Rondo, Williams ready to face off in guard-driven league

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Rondo, Williams ready to face off in guard-driven league

WALTHAM, Mass. Elite point guard in Boston versus Elite point guard in Brooklyn, take two.

And ... action!

A sprained ankle injury kept Rajon Rondo off the floor when the Celtics played the Deron Williams-led Brooklyn Nets earlier this month.

Now this made-for-the-hardwood matchup shifts to the TD Garden on Wednesday when the C's - that includes a healthy Rondo - host the Nets.

And while both teams will do their part to keep the focus on their respective teams and not the individual point guard matchup, players of their stature can't run or hide from the hype.

That's especially true when you see more and more teams build their rosters around point guards - something that was unheard of during Doc Rivers' days as a player.

Rivers believes the shift has more to do with rule changes than anything else.

"I don't know if I could have played in the league with these rules, or I could have been great," Rivers said.

Rules regarding what's allowed defensively have made the NBA game one in which players who have the ball in their hands the most - usually point guards - will have a significant impact on games.

"It's brought the quick guard back in the league, the small guard back in the league," Rivers said.

The emphasis placed on guard play now is especially apparent in watching teams almost exclusively call pick-and-roll plays.

"I watched a game last night where they ran the pick-and-roll every single possession from the first quarter on and they won," Rivers said. "It was unbelievable. And they won because the other team couldn't stop it."

The C's to a large degree are no different than others along those lines.

Rookie Jared Sullinger possesses the kind of skills that mesh well with Rajon Rondo. Sullinger's soft hands provide Rondo a prime target to pass to in half court sets.

Boston also re-signed Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, two players known for their ability to run the floor well which provides Rondo two prime targets in transition.

The Nets have clearly built their roster around Williams with additions such as Joe Johnson along with re-signing Kris Humphries.

"It's funny now, when you are drafting, if you have a first-round pick, a first pick and you have a choice between a big and a guard it was a no-brainer," Rivers said. "It's still a no-brainer if the big's going to be dominant. But if not, you have to give serious thought, if you think that point guard is going to be special, you have to think point guard."

Players like Courtney Lee recognize how the game has evolved to one in which perimeter guards rule the day.

"The game became a lot quicker," Lee said. "Back in the day, you see guys with a lot of height, a lot of guards posting up, like (Golden State Warriors head coach and former New York Knicks guard) Mark Jackson; big guard bringing the ball down with his back to the basket. You got guys like Rondo, Deron Williams and Chris Paul playing with speed. The game has changed a lot."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.