Celtics still on the phones, but nothing imminent


Celtics still on the phones, but nothing imminent

LOS ANGELES With the NBA trading deadline less than 48 hours away, word around the NBA is that the Boston Celtics are still having lots of conversations but no deal is imminent.

Danny Ainge, who is traveling back to Boston today, told CSNNE.com on Monday night that he thinks his team won't change much, if at all, between now and Thursday's 3 p.m. (EST) trade deadline.

"It's not because of a lack of trying or having conversations with other teams," Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com. "We just haven't come across a deal that we feel good about, that will make us a better team."

The Celtics are trying to do the seemingly impossible right now.

They want to upgrade their roster, particularly in the frontcourt where they are painfully thin. They could become even thinner depending on the news Ainge receives from the Celtics' medical staff about Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal.

But at the same time, they don't want to tinker with their core group (which has been banged up all season) or make a deal that will hamper the franchise's flexibility in the near future.

In addition to having a roster in which just about every player is potential trade bait, the Celtics also have a pair of first-round draft picks in this year's draft - their own pick and one from the Clippers that they received in the Kendrick Perkins trade - that they could use as enticements to get a deal done.

However, Ainge appears reluctant to part with either pick right now which makes sense when you consider this year's draft will likely be one of the deepest in years.

"We would like to do something that can help us in the short-term, obviously," Ainge said. "But we don't want to necessarily do that at the cost of our long-term goals, either."

The Celtics player whose name has come up the most in media reports involving the C's and trade talks has been Rajon Rondo, the 26-year-old point guard who is far and away, their most valuable asset because of his age, experience and ability.

But multiple league sources on Tuesday said that Ray Allen remains the one Boston player that's most likely to be traded, although there has been a "significant" amount of interest in Avery Bradley as well.

One Eastern Conference official was told inquiring about Bradley's availability was pointless because, "Danny loves that kid, and now that he's playing and playing well . . . he's worth more to them to keep, then to flip."

In terms of the Big Four, Ainge has made it clear that he expects a significant return for moving any of them.

Former Celtic Larry Bird, now the GM of the Indiana Pacers, told ESPN.com's Jackie McMullan that Ainge offered Allen for Tyler Hansborough and a future draft pick.

Bird said he rejected the offer.

"If that's the value Danny's putting on Ray, he ain't getting it," Bird said.

The only Celtics player who appears to be safe, is . . . Rondo?

Ainge told CSNNE.com on Monday that he will not be trading Rajon Rondo prior to Thursday's deadline.

Of course that could change if a team like, say New Jersey, were willing to part with Deron Williams which a Nets source said "ain't happening."

Short of landing that kind of player, Rondo's future beyond Thursday with the C's appears pretty solid.

But with all the injuries and out-of-nowhere health concerns (Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, for example), you would think the Celtics would be eager to shake up things.

That might have been the case if this were not such a condensed season, which has forced GMs like Ainge to draw condensed conclusions about their respective teams.

"I feel I have a pretty good grasp on how each of the guys is playing, and what our holes are," Ainge said. "There's a lot of good things going on. Our offense has been a lot better. We've been playing small ball, and we've been getting beat on the glass but our defense has remained good and our offense has gotten better. So we have to find different ways to win. We have to play to our strengths."

Boston (22-19) is 7-2 since returning from the All-Star break, but has been outrebounded by 9.2 rebounds per game during that span. Over the course of the whole season, they've been outrebounded by five rebounds per game.

Poor rebounding may very well be the price the Celtics have to pay, in order to win.

And that's why the idea that this trading deadline could come and go without the Celtics getting a deal done, isn't that big a stretch.

"I like our team a lot," Ainge said. "Of course we'd like to be healthier and have a few more wins, but like I said, you can see we are getting better in a lot of areas. The biggest problem we have now is rebounding. And depending on what the doctors say on Wednesday about Chris and Jermaine, I'll have a better idea after that about what we may need to do with our bigs situation."

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).