Patriots

McAdam: Beckett, Lester admit faults; time to move on

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McAdam: Beckett, Lester admit faults; time to move on

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With varying degrees of success -- and, a cynic might add, commitment -- Jon Lester and Josh Beckett attempted to, at once, acknowledge the horrendous finish to the 2011 Red Sox season while simultaneously burying it.

Neither Lester nor Beckett is in his element in dealing with the media. Lester, who has a stubborn streak to him, habitually answers many questions the same way ("Yes and no"), flashing a contrarian nature.

Beckett, meanwhile, has little patience for the reporter-athlete exchanges that are, like it or not, part of the routine for any major league starting pitcher once in every five days.

Beckett can be witheringly self-deprecating in assessing his starts, but also curt and dismissive. He would surely prefer a root canal rather than his weekly Q-and-A.

But Lester and Beckett seemed to understand the task at hand yesterday. To be sure, this was not your standard "How I spent my off-season" recital Sunday, with promises of being in the best shape ever.

No, this was a reckoning of all that had gone wrong last season, particularly at the end when the Red Sox collapsed in the standings, and along the way, behaved so unprofessionally in the clubhouse their putrid 7-20 play on the field was very nearly the least of their sins.

Lester and Beckett knew there would be a day for explanations for all of that and that they would be squarely in the cross-hairs, having been identified as two of the beer-swilling, chicken-chomping starters who lounged in the clubhouse while, out on the field, the season slipped away.

Over the winter, Lester made a round of phone calls to reporters in which he expressed regret for his actions and bemoaned what might have been. Beckett stayed almost entirely under the radar, and when he finally surfaced days before the Super Bowl, seemed more intent on rationalizing the behavior while scapegoating whomever had leaked the details in the first place.

It's unclear whether the two were advised by team officials to take a more contrite tone Sunday as pitchers and catchers reported to camp, but that was the net effect.

At times, Lester seemed to be standing at the head of a grade school English class, tasked with conjugating the verb "to stink" in every form imaginable.

"I stunk, we stunk," Lester recalled at least a few times.

He allowed that had it had been "a long winter." He revealed that he thought about the nosedive "a lot. It's one of those things I don't think you'll ever forget," and, showcasing a pro athlete's competitive DNA, vowed that just having endured it "will make us better, make us stronger."

Perhaps the first step in that direction was the accountability and responsibility that Lester and Beckett demonstrated Sunday.

"I've learned from it," said Lester. "It's something I'm not proud of."

Most memorably, Lester seemed to show keen understanding of what that month had done to fans.

"There should be," he said of the perceived anger of the fan base. "We didn't play very good. And with all the other stuff added on top of that, it's obviously going to make it worse. I don't blame them for that. We stunk. I stunk. And I take complete responsibility for it."

Befitting his famously stubborn nature, Beckett warmed to the topic more slowly. He blamed himself for pitching poorly in September but seemed to tip-toe away from the "clubhouse" issue.

"I'm not saying we didn't make mistakes, because we did make mistakes in the clubhouse," said Beckett. "But the biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore (twice in the last 10 days)."

Fairly or not, Beckett became the face of Beer-and-chickenGate, owing more to his age and stature on the staff. He said he couldn't control that perception while confessing "I had lapses in judgement."

He cryptically referred to "things going on . . . I got distracted," but wouldn't explain further. He adamantly maintained that he never missed a between-start conditioning workout and seemed perplexed that, yes, he had gained some weight.

But like Lester, Beckett warmed to the talk of responsibility to the fans.

"Absolutely," he said when he asked if he understood the fans' wrath. "I've been a fan of (teams), too. It stinks whenever things don't go the way they're supposed to go . . . It sucks the way things ended. We're just as let down as they are."

If there was a disappointment, it was that Lester and Beckett failed to see the connection between their behavior and their on-field performance. Both, to varying degrees, suggested that if the Sox had only won more, none of this would have been an issue.

But that ignores the obvious: had they (and others) been in better shape (i.e. chicken and beer, more conditioning) and more committed teammates, the team's play wouldn't have suffered as much.

Still, there was value to the day. Even in sports, confession is good for the soul.

"We're moving on," concluded Lester. "I'm sure that's going to be a big theme for this spring training for a lot of guys -- that we're moving on and we're looking forward to 2012."

But first, a look back at 2011 was necessary and Lester and Beckett delivered with their first pitches of the spring.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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