FOXBORO - Asante Samuel's gotten rich in Philadelphia. The former Patriot corner fled there as a free agent in 2008 for a massive deal and while he's often been scrutinized and criticized during his time with the Eagles, he's still a big play waiting to happen. "He makes a lot of plays," Tom Brady said Wednesday. "He always has made a lot of plays. He's a great player and I always loved playing against him because I really thought he brought the best out of our receivers and our passing game. He's always a threat to intercept the ball. As a quarterback, you're always paying attention to those guys."Samuel is just a brilliant player when the ball is in the air. He may not be the stiffest tackler. He may get caught out of position or being over-aggressive. But when he gets his hands on a ball, it usually sticks (final drive ofSuper Bowl 42 notwithstanding . . . gulp). "Asante does it as well as anybody I've ever played against," Brady said when asked about Samuel's ability to ballhawk. Samuel, now 30, has 42 career interceptions and two this season. Heis one of the few Patriots to go somewhere else and be even better than he was here. He's been named All-Pro each of the last two years. With Samuel on one side and the former Raider Nnamdi Asomugha on the other, the Patriots will be facing two of the most talented corners in the league. They haven't played to their resumes this year - Philly's allowed 18 touchdown passes - but their ability is unmistakeable. And the Philly defense plays fast. "They really have threats everywhere," said Brady. "They rush as well as anybody that we face. They got two of the best corners in the league in intercepting passes. They force you to throw it quick and then they're on you quick . . . They're a really dangerous group and we really have to go out and execute well, as well as we've executed all year."
NEW ORLEANS - Chris Webber and Rollie Massimino are one step from the Hall of Fame.
The career 20-point-per-game NBA scorer and the coach who led Villanova to a stunning upset of Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game were among the 14 finalists unveiled Saturday for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.
Webber played 15 seasons with five franchises, plus was part of Michigan's famed "Fab Five" group that headlined college basketball in the early 1990s.
"I don't know what I'm most proud of," said Webber, who averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in his career and was a five-time NBA All-Star. "I'm proud to be in the room with all these great individuals."
Other first-time Hall of Fame finalists include longtime NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut women's star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self, and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.
"I still can't believe I'm here," McGrady said. "This is not even a dream come true."
Previous finalists returning to the ballot include star point guard and Olympic gold medalist Tim Hardaway, winningest all-time boys high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach and four-time Division III national champion Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU women's national champion team Wayland Baptist University.
"We are grateful to the 14 finalists in the Class of 2017 for the impact they have had on the game we cherish," Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "To be named a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is an incredible accomplishment."
Inductees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. Enshrinement ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are scheduled for Sept. 7-9.
Massimino, now an 82-year-old cancer survivor who is still coaching at NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a finalist for the first time. His Hall of Fame hopes have been backed by plenty of current and former coaches in recent months - including current Villanova coach Jay Wright, who presented Massimino with a championship ring from the Wildcats' 2016 NCAA title.
"Some days, we do take him for granted," Keiser guard Andrija Sarenac said. "But then you see him on TV so much, you see all these videos made about him, the movies about Villanova and everything, and it just hits you. You realize that he's a legend. I mean, your coach is a walking legend. With the energy and everything he comes in with, it's inspiring."
Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to be enshrined. Among this year's candidates who did not make the finalist group: Muggsy Bogues, Ben Wallace, Kevin Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, Mark Price, Lefty Driesell and Eddie Sutton.
Former New York Times sports writer Harvey Araton and former Turner Sports broadcaster Craig Sager will be recognized during Hall of Fame weekend as this year's Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients.
"A tremendous honor," said Sager's wife Stacy.
This year's lifetime achievement award recipients are former UConn coach Donald "Dee" Rowe and Michael Goldberg, who spent nearly four decades as executive director of the NBA Coaches Association. Goldberg died earlier this year.
"He bridged the gap between ownership and coaches," said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, who spoke about Goldberg on Saturday while wearing a bow tie - one of the signature wardrobe accessories that Goldberg donned for years. "He was just such a great guy."
Trenni Kusnierek talks with Dave Dombrowski about the Red Sox clubhouse and their expectations for the 2017 season.