Celtics

The blame game

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The blame game

By Michael Felger

A few pearls of wisdom to brighten up your Tuesday morning:

The real shame of this Red Sox season hasn't been the injuries. It's been the play of Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon (left) and John Lackey. Had those three not crapped out, the Sox would probably be neck-and-neck with the Yankees and Rays injuries and all.

The Red Sox are just 8-5 in games started by Beckett (3-2, 6.51 ERA) this season. They are only 12-12 in games started by Lackey (10-7, 4.54). Papelbon has six blown saves and has five losses (theres some overlap there, obviously). Those three are combining for 40 million in salary in 2010.

Not exactly what you would call great value.

But whatever the price, the fact remains: Those are the guys who are going to keep the Sox out of the postseason.

The more you hear and read about how officials went out of their way to inform golfers of the local rules at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin last weekend, the worse it looks for Dustin Johnson.

Heres the most damning item, in my opinion:

In an interview with ESPN.com on Monday, David Price, the rules official walking with the final pairing of Johnson and Nick Watney, said Johnson and his caddie asked him for trap-related rulings on the 14th and 16th holes, just minutes before they neglected to do the same on the crucial 18th. The first question was related to practice swings and the second had to do with removing stones from near his ball. On both occasions, Price offered rulings before Johnson or his caddy did something that violated the rules. Price said he would have done the same on 18 had someone spoken up.

"All he had to do was ask," Price said. "He'd asked me before that. He'd been in a bunch of bunkers. You don't remind a player on every hole that you can't ground your club."

Why didn't Johnson ask? Simple. He lost his head. He choked. Same with his caddy.

If you're looking for a real villain from the Jets' Hard Knocks show on HBO, dont focus on Rex Ryan (right). He's been fun.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum has been a different story.

At one point, the cameras show receiver Santonio Holmes making a terrific catch along the end line. Tannenbaum responds by beating his chest.

"Number 10? Number 10? Man, who trades for him?" asks Tannenbaum, who acquired Holmes from Pittsburgh in the offseason. "Smart . . . that guy is.''

Tannenbaum did the same thing with corner Antonio Cromartie.

"How he could have been available . . . a guy with those attributes?" he says. "They are so hard to find.''

You just know those clips have been saved down in Foxboro. Tannenbaum had better hope those players work out.

Finally, here's hoping the Pats do all they can to get Julien Edelman and Wes Welker (left) on the field at the same time this season. Forget size, speed or any other measurable. These guys get open and catch the ball, which in the glory years (i.e, the Deion Branch era) was the only thing required of Pats receivers.

I would certainly prefer to see the Pats go small and work the possession game with the little guys from the slot as opposed to continually butt their heads against the wall with tight ends. That hasnt worked in New England since the Ben Coates era.

Since Belichick got here in 2000, hes drafted 11 players at the tight-end position and signed countless more in free agency. He's taken them high and low. He's gotten them after trading up and trading down. And he has yet to find the guy who can consistently exploit matchups against linebackers and safeties. I don't know if hes even come close. The most prolific season any Pats tight end has had under Belichick came in 2006, when Ben Watson had 49 catches. Thats been the only 40-plus catch season by a Pats tight end since Coates left.

In the preseason opener last Thursday, the Pats targeted tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Alge Crumpler seven times. They completed only three of those attempts.

Sounds and awful lot like the Dan GrahamBen Watson era to me.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to Felger weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

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All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
 
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
 
According to Smith, James will play. 
 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
 
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."
 

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
 
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
 
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.

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“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
 
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
 
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
 
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
 
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
 
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”
  
 

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