Red Sox

For Sullinger, it's just a start

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For Sullinger, it's just a start

WASHINGTON - Doc Rivers has vowed to mix and match his starting lineup this season.

The first switcheroo came Saturday night when he decided to put Jared Sullinger in the starting lineup in place of Brandon Bass.

Rivers' decision had nothing to do with Bass' play.

Coming into the game, Bass averaged a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game.

Still, there's no denying the impact that Sullinger, a 6-9, 260-pound rookie, has when he's on the floor.

His play was one of the keys to Boston escaping with an 89-86 win over Washington.

Sullinger had four points and a team-high tying seven rebounds.

"He understands his role," C's Paul Pierce told Comcast SportsNet following the game. "We don't give him a lot of touches, but he's a great rebounder. And the touches he's given, he has to be able to take advantage of it. He really fills that middle up. That's what we need."

Having such a precise role - rebounder - is something Sullinger is getting accustomed to.

Sullinger has usually been the biggest player on his teams while growing up. And with his soft hands and ability to finish around the basket, teams have called upon him to be a scorer.

In Boston, he understands that he has to be patient.

"I understand I've got to pay my dues," Sullinger said. "You've got Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce so they're all pretty much legit scorers. When they're in the game, you've got to understand you're trying to get them open. You play off them, and that's just when I try to rebound."

Garnett has been singing the praises of Sullinger throughout the season, something you seldom see him do when it comes to rookies.

"He knows how to play, without the ball," Garnett, who lauded Sullinger for having a high basketball IQ. "He blends well in with our strong group."

Garnett added, "Sully knows how to play the game. He's been in the different rotations, preseason. He's very comfortable with our starting group."

Rivers isn't going to commit to this being his starting lineup moving forward - or whether it will even be the starting lineup he'll use on Wednesday when the Celtics host the same Washington Wizards team.

But Sullinger gives them yet another option to work into the lineup, and another potential headache for opponents to worry about.

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE