Celtics

Andy Pettitte will make his 2012 debut on...

751626.jpg

Andy Pettitte will make his 2012 debut on...

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Pettitte will be back on the mound in the Bronx on Sunday, and the New York Yankees are hoping he can again be a reliable presence in their rotation.Pettitte is set to start against the Seattle Mariners in his first major league outing since retiring after the 2010 postseason."I think it will be a great day at the Stadium," manager Joe Girardi said.The lefty, who turns 40 next month, returned to the team in spring training and has made four minor league starts. Even though Pettitte was shaky over five innings in a Triple-A start Sunday, general manager Brian Cashman says the time is right."I think everybody's in agreement that he's not going to really benefit from any more time down there," Cashman said.One thing the Yankees management does agree on is the rotation needs help. Expected to be a strong part of the team after the addition of Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda in the offseason, the Yankees' rotation has struggled this to a 5.54 ERA and a .292 opponents' batting average -- only Minnesota and Colorado have worse averages against.Pineda is out for season following shoulder surgery and Freddy Garcia was demoted to the bullpen. Rookie David Phelps is scheduled to make his second start against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, then is a likely candidate to return to the bullpen. But Girardi would not say whose spot Pettitte will take.Pettitte is 240-138 in 13 years with the Yankees and three with Houston. He was a steady force in the Yankees' rotation for five World Series championships and is a fan favorite as one of the Core Four with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.Cashman, though, is trying to be realistic in his expectations for Pettitte, who will be making his first big league start in 573 days, since Game 3 of the AL championship series against Texas on Oct. 18, 2010."There's still the unknown," Cashman said. "There's a gap between what the old Andy Pettitte is and what we're going to get? I just don't know yet. But we're looking forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix here because depth has been challenged and some of our healthy starters inconsistent. It would be nice to obviously start pulling together a string of consistently strong starts by all of our starters one through five and, hopefully, that could include Andy."Pettitte already has completed his testimony at Roger Clemens' trial in Washington, D.C. so that shouldn't weigh in his mind. He will be facing one of only two AL teams he doesn't have a winning record against: He's 11-11 against Seattle and 8-8 versus Cleveland.His locker -- the same one he occupied in his last season with the Yankees -- is filling with gear that includes 10 pairs of footwear and a full mail basket. Pettitte will be working out in Westchester, where he has a New York home, until he is added to the big league roster Sunday.Tampa Bay rays manager Joe Maddon thinks Pettitte will have an immediate positive influence on the team regardless of his performance in his first few starts."You can't underestimate what he's going to do for the clubhouse being minus the other guy," Maddon said, referring to closer Mariano Rivera, who is likely out for the season with a torn knee ligament.Cashman said there had been a complication with Rivera's medical exams Monday in New York but wouldn't say what it was. Rivera saw team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at New York Presbyterian Hospital and by Dr. Russell Warren, a knee specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, said Dr. David Altchek, who performed surgery on the pitcher's shoulder following the 2008 season, also looked at him."It's something I think Mo will talk to you guys about," Cashman said. "It doesn't affect anything for next year."He did say that the injury sustained while shagging fly balls last week in Kanasas City is fixable."It's all about next year," Cashman said.NOTES:RHP Jose Campos, obtained from Seattle along with Pineda, went on the disabled list of Charleston, S.C., with elbow inflammation. Pineda is sidelined for the season following shoulder surgery. The Yankees sent C Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi to the Mariners in the trade. ... Brett Gardner played in left field for Triple-A Scranton-WilkesBarre in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday night as part of his rehabilitation for a strained right elbow. He singled twice in three at-bats.

Blakely's takeaways: C's put entire league on notice

Blakely's takeaways: C's put entire league on notice

BOSTON – You had to figure Golden State’s explosive offense would probably come up a little short scoring-wise against the Boston Celtics and their top-rated defense. 

But for them to score 88 points – that’s about 32 below their average – was very one of those, “where the hell did that come from?” moments. 

And it was exactly what the Celtics needed to escape with a 92-88 win that extended their winning streak to 14 in a row but maybe most important, put the entire league on notice that this streak they’re on right now … it’s real. 

“They wrote us off coming in, saying Golden State was gonna beat us, and do this and do that,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “We came out and played basketball. Even though we got down, the make-up of our team is staying in; we’re resilient.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s signature win of the season, 92-88 over Golden State which extended Boston’s winning streak to 14 straight. 

 

BROWN’S GROWTH

Jaylen Brown was playing with a heavy heart less than 24 hours after the death of his best friend. But as we’ve seen in this still-young season, Brown is very much one of the league’s emerging talents. He certainly played that role on Thursday in leading Boston with 22 points with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.  

 

TALE OF TWO HALVES FOR TATUM

There’s something about the second half of games against elite players that brings out the best in Jayson Tatum. When Boston opened the season at Cleveland, Tatum was noticeably better in the second half than the first. And in Thursday’s win over Golden State, it was more of the same. In the first half he had just two points only to finish with a 10-point second half (7 coming in the fourth) for a 12-point game on 2-for-5 shooting. 

