Picked-up pieces while going big on the Rams in the Year of the Tiger …
▪ Brad Stevens was busy on the day of his first trade deadline as Celtics president of basketball ops. He shipped seven players out of town, none of whom were destined to have their numbers retired in the Garden’s rafters. Derrick White (who played three seasons of Division 2 college ball) and Daniel Theis (hello, again) were the “name” acquisitions.
None of these deals will rock Causeway Street like Dennis Johnson for Rick Robey or Charlie Scott for Paul Westphal (remember when an NBA deal was player-for-player, talent-for-talent?). There were no fireworks. In Stevens’s first year as boss, it’s clear that the Celtics are staying the course with this group, and with rookie coach Ime Udoka.
Stevens is playing the long game with this team that has tested our patience.
All together now … meh.
The Celtics took a six-game winning streak (eight of nine) into Friday night’s Garden game with the Denver Nuggets. Boston’s starting five of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, and Al Horford is healthy and cohesive for the first time all season. They look like they’re finally getting the message from Udoka, and Stevens believes that the addition of White (contract-friendly for 3½ more seasons) will make them elite defensively.
“I’ve coached a lot of defenses in my life,” said Stevens. “I’ve coached some really good ones in college and some really good ones here. I’ve never seen one this dynamic when it’s locked in.”
Boston sports fans and media routinely go easy on the Celtics, which is fairly amazing given that the franchise has won one championship since 1986. Green teamers always see rainbows. Young players come to Boston and are artificially inflated before they accomplish much of anything.
Today’s Celtics have done little to earn the love that surrounds them. And their recent win streak (against depleted Tomato Cans) will mean nothing if they revert to the iso ball and late-game collapses that marked so much of the last two seasons.
But make no mistake. Forget about “blowing it up.” Stevens just swept out a bunch of bodies and draft selections (no more hoarding picks) and is talking about “building and working together.” Udoka is going to get a longer look. Sign yourself up for more patience.
As Norman Dale said when he introduced the 1952 Hickory Huskers, “This is your team.”
▪ Quiz: Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow were both No. 1 overall picks. Name the only other Super Bowl matchup that pitted two No. 1 overall picks at quarterback (answer below).
▪ Mike Florio’s new book unleashed a predictable surge of Deflategate Denial from angry Patriots fans (is there any other kind?). We get this every time there’s “new” information regarding game-ball PSIs, destruction of evidence, bad gauges, the NFL’s general overreach, and over-punishment of the Patriots.
None of it matters. We know the league was out to get the Patriots. We know the league sting was flawed. We know the Patriots didn’t gain significant (if any) advantage from deflating balls.
The Patriots were champions before Deflategate and champions after it. But none of that really matters because we also know … They Were Doing It.
If you rob a bank and come away with only one dollar, you still go down for bank robbery. If the Patriots had simply fessed up to the crime and paid the fine (like Atlanta with the piped-up noise in 2015), it could have gone away.
Instead, we got the embarrassing Wells Report in Context, denials, lies, destruction of evidence, and federal courts tied up in nonsense.
The PSI in the footballs never mattered. Forget the science. No Patriot person has ever been able to credibly explain the McNally-Jastremski text chain — or why those two were immediately terminated and have never spoken. The only answer is — the Patriots were doing it.
▪ Great to see the NHL Winter Classic coming back to Fenway for 2023. Given that the Penguins have become part of the Fenway Sports Group empire, we expect to see them at Fenway against the Bruins. Wonder if the Penguins would get the home clubhouse.
Still remember when the Flyers came here in 2010. It was amusing and incongruous to see Zdeno Chara dressing in the stall that was then occupied by J.D. Drew.
▪ The death of Jeremy Giambi at the age of 47 brings back memories of the Red Sox spring of 2003 when Giambi was competing for a spot in the lineup with David Ortiz, who’d just been signed as a free agent after being released by the Twins.
Ortiz appeared in only 31 of the Sox’ first 54 games and had only two homers at the end of May. Teammates were teasing Ortiz, calling him “Juan Pierre.” Flyswatter Pierre had three homers for the Marlins while Ortiz was sitting on two.
When Ortiz’s agent complained to Theo Epstein, the 28-year-old general manager told them to be patient, and he created some space by trading Shea Hillenbrand to Arizona. Ortiz hit .293 with 29 homers and 82 RBIs over the final 97 games and finished fifth in AL MVP voting.
▪ Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden played 16 games together for the Nets. Irving might be the greatest team-killer of all time. And Harden is No. 2.
▪ Give me more Patrice Bergeron and less Tom Brady, please.
▪ Concussions … tanking … Rooney Rule … officiating chaos … none of it really matters to the National Football League. The Shield has proven to be absolutely scandal-proof. When issues are raised, the leagues gives us a little lip service, does nothing, and moves forward. The owners count their money.
▪ Former Holy Cross coach Mark Duffner is a senior defensive assistant coach for the Bengals. Cincinnati linebackers coach Al Golden is a former Boston College assistant, and assistant offensive line coach Ben Martin is from Danvers, played at St. John’s Prep, and coached at Curry after Steve Nelson.
Meanwhile, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was the Patriots’ third-round draft pick (quarterback) in 2008.
▪ With Brady retired (we think), the NFL’s oldest player is 40-year-old Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Rams coach Sean McVay is 36.
▪ Prepare to be carpet-bombed by crypto ads on Super Bowl Sunday. Feels like a high-tech version of reverse mortgages. Jody Rosen wrote in the New York Times, “There is something unseemly, to put it mildly, about the famous and fabulously wealthy urging crypto on their fans … They amount to a macho taunt. If you’re a real man, you’ll buy crypto.”
The only thing worse might be baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s rush to get a share of the once off-limits gambling market.
▪ Adrian Gonzalez officially announced his retirement from baseball last weekend? It was sort of like me officially withdrawing from the NBA’s 2023 slam dunk contest. The Cooler hasn’t played a big league game in almost four years.
▪ Former Rangers star Ron Duguay was at Sarah Palin’s side in federal court for her defamation suit against the New York Times.
▪ The Mets have announced an Old-Timers Day for Aug. 27, and notables such as Mookie Wilson, Ron Swoboda, Bobby Ojeda, and Daniel Murphy are expected to attend. No word on loose cannon Lenny Dykstra, who has been an embarrassment to the franchise for decades.
▪ I’m told Brad Marchand said at his NHL hearing that his actions vs. Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry were “legitimate political discourse.” It didn’t work. Marchand was slapped with a six-game suspension.
▪ Former Globe sportswriter and current Pro Football Hall of Famer Lesley Visser will be among those speaking at a public memorial service for the late John Madden at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland Monday. Tickets for the events cost $32.14, which was the score of Madden’s Super Bowl XI victory over Minnesota. All proceeds will benefit the Madden Foundation for inner-city youth.
▪ Quiz answer: Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning (Denver) over Cam Newton (Carolina).