The Official Thanksgiving Wrap

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The Official Thanksgiving Wrap

Welcome back, everyone.

I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving, and made it through the holiday weekend in one piece. I hope that youre still on speaking terms with your family; that you werent stranded in too many awkward conversations with old high school acquaintances; and that youve recovered from those five minutes of throwing the football before your shoulder went into shock.

At the very least, I hope you had a better Thanksgiving than Mark Sanchez. (Unless youve got a thing for slamming your face into sweaty, 300-pound butt cheeks. In that case: No judgment. Just keep doing what you do.)

But either way, heres the question: Where do we go from here?

Answer: From here, we get a little crazy.

While the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving slowly crawl along like every post-Michael Scott episode of The Office, this next month will fly by faster than an hour-long Homeland and with almost as much drama and chaos. Its going to be wild. In the movie of our lives, this next month is just a montage of the entire country anxiously burning through bank accounts, swearing in traffic and generally running around like the cast of the Walking Dead.

Next thing you know, its Christmas. Then Kwanza, followed by New Years and then . . .

Well, then theres nothing.

Just like that. Another year starts, and the world pretty much stops. Its back to life at The Office (as the Nard Dog breaks into a five minute bit thats barely funny for five seconds). Only now, life is complemented by mounds of snow, patches of black ice and days that turn into nights sometime around 3:30.

This is ridiculous! youll scream, while simultaneously digging out your car and contemplating suicide at 5 a.m. on a Monday morning. Wasnt it just Thanksgiving? Yup. It was. But thats what happens. The blink of an eye. Every. Single. Year.

But while the final five weeks of 2012 are about to play out in fast forward, theyll also serve as a definitive stretch for all four major professional sports leagues.

In the NHL, the next month will determine whether the NHL even exists. In baseball, teams will put the finishing touches on their offseason, and officially set the table for 2013. In the NBA, the next month will bring the death of the small sample size and take the league into its second trimester (even if its not showing). Finally, in the NFL, these next five weeks are the regular season. On January 1, the playoff schedule will be finalized. (Same for the Ryan Familys annual trip to Hedonism II.)

So, before everything gets out of hand, lets take a quick breath and re-evaluate what transpired in the world of sports over the holiday weekend, and lets do it with an old fashioned game of: What We Learned Over Thanksgiving Break

IN THE NBA, we learned that . . .
The Celtics still have it: Im not so concerned with Wednesdays loss to the Spurs or overly excited about last nights victory in Orlando, but Friday nights win over the Thunder was the single most important game of the Celtics young season. It was their first win against a legitimate contender; the first piece of visual evidence that they have what it takes to hang with the best. Its a game that fans, players and coaches can use to build confidence, and stay focused on how good this team can be when everythings in order. (AKA, the defense clicks, the bench lives up to expectations, KGs loose, Rondo comes to play, Pierce is relentless, Jason Terrys a stone cold scorer and Jeff Green has a five-alarm fire burning in his spandex.)

In some ways, I guess wins like Friday make the losses to Detroit and Milwaukee (and battles with the Wizards) even more frustrating. But really, what are you going to do? Thats just life in the NBA, especially for a team whose four leading scorers are a 36-year-old center, a 35-year-old shooting guard, a 35-year-old small forward and a point guard whos not always locked in. No matter what, I guarantee there will continue to be nights when the Celtics dont show up against less-talented teams and leave you wondering if theyll even escape the first round, never mind make another run at Miami.

But with every win like Friday, we wont wonder quite as much. And eventually, at least hopefully, well re-discover that all-important comfort and confidence of being able to look at the Celtics and truly believe: Regardless of what happens over these 82 games, if they can just stay healthy for the playoffs, anything is possible.

The Cs can make another statement on Wednesday, when they host the Nets. After what happened a few weeks ago in Brooklyn, you know theyll want revenge, to re-establish themselves in the Atlantic, and equal a season high with their third straight win.

