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A look at the new Celtics, away from the court

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 30, 2012 03:56 PM

With the Celtics ready to tip-off a new season in Miami, much of the focus has been on one of their old teammates, as Ray Allen makes his debut for the Heat -- but Boston's pursuit of Banner 18 will be more about the new teammates who've been brought in to replace him and fortify the roster. Here’s a look at those seven new faces, and what they're about away from the floor.

Leandro Barbosa: The former NBA sixth man of the year comes to the Celtics after stops in Phoenix, Toronto, and Indiana -- and after receiving a rather hardcore introduction to the game as a kid in Brazil. Growing up as part of a family in Sao Paola, Barbosa's athletic abilities were seen as something of a meal ticket from an early age, and so Leandro was put through drills by his brother Arturo – who was 21 years his elder and a paratrooper in the elite Brazilian Special Forces.

Sgt. Barbosa apparently wielded a stick when putting his brother through drills, and while it left the eventual first-round pick with an array of agile moves, and helped maximize the footspeed that later earned him the nickname of “The Brazilian Blur,” pain was sometimes the price of the training.

"He would have me hold out my hands and he would hold the stick," Leandro told the Arizona Republic before his rookie season in 2003. "It was for agility. He'd move the stick, and if the hands didn't move, that stick would hit really hard. Sometimes, I almost couldn't play in organized games because my hands were so sore."

Since becoming the fourth of his countrymen to reach the NBA, Barbosa has tried to spread the game to Brazilians in a different way, several times returning as part of the league’s Basketball Without Borders.

Jason Collins: The Stanford-educated 7-footer came on the national scene when he and brother Jarron helped lead the Cardinal to the 1998 Final Four. Since then he’s had a journeyman’s career in the NBA – but apparently neither of the Collins twins was the best dunker on his high school hoops team.

According to a 1995 L.A. Daily News story, the best dunker on the state champion Harvard-Westlake High School team was in fact the Collins’ backup at center: That was Jason Segel, the 60-foot, 4-inch star of “How I Met Your Mother,” who didn’t play hoops in (or even attend) college, choosing instead to pursue what has become a successful career in Hollywood..

Kris Joseph: The rookie second-round pick is the son of immigrants who moved from Trinidad and Tobago to raise their family in Montreal. There they settled in a section of the city that didn’t have a hoop on which brothers Kris and Maurice could play basketball, so rather than rims they instead supposedly shot at trash cans at an elementary school.

Maurice wound up coming to New England to play at the University of Vermont, while Kris’s travels took him to Washington, D.C., for high school and Syracuse for college. There he majored in human ecology.

Fab Melo: He’s a former Orangeman like Joseph, and a product of Brazil like Barbosa. But Melo’s journey to Boston has been unique.

At 22 he’s a first-round draft pick and NBA center, but at the age of 15 he had never played the sport and didn’t speak English. His mother sent him to Florida at 17, alone, where he lived with a host family and after joining the basketball team at the urging of his soccer coach parlayed that opportunity and his size into a scholarship at Syracuse.

He spent two seasons there, emerging as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in his second, though with the Orange among the favorites in March, Melo was ruled academically ineligible and missed the NCAA Tournament. On every level from language to the lane, that journey makes Melo a – likely Maine-bound – project.

Darko Milicic: He will always be first remembered as the player selected second during a draft in which LeBron James went first, Carmelo Anthony went third, Chris Bosh went fourth, and Dwyane Wade went fifth. Because of that, he’ll forever be a punch line.

But even from that unfortunate choice made by the Pistons has come some positive, believe it or not. Last year, Milicic put the NBA championship ring and championship belt he won with Detroit in 2004 up for auction in an effort to raise money and awareness for terminally ill children battling Batten’s disease.

He learned of the affliction through a newspaper story telling of a family dealing with the disorder in his native Serbia, and paid for four patients to be treated in China. Those treatments reportedly cost roughly $35,000 apiece, though, so he pledged his ring to help more moving forward.

