Alex Smith reacts to his demotion

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Alex Smith reacts to his demotion

From Comcast SportsNetSANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Alex Smith is trying to understand how he lost his job as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers a month after being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.It's not an easy thing for the NFL's fifth-ranked quarterback to deal with this week, even though Smith already has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his tumultuous career since the 49ers made him the No. 1 overall selection of the 2005 draft.Smith spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh made Colin Kaepernick the team's starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, a rematch of the last game in which Smith appeared.Smith is now completely healthy from the concussion he suffered in that Nov. 11 game and has been medically cleared to play.But he'll be Kaepernick's backup for the second consecutive week. Smith is uncertain what Harbaugh's decision means for him the rest of this season."I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion," Smith said.Smith was playing some of the best football of his career when he was injured and left early in the second quarter of the 24-24 tie with the Rams.He completed 7 of 8 passes with a passer rating of 143.8 against St. Louis, throwing for his 13th touchdown of the season on his final pass. The week before, Smith completed 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns during a win over Arizona, setting an NFL record with a 94.7 completion percentage for a quarterback with a minimum of 15 attempts. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the first time two days later.Smith ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 104.1 and leads the league with a 70.0 completion percentage."You kind of state your case with your play and I felt like I've done that," Smith said. "It's tough. It stings the most just because I really felt there was something special going on here and you sacrifice and invest so much time. I felt like I was playing good football. I have no idea what's going to happen from here. All I can do now is just prepare and get ready."Smith was in limbo the past two weeks after suffering his concussion, practicing every day with the 49ers in a non-contact black jersey. The 49ers did not announce during either week who would be their starting quarterback until game day against Chicago on Nov. 19 and New Orleans last Sunday.There's no uncertainty this week. Kaepernick, San Francisco's second-round draft pick last year, took away the starting job from Smith with strong performances in decisive victories over the Bears and Saints.Smith has lost his starting job and dealt with injuries and adversity several times before with the 49ers. He was beaten out for the role in training camp in 2008 by journeyman J.T. O'Sullivan, then began the 2009 season behind veteran Shaun Hill before starting the final 10 games of that season.In 2010, Smith was replaced as the starter by former coach Mike Singletary with Troy Smith for a key December game that decided San Francisco's playoff fate that season. The next week, Alex Smith began a string of 28 consecutive starts for the 49ers that ended after his concussion.Smith had a 21-6-1 record in those games and played a significant role in San Francisco's rise back to prominence last year and continued success this season. Smith resurrected his career under Harbaugh, who took over as San Francisco's coach in 2011."Those (other seasons) are all in the past," Smith said. "For this one, you're in it right now. It's such a great team, such a great group of guys in this locker room. There's something special going on. It's a tough pill to swallow, for sure."Smith said he was prepared for Harbaugh's decision and knew it was a possibility "just based off the last couple of weeks the way things have gone." Smith got the news during a conversation with Harbaugh earlier this week, when the coach explained why he decided to go in a different direction.Harbaugh left open the possibility he could go back to Smith at any time."Alex is a class act all the way," Harbaugh said. "He'll prepare as if he is the starter. And that's what we would expect. And be ready to go in and play and contribute to this football team. We've got two quarterbacks that we feel great about as the starting quarterback. Anything's a possibility. I would assume nothing, or rule out anything."Smith said he felt no resentment toward Harbaugh, nor did he try to talk the coach out of the change at quarterback."At this point, what's talk going to do?" Smith said. "I feel like he made up his mind, and he's not a guy that didn't put thought into it already. I don't get to make those decisions. That's what he gets paid to do. I play football. So that's what I'm going to continue to do. Continue to get ready, and then make the most of my next opportunity."

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

Thomas shines again in fourth quarter, Celtics beat Hornets, 108-98

BOSTON –  Late in the fourth quarter, the TD Garden was rockin' when the fans charted chanting, 'M-V-P, M-V-P' which is become a nightly serenade of sorts for Isaiah Thomas. 

It's extremely wishful thinking on Celtics Nation's part, but there is no denying his status as one of the game's best players this season. 

