Fine times here in New England. When winter begins to fade, we will have a spring like no other in recent memory. Simultaneously, all four major Boston teams seem like legitimate threats for a championship.
Anyone else feel a draft?
Professional executives say it all the time, of course. You build from within. Boston is now living proof. From the Red Sox to the Patriots to the Celtics to the Bruins, the last five to 10 years has produced an influx of talent. Boston’s draft strategy has produced everyone from Tom Brady and Jon Lester to Phil Kessel and Kevin Garnett, the last acquired with the “chips” Celtics GM Danny Ainge so dutifully collected through the draft.
Let’s start with the Red Sox. Though general manager Theo Epstein did not take over until the fall of 2002, the current Sox administration assumed control before that season. While Mike Port served as interim general manager, David Chadd was the director of scouting, and Epstein was a front-office assistant. That summer, with the very first selection of the John Henry Era, the Red Sox grabbed Lester with their first selection, albeit in the second round.
A year later, Epstein plucked a group of players in the first five rounds that included David Murphy (now with the Texas Rangers) and Jonathan Papelbon. In the first four years of Henry’s ownership, the Red Sox’ initial selections in each draft were Lester, Murphy, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury, each of whom already has made a mark in the major leagues.FULL ENTRY
We don't change the station, and so the station sees no need to change. Ratings are huge, possibly even as huge as the station claims. Its primary demographic has tremendous appeal to advertisers. And New England’s fanatical dedication to the professional sports teams that the station’s hosts bloviate about in four-hour blocks is seemingly endless.
What’s that adage about pompous silver-spooners? He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple? That fits certain WEEI hosts as comfortably as a Bloomin’ Onion–stained Tommy Bahama shirt. They think the station’s success somehow reflects on them, that we tune in for their shrill banter, contrived characters, and prefabricated opinions. We don’t — never have, never will. We listen because we love sports, our beloved teams are enjoying a remarkable run of success, and WEEI happens to have both access and broadcast rights. Most of all, we listen because there is no other decent local alternative with a signal stronger than that of a ham radio.
Now, I’m not suggesting all WEEI programming beats your eardrums into submission. Dale and Holley are engaging in the midday, and Mut and Bradford make those weekend chores pass quicker. But it is telling that the two smartest sports radio shows in the city in recent years — Michael Felger’s drive-time program on ESPN 890 and the Ryen Russillo/Jon Anik/Anthony Pepe crew on WWZN 1510 — were broadcast elsewhere on the dial. If only either had owned a signal that didn’t turn into a French-language station a mile from the Zakim Bridge, they might have gained the appropriate audience.FULL ENTRY
Kevin Garnett felt a twinge in his knee, and it was almost as if the Celtics’ season came to a crashing halt. An entire following gasped. The C’s have come a long way since this time two years ago, since the reign of Al Jefferson, but they are going nowhere this year without the incomparable KG.
The Celtics can win in the short term, mind you. Monday’s win at Denver improved their record without Garnett to 5-0 this season and 14-2 since the start of last season. Those are numbers the Celtics should be proud of. But for all that the team has endured in the absence of its true leader, no one should be deluded into thinking it’s a championship-caliber team without the man who makes it tick.
Entering Monday’s lopsided win over the Nuggets, the Celtics had allowed 102.3 points per game without Garnett this season, a mere 91.5 with him. Opponents were shooting at nearly a 47 percent clip from the floor. Sans KG, the Celtics transformed themselves from rough-and-tumble masters of the Eastern Conference to virtual roadrunners from the West, and we all know how far that kind of play will take you come playoff time. In the interim, do not underestimate the impact of losing Garnett for any stretch of the regular season, no matter how short. The Celtics of 2007-08 posted far and away the best record in the NBA, a feat that earned them home-court advantage throughout the postseason. They exploited that advantage from the first round of the playoffs through the last, going 13-1 in 14 playoff games at the TD Banknorth Garden. Without home court, they might not have survived the Atlanta Hawks.FULL ENTRY
It's been a great couple of weeks for those of us who study moralistic, self-important blowhards in their native habitats — i.e., on the radio and in America's corporate offices, in which half of the people are looking for handouts and the other half are looking out for the police.
Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, and Michael Phelps — and their various adventures with substances deemed unworthy of us as a nation — provided bait. And mercy, as the late Ned Martin used to say, it didn’t take long for the sanctimony to hit high tide in so many places. Rarely has what lawyer/blogger Robert Farley calls “The War on (Some People Who Take Some) Drugs” provided so much high hilarity. Where, oh where, does one begin? Let’s start with the really big fish in the really small barrels.
Clemens, Bonds, and Tejada do have something to teach our youngsters, and it has nothing to do with injecting, ingesting, or otherwise availing yourself of substances we consider unworthy of us as a nation. The takeaway lesson is this: If it’s clear that the feds are after your well-punctured hindquarters, don’t lie under oath. Not only will it keep you out of trouble, but it will keep the rest of us from having to deal with cowboy investigators like Jeff Novitzky — whom several federal judges have taken to looking at as though he were a two-headed fish — and Tom Davis, the former congresscritter from Virginia. Davis thinks people lied to him when he was running the congressional committee. Of course, when the names of CIA agents got leaked, and when the Department of Justice was turned into a political chop shop, he didn’t think there was anything for his government oversight committee to oversee. But he’s now very concerned about Roger Clemens. Oh, boy howdy, he is that. He can go away now. If Bonds and Clemens and Tejada had just ’fessed up, we wouldn’t have to deal with any of these people.FULL ENTRY
In honor of Sunday's Academy Awards, OT asked members of the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots to weigh in with their all-time favorite movies — sports themed and not. Denzel Washington and Kevin Costner, take a bow.
