Zanon ready to bring his 'warrior' game to the Bruins


Zanon ready to bring his 'warrior' game to the Bruins

Greg Zanon doesnt have the kind of skill set thats going to jump out and take your breath away.

The former Minnesota Wild defenseman isnt the swiftest skater and hes not a gifted playmaker from the blue line, but he brings a warrior mentality and attributes that help hockey teams win games. All anybody has to know is that New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi is the only player in the NHL that blocked more than Zanons 212 blocked shots last year.

Its the hard hits and blocked shots that fit the 31-year-old Zanon right into the hard to play against mold and make him the biggest difference-maker that the Bruins acquired at the trade deadline. For a team that values the things that dont show up on the scoresheet and covet toughness over just about anything else, Zanon will right in with a banged up Bruins team.

Obviously the Bruins are a good defensive team. They play that physical style. Watching last year when they were making the run to the Cup, they beat up on teams just with their physical play and being able to get up and down the ice the way they do, said Zanon. I just hope I can fit in with my physical aspect of the game. Obviously Ill do anything to try to prevent a goal and just do anything that the team needs me to do.

Theyll let me know what somewhat of what my role is going to be when I get there, but the only thing I can do is come and just play the way Ive played my whole career. Hopefully it takes care of itself.

Many of the things that Zanon does well defensively sound eerily similar to Dennis Seidenberg: he blocks shots, creates a physical presence in the defensive end and can seemingly play through any level of physical pounding from attackers and fore-checkers.Zanons career-highs offensively are four goals scored, 13 assists and 15 points, so he wont be a power play factor or an attack zone force other teams will have to account for.

But with Zanon and Mike Mottau added to the Bruins defensemen mix, the Bs have eight available blueliners when Johnny Boychuk gets healthy from his mild concussion. Zanon wont be in Boston in time for Tuesdays morning skate prior to tonights game against the Senators, but it will be interesting to see how the defensive pairings change once he fully gets into the fold.

Were going to have eight defensemen with Johnny Boychuk healthy, so theres going to be two that are out there. Well figure that out over time, said Chiarelli, who has tracked Zanons career since he was drafted by the Ottawa Senators while playing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. I dont know who will be in to start. Maybe the two guys we added wont be in to start when Johnnys healthy. Im not sure yet.

Weve had discussions with our coach leading up to this: that if we were to acquire should he play. We talked about these players prior to making the deal, so its a work in progress.It appears that adding some left-handed shot defensemen allows the Bruins to slide Dennis Seidenberg back up with Zdeno Chara as a top shutdown D pairing a la last years playoff run. It also provides a competitive message to a struggling defenseman like Joe Corvo that the Bruins have other answers if he cant consistently step up his game, and that a spot in the playoff lineup is not a given.

Theres a very real possibility that Corvos short-comings in the defensive zone will be exploited heavily by opponents once the Bruins get into the thick of the playoffs, and both Mottau and Zanon provided defensively sounder alternatives. Even better the Bruins now have plenty of defensemen as the war of attrition begins in the postseason as blueliners can begin to take a pounding.

Last year the Bruins only had a fading veteran with great leadership (Shane Hnidy) and a wide-eyed rookie (Steve Kampfer) behind their top-six defensemen, and there will not be a repeat of that situation this year.

I just want to come and do what Ive been doing in the league now for six years: just being myself, playing physical, trying to move the puck as quick as I can, solid on the PK, doing whatever I can to prevent the puck from going in our net, said Zanon. Maybe once in a while chipping in on offense at the other end.

Zanon doesnt need to do much at the offensive end to fulfill what the Bruins envisioned in giving up Steve Kampfer for him. Hes meat-and-potatoes all the way at the defenseman position, and thats exactly what the Bruins are looking for at this time of year.

Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team


Avery Bradley elected to NBA All-Defensive First Team

BOSTON -- It seems that while Avery Bradley comes back every season with something new that he’s added to his game offensively, his defense has always been solid.

But this past year, Bradley, 26, was more committed to being not just a great on-the-ball defender, but also to expanding his game at that end of the floor to be a better help defender, too.

Bradley’s efforts didn't go unnoticed. The NBA announced Wednesday that he was among the players named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team.

It was Bradley's first time being named to the first team. His only other all-league recognition defensively came in 2013, when he was named to the league's second unit.

Bradley's play certainly was pivotal in his selection. But it didn't hurt that Portland's C.J. McCollum praised Bradley via social media as the best perimeter defender in the NBA.

"I don't think it's close," tweeted McCollum. 

San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard was the lone unanimous choice on the first team. In addition to Leonard and Bradley, the first team also included Golden State’s Draymond Green, Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan’s teammate Chris Paul.

Of the first-team players, Bradley was third in total points (149), which included 62 first-team votes and 25 second-team votes. The only players with more first-team votes were Leonard (130) and Green (123).

Players were awarded two points for a first-team vote and one point for a second-team vote.

The All-NBA Defensive Second team included Paul Millsap of Atlanta, Paul George of Indiana, Hassan Whiteside of Miami, ex-Celtic and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.

Bradley wasn’t the only Celtic to receive some all-Defensive love from voters. Jae Crowder had a total of 47 points, which included 3 first-team votes. His 47 points were the third-highest among players not named to the first or second team.  Also, Celtics guard Marcus Smart received seven points which included 2 first-team votes.

Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain


Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

BOSTON -- The return dates for both Eduardo Rodriguez and Brock Holt remain uncertain.

