Chemistry key as trade deadline approches

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Chemistry key as trade deadline approches

BOSTON With the trading deadline less than a week away, the Boston Celtics are fielding and making their share of calls throughout the NBA.

Before pulling the trigger on any deal, there are a number of factors that have to be weighed in advance.

Near the top of that list has to be chemistry.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, shipped out Kendrick Perkins just before the trading deadline a year ago, hedging his bets that Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal and Semih Erden would hold up enough to fill the void left by Perkins.

He was wrong.

Both O'Neals were sidelined at different times with injuries, and Erden was eventually traded to Cleveland (along with Luke Harangody) for a future second-round pick. But the deal was motivated primarily to free up a roster spot for Troy Murphy.

That didn't work out, either.

For all that went wrong for the Celtics after the trade, the transaction's impact on team chemistry had a major ripple effect.

And so here we are a year later, with the C's looking to potentially do another trade that will once again jeopardize the team's chemistry which is significantly better now than it was at the start of this lockout-shortened season.

Celtics captain Paul Pierce told CSNNE.com that the C's chemistry now is as good as it has been all season.

"Chemistry is everything," Pierce said.

And it's not just the new guys who have to work on it, either.

"Even when you got players who get hurt and miss like four or five games, it takes some games just to get back chemistry with them players," Pierce said.

A right heel injury kept him out of all but one practice during the preseason, in addition to the first three games of the season.

His first few games back were a struggle, both for him and the C's.

"Even when I was out and coming back at the beginning of the year, even though we played together the year before, we didn't have that rhythm, that timing out there," Pierce said.

The trading deadline has brought about its share of trade rumors involving the C's, most of which center around Rajon Rondo and the Big Three of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

With such talk, Rondo has found himself being asked frequently about the Big Three and whether they can continue to play at the Hall of Fame-caliber they have throughout most of their careers.

Rondo said the Big Three bring a number of intangibles to the game, notably chemistry.

"You can't get chemistry if you bring in new guys," he said.

But with the season more than halfway over, players have not only found their individual stride but also how to bring that to the collective group and play more together than they did at the start of the season.

"We know where each other likes the ball and where we want to be on different defensive positions," Rondo said.

"I think so. Just having a consistent lineup out there. There's been times throughout the year, it seemed like the lineup was changing every week. We get a consistent lineup, consistent rotation out there, it helps the chemistry."

Pierce added, "you get to know each other's tendencies, what works and what doesn't. We understand what we're doing well, and we keep going back to that."

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.