Patriots

Blakely: Signs point to Bass starting vs. Heat

789090.jpg

Blakely: Signs point to Bass starting vs. Heat

Brandon Bass has been a fairly quiet, keep-to-himself kind of player since joining the Celtics last season.

That low-key demeanor has been steady as ever during training camp, one in which Bass finds himself trying to fend off rookie Jared Sullinger for the starting power forward job.

"Man, I'm not going to get into all that stuff about starting, not starting," Bass told CSNNE.com. "That's Doc's call. What he says, that's how it goes."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has not revealed who will be in his starting lineup, but it appears as though it will be Bass on opening night next week at Miami.

Rivers has said his starting lineup will likely fluctuate depending on the foe and the type of player opponents choose to start.

Miami has been doing some lineup tinkering of its own in the preseason, with reigning league MVP LeBron James playing a hybrid point guardpower forward position.

As good as Sullinger has been in the preseason, seeing him matched up with James to start his NBA career might be classified as cruel and unusual punishment.

In addition, Bass did arguably as good a job as any of his Boston teammates in defending James during their matchup in the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Boston lost 101-88 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals with James scoring a game-high 31 points on 9-for 21 shooting with an efficiency rating of 27 according to hoopstats.com.

Meanwhile, Bass had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting with an efficiency rating of 22 which for that game was second among Celtics to Rajon Rondo (31).

But there are other intangibles that come about in having Bass with the first group.

With so many new faces, having some semblance of continuity within the first group should help immensely.

Turnovers are usually higher than normal in the first game of the season. Having a starting lineup with just one new face (Courtney Lee) instead of two should help keep that number down some.

And then there is the experience factor, an edge that seems most beneficial against elite teams like the NBA champion Heat.

But for all the considerations that are weighed in who will start, maybe the most compelling argument comes down to trust.

Sullinger has gained the trust of his veteran teammates based in large part on his basketball smarts and his potential.

That's a good thing no matter how you look at it.

Still, no matter how confident these veterans are in Sullinger, they have no idea how he will perform in games that count - games like the season opener at Miami on Oct. 30.

They do with Bass.

With Bass, that trust is based on his production and the bonds that were cemented last season.

And while there is no way to predict if he will put up big numbers or make a huge impact in big games this season, his teammates know he'll come ready to compete.

"Around here, you have to always stay ready," Bass said. "That's how it is when you're playing for a team like this, a team that's all about one thing . . . winning a championship."

Bass' commitment to that is obvious not only in the way he plays, but also in his preparation.

Although it was barely talked about last season, Bass would often show up to games as early - sometimes even earlier - as Ray Allen who is often praised for his tireless work ethic and diligent pre-game routine.

"All I'm trying to do is keep getting better and help this team win, man," Bass said. "That's it. That's where my focus is right now; trying to get better."

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

marsh_patriots_112117.jpg

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

usatsi_10402885.jpg

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE