Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to home court/ice advantage?
— Defense, anyone?
— The Celtics’ lack of defensive effort was never this obvious during the regular season. But then again, this Celtics’ team relied pretty much on the play of one person (hello, Isaiah Thomas) to get them to 50 wins.
— When you have the equivalent of 82 one-game seasons, you can get away with masking your shortcomings. In a seven game (or less) series, there is no running, no hiding from your opponent, or their ability to match up and beat you up.
— Are the Celtics a top seeded team? Not on your life. They just happened to end up with the best overall record in the East. Cleveland showed us all a week or so ago who the best team is in the conference. The equivalent of basketball fools’ gold.
— The NBA Eastern Conference regular season is a complete sham, really. How else do you explain the ease with which 8th seeded Chicago whacks #1 Boston – especially on the backboards? The C’s are the first top seed to lose the first two games of a series to the bottom seed since the first-round expanded to seven games.
— Rondo’s revenge? Pretty much. I can see why he’d be ultra-motivated. And now he’s got a broken thumb? Maybe he’s getting out at the right time.
— I realize Brad Stevens isn’t much of a screamer, a non-emotional type. But maybe the guy is 2-10 in the post-season (going into Friday) for a reason? Maybe laying into someone every so often would send a different message? ‘Cuz I can think of a couple of guys who could use a good attitude adjustment right about now.
— It’s a nice achievement for this Boston team to win 50 games in the regular season, sure. The team is still a work-in-progress, and the immediate future is all positive. But now? They’re frauds. It’s better to win in the playoffs, or have we forgotten about that part?
— I’ve long thought the NBA game has steadily digressed over the past 30 years. It has. And the Celtics are a perfect example of what a lack of fundamentals will do to you. No defense, no rebounding, no answers. Chuck it up, and hope for the best.
— But don’t lay any of this egg on Isaiah Thomas. Shame on his teammates for not picking him up in a deserving fashion, emotionally or otherwise. Oh well, there’s always the Nets’ #1 pick to look forward to, amiright?
— Marathon Monday, aka Patriots’ Day, was shaping up to be one of the best around here in some time. Great weather, strong US challengers for the first time (in forever?) in the race, the Sox winning at home, and the Stanley Cup playoffs returned to the Garden. Then the Bruins had to go mess things up.
— The B’s weren’t the only ones messing things up, of course. Four straight home games at TD Garden, four straight losses between the Celtics and Bruins this week. Has that ever happened before – in the playoffs?
— The Bruins are failing much as the Celtics are, but not because they can’t defend. Even with their blue line injury problems, the B’s can’t generate any “O,” either.
— Tough to pin this on Bruce Cassidy, as he furiously devises one opportunity after another from the bench. Here’s an idea – and I’m not trying to oversimplify this – put the puck on the net more often.
— It’s the 4th time in five years for the Providence Bruins to face the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins in the AHL playoffs. The previous three times, the Pens sent the Bruins waddling home for the year. Rhode Island’s Clark Donatelli is on the bench as coach for SWB, and led the team this year to the best regular season record in the league.
— And with three P-Bruin standouts – Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly – with the big club as the series begins, the challenge for Providence is obvious.
— No surprise from this corner that the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence gets the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to return in 2021. This will be visit Number Eight for March Madness into the Capitol City, with last year’s stop (2016) the most recent.
— Providence should be considered every year, although the good fortune is spread around as much as possible. Why? Because fans here turn out. They show up. They fill up the Dunk to overflowing, just like my morning coffee. And they pump millions into the local economy, making downtown business owners very happy.
— And it went so well this year, let’s try it again in New York. Madison Square Garden, aka “mecca,” gets the NCAA East Regional again for 2020. The way things should be. It will be the 3rd time in seven seasons for the Garden to host a regional run to the Final Four. 2020’s championship round will be in Atlanta, at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium.
— Red Storm rising? St. John’s picked up a transfer this week in sophomore guard Mikey Dixon, after winning the MAAC Rookie of the Year honor at Quinnipiac this past season. Dixon averaged 16.5 points per game for the Bobcats, and will sit out next year before becoming eligible and retaining three more years of eligibility.
