Red Sox, Napoli still not official; Swisher meets with Indians


Red Sox, Napoli still not official; Swisher meets with Indians

It was two weeks ago, during the winter meetings in Nashville, when word got out that the Red Sox had reached an agreement on a three-year, 39 million deal with free agent Mike Napoli. The Sox have yet to make that official.

The Sox and Napolis agent have remained mum on the subject. Last week, Sox general manager Ben Cherington said he did not want to comment on the situation.

I dont want to comment specifically, Cherington said last Thursday. Every time we sign a free agent to a guaranteed deal there are a number of things you have to come to agreement on and resolve. Some is contract language, terms, and money, and then theres a physical with all these agreements. Until all those things are done and agreed upon cant comment on it.

Will Carroll of reported on Thursday (via Twitter) that the Sox were trying to get Napoli to take fewer years but with the same annual average value (AAV) to protect themselves from what was thought to be a hipquad issue, with Nick Swisher being a Plan B. However, Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland reported Monday afternoon (also via Twitter) that Swisher would visit Cleveland Monday night to have dinner with Indians president Mark Shapiro.

Protracted negotiations with a free agent are not completely foreign to the Sox. At the winter meetings in early December 2006, word broke that the Sox had reached an agreement with J.D. Drew. That deal was not official until Jan. 26, 2007. The Sox inserted a clause into the five-year, 70 million contract that allowed the team to void the deal after three or four years if Drew had a recurrence of a preexisting issue with his right shoulder. The clause did not become necessary. While Drew appeared in just 109 games in 2008, his second season with the Sox, it was mostly attributable to a lower back strain, and not his right shoulder.

The Sox also used a similar approach when they signed right-hander John Lackey to a five-year, 82.5 million deal in December 2009. The Sox hold an option for 2015 at the major league minimum that became effective when Lackey required Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season.

That approach has not always been successful for the Sox, though. The team attempted to have a protective clause inserted into their deal with left fielder Jason Bay, whom the Sox acquired at the trade deadline in 2008 and who had become a free agent after the 2009 season. Bay balked at the clause and signed with the Mets instead.

Paul George still with Pacers, but admits it's been a 'very different' season


Paul George still with Pacers, but admits it's been a 'very different' season

BOSTON – It’s easy to forget that it was just three years ago Paul George was part of a strong Indiana Pacers nucleus that was in the Eastern Conference finals and took the LeBron James-led Miami Heat to seven games.

Things have changed dramatically for the 6-foot-9 George who is leading a Pacers team that’s fighting just to be in the playoffs, a team that just a month ago he wasn’t sure he would even be a part of due to trade rumors that included him potentially being traded to Boston.

"It's been a different year for Paul," said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. "The last few years he played with a group of guys that are no longer with him. Having to establish and lead this new group, it's the first time for him. As well as being concerned about his play. It's growth for him. That doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes that takes a little time."

George, playing in Boston for the first time tonight since the NBA trade deadline passed, acknowledged there was a sense of relief when Feb. 23 came and went and he remained a Pacer.

“It was great from the sense of the outside stuff,” George said. “Not for myself. Again, where I was, is where I was gonna be at. I was gonna make the most out of it. It was just good to put that to rest. To have to keep answering those questions. Or, to keep avoiding those questions, to where I could just focus on what's at hand. And that's trying to at least solidify the six spot, if not move up going down the stretch. Man, we're close to the seventh, we're close to the eighth seed. At this point, it's how can we get a little distance going into the playoffs.”

The Celtics (44-26) have a similar approach to tonight’s game. They come in currently second in the East to Cleveland by two games, and lead Washington by 2.5. The lead over the Wizards will likely increase with most of Washington’s remaining games on the road with a large chunk as part of their final long road trip that begins in Cleveland and then takes them out West where they’ll face the Los Angeles Clippers, the Utah Jazz and cap it off with a road battle at Golden State.

As for George, the trade rumors – a first for him since being a Pacer – weren’t the worst part about this season.

Adapting to a series of new roles, expectations and a relatively new group of teammates, has been difficult for George.

“It's been very different. It's probably been one of the toughest seasons for me,” George said. “Just naturally being a leader. Being the last Pacer with the group that I came in with. And just being in that Eastern Conference finals roster, I'm the last guy on that roster. So, it's been different. I've grown into a different role. Becoming a different leader. And you know, you always re-live them glory days. And when they're gone, it's the last little bit that you remember. So I'm trying to bring that to this team and that edge. But it's taken some time and there's a toll.”

George remains one of the NBA’s best players, evident by the coaches selecting the 26-year-old to his fourth All-Star team last month.

Being an elite player while patiently waiting for the Pacers to improve as a group, has not been easy.

“That's really what's been the toughest part for me,” George said. “Usually I had two jobs; be the best defender and the best scorer. Now it's be the leader. Be the toughness guy. Be the enforcer. It's just a lot of roles that I had to pick up this season and that's what's been the toll. That's what's been the roughest part of it, is how do you put energy in every bit of places. I've grown with it. I've gotten better throughout the season, as the season's gone on. Different matchups gone on. How to approach different teams. But it's been a task. It's been a test. It's been a test to learn.”

Part of that growth individually and as a team involves nights like this when the Pacers face a team like Boston which they could potentially see next month in the first round of the playoffs.

“We have to approach tonight like it's gonna be a playoff battle,” George said. “Celtics (are) not gonna be a team that's gonna let up. They're fighting for positioning as well, I think they're second right now (in the East) and Washington's on their heels. So, they're fighting for playoff positioning and seeding as much as we are. So it's gonna be an intense game.”

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

Malcolm Butler on Instagram: 'Nothing changed but the change'

We haven't heard from cornerback Malcolm Butler as his future as a Patriot hangs in the balance after his visit with the New Orleans Saints last week.

Butler,  a restricted free agent who has yet to sign the $3.91 million tender offered by the Patriots, posted a photo Wednesday on Instagram with the cryptic message "Nothing changed but the change," which happens to be a lyric from a song titled "Could It Be" by rapper Nick Lyon. So, perhaps a change of teams is being referred to.

"Nothing changed but the change" #BLESSED

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on

More to come...