Blakely: This is Rondo's team now

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Blakely: This is Rondo's team now

BOSTON For years, the talk around town has been that sooner or later, this Boston Celtics team would be Rajon Rondo's team.

That time appears to be now.

Rondo continues to play at a level that none of his teammates - not Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen - are at currently.

"This is his team right now," said coach Doc Rivers.

While Allen has been solid for the C's all season, Rondo has been far and away their best player.

"Rajon is amazing, period," said Kevin Garnett. "You talk about big things are coming; big things are here. Rajon is keeping us alive every night. We just have to make sure we follow his lead, and follow his effort, and we're going to turn this thing around."

Said Rondo: "I just try to attack, be aggressive, get us easy baskets, easy looks; if it's for myself or it's for my teammates. Right now, our offense is behind our defense. Getting easy looks is going to help."

To hear Rivers and the Celtics talk so glowingly about Rondo speaks volumes about how quickly things can change in the NBA.

Just a few weeks ago, the C's were diligently working on a trade that would have sent Rondo to New Orleans for Chris Paul.

Not only did the Hornets not like the deal, but Paul wasn't thrilled about the prospect of playing for the C's in part because of their steadily diminishing window of opportunity to be among the NBA's elite.

Boston's efforts at landing David West came up short as well, with West signing a two-year, 20 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.

So that leaves Rondo and the rest of the aging Celtics to see if they can do the improbable, which would be to somehow catapult themselves back into the conversation as an NBA title contender.

Rondo, who has showed no signs of ill will towards the franchise that just a few weeks ago was ready to ship him out of town, seems more than up for the challenge of putting the C's on his back.

But he can't do it alone.

It's very likely that at some point this season, Paul Pierce will get on track offensively, and Ray Allen will continue nailing dagger 3-pointers in the fourth and Garnett will become a defensive stalwart who can also hurt teams with his elbow-jumper.

But as they return to form, the C's will have to figure out how to continue getting major production from Rondo while at the same time, getting their core players to make major contributions as well.

Rivers has no idea how all this is going to play out. But what he does know is that Rondo is playing well; better than any other Celtic player.

And when the rest of the Big Three get on track, Rondo should still be their best player.

"Rondo's just playing terrific," Rivers said. "And we've got to allow him to be terrific. We shouldn't get in his way."

'Football makeup' central to Pats draft picks

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'Football makeup' central to Pats draft picks

FOXBORO – The Patriots added nine players through the draft this weekend.

And when you looked at their resumes and backstories, almost all of them had one of those “Patriot markers” on them. Some had a character trait. Some were from a program that the Patriots particularly trust. Some showed the ability to overcome adversity or be adaptable. And there weren’t any guys that seem to present off-field risks.

None of these markers, of course, are guarantees of anything. They’re all in their early 20s, still in their formative years. There’s no way to project how money, geography, opportunity and competing at this level will change them.

The football, said Nick Caserio, obviously comes first. But who a young player is has to be a big part of the equation.

“It’s everything,” said the Patriots Director of Player Personnel. “I mean, it really is. We try to look each position on the board, each position they have their own particular factors and position skill set that we evaluate and we go through and we assign a grade …There’s certain things that a corner’s going to have to be able to do. There are certain things that a tight end’s going to have to be able to do. Everyone has their own particular skills that they’re going to have to do. Will he check every box? Well maybe not but does he check enough?

“The most important thing is to take the strengths of a player and try to put him into position to where he can utilize those strengths. Not ‘well he doesn’t do this’. Then we won’t put him in that position hopefully. So [we] try to identify what the skill is, how well they do it, and then put them in a position where they can actually see it. So there’s the physical component.”

Then, Caserio said, there’s the projection of how the person will perform.

“Call it ‘football makeup’ component is a central part of it as well,” he said. “Look, we’re not perfect. Some players work the way we think (others don’t). It comes with the territory. But you’re trying to create a profile of the player within our building and then how he’s going to handle everything that comes along with being a New England Patriot. Being in the program, the demands that we place on those players, so you factor everything in. Some players, they may check every single place both from a physical standpoint and from a football-makeup standpoint and you have others that maybe they check enough of them and then you feel comfortable about that level.”

Rolling through the players they took, it’s interesting to try and see what may have been a “football makeup” draw with each. Second-round corner Cyrus Jones played for Nick Saban at Alabama. He’s played in the biggest games and shown well in them. He’s a film junkie. He tackles well. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s not the biggest corner. But he’s got an edge and he excels on special teams.

Third-rounder Joe Thuney is “very productive, very durable, very bright; probably as intelligent as anybody at that position,” said Caserio. He also can play anywhere on the line. Smarts and versatility are highly valued by the Patriots.

Third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a gifted, charismatic leader who’s had a relationship with Bill Parcells since Brissett was in high school. “I can't even describe what type of person he is and what he's meant to my life,” said Brissett. “Just him grooming me as a man and preparing me for tough times, hard times, good times. He's been so helpful to me throughout this process and just keeping my steady and keeping a good head on my shoulders and you know I just can't thank him enough.”

