Sports and the Afterlife: What happens when careers die?

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Sports and the Afterlife: What happens when careers die?

Do you believe in heaven?

No, wait. Dont answer that. At least not here. But if youre at all interested in that tiny little issue of what happens after we die, check out this story in Newsweek Magazine.

It was written by neurosurgeon (and former closet atheist) Dr. Eben Alexander, who had a near-death experience back in 2008 and now claims, with astonishing certainty and indirect neurological evidence, that heaven is not only a playground, a cornfield in Iowa and a monster ballad by Bryan Adams, but also a real thing.

He was there. Or so he says.

After reading, its up to you to decide whether Dr. Alexander has actually solved one of the life's great mysteries or is just a manipulative windbag, but either way, the story will make you think. When youre done, youll want forward it to your friends, troll through the comment section, maybe even mention it in a blog you write for a regional sports network. Then youll go back and think about it some more.

Anyway, after I carried out the steps above, it was time to get back to sports, but in this case, it was difficult. And there was really only one topic that made sense: The Sports Afterlife.

Not what happens to athletes after they die, but what happens after their careers do. When they're faced with an eternity outside of the only life they've ever known.

It's obviously a huge issue in the NFL, as former players are being haunted by all sorts of mental and physical issues, but I'm not touching that aspect of the conversation right now. For this post, I'm thinking about the mere act of walking away; about taking the podium the way Kevin Faulk did yesterday afternoon at Gillette and Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Matt Light all did this past year and saying goodbye to your life as a professional athlete.

After all, for some of these guys, the concept of retirement is as terrifying as death itself.

"There's just not much else out there," Tom Brady said last week, when asked about how long he plans to play. "Other than my family, it's like the abyss, you know? There's nothing else."

It was a pretty morbid statement from the typically lighthearted, borderline-hokey QB, but you can understand where he's coming from. I mean, imagine you're 36 or 37 years old, and someone tells you that your greatest skill and ultimate passion in life no longer exists. Imagine you're a wildly successful artist who's now only allowed to help your child do paint-by-numbers. Imagine you're an accomplished saxophone player, who suddenly has all his instruments replaced by the plastic recorders they sell at Wal-Mart. Imagine how much that would suck.

And it does suck. While there's plenty to envy about the lives that these athletes live, I'd don't envy having to retire in your mid-to-late 30s and not just from a job, but from something that you absolutely love.

Of course, some athletes make a seamless transition into the afterlife. For instance, Rob Bradford has a story this morning on JD Drew, who to no one's surprise hasn't missed a beat since leaving baseball. But guys like Drew are in the minority. That's why we see so many athletes go into coaching or TV and bend over backwards to stay in the game. Not just for the limelight, but so they can still be apart of it; because it's the only life they want to live. I've made this comparison before, but it's like that old SNL skit with Tracy Morgan and Jim Breuer: "Wong and Owens, Ex Porn Stars." Sports is all they know!

It's funny, if you think back over the last five years in Boston sports, which three athletes would you say were the ones most criticized for not caring about the game, or not always trying as hard as they should?

Over the last few seasons, I guess Josh Beckett became the poster boy for that, but before him there are three names that stick out for me:

Rasheed Wallace, Manny Ramirez and Randy Moss.

Wallace retired in 2010. Manny retired in the spring of 2011. Moss retired later that summer.

Not one of them could stay away.

Manny's comeback with the A's failed, and he's since found God to help cope with his life after baseball.

Moss signed with the 49ers, and has been a near non-factor he's caught only nine balls in five games and was targeted only twice in Sunday's win over Buffalo. But while this used to equal a Moss Meltdown, this year he's (at least according to Jim Harbaugh) been a model teammate, a consummate pro.

And last month, Wallace signed with the Knicks. While we have no clue how it will turn out, or if Wallace will try any harder or be in any better shape than he was with the Celtics, it's obvious that life away from basketball wasn't right for him.

It didn't work for any of these guys. You can imagine how much the idea of retirement haunts guys like Brady.

Players like him don't need the afterlife. As far as they're concerned, this is already heaven.

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

Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

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Phil Jackson: Knicks' biggest mistake was not trading for Jae Crowder in 2014

Knicks president Phil Jackson’s biggest mistake? Taking the job in the first place?

Well, besides that. Jackson tells Today’s Fastbreak that it was not getting Jae Crowder when he had the chance.

Here’s Jackson quote, part of a long interview with Charley Rosen: 

"I think my biggest mistake was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn't get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder."

Jackson’s timeline is actually a little off. The Chandler and Felton to the Mavs deal was actually in June 2014. The Celtics, of course, acquired Crowder at the December 2014 trade deadline in the deal that sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. Still, you get the point. Jackson covets Jae Crowder, who has proven to be a little more valuable than Cleanthony Early. And, in light of where NBA salaries have gone, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed with the Celtics last offseason now seems like one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. 

