Saints pay for not learning from Patriots

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Saints pay for not learning from Patriots

PALM BEACH -- It's deja vu in Palm Beach,

In the Spring of 2008, the NFL's annual league meetings were here and a large portion of that event was a bloodletting by the Patriots.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft stood before a room of their peers and apologized for videotaping opponents' defensive signals from the sidelines during games.

Accentuating the cleansing, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell advanced a fair playsportsmanshipethics platform. Henceforth, coaches, GMs and owners were to police themselves and sign off that they were clean and pure as the driven snow.

And within a year, the New Orleans Saints were running a program in which players were rewarded for injuring opponents.

This week, Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis are expected to do some penance in front of their peers and the assembled owners.

There's been a lot of discussion about the Draconian punishment handed down by Goodell in this so-called Bountygate mess.

But to me, the reason the commissioner was so penal has its roots in the 2008 meetings. The Saints directly defied investigators, yes, but they also put pen to paper and signed off on their program being ethically clean.

Doing that while maintaining a bounty program was -- along with everything else -- a raised middle finger in the face of Goodell.

In handing down his punishment, Goodell specifically cited the amendment enacted in 2008.

"A 2007 amendment to the NFL Constitution and By-Laws obligated coaches and supervisory employees 'to communicate openly and candidly with the principal owner andor his designated representative; to ensure that club ownership is informed on a complete and timely basis of all matters affecting the clubs operations; and to avoid actions that undermine or damage the clubs reputation or operating success.' The obligation to supervise the coaching staff and players is also expressly set forth in the employment agreement signed by Coach Payton."

In addition to being on a different planet entirely from what the Patriots were cuffed around for in 2008, the Saints are also paying the price for ignoring the law-and-order, fair play standards handed down here at The Breakers four years ago.

And now they are where the Patriots were. In more ways than one.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

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

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.