Jared Sullinger: No, he’s not that Jared. But when he needed to drop a few pounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Sullinger apparently went to the same methods as his namesake. According to USA Today, Sullinger cut back on his trips to McDonald’s and Wendy’s and instead went to Subway – a decision he said "really helped me out, because my game has stepped to another level.” The result was reportedly the shedding of 16 pounds, with the 6-foot-9 forward dropping to 264 at the start of his final season at Ohio State.

Purdue fans apparently noticed, chanting “Subway diet!” during a game – but the worse razzing that day, really, was Boilermaker Nation getting on him for this atrocity:

Courtney Lee: Lee’s off-the-court story involves a memory he carries with him every time he steps on to the court. It’s with him in the form of a tattoo on his right arm that bears the image of his late friend Danny Rumph.

Coming from Indianapolis, Lee experienced homesickness when he arrived for his freshman year at Western Kentucky, but then he met Rumph, the junior from Philadelphia who could relate to what Lee was going through, and saw to it that his new teammate stick it out. The two became close friends, “inseparable” by some accounts – but just after the end of his first year of school, Lee received a call during a visit home. Rumph had died after suffering hypertrophy cardiomyopathy and collapsing during a pickup game in Philly.

A month later, Lee got etched in memory of Rumph. And since then, everything he’s done on the court has been dedicated to his friend’s memory.

Jason Terry: Terry is another who lets his ink do the talking. Two years ago he tattooed the Larry O’Brien Trophy on his biceps before the 2010-11 season – and his Mavericks followed through on that bravado by winning the NBA title. This summer, after signing with Boston, he put on his thigh an image of Lucky the Leprechaun spinning the O’Brien on his finger.

And so now that’s the mission that begins tonight.

tags Celtics

Revs to go pink in home finale

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 19, 2012 03:29 AM


The Patriots won't be the only home team wearing pink this weekend at Gillette Stadium, where the Revolution will close out their Foxboro slate by marking breast cancer awareness month with a celebration of survivors and a fundraising drive at their Saturday night match against the Chicago Fire.

Like their football co-tenants will do the next day, the Revolution will bring the message right to the turf with a variety of colorful accents. The game ball itself will be pink, as will the jerseys worn by the Revolution goalkeepers, and the ribbon patches stitched into the other players' jerseys. Some players will wear pink armbands, pink shoelaces, or pink cleats, the referees will blow pink whistles, and the coaches and broadcasters will wear pink scarves. There will be even be pink field boards.

Before the game there'll be a presentation of survivors, while the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer operation will be on site to accept donations. The team will also be selling commemorative breast cancer awareness items, with a portion of proceeds going to the cause, and game-worn jerseys from the night will subsequently put up for bid in an auction that runs through the end of the month.

Lester throws to one more hitter

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 18, 2012 05:43 PM

As it turns out, Mark Teixeira wasn't the final hitter Jon Lester faced in 2012. And neither the Yankee nor his teammates were anywhere near close to the toughest hitter the Red Sox lefty would pitch to this year.

Rather, both of those distinctions belong to Justin Miller -- a 9-year-old who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 3, and stepped into the cage against his fellow cancer survivor as part of a video shoot for the "Stand Up To Cancer" campaign.

Miller chose to wear No. 5 on his jersey to signify the number of times he's beaten cancer already, and according to MLB.com is part of a mission to raise $14.5 million over the next four years in support of a "Dream Team" funded by Stand Up To Cancer and the St. Baldrick's Foundation, and focused on pediatric cancer research. That's a cause close to the heart of Lester, who spearheads the NVRQT campaign on behalf of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, and who subsequently leapt at the chance to pitch to Miller.

"You can't quit, you can't stop fighting. If you're struggling that day, you just have to find a way to get through it and keep fighting," Lester told MLB.com. "I know in the last five years we've made a lot of strides in the right direction as far as getting cures for different kinds of cancer. Hopefully we can continue to go in that right direction."

Boston athletes, past and present, join in support of Hockomock Area YMCA

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 18, 2012 04:18 PM
Legends at golf classic(credit: Jen Osojnicki/Goodwin Group)

The Hockomock Area YMCA held its annual Legends Golf Classic at Norton's TPC Boston, drawing the support of athletes from across the Boston sports landscape and from a variety of eras in the city's sporting history.