 

 

Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

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Can Jerebko parlay playoff starts to a bigger role with Celtics?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – Considering all the different storylines that developed among the Celtics at the end of last season and this summer, it’s easy to forget that Jonas Jerebko was in the starting lineup.

With sporadic minutes in the regular season, Boston found itself trailing the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in their best-of-seven playoff series.

So what did coach Brad Stevens do?

He shook up the starting lineup by inserting Jerebko. who helped Boston even up the series at two games apiece before the Hawks bounced back and ended the Celtics season after six games.

Those last four games against the Hawks – the only games Jerebko started all season - served as a reminder to many that the 29-year-old could still be an impact performer.

It was the kind of run to close out the season that Jerebko will certainly be focused on trying to build upon this season.

The ceiling for Jerebko: Starter

While he will likely begin the season as a reserve, Jerebko will certainly come into camp with a little more bounce in his step courtesy of a strong showing in the playoffs.

After averaging just 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in the regular season a year ago, Jerebko became a major force in the playoffs for Boston.

In his first game as a starter, Jerebko had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds as Boston won Game 3, 111-103.

He was even more impactful 48 hours later with another a second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in yet another Celtics victory.

The Hawks made some adjustments in Games 5 and 6 to close out the series, but it wasn’t before Jerebko had put together the best postseason stretch of his career.

Compared to the regular season, Jerebko more than doubled his playing time in those final four games by averaging 31.3 minutes to go with 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Jerebko will be hard-pressed to return to that role at the start of this season.

Boston signed Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract, so you know he’s starting.

And Amir Johnson’s defense and ability to run the floor so effectively will likely result in him resuming a starting role, too.

That leaves Jerebko joining what looks to be a very talented and deep Celtics bench.

Even though he’s unlikely to start, Jerebko will get his share of opportunities to play.

At 6-foot-10, Jerebko has the size to play both power forward and center. And depending on the opposing team’s lineup, Jerebko has the potential play some small forward as well.

It was that versatility that made Stevens turn to Jerebko in the playoffs last season to replace Jared Sullinger, who signed with the Toronto Raptors in the offseason.

And while the idea of Jerebko as a starter seems a bit far-fetched at this point, he is yet another Celtics reserve who has proven himself to be ready to play and play well when given an opportunity to step on the floor regardless of what that role may be.

The floor for Jerebko: Seldom-used reserve

Despite a strong finish last season, Jerebko will once again have to fight and claw for any minutes on the floor. While the Celtics certainly were aided by his versatility, this season’s roster has a number of players who, like Jerebko, can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor.

NBA veteran Gerald Green is 6-8 and will play shooting guard and small forward. But depending on the lineup, it’s not a stretch to envision him playing some power forward. Ditto for rookie Jaylen Brown and starting small forward Jae Crowder sliding up one position.

Beginning the season on the rotation fringes is nothing new to Jerebko, whose role was very much up in the air when the Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to Detroit prior to the 2015 trade deadline for Jerebko and Gigi Datome.

Gradually, Jerebko earned his minutes and proved he was indeed a valuable piece of what Stevens and the Celtics were trying to build here in Boston.

And now, with a season-plus of time with the Celtics under his belt, Jerebko finds himself once again being challenged to show that he’s more than just a body on the roster.

 

Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

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Report: Celtics renounce draft rights to 2013 pick Colton Iverson

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

The Celtics bought the No. 53 pick in the 2013 NBA draft to get Colton Iverson out of Colorado State, and he thanked them by allowing them to keep his rights the last three years.

Iverson rejected the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum, teams must extend to retain exclusive negotiating rights to a second-round pick – year after year to sign overseas. Accepting the tender would’ve likely meant Iverson going to Boston’s training camp and getting waived. Perhaps, the timing of that would’ve limited his European options that year. But it would’ve made him an NBA free agent – or, best-case scenario, he could’ve made the Celtics and drawn an NBA paycheck.

As it was, Iverson limited himself to joining Boston and only Boston. If another NBA team wanted Iverson, it would have had to trade for him.

And what does Iverson get for that loyalty? A Celtics contract with at least a partial guarantee?

Nope.

Just a head start on finding another team – which he could’ve gotten for himself three years ago.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

This is why second-round picks should be more aggressive about accepting the required tender. Even if you get waived, you open NBA options.

Iverson is a strong 7-foot center who plays with physicality. He can help in certain matchups, and he’d make sense as a third center on teams that have first- and second-stringers playing a different style.

But Iverson is 27, and his NBA window may be closing if it hasn’t already.

It’s a shame he spent so many years beholden to Boston, which didn’t want him.

It was probably just courtesy of the Celtics to renounce his rights now rather than have him sign the tender. They would have guaranteed him no money with the tender, and they could have gotten a few minor benefits with it – an extra body for training camp, the ability to assign his D-League rights to their affiliate after waiving him and the slightest chance he impresses enough in the preseason to hold trade value.

But them forgoing those potential advantages, even if out of courtesy, also sends a signal about how little they value him. Teams don’t do these types of favors for players they actually covet.