Rondo: More talk needed on defense


Rondo: More talk needed on defense

BOSTON -- Given that Kevin Garnett's intense screams can be heard around the TD Garden, it's hard to imagine his team would struggle with communication.

But early on in the season, the Celtics (2-3) are trying to improve their talk on the court, something they hope will lead to a better end result.

"Kevin does a great job of talking," said Rajon Rondo. "I think just follow the leader. It's not as hard as it seems, but it's a matter of some guys don't talk. For us to win, I think we need guys to come out of their comfort zone and do something they're not comfortable with."

The Celtics are a tight knit squad and have little problems speaking with one another. Prior to Friday's game, Rondo, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and rookies Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, and Kris Joseph talked with one another at length in the locker room.

Effectively doing so on the court is different, though. With so many new pieces this season, finding cohesion is a work in progress, especially while Doc Rivers is experimenting with various lineups resulting in numerous roles for the players. In order to click, the Celtics have to talk to each other to understand keys such as defensive responsibilities and tasks in each play.

"We're a defensive team that usually can score the basketball. Right now we have indecision," said Garnett. "At points we have lack of communication and all the other things that come with the NBA basketball game. You're going to make some mistakes. We tend to be a little tentative at times."

Both Garnett and Rondo believe the Celtics will improve their communication through practices. Those, of course, are often hard to come by in a demanding schedule. For now they will have to stay patient and focused while making in-game adjustments.

"We've just got to continue to believe," said Rondo. "We won't have as many practices as we would like, so right now we have to do it with our talk. And that's what we're not doing. When we're small, we've got to learn it's not a specific man. It's just to get the guy in the area, and it comes from communication."

Echoed Garnett, "Practice fixes a lot of indecision. I think we've still got some guys that don't really understand nor do they know our system. But through practice time and repetitions, we'll get those things. Right now just grind. Just the grind days right here."

With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?


With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 


The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 


Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter


Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

If the Patriots are about to go up against one of the more talented punters in the league, one way or another, you're bound to hear about it from Bill Belichick.

Sometimes Belichick will go into great detail on opposing punters in one of his weekly press conferences. Sometimes he'll go out of his way to highlight a punter during one of his "breakdowns" on 

He went the latter route this week, gushing over Raiders punter Marquette King.

"We usually don't have the punters on the highlights here, but King's a very athletic punter," Belichick said. "He runs a lot of fakes, a guy you have to really be conscious of as a both holder on field goals and punts on fakes."

King is the No. 2 punter in the league when it comes to net punting (45.5 yards), and he's tenth in the league in terms of the number of punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. 

"King is an athletic guy," Belichick reiterated, "and he can change field-position big time."

Add him to the list of big-legged punters -- "weapons," if you will -- Belichick has praised in the past.