More than regular seasons

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More than regular seasons

For all the success and happiness that Boston experienced during our run of seven championships over 10 years (which already feels like 100 years ago), there was one negative aftereffect that still lingers to this day: We dont care as much about the regular season.

In so many ways, thats understandable. After all, over that decade of dominance, we pretty much saw everything. We saw teams cruise through the first 16, 82 or 100-something games and then choke when it mattered most. We saw teams sleepwalk through the regular season, and become heroes when it was all on the line. We saw mediocre teams have legendary postseasons. We saw mediocre teams have despicable postseasons. We saw mediocre teams have mediocre postseasons. But either way, the general takeaway was this:

The regular season is kind of . . . blah.

Its a mindset thats typically most pressing at this time of year late-January or early February when the Patriots are recently finished, the Red Sox are barely a twinkle in our eye, and all we have are the Bruins and Celtics, not even at the mid-way point of their seasons, winning and losing games that weve already convinced ourselves wont matter once the real season gets under way.

In sense, thats a good thing. Its given us a healthier perspective on sports and life. In general, it's helped make us sane. Temporarily, at least. But in another sense, where's the fun in that? What's the point of investing so much time and energy into a team when you spend the first few months shrugging your shoulders at every turn: "Eh, it's only January. It doesn't matter."

But while our instincts still err on the side of regular season insignificance, with every passing championshipless year, you can feel tides starting to turn. Combine that with a few extenuating circumstances, and in 2013, we're faced with what will likely be the most telling winter season in recent memory.

First of all, the Bruins just started. They've only got 48 games now, 46 games to make a statement, become a team and prove themselves worthy of all the preseason hype.

The Celtics are 40 games into their season, with 42 left, but find themselves in the exact same place. Their season may as well start now.

Of course, we've seen this before with the C's. They're probably the biggest reason the regular season has such a bum rap around here to begin with. But in the past, there was a least a broader body of previous work. A stretch of time when the Celtics flexed their muscles against the NBA's best, and showed that somewhere underneath all the apathy, their potential is real.

You can argue that this year's team delivered that with three straight wins over Indiana, New York and Atlanta. You can argue, once again, that their recent struggles have coincided with another Avery Bradley injury, and that once he's healthy, everything will be fine.

But you listen to Doc Rivers who believe it or not, has much firmer grasp than you or I on where this team headed and fine is the last thing that comes to mind. Doc's about ready to blow a gasket. Not to mention, the old "just wait until the playoffs" mantra doesn't have the same ring with the C's currently in line for a first round match-up with Miami.

But whatever, even with all the urgency and panic (at least with the C's) surrounding Boston's two winter teams, we still can't completely shake the lessons learned over a decade's worth of success. Even if the playoffs started today, and the Celtics did have to play the Heat, could you ever count them out?

I mean, obviously some people would. I'm sure Shaughnessy would deliver another predictable and thoughtless column, and all the experts would pick the Heat (with good reason), but no one in their right mind would say that Boston's regular-season struggles eliminates them from having postseason success. We all know how much things can change.

But for once, it might be nice to not have to count on that.

To see the B's and C's undergo a winter to remember, and provide actual evidence for optimism heading into the real season. Instead of just forcing us to fall back on recent history and blind faith.

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

OFFSEASON

Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

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Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three, first-round picks on International players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either of Boston’s international first rounder picks Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here, … is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the International top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding … now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.

Bruins need Hayes to "take his game to another level"

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Bruins need Hayes to "take his game to another level"

BUFFALO -- With it appearing that Loui Eriksson is all but gone from the Bruins with the July 1 opening of free agency around the corner, B’s general manager Don Sweeney must find a way to replace the second-leading point man from last year’s hockey club. With or without a suitable Eriksson replacement at right wing via trade or free agency, the Bruins will also need greater production from their returning wingers on the right side.

That means 20-year-old David Pastrnak needs to have a breakthrough season after the Bruins knocked away attempts to extract him in trade discussions for a top-4 defenseman, and Jimmy Hayes needs to rebound from a streaky, disappointing first season in Boston. The 6-foot-6 Hayes slumped to 13 goals and 29 points in 75 games, and was a team-worst minus-12 while going through long stretches where it was hard to even notice him on the ice.

His GM said that needs to change next season with the Bruins counting on him to play more consistently, and be willing to play the big man’s game.

“We have internal candidates that might have to step up, and David is a player like that…Jimmy is a player like that. There’s no question we’re not a complete team right now,” said Sweeney. “So we’ll go to work now, and that could be through free agency, or through potential trade stuff. It could also be about the excitement if somebody pops from the development side of things. I think Jimmy had a pretty start to the year, but he really tailed off when the team needed him most. He should take some responsibility for that. We had a pretty frank discussion about that to challenge him to take his game to another level, and be able to help out a younger player.

“He played a lot with Ryan Spooner. I have to put ownership on Jimmy in terms of saying ‘Hey, I have to take more responsibility. It’s not just about finishing and scoring goals.’ He has the capacity to do that. He gets power play time and net-front time, and he needs to get to the hard areas of the ice with more consistency. It’s an area that he needs to continue to improve upon. We as an organization feel that we need to have players that are driven to get better.”

As far as the free agent options mentioned by Sweeney, Kyle Okposo and Troy Brouwer would be names to watch closely as they both fight the Black and Gold mold of winger with size, strength and finishing ability.

Clearly there’s no choice but for the 26-year-old Hayes to have a bounce-back season given that he’s signed for two years in Boston at $2.3 million per season, and that they need him with the right side of their forward group in flux. 

Ray Bourque arrested and charged with OUI Friday

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Ray Bourque arrested and charged with OUI Friday

Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque was arrested in Andover this weekend, and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol according to multiple reports.

Andover Police told CBS Boston that the former Bruins and Avalanche defenseman was taken into custody around 11:30 p.m. Friday night on Lowell Street. The Bruins legend has lived on the North Shore with his family since retiring from the NHL, and has been a constant presence in the community at charitable events and Bruins functions.

Bourque was released on bail. No additional information was immediately available