The event was held to benefit the YMCA's integration initiative, which integrates children with developmental disabilities into the Y's mainstream programs by aiming to improve social skills, build self-esteem, and increase physical activity and independence to enhance mutual respect and understanding among all YMCA members. Among those in attendance were current Patriots Zoltan Mesko and Nate Solder; former Pats Tedy Bruschi, Joe Andruzzi, Patrick Pass, and Pete Brock; former Boston Patriot Larry Eisenhower; former Red Sox Louis Tiant and Bill Lee; and former Boston Bruin Gord Kluzak.

Also in attendance was Ironman and Boston Marathon legend Dick Hoyt, who is to be honored at the 7th annual Legends Ball on Nov. 13. That event is another fundraiser to benefit the integration initiative for the Hockomock Area YMCA, which serves more than 33,000 members from 15 communities at branches in North Attleboro, Foxboro, Franklin, and Mansfield.

Tedy Bruschi
Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi follows through on his swing.
(credit: Jen Osojnicki/Goodwin Group)

Zoltan Mesko and Dick Hoyt
Patriots' punter Zoltan Mesko, with Boston Marathon legend Dick Hoyt.
(credit: Jen Osojnicki/Goodwin Group)

nate and willowtree at golf classic
Patriots' left tackle Nate solder with the Cekala family, owners of Willow Tree Poultry Farm. (credit: Jen Osojnicki/Goodwin Group)

Celtics Tweet their way through Europe

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 9, 2012 11:51 PM
Last time the Celtics spent part of the preseason in Europe, they returned with chemistry as strong as a covalent bond and a catchphrase that would keep them united all year. By next summer, their fans all knew the meaning of "ubuntu" and a 17th championship banner hung from the rafters at TD Garden.

This year they again crossed the Atlantic to open their exhibition season, traveling to Istanbul and Milan for a couple of contests, some NBA outreach that included clinics, and -- perhaps most beneficial in the long run -- significant team-building.

It all added to what they've established since convening for workouts Rajon Rondo began organizing in early September. And, of course in this day and age, many of them documented the experience on Twitter. Here's a look at some of the pictures they shared on a journey that brought them back to Boston on Tuesday.

tags Celtics

The good side of Jon Lester's season

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 2, 2012 05:36 PM

Lester NVRQT 1
Jon Lester is scheduled to make his final start of a rough season on Tuesday night in New York City. It’s been a season in which he’s lost more games than he has in his pro career. It’s been a season in which his ERA will finish more than a full run higher than his previous worst for a full big-league campaign. It’s been a season in which he’s allowed more hits, yielded more runs, surrendered more home runs, and let more baserunners reach than he has in any before it.

It’s been a season that’s caused some to look at Lester differently on the mound.

But it’s been a season that’s caused a few people in particular to look at Lester differently off the mound, too.

They are people who look at him not only as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox, but as a 28-year-old cancer survivor with a mission to do what he can to help those who encounter the disease at a young age like he did. They look at him as the person who in the early part of this season joined with his wife, Farrah, in launching a campaign to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. And they look at him as someone whose first summer of involvement seems to suggest he'll stand by the credo of that campaign and "Never Quit" -- or NVRQT, as they like to shorten it.

"Before anything else in his life, Jon is a family man," PCRF Executive Director Jeri Wilson said via email. "Upon being six years removed from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Jon couldn’t fathom the thought of his son (Hudson) going through what he went through. Many athletes/celebrities are involved with causes near and dear to their hearts, but few have experienced first-hand the horrors of the cause they’re hoping to cure."

Lester NVRQT 4According to Wilson (who is standing to Lester's right in the photo at the top of this page), the pitcher and his wife were waiting for the platform that best aligned with them personally, and after being presented a chance Lester said he "couldn't pass up" late last year, they initiated the NVRQT campaign at Fenway in May. Since then Lester has (among other efforts) met with kids on the field in Seattle, hosted 55 kids for NVRQT Day at Fenway Park, joined Hall of Famer Rod Carew for a NVRQT event at Angels Stadium outside of Los Angeles, put on a baseball clinic along the banks of the Charles River, and hosted September's NVRQT Night fundraiser at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street.

