Preview: Celtics vs. Grizzlies

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Preview: Celtics vs. Grizzlies

BOSTON The Boston Celtics (12-10) are finally an above-.500 basketball team.Next goal?Joining the upper echelon of teams in the East.The C's have a ways to go before getting there, but a win today over a solid Memphis (12-11) team couldn't hurt.And like most of the NBA, the Grizzlies have had to play games without key players.All-Star forward Zach Randolph suffered a torn MCL early in the season which has kept him out for all but four games this season. He's not expected back until early March.The C's have their own injuries to worry about, although their core guys seem to all be improving, health-wise.Injuries happen, regardless of whether you have a typical NBA season or this condensed one courtesy of the NBA lockout.For the C's, the focus now is pretty clear - keep finding ways to win."We've gone through a lot; so has everyone else in this league," said coach Doc Rivers. "It's not just us. To start out slow like we did and get over (.500) - it's good for us. We've just got to keep doing it. We've got to just keep working on it."And that work continues today against the Grizzlies, a team that the C's will have to play well against in order to defeat. Here are some of the key points the Celtics will have to contend with if they are to win their fourth straight game.WHAT TO LOOK FOR:Although you don't hear his name - his first name, at least - too often, Memphis center Marc Gasol is a player the Celtics have to be concerned about. Gasol, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, is one of 12 NBA players averaging a double-double of points and rebounds this season. As much as his scoring helps Memphis, he does a nice job of clogging up the lane as well. His presence is a big reason why the Grizzlies are only giving up 37.7 points per game in the paint which ranks 5th in the NBA.MATCHUP TO WATCH:Ray Allen vs. Tony Allen. Having spent the bulk of his career with the Celtics, few have a better understanding and feel for how to contain Ray Allen. Plus, Tony Allen is a heck of a defender whose defensive presence in Memphis is similar to how Kevin Garnett is viewed by the Celtics. "He's like an Army General," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley told the Commercial-Appeal. "He says crazy things but goes out there and backs it up." However, Ray Allen has shown lately that he can still have a major impact on the game without scoring, if teams spend too much time and effort keying in on him. Averaging 2.8 assists per game this season, Ray Allen has averaged five assists in Boston's last three games which includes a season-high eight assists in Boston's 93-90 win at Cleveland on Jan. 31.PLAYER TO WATCH: Although he's not one of Boston's main attractions, Chris Wilcox is starting to provide just what the Celtics need in the front-court. In Boston's 91-89 win over New York on Friday, Wilcox was a huge part of the win despite some less-than-stellar numbers. He had six points and four rebounds, all of which were offensive boards. "I thought Chris Wilcox was the hero," said C's coach Doc Rivers after the Knicks win.STAT TO TRACK: Memphis leads the NBA in steals (10.6) per game, which means Boston's transition defense will have its hands full today. Those turnovers are a big part of why the Grizzlies average 17.3 fast-break points per game, which ranks No. 3 in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston's defense as a whole has been solid this season. They have the league's second-best scoring defense, giving up just 87 points per game. And they're just as stingy when it comes to limiting fast-break scoring, giving up just 10 points per game which ranks No. 2 in the NBA.

Kraft on Brady: He's willing to play 'six, seven more years'

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Kraft on Brady: He's willing to play 'six, seven more years'

PHOENIX -- Robert Kraft drew some scoffs from the media horde surrounding him on Monday when he relayed Tom Brady's intentions for the remainder of his playing career. 

"As recently as two, three days ago, he assured me he'd be willing to play six, seven more years," Kraft said. "At the level he performed, there's no one that would be happier than I . . . and our fan base."

Brady put together an MVP-caliber season in 2016 at the age of 39, and he figures to be one of the best at his position during his age 40 season. And judging by his comments during Day 2 of the league meetings here, Kraft wouldn't be surprised if Brady could keep things going well into his mid-40s -- unprecedented as that would be.

"In some ways, you think about, I think there's one player at the age of 40 who had one good year. Favre for the Vikings. But he didn't do so well before," Kraft said. "I think Tommy's sustained excellence is just unbelievable. It's a lifestyle. He's in training now. It's not like he's stopped. He works out.

"I remember after our first Super Bowl in [2001], going down to the training room in the old Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, and he's in there with the music blaring, working out.

"He's really dedicated and the thing that's amazing about him, to this day, he hasn't changed as a human being in terms of how he relates to people, but also in terms of how he works out. The only thing that's probably changed is how he eats, his diet. I'm not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I'd do it."

Monday, March 27: Hall call for Habs' Markov?

Monday, March 27: Hall call for Habs' Markov?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, with crunch time coming in the NHL.

*Jack Todd says that the Hall of Fame needs to reserve a spot for Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov. Is he Hall of Fame material, or Hall of Very Good material?

*The playoff streak is coming to an end for Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Red Wings finish out a lost season.

*Thanks to PHT writer James O’Brien for providing the kind of relaxing hockey moment that any dog lover could appreciate.

*Boston College standout Colin White has signed an amateur tryout deal with the Senators, but it remains to be seen if the entry level contract is coming.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick offers his hot takes about the Canadiens after a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

*The US men’s hockey team may join the women’s team in boycotting the world championships if there isn’t a resolution soon.

*A group of longtime Leafs writers share some of their best stories from the press box

*In the shameless interest of self-promotion, here’s my hit with Toucher and Rich this morning talking about riding the hot hand with Anton Khudobin.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Tracey Myers wonders if a lopsided loss will snap the Blackhawks out of their malaise.

*Sidney Crosby fires back at Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk after he called the NHL star a whiner recently.

*For something completely different: getting to know new CSNPhilly.com baseball analyst John Kruk, who we all should know pretty well at this point.