Erskine presence could be message-sender to Lucic


Erskine presence could be message-sender to Lucic

ARLINGTON, VA The Washington Capitals could be stiffening up for Game 4 after getting pushed around by the Bruins in their own building on Monday night. Capitals coach Dale Hunter put bruising defenseman John Erskine on a defenseman pair with Dennis Wideman at practice on Wednesday afternoon at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and mentioned a desire to protect his players on the ice.

After the whistles and before the puck was dropped they were going after us. Lucic was going after Backstroms head, but weve got to play through it and protect the players on the ice, said Hunter in an interesting choice of words. Right now, you know, weve matched them up. Erskine is healthy again and hes a big, strong guy in front of the net. He takes the body and hes an honest player.

Erskine has dropped the gloves with Milan Lucic in their past, and is one of the few players that was able to go toe-to-toe with No. 17 when the fists started flying. The Caps tough guy actually dropped Lucic to the ice during their first NHL fight when the Bs power forward was a 19-year-old rookie, but Lucic avenged that with his own hockey fight win two years later.

So those that have become squeamish about the dropped gloves and blood that have always been a part of playoff hockey might want to switch off the game when Lucic and Erskine share the ice together tonight.

It doesnt take a crystal ball or ESP to see a playoff scenario where Erskine comes calling looking for Lucic on Thursday night, but thats not a very good talent trade for the Bruins.

Meanwhile Jason Chimera, who stands as the only player in this series thats knocked an opponent out of commission for the playoffs with his regular season charging hit from behind on Adam McQuaid, spoke of the fine line between playoff-style intensity and proving theyre not a wussy team.

The Washington grinder regretted his stupid penalty when he speared Brad Marchand between the legs, and admitted that the Caps need to be smarter than that against the Bruins.

We cant take stupid penalties. Mine was a stupid penalty. You cant do that. No matter how much Marchand is diving and stuff like that, is embellishing a bit, said Chimera. You cant do stuff like that because its going to be called. You got to play hard within the whistles.

Were not a wussy team. We dont have to prove were tough to anybody. Were a skilled team. We dont need to prove were tough to anybody. Weve got guys who can fight, but you dont need to prove toughness in playoffs. Its going to be just winning some hockey games.

Theres been plenty of talk about toughness, diving and emotion heading into Thursday nights Game 4 at Verizon Center, and it sounds like the pot might be bubbling over given some of the signs heading into a pivotal playoff game between the Bruins and Capitals.

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.