Bradley set to return Wednesday vs. Grizzlies

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Bradley set to return Wednesday vs. Grizzlies

WALTHAM Avery Bradley can't walk on air or turn water into wine. So you can save all the talk of him being some sort of basketball savior for the Celtics.

Still, there is no mistaking that his return to the lineup on Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies (19-9) will make the C's a better -- a much better -- team than they are without him.

And his return could not come soon enough with the Celtics riding a season-long losing skid of three games in preparation for a Grizzlies team that is still among the better teams out West despite losing three of their last four games.

If he's healthy enough to play, C's coach Doc Rivers said Bradley will be with the first group.

"Avery's going to start," Rivers said prior to the C's practice on Wednesday afternoon. "We had him markered down -- not penciled down -- before the year that he was going to be a starter."

In terms of what his role will be, Bradley isn't consumed with starting versus coming off the bench.  

"I try not to worry about it," he said. "All you can do is go out and play hard. That's what I'm gonna do. That's how I play. Tomorrow that's what you guys will see."

However, injuries to both shoulders last season resulted in surgery that forced him to miss part of the 2012 playoffs as well as the first 30 games this season.

It was a disappointing finish to what was a breakout season for the former first-round pick of the C's who burst on to the scene as a defensive pest to opponents that was critical in the Celtics becoming a much better team after the all-star break.

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics had an efficiency differential of plus 5.5 prior to the all-star break last season which ranked 10th in the NBA. After the break, the C's more than doubled that to a plus 11.5 which ranked fourth in the NBA.

Part of that bump was Bradley's ability to not only impact the game with his individual defense, but having it trickle down to his teammates.

"He knows his role," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "He plays with a lot of energy. A lot of guys don't like to face a guy like Avery. I believe he's the best defender in the league, hands down.

Rondo added, "Hopefully we all try to step our level of play up when he steps on the court; the intensity he plays with, hopefully is contagious and we all do the same."
 
The impact that Bradley will make on the C's remains to be seen, although it is expected to be significant.

But Celtics coach Doc Rivers, well aware that the pressure isn't coming from Bradley's teammates or the C's, has made a point repeatedly to emphasize that Bradley should not be seen as some Knight on a white horse coming in to save the day.

"I'm anxious to get him back, but I know that he's not Bill Russell. He's Avery Bradley," Rivers said. "But Avery Bradley is going to be important to our team. He is one of those guys that helps change your culture as far as on the floor and how we play and the intensity that he plays. I hope when he comes it helps one or two other guys do that. Other than that, he's been out a long time. To think he's going to play well right off the bat, I don't know if that will happen or not. But he'll play hard right away."

And that in itself might be just what the C's need; a player who plays with great effort and intensity consistently.

"I don't have any expectations of how I'm going to play," Bradley said. "I'm just going to go out there and play hard. Whatever happens, happens. That's all I can control, how hard I can play."

But that effort in many ways is what fuels Bradley's defense which is his strength as a player.

"Defense, I feel it's an effort thing," Bradley said. "If you want to play hard on the defensive end, you have to want to. I obviously want to and that's what I can bring to this team."

Indeed, Bradley's on-the-ball defense has a way of containing or wiping out at least one member of an opposing team's backcourt.

"Unfortunately there are four others on the floor," Rivers said. "Avery's probably top-5 in the league on the ball defense and not getting beat. But if you can stop one of the guards from dribble penetration, it has to help."
 
And the Celtics (14-16) can use all the help they can get right now.

McAdam: Red Sox should pass on this Sale

McAdam: Red Sox should pass on this Sale

BOSTON -- I'm not sure what the Red Sox would have to give up for Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale.

For that matter, I can't say definitively that the two clubs have actually discussed a trade for Chris Sale, though it's logical to assume they have, even in a cursory way.

The White Sox, mired toward the bottom of the A.L. Central and with just one playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons, are said to be "open'' to listening for offers on Sale. That's both their right and their duty.

As for the Red Sox, given that they're a big-market club with plenty of resources and an expectation from a loyal fan base to compete for a championship every season, they're similarly smart to inquire.

Who knows? Maybe the White Sox have had their fill of Sale and ,in a fit of pique, might be desperate enough to take less than full value to rid themselves of a pitcher who's developed into quite the clubhouse lawyer of late.

But my guess is that the White Sox are demanding a lot for Sale. That makes sense, since, beyond his raging sense of entitlement, Sale remains one of the handful of best starters in the game and is under club control for another three seasons after this one.

Whatever the asking price is, however, it's almost certainly too much.

Sure, the addition of Sale might, on paper, make the Red Sox the favorites to win the American League pennant.

Again, on paper. Ask the New York Mets, who owned the best starting rotation in the game when the season began and now sit, uncomfortably, in third place in their own division.

So much for the best-laid plans.

But the focus here is on the cost, however unknown, to obtain Sale.

If obtaining Drew Pomeranz cost the Red Sox Anderson Espinoza, how much more would Sale cost?

Let's assume that the Red Sox consider Yoan Moncada essentially untouchable. That would mean Boston would have to essentially clean out the rest of its prospect inventory. Think: a package like Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Michael Kopech, and perhaps more.

Or maybe the White Sox want more established young talent, and have their eyes on Mookie Betts and more.