 

AL HORFORD

As well as he’s played, a strong case can be made for Horford being a league MVP instead of their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving. Horford tallied a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with a pair of assists. Horford now has six double-doubles this season which equals his double-double total from all of last season. 

 

MARCUS SMART

As much as you know Smart makes great effort plays consistently and does indeed make a difference when he’s on the court, his shooting woes are reaching critical mass even as Boston continues to gobble up wins. In the last five games, Smart has averaged 7.6 points. That’s not too bad, right? But then you look and see that he’s shooting 19.2 percent (10-for-52) in that span. Ouch! So far, the Celtics have been able to find success despite his shooting struggles. But you have to anticipate at some point it’ll catch up with them. 

 

SHORTENED ROTATION

For most of this season, pretty much everyone who suits up for the Celtics, have played. But against the Warriors, it had the feel of a playoff-like rotation with head coach Brad Stevens playing 10 guys with nine reaching double digits in minutes played. Considering how the second unit struggled to make shots (they missed 17 of their 19 shot attempts), it’s understandable why head coach Brad Stevens leaned a little heavier than usual on his second unit.

A. Sherrod Blakely’s Starting 5: Unmasking the NBA’s best

A. Sherrod Blakely’s Starting 5: Unmasking the NBA’s best

BOSTON –  The NBA has seen its share of early-season injuries, some resulting in guys out for the season (Gordon Hayward) while others missing just a couple games (Al Horford out two games with a concussion).

MORE CELTICS:

 

And then there’s Kyrie Irving, who suffered a facial fracture that kept him for one game. He was supposed to wear a plastic protective mask for a couple weeks. Instead, it lasted one game and part of another before Irving decided to ditch it.
 
Kyrie’s mask got me to thinking … who are the best masked men in the NBA?
 
Today's Starting Five will include the top 5 masked men in the annals of NBA history, in addition to the top 5 teams, MVP candidates, rookies and defenders:
 
TOP 5 MASKED MEN


1. Rip Hamilton, Detroit – Worn initially for protection, his mask became an iconic look for the three-time All-star.

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – Mask worn in 2012, the last year Bryant appeared in the playoffs.

3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – He looked and played like a superhero in his first game with a mask in 2015, tallying 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Philly.

4. LeBron James – Ever the fashion-forward one, James wore a black, carbon-fiber mask to protect his broken nose in 2014.

5. Kyrie Irving - He played with a mask for 19 games in 2013, averaging 24.5 points and 47.5 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from 3-point range.
 
TOP 5 MVP CANDIDATES


1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – The addition of Eric Bledsoe has helped rack up some wins, strengthen Antetokounmpo’s chances atop the MVP leaderboard.

2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – Shooting better than 50 percent from the field, Durant has stepped his passing game (career-high 5.0 assists now) up this season while continuing to pile up the wins.

3. James Harden, Houston – Not having Chris Paul around most of this season and still winning, is a reminder of how Harden has played at a consistently high level against all comers.

4. LeBron James, Cleveland – Three straight wins and the Cavs are well on their way to getting back into the thick of things, with LeBron leading the way.

5. Al Horford, Boston – In his last three games, he’s shooting 76.6 percent and has been a central figure in Boston’s rise to the top of the NBA standings.
 
TOP 5 ROOKIES


1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia - He has eight double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles to his credit this season. He’s the rookie everyone is chasing now.

2. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas - You have to watch this guy play. Would be getting a lot more pub if the Mavs had a better record.

3. Jayson Tatum, Boston - Had a rough start against the Warriors, but bounced back and made key plays down the stretch helping Boston get the win.

4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers - The late first-round pick has been an absolute Godsend to the Lakers, able to contribute in a multiple of ways.

5. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers - He has been up and down like most rookies. But his court vision alone will keep him on the floor for many years to come.
 
TOP 5 DEFENDERS


1. Al Horford, Boston - He’s the best defender on the NBA’s best team defensively. It makes sense for Horford to be the pace-setter in this category.

2. Rudy Gobert, Utah - A towering presence, this 7-foot-2 big man will once again be a top-3 finisher when it comes to the league’s highest defensive honor.

3. Draymond Green, Golden State - The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Green is the rare player who can defend all five positions at a fairly high level.
 
4.  Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City - His ability to defend guards as well as switch out defensively is a huge plus to the Thunder.
 
5. Aron Baynes, Boston - You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who utilizes the NBA’s rule of verticality  better than Baynes.
 
TOP 5 TEAMS


1. Boston – Winning 14 games, that’s one thing. But to beat Golden State along the journey? That’s special.

2. Golden State – Loss to Boston be damned, the Warriors are still the team everyone emulates … even now.

3. Houston – Can score with the best of them, but until they defend at a high level their success will remain limited primarily to the regular season.

4. Minnesota – It’s still early, but it’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves going anywhere but up the Western Conference standings.

5. Detroit – Outside of Boston, there may not be a bigger surprise in the NBA thus far than Detroit.