Tuesday, May 10, 2005

WEEKEND WRAP-UP

THE MELTDOWN:

They had no chance in round two against Detroit anyway, but still…

This was the chance to create some good will in the city of Boston with the Boston Celtics. A city desperate to expand their playoff hero roster, with a lull in the action between the Patriots Super Bowl victory and the Red Sox drive through the 162 game schedule, the Celtics had a chance to grab the headlines, sell playoff tickets, create a demand for their radio rights, and make themselves relevant again in a city in love with baseball and football.

But, like Antoine Walker in the low post, they were rejected. Repeatedly.

I think that I ranted and raved enough during the playoff series about the horror of this team returning again next season. I know that the officiating was a factor in the playoffs. Reggie Miller makes a better storyline to sell to the national audience and who in their non-biased mind does not want to see a Detroit-Indiana rematch? Heck, I will watch just to see if someone gets strangled or maimed or something. Anyone who does not believe that the NBA will massage a series to see the outcome that is best for television is naïve at best. From Patrick Ewing landing in New York with the first lottery, to Seattle getting jobbed to get a Barkley-Jordan final, to the Lakers being allowed to pass go and collect $200 against Sac-town, the David Stern led NBA will do whatever they can to dictate what is best for television dollars.

What the Celtics need to concern themselves with is, one, where was the team offense; and, two, how long can management allow the gruesome twosome infect the rest of the squad? Here are some more thoughts on the green:

ANTOINE:
I wanted no part of Antoine at first, was gradually was lulled into believing if he played right he could be a good fit, by the playoffs I believed that just maybe he had changed his spots, but by game three was convinced that my first instinct was correct and that the Antoine era desperately needs to end again. It was classic Antoine this playoff series, and that is by no means a compliment. The porous defense, the wild threes, the excessive fiddling and diddling, the numerous turnovers, and the one-on-one offense were just too much to endure again. The sooner he is gone, the better.

And to be honest, the real reason for his return had nothing to do with what Danny Ainge wants for the team. It finally clicked during the playoffs when I read in an unrelated article about the Boston media that the Celtics radio contract up for renewal. Cha-ching. The ownership group needed to drive up interest in the team to get a good radio deal, maybe get WEEI in on the bidding or something, because I am sure that they were in line to get nothing if the team continued to operate well below the radar.

So where will Antoine go? Who will pay him? Where would he fit? I say ship him off to the Lakers for a bucket of balls and let him play second banana to Kobe. Kobe needs a foil (the waggle of Kobe and the wiggle of Antoine, together for the first time), he can feel like a veteran mentor, he is used to being second banana to Pierce, and the Lakers are stupid enough to do it. Get started on the sign-and-trade, Danny.

GARY PAYTON
All about the Benjamins, baby. I can just see Payton screaming into his phone: SHOW ME THE MONEY! If Gary Payton cared about winning a championship ring, he would currently be the back-up point guard for the top-ranked Phoenix Suns. Payton, however, took the cash in Boston and played out the string. The Celtics have to decide if they are ready to let Delonte West and Marcus Banks handle the job at the point, draft yet another point guard, or try to find a veteran again to handle the load Heck, I am not even sure there will be a serviceable point guard available at eighteen in the draft, and I know the Celtics do not have the free agent cash available to sign a free agent of any acclaim. I say let the kids play.

PAUL PIERCE:
Can Paul Pierce ever adapt to the Doc Rivers system? I doubt it. He was ruined by the Obie laissez-faire offense that let him and Antoine bomb away wildly from wherever they desired. Though Pierce is a rare pure scorer, he seems to need a fresh start for his own sake. I put nothing past a General Manager who did not originally acquire a player when determining his fate. Of course, a big question is what can the Celtics receive in return on a trade of Pierce? Who out there would fit the Celtics running style better?
Will it make a difference without a running point guard? I do not know these answers, and since I rarely catch NBA fever outside of the green, I doubt I could identify who that player is who fits the Celtics. The important thing, however, is that Danny Ainge is able to do this.

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MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS:

BRADY BUCKS:

What is up with Michael Felger and his artificially created controversy in the Boston Herald on Monday regarding Brady and the contract issue? I have been sounding the alarm for months that Richard Seymour will not be in New England much longer due to his contact demands. A huge sign to watch is if Jarvis Green gets resigned to a long-term deal. But for Felger to bring in Dan Koppen, Eugene Wilson, and Asante Samuel as players questioning why they do not have their deals renegotiated with two years remaining like Brady is idiotic. I doubt any player on the team would question that Tom Brady is the one player that the Patriots cannot operate long without. The won in the playoffs without Seymour, they won before Koppen and without Wilson and with Samuel on the bench. The all know that the engine does not run without Brady at the controls.

And give credit to Brady for following the Tedy Bruschi lead and not griming for every penny. What good is a huge contact if the team cannot sign players to complement the big contract player? Peyton Manning got his money and the team released six defensive players. Then, the team does not make the playoffs with the inferior defense on the field in the playoffs. My best guess is that this year is it for Peyton. The Colts have signed every offensive weapon to long-term deals save Edgerrin James, who they amazingly kept around for a year as the franchised player. Despite the major increase in cap spending coming soon (new TV deals), the Colts need to start building a defense that can keep an opposing offense off the field. Tony Dungy is a coach whose reputation was built on defense. He knows he needs a young Warren Sapp at defensive tackle, a young Derrick Brooks at linebacker, and a shutdown cornerback to remake the Colts defense into a playoff worthy unit. Those days are coming soon.

* * *

PRESEASON DRAW:

Preseason tickets for the Patriots games will actually have value this season. It may be the last chance to see Doug Flutie in action. Heck, I plan on getting tickets just to see Flutie running the offense one more time.

* * *

BAD CHADS:

Chad Scott at cornerback. Chad Brown at linebacker. What ever happened to the depth problems in the secondary without Ty Law and at linebacker without Tedy Bruschi? It look like the secondary and linebacking corps are back to full strength.

* * *

GOOD-BYE AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH:

Another big body exits Route One: Keith Tractor Traylor. I would guess that this is more of an indication that Ethan Kelly is ready to assume the back-up spot at defensive tackle than strictly a cost-cutting measure, as Traylor had a fairly low cap number this year. With a first-round pick invested in the other nose tackle on the roster, Vince Wilfork, and his obvious talents at collapsing the pocket and growth at occupying blockers at the point of attack, it was clear that Wilfork would be taking on a load of the duties in the middle of the line. Also, the Patriots still have Jarvis Green, Ty Warren, and Richard Seymour who have in the past and still can fill in at the nose in a pinch.

* * *

WATCHING TY:
My latest landing place for Ty Law appears to be Miami. Yes, it makes no sense when you consider they just traded Patrick Surtain to Kansas City, but with their second round pick, Will Poole, (of Boston College), who they were expecting to step in and challenge for a starting position, out for the year with a torn ACL, the Dolphins must be looking for a replacement cornerback. Unless Bill Belichick scares off his old pal Nick Saban, Law is the best option out there. T-Buck, Terrell Buckley, is also a possibility if the Dolphins go for a cheap veteran replacement.

* * *

STARTING TO DO THE JOB:
The Red Sox starting rotation showed its strength and depth this past week with Jeremi Gonzalez and John Halama riding to the rescue. Factor in the impressive debut by Wade Miller, and all of a sudden, the much maligned (at least in the off-season and pre-season) rotation looks like it will be tough to remove the starters from when they get to full strength. Of course, as these things tend to do, it likely will be sorted out in due course. But it is encouraging that Halama and Gonzalez have been better than advertised and that Wade Miller looked healthy and strong in his first appearance. Eight quality starting pitchers (well, nine when you consider that Abe Alvarez is ready to go down in Pawtucket) is a good problem to have.

* * *

FINGERED:
It was nice to see Edgar Renteria finally shook off that bruised fingernail and made it back to the line-up. I guess it is a good idea to make sure he is fully healthy and does not get hurt further by altering his throwing style and getting his shoulder out of whack or something, but, geez, a bruised finger? They must have some way to make it sound like a more legitimate injury.

* * I*

2006 STARTING CENTER FIELDER:
Whatever happened to Adam Stern? Injury rehab should be starting soon and they kind of have to keep him around all year or send him back to Atlanta as a rule five player. On paper, he would be perfect to replace Damon.

COMPLAIN ABOUT BLAIN:
I guess it is no longer such a tough decision to try to sneak Blaine Neal through waivers to send him down to Pawtucket. He has been brutal! Of course, No-Y Cla Meredith is ably filling the role of middle reliever who can put a couple of runs on the board in a hurry.

What will be interesting to see is the development of the future bullpen as Mike Timlin and Alan Embree will not last forever. Meredith and Neal have not impressed much in their short runs in the pen, but Gonzalez and Halama could be long-term solutions there.

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