Bradley expanding game with clutch shooting


Bradley expanding game with clutch shooting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. We have seen first-hand the emergence of Avery Bradley into an above-average defender who can occasionally make shots when given the opportunity.

He's not just making shots now; he's making big, end-of-the-game, momentum-shifters that give opponents yet another layer of concern when facing the Boston Celtics.

With no Big Three on hand on Sunday, it was Bradley coming up with some huge Big Three-like buckets in the fourth quarter to propel the C's to a 94-82 win.

"I'm just going to continue playing hard," said Bradley. "That's what my team needs me to do. With Rajon Rondo and those guys, the ball will find you if you make plays happen on the defensive end. That's what I try to do."

Bradley's defense remains his strength. But the ability to knock down mid-range shots and corner 3-pointers, is gaining ground quickly.

In Sunday's win, the Bobcats had cut Boston's lead down to just four, 78-74, with 6: 55 to play.

After the Celtics prevented Charlotte from scoring on a couple of possessions, Bradley drained a corner 3-pointer with 5:38 to play that put the C's up by seven points.

From there, the Celtics pushed their lead to double digits and never looked back.

The corner 3-pointer is a shot that Bradley says he has been working on all season.

"I feel a lot more comfortable out there, to shoot that shot," he said. "I just feel like it's a confidence thing. When you have confidence, believe that it's going in, it usually goes in. That's how I been doing it."

Bradley had another 3-pointer in the game in which he basically ran to that spot in the corner, got the pass from Rajon Rondo, and drained it.

"When Rondo passed me the ball and I was kind of running and shot it, I believed that was going in," Bradley said. "And it did."

It was in some ways reminiscent to another Celtic who tends to run to spots and launches 3-pointers - Ray Allen.

"It's hard to pull a Ray," Bradley chuckled. "Close as you can. Ray's amazing, man."

Which can also be said for Bradley's evolution as a player who can now do a number of things to help the Celtics win - including knock down clutch shots in the fourth quarter.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number


When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Kelly Olynyk in Celtics starting lineup in Game 4

Kelly Olynyk in Celtics starting lineup in Game 4

CLEVELAND – Amir Johnson’s right shoulder injury has him still in a state of limbo, which is why the Boston Celtics will start Kelly Olynyk tonight in Game 4 of Boston’s best-of-seven series with Cleveland.

Boston cut Cleveland’s series lead to 2-1 following their 111-108 Game 3 win.

Olynyk appeared in 75 games this season with six starts.

As a starter, he averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Olynyk said his focus tonight will be pretty simple.

“Just keep playing every possession like it’s the most important possession of the game,” Olynyk told