McAdam: Welcome to rock bottom, Yankees

916947.jpg

McAdam: Welcome to rock bottom, Yankees

DETROIT -- Losing the American League Championship Series to a team which won seven fewer games than you is bad.
Being swept by that same team in the ALCS is worse. And never holding a lead, for even a fleeting moment in the entire series, is the absolute worst.
Welcome, New York Yankees, to rock bottom.
In the last two post-seasons, the Yankees have yet to win a single game past the Division Series. They were knocked off in five games by the Tigers in 2011, then got by the Baltimore Orioles in this year's ALDS only to be outclassed by Tigers Thursday, 8-1, who completed their four-game sweep.
While eliminated by the Tigers for the second straight October, the Yankees set records for offensive futility. In the four game series, they scored a grand total of six runs. They hit a collective .157 for the ALCS.
"There's a lot of a good hitters in that (visitor's clubhouse) and to be able to shut them all down is surprising,'' said Joe Girardi.
"Collectively, we didn't get it done...We didn't just struggle. A lot of guys struggled mightily.''
For the first three games, the Yankees got strong starting pitching and it didn't save them. They went into Game 4 with a 2.25 ERA in the ALCS -- and hadn't won in a game.
Then, when CC Sabathia sputtered Thursday in Game 4, it was too late to matter. By the ninth, the Yankee lineup looked like something Joe Girardi might bring to Fort Myers for a game next March.
In truth, the Yankees' offensive struggles weren't a total shock. Scouts who watched them over the course of the season warned that the Yanks were too dependent on home runs, which, by definition, are harder to hit against quality pitching staffs in the post-season.
Sure enough, the Yankees hit five homers in nine post-season games -- three of them by Raul Ibanez. And three of the five homers they hit came with the bases empty.
"Just bad timing,'' shrugged Mark Teixeira. "Really bad timing for four games like this.''
"We didn't hit the way we were supposed to,'' said Robinson Cano in a bit of understatement. "We had our chances and didn't take advantage. We didn't do our job with men on base and they beat us.''
The Yankees problems go far beyond the temporary embarrassment of the playoff sweep. Any team, after all, can have a bad week, and it's dangerous to read too much into such a small sample size.
"We lost,'' concluded Nick Swisher. "That's it. We went out and gave it everything we had. It just wasn't good enough.''
That said, the Yankees are in trouble. Their aging roster is becoming problematic.
Take a look around their roster of position players, and while you're at it, their ledger sheets.
At first, Teixeira has seen his OPS decline in each of the last three seasons and is only halfway through his eight-year, 180 million.Derek Jeter will undergo surgery Saturday and it's unclear whether he'll be ready for Opening Day. He'll turn 38 next year, an age when few continue to play shortstop everyday.
Curtis Granderson is wildly inconsistent, capable of power (43 homers), but too often, failing to make contact (.232 batting average, 195 strikeouts). Swisher is a free agent and won't be back.
Behind the plate, Russell Martin is also a free agent, and because the Yankees traded one catching prospect (Jesus Montero) and have had another (Austin Romine) slowed by injuries, probably will return.
The Yankees hold a 15 million option on Cano and will exercise that. Next year, the Yankees might have a tough call on whether to extend him beyond 2012. Cano will be 30, relatively young, but his .699 career OPS in the post-season may give the Yanks some pause.
Finally, of course, there's Alex Rodriguez, who was benched for three of the nine post-season games and pinch-hit for in three others. Rodriguez looks for all the world like the most overpriced platoon player, with five years and 114 million in salary obligations remaining.
It's here where the Yankees might secretly envy the Red Sox. In unloading Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett in their megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Sox unloaded 259 million in payroll obligations and got the chance to start over.
For now, the Red Sox have 45.6 million in payroll committed for next season -- a figure that admittedly doesn't include several arbitration cases, nor free agents David Ortiz and Cody Ross. By contrast, the Yankees are on the hook for 119.1 million in 2013.
The disparity is best exemplified thusly: while the Red Sox are committed to just 34.4 million in 2014, two years from now, the Yankees have (italics please) twice (end italics) as much committed in 2016, (italics please) four (end italics) years from now.
And remember, the Yankees have vowed to be under the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold of 186 million by 2014.
Ordinarily, a team with virtually unlimited resources and coming off a season in which they had the best record in the league is a team to be envied.
So how come it doesn't feel that way for the New York Yankees?

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

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.

MORE:

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.

MORE:

“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.