But for a REAL, OKC-like statement, Im looking at December 15 in San Antonio. A rematch with the Spurs. Granted, the game comes on the second night of a back-to-back, so maybe we shouldnt expect too much. Still, its one of few chances that the Cs will have to really flex their muscles between now and 2013. (Faaaaar more importantly, its also the night that Rondos scheduled to break Magic Johnsons record for consecutive games with 10 or more assists.)

The Lakers are still a mess: After going 4-1 under Bernie Zen Master 2.0 Bickerstaff, the Lakers are 2-2 since Mike DAntoni limped onto the sidelines. But off the court, their status is far below .500.

This was highlighted on Friday night, after an embarrassing loss to the Grizzlies, when DAntoni was asked why he didnt play Pau Gasol down the stretch: I was thinking I'd like to win this game, he said. That's what I was thinking.

First of all, this quote only makes me angrier about how psychotic every one in Boston (or maybe just the media) was at the beginning of Bobby Valentines tenure. Can you imagine if Bobby V. had said something like this? Tony Massarotti would have literally defecated himself on air. (Damn, now Im kind of pissed that we missed out). But the point is that these things happen. Its not the end of the world. This is how coaches establish control when theyre thrown into a tumultuous, high-pressure situation.

But for now, its also another sign that the Lakers still have a ways to go before realizing anything close to their potential. Mike Brown might be gone, but the drama isnt going anywhere . . . as Phil Jackson takes another sip of Peyote cocktail and loses himself in the madness.

Bynums still in flux: From a Celtics perspective, Andrew Bynums on-going knee issues are nothing but good news. From a comedy perspective, theyre great news (Theres nothing funnier than a sidelined superstar who goes on bowling on surgically repaired knees and shows up for games looking a like a cross between Mr. Glass and Maya Angelou.) But from a humanunbiased basketball perspective, the whole thing is pretty sad. In fact, with the recent report that the Sixers have erased any timetable for Bynums return, I dont need any more updates on Andrew Bynum until the news is at least somewhat less depressing. Its enough already. Same goes for Antoine Walker and Brandon Roy.

The Knicks are still rolling: Despite a recent two-game slide, the Knicks beat the Pistons last night to improve to 9-3 overall, 5-0 at MSG and 6-0 within the Eastern Conference. Through 12 games, theyre also the NBAs most efficient offense.

Believe it or not, New York and Boston dont meet for the first time this year until January 7, and at that point, Ill be surprised if the Knicks are still flying so high. The reason? Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. We really think these two can play together? They have worse chemistry than Lindsay Lohan and the entire cast of Liz & Dick. (Come on, you know you watched.)

Amare should be back some time later next month, and don't surprised to see the Knicks hit the same kind of funk they did last winter when Carmelo killed Linsanity.

IN THE NFL, we learned that . . .

The AFC is over: For the last few weeks, its been clear that the Pats and Texans will both defend their 2011 division titles. But very recently thanks to the Norv Turner Effect in San Diego and with the Steelers relegated to a quarterback whos so old that hes thrown six career touchdown passes to Herman Moore the Ravens and Broncos have also pretty much clinched the division crown.

Want to hear something crazy?

Short of a monumental disaster aka assuming the Pats, Texans, Ravens and Broncos all hold on this will be the first time in AFC history that every previous division champ came back to defend its title. Its never happened in consecutive years. (The last time it happened in the NFC was in 1996, when the Cowboys, Packers and Niners had a collective repeat, but that was back when there were only three divisions.)

As for the last two AFC playoff spots? Unless the Dolphins pull off an upset this week against the Pats, its a three-team race between the Colts, Bengals and Steelers. And right now, sizing up the schedules, theres a good chance that Pittsburgh ends up on the outside looking in. Especially since were about two weeks away from Mike Tomlin rolling out an offense led Vinny Testaverde, Bam Morris and Art Monk.

