Curran: Peyton Manning cloud hangs over Indy

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Curran: Peyton Manning cloud hangs over Indy

INDIANAPOLIS - This heartland city is ready for its closeup.The most important one-day sporting event on the planet is here, America's unofficial national holiday, the Super Bowl. And in what state is the local NFL entrant? Utter and complete disarray. It's transcendent superstar, Peyton Manning, the man who made Indianapolis matter and put the city on the country's lips, is on his way out. The Colts paid Manning 26 million in 2011 and he was unable to play a snap because of neck surgery just before the season. The Colts are on the hook to pay him another 28 million on March 8. He's 36. His body may not allow him to play again. The Colts hold the first pick in the draft and Stanford's Andrew Luck is getting "can't miss" hype that hasn't been seen since 1998 when Peyton Manning was coming out. It's not a matter of "if" Manning and the Colts divorce occurs. It's "when." Bob Kravitz, an excellent columnist for the Indianapolis Star, spoke at length to both Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay. He was the media's Mills Lane in an eye-opening dustup between quarterback and owner. I asked him Monday about the strange dynamic in which the world is being invited over for dinner in Indy while family problems are raging. "It's a really strange time because this is the big celebration and there's this sort of cloud that hangs over it," said Kravitz. "When's the other shoe gonna fall? When are we gonna find out that Peyton's either gonna retire or be cut? I don't think it's gonna happen during Super Bowl week . . . I know for a fact Peyton's gonna go underground during Super Bowl and Jim Irsay's smart enough to not open his big yap again."It won't be this week but the question is whether or not it happens before the Combine (also held in Indianapolis in late February)," said Kravitz.When Indy was awarded this Super Bowl, it wasn't far-fetched to think the Colts would be the first team to play for a title in its own stadium.But without Manning, the Colts went 2-14 and a housecleaning in which longtime team president. Bill Polianand his son, Chris, the team's GM, were fired soon followed. Then head coach Jim Caldwell was given the gate. Now Indianapolis has to smile and hold the door for the hated Patriots and their fanbase. And New Yorkers too? That's a brutal pill to swallow if you're from here. Kravitz says the event has seemed to trump the partisan football inclinations, though. "Even though (the disarray of the Colts) is a cloud in the minds of fans, I don't think it diminishes what's happening here," he pointed out. "What's been great here has been the community involvement. They needed 8,000 volunteers and they got 13,000 people sign up. They've really not used public money on this, it's all been private money. Really all corporate cash. This is their moment in the sun and they're gonna revel in it. I think (Peyton Manning) is on everybody's mind but I don't think it diminishes from what we've got going on."The demise of the Colts came faster than anyone expected, said Kravitz. "Everybody came into this year thinking they had two or three more years (of elite play) under Peyton," Kravitz theorized. "With Peyton, Reggie Wayne, Joe Addai, Dallas Clark. Everyone wondered how close the window was to 'closing' but we all thought two or three years. And then Peyton gets hurt. And it just keeps getting worse. And there hasn't been any good news that's come out of this thing in months. I think people realize that the glory days are gone."I asked Kravitz if the city is going to have a tough time entering football irrelevancy for a spell after being so prominent for more than a decade. "Once they get through the mourning of Peyton Manning, once the grieving process is done, they're really gonna embrace Andrew Luck because he's the next Peyton Manning," said Kravitz. "I think people are starting to understand how incredibly bleeping lucky they are," he stressed. "When you look at Miami and how long they've waited for another quarterback after Dan Marino, when you look at Denver and how long they've waited after John Elway. And we're gonna have in this city one bad year. And we're gonna go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck and that's extraordinarily fortuitous."It is an amazing brightside to have. The curtain will fall on one superstar. And a new one will be born. Maybe Indy won't wind up irrelevant after all.

OFFSEASON

Thomas will be 'as real as possible' if part of Celtics meeting with Durant

Thomas will be 'as real as possible' if part of Celtics meeting with Durant

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics are longing for some fireworks this weekend, but we’re not talking about the Fourth of July variety.

The Celtics will make their pitch to Kevin Durant which is taking shape as the most important player pursuit by Boston ever.

Boston made the cut of six teams that Durant will limit his discussions to this weekend, with a decision expected prior to July 9 which is when he embarks on an overseas trip.

As of Thursday evening, Thomas wasn’t sure if he was going to be part of the group that meets with Durant.

“If they need me to do it, I’ll definitely do it,” said Thomas who added that he would be meeting with Danny Ainge later in the day. “We’ll see.”

If he does (as expected) partake in the official recruitment of Durant, Thomas already has an idea of how he’ll approach things.

“First off, I’m going to go buy some (Kevin Durant sneakers),” quipped Thomas. “If I do go to the meeting, I’ll be in … the whole outfit. I’m just gonna be as real as possible. As a basketball player and a basketball fan, he knows what Boston brings.”

On Thursday, Thomas was at Faneuil Hall in conjunction with Good Humor ice cream which began its East coast tour in Boston.

That relationship is yet another of the perks that comes with being a standout basketball player in Boston.

Thomas was a solid NBA player prior to coming to Boston.

But since his arrival in February of 2015, he has become a fan favorite whose play has been pivotal to Boston’s continued success which included them winning 48 games this past season – the most under third-year coach Brad Stevens – and Thomas being selected to his first all-star game.

As Thomas handed out free ice cream to kids and adults and a slew of Celtics fans, they all had a similar message for him – “Bring KD to Boston!”

Thomas wasn’t surprised.

“They (fans) want greatness, they want top players,” Thomas said. “They’ll do whatever they can to get them.”

And Thomas believes the same is true for Ainge and the entire Celtics franchise.

That’s in part by Thomas has a good feeling that Boston’s roster next fall will include at least one other all-star caliber player besides himself.

“I’m very confident,” Thomas said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be Kevin Durant. Who knows? But I’m confident he’ll get a guy that can help build on what we have going here.”

Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

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Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

The Celtics will likely guarantee the second year of Amir Johnson’s two-year, $24 million deal he signed last season, the Boston Globe reported.

Johnson, 29, a 6-9 forward, signed as a free agent last summer, averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 79 regular season games for the Celtics and 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the six-game, first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks. 

OFFSEASON

Report: Celtics to make qualifying offers to Sullinger, Zeller

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Report: Celtics to make qualifying offers to Sullinger, Zeller

The Celtics will make qualifying offers to Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller by the Friday deadline, the Boston Herald reports.

With offers of $4.4 million to Sullinger and $3.7 million to Zeller, the two will become restricted free agents, meaning the Celtics have can match any offer sheet they sign. The two would have become unrestricted free agents without the qualifying offers.

Sullinger could take the offer to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the Herald reported Zeller would likely be looking elsewhere to find a bigger role after his playing time decreased last season.

Sullinger started 73 games and averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the regular season. He averaged 5.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes in the first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks and lost his starting job two games into that series. 

Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds last season. He played in three of the six games in the Atlanta series.