Felger: Things not what they used to be


Felger: Things not what they used to be

By Michael Felger

A handful of quickies for you on a summer Tuesday:

The two big quotes to come out of the Tom Brady contract discussion last week were Brady's statement that he didn't want to express his personal feelings "with anyone other than a few people'' because "it doesn't help this organization,'' and Robert Kraft's insistence that Brady is going to remain a Patriot "one way or the other.''

The Brady comment constitutes the high road.

The Kraft quote? Not so much.

In fact, it sounded more or less like a threat, since the only way Brady will remain under team control short of a contract extension is through the franchise tag. My buddy Tom E. Curran called the comment "unseemly," which is one way to put it.

I don't know exactly what the word is, but it didn't feel right.

I have no problem with the Sox not reaching for a deadline trade that would have required them giving up a real prospect. The Sox are rightly leery of such deals, and you need look no further than what you saw over the weekend for the reason. It was just a few years ago that the Texas Rangers were asking for Clay Buchholz in return for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Sox passed, of course, and now they have both after giving up lesser pieces for the caching prospect on Saturday. Buchholz, as we all know, was again stellar on Sunday and has been their best pitcher over the past year.

So the Sox didn't want to dip into the farm. No problem. What, then, was the excuse for passing on Kerry Wood? Do we need to give this guy credit for providing the answer three weeks ago?

Considering that Bill Belichick said late last season that Derrick Burgess was as good of a run-pass combination outside linebacker as hes had in New England (better, presumably, than Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin), the news that Burgess is pondering retirement should be treated as a major development, right?

Well, not exactly. It was obvious at the time that the Belichick comments were CYA in nature. The Pats had given up a third-rounder for the veteran end last August and he clearly didn't deliver on the investment. So Belichick was selling. Fine.

But here's the scary part: For all his faults, Burgess just may be the best the Pats have at this time. The top four players at outside linebacker currently listed on the depth chart are Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods. Yikes.

Its official. Jonathan Papelbon is no longer an elite closer. At least not this season. He may return to that status next year, but in 2010 hes no longer among the best. Thats just a fact.

The only closer stat that I believe matters, save percentage, tells the story. Of the 12 American League closers who have at least 20 save opportunities, Papelbon ranks 11th at 82.7 percent (24-of-29). The only guy he beats is the woeful David Aardsma in Seattle (18-of-22; 81.8 percent). Papelbon's five blown saves are the most in the American League.

For the first time in his career, Papelbon has become just another guy.

There are apparently folks in the Bruins hierarchy who like forward Blake Wheeler. I'm not sure why.

There are certain skills that are attainable in hockey and things you can improve on over time. But I dont know if toughness is one of them. Either you have a nose for the crease or you dont and Wheeler never has.

His 2.2 million arbitration award was hardly exorbitant, but it still means that Peter Chiarelli is either going to have to buy somebody out (Michael Ryder?), ship somebody down to Providence (Ryder?) or pull off another trade (Marc Savard?) to get under the salary cap. Call me crazy, but I would have gotten under the cap by moving on from Wheeler.

Email Felger HERE andstand by for the next installment of the mailbag on Aug. 12. Felgerwill post another column early next week. Listen to him on the radioweekdays, 2-6, p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings


NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings

For so many years the NFL has had an almost impenetrable veneer in the way it has successfully pivoted away from a myriad of scandals that would have at the very least delivered a significant, noticeable blow to most professional leagues.

But that Teflon-tough image has taken a whacking of late with the league dealing with what has been for the most part an across-the-board ratings dip in its programming.

The NFL’s slide comes at a time when the NBA seems to be on a upward surge in terms of interest and ratings.

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City and play for Golden State is a needle-mover across the NBA landscape. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to defend their NBA title – a phrase no one thought they would ever hear even when James signed on for a second tour of duty – will certainly generate tons of interest.

The Boston Celtics added Al Horford to a team that many believe will be among Cleveland’s stiffest challengers, in addition to being a team that has played Golden State as well as anyone the last couple of years.

There are many hands responsible for the NBA having such a strong position on the professional sports landscape, chief among them being former commissioner David Stern.

He was in town last week as part of the Shamrock Foundation’s annual Gala.

