Rondo: "We want to build on this game"

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Rondo: "We want to build on this game"

BOSTON -- Rewind 48 hours.

Rajon Rondo stood in the Boston Celtics locker room following the team's fourth straight loss. He talked about the team's lack of defense and trust in one another. He didn't have an explanation for it, but knew they needed to find a solution.

On Friday night, he delivered a different message. Following the Celtics 94-75 win over the Indiana Pacers, he spoke about improved D, a collective team effort, and players stepping up on the court.

"It was a good team win for us tonight," said Rondo (18 points, seven assists, five rebounds). "We did a pretty good job defensively. I think we held them to 35 percent in the first half, forced some turnovers. I've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half, but other than that, we got what we wanted offensively. We weren't standing around tonight, we had a lot of different play calls, different guys were aggressive, and we played well together."

The Celtics improved to 15-17 and showed progress in their victory. Avery Bradley played his second game since returning from double-shoulder surgery, scoring six points in 23 minutes and giving Rondo another tenacious backcourt counterpart.

"He's the best on-ball defender in the league," Rondo said of Bradley. "I let him pick up (D.J.) Augustin and he turned the game around. His energy picked up, we got a lot of deflections in the first half, created points for our offense."

Rondo also credited the Celtics bench, who maintained the lead when Kevin Garnett was ejected (Flagrant 2 Foul) in the fourth quarter. Noteably, Courtney Lee scored 13 points in 23 minutes, Jared Sullinger grabbed 10 rebounds in 30 minutes, and Leandro Barbosa chipped in six points in as many minutes.

"We're a really bad team if we couldn't hold a lead in the fourth quarter, and they didn't have their starters in either. But nevertheless, I don't want to discredit our bench," he said. "Courtney played great for us tonight, LB (Leandro Barbosa) came in and gave us some energy, and (Jared Sullinger) Sully fouled out but he played big in the stretch when he was in the game. It was a collective team effort tonight. We played great as a team and we've got to continue to build on this win."

The Celtics will face the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday, where they are looking to continue their momentum before playing the Knicks in New York on Monday. They know there is still work to be done.

"We want to build on this game," said Rondo. "But it's only one game."

McAdam: It's make-or-break time before the break for Red Sox

McAdam: It's make-or-break time before the break for Red Sox

Not long ago, the final homestand of the first half of the 2016 season looked like an opportunity for the Red Sox.
      
Now, however, it looks more like a survival test.
      
Are they contenders or pretenders? 
     
Is this a month-long downturn or a preview of coming attractions? 

      
The Red Sox still possess a winning record and are tied for one of the wild-card spots in the American League. The season isn't shot. Yet.
      
But it could be soon if the Red Sox don't execute a turnaround and thrust themselves back into the divisional race. At the precise moment the Red Sox are in freefall, the Baltimore Orioles are streaking, and doing what the Red Sox have failed to do: take advantage of some breaks in the schedule.
      
While the Red Sox dropped two of three to a Tampa Bay team which had lost 11 in a row -- four at the hands of the Orioles themselves, it should be noted -- the Orioles have steamrolled over lowly opponents to go 7-1 against a steady diet of nothing by the Rays and Padres.
      
That delivers some additional urgency to this upcoming homestand, which features three games each against the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers and the Rays again.
      
While Dave Dombrowski continues to hunt for pitching help, how the Red Sox play over the next nine games could either intensify his search or reduce it to unnecessary.
      
Should the Red Sox lose further ground while at home, it might result in Dombrowski refusing to mortgage any of his organization's future for a team that hasn't proven worthy of an upgrade.
      
Why sacrifice prospects in exchange for a starting pitcher or bullpen piece when the playoffs drift out of reach? And, yes, the Red Sox are going to need reinforcements to the rotation and the bullpen for next year either way, but if the Sox don't show signs of life soon, that effort can be put off until after the season.
      
Due to simple laws of supply and demand, the already exorbitant cost of pitching skyrockets before the trade deadline, since there are a handful of needy teams convinced that one additional arm could spell the difference between a trip to the World Series and missing the postseason altogether.
      
If a team isn't in need of immediate help, it's best to wait for November and December, when there's less of a sense of desperation to the whole exercise.
      
Beyond the matter of determining whether the Red Sox go all-in on 2016, there's the matter of job security for manager John Farrell.
      
Should the Sox continue to stumble, the All-Star break might give Dombrowski time and cause to evaluate whether it's time to make a change in the dugout.
      
If Dombrowski determines that the season can still be salvaged with a change of voice in the dugout, Farrell would be vulnerable. And if he decides that, regardless of playoff aspirations, he's seen enough in a half-season of observation that  Farrell isn't his choice to lead the club going forward, the four-day break would be time to reflect, then act on that evaluation.
      
Farrell challenged his team in a postgame meeting Monday, exhorting them to play to their potential, to trust in their teammates and play hard.
      
If that push doesn't yield tangible results in the next 10 days, a dark uncertainty -- for himself and the team he manages -- lies ahead.
      
The All-Star break offers upper management and ownership a time to take stock in what they have. If they don't like what they see in the next week and a half, the consequences could be felt soon.
      
       

 

Brady, Gronkowski make Top 10 of NFL Network's Top 100

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Brady, Gronkowski make Top 10 of NFL Network's Top 100

Ask a football fan in New England, and he or she might tell you that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are the top two players in the NFL. A random NFL player might not be as generous, but on balance, Brady and Gronkowski's peers consider the Patriots stars to be among the top 10 talents in the league. 

The NFL Network announced the final 10 players to be included in their annual Top 100 list, a list voted on by players, and both Brady and Gronkowski made the cut.

The order of the top 10 has been determined, but has not yet been announced. Brady and Gronkowski are in the running for No. 1 alongside Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt. 

The weekly series, which has counted down Nos. 100-11, will end on Wednesday, July 6 with two, one-hour episodes on NFL Network at 8 and 9 p.m. Highlights of each player will be featured, as will interviews with some of their teammates and competitors. 

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder he’s always had," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said of Brady, "that really separates him."

Of Rob Gronkowski, Texans corner Charles James II said, "He's a glitch on Madden."

The only other Patriots players included in the Top 100 were Julian Edelman (who came in at No. 87) and Chandler Jones (No. 48). Jones, now a member of the Cardinals, was the only Patriots defender involved. 

Corner Malcolm Butler, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower and safety Devin McCourty all had an argument to be included but were left off. 

NFL.com contributors Gregg Rosenthal, Chris Wesseling, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor put together their own individual Top 100 lists to supplement the one voted on by current players. Rosenthal included Collins (No. 64), McCourty (No. 73) and Butler (No. 99) in addition to Edelman (No. 84). Wesseling included Collins (No. 43), McCourty (No. 88) and Hightower (No. 91), but not Edelman. Jones-Drew included both Edelman (No. 62) and Butler (No. 95). Taylor included only Edelman (No. 89).

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.

Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."

The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.

With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.

The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract.