A heckler's guide to the Spurs

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A heckler's guide to the Spurs

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Its been three-and-a-half seasons now since the Celtics regained their NBA relevancy, and in that time theyve birthed more rivalries than Shaq has nicknames.

There's the Lakers (of course), the Pistons, Hawks, Magic, Cavs, Bulls, Bucks, Knicks and Heat, just to name a ton. Basically, since the day KG made the move from Minnesota, half the league has at one point considered themselves Celtic rivals. Its apparently the cool thing to do. Or maybe they just bring that out in people. Or maybe . . . I dont know.

But I do know that when making out that excessive list, you cant include the Spurs and thats disappointing, if not completely understandable.

On one hand, what are you going to do?

They play in different conferences. They only play twice a year, and even then, youre lucky if theres one game where both are at full strength. When you talk about the Celtics and Spurs, you talk about the NBAs Uta Pippigs (but far more sanitary); two teams who couldnt be more cognizant of the fact its a marathon, not a sprint. And while they constantly downplay the significance of the regular season, thats the only time they ever play. They make it hard to really get excited. Two teams pacing themselves against each other . . . lets get it!

For last few seasons, its felt like the Spurs were competing in some parallel NBA universe. Theyve been a team Boston fans have respected from afar, but never really feared. Regardless of their championship pedigree, and consistent success, the Spurs were never the team the city of Boston envisioned at the end of the road. It was never, Man, I hope they have enough to beat the Spurs this year. Weve kind of had tunnel vision in that respect, so in turn, CelticsSpurs never took on that extra special meaning; or at least not to the level of most teams of their caliber.

San Antonio and Cs have been like two wily, old great white sharks patrolling the same ocean. Their paths have crossed a few times. On occasion, theyve maybe even bumped heads. But theyve never faced off when theyre both starving for a meal as a seal swims by. As a result, their games sometimes lack that extra edge; they almost give off the vibe of a friendly between two esteemed European soccer clubs. More of an NBA exhibition. A showcase of two of the leagues more refined and presentable teams. The kind of game that shows up on national Sunday afternoon broadcasts. Sundays are PG-13 at best. Rivalries arent built on Sunday afternoons. And this one never was.

CelticsSpurs? Yeah, I get it. It makes complete sense.

But still, against all odds as opposed to the flash-in-the-pan Hawks, Bucks and Knicks rivalries that have haunted this team this is a rivalry that would be worth rooting for.

Between Garnett and Duncan, Rondo and Parker, the age and the defense, the PopovichRivers chess match and the recent history that would be at stake, this would an NBA Finals worth rooting for. And all things considered with the way each team has played, combined with the problems in L.A., the unproven big-game capabilities of Miami, the changing of the guard in Orlando, Caron Butler going down in Dallas and the Thunder still being a year away this really could be the year that it happens. The year Celtics vs. Spurs finally means something.

(Obviously, this whole columnseason rides on how Kevin Garnett comes back from his muscle strain. But for the sake of conversation lets just assume KG is 100 percent in the playoffs)

Of course, this seasons still very young, and no one knows that more than the Celtics and Spurs. But tonights game could very well be the first step in a season long collision course for these wiley, old great whites and Boston needs to be prepared.

If the Celtics and San Antonio are going to take this to the next level, so are the fans.

With that, and a little research, I rounded up some heckleworthy information on Los Spurs; a cheat sheet to cheap shots, if you will.

Please use with caution and please dont take them too seriously.

DeJuan Blair:

Reason to hate: Has done more with zero ACLs than youll ever do with two.

Embarrassing truth: Actually scored a basket for the Celtics last season.

How to get him: Every time he grabs a rebound, offensive or defense, start screaming, Go back up with it! At some point, hell get confused.

Tim Duncan:

Reason to hate: Set the Celtics organization back 10 years.

Embarrassing truth: Has admitted to an intense fear of sharks

How to get him: Jerry Tarkanian costume.

Matt Bonner:
Reason to hate: Will make your heart ache for Scal; was once tossed from a game for an altercation with poor, defenseless Kevin Garnett.

Embarrassing truth: He has a legendary obsession with sandwiches. Check out this blog

How to Heckle: Make the Garden bread free. Pitas, wraps and pockets only. To force Bonner to perform in a stadium void of sandwiches is to ask the impossible.

Manu Ginobili
Reason to hate: The FLOP

Embarrassing truth: Dead ringer for a bald Balki Bartokomous

How to get him: Invite your coosin Larry to the game. Also, be ready with a, Get off the floor, Balki! Last flight to Mypos leaves at 10! after he flops.

George Hill

Reason to hate: Colts fan!

Embarrassing truth: Found Internet fame last season when someone leaked naked photos hed taken of himself with camera phone.

How to get him: Odens filled more megabytes! Odens filled more megabytes!

Richard Jefferson

Reason to hate: The NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs 2002 and 2003

Embarrassing truth: Famously canceled his wedding, over e-mail, a week before the date

How to get him: Right before hes about to take a foul shout, lay a glass underneath some napkins and stomp on it. Lechaim! (Jeffersons Jewish, right?)

