Bruins

No Moss!

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No Moss!

By Michael Felger

As you might expect, the Randy Moss folks were lying in wait. You knew they'd have their day eventually. That day came last Sunday in Cleveland.

The result here is soooooo predictable.

Hey Felger,Still think this offense is better??? What a joke -- and this is how it's gonna be now. The offense was a joke and its all because Randy's gone!!!! As usual, you're wrong!!!!!!BillClinton

Sorry, haven't changed my mind, Bill. I still think this will be a better team without Moss, if it isn't already. I also believe the offense will be better when it counts, if it isn't already. The AFC title game is Jan. 23. Be sure to shoot me an e-mail that week.

But beyond that, I think you're directing your anger in the wrong place (me). Bill Belichick is the one who traded him. If you think he gave up on the relationship too soon, then you should let him know that. Or you should be blasting Moss himself for forcing his way out of town. I mean, all he had to do was keep his mouth shut and continue to run off the safety. And he couldn't handle it. Seems like the very definition of a turd.

Felger, Ahhh, make me sick. I just caught the intro to Sports Sunday. Why didn't you talk about how the offense is actually better without Moss? BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT!!!! You couldn't even admit your gaffe this week of touting how much better we were without him. Please redo your stats now Felger and fess up. WRONG AGAIN!!! Admit you don't know football and you certainly are NO talent evaluator . . . We got very lucky against both Baltimore and San Diego. We didn't win those games, they were given to us on a silver platter. Minnesota is a horrible team right now (and was before Moss even landed). Where is this so-called Deion Branch chemistry? At least Moss drew double coverage. Branch's best days are long, long gone. He looks slow and unexplosive, as I expected he would. We are a mess offensively. I can't believe Kraft couldn't step up and sign Moss to a two-year extension, a huge gaffe. You wouldn't have heard another peep out of him if he just had a market-rate contact extension. We'd better hope that 'D' plays 100 times better, because there's going to be a lot of three-and-outs going forward. Thanks for running Moss out of town . . . MarkSan Jose, CA

My pleasure, Mark.

Let's re-do the stats as you suggest. At the time of the Moss trade the Pats were 3-1 while scoring 24 offensive points per game. In the four games since, they've gone 3-1 while scoring 22 offensive points per game -- against, I might add, tougher competition than what Moss faced.

Let's remember what the consensus opinion was at the time of the trade: The Pats had just gotten worse at the very time their schedule was getting tougher. Most of you thought they were toast. And a month later they're winning at the same clip and scoring nearly as many points.

And I'm wrong? That's so much closer to what I predicted than you all did it's not even funny.

Hey, Felger,So how did that passing game look Sunday, huh? That short-pass, dink-and-dunk offense DIDN'T WORK! Tom Brady still clearly likes to throw it deep a few times and the Pats DON'T HAVE that receiver! How did little your binkies look today? Branch and an ineffective Welker again ain't gonna cut it. Edelman has fallen off the face. Answers please?T DavisPeabody

Again, my best answer would be the scoreboard. Three wins out of four games when you thought they'd be lucky to be 2-2. And I think the dink-and-dunk didn't work in Cleveland because Brady was off the mark on some throws, his receivers let him down on others and Rob Gronkowski fumbled on the 2-yard line. The margin for error is less since the Moss trade -- no doubt about it. But the Pats offense had enough room to make enough plays to win that game.

All I can tell you is that the offense is going to be better than it was in Cleveland, and I believe it will be better than it was in the second half of last season -- when Moss and his teammates turtled down the stretch and went 4-5 after the fourth-and-2 failure in Indianapolis. See, that's what happens when you clean out turds like Moss: You're suddenly better equiped to fight through adversity and bounce back from bad losses. And I think they'll do that.

Hey, Felger! What people aren't understanding in your Moss rants is the simple fact that Randy had already begun his descent and his play and his demeanor were going to totally disrupt the growth of this young team. However, the 6-1 record had most people, you and me both, thinking this team was something they are not -- real good. They are a very young team with at least seven rookie starters. Rookies always hit the wall at some point. The Pats have seven and they might just be hitting the wall at the same time. You are predicting that they will win in Pittsburgh. You are forgetting that the Pats teams that won in Pittsburgh in the past were hardened, veteran teams. This team is too young and still way too soft on 'D' to command that much respect. I know you are still trying to keep your AFC Championship Game prediction alive, but be realistic. This team will be 10-6 at the best, more likely 9-7. The extended loss of Gostowski will be huge.SteveChester, NH

So you think they'll be 3-5 down the stretch? Or 4-4 at best? I respectfully disagree, my friend. Those are Moss numbers.

