Hockey legend fighting battle with dementia

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Hockey legend fighting battle with dementia

From Comcast SportsNet
At 83, Mr. Hockey is still in demand and on the move. Gordie Howe is about to embark on another series of fundraisers to support dementia research. It's a personal cause. The disease killed his wife, Colleen, in 2009 and is beginning to affect him. "He's a little bit worse than last year, but pretty close to about the same," son Marty said. "He just loses a little bit more, grasping for words. "The worst part of this disease is there's nothing you can do about it." While the long-term effects of concussions have been very much in the news lately, the family is hesitant to link the Hall of Famer's condition to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease typically found in autopsies of people who have had multiple head injuries, including more than a dozen former NFL and NHL players. Concussions weren't tracked when Howe played, so it is impossible to know how many he sustained. And he didn't start showing signs of dementia until his late 70s. "I don't think anybody can really answer that question," Marty said of a connection to CTE. "He went for so long without any symptoms whatsoever. You don't have to be an athlete or in contact sports to get dementia." Howe's dementia is currently mild and his family members haven't sought a diagnosis of exactly what kind he has. They did that with Colleen, who died at 76 of Pick's disease. The rare form of dementia is marked by changes in mood, behavior and personality, followed by memory loss similar to that experienced in Alzheimer's. Another son, Murray, a radiologist, says his father's symptoms don't fit either Alzheimer's or Pick's. "He has what we call mild cognitive impairment," Murray said. "His brain power is not what it used to be. In terms of the prognosis and diagnosis, it's still wide open." Howe has short-term memory loss, difficulty speaking and some confusion in the evening when the sun goes down. The latter, called "sundowning," occurs in people with dementia, although the cause is unclear. "He's always worse in the evening," Marty said. "It's like when the sun goes down, something flips the switch." But Howe's personality hasn't changed and he continues to recognize his family and friends. Howe's stamina and power were legendary during his 33 seasons of pro hockey. Physically, he's doing well for a man about to turn 84 in March. His sons say Howe likes to do household chores and go fishing, one of his favorite pastimes. "He's still Mr. Hockey and that's what is so great because he's just such a pleasure to have around," Murray said. "He'll wake up first thing in the morning and there's a bunch of leaves outside and he'll rake for three hours. He's so pleasant and upbeat. "When he first started showing signs of memory loss, we were concerned it was Alzheimer's and it was just going to go downhill." It's possible Howe's dementia is vascular in nature. He suffered from heart disease later in his life and required the implantation of a coronary stent about a decade ago. "He's had a couple episodes of getting faint or passing out around that time," Murray recalled. "It's possible he had a couple of mini-strokes that picked off some of the parts of his brain that you need to be able to retain short-term memory. That's my theory and what his family physician is thinking." Howe had episodes of forgetfulness about six years ago while caring for his wife. The Howe children recognized the signs they'd previously seen in their mother. The hockey great also was tired and not looking after himself, which made his condition worse. A program of regular physical activity has helped him combat his dementia. "He can easily walk four miles on very hilly terrain without a problem," Murray said. "When he first came to us, he couldn't walk 100 yards up a slight incline without having to stop because of chest pains. It was a complete turnaround for him." After Colleen Howe's death, the Howes were approached by the Toronto health organization Baycrest to put Gordie Howe's face on a fundraising campaign for Alzheimer's. Affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest specializes in mental diseases of the elderly. Howe, accompanied by Marty, makes public appearances at an annual series of Scotiabank Pro-Am hockey tournaments across Canada. More than 16 million has been raised by the Gordie and Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer's. Howe is scheduled to attend a Canucks game in Vancouver on Thursday night to promote a Scotiabank Pro-Am in that city later this year. Marty says his father plans to help kick off the same tournaments in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto this spring. He also will also attend a news conference Thursday afternoon in advance of a tribute in his honor at Friday's Vancouver Giants game. Howe has his photo taken with fans and signs autographs under Marty's watchful eye at the events. A speech isn't an option anymore. Fatigue tends to exacerbate Howe's condition and Marty doesn't want his father feeling strained. "If you see him now, obviously you can kind of tell he's not firing on all cylinders," Marty says. "Most people see Gordie and they're just happy Gordie is talking to them." Marty was alarmed by a decline in his father's condition before an appearance in Calgary last year, but didn't want his condition made public until the family had a better handle on his condition. "For people who are dealing with this, you have to have a sense of humor," he said. "Nobody wants to see their family members go through this. It gets harder. Towards the end, it's really no quality of life whatsoever. Pretty depressing, but you have to find the humor in some of it. Otherwise, it will kill you, too." Marty and Murray are just grateful the dementia hasn't changed their father's personality or attitude so far. "We're enjoying the times we have now," Marty said.

Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

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Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics moved one step closer towards trimming down its overcrowded roster with the waiving of John Holland.

The 27-year-old would have gone into training camp with a very slim shot at making the roster. He signed a two-year deal that would have been worth $874,636 for the 2016-2017 season.

However, the contract was non-guaranteed and would have more than likely been used as part of a potential trade.

But no such deal materialized.

So rather than have the 6-foot-5 guard/forward in training camp with the odds heavily stacked against him making the team, Boston waived him now so that he has enough time to either go to training camp with another NBA team or sign with a team overseas.

Holland, who starred at Boston University, has already played overseas in France, Spain and Turkey in addition to having played with the Development League’s Canton Charge last season.

He played in one game for the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics now have 18 players in training camp, 16 of which have guaranteed contracts.

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

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LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.

"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."

LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.

The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.

"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.

"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.

"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.

"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.

"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."

Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown voted most athletic by fellow rookies

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown voted most athletic by fellow rookies

The NBA’s 38 rookies had their annual photo shoot and were polled by NBA.com with a couple of questions about their class. When asked which rookie was the most athletic among them, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 pick overall last June, won in a landslide.

Here are the results of that question:  

1. Jaylen Brown, Boston -- 38.7%

2. Brice Johnson, L.A. Clippers -- 16.1%

3. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix -- 9.7%

T-4. Malik Beasley, Denver -- 6.5%

Kay Felder, Cleveland -- 6.5%

Gary Payton II, Houston -- 6.5%

Providence guard Kris Dunn, No. 5 pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the freshman class’ pick to win rookie of the year honors, with 29 percent of the vote, followed by No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram of the Lakers and No. 1 pick Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Click here for the complete poll.