O'Neal accepts defensive role

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O'Neal accepts defensive role

BOSTON Jermaine O'Neal was not in a good mood following Monday night's loss to Oklahoma City.

It wasn't just because of the game's outcome which extended the Boston Celtics' losing streak to five in a row.

The play of O'Neal has come under fire lately, with a number of NBA pundits pointing out how the 33-year-old's game has fallen off considerably - especially when it comes to scoring.

So following Monday's loss, O'Neal fired back.

O'Neal spent the majority of his post-game spiel explaining that what he's doing - and not doing - in Boston has more to do with his role than what some believe are diminishing skills.

"With me here, Doc (Rivers) has given his role," said O'Neal, who tallied his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. "So all the debate about whether I score, if I score people wondering about me scoring, that's not my role. My role has been given to me. My role has been said to be a defender and not offensively."

So when it comes to measuring his play, O'Neal is emphatic that it be on what he does defensively.

"Judge me on how I get out on the pick-and-roll and help the guards," he said. "Judge me on how I step up on penetration. This debate about my scoring it's not my position right now. If I'm not rebounding. If I'm not taking charges, then we got a conversation to have."

O'Neal, like most of this aging squad, has been up and down with his play at both ends of the court. While he has been solid as a rebounder and a defender of late, he too had some problems at the start of the season rotating late at times defensively, and not providing the kind of rebounding presence the Celtics need from their starting center.

"I think Jermaine is no different than any of our other players," Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com. "He wants to play better, and we need him to play better for us to be a good team. I think all of our players understand that."

Although O'Neal spent most of the summer working out and conditioning his body for the rigors of this season, he too has been slow to play at a consistent level.

"I'm starting to get my legs back as far as rebounding; getting my timing," O'Neal said. "That's my concern."

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has repeatedly said that O'Neal needs to provide a defensive presence and rebound, in order to help the Celtics.

As far as his scoring, Rivers isn't overly concerned with that aspect of his game. Still, there are things he can do to help both his scoring opportunities as well as those for his teammates.

O'Neal rolled hard to the basket against the Thunder, which was one of the reasons he tallied a season-high 12 points.

"That's one of the things we've been working with him - instead of rolling to that short, little jump shot he's rolling to the basket now," Rivers said. "And that opens up either him or a guard."

And while it was refreshing for O'Neal to have a breakout-type game scoring, he understands that limiting points - not scoring them - is the best way he can help the Celtics.

"It's a little different than I'm used to, but I accept that role with open arms," O'Neal said. "Whatever it is, I accept that."

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE - Tom Brady didn't merely fly to Carolina because he likes having his ears pop. 

The Patriots quarterback will indeed play Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Given Bill Belichick's stated objective of making Jimmy Garoppolo's preparation for the season's first four games a priority, it was uncertain whether Brady would be on the field even though he traveled. But with Brady a late scratch last Thursday against the Bears after gouging his thumb just before kickoff, his chances for game reps before his exile were waning. 

Brady made it very clear this week that he doesn't just want the game reps for tuning up and getting knocked around but because he believes it's his job and responsibility to be out there leading the team, regardless of where he'll be the first four weeks of the year. With him feeling that strongly about playing being important for his preparation and for his standing within the team, it makes sense for Belichick to give him reps. 

It's not known whether Brady or Garoppolo will start or how many series either quarterback will play Friday night. 

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

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Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:

QUOTES:

* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.

NOTES:

* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.

STARS:

1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Andrew Benintendi saga will continue for at least one more day, as an MRI taken here Thursday morning was, in the words of John Farrell, "inconclusive" and the rookie left fielder will undergo more tests Friday in Boston.

"Our doctors want to get him back to a full exam with (team orthopedist) Dr. [Peter] Asnis," Farrell said after the 2-1 loss to the Rays, which concluded the team's 11-game road trip. "Hopefully, when I speak to you all [Friday] afternoon (at Fenway Park, prior to the team's game against Royals), there will be a little more information on this."

Farrell said Friday's tests "will include some other imaging".

The Sox placed Benintendi on the 15-day disabled list after he injured his left night while running the bases Wednesday night. 

"We're going to do some more tests tomorrow and take it day-by-day," he said. "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully the tests come back clean.''
 
Benintendi found one sliver of hope:
 
"The more I walk on it, the better it feels. I'm going to stay as positive as I can.''