Ocho figures to be in element in Indy

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Ocho figures to be in element in Indy

FOXBORO - Back in July, Chad Ochocinco ended his first press conference with the Patriots media by asking for a group hug. He promised he'd be engaging, entertaining. He'd whisper to each media member individually that, if we just give him some time to get the offense down, he'd "give you guys the best (stuff) you ever had."Sounded great. Unfortunately, football -- the reason most of the media was there in the first place -- got in the way. Almost immediately, it was obvious Ocho was having trouble doing something really important. Catching the football.
He slogged along through camp -- even catching a touchdown pass in the Patriots first preseason game. Hekept mostly quiet except to say he was dangerously close to breaking out. When he figured it out, he'd share his thoughts. When the regular season started and it was apparent he was an afterthought in the Patriots offense, Ochocinco began retreating further. He declined interview after interview. Then, in the third game of the season, Ocho dropped a certain fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Tom Brady. After the game, he declined to speak to the media as a whole but did speak individually to a few reporters. And that has basically been it. He decided the football media in New England was against him and went to radio silence. Given he was on his way to a 15-catch season, he was left to his own devices because -- really -- what else could one ask him except why he was such a disappointment for 6 million. But now, after being inactive for the AFC Championship game, Ochocinco is again holding court. Selectively. He spoke Thursday to the Associated Press, a Canadian TV station, and had pancakes with a NECN reporter. He was charming. Of course, the interviews were on his terms. With his football relevance now nil, it clears the way for the Chad Ochocinco Brand to be advanced. Football, it seems, has merely been a conduit for him to become a celebrity. That's his vocation. "This is the whole point of Twitter, which is good for me," Ocho told the AP. "The mainstream media, they had control of my image, telling people what I'm about. Twitter allows me to take back that control. It cuts out the middleman and lets me show who I really am."Having observed the guy for this season up close and followed his career, it's not hard to figure out who he really is. Intelligent. Funny. Conniving. Introspective. Isolationist. Needy. Generous. It's ironic, that football allowed Chad Johnson to turn himself from a player into Chad Ochocinco, entertainment entity. He's worked extremely hard at creating his brand. But in order to get to the most precious pulpit in sport -- a seat on a stage at the Super Bowl -- he had to shut up and go underground lest his overpaid, irrelevant behind get cut. But he's played it shrewdly. And now, the man who's played one snap in the playoffs, can don his sunglasses and hold court as a member of the New England Patriots, AFC Champions.

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.”