Brady's wary of more than just Reed

594718.jpg

Brady's wary of more than just Reed

FOXBORO- When a team prepares for the Baltimore Ravens defense, the primary attention is focused on the usual suspects: Reed, Lewis, Ngata and Suggs.

But ignore the rest of the Ravens defense at your own peril was the message Tom Brady gave me in the Patriots' locker room Wednesday.

The Ravens' outside defenders -- corners Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith -- are worth more than a passing glance, Brady pointed out.

"They're good there," Brady said. "That's become a real strength for them. You hear about so many of those other guys and you end up taking for granted the guys on the outside. We played against Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister and they were really good and I think these guys can cover. They feel good about their matchups."

Last week, in the Ravens' Divisional Round win over the Texans, Webb came up with two interceptions. He had five during the regular season to go along with 59 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

"Webb has great hands, makes some plays on the ball -- he's a punt returner so that tells you how they feel about him -- he can make plays," said Brady. "If you throw to his side, he can make plays. He seems like he's on another level this year after playing him last year."

Brady extended the usual praise to Reed and Lewis, saying, "You always enjoy going up against the best because you can really measure where youre at. You cant take plays off against those guys. You cant take things for granted when youre out there against them. You have to see where theyre at on every play because theyre guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that theyre in, theyre making plays."

There's little a quarterback can do to look off Reed and get him out of position. Even one of Brady's ability.

"You dont fool Ed too often," Brady said."Every once in a while you see him out of place but its very, very rare. When you break the huddle, you find where hes at and you make sure youre not lobbing the ball up in his zones, because as you saw in the Houston game, hes going to go up there and make the plays. Hes just an exceptional player. I dont think there is a weakness that he has."

According to Deion Branch, Reed's skill -- and Lewis' -- make the defenders around them that much better.

"They've been playing with Ray, they been playing with Reed, it's almost like playing with Tom," said the Patriots wideout. "They're guys who make playing out there a lot easier when you have confidence you know he'll be in a certain place on the defensive side of the ball. Webb and my man Cary Williams who has done a great job this year. Lardarius is doing a great job for those guys. And (strong safety Bernard) Pollard, he's a hitter. This guy is downhill. I remember playing against him in Kansas City."

There have been games when offenses have been able to beat the Ravens outside. San Diego for one. The difference is that San Diego is more of a downfield offense than New England. The Patriots are more of a horizontal, timing offense that spreads teams sideline-to-sideline instead of going over the top.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about receivers opening things up for Wes Welker.

"Theyve always had somebody to open up for Wes, it seems like," said Harbaugh. "Whether it was all of the receivers . . . Randy Moss comes to mind. But, theyve always had guys to push the coverage up field and clear out space for Wes. Thats part of their plan all the time.

"Theyve got another guy in there, Hernandez, who they do the same thing with now. He runs some of those same routes underneath. Of course, between Danny Woodhead and just all their guys, its just amazing. They all do the same things underneath, and they all are built that way. But Wes Welker is the guy that leads the charge. Gronkowski is pushing the ball up the field, it seems. Hernandez is pushing the ball up the field, it seems. And then theyve got good receivers outside that can get over top. Its pretty much the same formula. There are a couple of different faces, but pretty much the same idea.

Interestingly, Harbaugh tried to make a point about someone running vertical routes to clear the underneath area for Welker but he didn't seem like he could really muster it.

It is an "underneath" offense primarily with some seam routes and some throws to the sideline but it is predominantly an offense that works from 0-20 yards downfield. And that means Webb, Williams and Smith will be able to sit a little bit in coverage and give tight coverage, especially knowing Reed may be behind them.

The counter-attack for New England would be if they can get Reed to suck up to help in the middle and get 1-on-1 outside and downfield with Branch, Chad Ochocinco or Tiquan Underwood. But that's something New England hasn't done an awful lot in 2011.

At some point on Sunday, they will. And whether the Patriots can win that battle with the Ravens' forgotten DBs could be a game-changer.

History of third-best odds in NBA draft lottery

slide1.png

History of third-best odds in NBA draft lottery

The NBA draft lottery is two weeks away, which means only two more weeks of hitting the “sim lottery” button on our computers while we should be doing work.

Since the weighted lottery system was modified before 1994 giving the team with the worst record a 25-percent chance at the No. 1 pick, the worst team has ended up with the No. 1 pick just three times, most recently the 2015 lottery to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The 25-percent chance, in short, means that out of 1,000 ping pong ball combinations, the worst team going into the lottery has 250 of those combinations. If one of those 250 combinations is pulled, the No. 1 pick goes to that team.

The number of combinations drops per team from worst team in lottery down to the best at No. 14. Since 2005, there are 16 playoff teams and 14 lottery teams. Where the lottery teams rank in record determines how many chances they have at a winning combination. The No. 14 team in the lottery has five chances.

The Boston Celtics go into the lottery holding the Brooklyn Nets’ pick. The Nets finished with the third-worst record this season, giving them 156 combinations, or a 15.6-percent chance at the No. 1 pick.

Combinations are pulled for the top three picks. After that, teams fall into place based on record.

