10 thoughts from a busy night in Boston


10 thoughts from a busy night in Boston

By Rich Levine

Ten random thoughts from a busy night in Boston, where the Celtics made a statement, and the Sox made another mess . . .

1. Jermaine ONeals been so very Jermaine ONeal
Over the last six months, Jermaine ONeals been the perfect stereotype of himself. He's been everything that Boston feared (and more), and for the most part thats been beyond frustrating.

But while his inability to stay on the court can drive you nuts, his performance when healthy has been just what the doctor ordered (before the doctors quickly pulled away to perform another MRI on JOs knee).

Now, it doesnt feel right to commend a guy on playing well in 21 of the teams 76 games. Not when hes make nearly 6 million a year and not when his absence stunted the Cs growth, and could have hurt the long-term effectiveness of both Shaq and Kevin Garnett. Who knows how much fresher those two would be today if ONeal had been there to grab 20-something minutes a night?

But, as ridiculous as it looks on paper (screen?), the fact remains that when JO has played, hes gotten the job done.

His offense isnt what it once was. Theres barely any lift, and even less explosiveness. But at the same time, he knows how to play. He can make an impact without scoring. He can block shots (on and off the ball), he can rebound, clear out space and deliver a message, if needed. At this point, the inept offense is by far the worst part of his game, but guess what? Perk was the same way.

And like Perk, JO is finding ways to contribute despite not being able to consistently score the ball. The Celtics are better when hes out there.

But then again, if he cant stay on the floor, that ability is wasted.

And with Jermaine ONeal, thats always the fear.
2. J.D. Drew, why am I not surprised?

Its impossible to sit here and blame the Sox loss on J.D. Drews inability to avoid a seemingly avoidable second-inning tag at the plate.

After all, it was early. It was sort of a bang-bang play. The Sox never scored again, while Cleveland scored three, so it wouldnt really seem to matter.

But for Drew, the play was a microcosm for all thats wrong with his underwhelming Red Sox career.

He can stand up in the clubhouse afterwards (and you have to respect the fact he did) and give all sorts of emotionless explanations for why he didnt get under or around that tag. He can tell you, listen, Im sorry I didnt happen but there are real, logical reasons for why I didnt:

At first I thought I was going to run right through the bag, he said last night, but as I started to see him come closer . . . at the last second I thought I might be able to run through it. Its kind of better to run through the plate and start sliding a little bit later instead of sliding way out there. Youre just slowing yourself down.

But no matter how many times you watch the replay, you cant help but think: Man, he could have done a little more.

For four-plus seasons, thats almost always how Drew leaves you feeling.

3. The Rondo Effect

For most of Rondos career, hes been pretty detached from the crowd during games. Regardless of how crazy they get around him, he very rarely shows the fans any emotion, or even bothers to acknowledge their existence.

For instance, hell make an amazing play like one at the end of last nights third quarter, where he drove the length of the court and threw in an unorthodox, full-speed floater as time ticked off the clock. The crowd will explode, and Rondo will remain unaffected. Maybe he slaps a few teammates high five, but hell almost never crack a smile, or let the excitement get the best of him or engage the crowd in any way whether its a triumphant fist pump, a Hulk Hogan-style open-hand to the ear, or anything that make them think, Come on! Lets do this together!

He never plays off what the crowd has to offer, and honestly, thats his prerogative.

Everyones got their own style.

But with Rondo, it just seems like the fans are dying to get inside his head. Or just see him let his guard down, or see him, just once, lose himself in the moment.

Imagine if its the playoffs: Late in Game 6 or 7 of some series and Rondo makes a huge play down the stretch. The other team calls a timeout and Rondo walks off pointing to the crowd, or motions for them to get off their feet or involves them in any which way . . .

The roof might blow off. Marv Alberts toupee might end up in the rafters.

The Garden, and the other team, would never recover.

4. Blame it on the bats!

The popular story on Wednesday will be to pin Tuesday nights loss on the bats. Cant blame the pitchers for this one! You cant win if you dont score! theyll say.

And fine. I guess that works.

