Rondo awaits word on suspension

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Rondo awaits word on suspension

WALTHAM Rajon Rondo was at Celtics practice on Thursday, seemingly no different than he is at any other practice.

But this was no normal day for Rondo, not less than 24 hours after being ejected in the second quarter of a 95-83 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

Rondo will learn soon as to whether his actions will warrant additional punishment in the form of a suspension.

He spoke with league officials Thursday afternoon to tell his side of the incident involving him and Nets forward Kris Humphries, which eventually spilled into the front row full of fans.

When asked what his gut told him would be the ruling, Rondo responded, "You never know. It's out of my control. Whatever the consequences are, that's what they are."

In all likelihood, Rondo will be hit with a multiple-game suspension for his role in the incident, which came after Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett, who then took a hard spill to the floor.

Rondo, in an act of sticking up for his teammate, gave Humphries a two-handed push in the chest following Humphries fouling Kevin Garnett. Humphries retaliated as both players became tangled up along the baseline filled with fans, in front of the Celtics bench.

After the game, the game's lead official, James Capers, said Rondo was ejected from the game because he "initiated everything that proceeded after the foul. And when he and Humphries go into the stands, they are involved in a fight. Fighting is an automatic ejection."

In addition to Rondo, Humphries and Nets forward Gerald Wallace were ejected. (Wallace was whistled for a technical for his role in the incident and it was his second of the game, which is an automatic ejection.) Garnett was given a technical foul for his role in the incident as well.

Not surprisingly, Celtics coach Doc Rivers doesn't believe Rondo should be suspended.

However, he does admit that Rondo going into the stands might be too much for the league's officiating czar, Stu Jackson, to look past.

"The only thing it would be is, they went into the stands, which you never want," Rivers said. "But there were no punches thrown or anything. And really when you see it, I thought Rondo was trying to get him away and Humphries kind of pulled Rondo into him and that's when everything started. I don't really believe Rondo went in there trying to fight. I don't think anyone did; it just escalated. And that's what happened."

While the league doesn't spell out specifically that it cracks down harder on players who have been suspended previously, there's no way they can totally ignore the fact that this would be Rondo's third suspension in less than a year -- an unusually high rate for any player.

Rondo said he's not worried about his past suspensions having any impact on Wednesday night's incident.

"Yesterday's action were completely different from the other two, I believe," Rondo said.

He's right.

On Feb. 19 of this year, he was suspended for two games because he threw a basketball at an official. And during the Celtics' playoff series in April against the Atlanta Hawks, Rondo was suspended for Game 2 of that series after bumping official Marc Davis in Game 1.

While those transgressions all seem relatively minor in their scope, they speak to a concern that has hovered over this team for the past couple of years.

Is Rondo ready to be the leader of this team?

In what has been a season in which he has made significant strides in answering this question affirmatively, this latest incident once again brings his maturity into question.

No one questions Rondo's intent.

It was clear to anyone who saw the replay or was at the game, that he was trying to stick up for his teammate.

But the manner in which he went about doing it, well, that's a problem.

"Rondo . . . can't allow himself to be taken out of a game, and he did last night," Rivers said. "Again, it's a snap (decision); it's quick and it can happen to any of us."

If Rondo is suspended as expected, it will cost him more than 100,000 per game in lost wages.

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

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Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

The Bruins coach and leaders in their dressing room spoke out this weekend, and their words all basically spread the same supportive message.

Claude Julien and his longtime players aren’t ready for a change at the head coaching position for the Black and Gold and they hope the longtime bench boss is in Boston for as long as possible after 10 mostly successful years on the job.

Still, it may not go down that way this season with real pressure on B’s management, coaches and the players to end a two-year playoff drought. Things are currently going pretty badly with the Bruins in the middle of a three-game losing streak before facing the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.

The heat has been dialed up as high as it’s ever been on Julien in his 10 years of employment with Boston and everybody seems to know it.

“Right now we’re all confident in Claude, and we all want to be here and play for him. If [saving Julien’s job] is the extra motivation you need for the games then so be it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “But we’re all professionals and we’re here to win hockey games. I’ve said this before that I’ve been with Claude for 10 years, and he’s the guy that I believe in and that I want to play for.”

