It was an absolutely insane sports weekend in Boston and on planet Earth, so lets take a second and catch up on all that transpired . . .
First of all, the NHL is once again a thing. According to numerous reports, the league and its players have reached a tentative deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and will return to the ice as soon as Canadianly possible. In Boston, that means the return of the Bruins, currently the citys second-best chance at another title. It also, and more importantly, means that the restaurants, bars and other struggling TD Garden businesses are back in the saddle.
According to my impeccable hockey sources, the NHL schedule will kick off on January 19, with a 48-game regular season. That gives the B's less than two weeks to bring the team together and start building towards another Stanley Cup. It also puts Tim Thomas on the clock for his first Facebook bombshell of the new season.
Out in Vegas, "Pro NRA" is slated as the most likely topic at 3-to-1 odds. "The Al-JazeeraCurrent TV buyout" is 6-to-1. "An in-depth review of Zero Dark Thirty is at 15-to-1. The odds of Thomas playing hockey this season? Off the board.
Over in the NBA, the Celtics had their most productive weekend of the suddenly-not-so-young season. On Friday night, they took down the Pacers, who came in having won nine of their last 11 games. On Saturday night, they erased a 15-point halftime deficit and stole a win on the road against the much-hyped Atlanta Hawks.
Rajon Rondo had another triple double. (He now has eight since the start of last season, while no one else in the NBA has more than two.) Paul Pierce led Boston with 26 points, and after the game, revealed the details of a few halftime fireworks in the Celtics locker room.
"We were kind of bickering with each other at halftime about what to do defensively, and I just reminded the guys that the fight isn't against us, it's against the other team," Pierce said (Boston trailed 53-38 at the break).
He also suggested that some of the issues stemmed from players being unhappy with Doc Rivers: "I told our guys we have to accept coaching. Doc was telling us what to do, and guys were getting angry with him, and I told them the ones we need to be getting angry with is the other team."
Five quick points on that:
1. So, whos unhappy with Doc? I dont want to speculate, but I will say that whoever it is should be on the trade block. No questions asked. For the last five years, every ounce of Celtics success has been predicated on the team buying into Doc Rivers. That's part of the deal. You don't have to like what he says, but you have to respect and accept it, and trust that every thing is for the benefit of the team. And if you aren't feeling it? Then you're not a good fit. There are plenty of players out there who are ready and willing to run through a wall for a coach like Doc, and that's who the Celtics need to find.
2. This isnt the first time the C's have had a locker room altercation in Atlanta. Back in 2008, after Boston lost Game 6 of their first round series against the Hawks, James Posey and Kevin Garnett actually had to be separated during a heated post-game exchange.
The Celtics responded by blowing out Atlanta in Game 7, and went on to win the title. But that's not always the case. In fact, this kind of behind-the-scenes bickering only plays out in one of two ways: It brings the team together, or it triggers a collapse.
And while the second half of the Hawks game leaves you feeling good about which direction the Celtics are headed, the true test comes tonight at MSG, against Steve Novak and the Knicks.
3. Is it just a coincidence that the Celtics mini-revival corresponded with the return of Avery Bradley? Maybe. Either that, or it's time for everyone to finally come to grips with how essential he is to this team's success.
4. Regardless of what's going on with the Celtics, Boston can find happiness in the disaster that's unfolding in LA.
Mike D'Antoni is in way over his head, and is quickly becoming the Lakers' Bobby Valentine. Kobe and Dwight can't stand each other. The supporting cast (outside of Metta World Peace and (recently) Steve Nash) is non existent. But the biggest problem for the Lakers is that their defense is awful, and that's because Howard physically isn't the player that he once was. Not yet at least. He's not as quick; he's not as strong. It looks like he's lost at least five inches in shoulder width. And after re-aggravating another injury last night against the Nuggets, there's further evidence that Howard may be breaking down.
The Lakers still have a higher ceiling than the Celtics waiting for them on the other side of all this drama, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely that LA has what it takes to break through.
5. I'm in favor of trading any combination of players not named Rondo or Garnett for DeMarcus Cousins, but I have zero expectations of that happening.
In the world of Major League baseball, we saw the Red Sox continue their inspiring off-season with . . . nah, they didn't do anything. Except for maybe play a few rounds passive phone tag with Mike Napoli.
And then of course, there's the NFL. Wild Card Weekend. To be honest, the games were pretty miserable. I mean, I watched just about every minute and don't recall anything all that memorable. It was all just kind of blah. But now that it's over, the real playoffs can begin. THE ELITE EIGHT.
January 12, 4:30 pm: Baltimore at Denver
The Ravens showed a little extra something against the Colts, but not enough to make you believe that they'll pull off this upset.
January 12, 8 pm: Green Bay at San Francisco
Many have theorized that playing against Joe Webb will leave the Packers better prepared for Saturday's date with Colin Kaepernick. I don't see it making a major difference, but believe that Green Bay's still coming home with the win after Billy Cundiff misses a last second field goal for the Niners.
January 13, 1 pm: Seattle at Atlanta
Everyone will love the Seahawks here, and I totally get it. I think Seattle pulls off the upset, setting the stage for the ultimate Fail Mary rematch.
Seahawks at Packers, with a Super Bowl berth on the line. Just for fun, shouldn't they bring the replacement refs back for this one?
January 13, 4:30 pm: Houston at New England
And once again, the Patriots are in line for a trip to New Orleans.
Obviously nothing's set in stone. They could very well lose to the Texans on Sunday or next week in Denver, but at this point, the Pats are just as likely destined for their sixth Super Bowl in 11 years.
It starts on Sunday, at home against Houston. And all things being equal, the Pats certainly have the edge. You really believe that Matt Schaub can successfully lead the Texans into Foxboro?
A win over Houston most likely sends the Pats to Denver, and in that case, who knows? But the bottom line is that the Patriots are only two wins away from the Super Bowl; two wins against a pair of teams that they've already beaten by double digits.
From here on out, waiting is the hardest part. The idea of sitting around for a whole week in anticipation of next Sunday is enough to make you crawl out of your skin.
But for one today at least, the events of last weekend were enough to keep us occupied.