Hollins provides energy, hustle for C's

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Hollins provides energy, hustle for C's

ATLANTA On the same day that the Boston Celtics added former Boston College forwardcenter Sean Williams, the previous "new guy" to the Celtics frontcourt Ryan Hollins has his best game as a Celtic.

Coincidence?

No one knows for sure -- but you won't find C's head coach Doc Rivers complaining or questioning it.

"We always say you push and pull and if you're not playing and a new guy comes in and you think he's going to take your minutes, then you should play harder," Rivers said. "It's a man's game."

Hollins had eight points and five rebounds in Boston's 97-92 loss to Atlanta while playing more than 30 minutes - all season highs with the C's.

But his impact on the game had little to do with scoring and rebounding.

He provided energy, showed great hustle at both ends of the floor, doing many of the things that the Celtics were hoping to see him contribute once he signed with the Celtics.

However, with a lack of practice time and the Celtics fighting for the Atlantic Division title and the No. 4 seed that came with it, there just weren't many opportunities for him to play.

Now that the Atlantic division title has been clinched in addition to Greg Stiemsma having foot issues, Hollins is sure to see more minutes in the remaining games prior to the playoffs.

Stiemsma, who did not play in the second half of the Hawks loss due to soreness in his left foot (which has plantar fasciitis), was happy to see Hollins get a chance to play major minutes for a change.

"It was definitely good to see him go out and play aggressive," Stiemsma said.

Hollins understands that because of where the C's are positioned, these games will go far in terms of making an impression on the Celtics coaching staff as to whether they can rely on him in a pinch.

As much as the players pull for one another, none of them wants to ride the pine, either.

"I wanted to come out and kind of get playoff-ready (against Atlanta)," Hollins said. "Show coach (Rivers) the things I can do and give myself be ready to play those minutes on the court."

And while the scoring was nice, Hollins knows his greatest contributions to the C's most nights may involve him only touching the ball on rebounds.

"When I'm playing with the Big Four out there, my game is going to be trapping, rebounding, defending, those little things," Hollins said. "I'm not going to get touches. I understand that. The little things that don't show up, I can control that."

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”