Haggerty: Timmy needs to talk

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Haggerty: Timmy needs to talk

Tim Thomas made a point of ending his statement about skipping the White House with the emphatic point he was finished talking about it.

Good luck with that.

The 37-year-old netminder has been in the middle of a mediapolitical firestorm over the last three days after choosing an individual political decision over joining the rest of his teammates in Washington D.C.

Thomas strong desire to publicly express his Tea Party sensibilities kept him away from President Obamas White House on Monday afternoon, and that allowed the Vezina Trophy winner to stay true to his conservative beliefs.

The move was admirable on the level of standing up for ones belief system. That, after all, is what freedom is all about.

But it was also inherently selfish, given the predictable way it overshadowed that days celebration of the Bruins' Cup championship. Thomas has been painted in the past as a me-first guy, and there were big elements of that in deciding to go rogue while the rest of his teammates were with the President.

The Bruins knew about Thomas decision for months, but didnt announce it beforehand. They didnt want to compromise the enjoyment level of all the otherplayers visiting the White House by worrying about Thomas political inactivity.

The same line of thinking kept Thomas away from the Washington D.C. Boys and Girls club event on late Monday afternoon following the White House visit, and pushed the Bruins to request Thomas hold off on any Facebook message until the days events were over. The team seemed to have a good grasp on the major ripples Thomas choice would create across the waters of sports, government and all forms of news across North America. But one has to wonder if Thomas an intelligent if unsophisticated sort sometimes unsure of himself and reticentin the public eye truly understood how much chatter and vitriol his absence would generate. He finallyseemed to understand all this as he retreated into a side room following Tuesdays game against the Capitals, and avoided actually speaking about his choice.
But Thomas cant duck reporters forever.

Its been split 5050 pretty evenly between eye-rolling exasperation and unfettered support for the Bruins goalie, and that isnt likely to change given the half-and-half political split around the country. But tons of questions remain unanswered after Thomas short statement from Monday night:

Why did Thomas choose this moment to reveal his personal political beliefs in a very public way?
Why did Thomas feel it was okay to represent a broken government on Team USA during the Olympics, but then refuse to go to the White House?
Why not go to the White House and engage President Obama in a discussion about his governmental concerns?
How about attending the event and using it as a platform to publicly state his beliefs and concerns about the direction of the U.S. government?
Was he concerned about the backlash, and did he truly consider the distraction he could be creating with his personal decision at a team event?
Was he worried that his actions might embarrass the organization, and did he consider it could hasten his departure from Boston if ownership and management felt it was a disrespectful enough action?

Those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions about his decision. The entire subject isnt going to go away for Thomas or the Bruins until he properly addresses it. The murkiness and uncertainty surrounding Thomas silence in the days since his White House absence have only encouraged the speculation and spit-balling when it comes to the Bs goaltender.That's a shame for the best goaltender in the world and the B'sStanley Cup hero.

The only way to end it is to face things head on and finally answer all of the questions once and for all. If Thomas is as proud and resolute in his beliefs as he purports to be, it shouldnt be a problem to use the media as a conduit to millions of inquiring hockey fans. Public Relations 101 explains it all: Answer questions honestly and openly and most controversies tend to fade away.

Thomas hasnt done that and he owes his teammates, an entire country of proud Americans and perhaps even the President of the United States more of an explanation than a post that somebody can give a thumbs up to on Facebook.

While the Bruins players simply roll their eyes and go on with their day -- as theyve always done with Thomas politics over the last five years -- its not the same thing with those higher in the organization. Bruins management and ownership are steamed at the goaltender for taking the spotlight away from the team on a day that should have been a crowning moment. It could become Thomas swan song with the organization if the home crowds at TD Garden begin turning on him, or if he slumps under the additional pressure brought upon by playing alchemist while mixing politics with sports.