But at the end of the day, no ones actually worried about the bats. No one was worried going in, and no ones worried now. We know that Jacoby Ellsbury wont hit .188, Carl Crawford wont hit .133 and Kevin Youkilis wont hit .182. Jarod Saltalamacchia? OK, he might actually hit .091, but theres enough guaranteed protection all around him to ward off the panic.

The lineup is fine, but whatever. If for one night everyone wants to change things up and make this about the lack of runs, all the power to them.

Its just that at the end of the day, we all know the real issue.

Its the starters. Despite the big names, they were the biggest question going in, and theyre the biggest question now. Not so much Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz; you have to believe theyll be there for 30 or so consistent starts over the next six months. The issue is either Josh Beckett or John Lackey needs to step up, and so far neither has left us feeling very warm and fuzzy inside.

Or maybe Lackey did, but that fuzziness quickly transformed into a sudden need to vomit.

5. Commercial Break, No. 1

Just want to take a quick commercial break to announce that this weekend Ill be heading over to Nick Varanos Famous Deli, where Ill attempt to pay for my lunch with an action figure and a gummy worm.

If this currency isnt accepted, there's going to be an issue.

A Saludo!

6. Moving forward from Philly

So, what do you take from the Celtics (eventually) convincing win over the No one wants to plays these guys! 76ers?

At the very least, I think the victory takes some pressure off the Cs heading into Chicago on Thursday night. I think a solid showing against a team everyone was starting to fear (and that every one seems to think is destined for a first-round matchup with Boston), will allow Doc and friends to potentially lose Thursdays game without the foundation of Celtics Nation crumbling under the panic.

With last nights win, and last Thursdays impressive showing in San Antonio, the Celtics have managed to build up a little good faith. After that one truly awful stretch, theyve shown the ability to bounce back, and still step up when the competition calls for it. Now, of course, if they go into Chicago and get blown out, no one will be happy. And no one will be feeling particularly optimistic about Bostons chances should they end up in Chicago for the Eastern Conference Finals.

But if they had lost Tuesday night against Philly, a loss in Chicago might set off a firestorm.

7. Speaking of a firestorm . . .

Or maybe just a sign of the times, but how about the Red Sox running ticket promos during broadcasts now?

How about the Red Sox needing to run ticket promos during broadcasts?

Don Orsillo: I know you guys probably just assumed theyre all gone, but there are plenty of good seats available for next week's three-game series with the Rays!

Really? Wow. Against Tampa, too?

I think everyone assumed that after last seasons dip in Sox interest that the additions of Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez would return the Sox to the hottest ticket in town, but it seems like it might take a little bit more time.

Tampa has Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and all sort of divisional and (at least very recent) historic implications, and Fenway isnt even sold out? Its only the second series of the season. Things are still supposed to be so fresh. Fans arent supposed to be able to wait to catch their first glimpse of Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez in a Sox uniform. If Fenways not selling out now, whats going to happen when teams like Seattle, Kansas City and Cleveland start rolling in?

Of course, it might help if they won a game.

8. Hey, Free Krstic!

Nenad Krstic played only 18 minutes against Philadelphia, scored only eight points and grabbed only six rebounds. But damn, wasnt it a beautiful sight?

Its pretty strange how everything went down with Krstic over the last week. He went down in San Antonio and every one, and I mean everyone, just assumed he was done. The injury looked bad, the initial reports were all bad. With the way the Celtics season has been going, a torn ACL almost just made sense. By the second half, wed all just written him off. The Nenad Krstic era was over!

But somehow Nenad dodged a bullet, and now, for the rest of the season, it feels like the Celtics are playing with Free Krstic.

And thats the best kind of Krstic.

9. Commercial Break, No. 2

I love the NBA "big head" ads. No matter how many times they air, I'm laughing every single time. But while laughing, a part of me is dying inside, knowing what a shame it is that this concept didn't exist during Popeye Jones playing career.

Nothing would make me happier than a Popeye Jones big head commercial. Or how about a big head clip of Popeye guarding Gheorghe Muresan?

January 4, 1996: Here's your game, NBA. Now find the footage and please give the people what they want to see.

