Belichick responds to Ballard brouhaha

Belichick responds to Ballard brouhaha

By Tom E. Curran

FOXBORO - When the Patriots claimed injured Giants tight end Jake Ballard on Tuesday, the folks in New York were clearly bummed.

New York released Ballard to clear a roster spot for the team to re-sign defensive lineman Rocky Bernard.

The Giants hoped Ballard would pass through the league without anyone putting a claim on him. After all, Ballard tore an ACL in the Super Bowl and also had microfracture surgery. He would be of no help to anyone in 2012. Thirty teams passed. The Patriots didn't.

The Giants weren't happy. On Wednesday, head coach Tom Coughlin said, I certainly thought (Ballard would go unclaimed), for sure, Coughlin said. So did everybody. The whole building felt that way. Everyone did. It's obvious. It was a calculated risk that didn't work.

The Giants were kicking themselves, but there was no doubt a measure of agitation with the Patriots because every other team left Ballard alone. It's a professional courtesy, an unwritten rule (or expectation) that teams will stay away from players who are waived in order to pass them through to the practice squad or injured reserve.

Asked about the notion the Patriots breached an unwritten, Belichick said crisply, "First of all, there aren't any unwrittens."

He then deftly segued to inferring that the Giants may have been working on a deal for Ballard to return. He did so by pointing out that, of course the Giants wouldn't have been circumventing the rules by negotiating with a released player who was still in the waiver process.

"As you know, I'm sure you're aware you can't negotiate a contract (with a player), release him and then renegotiate a contract with him that was already done in advance, so I'm sure the Giants weren't doing that," said Belichick. "A player's on waivers, he's on waivers. Ours or anybody else's. I don't know what unwrittens you're talking about. Anytime you put a player on waivers, there's 31 other teams that can take him if they want him. We all know that. There's no secrets about that."

That doesn't mean that teams don't waive players with the strong hope that the player will go unclaimed. And it doesn't mean coaches won't pick up the phone and lobby opposing coaches to leave their waived players alone.

That's what Vikings coach Brad Childress said Belichick did in 2007 when New England waived tight end Garrett Mills.

Childress said on a Minnesota radio station that Belichick, "Didn't really care for (being told the Vikings wouldn't pass on claiming Mills). He was trying to leverage, but you always find out who is honest and straightforward."

The Patriots later claimed linebacker David Herron in what was viewed as a revenge move.

So why did the Patriots claim a player who can't play this year?

Well, they are light at tight end. Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells are still rehabbing injuries. Veteran Bo Scaife is a duct tape answer. And undrafted rookie Brad Herman just blew his Achilles last week. Defensive end Alex Silvestro has been taking reps at tight end during OTAs to give the Patriots enough bodies.

And while Ballard isn't going to fix that issue presently, tight end is clearly a lot more shallow than one who looks simply at the Patriots tight end production. It's a pivotal position in their offense and a varied one and the team had no backups to either spot in 2011.

Ballard has talent and can be a direct backup to Gronkowski. And he can compete with Fells for the third tight end role.

Ballard, meanwhile, sounds as if he didn't expect any of this to happen.

In a statement released through his agent, Ballard said, "While this was very sudden and I am still experiencing a great deal of differing emotions, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you and place some closure on a wonderful chapter in my life. I will greatly miss my teammates, the fans, the organization, and albeit short-lived, I will forever cherish all the great memories that we created during my time in a Giant uniform.

He added, "I am humbled by the opportunity that the Patriots have afforded me and as I have always done, I will bring nothing but hard work, professionalism, and integrity to what is already a world-class organization."

Tatum easing into new challenge with Celtics

Tatum easing into new challenge with Celtics

BOSTON -- While the newest Boston Celtics were scattered about while at a community service event, 19-year-old Jayson Tatum was sitting in a really comfortable-looking chair, resting. 

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind unlike any he had ever experienced, beginning with the pre-draft process, to workouts, to the draft itself and all the appearances and media engagements that have followed. 

“It’s a lot,” Tatum, grinning, told CSNNE.com. “But I’m taking it one day at a time.”