Justin Masterson, Red Sox
Favorite movie: “My top pick is Dumb and Dumber, because it’s just hilarious. People still quote it. You almost know every single line, and you can watch it again and it’s still funny. It’s like you don’t have something like that today, dumb humor but it’s still witty. It’s a classic. And the other one [that] might be more of a serious movie is Man on Fire, with Denzel Washington. Whatever Denzel Washington is in is good. Man on Fire, I just really liked that.”
Sports movie: “I’d have to go with The Sandlot. I just used to watch that all the time. I thought it was cool, especially when they were trying to get the ball from the dog. I was like, man, just get in there and get the ball back! And especially as a kid, just watching that all the time. That’s what we did, just played whenever we could. It was just sports. It wasn’t even just baseball, just out playing, because if it was a sport, we were playing it. That’s just what we liked to do. We even went and got lacrosse sticks because we never played lacrosse before, and just started tossing the ball around. Or soccer, basketball, it just didn’t matter.”
Manny Delcarmen, Red Sox
Favorite movie: “My favorite that I can watch whenever it’s on is Back to the Future III. It’s the Western one. That’s why I like it. Whenever it’s on, I could sit there and watch it every day, no matter when it’s on.”
Sports movie: “For sports, I like Field of Dreams. If it’s on, I’ll watch it. I like Bull Durham, too, but it’s not Field of Dreams.”
Paul Pierce, Celtics
Favorite movie: “Man, I’ve got so many favorite movies out there. You’re making me choose between Denzel [Washington], Johnny Depp, and Leonardo [DiCaprio]. Man, it’s got to be one of them. This is the toughest question of the day. I am going to go ahead and say Catch Me If You Can.”
These are great days to be Tyrese Rice. The Boston College senior point guard is coming off a memorable home win over Duke, he's likely to earn all-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors for the second straight season, and he just eclipsed 2,000 career points, an impressive feat accomplished by just six Eagles before him.
With the NCAA tournament in BC’s sights and just a handful of college games remaining, Rice has an opportunity to leave the Heights on a high note. If he can lead this BC squad, which was picked to finish 11th in the ACC, to an NCAA bid, Rice will be hailed as the major reason.
But by early April at the latest, Rice’s college career will be over. And despite his high profile and despite the accolades and despite the number of times he’s been on television, Rice will be like thousands of other members of the class of 2009. He’ll be looking for a job.
Rice’s first “application” will be with the NBA, and if history is an indicator, he has a chance to make it. Over the past 30 years, BC has produced an impressive group of point guards, and five have gone on to play in the NBA: John Bagley, Michael Adams, Dana Barros, Howard Eisley, and Troy Bell.
Bagley, who played at BC for three years (1979-1982), spent 11 seasons in the NBA and finished with averages of 8.7 points and 6.0 assists per game. A big scorer, Adams played one season at BC with Bagley and four overall (1981-1985) before compiling nine seasons and career averages of 14.7 ppg and 6.4 apg in the NBA.FULL ENTRY
I don't know how people can write a column or a story every day or every other day. I can talk a column every day, but I could never be a Tony Massarotti, Michael Felger or Howie Carr, Marjorie Eagan or Nick Cafardo. Guys like Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy amaze me. They amaze me even more as we get on in years.
Yet there are things I want to write about. They are real-life things that I don’t always understand. I want to tell you something about my experiences in Boston TV. What it took to survive. And what it took not to.
One thing that has become increasingly apparent to me is that everything seems to be the opposite of what I thought it was. For instance, getting close to athletes. I thought that was a bad thing. Being their friend, I thought, was a dangerous thing. No. Getting up close and personal is now a good thing. Sucking up to them and being on a first-name basis seems to be the tactic of the day. At least if we did it, we did in private. Now it’s just so open. A new form of “man love.”
What I do understand is that it is all changing. What’s changing? Well, reporting, writing, talking, explaining — and especially watching. Maybe it’s the quality of this year’s Super Bowl. Hey, it might turn out to be the greatest game ever played, but if you don’t bet on it, how many of us really care? This appears to be the era of devaluing. Clearly this issue doesn’t apply only to sports, but we’re dealing with sports here. Does it really matter if Jason Varitek comes back? Will it really make a difference in our lives?
Here is the point I’m trying to make: We don’t care nearly as much as we used to. We got our Lionel train underneath the Christmas tree. We got that bicycle we always wanted. And if anybody really gets a new car with a bow on top, we got that, too. We’ve gotten everything we’ve wanted as sports fans. And because that is true, it brings up the new and very real question: Who cares anymore?FULL ENTRY
While flipping between Celtics-Raptors and Eagles-Giants last Sunday, I saw Celtics guard Ray Allen drain eight three-pointers in Toronto. Allen’s shooting ability is no secret, but his performance left me curious. I began wondering about the fantasy value of Allen and his teammates this season.
I haven’t had any Celtics on my squad for the past two seasons, so I haven’t been intimately aware of their fantasy value. Sure, I follow the Celtics closely, but it’s different when a player is on your team. Take Washington’s Caron Butler, for example. I had Butler last season and was determined to get him again this year (I did). I loved him in 2007-08, and I’m on bended knee once again. The guy is a force, and I might not have realized how good he was if I didn’t have him on my roster.
So how are the Celtics’ top players treating their fantasy owners? Let’s take a look:
Kevin Garnett, F: Garnett remains a solid fantasy contributor, but he is no longer a statistical force. Celtics coach Doc Rivers is extremely careful when it comes to Garnett’s playing time, and this season Garnett is averaging just under 33 minutes per game. Aside from his rookie season, that’s a career low, as is this year’s scoring average (16 points per game). In category leagues, Garnett has always been terrific for rebounds, but even that is slipping compared to his career average (9.1 rebounds per game this season, 11.1 for his career). Would I want Garnett next season? Yes, but not until the third round. Add up his points-rebounds-assists-blocks-steals totals and he’s 14th among NBA forwards.
