Garnett, Celtics focusing on upcoming season

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Garnett, Celtics focusing on upcoming season

WALTHAM The last go-around for the Big Three. The window closing.

Spin it how you want, but there's a pretty good chance Kevin Garnett has heard some incarnation of it over the past few seasons.

And like a 5-foot-9 guard trying to score over him in the lane, Garnett rejected the question emphatically.

"Next question," he said.

Even though he's 35 years old and has spent nearly half his life in the NBA, the future is something Garnett doesn't give much thought to right now.

He's more consumed with the Celtics season opener against New York on Christmas Day. And once he unwraps a few presents after the game, he'll turn his attention to the next item on the Celtics' docket at Miami on Tuesday.

"I've been getting that question throughout the whole year," said Garnett, who truthfully, has been getting that question for the last two or three years. "I don't anticipate the future, because things are not set in stone. I'm not a person to go back on my word, so I don't know."

For Garnett, the idea of entertaining life beyond this truncated 66-game schedule is a dead issue.

"I'm not even going to give it any air," he said. "Because whatever this year presents itself to be, it would be just that. And the next year, everybody will come back and make a decision."

That doesn't mean he's completely oblivious to the reality that this may very well be his last go-around with this current core group which includes himself, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

"I'm cherishing a lot more not knowing what the future is," he said. "I'm embracing younger guys a little more; younger guys that want to work, embrace our culture and what we do here."

Following Thursday's practice, Garnett was barking out instructions to rookies Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson, both looking on intently.

Garnett has a well-earned reputation for tuning out rookies that don't work hard, don't listen, or both.

When asked if the two rookie big men were listening to Garnett's words of advice, coach Doc Rivers, grinning, said, "Clearly."

"All you have to do is watch," he added, "and see that he's still talking to them. The answer is yes."

Garnett has also been a major influence on Rondo.

Rondo will be the first to acknowledge that early on his career with the Big Three, he and Garnett butted heads a lot.

"I got into it with a lot of people my first couple years," Rondo said. "But we rely on each other. Kevin is one of my best friends on the team right now. Kendrick Perkins left, and I think it kind of made us closer. Kevin and I talk a lot lately, we're trying to stay on the same page. Both working on our attitudes for the better of the team. And me just growing up as a leader, he's been one of my mentors."

And that mentoring begins with Garnett's ability to lead both verbally and by example.

"Kevin is a great leader. If you want a leader, you want a guy like Kevin on your team, on your side," Rondo said. "He works hard. He does by it by his play, not necessarily his talk. He does a lot of talking too, but he backs it up. He's a future Hall of Famer. He's done a lot in this league. For having him as a mentor, a leader, whatever you want to call it, he's a great addition to anyone's team."

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.