Ocho cuts his cost, will that help him avoid cut?

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Ocho cuts his cost, will that help him avoid cut?

PALM BEACH - Chad Ochocinco is a 34-year-old wide receiver coming off a 15-catch season.

His football mortality looms and his grip on celebrity relevance is slipping.

On Sunday, his agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed that the once-brilliant player agreed to drop his contracted salary for 2012 from 3 million to 1 million. He realizes that he needs the Patriots more than they need him and - if he asked for his release - he may not find another taker.

Even a pay cut may not be enough to ensure Ochocinco a second season in New England. The Patriots have collected wide receivers since free agency began - Brandon Lloyd, Donte Stallworth, Anthony Gonzalez.

New England already has slot receiver Wes Welker and receiverdefensive backpunt returner Julian Edelman locked up. And they recently re-signed Deion Branch to a one-year deal.

It will be an open competition between Stallworth, Ochocinco and Gonzalez - and whoever else the Patriots bring in between now and training camp - for the final wideout roster spots.

Does anybody want to bet on Ocho winning that spot by knockout? Based on 2011, it doesn't seem likely.

With an entire season and a compressed training camp under his belt, Ochocinco was never able to gain the trust of Tom Brady or the Patriots' coaching staff.

New England tried to make it work. But the signs were bad almost from the start. A case of the drops early in training camp. Frustration between Tom Brady and Ocho apparent during open practices. Excuses from Ocho that he wasn't up to speed. A key drop during a game in Buffalo. A lack of production even when Brady tried to force feed him against the Giants (5 targets, 0 catches) near midseason. He was targeted with just 11 throws over the final eight regular-season games.

He was less productive as a wideout than even washout Brandon Tate.

Rosenhaus put a positive spin on it Sunday at the NFL Owners Meetings at The Breakers Hotel.

"(Ochocinco) wanted to come back for all the reasons he was excited about being a part of the team last year - great coach, great quarterback," said Rosenhaus. "He's very confident that - with another offseason - he can contribute a lot more. I think the key for Chad is that he wanted to come back, wants to have a great offseason, wants to do everything he can to study and learn it and have a great year. He obviously enjoyed winning but there's one more game left for him."

Rosenhaus was referring to the Super Bowl. Ocho had one catch for the Patriots in that game back in February.

He has been the definition of a team player during his time in New England. He's worked hard and said all the right things, even as he fell into extreme disuse. He was humbled by the fact he was left at the station while the Patriots' offense rumbled on without him, but he never acted out.

It's not a leap to believe that some of his good soldier mentality is borne from his wanting to keep his all-important brand intact. As an entertainer, Ocho had a great year. Paroled from NFL Siberia in Cincinnati where he had to act outrageously to attract attention, Ocho didn't want for being an object of intrigue even when he did nothing on the field.

Even if he's making less money and doing less on the football field than he ever has, being a part of the Patriots has been a good business move for him.

But it hasn't been a good business move for the Patriots. New England gave him a 4.75 million signing bonus in 2011 and a 1 million salary.

The team is already 5.75 million deep with him and - if he's on the opening day roster in 2012, they'll be 6.75 million deep.

There was much talk about the fact that the Patriots would "pay" Ocho the same amount if they released him as if he played for them in 2012. That's inaccurate.

His salary cap hit in 2012 if he were released prior to June 1 would have been the 3.17 million that hasn't been charged to the Patriots cap. but that's just bookkeeping. He's already been paid the 4.75 million bonus. The remaining money that would hit the cap is simply the money remaining on the bonus that hasn't been charged to the cap.

And if the Patriots choose to designate him as a post-June 1 cut, that 3.17 million would be trimmed to cap hits of about 1.58 million in 2012 and 2013. Again, just bookkeeping.

Now he's working for just a little more than the veteran minimum. As much as the Patriots laud his attitude, his lack of production can't be offset by the fact he simply tries hard.

The Patriots will ultimately be the Patriots and if Ocho can't perform, they will cut him. The question that hangs though, is whether Ocho can continue to be "not-Ocho," keeping quiet and accepting a tiny role that may be snuffed out at any moment.