Paul Pierce, F: Pierce’s scoring went down with the acquisitions of Garnett and Ray Allen, but his all-around game can’t be denied: He averages 19 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 3.7 assists per game. Though not superlative in any one category, Pierce ranks just behind Garnett in fantasy value among NBA forwards. Would I want Pierce next season? Yes, but not until the third round (sound familiar?). Pierce will be 32 at the beginning of next season. He’s still capable of putting up huge scoring numbers, but the days of him carrying your squad are probably over.FULL ENTRY
UP Shaquille O'Neal, C , Phoenix:
For the first time in, well, years, O'Neal is worthy of a starting role in fantasy basketball. With 17.6 ppg, 9 rpg, and 1.54 blocks per game, O'Neal has become a dependable performer at center. Shaq hasn't averaged this many points since 2005-06. He doesn't appear finished, as some predicted.
UP Jason Terry, G, Dallas:
The Mavs' sixth man has been gunning this season to the tune of 20 ppg, but now that he's starting in place of the injured Josh Howard (sprained left wrist), he's more than capable of scoring even more, as he did last Sunday against Sacramento (33 points). If Terry is on your bench, start him during the upcoming week.
UP Andrea Bargnani, C, Toronto:
With Jermaine O'Neal (knee) injured and a new coach, Bargnani has been on a tear. He was averaging 22 points and seven rebounds in the four games prior to Wednesday's game with Chicago. Grab Bargnani if he's available, and don't hesitate to start him while O'Neal sits.
The crawl across the bottom of the TV screen in my local the other night mentioned that Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, had recovered from his mild concussion and likely would be able to suit up on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
The next day, Roethlisberger took questions and told the media that he was putting all this in the past, so much so that he was declining even to wear a special helmet designed so that he would not get another concussion. Now, I am all in favor of the notion that, as my grandmother used to say, everyone should go to hell in their own way, but I’d like to say the following, for the record.
Ben Roethlisberger is not brave.
Ben Roethlisberger is a moron.
Any doctor who clears him to play is a moron.
Any coach who sends him out to play is a moron.
Any writer, TV pundit, former player, or fan who cheers him while he plays is a moron.
Ben Roethlisberger’s career as a professional football player should be over.
Are we all clear?
Great. We can continue.
This is the third football-related concussion of Roethlisberger’s career. (For the moment, let us leave aside the damage that may have been done as a result of the spectacular motorcycle crash he had in June 2006.) It will not be the last. Every concussion you have makes you substantially more likely to have another, and then another. Concussions are as basic to football as beer commercials and subliterate television commentary. You simply cannot play football without getting concussions, the destruction of the human body being as essential to football as it ever was to boxing, only a little more accidental. Repeated concussions should disqualify you physically from playing football the same way that someone struck blind is disqualified physically from driving a bus.FULL ENTRY
I imagine Eric Mangini’s New Year’s Day morning was about as enjoyable as Dane Cook’s half-brother’s: full of surprises, and most of them not what you expected. Jets owner Woody Johnson dumped his young coach in favor of his aging QB diva, which I predict will be the equivalent of swapping out Gabrielle Reece for Cloris Leachman. But Johnson is worried about a new stadium to fill and personal seat licenses to sell, and Brett Favre is his Broadway star.
To Johnson, Favre is Carol Channing in “Hello, Dolly!” and Yul Brynner in “The King and I,” yet if he’d look at Favre’s last five Decembers, he’d realize he really has Pee-Wee Herman at a matinee. Brett in December:
2008: 2 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 54.90 passer rating
2007: 6 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 73.33 passer rating
2006: 4 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 61.22 passer rating
2005: 1 touchdown, 10 interceptions, 54.40 passer rating
That’s 13 touchdowns, 34 interceptions, and a passer rating of 59.92 in those 20 games. Favre’s star power has fooled Johnson and done away with Mangini.
Bizarrely, it appears Favre has used Mississippi Jedi mind tricks to cost BC head coach Jeff Jagodzinski his job, by influencing Jags to interview with the Jets. In the history of football, has any player been able to get two head coaches fired in one season? Favre’s a one man coach-killing machine.FULL ENTRY
Some tips to help you round out your rosters:
>> Put in a claim for Nenad Krstic. The former Nets center was averaging 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game (and shooting 53 percent) before blowing out his anterior cruciate ligament in December 2006. After returning to the Nets last season, he struggled, and last summer he signed to play in Russia during the 2008-09 season.
After averaging 10 points and five boards in Russia’s Superleague A, Krstic — whose rights the Nets still held — signed an offer sheet last week with Oklahoma City, which arranged a buyout with Krstic’s Russian club. The Nets didn’t match, and most predict Krstic will be the Thunder’s starting center by early February. (He has to beat out Robert Swift and Nick Collison, so my money’s on Krstic.)
Considering his ability to score, shoot, and rebound, Krstic may be a bargain and should be added if you want to provide your squad with depth heading into the postseason.
>> If you’re like me, you’ve stashed Gilbert Arenas (below) on your roster all season, and you need help at just about every position. Now is the time to sell high and trade him, before he actually plays in a game. Arenas has started playing two-on-two, and Washington president Ernie Grunfeld recently indicated the Wizards expect Arenas to play at some point. Arenas remains a risk — he’s had three knee surgeries in 18 months — but the upside is tremendous if he can play late in the season.
>> Knicks center Eddy Curry, who is seemingly a poor fit with the way New York plays, is set to rejoin the team this week on a Western trip. Keep an eye on how Curry is used; Zach Randolph was supposed to be a bust in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, and Randolph put up great numbers before being traded. A knee injury has kept Curry out this season.