Tony Parker

Reason to hate: Spent three years married to Eva Longoria

Embarassing truth: Screwed things up with Eva Longoria

How to get him: Everyone sitting behind the basket throws on a Rays jersey, You should try Evvvvaaan . . . You should try Evvvvaaan . . .

And the Celtics should try winning. And thankfully, unlike last year, you can be 100 percent sure that they will. And if these two ageless contenders can keep their eyes on the prize and their bodies in one piece for the next few months, we may have a rivalry on our hands.

Thank God, too, because it's been at least 10 minutes since the C's had a new one.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Postcard From Camp, Day 3: Patriots in pads for physical practice

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Postcard From Camp, Day 3: Patriots in pads for physical practice

FOXBORO -- Every day from Patriots training camp, we'll be providing you news and observations from what occurred on the field with Bill Belichick's club. Day 3 of on-the-field work was the first day of work in pads. Here's what we saw...

* The Patriots had a few new absences on Saturday. Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell was not present, nor was rookie defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, who traveled to Nebraska for a friend's funeral. Running back Brandon Bolden was also a new absence. 

Running back Dion Lewis (on the physically unable to perform list) was not present, though other players on PUP (Sebastian Vollmer, Tre' Jackson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Clay Harbor) were around as spectators. Defensive lineman Alan Branch (on the non-football injury list) was also not spotted. Nate Washington, who became ill at the end of the first day of practice, did not participate for the second consecutive day but he was present. 

* Soon after the start of practice, offensive lineman Shaq Mason and running back DJ Foster went to a lower practice field for some conditioning. 

* Guard Jonathan Cooper went down about an hour into practice during a drill where offensive linemen worked on finding their blocking assignments and hit other offensive linemen carrying foam pads. Trainers tended to what appeared to be his right foot or ankle area. He walked slowly off the field with the help of the training staff. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Cooper is battling plantar fascia.

* The first contact drills of camp appeared to focus on the running game. While at one end of the field tight ends and fullback James Develin blocked defensive ends setting the edge, at the other end, corners tried to get by run-blocking receivers. Edge defender Chris Long put a good pop on tight end Bear Pascoe to start the drill. 

* After a set of one-on-ones between receivers, corners and safeties, Tom Brady congratulated Aaron Dobson for an impressive grab. Chris Hogan went airborne to give Dobson a congratulatory bump and Matthew Slater went out of his way to give both Dobson and Hogan a fist-bump. 

* The first good collision of camp came when LeGarrette Blount took a handoff from Tom Brady and ran hard into Jamie Collins. Collins felt the brunt of the impact, but Blount did fall down. One snap later, Dont'a Hightower filled a running lane and pushed rookie guard Joe Thuney back behind the line of scrimmage. Later, during the same drill, Long had another noticeable rep where he set a firm edge and ripped rookie tight end Steven Scheu to the ground. 

* During a kickoff period, Brady and Garoppolo worked a side session with Rob Gronknowski, Martellus Bennett and Aaron Dobson. Nate Washington and Julian Edelman watched closely. 

* During a half-field period, Keshawn Martin had a perfectly-placed deep ball from Jimmy Garoppolo slip through his hands with Justin Coleman in coverage. Martin, who beat Coleman in a one-on-one drill earlier in the day, had a step on his defender but couldn't convert. 

* Joe Thuney stood out as one of the top performers in 1-on-1s between offensive linemen and defensive linemen. He matched up well with Malcom Brown, Frank Kearse and Trey Flowers. Fellow rookie lineman Ted Karras also held his own in that period. 

* Rob Ninkovich looked quick in 1-on-1s. Now in his 11th season, he ripped by Marcus Cannon twice relatively easily. 

* During a non-competitive 7-on-7 hurry-up period, Brady had a pass deflected by a paddle. It was the second straight day Brady had a pass blocked by a ball boy, and he was audibly not happy. Fans may want to rip out the earmuffs next time that happens. 

* Jacoby Brissett was picked off by Vinnie Sunseri later in that non-competitive 7-on-7 drill. 

11-ON-11s

* During 11-on-11s, James Develin put a sound block on Dont'a Hightower to clear a hole for LeGarrette Blount. 

* Garoppolo (who took the first reps), made a high throw to Chris Hogan that was dropped. On that rep, Jabaal Sheard got around Marcus Cannon and would have put a hit on Garoppolo.

* Terrance Knighton showed good mobility down the line of scrimmage to put a thud on James White for no gain.

* Chris Hogan, who had a good day catching the football on Friday, showed up as a blocker at one point Saturday. He sealed off Jordan Richards to open a running lane for Blount. Harper later beat Cyrus Jones over the middle for a diving catch on a Brady throw. Jones made what may be considered a rookie mistake, running by Harper without touching him down while Harper was on the turf. Harper alertly got up and ran for extra yardage. That may be a teaching point for the rookie second-round pick later in meetings. 

* Cre'von LeBlanc came up with a nice pass breakup on a Jacoby Brissett pass to Harper.