It worked in 2011 when he was flush with excuses and an infusion of bonus cash. Can he pull that off again? And can he turn back time and be a productive receiver again?

The answers to both questions will come in the ensuing four months.

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Isaiah Thomas opens with efficiency

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Isaiah Thomas opens with efficiency

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics found themselves in an unfamiliar place for most of the first half against Milwaukee. The Celtics were playing from behind as the half ended, and were trailing the Milwaukee Bucks 55-49.

The Bucks opened the game with a 14-4 run, only for Boston to respond with 10 straight to tie the game at 14. Boston would take the lead but couldn’t put much distance between itself and Milwaukee, with their lead in the first quarter peaking at just four points.

After a 24-all tie to end the first, Milwaukee opened with an 8-0 run and played with the lead for the remainder of the second quarter in which their lead grew to as many as 14 points. 

But the Celtics chipped away at the Bucks' lead, getting it down to as little has four points on multiple occasions before the Bucks wound up taking a six-point lead into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Bucks. 

STARS

Khris Middleton: Milwaukee’s ball movement created lots of open looks, and nobody seemed to benefit more from this than Middleton. He had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting with four rebounds and two assists. 

Isaiah Thomas: He didn’t take a lot of shots, but made the ones he did take count. He had 20 points at the half on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. 

STUDS

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak was solid in the first half with 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting. 

Mirza Teletovic: He gave the Bucks a nice offensive spark to the second quarter, finishing with eight points on 3-for-5 shooting.

Avery Bradley: He managed to get some easy looks on cuts to the basket, finishing with eight points on 4-for-9 shooting and three rebounds. 

DUDS

Celtics composure: Both Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas picked up technical fouls in the second quarter, letting their emotions get the better of them. And on top of that, they turned the ball over 11 times which led to five points for the Bucks but even more important, took away potential scoring opportunities for the Celtics.  

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

Celtics co-owner pleased with present, future of team

BOSTON – Like most of us around New England, Wyc Grousbeck heard all the early praise doled out on the Boston Celtics as being one of the elite teams in the East prior to this season starting. 

“I felt before the season that maybe we were being overrated,” Grousbeck, co-owner of the Celtics, told CSNNE.com. “That we were maybe a top-10 team in the league and the top few in the East, maybe. But it still felt like a longshot.”

And here they are, preparing to play Game No. 75 this season, against Milwaukee, with the best record (48-26) in the Eastern Conference. 

“They’ve grown into themselves,” Grousbeck said. “They’re playing better than I probably thought.”

But Grousbeck has been around the NBA long enough to know there is still much work to be done. After all, the Celtics’ focus remains on winning an NBA title. But Grousbeck is wise enough to know that while that is the goal, it often takes longer to accomplish than anyone – himself included – would like. 

It’s even trickier when you consider how the East is still relatively close despite their being just a handful of games remaining. 

“There’s a bunch of teams scuffling around in the East, and we’re scuffling around with them,” Grousbeck said. “We gotta do something in the playoffs.”

This will be Boston’s third straight season advancing to the postseason. Each of the first two appearances ended with a first-round exit. 

But this year is different. The Celtics are on pace to finish with home court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs. But if they’re able to win the games they are favored throughout the remainder of this regular season, they will finish with the top seed in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

And as we’ve seen of late, home court has indeed been an advantage for Boston which comes into tonight’s game having won its last seven at home, which includes the first four games of a current six-game home stand. 

The success Boston has had thus far has raised the expectations of many. 

And while Grousbeck certainly wants to see the Celtics have more success than they have had the last couple of years in the playoffs, there’s no mistaking he is pleased with the direction of the franchise that just four years ago was a lottery team.

“There’s no reason to put a ceiling on the season,” Grousbeck said. “I think this season already looks good to me. I love our coach. I love our young players. I love our draft picks and our potential cap room (this summer); all of our fans. So I’m already happy with where the team is going.

Grousbeck added with a grin, “If we can speed it up all the better.”