Hey, FelgerI 100 percent agree with you about Randy Moss and the overrated analysis of "stretching the field." Can you give me a quick summary why stretching the field does not translate into wins and why the Patriots are better without Moss so I can print it out and show it to all of the people who are ripping us for the opinion? I need to show them the facts and say "facts not opinion." I agree with everything you say about almost all of Boston sports.NicholasEaston, MA

You are a sick man, then, Nicholas.

But you can ask your friends how that "stretched field" worked last year in the playoffs. You can then answer the question for them (as I like to do): It meant squat. The Pats scored 14 points and were blown out at home. You can ask them how that "stretched field" worked last year in New Orleans. Again, answer for them. It meant diddly-poo. The Pats scored 17 points and were blown out on national television. Ask them what that "stretched-out offense" did for the Patriots in the second half against the Jets this year. Or in the second half at the Jets last year. Or at Denver last year. Answers: Absolutely nothing. They were shut out (zero points) in each case. Ask them what having a "stretched field" did for Minnesota while Moss was there. Answer: a 1-3 record.

That enough?

Mike,What is PP's (That's Paul Perillo, of Patriots Football Weekly) deal?It seems pretty cut and dry. Do they credit Ninkovich with a touchdown for recovering a fumble? Does Chung get a touchdown for the blocked kick? Do they just put those points on the board after McCourty's pick? Did Baltimore win as soon as they stopped the Pats two weeks ago? Field position does not guarantee points. To argue otherwise is not based on logic.Why does this guy need pictures, a diagram, and a graphing calculator to understand that what you are doing is tracking actual OFFENSIVE points, and what he is doing is tracking offensive points scored in the land of make-believe using "as long as the offense REALLY had to earn them" as the measuring stick? One is an objective assessment of the facts, one is a movie review. Tell Paul he is operating in the wrong section of the paper. Also, stamping FACT not OPINION to the end of a statement does not make your fuzzy math work. Peace,Jake ScottBoston

Thanks for the support, babe. In case the rest of you missed it, Perillo on the radio last week (before the Cleveland game) tried to take offensive points away from the post-Moss Patriots by saying the Chargers gave the Pats short fields and the Vikings gave up a few fluke plays. In other words, he was reaching in an attempt to prove me wrong -- a common occurance among the anti-Felgerites. Thank goodness the Pats lost in Cleveland. Paul was about to run out of material.

But something tells me both sides are going to have plenty of material going forward. In other words, the offense is going to have games where it struggles. And the Pats are still going to put up some big wins because the offense will be better when it counts.

Hey, Felger, Personally, I was surprised the Titans claimed Randy. This is NOT to say that I agree with your "Moss is manure" mantra. I just believed that all the teams would wait until he cleared waivers. Both to avoid the salary hit and to ensure that Randy wanted to play for their team. A happy Randy Moss is STILL a top-notch talent!MarthaChilmark

There's the rub, Martha. How can you make sure he's happy if he doesn't have a contract and he's not getting the ball as much as he'd like? Pretty tough to pull off, I'd say. But I disagree with your assessment about being claimed on waivers. If you believe Moss can help you and you're a playoff team, what's 3.4 million (which was the remainder of Moss' salary)? Isn't that a small price to pay for the Super Bowl?

Felger, This debate is over. We whine about Brady's weapons, but Peyton Manning has lost Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez, and now Collie and Garcon have been hurt. He has no Joe Addai. In fact he's working with backups at almost every position and Reggie Wayne is not the player he once was. But Peyton isn't missing a step. Face it, he's just more accurate and better than Tom now. FACT NOT OPINION. The Colts' offensive game plan is better and the Colts have passed the Patriots because Manning has passed Brady. So we may have to accept that Tom is not just No. 2, he's maybe top 5 now. Rivers, Brees and Manning are just outplaying him on a weekly basis. George Woburn

Hard to argue. But until 2007 we never really measured Brady like that, did we? We always said there's no one we'd rather have when it counts. Let's see if he gets back to that. You don't believe that Manning is that guy, do you? Did you watch the Super Bowl last year? That's a pretty major albatross around Manning's neck.

Hey, Felger! I sure did not enjoy the "MASSACRE BY THE LAKE" Sunday in Cleveland, but I became a Browns fan for one moment when Joshua Cribbs totally laid the smackdown on that goofball Meriweather on that great block. I find it impossible as a Patriots fan to root for that clown. And, by the way, maybe Belichick ought to tell him to stop telling the world how great he is and actually show it. Matt Framingham
Couldn't agree more on that Cribbs block (which came on Colt McCoy's touchdown scramble). Maybe Meriweather will keep that in mind the next time he arrives late (which is about 90 percent of the time) and tries to light up some defenseless receiver.

Felger, Make no mistake about it: Losing Gostkowski for the season is MASSIVE for the Patriots. In terms of field goals, I think Graham will be fine. I'm more concerned about the opponent's average starting field position going from about the 20 (thanks to Gostkowski's nearly guaranteed touchbacks), to roughly the 33 or so. That's HUGE.AndrewLeominster

I just can't get into the kicker panic. I'm more worried about the defense. If Graham yanks one out of bounds or blows an easy field-goal attempt to lose a game, get back to me. Until then, the only thing that really bothers me is that Gostkowski got hurt in the first place. Come on, dude. You're a kicker. Don't suck and stay healthy. Is it really that hard?

Mike, Do you honestly believe the Packers organization is even close to the Patriots organization in quality? Green Bay reminds me of Red Sox owners before current owners were here. Mike Holmgren is in Belichick's class, got himself a few rings. The Packers never recovered from dumping him, and I don't think Favre has, either. He pisses me off with his interceptions, too, but his teammates are far from perfect. Steve Young to T.O. (in the 1998 playoffs) wasn't Brett's fault. I do love watching him play. So do you. I can tell.Rich

Ah, my chronic Packers backer.

You're right. I do love watching Favre play. No one fails like he does. Epic fun fail every time. I'd be more than happy to see him in the NFC title game again -- because I have a pretty good idea how that would end.

And give me a break with the Holmgren stuff. He was really good with Favre, I agree. But Belichick is in another class. Get the cheese out of your ears.

Date: Wednesday, November 10Felger, You DB! Every week on Sports Sunday we Bruins fans are graciously treated to you picking the scab that was the Bs post season collapse. Personally, I have been keeping tabs on my own dubious Bruins milestone. "It has been 248 days since Matt Cooke took out Marc Savard and the Bruins did nothing." This has weighed on me all offseason. The date has been circled on my calendar since June 22. Publicly, people around the team and the players themselves will say that things were settled when Cooke dropped the gloves with Sean Thornton. If you saw the fight, you know differently. If things were settled by Cooke simply answering the bell with Thornton, then why did Thornton, a pugilist who conducts his fistic business with a noticeable undertone of honor and respect for his opponents, try and continue the beating once Cooke hit the ice? To put it simply, Cooke just "showing up" is not enough to settle his ledger with the Bs. In my opinion, Cooke hit the ice as soon as he felt he was in danger during the fight. Leading up to Wednesday night's game, the Bruins have failed to exact the proper measure of vengeance from Cooke in two opportunities (Thornton obviously gets a pass here, he cant prevent Cooke from turtling). Hopefully the third time is a very violent charm. Im not going to lie. I want blood tonight, Mikey. Ill start my wish list with an Evander Kane-esque beatdown, but I dont think Cooke will drop the gloves again. So I am perfectly fine with Cooke being delt with in a Tie Domi vs. Ulf Samuelson fashion. Yes it was a filthy cheapshot but it's what both Ulf and Cooke have earned. And any bleeding heart wussbag who says winning the game is more important needs to look at last season and shut their mouths. The Bs were 0-2 in both the Cooke game and the rematch. The Penguins locker room was jovial after the March 18 win because they knew that they got off easy and took two points to boot. The Bs were then drummed out of the postseason as a historical embarrassment. Name one real Hockey fan who wouldnt trade that for an carnage-filled epic line fight where Cooke left the ice looking like Larry Playfair after getting introduced to John Wensink in Gretzkys office? We heard a lot about team building this offseason. I dont care about Lucic playing Tarzan in Vermont. I dont care about Mark Stewart laying down the Visa in a Belfast Pub. I dont care about Brad Marchand jumping on a 200lb grenade as Greg Campbells wingman in Prague. The kind of team building that really matters in Hockey doesnt require woods and zip lines or passports and bar tabs. It requires ice packs and stitches. Its Andrew Ference dancing with the much larger B.J. Crombeen because taking a run at Mark Recci is not acceptable. The real team building begins tonight. Somebody get Thom Brennerman a rosary because there will be blood. Hopefully I am right. Hopefully this team is different. Hopefully tomorrow we can start tracking a new date. "It has been one day since the Bruins redeemed themselves." Sounds good to me. Mike Attleboro

