working his way back from bad habits he developed last year trying to pitch through injuries, and Justin Masterson continuing to pitch well this spring.

Misc.

In a shameless alma mater plug, Holy Cross defeated Colgate yesterday to advance to the Patriot League Championship Friday at American.  That’s all for today, Bob Ekstrom will be back this afternoon with some links to get you through the day.  Please shoot me any comments or questions at [email protected].  See you back here on Thursday.

Good to be fan in Boston

Today’s morning links from guest blogger Brian Beaupre. Brian can be reached at [email protected]

The first weekend in April, and we’re talking about a Celtics magic number, potential Bruins playoff opponents, the Sox out to a fast start after a trip around the world, literally, and the Pats…well, not doing a whole lot other than apologizing. Oh, and we have what could be the most exciting Final Four in years as well. But I wouldn’t be doing a great story justice without starting off with Umass basketball. Read that line again, it’s real.

Unfortunately, the boys from Amherst couldn’t get it done in the losers bracket, aka NIT Championship last night at Madison Square Garden. Michael Vega has the Minutemen coming out swinging last night, but not able to withstand Ohio State in the second half. Matt Gagne has more on Umass unable to sustain their fast start. Vega’s notebook discusses Travis Ford’s future at Umass and rumors he is the frontrunner for the LSU head coaching position, as well as old friend John Calipari saying that the recent suspension of Andre Allen will not distract his team from the task at hand.

Red Sox

The Sox had a day off to rest yesterday as their world tour continues, but get back to action tonight against the Blue Jays in Toronto. With old friend Tim Wakefield getting the nod tonight, Gordon Edes takes a look at Kevin Cash, who now carries the burden of catching the knuckleball and justifying the release of Doug Mirabelli on his shoulders. Joe McDonald has a look at Bobby Kielty’s decision to accept his assignment to the Pawsox, in hopes that the Sox make a move and call his number in the near future. Steve Crowe has more from Rhode Island, with Bartolo Colon taking a big step in putting his name into the starting rotation discussion with an excellent outing last night. Rich Thompson has more on Colon’s outing last night. Tony Massarotti looks at what makes the Sox different from the similarly talented Toronto Blue Jays; experience. Jeff Horrigan has the Sox eager to get home next week for their home opener, but needing to finish off their world tour strong in Toronto. I hate to even give Canseco more pub than he already has, but Steve Buckley takes a shot at Canseco, who apparently hung up on the Big Show yesterday when questioned about a failed business deal with A-rod. I guess Canseco was in Boston yesterday for a book signing, and Amalie Benjamin talks to him about being questioned by MLB investigators the previous day, as well as a request for the Gator’s MVP trophy to be returned to it’s rightful owner. Dan Duggan has more on the absurd yesterday at Borders in Downtown Crossing. Horrigan’s notebook takes a look at tonight’s starter, Tim Wakefield, and his hopes to remain healthy this season with a new batterymate in Kevin Cash. Alex Speier has his sixth and final piece on the Sox player development strategy in the wake of their 2004 championship.

Celtics

The Celtics magic number to clinch home court throughout the playoffs is down to 1, so with that hopefully a foregone conclusion, the discussion now turns to preparing for the playoffs and how to treat the final 7 games. Julian Benbow has both Sam Cassell and PJ Brown looking to use the final set of games to get in sync with the offense and defense for their playoff run. Mark Murphy discusses the development of Rajon Rondo, and the heated moments that have helped him gain respect with the veterans. Murphy has a quick piece on Pierce most likely out for tomorrow night’s game against the Bobcats, as his wife is due to deliver their first child.

Bruins

A Bruins post before the Pats? Seems like blasphemy in this town, but with the B’s fighting for their playoff lives, and the Pats soaking it up at the owener’s meetings, I’m going to go with the former. Steve Conroy has the Bruins taking on the Senators tonight in their biggest game of the year, and even though they control their own destiny with a win, some of the players admit to a little scoreboard watching on their off night. Shinzawa’s notebook discusses David Krejci’s return to his junior hockey playing days in Ottawa, as well as the return of Andrew Alberts on Wednesday night. Conroy’s notebook has more on Alberts return to the lineup, Andrew Ference’s potential return to the ice, and red-hot Washington Capitals. Stan Grossfeld talks to Canadiens forward Chris Higgins about concussions and its stamp on hockey players of all ages. Grossfeld expands on the culture of violence in hockey and the perception of concussions with an excellent piece on Patrice Bergeron and his struggles to return from his vicious injury. Grossfeld also gets a rare interview with Eric Lindros, who echoes the sentiment of many former players that respect for the game and other players has diminished with time, and that some of the hits this year would not be tolerated in his day.

Patriots

Not much going on here, but Guregian’s notebook has a quick interview with Kevin Faulk, who discusses his arrest for marijuana, charity softball tournament, and the Super Bowl. Guregian also touches on the Pats preseason schedule, Brett Favre’s “retirement,” and Chris Henry getting released by the Bengals. Mike Reiss has more from Faulk, as well as the announcement of the Pats preseason schedule this season, woo!

Misc

The Revolution opened up their road schedule last night against Chicago, and lost 4-0. Jack McCarthy has more on the loss last night. Frank Dell’Apa has more on last night’s night loss, which started with an untimely and questionable red card, forcing the Revs to play a man down for 83 minutes.

Finally, Nancy Marrapese-Burrell touches on both the Sox and Bruins playing tonight, creating a conflict for NESN, who has moved the Bruins game to CN8 locally at 7:30pm. Buried in the piece is also the announcement that TBS, whose coverage of the playoffs last year was terrible in my opinion, is launching a national baseball package that begins with Sox-Jays Sunday at 1pm. At least FrankTV isn’t premiering in the coming months, so we got that going for us, which is nice.

That’s all for today, have a great weekend, it should be an exciting sports weekend. Shoot me any comments at [email protected]