Similarly, the Bruins captain has been with Julien for the long haul in Boston and has worked closely with the coach keeping lines of communication open in good, Cup-winning times and bad, non-playoff times. Chara bestowed Julien with every bit the endorsement that Bergeron did, and it’s clear much of the core group wants to keep the longtime coach in place.

“We don’t pay attention [to the chatter]. Claude is our coach and Claude will be our coach. We have confidence in him,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “He’s proven to be a coach that does a lot of good things for this organization. We just have to come up with some wins, battle it and we’re all in this together.”

One thing that’s a legitimate question: Is the devotion of players like Chara and Bergeron toward Julien a defining reason to keep the longtime coach?

There isn’t a sense the Bruins have tuned out their coach, as can happen in dysfunctional NHL situations, but there is a feeling that longtime B’s players with status are pretty comfortable with iron-clad no-movement clauses in their contracts and a relationship with the coach where there’s a level they may not be getting pushed toward very often.

Comfort isn’t always a good thing in an NHL dressing room and it’s felt altogether too comfortable at times in some of those no-show performances from the Black and Gold over the past couple of failed seasons. 

For his part, Julien doesn't think that was the case and intends on continuing to work his way through the struggles with a mix of youth and veteran players who clearly have enough to be a playoff team.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the [firing] rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

It would be ridiculous and pointless to compare this season’s Bruins roster to the groups that won Cups, made it to the Finals twice and even won a President’s Trophy in 2013-14. Clearly, this particular roster isn’t as deep, or as difficult to play against, as those talent-stuffed hockey clubs, but this team also has enough high-end talent that they should edge teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Philadelphia out of a playoff spot.

This is where the theoretical move to fire Julien comes into play.

The Bruins are at a critical stage of their season where things are slipping away from them and the team is showing some of the maddening characteristics of the past two seasons.

They are unprepared to play on too many nights. They take opponents lightly on too many nights particularly in the past couple of months. A tiring Tuukka Rask isn’t able to bail the team out as much as he was in the first couple of months. Because the Bruins are being strangled by a roster of immovable players with no-trade clauses and can’t even entertain trading their blue-chip prospects Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, the trade options just aren’t there for Don Sweeney and Cam Neely right now.

It would take a brilliant, creative GM to swing a hockey deal that could pump life back into the reeling Bruins. The B’s front office hasn’t shown those qualities in the past few years running the team. Instead, they have GMs from other teams lining up and making one-sided offers to the desperate Bruins in hopes that Sweeney/Neely will buckle under the pressure to push into the playoffs this spring.

So, the only impactful card the Bruins can play is firing a coach in Julien who probably isn’t the coach of the future when the next generation of B’s prospects is ready to go. The hope is that move can light a fire under their meandering hockey club if it doesn't start reeling off some wins in a row. An argument can be made that a coach such as current assistant Bruce Cassidy could get more out of some of Boston’s younger players they’re relying heavily on this season. The former Providence Bruins coach might fit a little better into the overall philosophy that management is looking to instill.

It might just be that making a coaching change is the best midseason card that Bruins management has to play given all of the circumstances.

Still, the one thing that B’s management can’t do is keep Julien twisting in the wind and answering all the questions about his future with no clear vote of confidence from his bosses. Julien is the winningest coach in Bruins history and led them to their glorious Stanley Cup run in 2011. He’s earned a wealth of respect around the league for the professional, classy way he’s always conducted himself on and off the ice and he won’t be out of work long if/when he is relieved of his duties on Causeway Street.

So, if the Bruins intend to make the move with their coach then they need to do it sooner rather than later.

People around the NHL are watching the Bruins intently to see how they handle this situation with a world-class coach in Julien, and Neely and Sweeney continue to be radio/TV silent, despite the Bruins media requesting to speak with them on Friday morning in the throes of their losing streak.

It’s high time for Bruins management to step up and make a decision on Julien for better or for worse, and treat him the way they’d undoubtedly like to be treated if it were them suddenly in the danger zone should they miss the playoffs again this spring.