The Celtics have a 46.9-percent chance at landing a Top 3 pick. Picks 1-3 break down virtually equal, at 15.6-percent for the No. 1 seed, 15.6-percent for the No. 2 seed, and 14.7-percent for the No. 3 seed.

Because three teams could leapfrog them (remember, combinations are chosen for just the top three picks), they could fall to as low as the No. 6 seed, but no further. Boston’s chances to land the No. 4 or No. 5 seed actually increase from the first three picks, as they have a 22.6-percent chance at No. 4 and a 26.5-percent chance at No. 5. A No. 6 seed would be extremely unlucky, as there’s just a 4-percent chance at that.

So the question you want to know: How many No. 3 seeds have ended up with the top pick? Since 1994, it’s happened five times, though based on teams with the same record that season, ping pong ball combinations varied. (Example: in 1994, the Bucks were tied with two other teams for the second-worst record, giving them 163 combinations. I included them as one of the five “No. 3 seeds” previously mentioned even though technically they weren’t - it’s close enough.)

The No. 3 seed has never gotten the second pick. It’s gotten the third pick three times, the fourth pick four times, the fifth pick nine times, and the sixth pick once.

Since 2005, the No. 3 lottery team has won the lottery twice (2009, 2013). Let’s take a look at every third-seeded lottery team since then, where there they ended up picking, and who ended up going third in that draft.

Click here for the complete breakdown of each lottery since 2005.

Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

boston-celtics-austin-ainge-brad-stevens.jpg

Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

BOSTON – The Celtics’ practice facility will become a basketball port-of-call in the coming weeks as some of the best young talent passes through, all with the goal of doing their best to impress the Celtics’ brass.

Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, said Boston will begin working out players on Wednesday with the first group consisting of six players - two guards, two forwards and two big men.
 
“We’ll put them through a lot of different situations,” Ainge, who declined to identify the six players working out on Wednesday, told CSNNE.com. “We’ll see how bigs are at guarding guards, and guards defending bigger players, some of the roles they would have to play if they were Celtics…We’ll get a good look at what they can do in a lot of different scenarios.”
 
With eight draft picks [three in the first round and five in the second], the list of players making the rounds will likely be longer than usual.
 
Ainge said he anticipated the Celtics will work out 80-100 players, which is slightly more than they usually do.
 
“With trades, you just never really know,” Ainge said. “So we try to work out players all the way through 60.”
 
Speaking of trades, Ainge anticipates the Celtics will be on the phone more than past years because they have so many picks and, by all indications, do not plan to use them all.
 
If Boston can’t package some of their picks to acquire more talent, the Celtics will look even closer than usual at drafting players from overseas with the intent that they don’t join Boston’s roster for a couple of years.
 
Because Boston has so many picks, you would think they would be in position to be more selective than past years when it came to who they brought in for workouts.
 
“With our picks, it is in a player’s best interest to work out for us,” Ainge acknowledged. “But for us, we want to see as many players as possible so that we can draft the best fit, the best player that’s available.”
 
The draft lottery later on May 17 will determine exactly where the Celtics will be selecting with the pick they acquired as part of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn in 2013.
 
Boston acquired three picks as part of the trade. They used the first one to draft James Young two years ago.
 
This past season, Brooklyn (21-61) finished with the third-worst record, which gives Boston a 15.6 percent chance that the Nets pick it receives will be the No. 1 overall selection. 
 
If Boston lands one of the top-two picks, a workout with LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram – the consensus top-two players in this year’s draft – is likely. And if the Celtics wind up with the No. 2 pick, they might work out Dragan Bender who is the top overseas prospect in this year’s draft.
 
In addition to the Brooklyn pick, which will be no worse than the sixth overall selection, Boston has another pair of first-round picks (16th and 23rd overall), along with five second-round picks (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th), at their disposal.

 

Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

bruins-krug.jpg

Krug out 6 months, Krejci 5 months after surgery

It sounds like the Bruins will be without puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug at the very outset of next season.

Krug (right shoulder), Matt Beleskey (left hand) and David Krejci (left hip) all underwent successful surgeries in mid-to-late April for injuries sustained over the wear and tear of NHL duty last season and both Krug and Krejci are now facing recovery times on the long end of things. 

Krejci’s rehab and recovery is initially set for five months after undergoing surgery with renowned hip surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly on April 25, but the hope is that the 30-year-old playmaking center will be ready for the start of the regular season.

It’s the same rough timetable Krejci faced following hip surgery on his right side after the 2008-09 season and, seven years ago, the center was able to start the season on time.

Krug is up for what’s expected to be a long-term new contract after July 1, and will be out six months after undergoing shoulder surgery with Bruins team doctor Peter Asnis on April 21. That means there’s a good chance the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Krug will miss the preseason and be out the first few weeks of the preseason at the very least. 

Shoulder injuries are also always a bit of a concern for NHL defensemen considering all of the pounding those players absorb on a nightly basis, and that goes doubly so for a smaller blueliner (5-9, 186) such as Krug.

Any absence at all is tough news for the B’s considering Krug was second on the Bruins in ice time (21:37) among defensemen this season, and led all Bruins blueliners with 44 points last season in a challenging year for a clearly undermanned D-corps.

Beleskey is expected to undergo a six-week rehab after his April 14 surgery with Dr. Matthew Leibman at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.