Red Sox

Green, Durant remain close friends

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Green, Durant remain close friends

BOSTON -- When Kendrick Perkins was traded by the Boston Celtics to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green, his close friendship with Rajon Rondo became one of the major headlines following the deal. Their bond wasn't the only one impacted by the move, though.

Green shared a friendship just as strong with Kevin Durant, one that dated far beyond their days as teammates in the NBA. Like Perkins and Rondo, they have not let their professional separation change their relationship two years later.

Green first met Durant through mutual friends as teenagers in Maryland. They became friends quickly, sharing similar laidback personalities and the same fire to play pro ball.

"We're basically the same kind of person -- very humble, very respectful, good guys, and guys that just like to have fun," Green told CSNNE.com. "We don't stress over too much, we just like to chill, I think that's why we clicked so easily."

Green went off to college first at Georgetown University in 2004. Two years later, Durant headed to the University of Texas. Both entered the 2007 NBA Draft, wherein the Seattle SuperSonics selected Durant with the second overall pick. The Celtics drafted Green with the fifth pick and traded him to the Sonics in the Ray Allen deal. By the end of the night on June 28, Durant and Green were teammates.

"We were closer than friends," said Durant. "We did everything together."

The duo played their rookie seasons in Seattle and went through the transition together when the team re-located to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. They went through their ups and downs as they became acclimated to life in the NBA, spending time with one another both at home and on the road.

Green and Durant were together waiting for the team bus in San Antonio on February 24, 2011 when Green received the news he had been traded to the Celtics. The young friends were quickly reminded basketball is a business.

"I wouldn't say we cried, but it was sad because we came in together, everything we'd been through together, and us being from the same area, it was tough for us," said Green. "But it's the NBA. It's not like we can't see other in the summer or work out together."

Echoed Durant, "It was tough for us, but in this league anything can happen, so we've moved past it."

Months after the trade, Green was faced with another change in his basketball career. He was diagnosed with a cardiac condition that would require season-ending surgery, sidelining his second year with the Celtics before it even began.

When Green underwent the procedure last January, Durant was right there with him after Green returned home to Washington, D.C. The Thunder were in town to play the Washington Wizards that month, and Durant made visiting his friend a priority.

"He came to see me and we hung out for a couple hours," said Green. "He told me just to stay strong, keep my faith, and if I needed him to call him and talk. It's kind of a thing where he's there for me if I need him."

The two keep in touch weekly via text message, where the conversations have shifted from recoveries to comebacks. Green returned to the court this season after inking a four-year deal with the Celtics and is establishing himself as one of their key players in the second unit.

He faced off with Durant on Friday for the first time since the trade, scoring a season-high 17 points in the Celtics 108-100 win over the Thunder. Durant finished with a game-high 29 points.

"When we play against each other, we go at it," said Green. "We play hard because we want to see each other do well. That's my brother and I want the best for him."

Green and Durant will not play against each other again until March 10 when the Celtics travel to Thunder territory. They won't let four months get in the way, though.

"Even though he's not my teammate, he's still one of my best friends," said Durant. "He's a guy that's going to be that way forever."

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.