Curran: Pats may still go wide in draft

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Curran: Pats may still go wide in draft

During a back-and-forth with some Twitter folks on Thursday, there were virtual eyebrows raised when I was asked if I felt the Patriots would go "all defense" in next month's draft and I answered that wide receiver and offensive line were possible need spots as well.

"Ummmm, wide receiver?" one followed asked dubiously.

Well, yeah. Wide receiver. When you look at the 10 guys on the roster at that position, only two are dead-mortal locks to be on the field for a huge chunk of offensive plays in 2012.
They are Wes Welker, who is soon-to-be 31 and carrying the franchise tag, and Brandon Lloyd, who's 30 and entering the first year of a three-year deal.

The others are as follows:

Donte Stallworth, 31, just signed a one-year deal worth 875,000.

Deion Branch, 33 when the seasons starts, just signed a one-year deal.

Chad Ochocinco, 34, two years left on three-year deal, 1 million salary this year.

Julian Edelman, 25, one-year left on four-year deal, 615,000 salary, primarily a returner, utility player.

Matthew Slater, 26, newly-signed three-year deal, 5.4 million deal, primarily a special teams player.

Anthony Gonzalez, 27, just signed a one-year deal worth 716,000

Tiquan Underwood, 25, end-of-roster player trying to make the team.

Britt Davis, 25, practice squad player trying to make the team.

Some believe the emergence of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as potent weapons mitigates the Patriots' need for true wideouts. But when you look at the roster, you see only one "outside" receiver that the Patriots have long-term commitment to. That's Lloyd.

The Patriots need talented, developmental depth at the position and that should come in the draft.

Bill Belichick seemed to indicate as much this week at the owner's meetings when he said, "You always try to have competition at every position. Weve always had about that many receivers going to camp -- 10, 11, somewhere in there -- and well see what the roster limit ends up being this year.

"There are some guys that I'm sure will be at that position that arent even on our team right now, that were not even talking about. Its just a process."

The Patriots' record of drafting and developing wideouts is woeful. Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson all went belly-up. Branch and David Givens - selected in the second and seventh rounds in 2002 - are the only wide receivers New England drafted and got major production from in the past decade.

Is it the coaching? Is it the system? Is it bad luck? Is it a position the Patriots don't value and believe can be addressed with smart, veteran players who are mid-tier free agents?

It's probably all of the above to some degree.

But the glut of talented wide receivers in the 2012 draft means that New England will have plenty of chances to target a player they like in the first 100 picks or so.

Just using one draft analysts forecast, there are 12 players who project as being draftable in the third round or before.

At the tail end of the first round and into the second, the Patriots could target a project player like Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, or a production animal like Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers who doesn't have Hill's speed or measurables but caught 115 balls last season.

As we head into March, we'll look deeper at the wideout class and try to figure which one might make the most sense in New England.

Until then, wideout? Yes. Wideout.

With Thomas drawing attention, Rozier rises to occasion to send Celtics to OT

With Thomas drawing attention, Rozier rises to occasion to send Celtics to OT

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.

“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


STUDS

Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.

 

DUDS

Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.