The Pro Bowl is getting much more serious

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The Pro Bowl is getting much more serious

From Comcast SportsNetHONOLULU (AP) -- The NFC team ended its first Pro Bowl practice by breaking the huddle and shouting, "Win." One night earlier, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning asked his fellow all-stars to play the game hard.And players on both sides pledged Wednesday to play more determined in a game with a reputation of being taken less seriously than preseason exhibitions or meaningless Week 17 contests."We're professional football players. I think you take a professional attitude to the game," said Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, one of two rookie passers in the game along with Seattle's Russell Wilson. "It is an obligation of ours to continue this game."The future of the game to be held Sunday in Hawaii is uncertain. The contest was almost not scheduled at all this year after players faced blowback from commissioner Roger Goodell and fans for clearly not trying last year.That's made the 2013 Pro Bowl something of an audition. A league executive said Tuesday the NFL wants to decide on the future of the Pro Bowl by April, when the next regular season schedule comes out.Manning responded later that night by urging players to play at full speed, according to a report by NFL.com. NFL officials said Wednesday a transcript of Manning's speech wasn't available, and Manning was not made available for comment after his team's practice.The AFC and NFC squads showed slightly different styles during a low key practice at a high school on Oahu's west side, with players barely breaking a sweat while wearing T-shirts and shorts.Manning and Luck took the field at the same time for passing drills to AFC receivers like Houston's Andre Johnson, Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne and Cincinnati's A.J. Green.The NFC practice included 7-on-7 scrimmage plays, special teams practice with punts and field goals and plenty of passes for Drew Brees, Eli Mannning and Wilson.While some players, including Brees, spent time signing autographs for fans waiting just outside a campus gate, others didn't linger around after practice as a bus promptly returned them to the team hotel.Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz joked that he might take a surfing lesson before saying he thinks the game will be well-played.When asked what the Green Bay coaches on the NFC side might think of him hitting the waves, Cruz said: "That'll be our secret."Brees said the Pro Bowl is important in part because it's a big moment for Hawaii, a state without an NFL team."There's so many guys who come out here and take this with a sense of responsibility," Brees said.Denver cornerback Champ Bailey says players should take the honor of a Pro Bowl seriously because they never know when they will get the opportunity to return."This is a tradition that needs to keep going," Bailey said. "That's the only way we're going to keep it going, is if we come over here and take it seriously."

Celtics look to end Cavs' recent mastery against them

Celtics look to end Cavs' recent mastery against them

BOSTON – As the reigning NBA champs, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is well-versed on the what constitutes a big game.
 
Tonight’s matchup against the Celtics?
 
Yup, it’s a big one.
 
Boston (38-22) comes into tonight’s game with the fourth-best record in the NBA and sits in the No. 2 spot in the East, trailing the Cavs (41-17) by four games.
 
While the Celtics have lost three of their past four, they are still in the middle of a great run in which they have won 12 of their past 16.
 
“They’re playing great basketball,” said Lue, a former Celtics assistant coach. “It’s a big game; [numbers] one and two. We win tonight, we have the tiebreaker on them, a little bit more cushion. It’s going to be a good game for us.”
 
It certainly hasn’t been for the Celtics, losing to the Cavs in each of their past three meetings.
 
And in those games, Boston has given up at least 120 points in each matchup. Despite their struggles defensively against the Cavs, Boston lost the past two meetings by just six points each.
 
Against the top-four teams in the East surrounding them (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), Boston has a record of just 3-8.
 
Despite the outcomes, the Celtics have shown a tendency to play with greater focus and overall effort against the Cavs, something LeBron James says he sees on a night-in, night-out basis.
 
“I think the whole NBA plays hard and they’re [Celtics] one of the teams that does that as well,” James said. “It’s always competitive every night you step on an NBA court.”
 
You would think that the competitive juices would be flowing even greater tonight considering tonight’s game features the top two teams in the East.
 
Isaiah Thomas has made no secret about paying close attention to the NBA standings.
 
LeBron James?
 
Not so much.
 
“Not me personally,” James said. “It’s all about me; it’s about our team, our process. We come out and play our game every night, then things like that take care of itself.”
 

 
 

Bruins acquire bottom-six forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.

Bruins acquire bottom-six forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.

BRIGHTON -- Bruins general manager Don Sweeney gave every indication it was going to be a mostly quiet trade deadline for the Black and Gold, and it was . . . right up until the 3 p.m. deadline.

Then the B’s dealt a conditional sixth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for forward Drew Stafford. The trade was announced shortly after Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline.

Stafford, 31, is having a down year due to injuries and ineffectiveness and has four goals and 13 points along with a minus-2 rating on the season, and has played in only 40 games this season after being dealt two years ago to the Jets from Buffalo along with Tyler Myers. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Stafford was a bit of a Bruins killer during his time in Buffalo and topped out with 31 goals and 52 points n the 2010-11 season. He scored 21 goals and 38 points in 78 games for Winnipeg last season, but compiled a whopping minus-23 mark.

This is a no-risk move for the Bruins, who surrender very little for a player who will give the B’s an option at wing should one of their younger players begin to struggle, or who could potentially replace someone like Jimmy Hayes among their bottom-six forwards.

Other than Stafford, the Bruins stood pat and watched as players like Radim Vrbata, Jaroslav Halak, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog didn’t move ahead of the deadline. The B's weren’t about to move their top prospects and blue-chip assets while in a rebuilding phase, and they were smart to stick to the low-risk/high-reward type move. Sweeney and Company are clearly betting on the group they’ve put together to finish up strong and power into the postseason in the final 19 games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy.