Patriots

Joseph embracing trip to D-League

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Joseph embracing trip to D-League

BOSTON When Kris Joseph got the news that the Boston Celtics were sending him to the D-League, he could not have been any happier.

While he has enjoyed his time with the Boston Celtics, he knew that there was little to no chance that he would play soon.

And so the idea of being in the D-League will allow him to do exactly what the league's about - developing his game.

Joseph's first D-League action with the Maine Red Claws came in Friday night's 123-115 win at Canton.

The 6-foot-7 rookie had a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds in rallying the Red Claws (1-0) from a double-digit deficit. Boston's first-round pick Fab Melo had two points and a game-high four blocked shots.

Being a first-round pick, Melo's status is a bit more secure than that of Joseph who was selected by the C's in the second round of last June's NBA draft.

So for him, many of the players that he will face in the D-League are in a lot of ways similar to him in that they too are fighting to prove they are indeed worthy of being in the NBA.

Performances like the one he put on Friday serve as just another example of the promise that the C's see in him.

And for Joseph, the transition from the NBA to the D-League so far has been relatively smooth.

"For one, they're running a lot of the same plays if not all the same plays that we ran up (in Boston)," Joseph told CSNNE.com. "So I was already ahead of everybody. That helped me a lot, knowing the plays and knowing my spots. Me playing with these guys and knowing what level of intensity you have to play with helped me down there, too."

To see him get off to an impressive start with the Red Claws isn't all that surprising.

While with the Celtics, Joseph was often the first to arrive on game day. He would spend time with assistant coaches working on shot, doing various ball-handling drills along with an assortment of other game-related tasks.

It was one of those things that did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

"That's it right there," C's veteran Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com recently. "That's what it takes to be in this league; you have to keep working on your game, trying to get better. He's young, but he gets it. That's good for him; good for us, too."

But there's only so much growth and development that can come about by getting shots up prior to games and after practice.

Eventually, those skills have to manifest themselves in real games which is why the D-League is so important to Joseph.

"They (Celtics) don't want me to just be sitting around," Joseph said. "Me, neither. I want to play; that's how you really get better. I know playing behind Paul Pierce and Jeff Green, there's just not going to be much of an opportunity for me to play right now. That doesn't mean I can't get any better. That's what the D-League is for me; a chance to keep working on my game, keep improving so that when that opportunity does come, I'll be ready."

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

FOXBORO -- Stay low. Drive off the tight end's inside shoulder. And whatever you do, keep your feet. You don't want to be falling into kicker and picking up a penalty. 

Those were the kinds of things that were bouncing around somewhere in Cassius Marsh's subconscious as he lined up to try to block Falcons kicker Matt Bryant's field-goal attempt from 37 yards away at the end of the first quarter. Swimming past his blocker off the snap, Marsh got both arms extended and into the path of Bryant's kick, knocking it down and giving his team a boost. 

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"Guys work hard on that every week," Bill Belichick said after his team's 23-7 win. "Cassius has gotten some opportunities in practice. It’s hard to block Steve [Gostkowski]. Steve gets good height on the ball, gets the ball off quickly. I think this one with not quite as much height maybe as Steve's ball, or at least what Steve's balls were in practice, Cassius got a hand on it. 

"It was a big play for us because, again, we worked so hard on that and that’s everybody across the board. That’s all 11 guys, not just the guy that blocks it. The other guys have to do their job and if they block Cassius and take him away then that gives somebody else an opportunity so we never know how that’s going to go. We just want everybody to come hard and do their job right and wherever the opening is it is. That was a big play for us . . . 

"You can see the whole team – we were all excited. Sideline, players, guys on the field. That was a big moment for us. Our special teams units work very hard. They take a lot of pride in their job. The return teams, the coverage teams, the field goal and the field goal block team. It’s good to see that hard work pay off in a big play like that."

It was a big enough play that it earned Marsh a high-five from his coach. Marsh laughed about his reception on the sideline, remembering that the last time he got that kind of recognition from Belichick it came after a Week 4 sack.

"That's pretty much it that I can remember," Marsh said, beaming. "He only really smiles in situations like that so you've gotta cherish those moments."

The Patriots recovered at their own 26-yard line and embarked on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to get them on the scoreboard.

"With the defense playing as well as they were, to be able to preserve the shutout at the time was big," said special teams captain Matthew Slater. "Those are huge momentum plays when you're able to block a kick. It's not a traditional play that happens every game. Huge play. A UCLA guy stepping up, who would've thought? 

"You gotta tip your hat to those guys because they coach that, they work that and sometimes it seems like, 'Man, why do we continue to do this?' But it paid off for us tonight. You tip your cap to not only Cash but the rest of the guys on that unit." 

While Marsh's block was the highlight, it was a strong night overall for New England's special teams units. Every Falcons drive started inside their own 30-yard line, and Gostkowski had kicks returned to the 12, 19 and 18 before they were stopped.

Slater called it the most complementary game the Patriots played all season. Offense, defense, special teams. They all worked together to make Sunday perhaps their most dominating performance of the year. 

"That's the effort that we've been looking for and striving for all year," Slater said. "I think that's a good starting point for us. Lot of football left. Nine games left so we're going to have to continue to do it and be consistent week in and week out."

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Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

As safety Duron Harmon emerged from the showers following the Patriots 23-7 win over the Falcons, he noticed a crowd gathered by his locker. As one of the captains of the team - and a man nicknamed by teammates as “The Voice” because of his ability to articulate the right words at the right time, the affable safety is a must listen postgame. But for a change, Harmon knew the mass gathering of media wasn’t there for him - at least not yet. We were there for Malcolm Butler, who had just played his best game of the season.

“You all want to talk to Malcolm?” Harmon sang. “I’d want to talk to Malcolm too.”

Devin McCourty got in on the act as well with some good-natured chirping in Butler’s direction. Both safeties were energized by the victory but also, it seemed, by the performance of a player they’ve come to rely on in games just like this. 

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“Awww man, Malcolm. . . Malcolm was great for us,” said Harmon later. “We need that.”

It's hard not to draw the parallel between Butler having his best performance of the season a week after making two of the biggest plays in the game against the Jets. He did all this while the man who indirectly caused so much of the 28-year old’s troubles - Stephon Gilmore - hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion. Meanwhile, an undrafted player in his 6th year, Johnson Bademosi, has emerged opposite Butler to play very sound football.

“Communication,” said Butler of the team’s defensive improvements. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”

Butler himself didn’t want to spend much time analyzing his own performance. That’s usually not his thing. And it wasn’t as if that performance was perfect. Far from it. But Butler’s energy was evident right from the jump. He stuck his nose in there on running plays to his side, including a terrific submarine tackle of Tevin Coleman in the opening quarter. Butler also got his fair share of Julio Jones over the course of the night. Even though he surrendered that late touchdown to the Falcons wideout, he showed not only a willingness to play the big dog, but to go right at him. That is - after all - a Butler trademark. 

“Just competing,” said Butler. “Great player; you just got to compete.”

It’s not just competing, but it’s playing with confidence, something Butler said was an issue for him in the aftermath of his snap reduction in New Orleans. But now? That seems long gone and hard to find.

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