It’s Time For The Celtics To Clean House

With 11 days remaining before the NBA trade deadline, teams are trying to figure out if they are a contenders or pretenders. We have already seen teams like the Cavaliers try to make a last ditch effort at a playoff run (swing and a miss!), but the truth is the NBA is not all that balanced, and the haves, i.e. Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, and the LA Clippers are the only teams with a real shot to win the NBA title. Regardless of the lack of parity, there are teams looking to improve their rosters or go in another direction. It is time for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics to start calling them.

The 2013-2014 Boston Celtics currently stand at 18-34 with 30 games left on their schedule. It’s very clear that Boston has become one of the “have not’s” and are in a rebuilding stage. With that being said, what is the point of keeping players that hold value but aren’t in the plan for the future? The answer is simple- there is no point in retaining them. There are five players on the Celtics roster that need to have their futures decided sooner rather than later. Let’s take a look at their situations.

Jeff Green– With his nine million per year on the books for two more seasons and the inability to step up and be the consistent player he was expected to be, it’s time to move on. Green deserved the benefit of the doubt after having open heart surgery and last year became a mulligan season, but the excuses have run dry and Green is what he is-maddeningly inconsistent yet extremely talented. Let someone else try and draw the potential out of him because it isn’t happening in Beantown.

Brandon Bass– He was a solid addition for the Celtics and a strong return for Big Baby Davis, but he doesn’t fit in the Celtics future plans. The tweener forward also accounts for over six million on the cap with another season remaining, so not only is he not part of the future, he’s slowing down the rebuilding process by taking playing time away from younger big men and also eating up cap space that could be allotted to a younger core player like Avery Bradley. There have been rumors surrounding Bass since the season began; it’s time to make one of those rumors a reality.

Kris Humphries– This is truly a “time is of the essence” situation with the strong rebounding power forward; Humphries can simply walk and Boston will gain 12 million in cap space, but it makes more sense to try and gain an asset for a player that could help a team down the stretch. Humphries is an attractive player for a possible playoff team; Charlotte might make sense with the expiring contract of Ben Gordon and a possible first round pick. Humphries might also be a part of a package deal.

Gerald Wallace– Moving Wallace might be a little tricky. He accounts for over ten million on the cap and he has two seasons left on his awful contract. Wallace is only 31 years old, so he isn’t exactly washed up. Danny Ainge may end up having to take back some baggage to move Wallace, but if it clears cap space, it’s worth it. Wallace may be part of a package deal if the Celtics move on from…

Rajon Rondo– This is a tricky one. 27 year old point guards with championship pedigree aren’t the easiest thing to find, not to mention one who is as competitive as any player in the game and looks to have learned a thing a two while out with a torn ACL. Rondo has one season remaining on his deal and has said that free agency “intrigues” him, so what do the Celtics do? Simple- hold onto him unless a young big man or top five pick is the return. Danny Ainge should do all he can to pry a big from Detroit, especially with that franchise in a bit of disarray, but if Detroit stands by their declaration of no Drummond/Monroe, there is no reason to trade Rondo. When the draft rolls around and a team offers a top five pick, that would be hard to turn down too, but until one of those scenarios occurs, expect to see number nine running the point for at least another calendar year.

Danny Ainge and his front office need to make these decisions because the Celtics will stay in a neutral stage that nobody likes but it is inevitable while rebuilding. The sooner they move on the better. The next ten days in Boston could go a long way towards deciding how soon the Celtics contend again, but until Ainge and Co. put it in drive, Boston fans are just going to have to be patient and confident that there is a plan to bring title number 18 to the hub of basketball.

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The Transformation of the Patriots Offense- Why It Had to Happen

When the Patriots season ended last year, it was another painful end to a season filled with the hopes of winning the fourth Lombardi Trophy in team history. For a team with a regular season record of 39-9 from 2010-2012, it didn’t seem right that all this winning occurred without a championship to show for it. The Patriots had some success in the playoffs, but in the end, they weren’t properly equipped to get the job done. It was time for some self-scouting and to accept the obvious- they weren’t fast or athletic enough on offense, especially at wide receiver. Something had to be done in the offseason.

The Patriots started the process at the receiver position, and to Patriots fans chagrin, the decision was made to replace Wes Welker. Yes, he is a good player, but does he demand double teams and can he battle for a ball with a defensive back? Absolutely not, and because he is showing signs of age-12.5 drop percentage in 2012- it forced the Patriots to make a tough decision. Bob Kraft said they would have taken him back, but is there any guarantee he wasn’t going to get phased out like he was in the beginning of 2012? The writing was on the wall, and now Welker catches passes from Peyton Manning.

Danny Amendola makes the receiving core more dynamic, although he has issues staying healthy. Amendola has been productive, he’s two inches taller than Welker, and he has also has very long arms, which helps his catch radius. They traded for LeGarrette Blount to share the bulk of the carries with Steven Ridley as the Patriots will commit to a true 50-50 offensive balance in 2013. Shane Vereen, when healthy, has proven to be a good receiver out of the backfield and has provided some relief after the loss of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman has also done a great job of relieving the pressure of losing Welker, and he is on pace to have better receiving statistics for the season, which is no small feat.

The Patriots drafted for speed and athleticism. Offensively, drafting Aaron Dobson in the second round gives Tom Brady a 6’3″ wide receiver with speed, something he hasn’t had since Randy Moss. Dobson will look to replace the production Brandon Lloyd provided in 2012. The Patriots also selected Josh Boyce, a 5’11”, 210 pound wide receiver out of TCU in the fourth round. Boyce run’s a sub 4.5 forty and can play in the slot and outside. New England also struck gold with rookie free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, a player who had a checkered history but always had the talent to play at a high level.

