Celtics

There's no questioning Randy Moss

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There's no questioning Randy Moss

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

It's Tuesday morning at Mall of America Field.

We open on a crowded press conference.

The podium is empty, except for a table featuring two microphones one labeled "R. Moss," and the other "Randy M." A hoard of deadline-ridden reporters anxiously wait for the proceedings to begin.

Suddenly, a lone man emerges from behind the curtain, pulls up a chair right in between the two mics, calmly flips his hat to the back and is ready to roll.

"All right, y'all. Let's get this over with," he says, speaking into the microphone to his right.

Five reporters simultaneously shout out their question:

"Randy, how was to be back in New England!? Randy, is Brett OK?! Randy, talk about how the Pats shut you down! Randy, why did you give up on that bomb from Favre?! Randy, Randy, only two targets? Talk about those two targets!"

"OK, OK. Take it easy," he implores. "This won't work if y'all yelling all at once. How 'bout this: If you have a question, just raise your hand. Raise it real nice and high like you're 'bout to hot route a corner. And I'll call on y'all one by one. Let's be civilized, all right?"

Fifteen arms shoot up, and Moss scans the room, quietly contemplating whom to acknowledge first. After a few tense moments, he looks to the empty microphone on his left, shifts his chair in that direction and raises his own hand. He moves back to the right and says:

"OK, Randy. You're up first."

"Thanks, Randy. First, I just wanna let you know how much I appreciate all you been through this year. I wanna say that I appreciate all you done. I wanna make sure you know that you ARE appreciated. And always will be."

"I appreciate you for saying that, buddy. Now what's your question?"

"OK, I appreciate you cutting to the chase, so here it is:

"You knew all the plays the Patriots were gonna run on Sunday, right? I mean, you knew exactly when they were gonna run them, exactly how they were gonna run them, and you knew the perfect way to stop them. Basically, if you were in charge of that game plan, it woulda been a blow out. So, why didn't anybody listen to you? Why is it clearly everyone else's fault that you guys lost?"

Moss lets out a little chuckle.

"Listen, man. I'm not gonna touch on that right now. Randy Moss isn't about that kind of nonsense. He's about the team. Now don't get me wrong I think that's a terrific question, and I respect your opinion. But it's just not something I feel comfortable discussing. OK, next question."

He quickly shifts back to the other microphone.

"Wait, wait, Randy! Just one more follow up

"In your postgame comments, you seemed to try and distance yourself from the team. When you spoke, you made reference to the 'Minnesota Vikings' and 'their' organization which gave off the vibe that you don't consider yourself a part of the organization; that you feel like an outsider. That was magnified when you used your press conference to gush over just about every guy on the Pats payroll, while not mentioning your current teammates including your injured QB even once.

"So, my question is: What have they done to force you to feel this way? Now I'm just thinking out loud, but is it because they ignored your aforementioned perfect game plan? Is it because they don't respect your knowledge of the game or commitment to winning?

"Also, am I wrong to assume that they obviously don't respect what you can do on the field, either? I mean, two targets, man? They're out of their mind to only target you twice! If we're being honest, I gotta ask: Why did they even trade for you? Don't they realize that you're in a contract year? If they're not gonna offer you a deal, isn't it only fair that they at least give you a chance to succeed?"

Moss takes a second, before sliding back over.

"Ahh, man," he says, shaking his head and smiling. "First of all, I told y'all that I was done talking about the contract. For now, I'm keeping my opinions on that to myself. Although, I do understand what you're saying and probably agree with all of it.

"But as far as far as the team goes? As far as not feeling welcome in Minnesota? As far 'that' organization completely wasting my potential and ruining my last big payday?

"I hate to even bring that up, man. That's not the kinda guy I am."

Moss now looks exhausted. Emotionally drained. He's no longer comfortable in front of his microphones.

"All right, guys, I gotta go get myself right for next Sunday. But I know you gotta job to do. I don't want to leave y'all out in the cold. So let's go with one more question." He cracks out a tired smile. "And let's make it a good one!"

The hands go back up, but Moss doesn't see them. He stares at the empty mic to his left, pauses for a second, and says:

"OK, Randy. Bring us home."

"Aww, me again? Good stuff, man. Listen, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but let me just say this. I think Sunday was unbelievably hard for me err, I mean you. I think it was far more difficult and emotionally taxing than you ever imagined. I don't think you ever realized how quickly things could and would go so wrong in Minnesota, and as you sat at the podium after that game, I think the reality of it all finally set in. And in that moment, I think you finally understood the consequences your behavior. In that moment, you realized how fortunate you'd been to go to work every day with a normal, down-to-Earth and selfless quarterback, a competent, confident and proven coach and for an organization that prides itself on winning, above all else and at all costs. In that moment, you wished you still called New England home, but at the same time, finally understood why that's no longer the case, and why you're now stuck in this three-ring Minnesota mess. And it kills you.

"But the only thing that kills you more is the idea of not getting that big contract offer next season, and you know the more bitching and the more public discontent you unleash, the more that offer will decrease; the faster the old 'Randy Moss is a cancer' label turns you into the next TO an all-time great whose spent the end of his career bouncing around terrible teams. And I know I damn it, I mean 'you' don't want that. So you're not gonna talk at all. You're just going to shut up and play, and show the world that Randy Moss still has it, even in the face of adversity.

"You think this will work. Am I right?"

There's a long pause as Moss shifts back into his original position.

"No comment," he says.

"All right. I'm out."

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

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

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE