Rivers: Celtics need Rondo to be an 'aggressive scorer'


Rivers: Celtics need Rondo to be an 'aggressive scorer'

BOSTON Courtesy of a hip injury suffered last week, Rajon Rondo's availability wasn't known until shortly before Wednesday's tip-off against Memphis. 
He finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 assists, but that performance -- like so many this season -- was not enough as the Celtics suffered a 93-83 loss to extend their season long losing streak to four in a row. 
Rondo is already charged with orchestrating the C's attack, one that Celtics coach Doc Rivers was pleased with at the start of Wednesday's game. 
Boston led 26-25 after the first quarter, which was the C's first lead after a quarter of play since they defeated Brooklyn on Christmas Day.
But many of the things Rondo did well in the first didn't necessarily translate throughout the rest of the game. 
"With the way we were not scoring," Rivers said, "and you could see Kevin (Garnett) struggle today with his shot, we really need him to be more aggressive in our pick-and-roll package, in our offense."
While Rondo has embraced the role of being more of a scorer this season, Rivers needs him to pick it up even more on nights like Wednesday when the C's offense seems to be stuck in neutral.
"And that's not second-nature to him, to be an aggressive scorer," Rivers said. "But we really need him to be that. We need him to get in the open court, attack the basket, look for baskets in transition instead of guys shooting 3s that aren't going in."
While Rondo refuses to acknowledge it, the injury has clearly limited his effectiveness at both ends of the floor. 
Defensively he has been beaten repeatedly off the dribble. And on offense, he doesn't attack the basket nearly as much which might also be because more often than not, his drive attempts rarely result in fouls against the other team even when contact is made. 
"I just didn't get the calls tonight," Rondo said.
And as far as the injury impacting his play, Rondo said, "I'm out there playing. I don't really blame anything on my injury."

Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace


Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team


Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection


Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

With New England Patriots organized workouts finished until next month, Phil Perry puts together another 53-man roster projection.

View the gallery here