Blakely: Deep bench should pay dividends for C's

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Blakely: Deep bench should pay dividends for C's

BOSTON There's no shortage of bodies for Doc Rivers to choose from when trying to figure out who to put on the floor this season.

But even with a roster that could legitimately go double-digits deep in players used almost every night, Rivers said his rotation strategy this season won't be altered that much from past seasons.

"We're not going to go that deep," Rivers said. "We'll go the same."

Rivers starts most seasons off by playing 10 or so players, depending on how they perform and whether the C's can maintain enough healthy bodies.

That means most games will feature a few players who won't see action that could conceivably contribute.

While the Celtics' goals of another deep playoff run will come down to the performance of their top eight or nine players, Rivers understands all too well the value of having depth during the season.

Because Boston has arguably the deepest bench in the league, that should pay huge dividends for the C's during the regular season when they can essentially wear down teams on a nightly basis.

Not only does that make it tougher for opponents to game-plan against Boston, but it also affords Rivers a greater opportunity to keep core guys such as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett even fresher for the playoffs.

"Coming off the bench, our job is to make things easier for the starters," Celtics backup center Darko Milicic told CSNNE.com. "We do our job, we'll be OK."

Part of doing their job is developing continuity both among themselves as well as with the starters who at times they will be on the floor with as Rivers continues to mix up his lineups.

"The continuity is pretty good right now," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "But this team, we're not satisfied with anything we do. Even when we do something well, we know we can do it better. That's what this team is about, always trying to be better."

And that involves developing a rotation that players understand, will shrink in some fashion come playoff time.

"That's what's so great about this team," Lee said. "Doc has so many options to choose from, and the competition for minutes is there. That's only going to bring out the best in you as a player. And that's only going to help the team. So you can't look at that as anything but a positive."

Lee is expected to edge out Jason Terry for the starting job at shooting guard. Joining Lee in the starting unit will be Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The fifth starting spot - at least for the season opener against Miami on Tuesday - is expected to go to Brandon Bass.

That leaves the C's bench rotation to start the season consisting of Terry, Milicic, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green. If Rivers plays 10 players, that 10th player will likely fluctuate between Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins and Chris Wilcox.

Avery Bradley remains out until at least the middle of December while recovering from surgery to both of his shoulders. Rookies Kris Joseph and Fab Melo are unlikely to see much action early on this season.

Rivers is hesitant to heap too much praise on his second unit - especially with them having not played a single game yet together - but he acknowledges that this team does have the kind of depth that gives him more options than he has had in past years.

"I don't know after 10 (players), we'll see, or 11," Rivers said. "But I'm not worried about that, honestly. I'm more worried about that top-9 or 10. Because those are the guys that are gonna win."

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Brandin Cooks ready to bring back arrow celebration after NFL rule change

Tuesday’s announcement from Roger Goodell that the NFL is “relaxing” its rules on celebrations is good news for at least one Patriot. 

That would be Brandin Cooks, who began celebrating the rule change on Twitter not long after the league made its announcement. 

Cooks, whom the Patriots acquired from the Saints this offseason in a trade that sent first and third-round picks to New Orleans, lost his favorite celebration last season when it was made clear that miming archery was off-limits. Josh Norman was fined $10,000 last season for such a celebration. 

Following Norman’s fine, Cooks lamented the league’s decision to punish what Cooks had previously done in reference to a Bible verse (Psalms 144:6). 

"Send forth lightning and scatter your enemy, and shoot your arrows and rout them," Cooks told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just remember it sticking with me for such a long time, I remember thinking, maybe I can do something with this."

Added Cooks: ”I’ve been doing it for three years now, and there was never a complaint about it. Now, all of a sudden, there is. It just reminds me that, it's almost as if they try to take so much away from us, but for something like this, that means so much to someone that has nothing to do with violence, it's frustrating. I'll definitely continue to speak my opinion about it, and if they have a problem with it, so be it."

When Tuesday’s news emerged, Cooks and former Saints teammate Mark Ingram were quick to react. 

 

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

BOSTON -- Of course, the Rangers' Mike Napoli didn't mind the idea of replacing David Ortiz. He loved playing in Boston.

There just was never much chatter that way last offseason, when Napoli was a free agent after his Indians took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series.

"I think my agent had maybe a small talk or something [with the Red Sox], but I don't think it ever would have happened," Napoli said Tuesday afternoon as he returned to Fenway Park with Texas. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have loved to come back. But, I mean, it all worked out. I'm glad to be where I'm at now. Because I knew everybody here [with the Rangers]. I didn't have to start over again."

Napoli played with the Rangers in 2011 and '12, and was traded by the Sox to Texas for the last few months of the 2015 season.

He was hopeful the Sox -- his team from 2013 to midseason 2015 -- would be among the clubs to come calling last winter.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

But he wasn't optimistic it was going to happen. And it didn't.

"To be honest with you . . . Cleveland was my first priority," he said. "I just had a World Series run [with the Indians] and we didn't win it. And then Texas was there [in the bidding, along with] Minnesota."

The Rangers wound up giving Napoli, 35, a one-year deal for 8.5 million with an $11 million club option for next season or a $2.5 million buyout. He's hitting just .188 entering Tuesday, a subpar figure, but has 10 home runs.

"We started off pretty slow, but winning 10 straight will help," Napoli said of the Rangers' recent tear. "[Winning] 11 of 12, we've been playing better. I think we kind of lost track of who we are. We got some guys struggling, still trying to find themselves and kind of got away from doing it together as a team, but we got back to doing that. It's been going pretty well."

Part of the World Series championship team of four years ago, Napoli loved being in Boston in 2013, and he enjoys being back now.

"What we were able to do in 2013, obviously, it's something I'l never forget and something I cherish," Napoli said. "I love coming back here to play."

When it was noted there's been so much turmoil since Napoli left -- the talk of Tuesday was manager John Farrell's job security -- he was unsurprised.

"You got to have thick skin to play here," Napoli said. "You're expected to win a championship every single year. But that's what I loved about playing here, is that people were on you. For me, I loved it. A lot of people probably couldn't do it.

"I knew it in my heart that I went out there and I played as hard as I possibly could every single time . . . I know you're not going to be perfect and live up to everyone."