Celtics still on the phones, but nothing imminent

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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."

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

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Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

 

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

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Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.