Winning Atlantic won't be easy for Celtics


Winning Atlantic won't be easy for Celtics

PHILADELPHIA Ever since the Big Three era in Boston began, it was a given that the Atlantic Division race wasn't really a race at all.

The Celtics (20-18) would have no problem finishing first, while the rest of the division would fight for whatever playoff seeding scraps were left behind.

This season is one with lots of changes throughout the NBA, including the race to the top of the Atlantic; it's actually a race now.

So far, it's a race the C's aren't winning.

Boston's 32-point drubbing at the hands of Philadelphia on Wednesday night -- the worst loss in the Big Three era -- robbed the Celtics of a chance at taking over the top spot in the division ahead of the Sixers (23-17).

A number of factors have contributed to this season being such a struggle for the Celtics to get the top spot in the Atlantic, a place they have finished each of the past four seasons.

Since the Atlantic Division was formed prior to the 1970-1971 season, only two teams have won it five or more consecutive seasons.

The C's did it first between 1972-1977, and they did it again about a decade later (1983-1988).

Only by winning the division can a team assure themselves of having home court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.

And with so many teams in the Atlantic hovering around the .500 mark, winning the division could mean the difference between beginning the playoffs at home, or starting off on the road against Miami or Chicago.

That in itself makes Wednesday's loss a tough one for the Celtics, even if the players won't fully embrace the notion.

For the very same reasons that beating New York on Sunday was important for them -- division rivalry, potential playoff seeding, importance of winning head-to-head matchup -- so should have been the value of Wednesday's game.

Paul Pierce acknowledged the loss to the Sixers was an important game, "we gotta win as many games as possible."

He added, "If we still have a better record than Philly, New York, New Jersey and other teams, then we still get that top seed regardless of our division record."

Rajon Rondo echoed Pierce's comments.

"We want to get the best seed possible, regardless of the division," Rondo said. "We want to try to continue to win games. The bottom line is we want to win, win, win."

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations


Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 


Curran: Too early to read anything into Patriots' practice groupings

Curran: Too early to read anything into Patriots' practice groupings

FOXBORO – On Thursday, we noted that the early part of Patriots practice -- 7-on-7 passing -- had Tom Brady running with the starters. When 11-on-11s came, it was Jimmy Garoppolo The Patriots flipped it on Friday. 

A major part of training camp is seeing who’s running with whom to get an idea of which way the coaching staff is leaning. But not all reps are created equal, as Bill Belichick pointed out Thursday morning. 

“There’s a balance,” he explained. “Players that will probably play together, you let them work together, but you never really know how that’s going to go. And in the end everybody’s got to work with everybody until those things get worked out, get declared. 

“I don’t think we’re really in that spot yet,” he added. “But, you know, you get into the season and you want a certain receiver running a certain route, a certain situation, that’s who it’s going to be. I don’t think we’re really there. Offensively, we’re just installing our offense. We don’t even have 50 percent of our red-area offense [installed], and that’s what we worked on yesterday so we’re a long way from really trying to nail down a lot of specifics. But you saw some times in practice where the quarterbacks would be working with an individual receiver, maybe during a special-teams period, things like that. There’s some of that but we’re not in that full-scale mode yet.”

And it will take a while before you can really read the tea leaves on groupings and figure out who is near the top of the depth chart. Some guys are still in 100-level classes. Others are more highly evolved.

“Everybody can work with everybody, that’s not a problem -- I’d say the knowledge base, the overall level of execution of certain things is higher in one group than it is in another group. We have some players with less experience spending more times on the basics and the fundamentals, Not that they don’t practice some of the little more sophisticated things, but that’s not the point of emphasis for them. It’s for them to work on their fundamentals and more of the basics first. But it’s a balance, it’s a tough thing in camp that you’ve got to balance, and at some point you’ve got to turn the corner and get your players that are going to be ready to play, whoever those are, ready to play.”

That time’s not now. And it may not come in force until after the Bears and Saints joint practices and preseason games. So take every report of reps and combinations with a grain of salt for the short term. And we’ll keep pumping them out.