That steady-as-she-goes approach served him well during his lone season at Duke. 

Keeping an even-keeled approach will bode well for him as he gears up for his first taste of NBA basketball beginning with summer league practice this week in preparation for next week’s summer league action which begins in Salt Lake City. 

Boston’s summer league opener will be July 3 against Philadelphia and the top overall pick Markelle Fultz, at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Tatum, who has not played in a five-on-five game since Duke’s loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament, is admittedly excited to get back on the floor this week. 

“I can’t wait,” he said. 

Celtics Nation feels the same way about Tatum, selected with the third overall pick in last week’s NBA draft. 

Although it’s only a preseason game, there will be expectations and with that, possibly some added pressure for Tatum to show he was such a coveted player by the Celtics. 

“That’s why Duke helped me a lot,” he told CSNNE.com. “Duke, the best program in college basketball, we were always on the national spotlight good or bad, whether we were winning or losing. That will help me a lot preparing for the Boston Celtics.”

And like Duke, Tatum will have to fight his way on to the court although he readily admits the challenge is much greater in the NBA. 

“Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder . . . we didn’t have those guys at Duke,” Tatum said. “It’s gonna be tough; just try my best and get in where I fit in.”

Tatum said he will at times lean on his more experienced teammates, one of which was a former teammate of his – sort of – in Jaylen Brown. 

“I’ve known Jaylen for a while,” Tatum said. “We played with and against each other in high school at AAU camps. 

Tatum added, “at the AAU camps, sometimes we were on the same team and sometimes we were not.”

While much has been made about how the two are similar, Tatum sees both having strengths that complement, rather than compete, with each other. 

“He’s further along than Jaylen was skill-wise and he’s not as far along as Jaylen physically,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Again, he’s 19 years old. I don’t want to put any expectations … I want to give him time to grow. We’ll see. He’ll definitely have a role, get a chance to play. And how well he performs is up to him.”

Tatum’s assessment of his game and Brown’s goes as follows:

“He’s a lot stronger, bigger than me,” Tatum, who is 6-foot-8, 204 pounds, acknowledged. “He’s much more athletic. Offensively, I think that’s what I excel in, being smooth and my ability to score. I can just learn from him, the things that he went through last year.”

One of the things he has already picked up on, is that Brown is a pretty smart – and at times clever – dude. 

Not long after Tatum picked jersey number 11, Brown, who wears number 7, took to social media and came up with a 7-11 theme that has already lead to some pretty snazzy t-shirt designs. 

“I thought it was funny,” Tatum said. “It’s catchy; I like it.”

And the Celtics really like Tatum’s game which has been compared at times to former Celtic great Paul Pierce. 

“I hate to make those comparisons when kids are 19 and let his game evolve into whatever it is,” Ainge said. “The similarity is they have good footwork. They both have really good ways to create space for shots. But the similarity … they’re both very good defensive rebounders. Those are two things that stand out to me with Jayson that are Paul characteristics.”

Tatum knows he’s a long way from being in the same company as Celtic royalty such as Pierce. 

Before then he must first earn minutes on the floor which will not be an easy task. 

But Tatum’s demeanor, much like his game, has seemingly always been a bit more mature than most of his fellow basketball brethren. 

Tatum credits his parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole.

“They raised me to be different, be more mature and stand out above the crowd and be my own person and be comfortable in my skin,” Tatum said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: How does the Chris Paul trade affect the Celtics?

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0:41 - Tom Curran, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Rockets acquiring Chris Paul and how that trade can actually have an affect on the Celtics plans.

5:06 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to talk about if the Celtics are the front runners for Paul George, what would be too much to give up to the Pacers, and why it’s important to sign Hayward before trading for George.

11:21 - Evan Drellich joins from Fenway Park to discuss Rick Porcello getting his 10th loss of the season and if the struggling offense might be a season-long problem. 

14:58 - Tom Curran and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Nate Burleson saying that Julian Edelman is the most under-appreciated receiver in the last 10 years.