Celtics

Wakeup Call: Thunder survive the storm

947701.jpg

Wakeup Call: Thunder survive the storm

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Friday, February 1:

AUTO RACING
Ex-NFL (and Boston College) linebacker Bill Romanowski's a NASCAR owner now. (AP)

That'll teach the No. 60 Ford Riley of Michael Shank Racing to make mechanical adjustments to the engine that result in "performance levels outside the documented maximums." (AP)

BASEBALL
Want to know why everyone expects the Orioles to fall back to the pack -- and perhaps behind it -- this year? Things like pondering the additions of Arthur Rhodes and Fernando Tatis are part of it. (Hardball Talk)

The Diamondbacks welcome Martin Prado to Arizona with a four-year, 40 million contract. (AP)

Looks like Scott Rolen might come back, after all. But with who? (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Not Omar Vizquel; he's giving up the chase for 3,000 hits -- stopping 123 hits short -- and, at age 45, becoming a roving infield instructor for the Angels. (AP)

LaTroy Hawkins is still around? (AP)

Mark Grace is going to jail. (AP)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
No. 9 Butler says Saint Louis "just out-toughed us" in the Billikens' 75-58 upset, their largest victory margin ever against a ranked opponent. (AP)

The difference between playing at home and playing on the road: The seventh-ranked Penn State women beat Wisconsin by 44 at Happy Valley two weeks ago, but lost to the Badgers in Madison, 63-61, last night. (AP)

The sixth annual Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research raised a record 1.6 million this time around. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Amen. (CSN Chicago)

Seniors of the world, rejoice: 73-year-old Bill Snyder gets a five-year contract at Kansas State. (AP)

GOLF
With the controversy over his admission that he used deer-antler spray still swirling, Vijah Singh withdraws from the Phoenix Open, Because of a bad back, he says. (AP)

What controversy, you ask? Well, Mark O'Meara thinks Singh should be suspended "for a couple of months". (AP)

How about Bob Charles, then, who not only used the stuff for more than 20 years but was a spokesman for it? (AP)

And while all this was going on, Phil Mickelson -- no doubt happy that his own tax-talk brouhaha is now all but forgotten -- shoots a 60 and takes the first-round lead in Phoenix. (AP)

HOCKEY
The Penguins continue their domination of the Rangers in New York with a 3-0 win. (AP)

John Tortorella's excitable in the best of times, and these aren't the best of times for the Rangers. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

There's only one way to celebrate being 7-0-0, and that's by Kaepernicking. (CSN Bay Area)

The Predators beat the Kings in an eight-round shootout. (AP)

Old friend Zack Hamill is on the move again. (CSN Washington)

In hockey, even the coaches are tough. (Pro Hockey Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
The Rudy Gay-less Grizzles were no match for the Thunder . . . (AP)

. . . who won despite a little intramural squabbling, courtesy of Russell Westbrook. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Ricky Rubio's not happy about the way he's being treated in Minnesota, and he's also not happy about the way Pau Gasol's being treated in Los Angeles. (AP)

Doug Collins wants everyone to curb their enthusiasm about Andrew Bynum's alleged return. (CSN Philly)

And do the same for Derrick Rose's, while you're at it. (CSN Chicago)

Just make that 25,000 check out to the NBA, Dwane Casey. (AP)

Your All-Star captains: Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. (AP)

Brandon Roy has another setback in his recovery. (AP)

Nick Van Exel's 22-year-old son is convicted of murder. (AP)

PRO FOOTBALL
Chris Culliver's backpedaling from those anti-gay-teammate comments faster than he backpedals when covering the quickest of receivers. (AP)

Bill Belichick's mantra to the Patriots is "Ignore the noise." But what happens when one of your players made the noise? (CSN Bay Area)

Adding to the noise: Seahawks punter Jon Ryan demanding that Culliver be suspended. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

The Ravens? They'd welcome a gay teammate, says Terrell Suggs. (Pro Football Talk)

Thankfully for the 49ers, the Ravens' Ed Reed is making some noise of his own. (CSN Baltimore)

Looks like the Harbaughs learned to share at an early age. (CSN Bay Area)

Joe Flacco's contract is up after the Super Bowl, but Ozzie Newsome says "as long as I'm general manager in Baltimore, hopefully he's the quarterback in Baltimore." (Pro Football Talk)

Flacco, meanwhile, says his impending free agency is not an issue. (AP)

The 18-game-season talk is circulating again, and Bernard Pollard wishes it would stop. (CSN Baltimore)

Jerry Rice says he doesn't "need to talk about being the best receiver" -- something Randy Moss has been yapping about this week -- but he will talk about the fact that, uh, unlike Moss, he "never took any plays off," he "always gave 100 percent" and that there's "a big difference" between "my body of work compared to" Moss'. To steal from Robert DeNiro in 'Goodfellas': You gonna take that, Randy? (AP)

Three black ex-head coaches -- Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards and Jim Caldwell -- say the Rooney Rule isn't working when no minority candidates were hired for the eight vacancies that popped up this year. (AP)

