Who's got next?


Who's got next?

I dont know about you, but I could get used to having Wednesdays off. Really breaks the week up, dont you think? Honestly, screw healthcare and immigration, all Obama or Romney needs to do is adopt a Wednesdays Off! policy and theyll run away with the election.

Anyway, welcome back to work. Hope youre not too tired, too hung over, or too still drunk in front of that keyboard. Hope youve got all your limbs in tact. Hope you celebrated freedom with the passion of a sermonizing Ray Lewis.

And most of all, hope youre ready for some wild excitement in the world of sports!

OK, that last part was a joke. Excitement? Come on now. Its July, aka the most boring month on the sports calendar. And this summer in Boston, July takes on an extra boring identity. The Pats dont start until the 26th; the Celtics will take a few days to sort out Brandon Bass and Ray Allen before heading into virtual hibernation; the Bruins have spent the off-season quietly stroking their Zambonis while the rest of the NHL feasts on free agency.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are all we have, but until Crawford, Ellsbury, Middlebrooks and Pedroia are back in the everyday line-up, Bobby V.s boys are merely treading water. And thats fine, but after three months, the noveltys wearing thin.

No, no. Despite what you saw last night, July is not a time for fireworks in professional sports. Its a time for boredom, for forced rhetorical contemplation. For questions like this:

Which team is the mostly likely to bring home Bostons next title?

OK, so let's see here . . .

Instinctively, the Pats are the most logical answer. After all, the AFC picture hasnt changed too much since February.

The Steelers and Ravens didnt get better. The Jets continue to flail. The Broncos are interesting, but you don't know howif Peyton will bounce back. The Texans are still terrifying when healthy, but lost one of the best defensive players in the league. The Bengals, Bills, Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs theyll be fun, but aren't quite ready. And what else can I say? Its July. But considering what happened last year, and in the five months since, the Pats are in prime position.

The biggest question is still the defense, especially if they dont come to terms with Andre Carter. But Ill tell you this: Belichick's building himself an army at linebacker.

Its the calling card of every dominating Belichick D. In the 80s, he had Taylor, Banks and Carson with the Giants. In the 2000s, he had Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest and Co. Now, between Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and hopefully Donta Hightower the Pats have a core of angry and tough, but also versatile and athletic LBs. And you know Belichicks got his Tommy Bahama boxers all twisted in anticipation. If those guys can do some damage and the offense can just stay healthy, the Pats will be among the NFL elite.

One that note, the issue of elite is what will probably haunt the Celtics moving forward.

We can all agree that theyre in a much better position than we thought theyd be at this point. With KG, Pierce, Rondo, Bradley, Jason Terry and hopefully Jeff Green and Brandon Bass, the Celtics will be competitive; they're one of the top four teams in the East. But while the Pats are undoubtedly in the upper echelon of the NFL, the Celtics arent quite there in the Association. Even with their encouraging off-season, you cant help but feel like the Green will spend the next few seasons on the outside looking in while the likes of LeBron and Kevin Durant imprint their legacies on NBA history.

Still, as we saw last year and numerous times before that all it takes is one injury to really shake things up. Derrick Rose goes down and the Bulls go from contender to pretender, and suddenly opportunity knocks. And if the Celtics can somehow stay healthy and reach next years playoffs with their entire team intact, theyll once again be in a position to take advantage of any love the basketball Gods want to throw their way.

Its not ideal, but all things considered, well take it.

The Bruins situation feels a little more optimistic than the Celtics, mostly because theres no one in the NHL on the level of Miami or OKC. No one that you look at on paper and say: "Oh man, there's so much better than the Bruins. Boston doesn't have a shot!" While Peter Chiarelli defiantly shrugged his shoulders at free agency, you can't really blame him. He's happy and confident with what the Bruins have a core of players who already climbed the mountain, who know what it takes to win and still have the talent to do so. Throw in a still-improving Tyler Seguin, who should continue to expand upon his dominance, and the Bruins will be in the mix for all Stanley Cup conversations.

Of course, there's a huge wild card in this year's discussion: Goaltending. It's what won them the Cup last summer, and could very well leave them short from here on out.

Tim Thomas was a pain in the ass this season, but he still ranked third in wins, third in goals against and second in save percentage in the Eastern Conference. Sure, in Tuukka Rasks's 23 games he had a better percentage and GAA than Timmy, so there's reason for hope. But as we know, the postseason is a different beast, and it's now been two years since Tuukka even played in the playoffs. We still don't know what he's capable of under that spotlight, and until he proves otherwise, questions will linger. It will be impossible to enter any playoff series with the confidence that you had under Thomas, and I'm going to stop talking about hockey now before I say something incredibly stupid.

And finally, there's the Red Sox. Ah yes, the Red Sox. On their third month of treading MLB water, but getting closer to judgment day.

Listen, I know it's easy to write this team off. To say: "Please . . . they suck! They don't have a chance in October!" And then "I told you so" yourself silly when they fall short. You know why? Because odds are that the Sox WON'T win this year. Hell, they've only won it twice in 94 years! It's not an easy accomplishment.

But to say that the Sox don't have a chance is insane. All they have to do is sneak into one of the Wild Card spots right now, even after the awful West coast swing, they're only two and a half back and anything's possible. Then you have Beckett, Lester and Buchholz. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Crawford. You have a rotation with the potential to win games by itself with a line-up capable of torturing any pitcher. You have a chance. Just as much as any other team that's reached that point.

Still, it won't be easy. It's impossible to sit here today and not worry about how Ellsbury and Crawford will fare after missing a few months, or how Beckett's shoulder will hold up, or if Pedroia's thumb will ever get better or if David Ortiz's bitching will reach a boiling point and start affecting his on-field production. There's so much baseball to be played and unknowns to come to light. But they still have a shot.

Fortunately, all four of our teams do. But if I'm ranking their chances, here's my break down:

1. Pats
2. Bruins
3. Sox
4. Celtics

What do you think?

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Thunder in Oklahoma City. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”