— Several reports say Villanova’s Jalen Brunson will be back next season to play for the Wildcats. Good for the Cats, bad for their Big East brethren. Nothing changes with these guys. Nova will once again challenge for the league title.
— Didn’t take long, did it? Now that the infamous “bathroom bill” has been amended in North Carolina, the NCAA is knocking on their door once again, as the Tar Heel state is ready to host 23 different championship events through 2022 – providing a huge home advantage for Duke, UNC, and just about anyone in the ACC south of Boston. Or Syracuse. Or Pittsburgh.
— Here’s what I’d like to know, however. What happens when the Tar Heel basketball and football teams get probation – or worse yet, potentially the death penalty – for their ongoing academic fraud issues? At the rate they’re going, it may be 2022 before we get any sort of decision here from the NCAA. The academia waltz is a slow-moving process. And Tar Heel fans are some of their best customers.
— NCAA = North Carolina Athletic Association.
— Dayton, Ohio will continue hosting the First Four through at least 2022. Good news for a good organizing group and city, who support those eight teams playing there to tip off March Madness as if they were their own.
— Not for nuthin’, but this qualifies under the category “now I’ve heard it all.” Coastal Carolina’s cheerleading team has been suspended from campus activities for wild parties, alleged drug use and accusations of prostitution. In other words, “Girls Gone Wild.”
— In other news, Coastal Carolina University has reportedly seen a sudden spike in male student applications over the past month to attend school.
— Friartown rising? The emergence of coach Chris Gabrielli’s PC laxmen is one of the best untold stories of the spring around here. The Friars head into weekend play against 3rd ranked Denver with nine wins (9-4 overall), and the school record for lacrosse wins in a season is 10. PC is also nationally ranked (20th this week), and three of their four losses are double OT affairs.
— Mark your calendars, the Big East lacrosse championship will be held on the Providence campus on Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium May 4th and 6th.
— This sounds cold and callous, but I’m just not sure how to feel about Aaron Hernandez. Pity? Sadness? Did he feel either when it came to doing what he was convicted of doing? Suicide was the chicken way out here, let’s call it for what it is. What I’m left with is a simple word – waste.
— Although, I’ve read and listened to several opinions over the past couple of days, and I’m left with two possibilities. One, he knew exactly what he was doing with antiquated Massachusetts law what it is, and technically he knew he could “clear his name” legally for his 4-year old daughters’ future benefit. Plus, overturning the conviction could have his estate monetarily enhanced by the Patriots.
— Or, somehow, someone killed him in his cell in retaliation for the two deaths he wasn’t convicted for committing. You tell me, but something doesn’t sit right.
— As in most cases with multiple possibilities, the truth always lands somewhere in the middle, to a large degree.
— Wednesday this week was one of those Bizarro-World days, where you feel like you know what to do, but then can’t figure out what to do or how to do it. Know what I mean? Hernandez commits suicide, his former teammates visit the President later in the same day. Media outlets keep “score” on how many players show up for the ceremony, just waiting to read something into the meaning.
— The once-respected New York Times (All the News That’s Fit to Print?) embarrassed itself comparing 2015 and 2017 White House ceremony photos, implying this year was less attended by the Patriots than two years ago – as if that had anything to do with the ability of a President to govern. We get it. You don’t like the President. Trouble was, the photos weren’t comparable – and there were only two less players attending this year than two years ago.
— That’s a referendum on the POTUS? Good grief, can we all just get along here? With no hidden agenda? All the Spin That’s Fit to Print. Or better yet, cancel my subscription to the New York Pravda.
— Anyone surprised the Patriots visit to the White House didn’t include alleged FOTP (Friend of the President) Tom Brady? Not me. Maybe they’re friends, but an outward relationship with the POTUS these days (unless you’re Robert Kraft) can be toxic to your personal PR and business health.
— That, plus mama sez no more politics, Tommy. A happy wife is necessary for a happy life. I’m not sure who originally said this, but it’s spot on. Just sayin’.
— My buddy “Big E” has a wife who is usually quite happy. Except this week. She read a letter at breakfast last weekend from her mother, saying she wouldn’t accept their invitation to come and stay with them, “as they appear to not want her.” The missus wanted to know what this meant, that she told him to call or write and tell her to come at her own convenience. “Did you tell that to my mother?” “Umm, well, yes I did,” “E” explained. “But I couldn’t spell convenience, so I used the word ‘risk’ instead. Bad idea?”
