The Bobby V. Apologist

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The Bobby V. Apologist

By now, I assume everyone's up to date on the latest controversy surrounding Bobby Valentine. I think people are calling it "Pinch Hit Gate," but that's just an educated guess.

If you haven't heard: Yesterday afternoon, the Sox and Jays were tied 0-0 in the seventh inning. Pedro Ciriaco was on first base with two outs and the light-hitting Jose Iglesias was up at the plate.

With the count at 1-and-2, Ciraco stole second (the pitch was a ball). So now, the Sox had the leading run in scoring position, with perhaps the worst hitter in baseball (including pitchers) at the plate. At this point, Valentine shocked the world by pinch-hitting Daniel Nava for Iglesias in the middle of the at-bat. The manager later said that the move was a ploy to get some run support for Jon Lester, but in the end it didn't matter. Nava grounded out.

The Sox lost 5-0.

The reaction to Valentine's decision has been predictably sour. He's been accused no longer caring about the development of his young players and once again turning this season into his personal side show. Ever the Valentine apologist, I don't see it quite the same way.

First of all, I don't buy into the argument that Bobby V.'s decision will prove to be some crippling set back in Iglesias' development. Sure, there's a chance that he could have picked up a hit, driven in a run and maybe built a little confidence. But let's be honest, there was a much, much better chance by the numbers, about a 90 percent chance that the shortstop would have come up short. What's that do for him?

Furthermore, it's not like Iglesias is just in a slump. It's not a matter of him picking up one hit and getting into a groove.

He literally can't hit at the Major League level. Not yet, at least. And regardless of whether he knocked in a run or was called back to the dugout, he'll have to work just as hard this offseason to have any chance of playing in the big leagues next year..

In the slight chance that being pinch hit for in the middle of an at-bat ultimately does derail Iglesias' progress? Then guess what: He was probably never going to make it anyway.

He'll have to withstand a lot more adversity than that to survive at this level especially if he plans on staying in Boston.

And yeah, it was an unconventional move by Valentine. It was a move that most, if not every other manager in his position would have resisted. BUT, can you really argue with the logic?

How can you constantly criticize a manager for not caring and then jump on him for making a move that indicates that he cares?

With the season all but over, and his future foggier than John Henry's rec-specs after hotly contested squash match, Valentine could just as well spend these last few games daydreaming about his years in Japan or thinking up new concepts for the winter menu at his restaurant. Instead, a move like yesterday's shows that, at the very least, he's still engaged. He's trying to win. And not even for himself, but for guys like Jon Lester.

So, what's the problem again?

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics take a slim 47-46 lead into the half over Sacramento, a team they have dominated at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics are looking to extend their winning streak at home over the Kings to nine in a row with a victory tonight. 

But the Kings are not going to go down easily, as they rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter. 

After Boston went ahead 29-19, the Kings scored the final 10 points of the quarter to tie it at 29. 

Sacramento took a couple of brief leads in the second, only for the Celtics to get a clutch shot or a timely stop defensively. 

The final points of the half came on a put-back basket by Al Horford which gave Boston a one-point lead that would serve as the margin going into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Friday’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

After taking just five shots in Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, Horford had as many in the first six minutes. He would finish the half with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included a pair of three-pointers.

DeMarcus Cousins

He had a horrible first half shooting the ball, but there was no denying Cousins’ presence and impact on the game. Despite missing six of his nine shot attempts he still led them with nine points and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

He looked a lot more like the Avery Bradley we’ve seen most of this season, and not the one who was a non-factor for most of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit. At the half he had nine points and four rebounds.

Matt Barnes

The oldest player on the floor certainly didn’t look past his prime. The 36-year-old small forward came off the Kings bench to score six points along with grabbing eight rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

A 19.6 points per game scorer this season, Gay couldn’t get into any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. At the half, he had four points on 2-for-8 shooting which included him missing all four of his three-pointers.

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”