And by people, I mean me.

10. No thanks, EA

This is a little off topic, but its a question that needs to be asked since it was all over Twitter last night, and has been for a few days:

Are Patriots fans really voting for Danny Woodhead to be on the cover of Madden 2012?

I mean, I get it. Its a cool story. It would be a nice honor for all hes accomplished and how far hes come in such a short period of time. Going from the practice squad to the most prestigious video game cover in sports? Thats unbelievable.

But seriously: Next time you see Woodhead, why not just cut out the middle man, and smash his kneecap with a lead pipe, or run him over with your car, or just sneak into his apartment in the middle of the night and snap his ACL while he sleeps?

Yes, it would be great to see Woodhead on the cover of Madden, but wouldnt you rather have him safe, on the field for the entire Patriots season.

Unless there isnt even a season, in which case, Boom! who cares?

All you, Danny.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

FOXBORO – Back in March, Eric Weddle batted his eyes longingly at the Patriots. The two-time All-Pro safety’s time was done with the Chargers and he wanted to spend his NFL autumn with a team that had a chance to win it all. 

He didn’t land in New England, but he didn’t too badly, winding up with the usually competitive Ravens.  

On a Thursday conference call with New England media, Weddle confirmed that there was mutual interest expressed. 

“Obviously, I was interested,” he acknowledged. “I have nothing but high regard, respect and admiration – and envy, quite honestly – of the success of the New England Patriots over the years. Obviously, battling them in my career, it’s always been a great game. I love the way they play, love the foundation, love everything about it. It was definitely on my radar. There were talks both ways, it just didn’t end up [working out].”

The numbers massed at the position with Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon played a role in the two sides not being able to reach accord, according to Weddle. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin [McCourty] is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Weddle’s New England attraction apparently wasn’t love that bloomed late in his career. Toward the end of his conference call, Weddle said, “I’m still wondering why they just didn’t draft me in ’07; I could have been still playing there now.”

As reporters puzzled for a moment trying to recall the 2007 first-rounder, Weddle chipped in with the answer: “[They took] Brandon Meriweather.”

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

BOSTON – There wasn’t much for Anton Khudobin to say after it was all over on Thursday night. 

The B’s backup netminder allowed four goals on 22 shots while looking like he was fighting the puck all night. It was one of the big reasons behind a tired-looking 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

The loss dropped Khudobin to 1-4-0 on the season and puts him at a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage this season. Three of the four goals beat Khudobin despite him getting a pretty good look at them. The ultimate game-winner in the second period from John Mitchell just beat him cleanly on the short side. 

Matt Duchene beat Khudobin from the slot on a play that was a bad defense/bad goaltending combo platter to start the game and MacKinnon ripped a shorthanded bid past the Bruins netminder to put Boston in a hole against a woeful Colorado team. 

Afterward, Khudobin didn’t have much to say, with just one good performance among five games played for the Black and Gold this season. 

“Four goals is too much. That’s it,” said a to-the-point Khudobin, who was then asked how he felt headed into the game. “I don’t know; too much energy…yeah, too much. I don’t know. I just had a lot of energy and I think it just didn’t work out my way.”

Khudobin didn’t really expand on why he had too much energy, but perhaps it’s because the compacted schedule has really curtailed the team’s ability to hold team practices on a regular basis. Or maybe he was just disappointed it took him a week to get back between the pipes after playing his best game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Either way Claude Julien said that the Bruins needed better goaltending on a night where they weren’t at their sharpest physically or mentally, and Khudobin clearly wasn’t up to the challenge this time around. 

“We needed some saves tonight and we didn’t get them. He’s got to be better. A lot of things here that we can be better at and take responsibility [for],” said Julien. “But at the same time, you got to move on here. To me it’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, and we would have had a chance. Now we’ve got to move forward.”

Clearly, the Bruins have no choice but to move on with a busy schedule that doesn’t let up anytime soon, but one of the lessons learned from Thursday night is that the Bruins need to get better backup goaltending from a collective crew (Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban included) that’s won just once in eight games behind Tuukka Rask this season.