Third-rounder Vincent Valentine from Nebraska? Versatile big man who can play all over the defensive line.

Malcolm Mitchell, the Georgia wide receiver? You couldn’t find a more likable and genuine kid, it seems. And the scouting report offered by longtime draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki? “A tough, passionate, crafty slot receiver who can be trusted to move the sticks in critical situations … Brings similar energy, toughness and attitude as Steelers 1998 third-round pick Hines Ward. Smart and versatile enough to contribute in multiple roles perhaps even at cornerback where he began his Georgia career and could be most attractive to a veteran coaching staff such as the Patriots or Steelers.”

Kamu Grugier-Hill? A safety who can play at the linebacker level and has huge special teams upside that comes with a recommendation from Eastern Illinois college teammate Jimmy Garoppolo. Another sixth-rounder, Elandon Roberts? Big-time character guy who doesn’t have great measurables but had great production. Seventh-rounder Ted Karras? A four-year starter at guard in the Big Ten with Illinois. Seventh-round wideout Devin Lucien? Dedicated student who was able to switch from UCLA to Arizona State as a graduate transfer and still go out and be very productive with the Sun Devils in his final collegiate season.

There aren’t any real injury dice rolls.

There any character dice rolls.

The “football makeup” seems to be there.

Now?

“They have no idea what they’re getting into,” said Bill Belichick on Saturday night. “It’s not their fault. We all had to go through it at some point or another. They’re going to get a big dose of what they probably haven’t had a whole lot of, certainly any time recently. It’s a big load. The competition level is going to step up. The volume is going to step up. It’s not a scholarship. In college they can’t take them away from you. In the NFL you’re fighting for a job so it’s a whole new ball game.”

In the end, football ability will be the main determinant as to whether they stay or go. But the Patriots made sure that – at least on the surface – they all appear to have the ability to withstand what’s going to be coming at them.

Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

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Quotes, notes and stars: Porcello has ability to adjust

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

QUOTES:

"He threw all four pitches tonight for strikes, but most importantly, (he's shown) the ability to make adjustments from pitch-to-pitch. If he gets out of whack or misses with a pitch, he's right back in the strike zone.'' - John Farrell on Rick Porcello.

"You look back at the first month and I think we've gained a lot of trust in each other up and down the lineup. That to me is the strongest attribute right now on this team.'' - Farrell on the Red Sox after one month of play.

"Pretty similar. I'm getting a lot of timely hits, and it's helping the team.'' - Jackie Bradley Jr., asked if this last week is similar to the hot streak he enjoyed last August.

"I'm comfortable. I'm in a good place, mentally and physically. I worked really hard to get where I am now and I'm going to continue to work.'' – Bradley on his hot streak.

"Much better fastball command. I've been able to execute my sinker better and that's allowed me to get ahead of hitters and if I do fall behind, I've been able to come back.'' - Porcello on cutting his walk rate by more than half compared to this point a year ago.

NOTES:

* The shutout at Fenway was the first for the Red Sox against the Yankees since May 14, 2011.

* The eight-run margin was the biggest margin in a Red Sox shutout over the Yankees since Sept. 6, 2003 when they won 11-0 in New York.

* The four triples in April for Jackie Bradley Jr. are the most for a Red Sox hitter in that month since Jose Offerman in 1999.

* In his last nine games against the Yankees, Bradley is 14-for-31 (.452) with nine extra-base hits.

* Rick Porcello's 5-0 start to the season is the best run for a Red Sox starter since Josh Beckett was 7-0 in 2007.

* The Yankees have failed to homer in seven games this season; they're 0-7 in those games.

STARS:

1) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had three extra-base hits (two triples and a double) for eight total bases, and knocked in three runs.

2) Rick Porcello

The Red Sox starter tossed seven shutout innings and allowed only two baserunners into scoring position while issuing just one walk.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had a double in the second and a single in the sixth, good for three RBI, a season high for him.

Late goal gives Orlando City 2-2 draw with Revolution

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Late goal gives Orlando City 2-2 draw with Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Carlos Rivas tied it in the 90th minute and Orlando City survived New England's late chances in a 2-2 tie with the Revolution on Saturday night.

Rivas finished Cyle Larin's cross with a left-footed shot from the center of the box, and Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik saved Donald Smith's close-range shot moments later. The Revs' Juan Agudelo hit the crossbar with a header in the final minute.

Agudelo entered as a substitute in 70th and scored on his first touch a minute later to give the Revolution (1-2-7) a 2-1 lead.

The Revolution opened the scoring in the seventh minute on Diego Fagundez's right-footed blast. Kevin Molino tied it for Orlando City (2-2-4) with a left-footed smash off a loose ball in the 30th minute.