Ed Ryan writes about fantasy sports and betting for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
UP Jeff Green, F, Oklahoma City:
The second-year forward from Georgetown (and the draft pick the Celtics traded to Seattle for Ray Allen) had a fair rookie season but is coming into his own during his sophomore campaign. The Thunder's starting power forward, Green has three double doubles in the last two weeks and has been a consistent scorer and rebounder since the third week of the season. In his last five contests, Green is averaging 20 points, seven rebounds, and one block per game. Most important, he's been on the court for an average of 42 minutes during that span.
UP Marc Gasol, C, Memphis:
Gasol -- brother of the Lakers' Pau -- is developing into a worthy fantasy starter. He's averaging 15 ppg and nine rpg during his last five contests and has nine blocks during that stretch. With Memphis big man Darko Milicic out for at least a month with a broken knuckle, Gasol, who was part of last season's deal that sent Pau to the Lakers, is going to see plenty of playing time.
UP Anderson Varejao, F, Cleveland:
With Cavs starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, Varejao has assumed the starting center spot, and the results have been encouraging: 26 points, eight rebounds, and three steals in 31 minutes against Chicago, and 10 points and 10 rebounds in 40 minutes against Washington. If Varejao remains out of foul trouble, he'll continue to log big minutes for the Cavs. He hadn't played 40 minutes in any game before Ilgauskas went down.
The Patriots have always had some fun or funny names on their team: Sam Gash, Rich Baldinger, Harry Colon and his sister Distended, and now Mr. Two Players in One, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Here are some other names in the NFL that make me laugh:
Amani Toomer, Giants: If you’re going to have a tumor, it might as well be an Armani.
Lofa Tatupu, Seahawks: Lofa is a Polynesian word meaning “sponge that women use in the shower to rub out cellulite.”
Alge Crumpler, Titans: What’s bad in the swimming pool but great on the football field? Algae.
Drew Henson, Lions: I loved this guy when he was with the Muppets. Drew is the past tense of Draw.
Jamaal Fudge, Falcons: Tell me that name doesn’t make you laugh. Sounds like an ice cream flavor at the Brigham’s in Dorchester. “I’ll have the Jamaal Fudge, please.”
Elvis Dumervil, Broncos: Elvis was never known as a Rhodes Scholar, but suddenly he’s also a citizen of the city of Dumervil.
Guy Whimper, Giants: There may be no crying in baseball, but there is a whimper on the field when the Giants play.
Madison Hedgecock, Giants: Best adult film name.
Love Potion No. 12
Scuttlebutt has it that Tom Brady popped the question to girlfriend Gisele Bundchen on Christmas Eve. My question is, if Brady goes down in a honeymoon accident, will Matt Cassel be there to fill in and complete the pass?
You’re not going to forget about Kevin Durant for much longer.
The No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, a player the Celtics likely would have drafted if they had had the second pick that year, Durant is quietly beginning to put up the all-around numbers he was known for during his one season at Texas.
It’s not as if last season was a disaster for Durant. His Seattle team (now Oklahoma City) was terrible, but Durant managed to earn NBA Rookie of the Year honors while averaging 20 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block per game. He was also playing out of position, although for a reason: In order to take pressure off Durant, then-coach P.J. Carlesimo insisted on playing his young star at shooting guard.
Durant wasn’t a good fit playing the “two.” Some of his skills, like rebounding and shot-blocking, were negated because he was standing around on the perimeter, heaving up jumpers on offense, or guarding smaller players on defense. However, Carlesimo was fired in late November, and interim coach Scott Brooks’ first decision was to move Durant from shooting guard to small forward.
The results have been terrific, and that obviously translates as a plus for fantasy owners. In December, Durant is averaging 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, and he’s had three games in December of three or more blocks, too. Most impressive, in the 10 games since Dec. 8, when he unloaded on Golden State for 41 points, Durant has scored less than 25 points only twice, and in those instances he went for 22 and 24 points.FULL ENTRY
UP Jameer Nelson, PG, Orlando: Now in his fourth season, Nelson is finally developing into the fantasy stud many thought he would become after starring in college at Saint Joe's. Nelson's scoring is up significantly (five points over his career average), he's taking -- and making -- more threes (38 percent for his career, 45 percent this season), and he's playing more minutes than ever (five minutes per game over his career average). Either leave Nelson in your lineup or trade for him. If he's still available, then everyone in your league is asleep at the switch.
UP Emeka Okafor, F/C, Charlotte: Okafor appears to have found his stride under Larry Brown. The UConn product is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game in December and is averaging nearly two blocks per game for the season. Foul trouble is a potential issue, but if Okafor avoids that, his minutes will increase, too. Upcoming home-and-away contests against Milwaukee and Andrew Bogut will provide a nice test.
UP Andray Blatche, C, Washington: Blatche, 22, is a direct-to-the-pros-from-high-school big man who has not accomplished anything in the NBA (except getting carjacked and shot just before his rookie season). Recently, though, new Wiz coach Ed Tapscott has been playing the 6-foot-11 Blatche, and the results have been encouraging: 12 points and six boards against Cleveland, and 19 points and 15 boards against Oklahoma City. Take a flyer on Blatche if you have some wiggle room with your roster.FULL ENTRY
When we here at OT ponder the possibilities in the year to come for the four major Boston sports teams (sorry Revo), we often find outselves coming back to the wisdom of that great modern-day orator Kevin Maurice Garnett:
"ANYTHING IS POSSIBBBBULLLLLLLLL!!!"
Preach on, Brother KG, because we know you speak the truth. Just take a look around the local scene for confirmation: The Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins will, barring catastrophe, all be legitimate championship contenders in 2009. If that doesn’t make you giddy and appreciative about your good fortune as a Boston fan, well, I guess you must be hopelessly spoiled.
