Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

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Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

From Comcast SportsNet
SUGAR LAND, Texas (AP) -- Hours after Roger Clemens agreed to join the Sugar Land Skeeters, he was back on the field playing in an over-50 softball league. And the ultra-competitive Clemens, now a half-century old, was quick to point out just how well he did against that group of geezers. "I hit two homers, by the way," he said. Things will be a bit tougher on Saturday when he is scheduled to start for the independent Atlantic League team at home against Bridgeport. The right-hander agreed to play for the team on Monday and was introduced on Tuesday. Whether this all leads to Clemens pitching in the major leagues -- the seven-time Cy Young Award winner played that down, conceding he's nowhere near big league pitching shape. "I'm 50 years old. We're just going to go out and have fun with this and make it fun for the fans," said Clemens, who has a touch of gray stubble on his chin but still sports a shock of blond highlights in his hair. Clemens didn't understand all the rules of his old-man softball league at first. When he hit his first home run and dashed to first base, his teammates told him to stop. He thought it was because home runs weren't allowed. It turned out that the over-50 set doesn't see the need to run all of the bases on a homer. "I really play in that league for the exercise and the fun," he said. He laughed off questions about playing professionally at an age when he qualifies for an AARP card. "I hope nothing breaks and I hope I don't pull anything," a still fit-looking Clemens said. Some believe his return to the minor leagues is the first step to another comeback in the major leagues, where he last pitched for the New York Yankees in 2007 at age 45. Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters late this year. If he plays in a major league game this year, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years. He isn't sure how he'll be perceived by voters when his name appears on the ballot. "Sure, the Hall of Fame is great, I've told people that. But it's not going to change my life either way," he said. "But if there's something there that somebody feels like they have a grudge or want to hold something against you, I can't control that one bit." Clemens said thinking about a big league comeback is premature. He dismissed the theory that the minor league appearance was a step on the path to a big league return. "I've been to the major leagues and back a couple of times," he said. "I've retired and unretired, so I wouldn't consider thinking that far ahead. I'm just going to try to get through Saturday. I think I can compete a little bit." A return at his age wouldn't be all that outlandish, considering that Jamie Moyer returned from elbow ligament replacement surgery to start for the Colorado Rockies this season. Clemens chuckled when asked about Moyer. "People are trying to ingrain that in my mind that 50 is now the new 40," he said. "But I'm not buying it because I'm still having to pack myself in a lot of ice." He says he talks to new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane often but that he has not talked about pitching for the Astros and that he doesn't see that happening. He isn't committing to playing more than one game for the Skeeters, who play in a Houston suburb, saying he wants to see how Saturday goes first. Clemens was accused by former personal trainer Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball of using steroids and HGH, allegations Clemens denied before Congress. The Justice Department began an investigation concerning whether Clemens had lied under oath, and in 2010 a grand jury indicted him on two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress. He was acquitted of all the charges on June 19 after a 10-week trial and has largely stayed out of the public spotlight until now. He's glad to be talking about baseball again instead of that difficult chapter in his life. "Everybody has their own opinion and they dwell on that so much," he said. "In between all of that, handling that business up there and doing what was right for me and my family and taking that head on, I was still doing the work that I've always done. So it wasn't gloomy or depressing." Clemens had two great seasons with the Astros after he turned 40, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 to win his record seventh Cy Young Award. He was 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005. Tal Smith, a longtime former Astros executive who is now a special advisor to the Skeeters, is one person who wouldn't be surprised if Clemens made a comeback in the majors. "Knowing Roger and how competitive he is and what great shape he is in, and the fact that Jamie Moyer pitched close to 50 and Nolan Ryan pitched well into his late 40s, if anybody can do it, Roger Clemens can do it," he said. Clemens earned about 160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most and he was named to 11 All-Star games. Now he will see what he has left for the Skeeters that have a roster which includes former major league pitchers Tim Redding and Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, a teammate of Clemens' on Houston's 2005 World Series team. Smith believes this is a great opportunity for Clemens and he thinks it could change some opinions as a possible Hall of Fame vote approaches. "I hope this helps," Smith said. "I think voters should remember that he's been acquitted of all charged and that he never tested positive. I hope this story dies down in future years." Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about this since April. But he received another push toward the field early this summer when he visited Dr. James Andrews in Florida for a checkup. "He said: The MRI looked great. Your shoulder looks like you're 30. You should go pitch -- just kidding,'" Clemens said Andrews told him. It was then that he started thinking he could actually play for the Skeeters. After throwing for the team on Monday, where his fastball was clocked at 87, the multimillionaire got himself a new gig. "We're going to have fun with this and see if I can get through a few innings without Gary having to go to the bullpen, and we'll see where it goes from there," Clemens said. Smith takes issue with those who think this is simply a media stunt. He said that the Skeeters regularly sell out Saturday night games and that there were only 500 tickets available for this Saturday's game before Clemens was signed. "I can understand why he's doing it," Smith said. "He loves baseball. He love the competition. Baseball has been his life and there's no reason he shouldn't try to continue it. If he's successful it just adds to his legend, and if he's not, it was fun."

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

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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

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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.

STARS

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.

STUDS

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.

DUDS

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.