Red Sox 'excited' to have Drew


Red Sox 'excited' to have Drew

The Red Sox announced the signing of shortstop Stephen Drew on Wednesday afternoon, after the two sides had agreed to a one-year, 9.5 million deal last week. Drew, who turns 30 in March, is the younger brother of former Sox right fielder J.D. Drew. He was a first-round (15th overall) pick of the Diamondbacks  in 2004 out of Florida State. In seven big league seasons, he is a career .265 hitter, with a .328 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage. He has a career .978 fielding percentage. Drew was limited to a total of 159 games in 2011-2012 after breaking his ankle on July 20, 2011, when he was thrown out sliding into the plate against the Brewers. He did not get back onto the field until June 27. In 2012, Drew appeared in a combined 79 games between Arizona and Oakland, which acquired him in a trade Aug. 20. He hit .223, with a .309 on-base percentage, and .348 slugging percentage, all career lows.  In 75 games at shortstop, he posted a .972 fielding percentage, also a career low, off his .978 career average and .984 career best in 2010. Drew had a career-worst 0-for-22 streak at the plate between the Diamondbacks and As. The 79 games were the fewest in his career for a full season, behind only 59 in 2006 when he made his big league debut July 15. The Sox are confident Drew, with a fully recovered ankle, will help the team. He was one of the better every day shortstops in baseball for quite a stretch there and then he had the ankle fracture that he suffered in 2011 and it took the full year to get back out playing, which is understandable. Its a really, really difficult injury, said Sox assistant general manager Brian OHalloran, filling in for general manager Ben Cherington on a Wednesday afternoon conference call. But he played well down the stretch and you saw him helping Oakland in their stretch drive and in the playoffs after the trade. We brought him in for a physical exam and our folks are very pleased with his progress. Its obvious to them how hard he had worked, given the nature of that injury, how hard he had worked to strengthen it and we feel that hes going to be fully healthy for us. Its going to make us a better team. Were excited to have him.
He didnt have spectacular numbers in 2012, but hes going to do the job at shortstop, said one scout when the deal was first reported.  Hes going to be an everyday, make-the-play type of guy. Nothing sensational. I think the big question with him is his bat going to come back. Drew is a left-handed hitter, giving the Sox some more balance to a lineup that was becoming predominantly right-handed. I think with the wall there, he can go the other way, he can take the ball the other way, said the scout.  To a left-handed hitter that wall, that can make guys, if they know how to go the other way with a pitch, that can add 20-30 points to their normal average.  And you dont have to be a power guy to play wall ball. I think hell do fine. He can catch the ball. He can throw it across the infield. Hes a left-handed hitter whos had an average offensive production-type career, and he can take the ball the other way.  So, I think thats a good bet that hes going to have a good year. Stephen Drew will wear No. 7, just as J.D. Drew did in his tenure with the Sox.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow


Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance


Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.


Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.


Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.


Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.