FOXBORO -- Logan Mankins wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his gray hooded sweatshirt. He was fresh from practice and a little worn out, but not beaten down. The grind of the regular season this was not.
"This is what you play for," Mankins said. "These are the games we wanna be in. It's always easy to go to practice when you're preparing for a game like this. It makes it nice. You wanna get better. You wanna prepare and do your best to win these games."
What makes the preparation for Sunday's Divisional Round playoff game against the Texans extra special for Mankins is that he's relatively healthy. It's been a difficult season for the left guard because of time he has lost to injuries. He missed six games with ankle and calf injuries, and he reiterated on Thursday that he was not quite 100 percent to start the season after undergoing offseason knee surgery.
"I missed some games, of course it's been tough," Mankins said. "You'd like to be healthy for the whole season, but it doesn't always go that way."
He has overcome those lingering dings, though, and he says he is healthier now than he was at this time last year.
"I felt a lot better than last year at this time," he said. "I had a torn MCL, and a torn ACL, so I feel a lot better."
Though few knew it at the time, Mankins showed mind-boggling toughness when he played through torn knee ligaments last season, including New England's run to Super Bowl XLVI. That he won't have to deal with such a serious injury this year should make this year's playoffs -- his seventh postseason appearance in eight season with the Patriots -- significantly more comfortable.
The Patriots will need all of their offensive linemen at something close to full strength on Sunday in order to help keep a talented Texans defensive line, featuring star defensive lineman JJ Watt, at bay.
The Celtics reportedly have offered the Pacers a deal to acquire star forward Paul George.
According to Adam Kaufman of WBZ News Radio and 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Celtics offered the Pacers the first-round pick they received from the 76ers, either the 2019 Grizzlies or Clippers’ protected first-rounder, Jae Crowder and a money filler.
Kaufman also noted Avery Bradley could be on the move as well for financial reasons.
The C's, as reported by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, are also working to sign Gordon Hayward this summer.
BOSTON -- When it comes to public opinion, Danny Ainge has never been one to be consumed by it or let it trickle into a decision he was thinking about for the roster.
So you can understand why the "What are they doing?" cries from Celtics Nation when he traded away the No. 1 overall pick earlier this month never resonated with him.
MORE ON GEORGE/HAYWARD
And you can understand why Ainge, when the Chicago Bulls became serious about moving Jimmy Butler on draft night, never put forth a competitive offer even though he had more than enough trade chips to do so.
He has patiently waited for his vault full of assets to increase, like blue-chip stocks, to a point where they had real value to a team open to moving a superstar talent to Boston.
That time appears to be now, with the Celtics well-positioned to add not one but two All-Stars in Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Indiana’s Paul George.
The Celts are pursuing both simultaneously, knowing they have to secure Hayward first in order to arrange to have enough salary-cap space to make a trade with the Pacers for George.
Not surprisingly, the first move in this 1-2 step is the hardest.
Boston will have to convince Hayward, who played for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler and was named to his first All-Star team in February, to bypass an extra year and about $40 million --- which he could get by staying in Utah -- to sign here. The advantage the C's have, in addition to the lure of playing for his ex-college coach, is that the path towards the NBA Finals is a lot more realistic with them than with the Jazz, who are on the rise but not quite close enough to where they are a legitimate threat to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are coming off a season in which they finished with the best record in the East and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. They also return the core from last year's team, led by two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas.
It’s likely that at least one member of the team’s core will be included in a trade for George, a pending free agent whose representatives informed the Pacers he was not going to sign a long-term contract with Indiana and that his preferred destination for 2018-19 (and beyond) was his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers don't have the kind of assets the Pacers are hoping to secure for their four-time All-Star. The Celtics, however, are in position to potentially overpay for George and not have it devastate their growth in both the short and long term. They also feel that once they get him here, they can convince him to stay . . . and, indeed, some people in George's camp feel Boston is a better landing spot than Los Angeles.
However, the key in all this is Hayward, who will also get a strong pitch from the Miami Heat.
Complicating this even further for the Celtics has been the salary cap coming in at just $99 million as opposed to what most anticipated would be a couple million dollars more.
“It is hard,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told CSN’s Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely recently regarding the salary cap for this season. “With the cap going down, it’s a little bit of a jolt. It doesn’t seem like a lot and every team has to deal with this. But we were planning pretty close to the dollar, to have a good team this year but to max cap space flexibility going into the offseason.”
In order for the Celtics to pull this off, it likely means they will have to part ways with at least one of their core players to ensure there’s enough cap space.
But considering what they could look like roster-wise on opening night, having to trade a player because of the decreased salary cap is the kind of the collateral damage that the C's can live with.