He delivered yet another work of art on Monday, scoring 17 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter in leading Boston to a 108-98 win against Charlotte. 

And he did the way he always seems to do it, mixing in 3-pointers with drives to the baskets and an occasional assist to keep the collapsing defenses that surround him relatively honest. 

But the numbers he's consistently posting only tell part of the narrative to what has been a fairy tale of a season for the 5-foot-9 guard who continues to defy odds on a nightly basis. 

Not only is he producing at a high level, but he's elevating the play of those around him which is reflected in the team's overall success.

Boston (26-15) hits the halfway point with its best record under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens and best by the franchise since a 32-9 start to the 2010-2011 season.

The Celtics have now won eight of their last 10 games, and 13 of 16 as they steadily pull away and establish themselves at worst being the third-best team in the East.

And against the Hornets, they got the victory with a nice blending of what they do best – shoot three-pointers and play solid, physical defense.

The game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Boston Celtics, opening with a 10-2 run that put the Hornets on their heels quickly.

Not surprisingly, the Hornets rallied to take the lead in the first quarter before Boston’s second unit stepped up.

Leading the way in the final minute of the first quarter was Jaylen Brown, just minutes removed from a moving pre-game speech honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on MLK Day.

With Boston trailing 30-29, Brown scored the final five points of the quarter to give Boston a 34-30 lead.

The second quarter saw both teams pull ahead by slim margins, neither showing an ability to pull away and take full control of the game.

But again it was the Celtics making all the necessary plays at both ends of the floor in the closing moments.

Trailing 50-48, Boston would close out the half with an 11-3 run to lead 59-53 at the half.

In the third quarter, Boston began to give itself a little more breathing room fueled in large part by their defense which not only limited the Hornets scoring but took advantage of great spacing to get open jumpers or baskets in the paint with little resistance or help-side defense.

A back-to-the-basket hook shot by Al Horford gave Boston a 77-67 lead, the game’s first double-digit margin.

The Celtics increased their lead to 12 points following a pull-up jumper along the baseline by Avery Bradley who was back in the lineup after missing the previous four games with an Achilles injury.

Going into the fourth, the Celtics were ahead 80-71.

Off day for Tuukka Rask plays into rough loss for the Bruins

Off day for Tuukka Rask plays into rough loss for the Bruins

BOSTON – Many times this season Tuukka Rask has bailed out the Bruins when the team was at less than their best.

Monday afternoon was not one of those times as the Bruins goaltender was knocked out of the game after two periods on the way to a listless 4-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders. Rask allowed three goals on 15 shots in the game’s opening 40 minutes, and was responsible for a very soft goal during the Isles’ three-score barrage in the second period.

After the game Rask wasn’t ducking responsibility for the subpar performance, and admitted he was simply beaten to the short side post on a bad angle shot from Islanders forward Josh Bailey for the soft-serve special.

“I was just late. I picked the wrong seal. It’s one of those [goals] that I should have stopped,” said Rask. “Claude [Julien] mentioned [not taking the Isles lightly] before the game, and the last game we played here they got us. It was a bit of a flat game again last time, and we just woke up too late today. We didn’t want to underestimate them. Any team in this league is good even though the standings might show otherwise. We just never got it going.”

Rask was being kind because the Bruins never actually woke up at all in the first B's shutout loss to the Islanders on home ice in franchise history, and that includes when the Finnish netminder was yanked after the second intermission.

Julien’s act of pulling Rask from a 3-0 game was clearly designed to spark the struggling hockey club, but it did nothing to breathe life into a dead hockey club that simply allowed another goal playing out the string in the third period.

“There are two things that can happen. No. 1, you hope you can spark your team because of the performance in front of him,” said Julien. “If it doesn’t spark your team, [at least] you’re not wasting your number one goaltender’s energy.”

One would expect that Rask will be back between the pipes on Wednesday night against the Red Wings in Detroit, and in hindsight perhaps this Monday matinee might have been a good time to see what Zane McIntyre has to offer as the backup. Instead it will go down as an “off” game for Rask and another inexcusable no-show on home ice for the Black and Gold.