Tippett, Haynes reflect on today's NFL

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Tippett, Haynes reflect on today's NFL

FOXBORO -- It's a fun game to play, thinking about how the stars of yesteryear might fit into today's game. Would they keep up? Would they still be the game-changers they were in their own eras, when the game was so different?

Mike Haynes and Andre Tippett, two of the best defensive players in the history of the Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famers, visited the Gillette Stadium press box before tonight's game between the Patriots and 49ers. Turns out, they like to play that game, too.

They answered questions about how much the NFL has changed since their heydays in the 1970s and 1980s. Though both agreed the rules have been altered to favor offense, they believe their own personal styles would have allowed them to succeed nonetheless.

Tippett, an outside linebacker for the Patriots between 1982 and 1993, finished his career with 100 sacks. He smiled when asked how he might have fared in today's NFL.

"I probably would've gotten more sacks," Tippett said. "Because of all the quarterback drop backs. I love it. You got these guys getting 100, 140 sacks, I tell people it's a little bit different now. Watch these guys with these outside linebacker tags and they're not really outside linebackers. They're hybrid defensive ends just rushing up the field. I played the game from a run-pass standpoint. I consider myself a complete linebacker that happened to be pretty good at rushing when I was called to blitz."

Haynes played cornerback in New England from 1976 to 1982 and then with the Raiders from 1983 to 1989. His eyes lit up when he thought about the number of passes thrown in every NFL game nowadays.

"They'll pass on every down," said Haynes, who had 46 interceptions in his career. "They'll pass to get two yards, they'll pass to get three yards. I think that makes it a lot more exciting for the fans and it would've made it a lot more exciting for me, too. I would've loved to have been playing."

Tippett and Haynes, along with Curtis Martin, will serve as honorary captains for the Patriots tonight to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tippett has stayed involved with the Patriots since retirement and has become close with New England's current crop of linebackers: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower. For all the changes the game has undergone, those three players remind Tippett of how linebackers played years ago.

"I love them all," Tippett said. "It's funny I can say this now, I love them all like my sons. I whisper in their ear from time to time, just to say, 'Hey keep up the good work, I admire what you're doing. I think you guys are playing hard. I think you guys are bringing it, putting it on the off people like it needs to be done.' It's a game of tough guys and it's fun watching those guys play. and I let them know that and I appreciate it."

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

Barnes, Cousins trying to keep 'emotions and energy focused'

BOSTON – No one is proclaiming DeMarcus Cousins’ demeanor is all that radically different than past seasons. 

But the volatile nature that has often overshadowed his on-the-court-brilliance, doesn’t seem to shine as brightly as it used to. 

Maybe he’s growing up. 

Maybe he’s finally comfortable with his team. 

And then there’s the almighty dollar which was the incentive for one of his teammates, Matt Barnes, to clean up his act as far as racking up technical fouls and being fined by the league. 

I asked Barnes whether there was a light bulb moment or a teammate or player that helped him get on track and not draw so much attention from officials and the league office. 

“It was all the money I was being fined,” he said. “I think I lost like $600,000 over my career for fines. It was time to kind of wake and say ‘hey, they don’t like you so you have to stick to the book.’”

With Barnes returning to Sacramento (he played for the Kings during the 2004-2005 season), he finds an intense, kindred spirit of sorts in Cousins who like Barnes has had his share of technical and fines handed down by the league office. 

This season, Cousins is the NBA’s leader in technical fouls with six. 

“I’ve always had a good head on my shoulders,” Barnes said. “I’m just a passionate player. I play with my emotion on my sleeve. I think DeMarcus does the same thing. What I’m trying to show him now, we have to keep our emotions and energy focused towards the right things. That could be detrimental to the team if it gets out of hand.”

First-year coach Dave Joerger has been pleased to see how different Cousins is to be around on a daily basis as opposed to how he’s perceived. 

“He gets credit for his talent. He gets credit that he’s improved in the league,” Joerger said. “I think he doesn’t get enough credit for the way that his approach to the game and the way that he’s carrying himself and conducting himself has greatly improved. He’s a good person. Now being with him, I see improvement over the last three years, the way that he goes about his business. I think that’s very positive.”