Celtics

Felger: Who's hot and who's not

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Felger: Who's hot and who's not

By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com

Time for one of those "hot-not columns where I skip right to the good stuff.

HOT

Nobody

NOT

NFL Owners

These guys have no shame. Check out the latest Forbes list of the 50 most valuable sports franchises in the world and tell me what you see.

Not only does the NFL hold down 11 of the top 15 spots, but every single team in the league makes the list. To repeat: EVERY SINGLE TEAM. Theres not a single weak sister. Even the Raiders, who havent done much of anything right, on the field or off, for over a half-decade, make the list. By comparison, major league baseball has only five teams on the list (and after the Yankees at No. 2, it doesnt have an entrant until the Red Sox at No. 35), the NBA has but two (the Lakers and Knicks at Nos. 49 and 50, respectively) and the NHL, predictably, has none.

In other words, NFL owners possess the most lucrative sports properties on earth and theres not a close second. For them, making money is as simple as rolling out of bed. And in the case of Al Davis, he doesnt even need to do that.

Yet these men have the gall to tell the public that the players are making too much money? They look at the camera with a straight face and say the system is broken? The Patriots, ranked way up with the big boys at No. 5, whine about uncertainty while jerking around their franchise quarterback yet again on a new contract?

Am I the only one who finds that outrageous?

Jacoby Ellsbury

I could give a rats behind where Jacoby Ellsbury did his rehab in June. Unlike some of his teammates, I dont think its a big deal he was in Arizona. Thats not the issue. The issue is simply the amount of time its taken him to get back on the field. Its gone from ridiculous to embarrassing.

Were talking 15 weeks and counting from the time he originally suffered the fractures on April 11. Were talking nine weeks and counting from when he aggravated something related to the injury on May 22. It doesnt matter that the Sox thought they were bruised, the treatment is exactly the same: rest. The return time for fractured ribs is usually around six weeks.

Take, for example, the case of Jeremy Hermida. He was placed on the DL with five fractured ribs on June 11. He returned to the lineup over the weekend in Seattle, a span of exactly six weeks. Meanwhile the Sox continue to wait on Ellsbury. What a joke.

Red Sox TV ratings

Maybe theres good news in these numbers.

Maybe Red Sox ownership will realize that their astronomical television and radio ratings are no longer a given and that, from this point forward, the big numbers will only come when fans believe the team has a legitimate opportunity to win a championship.

The Nation just never felt that way about the 2010 Sox. It started with the acquisitions of Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, Jeremy Hermida and John Lackey, a group that fans never embraced or seemed particularly interested in. The Sox were then an easy team to ignore while the Bruins and Celtics were doing their thing in the playoffs. And when the attention went back to the Sox in June it just wasnt an interesting team to watch.

The lack of "star power on the team is one thing, but I dont believe its the definitive factor. To me, fans heard the term bridge year and got the message early on. Even though John Henry didnt mean what fans thought he did, the cat was out of the bag. And the Sox were never able to put it back in.

Email Felger HERE and stand by for the next installment of the mailbag on Aug. 12. Felger will post another column early next week. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6, p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE