British reporter: NFL in England 'has a chance' to work

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British reporter: NFL in England 'has a chance' to work

LONDON -- My friend Matt Sherry of the Press Association (the UK's answer to the Associated Press) is seated in front of me here in the press box at Wembley Stadium and he and his mates are the target audience for the NFL in it's hamhanded European moneygrab.

I asked Matt if this British Invasion by the NFL is working. I can spit on the idea -- along with most American fans -- but we aren't the market.

Matt is. A 21-year-old from Hartlepool, he's a legit NFL consumer.

"I think it has a chance to work," he opined. "I think they started (coming to London six years ago) at the perfect time because popularity was rising anyway. This hasn't sparked popularity, it was there."

Sherry said the Patriots are the leading team in terms of interest here. Why? It is a bit of a mystery.

"I think it's the three quick Super Bowls and the simple fact it has 'England' in the name," he said. "But I've been wondering that myself."

Sherry says the sport is "still a niche."

Will it rise above that?

"I think me head says it will always be a niche. My heart says it won't. The Premier League dominates. Much like the NFL took over baseball in the States, Premier League is that way here. I don't know if that can change."

Sherry has hard data of the grassroots appeal, though.

"I've got in total about seven friends here today and four of them, six months ago, couldn't have told you anything about the NFL," he pointed out. "And they've probably spent about 200 pounds each to be here. And they are all about my age."

The NFL is into Phase Two of its plan to invade. There will be two London games in 2013 and the Jaguars will play a single game in each of the next four years.

"Next year is the most important," said Sherry. "We'll find out with two games how many are here for the game and not just the event. If one sells and the other doesn't, we'll know."

Thomas becoming one of the NBA's best in the fourth quarter

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Thomas becoming one of the NBA's best in the fourth quarter

Isaiah Thomas has established himself as one of the NBA’s top players in the fourth quarter of games this season.

“I’d rather play that than any other quarter,” Thomas said.

But there will be times when the game’s flow or head coach Brad Stevens’ gut will tell him to go in a different direction with Thomas’ minutes which is something the two have had conversations about which has helped eliminate any confusion or misunderstandings.

“We’ve had player-coach talks, how he feels and how I feel,” Thomas said. “That’s the relationship we have. We changed it up a little bit (in the win over Sacramento) and I’m just happy we got the win.”

In that game, Thomas was replaced by Terry Rozier with 3:20 to play in the quarter and Boston trailing 66-63. He returned to the floor at the 8:31 mark and the Celtics were down 76-74.

“The key is, there are some times where you feel like those last few minutes of the third quarter will be real important moving forward,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “Especially based on how your team is playing. And you just have to make that decision. You have to make that decision, you take him out early in the third like we did (against Sacramento) and put him back in earlier; or play him through until the two or one-minute mark in the third, and then give him his rest up until the seven or six. Either way, we’ve talked about it like I do with all our guys, especially the guys that are playing and big in the rotation.

Stevens would love to come up with a game plan and stick to it with little to no changes being made.

But the NBA game is unpredictable and his job as the head coach is to make the necessary on-the-fly changes that best position the Celtics for victory.

“Ultimately there will be days that it will be very consistent and there might be a time or two where I’m gonna go with my gut,” Stevens said. “They know that and we’ve talked about it.”

And while Stevens’ decision may not sit well with some, players understand it’s all done to achieve one goal – win. 

“There’s a number of reasons why you make a decision to leave someone in or take someone out,” Stevens said. “Ultimately, we have to figure out game to game, moment to moment, what’s best for our team. That’s what I’m charged with. That doesn’t mean I’m always right. I’m not gonna act like that. Ultimately, those guys know I’m thinking about it all the time.”