My guy obviously wrote this before the B's big comeback in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. So how do you feel now, Mikey? It wasn't exactly a bloodbath -- although we did get three pretty good fights -- and Matt Cooke got no more retribution. But didn't the Bruins do something more impressive and more important? Five, third-period goals against that team? That's pretty good.

I just don't think the Bruins are going to be the team you want them to be in terms of throwing their weight around. It's not who their coach is, it's not how their roster has been built and, truth be told, it's not what the league has become. I think in terms of "answers," Wednesday night was about as good as you were going to get.

Hey, Felger, Since this is clearly shaping up as your year, I'm worried about your constant dissing of the Bruins. This week I heard Stuart more or less getting down on the fans for making a big deal about the lack of team reaction to the Savard head shot and questioning team toughness last year. The immediate lack of a reaction was stunning, but then the lack of anything more than a cursory Thornton scuffle in the rematch was fairly pathetic. Instead of the Chiefs vs. the Bulldogs, we were treated to something more akin to Disney on Ice. This season everyone is paying lip service to the so-called team toughness (clearly everyone read the memo), but there doesn't seem to be a ton of hitting going on during this fast start. The set-for-life Chara seems to fancy himself more of an offensive threat this year and Lucic doesn't seem to be throwing his weight around the way he used to. Wheeler looks to have Hal Gill disease and appears awkward and uncomfortable when he tries to play the body. I'm thoroughly enjoying the great start, but you make good points about having the same coach at the helm and the potential for playoff hockey exposing the Bruins true colors. Maybe McGrattan and Marchand will make the difference in the spring?Daniel

Ah, Marchand. Definitely a difference-maker. Super goal on on Wednesday. Let's put him on the power play, no?

Beyond that, you're right to temper your enthusiasm, Dan. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to enjoy the regular season. It looks like it's going to be an entertaining one. But I'm not buying in until they make the conference finals.

Felger,In your opinion, who is currently the best point guard in the NBA?LizandroProvidence, RI

Chris Paul.

Hey, FelgyReally great show you and Mazz put on, much better than the alternative. Concerning the Celtics, they lost Game Seven against the Lakers last year because they couldn't rebound, but I think what everyone overlooks is the fact that I believe Rondo cost them that series because he can't make an open 15-footer or a free throw and it will cost them again this year if it continues. While his assist rate is tremendous, the other team doesn't need to guard him. Come playoff time, those passing lanes will be squeezed even more. Rondo can get to the rim anytime he wants, but everyone knows a pass is coming because he is afraid to get fouled. He gets away with it in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. The Laker series shouldn't even have gone seven games if he could have made a jump shot or free throw. It doesn't look as though he's improved either of those skills over the offseason, either. If he could make a shot, it would open up things even more for the team, and then truly he would be a great point guard. What is your take on this?Mark

A: All true. Only I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Rondo to become a good shooter. His hands are too damn big.

Felger, I understand you fancy yourself as a "tell-it-like-it-is" kind of guy, which you also believe happens to be good TVradio. And I suppose your superiors like what you do since your demographics are post-technological extended adolescents (men into their 40s) who apparently seem to respond to your brand of commentary.But the truth is that your schtick is bull. It's phony. It comes across as phony. And you come across as amateurish with a perpetual smirk. A guy who (mistakenly) thinks he's got the TV thing nailed. It is so misguided.But, as I said, I'm sure your bosses like you and I'm sure they pay you well. And your mother and your wife (God knows what she sees) like you, as well. I suppose that's all that matters.If you ever learned how to provide commentary like an adult andor if you ever mature to where you act age appropriate, you would be good. But, alas, not now.R BergerWaltham

That you, Borges? Use your real name next time.
Felger's Patriots-Steelers game column will post Monday morning. Read the report card on Tuesday. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

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