Ten free minutes for me, 10 throwaway lines for you ...
1. I learned long ago not to write off this particular group of Celtics until the final buzzer has sounded, and that goes for a particular game or this remarkable season as a whole. But while I do think they get by the fledgling Sixers even with an injured Paul Pierce, it has been somewhat disheartening to watch him struggle to play through a knee injury that is hampering him significantly. He's unable to beat defenders off the dribble, and his uncanny knack for gaining position and leverage on his defender has been neutralized. He's also struggled with his passing, especially when the Sixers (and Hawks previously) run an additional defender at him and then jump the passing lane on the rotation. I think the Celtics could beat Miami with a healthy Pierce (and Ray Allen, and Avery Bradley). It'll be disappointing if this injury prevents us from finding out for sure.
2. Never thought we'd see Daniel Nava playing for the home team at Fenway Park ever again, but I guess that's what happens when the outfield depth chart reads like a list of casualties (Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Repko, Darnell McDonald, and even Ryan Kalish). And kudos to Nava for being ready for it. He's reached base in 12 of 16 plate appearances, and the way I understand it, a .750 on-base percentage is not bad. What he's done this time around is more impressive than when he first arrived in '10, which is saying something considering -- and I think this is mentioned on the Sox radio broadcast every time he comes to the plate -- he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw.
3. Two favorite non-KG moments from Game 1: Avery Bradley beating Rajon Rondo to the loose ball and taking it all the way for a reverse layup. Man, that kid has some mega-jets. Also, Rondo's three-quarter-court perfect strike to Bradley for an in-stride layup. I could get used to watching these two play together for the next half-dozen years or so. OK, and an obvious tied for third -- Rondo's presence of mind to foul Jrue Holiday with a little more than three seconds left, then, on the inbound pass, recognizing that Evan Turner couldn't keep up with him as he dribbled out the clock. Anyone who questions Rondo's hoops IQ should be required to watch the fourth quarter of that game on an endless loop.
4. The suggestion that a player established at one position should move to an unfamiliar one to accommodate another player or to fix a logjam at one spot usually drives me nuts. I still don't like the idea of Adrian Gonzalez playing the outfield, though we'll probably see it in Philadelphia over the weekend. And I know it's not practical to put Kevin Youkilis in left field when he returns -- when he played the position briefly in 2006, he made Manny Ramirez look like Paul Blair, and that's when Youk was healthy. But I do believe Bobby Valentine needs to find a creative way to keep Will Middlebrooks in the lineup when Youkilis returns, and if that means he plays a super-utility role until his inevitable next injury, maybe that is the best way to go.
5. Really curious to see how the Patriots' wide-receiver situation shakes out. I loved the Jabar Gaffney signing -- he came in during '06 and instantly earned Tom Brady's trust -- and I'd be surprised if either Donte' Stallworth or Chad Ochocinco make the team. This much we know for sure: Some established names are going to have a tough time making the Patriots' final 53.
6. If the Red Sox send Felix Doubront to the bullpen to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka in the rotation, their priorities are even more messed up than even the most skeptical among us might have suspected. Doubront has come through big in his last two starts -- once eating innings to spare a gassed bullpen, then pitching as brilliantly as any Sox starter has in recent memory -- and to shift his role just to make room for a perennial enigma who has been as spotty as ever during his rehab stint makes absolutely no sense.
7. The suggestion, which I've heard more than once on the Celtics' television postgame show, that Kevin Garnett is playing so brilliantly because he knows this is his last hurrah is a foolish one. Not only does that ignore the chief reason he's dominating -- his has the spring back in his legs -- it disregards the way KG has always played, which is all-out whether he's healthy or not. If anything, this mesmerizing postseason performance is driving up his sticker price for next year, and maybe another year or two beyond that.
8. I ask this question in all sincerity: Does anyone outside of the Red Sox front office and marketing branches care about the
sellout distribution streak? Maybe I'm naive, but it seems to me the definition of a sellout shouldn't leave a lot of room for interpretation. It's when every ticket in the barn for an available seat is sold. It's a silly little game of semantics they are playing, and they're underestimating fans' intelligence, not to mention their tolerance for this special brand of nonsense right now.
9. Terry Francona is a better tactical manager than Bobby Valentine, he's a better television analyst than Bobby Valentine, and at this point, I wouldn't be shocked if he could whip up a better sandwich or do a better box-step than Bobby Valentine.
10. As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:
He's 54 years old, and still I'm pretty sure he'd be the Sixers' best option for a last shot should it come down to the final possession tonight. He'd certainly scare old-school Celtics fans more than Andre Iguadola, Lou Williams, Evan Turner, or Jrue Holiday.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.