The Saints are dead: Youve got to give them credit, and it was a lot of fun to watch them try and pull off the impossible, but with yesterdays loss to San Francisco its time to close the book on the 2012 New Orleans Saints. Well remember them for their historically hilarious defense, Drew Brees consecutive touchdown streak and the time Roger Goodell was banned from Jonathan Vilmas barbecue joint.
The Jets are dead, buried and halfway decomposed: I dont have an advertising degree, but wouldnt this be the perfect time for Pepsi to start re-airing last years Jets commercial?

1. It would be the funniest thing on TV.

2. It would get people talking about Pepsi Max.

3. It would save them all sorts of money. Minus whatever it costs to superimpose an image of Tim Tebow sitting shirtless in the locker room with his face stuffed into a towel.

The Chargers need a fresh start: And I dont just mean they need to fire AJ Smith and throw Norv Turner into the Pacific Ocean. I mean they need to just leave San Diego and start up somewhere new. Obviously, Chargers owner Alex Spanos has eyes on LA, but who knows when that will be a reality. And who knows what other opportunities might be out there. But its reached critical mass in San Diego. The Media Relations staff is in LaLa land. The front office has destroyed any sense of faith and excitement surrounding the team. And anyway, the fans already know its just a matter of time before Spanos splits town, so what do they even care?

Fourth and 29.

Only you, Norv.

IN BASEBALL, we learned that . . .Johnny Gomes signed with the Red Sox: On one hand, it feel a little dirty to see the Sox come to terms with a guy whos best known around here for beating up Coco Crisp at Fenway Park. On the other hand, theres something nice about welcoming a guy whos known for beating up anyone. So hes a fiery a------? Great, the Sox could use a few players like that. Whether Gomes actually produces is another story, but for 5M a year youd like to think hell finish somewhere around 20 home runs.

Napoli wants four years: Recent reports indicate that Mike Napolis holding out for a four-year deal with Boston . . . and that sounds about right. But its also never going to happen. Youll see Larry Lucchino sitting front row at an Odd Future concert before youll see the Sox give Napoli a four-year deal. Or so Id like to think. But on the bright side, its hard to imagine anyone will, and that point, I doubt there will be a team thats willing to go higher on a three-year deal than the Sox.

Unless theyre serious about bringing on Nick Swisher to play first base, or paying big bucks for Adam LaRoche or crazy enough to think they can get by with a Mauro GomezJerry SandsCarlos Quintana platoon.

AND FINALLY, IN THE NHL, we learned that . . .

Gary Bettman canceled the latest round of negotiations so that he could pick his daughter up from freshman field hockey practice: No, that didn't happen. But nothing would surprise you at this point. Certainly not the sight of Bettman pissing away another season, and driving a poison-tipped stake into the heart of NHL relevance.

Happy Holidays, Gary.

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

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.

Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."

The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.

With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.

The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract. 

 

 

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

Haggerty: Bruins on sidelines while top NHL GMs make big moves

The Bruins were all around the action on Wednesday as the massive hockey trades dropped fast and furiously, but once again they were on the outside with their anticipatory faces pressed up against the glass as the top GMs in the game did their thing.

Instead, the B’s were left to mull an offer sheet to Jacob Trouba that isn’t very likely to drop on Friday and wait for the secondary defenseman market in free agency as it appears the Oilers might have snapped up Jason Demers already.

Some of the bold moves clearly may be mistakes: the Canadiens got older, slower and much more explosive in swapping out P.K. Subban for Shea Weber one-for-one, but also will be tougher to play against in some ways with Weber and Andrew Shaw now added to the mix. Clearly, GM Dave Poile once again was the right manager in the right place at the right time to land the super-talented Subban, who will pack the hockey house in Nashville and help continue a tradition of stud defensemen for the Predators organization.

One keen hockey source cautioned me when I said the Habs got worse on Wednesday: “I don’t think people understand how good Weber really is in the East. Montreal has become a lot harder to play against with him and Shaw.”

This certainly may be true, but the Bruins lost their cherished Habs villain with Subban moving to the Nashville Predators, where he will become a genuine U.S. hockey market superstar. Subban was charismatic and colorful, and played the role with the flops and the phantom embellishment that has become synonymous with Habs hockey over the years.

