Celtics battling back after another slow start

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Celtics battling back after another slow start

ATLANTA A new season, a new hole for the Celtics to dig themselves out of.

While the reasons have varied as to why the C's have had their annual slow start, there's no denying that it has become a pattern.

Now with the momentum that comes with back-to-back defensive-fueled victories, the Celtics have a feeling that they are indeed on the verge of turning the corner on their season just like they did a year ago.

Heck, they even have an identical 16-17 record as last season's squad at this point, a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and came within a game of knocking off eventual NBA champion Miami Heat.

"Last year, it wasn't like we were trying to get in a rut so we could fight our way out of it," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "We just were in one. And we made a couple changes and it worked."

The most significant shift made by last year's group was the decision by Rivers to make Kevin Garnett the team's primary center.

Garnett in the middle created a matchup problem for opposing teams, and that created a major boost for the Celtics when it came to winning games.

After muddling around .500, the C's were an impressive 20-8 after the all-star break.

This season's most significant move thus far has been Doc Rivers' decision to revert back to the lineup he had to close out last season which included Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass starting games along with Boston's Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

That unit has two starts this season -- both wins.

And barring injuries, it's unlikely that Rivers will tinker with that group for the remainder of this season.

Bradley's recovery slowed the process of Rivers reverting back to his most successful lineup. But that was just one of the many challenges he has faced in molding together a team that looks and plays differently than last year's club.

"This year, we brought in a lot of new players," Rivers said. "I don't think people understand it. People say Rondo, Kevin and Paul and think it's the same team. It's not. It's a completely different team. It takes time. It's taken longer than I would like."

But it's coming together, slowly but surely.

"We just have to keep playing hard, playing together," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "That's what the Celtics are about. That's what we did last year and that's what we're starting to do a better job of right now."

Rodney Harrison apologizes for saying Kaepernick is ‘not black’

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Rodney Harrison apologizes for saying Kaepernick is ‘not black’

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison apologized on Twitter for saying Colin Kaepernick wasn’t black after saying in an earlier radio interview that the 49ers quarterback wouldn’t understand the discrimination people of color face every day.

“I’m a black man, and Colin Kaepernick, he’s not black,” Harrison told a Houston radio station. “He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people or people of color face on a every single [day] basis when you walk in the grocery store, and you might have two or three thousand dollars in your pocket and you go up into a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you’re about to steal something. I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.”

Kapernick, who ignited a controversy when he refused to stand for the national anthem before a preseason game to protest racial injustice, is biracial. His birth mother is white and he was adopted by white parents.

Harrison, now an NFL analyst for NBC Sports, later tweeted the following: 

 

 

 

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

BOSTON - With one quick flick of his wrists Monday night, Mookie Betts drove a pitch into the Monster Seats, marking his 30th homer of the season.

The homer put Betts into exclusive company in team history. Only two others before him -- Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro -- had ever reached the 30-homer milestone before turning 24. 

It's a reasonable assumption that, with five weeks still to play in the regular season, Betts will more than double his home run total (17) from last year, a remarkable jump.    

More to the point, Betts wasn't projected as a power hitter. In 2011 and 2012, Betts played the first 72 games of his pro career career without hitting a single homer. 

The power began to manifest itself somewhat the following year when he belted 15 homers between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem, but still, few envisioned that Betts would show this kind of power at the major league level.

He was athletic, with extra-base capability, and speed. But a 30-home run hitter? That wasn't in the cards.

"That's pretty cool, hitting 30,” allowed Betts after the Red Sox' 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. "But that's not the reason we play.''

 For several minutes, Betts did his best to deflect questions about his milestone, consistently emphasizing team goals "first and foremost” over his own personal achievements.

"Trying to affect the game in some form or fashion,” he shrugged. "We're in a race right now and that's way more important[than individual stats].”

Still, Betts himself acknowledged that his homer total has come as something of a revelation.

"I definitely wasn't expecting [this kind of] power,'' he said. "But I'll take it while it's here.''

Maybe the power explosion shouldn't come as a shock, however. Betts has always demonstrated exceptional strength and fast reflexes, exhibiting the sort of "quick-twitch'' athleticism that make scouts drool.

He's improved his pitch selection and recognition, and it surely hasn't hurt to be part of a powerful Red Sox lineup that currently has him hitting behind David Ortiz and in front of Hanley Ramirez.

"Experience...knowing when and when not to turn on balls,” Betts explained further. "There's a whole bunch of things that kind of go into it.”

As he's gained confidence, Betts now picks certain counts where he allows himself to take bigger swings, though he's careful to  point out that he's not ever trying to hit homers.

"Not necessarily trying to hit a home run,'' he offered, "but trying to drive [the ball]. Those things come with experience and knowing when and when not to. I'm not trying to hit a home run. They just kind of come.''

In this, just his second full season in the big leagues, they're coming more and more frequently -- whether anyone expected it or not.

     

Brady believes Patriots will have plenty of emotion, energy without him

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Brady believes Patriots will have plenty of emotion, energy without him

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady has been an emotional leader for the Patriots since he took over the starting quarterback's gig back in 2001. He leads the team out onto the field. He screams and yells and holds his teammates accountable and generally plays with a level of passion that borders on hysteria. 

Brady was asked how the Patriots might cope without him for the first four weeks of the regular season.

"We’ve got a lot of great leaders on this team," he said. "The veterans, I think we’ve got like -- we’ve got a lot of really good players, a lot of really good leaders. I think we’ve always done a good job cultivating guys to step in and fill the void. I think we’ll do a great job with that. Between our coaches and our players, we’ve got a lot of great leaders, so I’m very confident in that. We’ll go out and play with a lot of energy and emotion that we always do."

The last time the Patriots went without Brady for an extended period of time was in 2008 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Brady explained that during that stretch, he wasn't able to expend much energy watching games because he was so focused on getting well. This time, he hopes to return to the team with an improved perspective on his job.

"It will be tough to watch, but it will be fun to watch in some ways to see what it looks like when you’re not there," Brady said. "That’s a different perspective. Hopefully I can use that perspective and then come back with better perspective saying, ‘Wow, I really noticed some things that maybe I wouldn’t have seen had I been there.’ So that’s kind of what I’m going to try to do."