— James White’s three-year contract extension this week means a couple of things – one, the Patriots now see him as the “heir apparent” to the former role performed so well by Kevin Faulk a few years ago. And two, it keeps versatility in the backfield.
— But without a thumper back there right now, don’t be surprised to see someone who fits the bill drafted next week to potentially take on that role.
— As much as I’d love to see Malcolm Butler paired with Stephon Gilmore in the defensive backfield next season, just because he signed his contract tender this week doesn’t mean he’ll be here when camp begins.
— If – and it’s a big IF – if the Patriots stand pat with the draft picks they currently possess, expect the offensive line to gain a boost at some point. Not only is this S.O.P. over the past several years (standard operating procedure), the team released two-year guard Tre Jackson, who missed last season on the reserve/PUP list.
— The next time you decide to complain about Danny Amendola, consider this – he’s taken a pay cut three straight years now, to remain with the Patriots because he wants to be here. If there’s anyone on this team that epitomizes “the Patriot Way,” or at least what we think that’s supposed to be, it’s Amendola.
— I’m left with a couple of impressions on the schedule for next fall. One, KC in the Thursday opener is OK. Not great, just OK. But Tony Romo’s retiring didn’t help. Had he gone to Houston instead, the Texans undoubtedly would be opening in Foxboro.
— And five of their last six games against the AFC East? Someone screwed up there, even if it appears the NFL has figured out a way to make the divisional race interesting, past Halloween.
— Welcome to the big time, Vegasites. Las Vegas taxpayers contributed more than $4.6 million in additional tax dollars this past month for a stadium that won’t be ready until 2020. Oh, and if you’re planning to visit Vegas anytime soon, you’ll also be contributing to the stadium kitty – about $1.50 more per night per room on average.
— Even if you don’t care about the Raiders, you’ll pay for them to play there. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” doesn’t it?
— If you needed any more of a sign that the apocalypse is approaching, how about the Olympics considering medals for eSports? There is such a thing as the International eSports Federation, although the International Olympic Committee has yet to officially recognize it. Look, I can appreciate a good game of Madden ’17 or College Football, but Olympics? For button-pushing?
— And if you needed any more of a sign that US Soccer is slowly catching up to the rest of the planet, Spanish world power Real Madrid is scheduled to face the MLS All-Star team in Chicago on August 2nd. It’s the first time a team from La Liga has played in the MLS All-Star Game, which has had the American side facing European clubs since 2005.
— As mentioned above, four home games this week at TD Garden and four home losses on four consecutive days between the B’s and C’s is basically unprecedented in this era of Boston/New England sports superiority. What the losses show, however, isn’t so much that the Celtics and Bruins aren’t championship-caliber (which they’re not), but that parity has dominated in the middle-range of the NBA and NHL.
— There will always be room at the top for the elite of the elite to shine. The toughest part for the middle of the pack is to get to the top in the first place. Both teams had opportunities in the last 10 years following world titles, and for various reasons (free agency being one, salary caps another) could not maintain their presence. The leagues are set up for cyclical challengers to the throne room. Which makes what the Patriots have accomplished during the NFL’s current free agency era not just remarkable, but historical.
— Mark in Cumberland, Rhode Island posted on Facebook this week, on the Patriots Hall-of-Fame nominees. Raymond Clayborn, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel are the selections, and fans can vote for one of them on Patriots.com: “(Bill) Parcells should have been in years ago. Without him, we don’t enjoy being the villains of this sport.” Mark: I couldn’t agree more. We tend to have (very) short memories around here, but if anyone can recall what the Patriots were like prior to his arrival – oh wait, you can’t? That’s precisely the point. Parcells made them relevant. He gave them life. He began the boost from worst-to-first in New England sports hierarchy. He sold tickets, created the buzz, and helped ensure the Patriots would stay the Patriots and not become the St. Louis Stallions. But sadly, most seem to have forgotten this, still upset with his leaving for the Jets. I have no issue with any of the three candidates this year, all very deserving. But the Patriots should place Parcells in the Hall – because the fans never will.
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