Holt visited with concussion specialist Micky Collins in Pittsburgh the last two days and is returning to Boston Tuesday night.

The Red Sox placed him on the seven-day DL last week when he began experiencing symptoms associated with a mild concussion, following an incident on the last homestand when he went to dive for a ball at second and felt some whiplash in the neck.

"He went through a battery of tests in Pittsburgh,'' said John Farrell. "After a full workup with Micky there, we feel like there's a very detailed plan in place. He'll begin some general conditioning when he gets back. He's still dealing with some symptoms, minor as they might be, and in the coming days, baseball activity will start. [But] we're going to miss him for a little bit.''

Holt clearly won't be ready to return this week.

"He's going to need some time to get back to game speed for us,'' confirmed Farrell. "But we don't feel like this is a real long-term type of scenario.''

As for Rodriguez, the question of a return date to the major-league rotation remains something of an open question.

"He came out of last night's start in pretty good shape,'' reported Farrell of Rodriguez's seven-inning, one-run performance for Pawtucket on Tuesday. "He's set to throw his bullpen [Thursday] and right now tentatively set (to pitch) for Pawtucket on Sunday, but we obviously have the ability to adjust if needed or if we choose to do so.

"I don't know that we're there to say where it's definitively going to be next. Over the coming few days, we'll certainly map them out with Eduardo first and foremost. If it's (with the big-league club), it obviously won't be until early next week at the [earliest]. We're still working through some things on that.''

Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do


Olynyk: Tough call to have surgery, but it was right thing to do

BOXFORD, Mass. -- It was just last week that Kelly Olynyk underwent right shoulder surgery that will keep him from playing for the Canadian National Team this summer in their quest for an Olympics berth in Rio, as well as have him sidelined until sometime in October. 

And yet there was the Celtics center on Wednesday with his right arm in a sling, chatting it up with kids at Spofford Pond School as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lab during an unveiling ceremony, courtesy of the Celts and National Grid.

The C's and National Grid purchased 25 Chromebooks, 13 Samsung Galaxy Tablets and a 65-inch Samsung Smart TV as well as other high-tech, education-related items.

“I love the opportunity to come out, give back to the community,” said Olynyk who was also joined by former Celtic Leon Powe and Terry Sobolewski, the Chief Customer Officer for National Grid Massachusetts. “I’ve been sitting in my living room the last eight days, looking at the same four walls.”

And for Olynyk, the days of going stir crazy won’t end anytime soon.

The 7-footer had surgery on May 16, the day after he told that if he elected to have surgery he would be sidelined for five months.

On Wednesday, Olynyk reiterated that the timeline for him to resume full contact had not changed.

Olynyk told earlier that the surgery was “inevitable,” but that didn’t make it any easier.

“Probably the hardest decision of my life,” Olynyk said. “As far as weighing the national team, the opportunity to play in the Olympics. I played with Team Canada the last eight years, waiting for this opportunity, waiting for this day to come where we’d be on this stage, have this before us. But with the Celtics . . . talking to a bunch of people, it was inevitable that I was going to need surgery.”

Among the biggest concerns for Olynyk was the possibility of playing with Team Canada and suffering another right shoulder injury that would require surgery and potentially lead to him missing the start of the season.

By having the surgery last week Olynyk is expected to resume practicing with the Celts in the middle of October, which would give him a couple weeks of having been cleared before the season starts.

“I couldn’t miss next year,” said Olynyk who added that the decision to have the surgery was his and did not involve the Celtics pressuring him to do so. “We’re moving in the right direction. You want to keep that momentum going. It was a really tough decision. But it was something I needed to do.”

Olynyk said he will be in a sling for at least two weeks, adding that he will be in it for another 10 days or so.

“My guess is you progress, getting that motion back, making sure everything is fine, all that kind of stuff,” he said.

A healthy Olynyk could prove vital to the growth of his game as well as the Celtics’ desire to build off of last season’s 48-win club that made it to the playoffs for the second year in a row but also suffered a second consecutive first-round defeat.

Last season, Olynyk averaged 10.0 points per game and shot a career-best 40.5 percent from 3-point range. A stronger Olynyk could give the Celtics more options in how they want to use him going forward. For the most part, Boston likes to have Olynyk on the floor because of his perimeter shooting, which helps with spacing. But if he’s physically stronger, Boston can look to post him up from time to time as well, which would make him a much more dangerous weapon offensively.

No one anticipates Olynyk will suddenly morph into a dominant, inside-outside scoring threat. But added strength does give him a chance to improve as both a rebounder and defender, two areas in which Olynyk was up and down this past season.

And admittedly he was at his worst during the playoffs, when the Celtics desperately needed someone -- anyone -- to help space the floor as the Hawks packed in the paint, which limited the drives to the basket by Isaiah Thomas.

“(I was) cleared [medically to play], but I wasn’t able to help the team at all. I couldn’t do anything,” Olynyk said. “My arm . . . I couldn’t hold off one of these kids with my arm. Shooting pains, it was giving out. Motions without contact were okay. But once you put any contact on my arm, it was done. So I couldn’t do anything.”

Olynyk is hopeful the surgery will alleviate the issues with the shoulder, which sidelined him for 12 games in addition to limiting his effectiveness in the playoffs.

“[The doctors] tell me [I’m] going to be stronger than [I’ve] ever felt, ever been,” Olynyk said.