Celtics

Rex Ryan has chosen his QB for Sunday

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Rex Ryan has chosen his QB for Sunday

From Comcast SportsNetFLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Mark Sanchez spent a few days after his miserable performance wondering what was next.The New York Jets quarterback had been benched, his coach tired of his mistakes, and there was no guarantee Rex Ryan would give him his job back anytime soon."I knew at some point before I died, I'd start at quarterback again," Sanchez said Wednesday. "I'm glad it's this week."Ryan gathered his three quarterbacks Wednesday morning and told them he made up his mind: He's sticking with Sanchez.For this week, at least.Ryan weighed his options after pulling Sanchez for Greg McElroy last Sunday against Arizona, talking to many people within the organization before settling on his quarterback."I have to get this decision right," Ryan said, "and I believe I have."So it will be Sanchez and not McElroy or Tim Tebow on Sunday when the Jets take on the Jaguars in Jacksonville."I'm pleased with coach's decision," Sanchez said. "Now it's my job to go make him right."Sanchez was removed late in the third quarter against Arizona, and McElroy came in and led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive, helping New York to a 7-6 victory. Sanchez was 10 of 21 for 97 and three interceptions, while McElroy was 5 of 7 for 29 yards and the score, and appeared to spark the team.Including, the Jets hope, Sanchez."When I looked at everything, the biggest thing I kept coming back to is, who gives us the best opportunity to win?" Ryan said. "When I kept coming back to that, I believe the correct answer was Mark Sanchez."It was perhaps the biggest call in Ryan's nearly four years as coach, considering the sensitivity of the situation and the possible ramifications. He acknowledged there were differing opinions among those he spoke to, but said he received no pressure from owner Woody Johnson and added that Johnson was "absolutely" OK with the decision."From the day Mr. Johnson hired me," Ryan said, "he said it's 100 percent my decision who plays."Sanchez, whose confidence was shaken with Sunday's performance, gets a chance to bounce back from the first benching of his NFL career and to regain the trust of his teammates. He has struggled recently, with two touchdowns and five interceptions in his last four games."It was probably the worst and best experience of my life," Sanchez said. "Hopefully, you learn from it and move on and never look back. It was definitely was the worst, but it could turn around and be one of the best things that's ever happened."He said he had never been benched, except for maybe on his fifth-grade basketball team."I think (Ryan) was, more or less, sending a message and it's well-received," Sanchez said. "I know. I got it."He'll likely be on a short leash against Jacksonville -- with Tebow the No. 2 if healthy, and McElroy also ready to go -- but Ryan acknowledged it might not be a quick hook if he struggles. Ryan also referenced the team's color-coded system which determined how much risk Sanchez can take with each pass, saying the quarterback is now back in the "red light" area -- meaning he must be extremely cautious."If he throws one interception, it doesn't mean he's going to get benched, necessarily," Ryan said.It's still uncertain if Tebow will be active against his hometown Jaguars while he recovers from two broken ribs. Despite being medically cleared by team doctors to play, Ryan chose to keep him active but not play against New England on Thanksgiving night, and then made him inactive against Arizona.If Ryan went with McElroy, a seventh-round pick in 2011 out of Alabama, it would have been a clear indication the franchise is moving on from Sanchez."I'm just disappointed because I let a lot of people down," Sanchez said. "You let a lot of teammates down when you play like that. That never feels good. It just doesn't, not the way I prepare, not with the skill set I've been blessed to have."Money might have played a role in the decision, too, with Sanchez owed 8.25 million next year in guarantees. But Ryan adamantly denied that factored into things."Absolutely zero," he said without hesitating.Still, the Jets are likely stuck with Sanchez and his contract, so they need to see if he can rebound after the lowest point of his career."I believe in Mark," Ryan said.It didn't appear Tebow was much of a factor in Ryan's decision. Ryan said all three quarterbacks would be in the mix, but didn't speculate whether he would have pulled Sanchez in favor of Tebow last Sunday if he were active."I'm not too worried about it," Tebow said. "Just trying to get better and trying to heal up."Tebow was expected to have a major role in the offense, but instead has been a spare part averaging about seven offensive snaps per game. He has been listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, but if the Jets turned to McElroy, it would have meant the No. 3 guy leapfrogged Tebow to start for the Jets.McElroy said he has had a "normal" week so far, taking his usual number of snaps along with practicing with the scout team."You're not guaranteed anything, not at all," McElroy said. "You do your best to make the most of your opportunity and do your best to help the team."The fact the next two games are on the road should also help Sanchez. He was booed mercilessly by the MetLife Stadium crowd last Sunday, particularly after each interception, and chants for McElroy were heard throughout the game. McElroy was cheered as he warmed up late in the third quarter, and there was growing sentiment among some fans and media that he earned a start after lifting the team."This is my opinion," Ryan said, "and I believe that sometimes you don't need to sit a guy for X' amount of games."Now, Ryan has sent the message to Sanchez: perform or else. And Sanchez gets another shot to save his job this season -- and his status as the Jets' franchise quarterback."This kind of thing affects people's lives and careers," Sanchez said. "It's not just, Oh, man. Bummer.' It's not like that. This is serious."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Mavericks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Mavericks in Dallas. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's need to play Smart in Dallas

