Paille ready to go after welcomed distraction in Finland

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Paille ready to go after welcomed distraction in Finland

WILMINGTON, MA -- Daniel Paille was happy to answer all of the texts, emails and phone calls that poured in from his Bruins teammates during the 113 days the NHL players were locked out by the NHL owners.

The fourth line winger is the NHLPA player rep for the Black and Gold and he was in Boston for nearly the entire run of the lockout minus the month he hopped over to Finland to get himself ready for the abbreviated schedule everybody thoughthoped was coming. But Paille is also glad the flood of electronic transmissions has slowed to a trickle this week as the entire Bruins roster is once again in one place, and the NHL labor impasse is a thing of the past.

Though Andrew Ference was the Bruins representative in New York City when the NHLPA and NHL closed the deal early Sunday morning, Paille had been the point person throughout the four months of lockout hell.

Its going to be a lot easier to go through more NHLPANHL situations throughout the years, said Paille, who had 15 points and a minus-5 rating in 69 games last season. It was a busy six months with all of the calls and keeping guys informed. Guys here did a good job of asking good questions and I did everything I could to keep them informed. Even when I was in Finland I was constantly on the updates and in on all of the calls.

I definitely wont miss all those calls and guys asking certain questions, but guys were definitely curious and have all the right in the world to ask those questions. It wasnt the best situation, but it was good to see guys fight through it and understand a lot more than last time.

Paille managed to get into nine games with Ives Tampere in Finland and tallied six points (2 goals, 4 assists) along with a plus-7 overseas, and said the trip to Europe came at the perfect time for him. The fourth line winger was starting to feel weighed down by the rhetoric and vitriol flying back and forth in the CBA debate, and he felt it from his front row seat manning every NHLPA conference call.

So after skating in Boston with Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Mike Mottau among others, Paille got a nice little mental health break in Finland.

I cant speak for everyone, but we have a routine every day during the season. We didnt have that routine for so long. I was involved with the NHLPA calls and questions from anybody here, said Paille. But at one point I didnt want to read all the articles anymore and read into too much that was going on. Going to Europe meant I didnt have to focus on it and helped. It was much better when I had something else to focus on.

Now its back to NHL hockey and reuniting with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell as one of the most effective fourth lines in hockey. Like so much of the team the trio has a little something to prove after a down season in terms of timely offensive output, defensive responsibility (Campbell, Paille and Thornton were a combined minus-15 during the regular season) and consistent energy.

But thats not necessarily a bad thing. Paille also needs to be ready as hes one of the bottom-six forwards that could be pushed into an expanded role if the compacted season produces more nagging injuries.

With the short schedule its going to get tight and guys are going to get tweaked groins. Id like to play in a bigger role, but I dont have a problem playing where I am now, said Paille. I just need to make sure that if Im needed to step up then Im ready for that opportunity.

Whether its a dependable, gritty fourth line role, a chance to play up the lineup or serving his teammates well as the NHLPA rep, Paille will be ready in any of those facets as the season gets going this weekend.

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

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Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson was named the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations after longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired, the team announced.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights [late owner] Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss' daughter, Jim Buss' brother and Lakers president and co-owner, said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnson, the Hall of Famer guard who led L.A. to five NBA titles, said in the same statement: “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson, part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, returned to the organization as an adviser earlier this month. Johnson coached the Lakers briefly in the 1993-94 season, going 5-11. 

Johnson's new job with the Lakers won't change his role with the Dodgers, according to the L.A. Times.

The current Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-39 after finishing with the second-worst mark in the league (17-65) last season. Kupchak was named an assistant GM under Jerry West in 1986 and in 2000 took over for West as GM.