Celtics

NFL head coaches get their walking papers

628764.jpg

NFL head coaches get their walking papers

From Comcast SportsNetTAMPA, Florida (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Raheem Morris on Monday after he posted a 17-31 record over three years, including a 10-game losing streak to end the current season. The team announced the change one day after the Bucs lost their final game of the season to the Atlanta Falcons, 45-24. The 10-game winless streak was the longest in a single season since 1977, when the Bucs lost 12 in a row to extend the longest losing streak in National Football League history to 26 consecutive games over two years. At 32 years old, Morris was the league's youngest coach when he was hired in January 2009, replacing Jon Gruden after Tampa Bay lost the final four games of 2008 to miss the playoffs following a 9-3 start. Morris guided the team to a 10-6 mark in 2010, with the Bucs narrowly missing the playoffs. The team also had a strong start to the current season, posting a 4-2 record with wins over playoff-bound Atlanta and New Orleans, before collapsing. "In these things it is not just one thing, but I will point to just the progress of the team and where we're at," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said at a news conference. "Again, you can't point to one thing or another. You look at totality of the situation when making your decision." While injuries did contribute to the season-ending slide, so did inconsistent play -- starting with quarterback Josh Freeman. He threw for 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions after tossing 25 TD passes and being intercepted just six times in 2010. The Bucs turned the ball over a league-leading 40 times compared to 19 last season. The defense also surrendered a franchise-record and league-high 494 points and the Bucs lost eight games by double-digit margins and allowed 31 points or more seven times during the season-ending skid. Glazer said there's no timetable for naming a successor.

Rams fire coach Spagnuolo, GM Devaney
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams fired coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney on Monday, a day after the team wrapped up a 2-14 season that matched the worst record in the National Football League. The Rams made a six-win improvement last season and played for the NFC West title in the finale, but were just 10-38 overall in three seasons with Spagnuolo and Devaney calling the shots. Devaney had joined the front office a year earlier in 2008; the Rams were 12-52 in his four years as GM. He said in a statement Monday that while the record was disappointing, "I wouldn't trade that time for anything." Owner Stan Kroenke fired both men with one year remaining on their contracts, and with fan interest dwindling. The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis was little more than half full in the later part of the season. "No one individual is to blame for this disappointing season and we all must hold ourselves accountable," Kroenke said in a statement. "However, we believe it's in the best interest of the St. Louis Rams to make these changes as we continue our quest to build a team that consistently competes for playoffs and championships." Kevin Demoff, vice president and chief operating officer, said the search for both positions should be concluded in the next few weeks and that it didn't necessarily matter which position was filed first. Names of potential replacements for Spagnuolo began to surface weeks ago as the season unraveled, with former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden mentioned as natural fits. Demoff said a report that Fisher had already been scheduled for the first interview was "100 percent false." But he added that Fisher was a "potentially attractive candidate." The Rams will have the second pick of the NFL draft in April, the fourth time in five seasons the team has had the No. 1 or 2 selection.

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

usatsi_10396353.jpg

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“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.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”