Seguin flying in first skate after lockout

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Seguin flying in first skate after lockout

BOSTON -- Perhaps to make Tyler Seguin feel a little bit more comfortable, Andrew Ference gave the 20-year-old forward his Ceske Budejovice school-bus-yellow retro sweater to wear during Monday mornings skate at Agganis Arena.

It wasnt a complete replica of Seguins colorful outfit that he donned as Switzerlands leading scorer over the last four months with 25 goals in 29 games for HC Biel. But it was certainly Euro enough to qualify.

He had a different jersey over there in Switzerland for being the leading scorer, so he felt right at home, said Ference. He was just missing the helmet with the flames shooting out of it.

Make no mistake about it, though. Seguin looked like he hasnt missed a beat while weaving through defenders and firing off sizzling wristers with a lightning-fast release. He was joined by Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and Ference on the ice at Boston University, and was clearly the best player on the ice skating among All-Star performers like Keith Yandle.

If anything, the 20-year-old looks even better than the hockey player last remembered for his overtime game-winner against the Washington Capitals last spring, and looks primed for a dominant stretch over a 48-game shortened regular season. Seguin looks more like a player ready to take on a bigger role, more ice time, more responsibility and a key role on the Boston power play thats been screaming out for more of his skill and creativity over the last two years.

I feel great. I played a lot of games over in Europe, said Seguin. Obviously Ive got to re-adjust to playing on a smaller ice surface again. Even today it felt like the D were coming up a bit quicker. But I feel well-conditioned and ready to go.

Seguin said hes just happy to be back in Boston after a long, strange journey in Switzerland, and he's looking forward to once again donning the Black and Gold.

Words cant describe it. From not seeing the guys to missing the game, its been a long couple of months, said Seguin. I want to apologize to the fans for everything that happened, but hopefully we move forward from here.

There was a couple of times I got text messages telling me to pack my bags, and then I got a call the next day telling me it was a false alarm. That got a little annoying. Obviously we missed some games and hopefully the fans come back. Were looking forward to putting that stuff in the past.

While the third season in the NHL is typically when young stars blossom into superstars and Seguin is already coming off an All-Star campaign where he led the team in goals scored and points, theres another element to it as well. Playing on his own for a few months in Europe adds another stage to his development as a player and a professional athlete, and has him in a position to really hit the ground running once the NHL season opens on Jan. 19.

For a guy like Tyler I think he grew up a lot over there in Europe, said Ference. He learned a lot about life in general and the type of hockey he was playing over there was tremendous. All down the line guys are going to be prepared at game speed ready to go.

Thats on top of the good core group of guys we have coming back anyway. So its really exciting.

Unfortunately a 48-game schedule means that Seguin cant put up a 35-40 goal season with some gaudy offensive numbers to show how much hes improved from last years version. But it should be apparent early and often if the same No. 19 flying around the Agganis Arena ice surface is zipping through defenders when the Bruins open their schedule on Jan. 19.

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON – Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players – not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks which ended the Celtics season.

While Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“You go from 40 (wins) – under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking  in at the end by winning six straight to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And so yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s’ when you hold that trophy up,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there. And the next one is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a successful season which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first-round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.