Celtics

One of the NFL's best runners wants a trade

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One of the NFL's best runners wants a trade

From Comcast SportsNet
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout appears far from over. His agent, Adisa Bakari, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Jacksonville Jaguars running back is upset with owner Shad Khan's recent public comments about his client's 27-day holdout. "Maurice wants to play for an organization that wants him and for an owner who respects him and values what he brings to a team -- on the field, in the locker room and in the community," Bakari said. ESPN reported that Jones-Drew is open to being traded. When asked Tuesday whether he would trade Jones-Drew, Khan said he is "not going to get into all the theses and hypotheses." Khan added that Jones-Drew is "a great player, and we would love for him to be back." Last week, however, Khan said MJD's absence "doesn't even move the needle" in terms of stress. Khan reiterated his stance Tuesday by saying, "This is not a team about one person." His message to Jones-Drew? "Train's leaving the station. Run, get on it," Khan said. Bakari made it clear that those statements don't sit well with Jacksonville's biggest star. "Obviously, he's not happy that what started as a very cordial and private conversation is now public and contentious," Bakari said. Now, with both sides seemingly digging their heels in as deeply as possibly, it is unclear when or if Jones-Drew will show up in Jacksonville. The Jaguars open the season Sept. 9 at Minnesota. Jones-Drew's holdout is fairly simple. He wants a new deal after leading the NFL with 1,606 yards rushing last season. He has two years remaining on a five-year, front-loaded contract worth 31 million. He is scheduled to make 4.45 million this season and 4.95 million in 2013. Khan and general manager Gene Smith insist they have no plans to negotiate a new deal with MJD, not wanting to set a precedent of paying players with two years remaining on lucrative deals that included large signing bonuses. Jones-Drew skipped the team's entire offseason workout program, including a mandatory, three-day minicamp last month. If new coach Mike Mularkey is fining Jones-Drew the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement -- 20,000 for each day of minicamp and 30,000 for each day since training camp opened -- the total is up to 870,000. Mularkey said Tuesday he has had no recent contact with Jones-Drew or his agent. Coming off a career year, Jones-Drew wants to be one of the NFL's highest-paid backs. His average salary per year ranks behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, Houston's Arian Foster, St. Louis' Steven Jackson, Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. Both sides have valid arguments. Jones-Drew signed his deal in 2009, before rushing for at least 1,300 yards in three consecutive seasons. Not only has he seemingly outperformed his contract, MJD is the face of the franchise and probably the only player on the roster known outside small-market Jacksonville. The Jaguars, meanwhile, paid him based on the expectation that he would flourish as a starter after spending the first three years of his career splitting carries with Fred Taylor. The team isn't enamored with paying a running back into his 30s, especially one who takes as many pounding hits as Jones-Drew does. Plus, the Jaguars have missed the playoffs in each of his three seasons as the starter. Jones-Drew is entering his seventh season. He has 6,854 yards rushing, 2,473 yards receiving and 74 total touchdowns. He carried a career-high 343 times last season, averaging 4.7 yards even though defenses knew he was the focal point of Jacksonville's offense.

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

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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.”