Sorting through Matt Cooke's proclamation

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Sorting through Matt Cooke's proclamation

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

My best wishes to Matt Cooke's family.

His wife, Michelle, nearly died last spring because of a clogged exit valve in her kidney -- a terrifying experience for any person. I'd imagine. I don't actually have any idea what that's like. I don't know the depth of Michelle or even Matt's pain, nor do I know what trials his family went through because of her health scare.

I can only hope things are better.

On an unrelated note, I hope with wrathful seriousness Matt Cooke's promise to change his hockey style is honest.

He tries to link the two together -- Michelle's illness and his disgraceful, dangerous hits -- and Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux is supporting it.

As a fan of hockey, I don't think I can.

"I don't want to hurt anybody," he said in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He added that he plans to change "(his) approach" to hitting.

The suffering of the woman he married, the strain on their children... Cooke says it gave him perspective. So much so, that after he hit Ryan McDonagh with an elbow to the head March 20 (the first game his wife was healthy enough to attend since January 1) he was inspired to watch 20 hours of hits to "learn how to deliver a legal check."

This is viewed as a turning point, as an exercise in maturity.

"No more elbows. No more blindside shots. No more of the hits that have garnered him the reputation as the NHL's dirtiest player, a so-called cheap-shot artist who has been suspended four times for illegal hits in three seasons since joining the Penguins," Rob Rossi writes.

I wonder why it had to take so long.

I wonder if Marc Savard has heard about this. I wonder if he's thrilled that Cooke has "seen the light." I wonder if Savard plans to send the Penguins forward a note, something like, "Good for you, man. We all grow at different times. Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way."

Or maybe Savard is pissed off. Maybe he's frustrated it took a personal trauma, instead of the one inflicted on Savard, for Cooke to want to reevaluate his reckless habits.

Again, I can only guess. Not much has been heard from Savard since he was shut down.

So I wonder what to think. Do you celebrate a villain for turning penitent, no matter how late it happens or why? Ignore the promise until it's fulfilled?

Or is it too late for some? Are some pasts unforgivable?

It's difficult to distill the hockey lesson from Matt and Michelle Cooke's.

The latter is heartbreakingly relatable. Readers can empathize, if not because the specific illness but because of a grandfather who had a stroke, an aunt who had cancer, a cousin who was injured in an accident and needed help caring for his children.

But some won't sympathize.

Partially because the two sides of Matt Cooke -- personal and professional -- have never synced up. Hockey fans are told the man isn't a monster because of the Cooke Family Foundation of hope (created because his niece was born without a heartbeat), because he calls home first after every game and because of "tender scenes" between he and his family exposed by "HBO 247".

Some of those fans aren't moved, though. Especially because Cooke's stake in each instance of compassion is obvious: he cares for those close to his heart; the instinct to protect his pack is strong.

But what about those who don't share his blood?

That's what McDonagh, Savard, Fedor Tyutin, Alexander Ovechkin, Steve Montador, Evander Kane, Keith Yandle, Erik Karlsson, Rick DiPietro, Andrei Markov, Artem Anisimov, Chris Osgood, and others might want to know. They might not think so highly of a bedside promise -- those that can fade as the pain does.

I'll wait and see what happens.

I can only be hopeful that Matt Cooke's vow to clean up his game is sincere. As long as he's a member of the NHL, that's all I can do.

I'm just not sure it can do anything for Marc Savard.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.