With all due respect,who cares LT quit?Big Four for the Big Three

646286.jpg

With all due respect,who cares LT quit?Big Four for the Big Three

Its always a little weird when an athlete that you grew up watching retires. Even weirder when its an athlete that you also grew up hating. But such is the relationship between LaDainian Tomlinson and an entire generation of Patriots fans.

I learned of LTs retirement yesterday during the final round of the U.S. Open, as the news scrolled across NBCs bottom line Report: LaDainian Tomlinson to sign one-day contract with Chargers. Will retire at the age of 33. And to be honest, it hit me pretty hard. First of all, because its always emotional when an all-time great hangs them up. Second, because LTs only a year older than I am, and there's always a special connection with athletes around your own age.

So when I saw that LT was saying goodbye, it took a few seconds to digest: Wow. The greatest running back of my generation one of the fastest and most versatile players Ive ever seen in cleats is suddenly too old and slow to play football.

Ill never get used to that feeling. (Although sadly, Im sure I will)

Anyway, a few seconds later, I re-woke to the reality:

LaDainian Tomlinson . . . Bleh!

The problem with Tomlinson was never a matter of talent. That's to say, we didn't dislike him in New England for being "too good." Even though he's a lock for the Hall of Fame, hes got nothing on guys like Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant local villains who weve all grown to respect (as competitors) over the years. The difference is that with Tomlinson, that respect never came. Or more, it was never earned.

Knowing what you know now (and assuming guys like Brady and Pierce werent a lock to end up in Boston), wouldnt you have been comfortable building the Patriots around Manning? Or the Celtics around Bryant? Or the Red Sox around Jeter? I think so. They were all destined for greatness.

On the other hand, if you could, would you go back and build a team around LaDainian Tomlinson? Even with his otherworldly talent, is he a guy that you'd enlist to lead your team your ENTIRE team to greater heights? Was he ever obsessed, selfless or mentally tough enough to step up when it was all on the line, or be there for his teammates when they needed him most? Nope, that was never him. And hes got the rings to prove it.

And that's how I'll remember LT. One of the greatest running backs I've ever seen, but one that I was more than happy to watch from afar.

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

Beyond the numbers: Kings offense will test Celtics defense

Beyond the numbers: Kings offense will test Celtics defense

BOSTON – When it comes to defense, the Celtics are quick to claim that it is indeed the foundation for which their team is built upon. 
 
Still, far too often this season, we have seen cracks in their usually Teflon-tough defense, the kind that ultimately means the difference between winning and losing.
 
The Celtics’ defense will once again need to step up and play well tonight against a Sacramento squad that has shown it can fill it up offensively of late. 
 
Sacramento (7-11) has scored 100 or more points in eight of their past 10 games. In that span, their 107.2 points per game ranks ninth in the league. 
 
In that same span, the Celtics have allowed opponents to score 100.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NBA in fewest points allowed.
 
And when it comes to winning, limiting teams to less than 100 points has been huge in Boston’s win total. 
 
The Celtics have held eight opponents to 100 points or less this season. 
 
Their record in those games? 8-0.
 
Within that limited scoring, Boston must also make sure teams don’t get into a nice groove shooting the ball. 
 
Boston is 0-5 this season when an opponent shoots 48 percent or better from the field. 
 
While there are several things Boston must do to be successful, having the right kind of defensive disposition ranks at or near the top of that list in their efforts to play with the kind of defensive success that gave so many hope that this would the year Boston would hold court among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.
 

Brady, Bennett, Edelman questionable for Sunday vs. Rams

patriots_martellus_bennett_112716.jpg

Brady, Bennett, Edelman questionable for Sunday vs. Rams

FOXBORO -- The Patriots injury report for Sunday's game with the Rams is out. While they'll be without one big name, but their others are still very much in play. 

Rob Gronkowski, who was scheduled to undergo back surgery on Friday, has been ruled out. Jordan Richards, who is dealing with a knee issue and has not practiced this week, will also be held out of action on Sunday. 

Tom Brady (knee), Julian Edelman (foot), Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder) and Chris Hogan (back) -- all of whom practiced on Friday -- have been listed as questionable for the Rams game at Gillette Stadium. Special teamer Nate Ebner (concussion) returned to practice on Friday and is also questionable, as is Trey Flowers (shin) and Elandon Roberts, who popped up on the injury report with a jaw issue Friday. 

Special teams captain Matthew Slater missed Friday's session after participating on both Wednesday and Thursday. He's been ruled as questionable. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton is also questionable after missing his second straight day of practice with an illness.

If Slater and Ebner are at all limited this weekend, coupled with the loss of Richards, the Patriots kicking game would be significantly impacted. Hogan took reps as the team's personal protector on the punt team earlier this week and may fill that role should Ebner miss time.