Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

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Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

CHICAGO Bonding on the road during the preseason is one thing.

But in the regular season when the games actually count?

Even better.

That's what the Boston Celtics are taking away from their two-game road trek to the Midwest with wins in Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively.

The victories by themselves were impressive.

But more than that, they gave tangible evidence to each and every player that the effort they put into becoming a better team, a championship-caliber team, is starting to pay off in victories.

Making it even better is that both road wins involved the Celtics having to overcome some type of adversity, whether it was Rajon Rondo having to leave the game briefly in Milwaukee because of a leg injury or Brandon Bass suffering a dislocated right ring finger injury on the way to his most complete game of the season.

"I definitely think adversity on the the road is good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "This is a competitive group of guys and they want to find a way to win."

And they want to do it the Celtics way, which involves being a defensive team first.

It's still relatively early in the season, but Boston's defense has stood out - and not in a good way.

Boston is giving up 98.9 points per game which ranks 20th in the NBA. Teams have been able to break them down repeatedly with dribble-penetration that far too often resulted in easy baskets and easy assists which is evident by the Celtics opponents averaging 23.9 assists per game which ranks 28th (out of 30 NBA teams) in the league.

However, the Celtics and their problems defensively took the weekend off and were instead replaced by an improving brand of defensive-minded basketball that's not quite as good as past Celtics teams defensively - but definitely trending in that direction.

Indeed, Boston's defense played a pivotal role on the path towards victory in Saturday's victory over the Bucks as well as Monday's 101-95 win over the Bulls.

Boston's defense was especially impressive down the stretch in both games.

In Milwaukee, the Celtics limited the Bucks to just 36.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter while connecting on 54.5 percent of their shots during that same span. In addition, the C's didn't commit a single turnover in the fourth quarter.

On Monday, Boston led the Bulls the entire game but saw their comfortable lead become kind of cramped in the game's final minutes.

After Joakim Noah scored on a lay-up with 3:33 to play to cut Boston's lead to 91-88, the Bulls would only make one more field goal the rest of the game. During that final 3:33, Boston had three baskets - two lob dunks by Kevin Garnett and another dunk by Brandon Bass.

Strong play at both ends of the floor in the game's closing moments was just what the Celtics needed to rack up a couple of important road wins.

But even before the Celtics left town, Paul Pierce talked up the benefits for him and his teammates of hitting the road for multiple games for the first time this season.

"It gives guys a chance to get together and to talk about problems and other situations," Pierce said. "It can be the start of something special and begin to develop a chemistry between us all."

Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

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Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

Major League Baseball is reportedly set to release more PED testing results, but Mike Felger is growing increasingly more confident in the fact that David Ortiz is clean. He's passing all the tests, isn't he?

Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

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Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus joined the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss new Ravens draftee Keenan Reynolds, a record-setting quarterback during his career at the Naval Academy. In so doing, Mabus hit on the uncertain status of Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona. 

"Right now we do have a process," Mabus said. "It hasn't got up to me yet to [decide on whether or not Reynolds will be eligible to play], but there are a lot of paths to both play and to serve. 

"We've got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played . . . last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. Now he's been assigned to a ship, and he's going to report to that ship. He may have to leave the Patriots for a year or so to go fulfill that roll."

The playing status for individuals like Reynolds and Cardona is always somewhat uncertain given their commitment. Last season, Cardona was able to serve by working at the Naval Preparatory Academy during his time away from the Patriots facilities. Once his rookie season ended, he headed back to the Newport, Rhode Island-based school to work full-time and help mentor students there. 

Cardona was scheduled to make his way to Norfolk, Virginia later in the offseason and live there for about two months to participate in the Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which was required before he could report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he was scheduled to travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said back in January following New England's loss to Denver in the AFC title game, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Cardona has long maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his top priority. Should his duties on the USS Zumwalt interfere with his long-snapping work with the Patriots, he could realistically sit out for the season. 

The Patriots signed veteran long-snapper Christian Yount earlier this offseason in a move that reminded those following the team that Cardona is not guaranteed to be available for 2016. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has long-snapped in the past and typically serves as the team's emergency snapper. 

Cardona was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and played in all 16 regular-season games and two postseason games for the Patriots last season.