He also runs the risk of turning the NHL All-Star game into a political spectacle given the large number of national hockey media descending upon Ottawa this weekend for the All-Star festivities.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli freely admitted Thomas could have a challenging time attempting to fend off a throng of reporters looking to corner him for a one-on-Tim interview. With an event as meaningless as the NHL All-Star game, the Thomas story has the kind of legs that many will be chasing after.

Im not going to regulate free speech, said Chiarelli, who confirmed he spoke with Thomas several times imploring him to change his mind about his White House absence. Tim is his own person. Hes been that way for the five or six years that Ive known him. That hasnt changed and it wont change. We won a Stanley Cup and were doing well this year. This is something Ive known about for three months. I know what his beliefs are and his political position is.

Its highly doubtful a large group of reporters from all over the world are going to gladly take a no comment from Thomas if tries to sidestep things when it comes to his political position.

That would be a mistake because the questions will keep popping up every day until he decides to talk. It would be a shame if the Bruins are brought down this season by Thomas solitary stance, or if things eventually facilitate the goalies exit from Boston.

One has to wonder if theres any regret in the mind of Thomas after his irreversible decision. One will continue to wonder about that until Thomas opens up his mouth and begins addressing something that could become career-altering if he doesnt do something about it.

Blakely: Bradley not letting trade rumors get to him

Blakely: Bradley not letting trade rumors get to him

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter what Mother Nature is doing weather-wise, Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley has been around the NBA long enough to know that the potential to be traded is always in season.

This summer has been no different, with Bradley being among the Boston players whose name has been included in several rumored trades.

“I try not to worry about it too much because it’s out of my control at the end of the day,” Bradley said after his basketball camp at Brandeis University with additional camps in Trinadad having been completed with additional ones this summer in Tacoma, Washington and Vancouver.

Bradley is entering the final year of the 4-year, $32 million deal he signed in 2014.

And make no mistake about it.

Bradley is going to get paid a lot, whether it’s by the Celtics or another team.

His steady improvement from one year to the next has been a constant for the 26-year-old who last season was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive first team.

But he knows the Celtics’ brass well enough that if they see a chance to significantly upgrade the roster, they won’t hesitate to trade anyone, himself included.

“I don’t worry about it,” Bradley said. “I know that was the case and I get traded, the Celtics are going to do what’s best for them and I’m going to have to do what’s best for me if I’m put in a different situation.

He added, “our job is to play basketball, not worry about trades. I just try to focus on that.”

Having been in the NBA for seven years, Bradley acknowledged it does get easier to put the trade speculation in perspective over time.

“It’s part of the business, man,” he said. “You just to accept and understand that your name is going to be thrown in trade talk. You can get traded at any time. You just have to be prepared and focus on just being the best player that you can be.”

That approach has been critical to Bradley’s steady improvement as an NBA player who began his career as someone who was charged with playing elite defense, into one of the better two-way talents in the league.

Last season, Bradley averaged a career-high 16.3 points per game along with 6.1 rebounds which was also a career-high.

This season, Bradley has a long list of areas he wants to improve upon, with finishing at the rim near the top of the list.

Looking at his track record, you can count on that area of his game showing noticeable improvement.

And whether it’ll manifest itself while he’s a Celtic, remains to be seen.

“It doesn’t matter if you get traded or where you end up,” Bradley said. “If you’re prepared to be in any situation you’ll be fine.”

With draft drama behind them, Celtics move on to free agency

With draft drama behind them, Celtics move on to free agency

BOSTON -- The plan for the Boston Celtics to upgrade their roster began with draft night. 

They had the top overall pick and traded down with Philadelphia for the No. 3 spot, where they selected Jayson Tatum in addition to getting a future first-round pick.

Now on to phase two: Free agency.

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A year ago this time, the Boston Celtics went into free agency feeling pretty good about their chances of landing at least one high-impact difference maker.

Years of meticulous salary cap management had Boston in position to add a pair of max-salaried players in one haul, something you seldom see happen in the NBA.