Of course, besides victory piled on top of victory, countless other happenings big and small are “possibulll!!!” in the sports year to come. So let’s take a peek into our crystal ball, which, we must warn you, has been known to go on the fritz …
Jan. 21: The Celtics defeat the Heat in Miami, 131-100, to improve to 42-2. It is their 34th consecutive victory, surpassing the previous mark of 33 straight set by the legendary 1972-73 Los Angeles Lakers. The remarkable Rajon Rondo leads the Celtics with a career-high 33 points despite not attempting a field goal from outside of five feet.
Feb. 2: After knocking off the Ravens, Steelers, and Colts in succession to claim an improbable AFC title, the Patriots find themselves in a rematch with the heavily favored Giants in Super Bowl XLIII. Trailing, 14-10, with 1:15 remaining in the game, Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel drops back, barely eludes a swarming pass rush, and heaves an arcing prayer of a pass toward the middle of the field. The football slips through tight end Benjamin Watson’s hands … but, miraculously, sticks in his face mask as Giants safety Kenny Phillips futilely tries to jar it loose. Four plays later, Cassel finds Randy Moss in the left corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown. “Redemption,” Moss says afterward. In the postgame delirium, coach Bill Belichick flips the game ball to Watson. He juggles the pigskin briefly, bats it into the air, then flails as it drops harmlessly to the locker room floor.FULL ENTRY
Here’s a peek at the cards Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sent each other for Christmas.
Dear Tiger: I trust Santa has finally brought you a caddie who knows when to shut up. In these hard economic times, you might consider putting an American on your bag instead of Crocodile Dundee. Hope your knee gets infected.
Hit ’em chunky,
Phil: Holiday wishes that you’re not choking on dinner like you do in competition. You’d better win now, because my rehab’s going great and I’ll be back to dominate in the New Year.
Eldrick T. Woods
P.S. You’re still fat.
Red Sox try out Iraqi fireballer
After seeing Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi throw some shoe chin music at the president, Red Sox scouts are thinking of bringing the hard-throwing right-hander into Fort Myers for a tryout. “If he can throw that kind of cheese with a pair of Thom McAn’s, we’d love to see what he can do with a baseball,” said an unnamed Sox scout. “Hell, if he were Japanese we would have signed him already.”
As my turn approached in the fifth round of my fantasy basketball draft last month, I needed a guard, and Jason Kidd was available.
Initially, I wanted no part of him.
Kidd has always been an exceptional fantasy performer in any format because he stuffs the box score in all categories. In a format like the one I use — we have a starting five and take the average of their combined points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks over the course of a week — Kidd has always been useful. He’s capable of scoring just seven points in a game but can easily end up with, say, a 38 when you combine all five categories.
My hesitation stemmed from the fact that it’s 2008, not 1998. Kidd is a 14-year pro, played last summer in the Olympics, and, at 35, is old for the NBA. After being dealt from New Jersey to Dallas last winter, Kidd didn’t come close to helping the Mavericks go deep into the playoffs, and he looked slow.
I was also leery because my other guard was Tracy McGrady. Up front, I felt I was set because I selected Amar’e Stoudemire, Caron Butler, and Zach Randolph, but McGrady concerned me. When healthy, he can be an elite fantasy performer. But that’s the rub: when healthy. McGrady has an extensive injury history, and I knew I needed depth at the position.FULL ENTRY
UP Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey:
Despite the logjam of young big men in New Jersey (Lopez, Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Yi Jianlian), Lopez has emerged as a starter (due to a Boone injury) and a fantasy-worthy center. Against Miami recently, the rookie from Stanford went for 22 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks. The Nets have upcoming games against Charlotte (twice), Chicago, and Detroit -- and none of those teams is healthy at the center position. If you need help in your frontcourt, take a flyer on Lopez.
UP Paul Millsap, F, Utah:
Carlos Boozer's quad injury has been a blessing for Utah, as Millsap has stepped into Boozer's spot and produced. Celtics fans saw it firsthand; Millsap had 32 points and 10 rebounds against Boston last week at the Garden, and in his last four games Millsap is averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds. Millsap is a no-brainer to start until Boozer returns, and when that happens, hold on to Millsap: Boozer is making noise about opting out of his contract after the season, which could make him a candidate to be traded.
UP Boris Diaw, F, Charlotte:
In the three games since being traded to the Bobcats from the Suns in the Jason Richardson deal, Diaw has averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists (in Phoenix, Diaw was averaging eight points, four rebounds, and two assists per game). Diaw's ability to impact the box score in several categories makes him a useful fantasy addition no matter your format.
Boston sports fans have visions of Stanley Cup finals and World Series tickets dancing in their heads, but they also fear finding a Richard Simmons vegetable steamer or a Petrocelli Panini Press on the wrong side of their tree. To help you avoid holiday mistakes, I’ve compiled a few Christmas presents Boston fans would least like to receive.
>> Roger Clemens Mindy McCready Karaoke Machine Helps you sing before Congress. Comes preloaded with country song “Stand by Your Man.”
>> Charlie Moore Fish Toothpaste Available in largemouth, bullhead, and perch flavors.
>> Plaxico Burress Gun Holster Underwear Your weapon may slip out, but the gas passed through these drawers is high octane.
>> Manny Ramirez "Lack of Hustle" Energy Bar Why run when you can walk? You’ll “never feel comfortable in Boston” again after eating one of these expensive, tasteless concoctions.
>> Calvin Schiraldi Gas Can Doesn’t hold much, but what’s in there goes off like the Hindenburg.
>> Jeremy Jacobs Specialty Eyeglasses Allows you to see Boston from Buffalo.
>> Vin Baker Wine Tumblers Used up and broken down when you get them, they still always manage to end up empty.FULL ENTRY
One of the most underrated secret weapons in fantasy basketball is not a player. He doesn’t score, rebound, hit threes, or hand out assists.
He’s a coach — Mike D’Antoni of the Knicks.
