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Ten Free Minutes: Was Paul Pierce Tipping More Than His Cap, Mookie Betts's Ascent, and More

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...

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1. I don't know whether Paul Pierce was sending a not-so-subtle message by wearing a Red Sox cap on the occasion of the Nets' breakup party the other day. I wouldn't put it past him, though, and I do know this: I didn't think when he was traded from Boston last summer that he'd played his final game as a Celtic. And I still don't, especially if the Celtics have some luck in the lottery. Who better to mentor Jabari Parker or his fellow Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins on the ways of the NBA and life as a Celtic?

2. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts were born six days apart in October 1992. In 356 plate appearances in Double A over the 2012-13 seasons, Bogaerts put up a .315/.392/.531 slash line with 11 home runs, 52 RBIs, 36 walks against 72 strikeouts. In 169 plate appearances so far with Portland this season, Betts is hitting a ridiculous .401/.467/.619 with 6 homers, 24 steals, and 20 walks to 17 strikeouts. Betts has reached base in 70 straight games, one shy of the minor league record set by a couple of familiar names. I'm not suggesting he's a prospect in Bogaerts's stratosphere. He's not. But if he continues to play like this over the next 30 games or so, Betts needs to be advanced to Pawtucket soon, and they may want to find out if the brilliant defensive second baseman can pay a passable third base. Yes, I'm starting to think he can help the Red Sox this season.

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3. Tip of the cap to CSNNE's Sean McAdam, who made a tremendous point on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Gresh and Zo program: The Red Sox are actually closer to first place now -- 1.5 games back of the Orioles -- than they were in advance of their May 16 game a year ago, when they were tied with Baltimore, two games behind the Yankees. I had no idea. The difference, of course, is that the Red Sox are just 20-20 right now after a frustrating series loss to the non-factor Twins. A season ago, they were 23-17 and about to go on a tear in which they would win 9 of their next 12 and 13 of 19 to build a 2.5-game lead. This would not be a bad time for them to go on a similar roll. Really, it should have begun in Minnesota.

4. My Bruins postmortem is essentially this: What Fluto Said. There's no need for a mega-shakeup, a blockbuster deal as an overreaction to this frustrating and disappointing end. I'd be all right with moving Brad Marchand -- who has five goals in his last 41 playoff games after netting 11 in 25 games during the 2010-11 Cup run -- for a more conventional, dependable goal scorer. And a puck-moving defenseman who can ease Zdeno Chara's burden should be the priority, even with the steep price it would cost in terms of compensation in players and salary for the likes of Keith Yandle. But this is still a very talented, deep team. It shouldn't have ended so soon. But with a few adjustments, they'll be right back in the hunt against next year.

5. Just one game -- hell, just one shift of one game -- I would have liked to have seen this hell-bent-for-victory version of Milan Lucic against the Canadiens:

The Bruins will be better off next season if a true finisher can be acquired to play with David Krejci (and hopefully Jarome Iginla), with Looch dropping down a line or two.

charazfinn516.JPG6. With the news today that Ray Shero has been scapegoated for Sidney Crosby's disappearing act fired as the Penguins' general manager, it's worth remembering that he essentially chose the Pittsburgh job over the same role with the Bruins in May 2006. Shero took the Penguins offer because of their talent first and foremost, but it was also acknowledged that he was worried about "compensation and authority issues" with the Bruins. As it turned out, it was a blessing for the Bruins. Peter Chiarelli got the gig, Zdeno Chara signed on, and the Bruins gradually built and sustained a winning program.

7. I know his skill-set is replaceable on the cheap. Hell, he knows his skill-set is replaceable on the cheap. But I'd like to see Shawn Thornton back with the Bruins next year. He's a usually honorable enforcer with respectable hockey skills and respected leadership skills. There's value to that, and Thornton is too self-aware to ask for an exorbitant deal. He knows his place, and that place should be Boston, still.

8. I'll admit it. I don't like it, but I'll admit it. I've got a bad feeling about the way the ping-pong balls will bounce for the Celtics Tuesday night. Probably because we've been previously conditioned to expect the worst -- I can still picture M.L. Carr grinning through the agony after the Spurs won the Tim Duncan sweepstakes 17 freakin' years ago. Tell me it's going to be different this time, and I'll tell you I'd feel better about it -- for no logical reason whatsoever -- had Brad Stevens gone as their representative rather than Steve Pagliuca.

9. I don't understand why any Patriots fan would take issue with the selection of Dominique Easley in the first round. He's a ferocious, versatile, potentially elite player who fills a need, and he never would have been available if not for two knee injuries, one of which he recovered from to be better than ever. And calling him a future pick is silly. He'll help in a big way late this season.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

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Because sometimes, it really is random. And large!