Argue, if you wish, that pitching is more important than offense, but giving up a leadoff man who's shown indications he could become a five-tool superstar? No, thanks.

There's also the matter of need. Unlike at the beginning of the season, the Red Sox can now lay claim to having a rotation in which every one of the five starters gives them a solid chance to win.

Yes, David Price has underperformed in a big way. But that's likely the result of adjusting to Boston and new surroundings. What are the odds that, at 30, Price has almost overnight permanently devolved into a mediocre starter after finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting just last fall?

Steven Wright has emerged as a consistent starter who's under control for the forseeable future. Rick Porcello, though not flashy, is pitching like the Red Sox envisioned he would when they dealt for him a season-and-a-half ago. Eduardo Rodriguez has overcome injury and delivery issues to fufull the promise he showed as a rookie. And Pomeranz could be an afforable middle-of-the-rotation for years to come.

Is Sale better than each one of them right now? Of course, Price included.

But is the Red Sox rotation so troubled that it must upgrade now or else? No. Is their an obvious weak link begging to be immediately replaced? No.

And this is not Chris Sale, free agent. This is Chris Sale, incredibly expensive trade piece.

What if they stripmined their minor-league system for Sale, and didn't win? Then what? What if they tore up their core of foundational players for Sale, only to find him incapable of surviving Boston?

As I confessed earlier, I'm don't know what the White Sox would want for Sale.

What I do know is that it would, by definition, almost certainly be too much.

Curran: A laughable double standard in Manning vs. Brady cases

Curran: A laughable double standard in Manning vs. Brady cases

Reading the NFL’s breathless release Monday afternoon that the investigation of St. Peyton came back clean as a whistle and that, hell, ol’ Pey-Pey couldn’t have been more accommodating to the investigators (wink, nudge), the words of Elvis Costello occurred to me.

Oh, I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused …

Nobody in their right mind ever believed the NFL would get taint all over Manning post-retirement. Having just spent 18 months dragging Tom Brady’s through the streets, they were going to let him loose and hitch up Manning? Please.

But you figured they’d just slip a note to one of their many media friendlies that the investigation into Huge Head’s alleged HGH use was concluded and move on. Instead, it got “MAN LANDS ON MOON!” treatment complete with a neener-neener subhed that read: “Mannings Fully Cooperated with League Investigation into Allegations in Documentary.”

If they could have used the “in tears from laughter” emoji, they would have. They just can’t help themselves.
But I’m not dog-whistling for the anti-Manning crowd to get up in arms. I’m definitely not inviting a renewed parsing of the Deflategate facts, the Ideal Gas Law or Article 46.

I just don’t think that using HGH – particularly in the realm of recovery – is a mortal NFL sin. The job demands unnatural things from the body, it invites unnatural recovery methods. I’ve always regarded the league’s foot-dragging on HGH testing to be partly because they don’t want to know.

Conspiring to spirit game balls away after they were checked by the officials and let the air out of them does seem a bit more nefarious.

But wasn’t it Roger Goodell himself that equated deflating footballs to PED usage? I’ll answer that. Yes. Yes it was.

That being the case, I need to point out the lack of apparent intensity in going after Manning compared to the never-say-die, multimillion- dollar, league-hijacking, shield-tarnishing witch hunt conducted by the NFL when it came to Brady.

Did anyone in the Manning camp – from Tom Condon to Ari Fleischer – ever have Mike Kensil growling, “You guys are in big f******* trouble!” Was anyone at the Guyer Institute summoned for 14 hours of questioning by guys like Jeff Pash or Ted Wells?

Did Manning ever have to fend off league-leaked misinformation to reporters that the NFL allowed to stand even when the NFL knew the information was a lie?

Of course he didn’t. Manning is a friendly. The Manning family is the NFL equivalent of the Kennedys. And the people Manning was closest to during his time in the NFL – Tony Dungy, Bill Polian, even the repulsive Jim Irsay – aren’t people the league would want to alienate by subjecting Manning to the same kind of public cavity search Brady was.

Again, not that I expected or even believed the league should have done that. The guy is retired, after all. He got out of Dodge.

But it was Goodell that invited this comparison when he handed down his appeal ruling last July, stating that, “In terms of the appropriate level of discipline, the closest parallel of which I am aware is the collectively bargained discipline imposed for a first violation of the policy governing performance enhancing drugs; steroid use reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game. Since the advent of our testing for steroid use in the 1980’s and now, pursuant to our Collective Bargaining Agreement, the first positive test for the use of performance enhancing drugs has resulted in a four-game suspension without the need for any finding of actual competitive effect.”

So, if the violations were created equal, why wasn’t Manning dealing with the same presumption of guilt Brady did and the same level of fact-finding?

You already know but I’ll answer it anyway. “Getting” Peyton Manning was the last thing the NFL wanted to do. The Patriots have been the Moby Dick to the NFL’s Captain Ahab for nearly two decades.

One last thing to note on this. It’s actually sad that it seems implausible the NFL did a full and exhaustive investigation and a fully cooperative Manning was able to conclusively prove he never used HGH.

Not because of Manning’s lack of credibility. Because of the NFL’s.
 

Kusnierek: Differences preparing for Rio vs Sochi

Kusnierek: Differences preparing for Rio vs Sochi

Trenni Kusnierek will be covering the Olympics in Rio for NBC. She talked with Toucher and Rich about it.