D’Antoni spent five seasons coaching in Phoenix before taking over the Knicks this year, and during those five seasons, his Suns were one of the most entertaining teams in basketball. They ran. They shot quickly. They rarely defended. And their players — notably Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amar’e Stoudemire — were top-level fantasy performers.
Even second-tier guys on the Suns, like Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa, were always worthy waiver-wire fill-ins because of the team they were on: They, too, had a chance to go off in any given week because they played for the Suns.
While this offensive explosion was occurring in Phoenix, the Knicks’ franchise was disintegrating. Busts such as Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury littered the roster, and the franchise became more and more of a laughingstock during Isiah Thomas’ tenure in the front office and on the sidelines.FULL ENTRY
UP Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City: Westbrook, a rookie from UCLA, has moved into the Thunder's starting lineup and will likely remain there for years. Westbrook just turned 20 and is still not consistent -- on Dec. 13 he had 19 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, and he followed that up with just two points and two assists the next night in San Antonio -- but he's a great option as a third or fourth guard on your bench.
UP Rodney Stuckey, PG, Detroit: Stuckey has been moved into the starting lineup next to Allen Iverson, and he's fared well. Stuckey is averaging about 35 minutes per game, and on Dec. 13 he broke out for 21 points and eight assists. Stuckey's presence allowed Detroit to trade Chauncey Billups, and his insertion into the starting lineup is a sign that the future is now. Pick him up if he's available.
UP Jason Richardson, SG, Phoenix: Richardson's fantasy value went up after a trade last week sent him from Charlotte to Phoenix. He's now paired in the backcourt with Steve Nash, and there are always plenty of opportunities to score when Nash is distributing. Once Richardson settles in, put him in your starting lineup.FULL ENTRY
Reading unsolicited e-mails from people you don’t know — unless, of course, they are secretly your immediate family — is a practice to try to avoid at all costs. Anyway, this one e-mail was particularly priceless to me. Check it out for yourself and pretend you are receiving it. It arrived after my last literary effort:
“I thought you sucked for every one of those 29 years. Especially the last 10 or 15, when you just mailed it in.”
Violation of personal rule No.1: Never read e-mails. Violation of personal rule No. 2: Never, ever answer e-mails. But, for this precious reader, I am going to violate those rules and probably regret it. Here goes:
What you say is really not true. Not about your assessment of this former TV sportscaster’s job performance. Not at all. And by the way, I do hate that word “former.” For your information, I did not suck for 29 years. Twenty-five or 26, maybe, but I did not suck for the whole body of work. It’s just not true. I also object to being accused of just mailing it in for the past 15 years. I’ll admit to maybe seven or eight, but not the last eight, what with all of the titles that were taking the town by storm.
Suck, yes, but not for the decades of which you accuse me. Mail it in, yes, but not for the amount of time of which you accuse me.FULL ENTRY
As a first step toward public service, Plaxico Burress should formulate a game plan for healing the New York community. With that mind, I’d like to present Burress’ gun safety tips.
>> Guns are like women. If you keep them around long enough, they’re going to go off.
>> Pants are not bulletproof. Especially from the inside.
>> When your loaded gun starts to slip down your trouser leg, put down the drink.
>> Do not, under any circumstances, go to Vegas with O.J. Simpson to get his stuff back.
>> If you must shoot, don’t shoot yourself.
>> If guns were outlawed, wide receivers wouldn’t have guns.
Three reasons Gary Bettman is a chucklehead
Bruin goalie Tim Thomas was an All-Star last year but is not even listed on this season’s ballot. Where I come from, that’s a major league insult. I mean, the guy is the incumbent, isn’t he? That’s like Dianne Wilkerson winning a seat in the state senate and then not being invited to participate in the next election. OK, bad example.
“Tim? This is the NHL balloting office. We think last year was a fluke. I mean, you weren’t really expecting to make the All-Star team two years in a row, were you? We’re replacing you with Martin Brodeur’s glove hand and Manon Rheaume’s jock. Happy Holidaze.”FULL ENTRY
When the funeral home presents you in God’s on-deck circle, you’ve already lost in sudden death. But casket maker Eternal Image enables fans to circle the bases one last time with its MLB cremation urns and coffins. Yes, nothing says you were a manof good taste the way a widow weeping over your Red Sox logo casket does. Diehard fans may even convince the funeral director to pose them sliding hard into the box.
No, it doesn’t stop there. For those who think death is the final frontier, Eternal Image also lets Star Trek fans get beamed up in a unique way. It makes a black Photon Torpedo casket like the one in which Spock was laid to rest in The Wrath of Khan.
Bullets over Broadway
On Nov. 28, Plaxico Burress proved what a great receiver he is when he caught a bullet from himself. Although Burress was both the perpetrator and the victim in the self-inflicted shooting, there were no reports that he was mad at himself or had argued with himself over a woman. A headline on a story about the incident caught my eye: Burress tells Giants he shot himself in the leg by accident. As opposed to what, blasting away at his own wheel on purpose? The Giants are worried that in the future, Burress may not be willing to run plays out of the shotgun.
I'm just sitting here waiting for the Revolution's annual title game. Coming soon, right? I'd like to view this down time as anopportunity to fix some things that are obviously broken. It’s a chance to make things better in our universe of sports.
One of the broken things is the National Hockey League. It’s just so obvious. It’s almost not even worth talking about. The fact that we’re in the middle of a Bruins winning streak that will rival the one the Pats executed last year doesn’t make the league any less broken. Can we just fix this beast? Or dismiss it as a minor league sport somewhere between slamball, arena football, and the fantasy mixed martial arts?
Mr. Fix-It’s hockey hint No. 1: Ban Gary Bettman from the league. He’s the one who broke it.
