McAdam: Sox must address 2011 before 2012 can begin

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McAdam: Sox must address 2011 before 2012 can begin

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They don't play their first game of consequence for almost another seven weeks. They won't play their first exhibition game for another 10 days.

In all likelihood, we won't know how good they are for several months.

But sometime in the next few days, we'll find out an awful lot about the 2012 Red Sox.

We'll learn about their character and resolve and humility and honesty. Who plays right field and who fills out the rest of the starting rotation -- and other honest-to-goodness baseball questions -- in due time.

For now, there are more important issues.

At some point in the next week, a parade of Red Sox players will take to the famed "picnic table," and answer questions from reporters. Naturally, there will be some inquiries about last season, about the September nose-dive that saw the Sox turn a 9 12 game lead in the wild card standings evaporate, and about the unprofessional behavior in the clubhouse.

How the Red Sox answer these questions will be revealing.

If there's a lot of defensive responses, and dismissive "That-was-last-year-I'm-focused-on-2012," answers, it will not bode well. If players angrily suggest that beer-swilling and chicken-chomping was, you know, not really that big of a deal, it will mean trouble.

And if some follow the lead of Josh Beckett and suggest that none of the frat-house activity was anybody's business and never should have been reported, then it could be a long season.

Before the Sox begin 2012, they need to finish 2011. They need to show some accountability and remorse. Maybe an apology is too much to ask, but some humility wouldn't hurt.

Understand, no one should be calling for players to publicly flog themselves as an act of contrition. What's needed here is closure, a recognition that, at the very least, things were not handled well in the dying weeks of the 2012 season.

They owe the loyal fan base that much.

The players can argue all they want that the spectacular crash-and-burn was about pitching poorly and hitting feebly, and to an extent, that's accurate. A few more timely hits and a handful of additional quality starts, and perhaps we never would have learned about the clubhouse hijinks in the first place.

But it's too late for that now. The secret is out and it can't be ignored.

All winter, as the players retreated from sight, there were consequences for others.

The manager for the last eight seasons was, depending on your perspective, either forced out or made to quit. The strength coach who was powerless to reverse the laziness of some marquee players was fired. The loyal bench coach, tainted by association, was not given consideration for the managerial vacancy. A clubhouse manager was demoted and re-assigned.

Meanwhile, there have been few ramifications for the players themselves. Blame it on the nature of the business, where guaranteed contracts present something of a protective force field for embarrassing misdeeds.

Others have spoken. The owners seem alternately incensed and contrite, vowing to repair the damage done to the franchise's brand. New manager Bobby Valentine has promised a fresh start and has seemingly visited every hamlet in New England to deliver the message.

But none of it will matter until the players involved take public responsibility and demonstrate that, yes, mistakes were made and lessons have been learned.

Through their attendance at Fenway and their loyal viewership on TV, Red Sox fans have made a huge investment -- both emotionally and financially -- to the team. They'd like to know that the players, too, care, and that what happened last season -- off the field, especially -- won't happen again.

Again, no self-flagellation is required, no teary soul-cleansing is necessary. But some taking of responsibility would seem to be to be order, an acknowledgement that, yes, in retrospect, professionalism was in short supply last year and that can't -- and won't -- happen again.

In other words, before the new season starts, some closure about how poorly last season ended is in order.

That hardly seems like too much to ask.

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.