Boston secured Al Horford,  who was widely viewed as the second-best free agent available, with a four-year, $113 million contract.

The Celtics were on the short list of contenders for the top free agent, Kevin Durant, who eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors and led them to an NBA title earlier this month, the franchise's second championship in the last three years. 

Free agency officially begins on Saturday and Boston once again finds itself on the short list of teams for one of the better free agents-to-be: Utah's Gordon Hayward.

“Target number one for Boston,” one league executive texted to CSNNE.com on Friday when asked about Hayward. "I'm not telling you something you and the rest of the NBA world [haven't] known for a while; he's the guy in this free agent class that they really, really want.”

While a number of teams may enter the race for Hayward, he is expected to choose from one of these three: Utah, Boston and Miami.

As good as a Hayward signing may be for Boston, he’s not the biggest name on the free-agent market.

That would be Durant and Stephen Curry, both of whom are expected to re-sign with the Warriors. The likelihood of either winding up on another team can be summed up in two words – no chance.

And that leaves Hayward as arguably the best free agent available to be on another team’s roster next season.

But in terms of addressing specific needs, the Celtics are among the teams that can benefit from what is shaping up to be a position-less NBA, one where your best scorers in the paint are guards and your best passers play in the frontcourt.

For a good chunk of last season, the 6-foot-10 Horford was Boston’s top assist man, while 6-2 guard Avery Bradley was the Celtics’ top rebounder.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, hears all the time about how the Celtics need to become a better rebounding team.

Despite finishing with more wins than any team in the Eastern Conference, Boston was among the worst rebounding teams in several categories. Their defensive rebounding percentage of .485 ranked 27th out of 30 NBA teams.

Boston was the only team to win 50 or more games last season that was not ranked among the top 20 teams in rebounding percentage.

And while the knee-jerk response would be to go out and sign big men whose strength is rebounding the ball, Ainge is convinced that rebounding for the Celtics has to be across-the-board team effort.

“You have to have other guys that rebound,” Ainge said during an interview with CSN’s Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “Those teams with small lineups, you still have to find a way to rebound. Obviously, we were a very good team this year and small at a lot of positions and it seemed our big guys took the brunt of not being good rebounders. It really is a team rebounding game. This was the case even when I played with the Big 3. We know that’s a weakness. We need to add size and length to our roster.”

That’s why in many ways, Tatum was such a solid addition for Boston in last week’s NBA draft.

While he is given a lot of praise for his offensive versatility, Ainge also liked the fact that the 19-year-old was a really good rebounder particularly on the defensive glass.

For Boston, become a better team on the defensive boards would go far in them improving their rebounding as a whole and in doing so, show growth for a team whose defensive rating (105.5) ranked 12th in the NBA after beginning the season defensively as one of the NBA’s worst teams.

“Rebounding and size goes to all the positions. Rebounding is a five-man effort. We just added size,” said Ainge, referring to Tatum. “That’s huge; he’s a terrific defensive rebounder.”

Boston should also benefit from a pair of first-round draft picks from last season, Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, who spent this past season playing overseas but are expected to join the Celtics roster for the 2017-2018 season.

“We have some guys that can help us improve in that area,” Ainge said.

And improvement, more than anything else, is the name of the game for the Celtics in free agency.

Well aware that no one single move will move them past Cleveland or Golden State, Ainge knows progress for his team may not be as instantaneous as some fans – or he for that matter – would like.

“We have a lot of really good players. A lot of gritty guys,” Ainge said. “But we could use like a little more talent; that’s the bottom line. The guy that can get his own shot, create for others, demands double teams on a regular basis. Maybe some of our young guys can develop into that. But that’s a ways away."

Ainge added, “But to me, a true contender, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that LeBron James and Kevin Durant are in the NBA Finals.  They’re arguably the two best half-court guys. They’re there with [Russell] Westbrook and James Harden, of course, are great offensive players. But you have to have more than just them. We feel we have the [other guys].  We just need a guy like that [to] give us a chance.”