His personality and elite skill level won him a Norris Trophy a few years back and made him one of the biggest stars in the NHL and his absence now significantly reduces the wattage of the modern Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. That’s another blow to a storied rivalry that was flat as its been in years last season without Milan Lucic. It’s one that might have some rocky roads ahead with the Bruins very clearly in need of some roster help.

Peter Chiarelli became the first GM in NHL history to trade both the first and second overall picks in the same draft after shipping away Tyler Seguin in 2013 and then dealing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday for young, developing D-man Adam Larsson.  Essentially he traded two top-of-the-draft lottery picks for two Swedish mid-first round talents in Loui Eriksson and Larsson. That’s going to leave many questioning his decision-making process until we see the final picture this October in Edmonton.

If things don’t go very right for the Oil this season, with Larsson developing into a prime time top-pairing D-man, the heat could turned up on Chiarelli in the never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.

Once again credit a veteran GM in Ray Shero with getting exactly what his team needed in a dynamic scoring force like Hall and doing it while giving up something that hadn’t been a significant piece over the past few seasons in New Jersey. This may just be the cost of doing business for Chiarelli if Lucic and Demers are indeed on their way to the Oilers as free agents, and if the whispers are true that Edmonton might move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for defensemen help as well.

None of this even begins to mention GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, who calmly and patiently waited out the Steve Stamkos free agency sweepstakes until his star player came back to him for a massive hometown discount. Now, he has the superstar, the young and talented core group and the players from those two second-round picks the B's charitably sent along for right wing bust Brett Connolly. 

The one thing that defies explanation is the Bruins-friendly voices that say inking the 22-year-old Trouba to an offer sheet “makes no sense.” Guess what really makes no sense? That would be going into next season with close to the exact same back-end group that missed the playoff cut over the past two seasons and couldn’t break the puck out of their zone under pressure if their collective lives depended on it.

The Bruins don’t have the trade assets in their organization to match offers of players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, and they were beaten to the punch for top free agent D-men like Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski and perhaps even Demers. That “makes no sense” for a Bruins team that finished 19th in the league in goals allowed and had a blue line group that couldn’t execute simple tape-to-tape passes up the ice.  

Signing Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract extension? Signing fringe free agent D-men like John-Michael Liles? Not getting anything done with anybody in the trade or free agency market around draft weekend and July 1? That’s what really “doesn’t make sense” to me if I’m trying to cough out the Black and Gold party line right about now.

Because the NHL management groups with the big stones, the matching respect factor and the real NHL assets are making big, bold moves all across the league right now, and the Bruins are still waiting idly for their numbers to get called at the NHL deli counter. 
 

Thursday, June 30: Another view of the Trouba offer sheet

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Thursday, June 30: Another view of the Trouba offer sheet

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while waiting for Matt Martin to be the Bruins’ big prize on July 1 as the rest of the NHL is making seismic changes to their roster with big, bold moves. Hint: the Black and Gold aren’t being very bold right now.

*Interesting piece by Marc Spector on the Jacob Trouba offer sheet issue, and whether it would be worth it to land him.

*Darren Dreger weighs in on the hour that stood the NHL on its head, and saw P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall get traded within minutes of each other.

*The Taylor Hall trade is based on hope, according to Edmonton sports radio host Jason Gregor. Interesting piece from him.

*Here’s more about the Hall/Larsson swap that has many around the league wondering what the Oilers were thinking.

*P.K. Subban checks in all the way from Paris, France with a message for his Canadiens fans, and for his new fan base in Nashville.

*Here’s a Tennessee perspective on the Shea Weber/P.K. Subban swap with the Preds getting younger, faster and more explosive with one of the NHL’s biggest superstars.

*Good look at the Montreal end of things from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu with the Habs convinced they got better on Wednesday. I am not so convinced after watching a soon-to-be 31-year-old Shea Weber run out of gas in the playoffs last year.

*For something completely different: Jason Pierre-Paul debuts a 4th of July fireworks safety PSA after unfortunately blowing his fingers off with firecrackers last July.