Gasol: 'It's part of the reality of what we do'

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Gasol: 'It's part of the reality of what we do'

BOSTON Wednesday morning began like most mornings for Los Angeles Lakers forward (for now at least) Pau Gasol.

His name was once again linked with trade rumors, this time in a deal that would send him to Boston in exchange for C's guard Rajon Rondo.

Gasol said that he tries not to think about it, but adds that it's easier said than done.

"There's days I might think about it a little more, it's in your head a little more," he told CSNNE.com. "But you can't shake it off until something happens or doesn't happen at all. It's not pleasant, but it's part of the business. You have to deal with it."

Rondo can relate.

He, too, has been the subject of trade talks, with the Celtics earlier this season actively involved in trying to move him for Chris Paul, who was eventually traded from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Clippers. There was another rumor shortly after that one fizzled that involved the Lakers apparently being interested in trying to deal for Paul Pierce, who grew up just outside of L.A. in Engelwood, Calif.

"It's part of it," said Rondo, regarding the trade rumors. "I don't think no one is safe until the actual trade deadline (March 15) is over."

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has maintained throughout his tenure that he'll pursue any trade -- regardless of which player he has to move to get it done -- if he believes it can meet certain objectives which of course include, making the C's better.

For now, Ainge told CSNNE.com that his focus is on seeing the players he assembled actually play together some before he'd seriously consider breaking the team up.

"Our guys are just starting to get back healthy, and are starting to develop nice chemistry with one another," Ainge said. "I've been happy with the way things are progressing, the direction we're heading right now."

And while adding Gasol would certainly bolster the Celtics' frontcourt, it would certainly come at a high cost -- a cost that Ainge is unlikely to want to pay for a 31-year-old big man who is averaging a career-low 16.2 points per game.

Plus, the Celtics would have to include an additional player or two with Rondo in order to match Gasol's salary, which is 18.7 million this season. After that, Gasol has two years and 38.3 million remaining on his contract.

While Avery Bradley did a nice job filling in for Rondo when he was out with a right wrist injury, Bradley is not ready to assume the lead guard role on a full-time basis.

And maybe the biggest deterrent for the C's in pursuing such a deal now -- or any deal for that matter -- is the way the C's are playing.

It's not so much that they've won a season-high five straight, and nine of the last 10.

It's how they're winning -- with defense.

With all their core guys healthy, starters and reserves alike can now play the roles they were brought in to play.

And as we've seen the past couple of weeks, the C's are devastatingly good when they play their brand of defensive-minded, grind-it-out basketball.

For Boston, the true test of how far they've come is on the horizon with a schedule that gets significantly tougher, beginning with Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

After the Lakers game, Boston (14-10) has seven games prior to the All-Star Break.

Of those seven opponents, the C's face Chicago twice (Feb. 12 at the Garden, Feb. 16 at Chicago's United Center), along with road games at Dallas and Oklahoma City.

Regardless of how well the Celtics are playing, you can bet the C's will continue to be linked in trade rumors involving different players like Gasol.

"I still try to play as well as I can, help my team as much as I can as I have been," Gasol said to gathered group of reporters. "That's what I can do. It's not pleasant to know you're being dealt with, that you could be sent away somewhere, but it's part of the business part of our league and you accept it. Whatever happens, you just try to move on if it does."

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?

 

Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

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Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

It’s not difficult to see why Austin Czarnik might have been a little overlooked headed into this Bruins training camp when forecasting favorites among the forwards to win a roster spot on the big club. After all he’s only 5-foot-9 and 167-pounds coming off just one very solid season at the AHL level for the Providence Bruins, and there are bigger, stronger forwards candidates that maybe rank a bit higher on the prospect list than him.

But the 23-year-old Czarnik put together an excellent training camp last fall before finishing with 20 goals and 61 points for the P-Bruins last season, and now he’s doing the exact same thing again this time around.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think we could have been a lot better in a lot of areas. Overall I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice,” said Czarnik, who along with Frank Vatrano was one of the real starts of camp last season. “You know that type of mentality and you know mistakes are going to happen, and you’ve just got to move forward from it so everyone’s happy to be back.”

The former Miami University star is clearly happy to be back, and it’s showing on the ice with each chance he gets to show his tenacity, withering fore-check and his willingness to crash the net despite his smallish stature.

Czarnik was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice for the Black and Gold in their preseason opener, and collected a key assist on Boston’s first goal of the game when he pushed a puck through the neutral zone before setting up on odd man rush for Jimmy Hayes and Jake DeBrusk.

This time around Czarnik scored the game’s only goal on a nifty rush during four-on-four play through the offensive zone by Ryan Spooner, who drew in the defense and dished to Czarnik for a wide open tap-in chance.

So it’s a couple of big plays in each of the first two preseason games that led to goals, and a genuinely excellent level of play throughout both contests. It’s something the Bruins coaching staff has taken note of along with his skating speed and hardnosed mentality, and now they have to figure if it fits in with their other NHL pieces.

“We were just talking about it. Everybody has that same feeling. He’s playing well. He moves well. He’s on the puck. He competes, and that’s the thing you’re looking for really,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “Like right now, we know there’s going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones.

“We’re looking to see who’s got that competitive, you know, that competitive fire. [We’re looking for] who’s going to go out there and who can compete at a high level. I know he’s not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is. He’s had two pretty good games so far.”

Czarnik had a couple of good games early in B’s camp last year before flat-lining a bit at the end when the NHL jobs were seriously on the line, and the 23-year-old wants that story to change endings this time around. It remains to be seen where he’s going to fit as yet another center among Boston’s group of training camp players this month, but Czarnik might just force the Bruins to make a tough decision if he keeps playing at his current high level.