That event featured a Hollywood Squares-type game, and was well-attended by his teammates, by manager Bobby Valentine (who, to his credit, also rode his bike down to the river-side clinic lest hosted a couple weeks before), and by other local athletes and celebrities. At that point the Red Sox had lost four of five, and 18 of 25, but Lester wore the same smile that Wilson said he wears when he's around the kids he helps.

"Jon and Farrah have embraced the NVRQT campaign in a way that exhibits their passion and dedication at every turn. Jon sees himself in the kids and understands the responsibility of being a role model in their eyes," Wilson said of Lester, who was named the Red Sox' nominee for baseball's Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable work through NVRQT and other endeavors. "Many don’t want the burden of being a role-model but Jon welcomes the challenge and truly feels blessed to have the opportunity to be there and interact with the kids. As much as he’s able to put a smile on their faces, he’s quick to tell you how much the kids motivate him.

"Now six years removed from treatment Jon takes nothing for granted, he tries his best to respond to every Twitter follower who has something positive to say. It's paramount to the success of the campaign for these children to see one of their idols overcoming adversity and following their dream. Knowing Jon's story gives children a sense of comfort and confidence that it is indeed possible to win the fight against cancer."

Wins haven't come often for Lester. It's been that kind of season on the mound.

But off of it, Lester's 2012 season seems to have been rather successful.

Brady's TD passes worth more than merely points

Posted by David D'Onofrio October 1, 2012 08:34 AM

Tom_Joe_Jackie_6.6.12

Any game in which a team gains 247 yards by rushing the ball, while allowing its quarterback to be sacked just once, is a game an ex-offensive lineman can appreciate. But Joe Andruzzi probably appreciated the Patriots' 52-point explosion on Sunday in Buffalo even more than most.

Surely the former New England blocker had to be impressed by seeing his old team run for four touchdowns in a game for the first time in almost 29 years -- though more important for him and his post-football mission were the three scores the Pats posted through the air. This season for every touchdown pass Tom Brady throws, National Grid will donate $700 to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation's Patient Touchdown Program, so when Brandon Lloyd crashed down in the end zone it meant that $2,100 had been raised in barely 19 minutes of football at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“Throughout my football career, my job was to help move the team forward, yard by yard, down the field. Now, we use that same strategy to make an impact in the lives of people fighting cancer, one family at a time,” said Andruzzi, the three-time Super Bowl champion who co-founded the Joe Andruzzi Foundation after recovering from non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s Lymphoma four years ago. “We’re so grateful to Tom, National Grid, and CBS Radio for supporting our patients and families during treatment. We know every bit of assistance makes a difference, and we’re happy this spectacular team will help more families through this fun campaign.”

The program beginning in Week 3, the total contribution is now $2,800 -- and because it's tied to Brady in particular, that total is almost as likely to rise every week as it would be with any thrower in football history. In beating the Bills, the quarterback made it 36 consecutive regular-season games in which he's thrown at least one touchdown, which is nearly twice the previous team record (he owned that, too), and which is tied with Brett Favre for the NFL's third-longest streak ever. Only Johnny Unitas and Drew Brees, at 47 apiece, have had longer runs, which is great news for Andruzzi and his Foundation's efforts to assist those fighting cancer.

One-hundred percent of the money donated by National Grid for every touchdown pass will help patients and their families cover the cost of everyday household expenses – including rent and mortgages, power bills, car payments and groceries – courtesy of a one-time, $700 grant. The program is specifically designed for families who contact the Foundation directly for assistance, rather than through a JAF-affiliated cancer institution, and with National Grid also promising to match public donations dollar-for-dollar up to $75,000, the "Touchdowns by Tom” campaign aims to help more than 100 families this fall.

"Joe and I joined the Patriots around the same time, and he spent many seasons protecting me as we earned three Super Bowl rings together," Brady said in a statement. “Now I have the chance to help Joe protect patients and families from the stress of financial burdens during cancer treatment. This was a no-brainer for me."

About the author

Dave D'Onofrio follows Boston's pro players away from the field, court or ice, covering their interests and activities in the community and beyond. A Massachusetts native, once his dreams of More »

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