Stern gave a rundown of what he’s been up to since passing the commissioner’s torch to Adam Silver.

He said he has been a senior advisor to a venture capital firm, counsels several start-up companies and of course a senior advisor to the NBA.

But it’s what he’s not doing – negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union – that seemed to bring him the most joy.

“That’s when I got the least amount of sleep,” quipped Stern.

But those sleep-deprived marathon sessions with owners and union leaders, have helped bring the league to where it is today – thriving with its players and the profits both seem to be reaping.

That’s why the reports of the NBA and the player’s union being close to coming to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, make a lot of sense. The NBA or the player’s union can opt-out of the current CBA prior to Dec. 15, although that’s looking less likely to happen because of what should be a new deal that better reflects the economic changes that currently exist in the NBA.

This past summer saw the salary cap in the NBA balloon to $94.14 million after having been $70 million for the 2015-2016 season.

With both NBA players and owners profiting significantly from the new TV deal, most of the changes to come about (paying players on the rookie scale more money; increasing the dollar amounts for veteran’s minimum and team exception contracts) are just common sense rule changes that have both sides closer to getting something done sooner rather than later.

And while he’s not directly involved in any of the current dealings, what he accomplished prior to retiring as commissioner certainly laid the groundwork for what appears to be a relatively smooth negotiation period.

“I didn’t project anything other than I was leaving it in the most spectacular of hands with an All-Star executive cast and they would just do what’s right for the league and they have,” Stern said.

And as far as the current talks that have reportedly been ongoing for months, Stern understands all too well that the last CBA talks which led to a shortened, 66-game season led to changes that has both players and owners feeling better about current negotiations.

“I’m proud to say the league has gotten to a very good place in terms of the player’s share, the owner’s share and where they can all see this is something that pays to keep going,” Stern said. “It’s fun to watch from a distance and not be involved.”



So much for that logjam in the frontcourt for the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest big man to go down with an injury is Nerlens Noel who recently had “minor” surgery on his left knee that will sideline him for reportedly three-to-five weeks. Keep in mind that the Everett, Mass. native missed his entire rookie season following left knee surgery, although the Sixers indicate this was an arthroscopic procedure and is considered minor. He joins No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons who suffered a foot injury that’s expected to keep him out until at least January. That means a lot of the trade rumors involving Noel (and Jahlil Okafor to a certain extent too) should cool off for a little bit.



Signing with Toronto during the offseason was supposed to be Jared Sullinger's chance at a fresh start. Unfortunately for him, things are looking a lot like they did in his early days in Boston. Concerns about his back dropped his draft-day stock from a likely lottery (top-14) pick, to falling in the Celtics' lap at No. 21. During his rookie season, he played well but had to have season-ending back surgery. With the Raptors, it appears he will miss some time early on due to a foot injury that occurred in the team's first preseason game which has kept him out of action ever since.  

“May be a little while before he comes back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters recently. “He may get checked out just to see what else is going on.”

Sullinger’s weight was an issue during his time with the Celtics. It’s unclear what impact if any, it had on his current injury or whether it’s a factor in the injury keeping him out indefinitely. 



We have seen Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) in lots of different basketball roles from hitting big shots to just hitting people.

But as a coach? That is reportedly being discussed by the Los Angeles Lakers brass as they try to trim their training camp roster down to 15 players.

MWP is likely on the outside of the 15-man roster now, but the Lakers still want him to be part of the organization. While it may seem a bit of a stretch at first, he does bring a wealth of basketball experience to the table, a player how has seen the highs and lows of the game in a way few players can fully understand or speak about with a great amount of credibility.



The LaMarcus Aldridge trade talk will be one of the storylines this NBA season. The Boston Celtics will continue to be discussed as a possibility, but the team to watch is the Phoenix Suns. They came close to convincing him when he left Portland for San Antonio. Phoenix provides him a team that can be built around him (which he wants), lots of shots (which he wants) and a team with no pressure on his back to lead them to major success (yup, he wants that too). … Michael Carter Williams’ stock seems to continue to tumble after winning the league’s rookie of the Year award. He’s going into his fourth season and he’s already on to his third team. … Multiple league executives believe Devin Booker is the best 20-and-under player in the NBA right now. He's good, but I'd probably take Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.