Hockey hint No. 2: Go to 10 teams. It seems arbitrary, but you get the point. We could have the Original Six teams (Boston, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago, and Detroit) plus Philadelphia, Edmonton, Colorado, and Quebec. Arbitrary, as I said. This is such a basic tenet for fixing the product, it’s laughable to suggest otherwise. That’s because the talent pool automatically gets so much better.FULL ENTRY
I’m thankful that two years ago on lottery night, Celtics representatives got drunk with the leprechaun and lost the Greg Oden derby, while Danny Ainge put tin foil on his head and channeled Red Auerbach toward an NBA championship.
I’m thankful we’ve cornered the market on the smallest big players in sports — Wes Welker and Dustin Pedroia. I think Dustin and Wes should team up and open an inspirational miniature golf course. Nobody over 5-foot-8 allowed, and the caddies are all from The Wizard of Oz.
I’m thankful that none of Boston’s pro coaches uses Mike Singletary’s motivational techniques. A coach who would pants himself would look like a complete …
I’m thankful the Patriots aren’t the Lions, the Celtics are no longer the Timberwolves, the Bruins are off double-runner skates, and the monkey is off Sox fans’ backs.
Diane Wilkerson and the Boston City Council have requested that Tom Brady give them a clinic on handoffs, play-action fakes, and hiding the ball (wad). It seems that freezing the safety has some similarities with confusing FBI surveillance.
Since 2006, John Wentzell has been the president of TD Banknorth Garden. On Tuesday, he was part of the volunteereffort at the building’s 13th annual Table of Friends event, billed as “the biggest Thanksgiving dinner in Boston.” The event feeds more than 500 Boston-area homeless people this season, and brings entertainers, former Bruins, and former Celtics together to help feed the hungry.
TC: How much work does it take to put this event on every year?
Wentzell: It’s a labor of love, and there is some labor. It’s a wonderful event, and it pulls our team together. We look forward to doing it; it’s literally a building-wide endeavor. It involves not only the Garden, but the Bruins’ front office, and everyone from the people that work to prepare the food in the kitchens to our bull gang and the laborers that set it up and take it down. It’s truly a team effort top to bottom within the Garden.
TC: One of the great things about the event is you’ll have a former Bruins player to the left of you, a Zamboni driver to the right of you, a former Celtic over there, and the president of the Garden over here. A lot of people get involved to make this happen.
Wentzell: There are some people like myself who get to play a little more front and center, but it really does involve everyone. It takes a lot of folks to bus the tables, to clean up afterwards, and literally to set up and put the special touches into place, which we try to do every year.FULL ENTRY
Boston College football coach Jeff Jagodzinski sent some kind of Delta Force to Florida State and got five of FSU’s wide receivers suspended for brawling before the game on Nov. 15. Pure evil genius. We can only hope that more Eagle operatives are headed to Wake Forest and Maryland under cover of darkness.
Speaking of covert ops, word was leaked that the Red Sox sent Manny Ramirez a letter of suspension, which confirmed he had purposely faked injury, refused to play, tried to force a trade, and tanked at-bats against the Yankees. This notice of non-recommendation from a former employer may soon be featured on Monster.com’s tutorial on what not to do when looking for a job. Gas is down, and so is Manny.
Losing in football can be stressful, and under stress, some people eat. So it looks to me as though Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel are losing a lot, and having their coaches’ meetings catered by Redbones. I can tell you this: You wouldn’t want to be a chicken after the fourth quarter of a Browns game, and cheese steaks have been flying in South Bend. Word is, Romeo’s playbook actually contains a condiment station: little relish tray, onion cup, ketchup pump.
The Red Sox should make a big splash in free agency and offer Manny Ramirez a contract. Not a good contract, mind you, but rather something really insulting. Like 80 bucks a game, a box of fried clams, and two hookers from Dorchester. We’ll show youwhat it’s like to be uncomfortable in Boston.
Then the Sox should run out and sign Rocco Baldelli and get the Italian fans in Warwick, R.I., all fired up.
The chicks love Yaz
There’s a birth control pill on the market called Yaz.
If you’re Carl Yastrzemski, the original Yaz, is it an honor to have a contraceptive borrow your nickname, or did this nudge you toward triple bypass? Women seem to be taking Yaz by the fistful. Side effects include bloating, tenderness, and the ability to hit .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI. Can Dice-K Kondoms be far behind? For a big swing and miss, or a big miss who swings.
The New York Rangers are asking for a compensatory draft pick after this year’s first-rounder, Alexei Cherepanov, died before they could sign him. The Rangers released a statement that said, “With all due respect to Alexei’s family and his memory, he is technically eligible to be drafted again next year.” TECHNICALLY ELIGIBLE TO BE DRAFTED AGAIN NEXT YEAR! With all due respect to the Rangers, the guy is dead! Matt Millen is not an NHL GM.
Cherepanov’s only ice time will involve lying on it because it’s tough to take a shift after you’ve been autopsied.
On the other hand, I love that 82-year-old Penn State coach Joe Paterno refuses to step down. The man’s record is 9-1 and he’s older than the Klitschko brothers combined. I hope Paterno shows up to coach two years after he’s dead. Just wheel JoePa out onto the field, throw some headsets on him and kick off. ... Well, that’s badly put. But State fans would love it, although you’d need a van for recruiting.FULL ENTRY
John Daly, the Chris Farley of the PGAA tour, breached golf etiquette again last week when he passed out drunk at a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C. If you handed big John the
Ryder Cup, he’d pour a tallboy in it, pass gas, and ask for his driver. And his driver would be the beer cart girl. He’s the only touring pro whose caddy is also a paramedic.
Hooters is one of Daly’s Tour sponsors, so getting thrown out of its establishments should be difficult. It’s like being a Playboy bunny and getting tossed out of Hef’s house. Unfortunately, Daly now finds himself off the wagon and off the leaderboard.