The NFL and NFLPA are squabbling again, this time over the issue of player safety. (AP)

And in a step in that direction, the union wants the Chargers' team physician -- who lost a malpractice lawsuit last summer -- replaced. (AP)

Mike Holmgren? Coach again? Nah. (Pro Football Talk)

Donald Driver? Play again? Nah. (AP)

Arian Foster may have surgery to correct the irregular heartbeat that forced him out of a game this year. (Pro Football Talk)

With the New York Post nipping at the story, Dan Marino comes clean: He admits he has a 7-year-old child with a production assistant he worked with at CBS, but that he's taken full financial responsibility for the child, and that his wife of 30 years and the six children he has with her are aware of it all. (Pro Football Talk)

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill is being held on 150,000 bail after his arrest on domestic assault charges. (AP)

The judge rejected his "post-concussion syndrome which left me mentally impaired" defense, so ex-NFL cornerback Will James -- who also went by the name Will Peterson during his years in the league -- is headed to jail for failing to file a federal income tax return in 2005, when he earned 5.5 million. (AP via CSN Philly)

TENNIS
John Isner is recovered from a knee injury and ready to lead the U.S. against Brazil in the first round of the Davis Cup. (AP)

X GAMES
Snowmobiler Caleb Moore dies of injuries suffered in a crash at the Winter X Games. (AP via nbcsports.com)

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

That Celtics win streak was dope. Let’s map out an even longer one that probably won’t happen. 

Nobody’s actually expecting them to keep the pace they’ve established with their recently concluded run. Still, with 63 games remaining, there’s still time for the Celtics to have up to three win streaks of even longer than 16 games. So, because it’s the holidays and the holidays are all about positivity (fun move you’ve probably picked up from movies: You can say “the holidays are all about _____” and just put in whatever you want and it will work), let’s map out the next win streak. 

MORE CELTICS:

A big part of the Celtics’ 16-gamer (and get ready to say “duh”) is that they were better than a lot of the teams they beat. But they also beat one team that was without question better than them and beat a few teams that could certainly beat them on any given night. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of the 16 games: 

- Even if they didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, nine games were against what could be classified as easy prey based on their rosters and how those teams were playing: The 76ers, the Knicks, the Kings, the Hawks twice, the Lakers, the Hornets, the Nets and the Mavericks. 

- Let’s say that the Heat (whom they played and beat during the streak before Miami snapped the streak Wednesday) and Magic weren’t perceived pushovers, but rather unremarkable opponents. 

- Four games were against what one could call worthy opponents for the Celtics: the Bucks, the Spurs (though they were missing Kawhi Leonard), the Thunder and the Raptors. 

- Nobody was ever pretending the Celtics were actually better than the Warriors. 

So that breaks the 16 games into one game against an unequivocally superior opponent, four against worthy opponents, two against unremarkable teams, and nine joke books. 

Of course, there are several variables that can be thrown into that, such as the fact that the C’s beat one of the aforementioned good teams (Toronto) without Kyrie Irving and nearly lost to two of those trash teams (Charlotte and Dallas). You can’t predict injuries just like you shouldn’t predict win streaks, but let’s take all the information we have and try to find the next one:

STARTING FRIDAY

Friday vs. Magic (trash; probable win)

Saturday at Pacers (unremarkable; potential loss)

A back-to-back after a holiday with the second game on the road against a team that’s been way better than expected? I don’t like the sound of it. 

Nov. 27 vs. Pistons (worthy opponent; potential loss)

Are they overrated? Maybe, but Pistons currently hold the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether it’s the Pacers or the Pistons, I think this short stretch prevents a speed bump. The streak might have to wait. 

STARTING NOV. 30

Nov. 30 against Sixers (upgraded to unremarkable based on recent play; still win)

Remember: The last streak started against the Sixers. Hopefully, Kyrie pays that fans’ way to Boston for a halftime reunion. 

Dec. 2 vs. Suns (trash; win)

Dec. 4 vs. Bucks (worthy opponent; win)

Celtics aren’t losing to those sons of guns twice at home. 

Dec. 6 vs. Dallas (trash; win)

Can you get revenge on a team for almost beating you? Yes. The Celtics will. 

Dec. 8 at Spurs (worthy opponent; win)

Until I see Kawhi on the court, this one is a win. 

Dec. 10 at Detroit (worthy opponent; win)

The Pistons play the Spurs, Bucks and Warriors the three previous games. They’ll be all tuckered out. 

Dec. 11 through Dec. 23 (mix of unremarkable and trash opponents; seven wins)

Dec. 25 vs. Wizards (worthy opponent; win)

Terry Rozier becomes a household name with a Christmas performance for the ages. 

Dec. 27 at Charlotte (trash; win) 

Dec. 28 vs. Houston (worthy opponent; win) 

Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn (trash; loss)

The Celtics are 0-1 the days prior to holidays this season. The streak ends at 18. 

THE REST OF THE SEASON

We'll assess it then, but for now, let's say undefeated (including playoffs).
 

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

cp-1-spark-celtics-thanksgiving.jpg

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE