Pietrus confident Celtics can make run at Banner 18

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Pietrus confident Celtics can make run at Banner 18

NEW YORK Back when he was the new guy, Mickael Pietrus talked about the Boston Celtics as being a great team this year that would turn their fortunes around in the second half of the season and make a run at Banner 18.

The Celtics have quite a ways to go before that can be more than just optimistic chatter, but there's no question the C's are a lot closer to being the team Pietrus-tradamus envisions with the playoffs just a couple weeks away.

"Nobody wants to play us in the playoffs," Pietrus said. "We have to stay focused on what we have to do, what we have to do to get ready for the playoffs. We're ready. Everybody's mindset is playoffs right now and make sure everybody get into a good rhythm."

He added, "we want to make the fans happy. We want to get that Banner, for me the first time, for the guys, the second. I'm very excited to be a Celtic. I'm very excited to be here right now."

Pietrus' play will be important for the Celtics to indeed make the kind of playoff push that he and many of his teammates are looking for.

After suffering a concussion on March 23, Pietrus is gradually getting his legs back under him.

Just as important, the C's need him to re-establish some type of consistency with his perimeter game that he displayed prior to the injury.

As much as Boston will look to him to provide some tough, gritty man-to-man defense, they will also need him to help stretch defenses when he's on the floor.

Since returning from his concussion, Pietrus is averaging seven points while shooting 31.3 percent from the field and 23.8 percent on 3s. He's also hauling down 4.8 rebounds.

Prior to the concussion, he averaged 6.8 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 35.5 percent on 3s. He didn't do much on the boards back then, grabbing just 2.9 per game.

Pietrus isn't worried about his struggles of late.

"I haven't played for three weeks," he said. "My rhythm is not going to come the first or second game. It's going to take time. Hopefully I'll have enough games to get ready for the playoffs. I'm very excited about it, to get more games under my legs to get wind and try to feel good before the playoffs."

The Celtics are certainly a better team with Ray Allen, who has missed the last four games due to swelling in his right ankle - the same injury that sidelined him for six games earlier. But the one positive in Allen's absence has been the opportunity it has afforded Pietrus to play more minutes and thus, get closer to regaining the shooting touch he displayed prior to missing 10 games with a Grade-3 concussion.

In the four games Pietrus has played since being cleared by the NBA and Celtics medical staff - all with Allen out with his ankle injury - Pietrus has averaged 28.3 minutes per game. Prior to his injury, he averaged 21.3 minutes played per game.

Regardless of how he's shooting the ball, Pietrus has picked up defensively where he left off which bodes well for a team that prides itself on stellar play at that end of the floor.

"To win games, you have to be able to play Celtics defense," Pietrus said. "That's why we were able to turn it around the second part of the season, because of our defense."

And if the C's continue on that path, Pietrus-tradamus' vision may just in fact become a reality.

"That's what it's all about, Banner 18," Pietrus said. 'We got a couple games left. We're going to make sure our priorities are team-first, and everything look good before playoffs."

UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

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UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

CHICAGO — Sure, Dustin Pedroia could have gotten an MRI in Chicago. But the Red Sox don’t want any doubt.

With an injured left wrist, Pedroia is heading back to Boston for an 8:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday with Red Sox medical staff, setting up a hold-your-breath morning as the Sox wait to learn if Pedroia’s going to land on the disabled list. No roster move was made immediately after the Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4.

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For now, the Red Sox say Pedroia has a wrist sprain. X-Rays taken in Chicago were negative but the wrist was swollen.

Pedroia was hurt in the top of the first inning Monday on a weird play, when he was trying to leg out an infield hit and wound up tumbling over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who slid into the bag feet first. 

Pedroia was hurt bracing himself as he went over Abreu.

“He feels he knows those guys, they know him well,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of the decision to send Pedroia back to Boston. “We felt it would be more comfortable for him to do that. He wanted to do that, too. He knows those guys well. We could have gotten an MRI here and had people read it, but he just knows the people there so well. We figured he wanted to do that, so we said, 'Sure, we'll fly you there and get the MRI done there.”

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

“He's been dealing with the situation from the winter time, but he's played well,” Dombrowski said. “He's played almost every day. He's had to deal with a lot of things, which is very unfortunate, but he battles through it.”

On the play he was hurt, Pedroia hit a chopper to the right side, where Abreu fielded it and hesitated before moving to the bag — likely determining whether he was going to try to flip it to the pitcher. He kept it himself and went in feet first, putting him essentially on the bag as Pedroia arrived. Moving at full speed, Pedroia tumbled over Abreu, leading Pedroia to brace himself with his wrist.

“A real freakish play,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll hopefully have some mid-morning information.”

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.

Pedroia’s power has been down all year, with just a pair of home runs, but he still entered Monday hitting .294.

 

Patriots UDFA Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

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Patriots UDFA Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

FOXBORO -- When a new player arrives to the Patriots, there's a familiar refrain that's recited from behind the podium at Gillette Stadium: "Football is important to him."

Whether the subject is a rookie or an established veteran, those five words can serve as Bill Belichick's stamp of approval. It means the player cares. It means the player is willing to put in time.

Belichick hasn't gone on the record on any of the members of this year's class of undrafted free agents just yet, but linebacker Brooks Ellis seems to fall into that category of players to whom football is important.

If it wasn't, he would probably be putting all of his energy into getting accepted into medical school right now.  

Ellis was a two-year captain at Arkansas and one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." He maintained a 3.82 grade point average as a pre-professional exercise science major with a minor in biology, he was the first two-time Academic All-American in program history, and he was the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the year for 2016.

All that is to say, Ellis had options upon graduation.

Football won out. He agreed to a deal with the Patriots soon after the draft, and he's spent the better part of the last month trying to learn defensive terminology and special-teams techniques. 

But eventually Ellis hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later this summer he'll submit his applications to medical schools in order to kick-start that process for whenever it's time to pursue his next plan full-throttle.

"I'm putting my all into this right now," Ellis said, wearing Patriots gear while standing on the Gillette Stadium turf last week. "But when I get some spare time, I'm finishing applications, and then when I get back in July I'm sending those in.

"If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

If all goes well for Ellis this spring and summer, it could be a while before he's taking the Hippocratic Oath. The Patriots have a long history of giving worthy undrafted players a shot at the 53-man roster, and Ellis plays one of the few positions on New England's loaded roster that might have room for a newcomer or two.

On paper, he certainly looks like their type.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder was his team's leading tackler for two seasons. He played all three linebacker positions in Arkansas' defense -- strong-side, middle and weak-side -- and he started 31 consecutive games to finish his career. Ellis also has extensive special teams experience, and he recorded one of the quickest three-cone drills among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

That he learned under Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema can't hurt his chances, either.

Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa under former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick has dipped into Bielema's programs at Wisconsin and Arkansas several times over the course of the last few seasons. Running back James White, defensive end Trey Flowers and former tight end AJ Derby all played for Bielema, and Ellis joins fellow Arkansas rookies Deatrich Wise (fourth-round pick) and Cody Hollister (undrafted) on this year's squad.  

"He came in, started about halfway through his true freshman year -- we weren't a really good football team, we were 3-9 -- threw him in the middle of it, didn't bat an eye, and he got better every game," Bielema said of Ellis on Quick Slants the Podcast. "Sophomore year, [he] really began to mature, develop. He's another guy that the potential -- because we never redshirted him -- to grow in this year is going to be huge . . .

"He's just truly very, very intelligent, compassionate. And the value that he brings is he could be an unbelievable role player. I'm not saying he's going to be a four-time All-Pro or anything like that, but he'll be reliable, dependable, in every phase of the game."

Robb Smith, Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2014-16, believes Ellis landed in the perfect spot. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, where he coached Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, former Patriots corner Logan Ryan, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny and safeties coach Steve Belichick.

"He's one of those guys that's not only going to know his job, but what the other 10 guys around him are supposed to do," Smith said of Ellis. "He'll be able to be a leader from that standpoint in terms of helping guys with the system and the scheme. He's very good instinctively . . ."

"This guy's going to be replacing my knee someday. I'm serious. He's going to be an orthopedic surgeon that's outstanding. I know that's what his goals are. But hopefully he gets to play a lot of football between now and then."

There's one more Patriots link connecting Ellis to New England. His agent, Neil Cornrich, has counted Belichick as a client and also represents Bielema, Ferentz, Flowers, Derby, undrafted Patriots rookies Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels (both of whom played under Ferentz at Iowa) and Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. 

It may come as no surprise then that when Ellis signed with the Patriots, no one knew. He didn't announce it on Twitter, as is the norm for undrafted players when they come to an agreement with a team. And the news wasn't leaked. Instead, he waited for the team to announce it, which his new employers probably appreciated.

Ellis, who according to the Boston Globe received the fifth-most guaranteed money of the 19 undrafted rookies the Patriots signed, said he received some simplie advice from Cornrich before making his way to New England.

"He just said that you'll fit in well there," Ellis said. "You're the type of guy they like, and you're the type of guy that succeeds in that organization. Don't do anything special. Just go out there and work like you do every day, and it'll turn out for the best."

Even if it doesn't, Ellis will have medical school. But he acknowledges there's some unpredictability with that path, just as there is being an undrafted player in the NFL. He still has to be accepted. His application, including personal statements, interviews and MCAT results -- "It was horrible, I don't want to take that ever again," Ellis said -- still has to be deemed up-to-snuff.  

Whenever Ellis starts, it will be the beginning of almost a decade of training between schooling and residency. It will be a challenge, he knows, and it's one that he looks forward to. But he's hoping it can wait because football is important to him. 

"It just makes you work harder," he said of his uncertain future. "It makes you really focus on right now, and make sure that you're doing all you can in this area because even the next area might not be there.

"That's what I've done. I'm just working as hard as I can on this, and if that doesn't work out, then I've got the next thing, and I'm going to work as hard as I can in that area."