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Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Celtics-Mavericks preview: C's need to play Smart vs. Dallas

Get it done. No excuses.
 
That has been how the Boston Celtics have played most of this season.
 
And if there’s one Celtics player who embodies that on this team, it’s Marcus Smart.
 
The fourth-year guard has struggled all season with his shot-making, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter you can count on Smart to be on the floor.

THE WINNING STREAK

He has been among the many reasons Boston has won 15 in a row, which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.
 
And Smart will be among the Celtics looking to keep it going tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Most likely, Smart will make an impact with his defense, which is among the best in the NBA.

How good?
 
Smart has a defensive rating of 93.4 (points allowed per 100 possessions) which is tops among all guards in the NBA, and ranks third among all players who have played in at least 10 games this season.
 
But in the 110-99 win over the Hawks, Smart knocked down a couple of 3-pointers which was a big deal considering how mightily he has struggled shooting the ball this season.
 
Smart is shooting 27.3 percent from the field as well as from 3-point range – both career lows.
 
However, he’s also averaging career highs in assists (4.5) and rebounds (5.1) this season.
 
And while he certainly doesn’t appear to be affected by the shooting struggles, he acknowledges that it is something that he can’t help but think about from time to time.
 
“It does affect you, especially if you’ve been working (on shooting) all summer,” Smart said. “At the same time, I don’t take as many shots. But like I said, we got other guys who are playing well. My job is to get them the ball and do whatever I can, go back down the floor, play defense and get the ball again.”

In Boston’s win over Atlanta, Smart spent a good amount of time defending Marco Belinelli who had four points on 2-for-10 shooting compared to 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting when these two teams met earlier this month.
 
Coach Brad Stevens pointed to the job Smart did on Belinelli, in addition to the clutch offensive rebound he was able to snag and quickly put back up and in that gave Boston a 103-95 game with about two minutes to play.
 
“He was really good,” Stevens said.
 
The same could be said for most of the Celtics of late.
 
Kyrie Irving is coming off his most efficient game of the season, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Jayson Tatum had a rough start, but he came on strong as well with 14 points – all coming in the second half.
 
But the backbone of Boston’s success lies in what they’re able to get done defensively.
 
So far, Boston’s defense has been as strong as we’ve seen this early, in quite some time.
 
Boston, which has a league-best defensive rating of 95.9, has length, savvy and an overall total buy-in by the players on what Brad Stevens is looking for, from them.
 
Meanwhile, the Mavericks (3-14) are coming off their most impressive victory this season, a 111-79 win over Milwaukee.  Dennis Smith Jr. has been among the more talented rookies this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Dallas is indeed in a transition period where longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds per game) is gradually passing the torch to his younger teammates like Harrison Barnes (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Smith Jr.
 
Much like the Hawks game, the Celtics must approach this game with a focus on the opponent and not their record.
 
Because the Celtics are no longer just a good team on the schedule. They are a measuring stick for most to see how they stack up against the league’s best.
 
And the Celtics understand how their success has changed how teams see them.
 
“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.”

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