* During the 11-on-11 period, Blount fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Ninkovich. Hard to tell who forced the fumble, but Blount was sent for a lap after his turnover. 

* Perhaps the play of the day came on a well-thrown corner route from Brady to Gronkowski. The big tight end reached in the back corner of the end zone, reeled in the pass, and fell to the turf. Patrick Chung, perhaps the team's top defender of tight ends, was in coverage. Brady went out of his way to give Gronkowski an attaboy after the play, which had fans roaring. 

* Malcolm Butler couldn't believe it when Chris Hogan caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone. It looked like Butler had a hand on the ball as Hogan brought it in, but he couldn't knock it out. 

* Call it a draw between the offense and the defense during goal line work. Blount got in the end zone twice for offensive wins. Shea McLellin showed up with a run stuff on the goal line, and Chris Long was held by Bryce Williams on the final rep, giving the defense the win there, in my opinion. 

Phil Perry can be followed on Twitter: @PhilAPerry

Will Dobson finally change the storyline this year?

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Will Dobson finally change the storyline this year?

FOXBORO - Aaron Dobson is like the tide. Hitting a predictable high-water mark around the same time every season then gradually receding to a predictable low.

At least that’s how it’s seemingly gone for the first three seasons of the wideout’s NFL career. In truth, it’s not really been as bleak as we’ve all intimated it to be.

There have been bright spots for the 2013 second-rounder and there is upside to his game. But the combination of injuries, inconsistencies and annual drops into obscurity have obscured the very notion that anything he does between May and August should be taken seriously.

Saturday, Dobson was back at it again with the summertime fun making two terrific early-practice grabs on the first day in pads. That was a continuation of what he put out there in May and June when he looked nothing like the guy who pattycaked so many passes in 2015.

When the team’s key skill players broke off to a separate field midway through practice it was Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and Dobson working out.

Dobson knows the party line on him. He basically summarized what folks feel has been lacking with his game.

“I’m just trying to keep improving and stay consistent and show my teammates that I can stay consistent and dependable,” Dobson told me Friday.

We’ve done the Dobson Propaganda “This may be the year…” piece before. Like last summer when Josh McDaniels gushed about Dobson and we dutifully talked him up. It wasn’t without cause. The guy does things nobody else on the roster at the wideout position can do because of his height and leaping ability.

I asked Dobson if he’s yet shown the best of what he can do.

“I feel like I can play football,” he said. “It’s up to me to show my abilities to everybody. It’s hard to really say. For me, I’m just trying to get out and get better every day, every day, every practice.”

He couldn’t have envisioned this, though. Fourth season and still with some nitwit standing in front of him talking about his football mortality in New England.  

“Going through what I’ve gone through has been difficult but you just have to stay grounded,” he said. “You can’t let it hold you back, you can’t let it keep you down, you can’t worry about the past, you just gotta worry about the future and what I can do to help myself.”

There are things beyond Dobson’s control that have intervened. A stress fracture in his foot in 2013 that bled over into 2014 when surgery was deleted then performed in the spring.

But there are things which seem preventable too that keep arising. Like the number of times Dobson is unable to catch the ball cleanly and double-catches the ball.

I asked him about that.

“You gotta let the ball in,” he said. “Regardless. When it comes to double-catching, you just gotta make the catch, when it comes to you.”

You hear the things he’s said before – all said with a self-deprecating smile. No ego. You see the things he can do in the air. And you think…this year?

Then you watch that drill with Brady and Garoppolo, Bennett and Gronkowski. And throw after throw, when Dobson could either catch the ball out front with his hands or let it come into his chest or cradle it into his stomach, he chooses the latter. The less safe, less polished, easier way to catch.

And you know the coda to this Dobson story like the ones in the past comes with the caveat, “we’ll see…”

Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran

Saturday, July 30: Colorado's Tyson Barrie could become available

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Saturday, July 30: Colorado's Tyson Barrie could become available

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while knowing that “Saturdays are for the boys” no longer exists once you are married with kids…except during glorious bachelor party weekends, which are few and far between.

*Congrats to Patrick Williams, who was named the Ellery Award winner for his great coverage of all things at the AHL level. Well deserved, Pat! 

*A really moving, heartbreaking and also life-affirming tribute from Bobby Ryan to his recently-passed mother after his childhood experience really forged a bond. 

*The Tyson Barrie/Colorado Avalanche arbitration case has a chance to get messy, and that may be a very good thing for teams hoping a D-man suddenly becomes available

*Some great stories about the hockey movies made over the last 30 years including Sudden Death, Mystery Alaska and Slap Shot. 

*Kudos to Gabriel Landeskog, who has joined an organization attempting to advise athletes on recovery from concussions after his scary experiences

*The focus of P.K. Subban’s philanthropy is on the kids, a thing made abundantly clear by his generous pledge to raise $10 million from a Montreal children’s hospital. 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Josh Cooper over at Yahoo! Sports on Murray Craven as a bit of an “Everything Man” for the new Las Vegas expansion franchise. 

*For something completely different: what a great American and Patriot looks like, even if the Republicans and Trump don’t seem to think so.