Fans were worried that the Patriots didn’t have a plan, but they did, and it revolved around speed and power to compete with the Ravens, 49ers, Seahawks, and other athletic, talented teams. Most trail the Patriots when it comes to roster strength and identifying areas of weakness, but athletically, work had to be done to catch up to Super Bowl level rosters. Patriots’ fans, be confident that Bill Belichick and company have finally found the players to inject athleticism and speed to push them over the top.

The Battle for Home Field Advantage & Why it’s Crucial to Winning a Super Bowl

Winning consistently in the NFL is a difficult task to accomplish. Year after year we see teams that look like a true contender fall off the map after a short losing streak, and 2013 will be no different. Although there have been teams in recent history that have won the Super Bowl taking the long road, the truth is the teams with the best chance to represent their respective conferences are the teams that stay home for the playoffs.

As we near the completion of Week 14 of the NFL schedule, we are starting to get an idea of who will clinch the crucial home playoff games and bye weeks. The Denver Broncos continued their great season with a thrashing of Tennessee which leaves them at 11-2. The Broncos have to stay on point because they still have the 10-3 Kansas City Chiefs nipping at their heels. The New England Patriots started the day as the number two seed, and although it looked like the Bengals were about to leapfrog them after their big win versus Indy, the Patriots found a way to pull out the miracle win after being down 12 with three minutes to go. While this miracle comeback was occurring, the Patriots best player not named Tom Brady was on his way to the hospital to ultimately learn his ACL is torn.

The Broncos and the Patriots do appear to be the clear top two teams in the conference, and home field for both of these teams may be more important than the other playoff participants. New England is 3-3 on the road this season, and two of those three wins were dicey to say the least. Comebacks against Houston may be possible during the regular season, but getting in holes on the road in the playoffs is a death sentence. This alone makes obtaining a top two seed vital for the Patriots to have any chance to win their fourth Lombardi Trophy.

Peyton Manning and the Broncos are 4-2 on the road this season, so they aren’t much better than New England in other team’s stadiums.  If Denver was to somehow lose the top seed or even fall behind Kansas City, they will end up playing on the road in a tough environment. The Broncos are 2-2 on the road versus potential playoff teams (Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, and Kansas City) and they’re undefeated at home. It is pretty clear that the Broncos have a serious home field advantage and need to win out to maintain their current standing.

New England has had more recent success in Denver than the Broncos have had in Foxboro, so going to Mile High for the AFC Championship isn’t exactly an impossible task for the Patriots. It will be an impossible task if they aren’t able to clinch a top two bye and earn the bye week to heal up. The last thing Peyton Manning wants to do is come back to Foxboro, especially in January. These next three weeks will be very interesting and will go a long way towards deciding the AFC Champion. If today was a sign of things to come, we may see the best two months of football in a long time.

Bye Week Review- Weeks 1-9 & What the Rest of the Season Has in Store

Sitting and watching every other team in the NFL play while the Patriots are idle can be a little frustrating, but bye weeks are a welcome break for NFL players and coaches, and this recess came right in time for the banged up AFC East powerhouse. Many of the NFL pundits have questioned the Patriots all season, regardless of their 7-2 record and strong victories over teams like New Orleans and the Atlanta Falcons, who had a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White at the time. When a team has consistency like New England has for such a long period of time, it becomes common to nitpick and question the “style” of winning.

The main reason for the lack of confidence in the Patriots is due to their problems on offense. The injuries at wideout to Danny Amendola, running back with Shane Vereen and at tight end with Rob Gronkowski were crippling to an offense that was used to walking up and down the field at will. The defense also has dealt with their own injury problems. Losing stalwart defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and also linebacker Jerod Mayo for the season were huge blows, especially considering they were turning the corner and becoming one of the NFL’s elite. Injuries to star cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Steven Gregory have also hurt, but haven’t stopped the Patriots from winning and getting defensive stops in situations where they’re needed.

As the weeks wore on and the Patriots continued to find ways to win, Amendola, Gronkowski and now Vereen slowly but surely got healthy; last week against the Steelers, the Patriots lit up the score board for 55 points and also generated over 600 yards of offense. All this without the excellent receiving back Vereen, who will be in the lineup this week versus the Carolina Panthers; it is pretty clear this offense is ready to take the next step. The bye week also bought Aqib Talib another week to heal, and it appears he will be active for this week’s game.

The second half of the season kicks off with a trip to Carolina backed up by a Sunday night game in Foxboro against Denver; two tough tests for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. After that, the Patriots face the Texans, Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, and Bills. Assuming New England takes care of business, they should have a good shot at a bye in the first round of the playoffs. If that happens, don’t be surprised if the Patriots are playing in their sixth Super Bowl since the 2001 season.

Patriots Not Getting Enough Credit

There are some things that get under my skin when it comes to sports, and one of them is assuming a team isn’t good because they do things differently than they have in past seasons. The 2013 New England Patriots are a 6-2 team that is being talked about like a 1-7 team, and it just doesn’t make sense. Bill Parcells was had the famous quote, “you are what your record says your are” and this is no different with this edition of Patriots. Last year, the Patriots finished 12-4 and lost the AFC Championship. Most would look at that is a very successful year (spoiled New England fans see it differently) and realize how fortunate they are. In the first eight games of 2012, the Patriots were 5-3 and fans were saying they weren’t as good and things needed to change. Obviously everything worked out. Now the Patriots are a game ahead of their pace from last year with a considerably better defense and people want to say the same thing? Have we not learned that this team gets better as the year goes on? My recommendation to fans and “experts” is to forget about the years of explosive offense and embrace how the team is built- defense and the running game with the passing game as a compliment. It worked for three Super Bowl-winning seasons and if the Patriots stay on the same track, they may add their fourth title in 2013. Maybe then they will finally receive the credit they deserve.