Football in Jerusalem
Good guy mensch Bob Kraft and family have signed an agreement to sponsor the Israel Football League. That’s right, football in the Promised Land. The IFL plays American tackle football and will bear the logo Kraft Family IFL. Actual team names include the Real Housing Underdogs and Dancing Camel Pioneers. My suggestions for future IFL teams include the Bethlehem Stars, the Tel Aviv Tokus Kickers, and the Haifa Certified Public Accountants. Kids from the Bronx to Brookline will marvel at breakaway runs by Bronco Hirshon and Crazy Legs Goldberg. Hail Mary passes will be avoided at all costs, and tickets will be auctioned off on Oy Bay.
The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be looking at Condoleezza Rice for a high-level position within the organization, despite her disappointing time in the 40 at the combine. “She hits like a girl and can’t block worth a damn,” said one NFL scout, “but she smells pretty good, has got a good bubble, and can turn her hips. Then you watch her run and you know that ain’t Jerry Rice out there. It’s Condoleezza.”
Mike O'Malley has come a long way from his sports-obsessed character, The Rick, in a long-ago ESPN ad campaign. These days, he’s Tom Grady (aka agent Raymond) alongside Christian Slater in the spy thriller “My Own Worst Enemy,” which airs on Mondays on NBC.
Born and raised in New England, O’Malley still wears his passion for Boston sports teams on his sleeve. After a day of shooting scenes on Laguna Beach, O’Malley spoke with me about his new series, surviving the Red Sox’ ALCS Game 7 loss, and what Matt Cassel’s mom is doing on the set of the show.
TC: When I first heard the name of the new show, “My Own Worst Enemy,” and I heard you were playing a character named Grady, I thought it might be the story of Grady Little and the 2003 Red Sox. I must say the show is better — but I don’t think it’s as emotionally wrenching.
O'Malley: [laughs] It’s not as emotionally wrenching because it’s not real. It’s a pretend show. I play a spy. It did feel like Grady Little was a spy for the Yankees. Maybe the Steinbrenners implanted a chip in his head, and it made him go out there and keep Pedro in the game. But we’ve forgiven Grady Little for 2003. That is, everyone who lived to see 2004. I do feel bad for those people who died in 2003.
TC: They picked a bad winter to die.
O'Malley: You know what? We should write a play about the 2003 season. We’ll write it together, “A Bad Winter to Die.”FULL ENTRY
Imaginary conversation overheard at an LA baseball party:
LA GM: Manny, would you play for 25 million a year?
Manny: That’s a good start number. Gas is up, and so am I …
LA GM: OK, now would you play for a buck a year?
Manny: A buck a year! Man, whatta you think I am?!
LA GM: We’ve already established what you are, Manny. Now we’re just haggling over the terms. *
During his tenure as skipper of the Red Sox, Terry Francona has suffered many medical maladies: a foot infection, a knee replacement, staph infections in both knees, several years on blood thinners, chest pain, blood clots, and a back problem that will require surgery. All on the heels of a midyear colonoscopy during which a 200-pound growth was removed from his bottom and subsequently traded to Los Angeles. Just Manny being Fanny.
Seeing Kevin Youkilis grow that full postseason beard made me wonder if Jewish Amish kids everywhere will be inspired to think that they, too, can play in the majors. … A Tampa Bay transportation study shows that 80 percent of the Rays’ fans are hauled to World Series games by Bandwagon. During the year, this team couldn’t give away tickets, but now it’s “all aboard!” They all wear that brand-new-fan, never-broken-in gear. At least take it out of the box before you put it on, for cripe’s sake. A hat shouldn’t sport both a price tag and a hologram. I hope they all fall in the stingray tank.
Make the putt
Tiger Woods walked onto Torrey Pines last week to caddy for civilian John Abel. With Woods on his bag, Abel, a 90-plus hacker, immediately 5-putted his first green. If you 5-putt with Tiger reading the greens for you, what kind of ugly score are you going to post without his help? I played against a little kid last week who put it in the clownÕs mouth for a 6.
It’s 8 o’clock Saturday night and I tune in to TBS for my favorite comedy, “The Steve Harvey Show.” I get most of the way through a really good episode when suddenly, it gets pre-empted for Red Sox-Tampa Bay ALCS Game 6. What the heck! Now I’ll never
know how that story ends.
TBS reported that two circuit breakers being tripped caused the delay in coverage. Circuit breakers? Well, throw on your slippers, grab a flashlight, and get down to the basement. I’m watching “The Jeffersons” over here!
Show me the money!
As the world’s financial institutions melted down last week, I thanked God for sports as a diversion. I watched the Sox come back from the dead in Game 5, only to open my retirement-account statement and discover that I now have a 201(k). Quicker than Dustin Pedroia can turn a double play, I converted my remaining equities into cash, contacted an international real estate agent and bought Iceland for 80 bucks. You’re all invited over to watch the game in Reykjavik, munch on some grilled penguin, and go volcanic hot-tubbing.
Kids in Oakland got a first look at Halloween when Al “Nosferatu” Davis threw a press conference to fire coach Lane Kiffin. At one point, Davis (right) levitated throughout the room, passed a mirror without casting a reflection and sucked the blood out of a
Mercury News reporter. Having refreshed himself, Davis accused Patriots coach Bill Belichick of using Jedi mind tricks to steal Randy Moss, then named Tom Cable his fourth head coach in four years. Davis then vanished to be with the rest of the undead.
Big fat sweaty guys are athletes, too
Every time CC Sabathia throws a baseball, he pulls two G’s: gravity and gravy. There’s a story circulating in Milwaukee that on an off day, Sabathia and Prince “Spaghetti” Fielder went binge dining and forced three Chinese restaurants into bankruptcy. Here are my top guesses on what the CC in CC Sabathia really stands for:
Corn on the Cob.FULL ENTRY
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports