Mental toughness key down stretch for Celtics


Mental toughness key down stretch for Celtics

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics travel itinerary has been dizzying.

In one week they have traveled from Boston, following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs last Wednesday, to Chicago (Thursdays loss to Bulls), Chicago to Indiana (Saturdays win against the Pacers), Indiana to Boston (Sundays win against the Philadelphia 76ers), Boston to Miami (Tuesdays win over the Heat), and Miami back to Boston for Wednesdays overtime win against the Atlanta Hawks.

After dropping two straight last week, they have won four games in five days against playoff contending teams. Aside from the physical aspect of logging an extensive numbers of minutes and miles, the Celtics also face a mental challenge to stay focused during this stretch.

Following their grind-it-out 88-86 win over the Hawks, in which there were 13 lead changes and 11 ties, Kevin Garnett (22 points, 12 rebounds) praised his teams mental toughness.

I think our concern tonight was more mental fatigue, Garnett said. Then again, you think about your summer workouts and these are the things that the workouts like that help you for moments like this -- for when you see doubt is right in front of you and you go through it.

Its good that we were able to mentally stay strong and fight the fatigue and come through and execute and make plays when we had to.

The schedule doesnt get any easier for the Celtics. On Thursday they will leave for a back-to-back-to-back road trip, playing the Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, and Charlotte Bobcats over the weekend. Then it's off to New York, where they will play the Knicks next Tuesday before taking on the Orlando Magic in Boston the following night.

I think itll be fun, said Avery Bradley (7 points, 4 rebounds). We love the game of basketball. We are ready, getting ourselves mentally prepared. We are going into every game as hard as we can.

Curran: NFL embarrasses itself yet again in Josh Brown case


Curran: NFL embarrasses itself yet again in Josh Brown case

In February, the New York Times did a fawning feature on Lisa Friel, the woman hired to make sure the NFL never had an investigatory embarrassment like the one they had in the Ray Rice case.

As the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Investigations, Friel would be relentless and undaunted, stated wrote Times reporter Dan Barry, who wrote:

The only issue (she declined even to call it a frustration) is the expectation by some of instant investigative findings following an allegation. Friel said that she was no longer in law enforcement, had no subpoena power and must pursue these cases more like a reporter or private investigator.

This means asking the local police department for incident reports, transcripts of 911 calls, photographs, interviews with responding officers. This means wading through redacted documents, being rebuffed by witnesses and alleged victims, waiting for the processing of freedom-of-information requests. This means hitting walls, putting together a to-do list, then waiting for the case to be adjudicated, dismissed or closed.

Barry then cited Friel who said, “Then we’re going to circle back and go through the whole list again." 

Well, that certainly doesn’t align with what’s unfolding in the Josh Brown case.

Thursday, the league complained it hit a dead-end in its investigation into allegations of abuse by Brown. A portion of their statement:

“NFL investigators made repeated attempts — both orally and in writing — to obtain any and all evidence and relevant information in this case from the King County Sheriff’s Office. Each of those requests was denied and the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide any of the requested information, which ultimately limited our ability to fully investigate this matter. We concluded our own investigation, more than a year after the initial incident, based on the facts and evidence available to us at the time and after making exhaustive attempts to obtain information in a timely fashion. It is unfortunate that we did not have the benefit or knowledge of these materials at the time.”

Later Thursday, the NFL’s effort to get to the bottom of the Brown case – or at least get background – was lampooned by the man the league said turned them away.  King County Sheriff John Urquhart, whose office investigated accusations that Brown abused his ex-wife while a member of the Seahawks, said the investigator that contacted his office didn’t make it clear he was representing the NFL.

“Since this is a hot-button item in the NFL, since it’s the NFL, we probably would have told them orally a little bit more about what we had.” Urquhart said. “But we don’t have them calling us here. We’ve got some goofus from Woodinville named Rob Agnew asking for the case file. We have no idea who he is.”

“We would have told them… ‘Be careful, NFL, don’t rush into this. This case is blossoming way more than what happened on May 22nd of 2015. We’re getting more information, be careful,’” he said. “Again, we’re not gonna give them specifics but we certainly would have cautioned the NFL to be careful about what they were going to do.”

The league has since taken exception to Urquhart’s representation of the facts.

Do you know how the league could have avoided embarrassing itself yet again, though? By being transparent, as I first wrote back in August when Brown’s one-game suspension came down and an explanation as to why he didn’t get six games was sorely needed.

Uncomfortable as it may have been to state publicly what the investigation had concluded at that point, citing mitigating factors that led to Brown’s reduced suspension and detailing the efforts made to get to the bottom of the situation would have at least put everything on the table.

I wrote then: The NFL had two choices when it how to package Brown’s suspension. Either leave people to presume it was trying to bury an infraction and save face for the beloved owner or a precious New York city franchise. Or demonstrate that there really was a new way of doing business by being painfully transparent. 

It chose the former. And they now deal with the fallout of mistrust. Again. Still.

And today, it’s miles worse. 

Belichick audibles: Extends press conference, references Russell, Gehrig, Jagger


Belichick audibles: Extends press conference, references Russell, Gehrig, Jagger

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick held a press conference that lasted just under 30 minutes on Friday morning, touching on topics ranging from Malcolm Butler's growth, to lessons learned from Chuck Noll, to how Jack Lambert owes his career, in part, to the Rolling Stones. 

The Patriots coach is not generally thought of as someone who is expansive in press conference settings, but there are days, particularly on Fridays when most of the week's game-planning work is done, when he can get rolling at the microphone. He actually had a chance to shut down his scheduled 15-minute back-and-forth session with reporters about 20 minutes in. 

"I'll take a couple more if you want," Belichick said after speaking at length about Noll and the history of the Steelers. "I had a couple of long answers in there. That's usually a problem with me. Just going on and on."

He went on to answer a question about Duron Harmon, who he labeled a "silent leader," recalling a lesson he learned from Celtics legend Bill Russell, who came to speak to the team in 2002 and who Belichick saw during last season's Celtics playoff run. 

"Bill Russell taught me this," Belichick said. "In a way, a silent leader in some respects is more powerful than a vocal leader because you hear the v guy, you see him, you're aware of it, but then you have guys who have quiet leadership that in a way is more powerful because it's not quite out there as much, but it's that quiet push that sometimes can maybe have a little more impetus. I kind of put Duron in that category."

Then Belichick moved on to a query about rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts, who didn't play much as a junior at the University of Houston but became one of the best tacklers in the country as a senior. Is it difficult to scout players with just one real year of production?

"That's a tough one because you're like, 'If this guy's so good, then why did he not play? Why wasn't he out there?' [Rob] Gronkowski same thing," Belichick said. "[Rob] Ninkovich same thing. One year of production . . . Elandon, kind of the same thing. Got into the starting lineup, played and was very productive. 

"That's a great question. Is that production circumstantial? Is this guy real? Is this guy really on the way up or was that the peak and then he's going to come back down? 

"I guess the one that sticks out the most to me would be coach [Nick] Saban's story about [Jack] Lambert, when he was at Kent State, speaking of the Steelers. Lambert couldn't get on the field. Was a backup linebacker. Didn't play. Kid in front of him was really their leader, he was kind of the heart and soul of the Kent State defense . . . Through a series of circumstances, that's another story so we'll skip all that, but the kid dropped out of school, worked for Mick Jagger as a security guy, went on tour with the Stones and Lambert became the starting middle linebacker. He probably never would've played had that not happened. And you have a Hall of Fame linebacker.

"When some players have the opportunity and they get in there, the Tom Brady's of the world, or whoever, you can't get them out of there. I mean, Lou Gehrig." 

Soon thereafter, the questions ceased, but before leaving the media work room at Gillette Stadium, Belichick acknowledged his longer-than-usual run at the podium. 

"Extending the play," he said. "Little scramble."