Surprise choice for AP's Male Athlete of the Year

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Surprise choice for AP's Male Athlete of the Year

From Comcast SportsNetNow that he's away from the pool, Michael Phelps can reflect -- really reflect -- on what he accomplished.Pretty amazing stuff."It's kind of nuts to think about everything I've gone through," Phelps said. "I've finally had time to myself, to sit back and say, ... that really happened?' It's kind of shocking at times."Not that his career needed a capper, but Phelps added one more honor to his staggering list of accomplishments Thursday -- The Associated Press male athlete of the year.Phelps edged out LeBron James to win the award for the second time, not only a fitting payoff for another brilliant Olympics (four gold medals and two silvers in swimming at the London Games) but recognition for one of the greatest careers in any sport.Phelps finished with 40 votes in balloting by U.S. editors and broadcasters, while James was next with 37. Track star Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals in London, was third with 23.Carl Lewis is the only other Olympic-related star to be named AP male athlete of the year more than once, taking the award for his track and field exploits in 1983 and 84. The only men honored more than twice are golf's Tiger Woods and cyclist Lance Armstrong (four times each), and basketball's Michael Jordan (three times)."Obviously, it's a big accomplishment," Phelps said. "There's so many amazing male athletes all over the world and all over our country. To be able to win this is something that just sort of tops off my career."Phelps retired at age 27 as soon as he finished his final race in London, having won more gold medals (18) and overall medals (22) than any other Olympian.No one else is even close."That's what I wanted to do," Phelps said. "Now that it's over, it's something I can look back on and say, That was a pretty amazing ride.'"The current ride isn't so bad either.Set for life financially, he has turned his fierce competitive drive to golf, working on his links game with renowned coach Hank Haney as part of a television series on the Golf Channel. In fact, after being informed of winning the AP award, Phelps called in from the famed El Dorado Golf & Beach Club in Los Cabos, Mexico, where he was heading out with Haney to play a few more holes before nightfall."I can't really complain," Phelps quipped over the phone.Certainly, he has no complaints about his swimming career, which helped turn a sport that most Americans only paid attention to every four years into more of a mainstream pursuit.More kids took up swimming. More advertisers jumped on board. More viewers tuned in to watch.While swimming is unlikely to ever match the appeal of football or baseball, it has carved out a nice little niche for itself amid all the other athletic options in the United States -- largely due to Phelps' amazing accomplishments and aw-shucks appeal.Just the fact that he won over James shows just how much pull Phelps still has. James had an amazing year by any measure: The league MVP won his first NBA title with the Miami Heat, picking up finals MVP honors along the way, and then starred on the gold medal-winning U.S. basketball team in London.Phelps already had won the AP award in 2008 after his eight gold medals in Beijing, which broke Mark Spitz's record. Phelps got it again with a performance that didn't quite match up to the Great Haul of China, but was amazing in its own right.After the embarrassment of being photographed taking a hit from a marijuana pipe and questioning whether he still had the desire to go on, Phelps returned with a vengeance as the London Games approached. Never mind that he was already the winningest Olympian ever. Never mind that he could've eclipsed the record for overall medals just by swimming on the relays.He wanted to be one of those rare athletes who went out on top."That's just who he is," said Bob Bowman, his longtime coach. "He just couldn't live with himself if knew he didn't go out there and give it good shot and really know he's competitive. He doesn't know anything else but to give that kind of effort and have those kind of expectations."Phelps got off to a rocky start in London, finishing fourth in the 400-meter individual medley, blown out of the water by his friend and rival, Ryan Lochte. It was only the second time that Phelps had not at least finished in the top three of an Olympic race, the first coming way back in 2000 when he was fifth in his only event of the Sydney Games as a 15-year-old.To everyone looking in, Lochte seemed poised to become the new Phelps -- while the real Phelps appeared all washed up.But he wasn't going out like that.No way.Phelps rebounded to become the biggest star at the pool, edging Lochte in the 200 IM, contributing to a pair of relay victories, and winning his final individual race, the 100 butterfly. There were two silvers, as well, leaving Phelps with a staggering resume that will be awfully difficult for anyone to eclipse.His 18 golds are twice as many as anyone else in Olympic history. His 22 medals are four clear of Larisa Latynina, a Soviet-era gymnast, and seven more than the next athlete on the list. Heck, if Phelps was a nation, he'd be 58th in the medal standings, just one behind India (population: 1.2 billion)."When I'm flying all over the place, I write a lot in my journal," Phelps said. "I kind of relive all the memories, all the moments I had throughout my career. That's pretty special. I've never done that before. It's amazing when you see it all on paper."Four months into retirement, Phelps has no desire to get back in the pool. Oh, he'll swim every now and then for relaxation, using the water to unwind rather than putting in one of his famously grueling practices. Golf is his passion at the moment, but he's also found time to cheer on his hometown NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens, and start looking around for a racehorse that he and Bowman can buy together.Phelps hasn't turned his back on swimming, either. He's got his name attached to a line of schools that he wants to take worldwide. He's also devoting more time to his foundation, which is dedicated to teaching kids to swim and funding programs that will grow the sport even more.He's already done so much."His contribution to the way the world thinks about swimming is so powerful," Bowman said. "I don't think any other athlete has transformed his sport the way he's transformed swimming."Phelps still receives regular texts from old friends and teammates, asking when he's going to give up on this retirement thing and come back the pool as a competitor.He scoffs at the notion, sounding more sure of himself now than he did in London.And if there's anything we've learned: Don't doubt Michael Phelps when he sets his mind on something."Sure, I could come back in another four years. But why?" he asked, not waiting for an answer. "I've done everything I wanted to do. There's no point in coming back."

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

Blakely: On surface Bogut makes sense for Celtics, but it comes down to chemistry

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics got their butts kicked (again) on the boards Monday night by the Atlanta Hawks who defeated them 114-98.

The Celtics get their butts kicked most nights on the boards, and yet still find a way to win more often than not.

That’s why the possibility of adding Andrew Bogut who was bought out by Philadelphia is so intriguing.

Once he clears waivers on Wednesday, he’ll officially be a man in high demand with teams trying to show him love as if he was Kevin Durant or LeBron James.

But as much as the 31-year-old center on paper seems like a good addition to the Celtics roster because of his rebounding prowess and rim protection on defense, here’s what you have to keep in mind with Bogut or any other player Danny Ainge and the C's front-office brass decides to bring through that door.

Whatever team a new guy joins, he’ll look to play decent minutes and showcase his skills with unrestricted free agency around the corner this summer.

As far as Bogut is concerned, he's one of the more underrated members of Golden State's title squad in 2016.

Draymond Green's all-around game, Steph Curry’s 3-point bombs and Klay Thompson’s two-way talent were all key to the Warriors winning a title two years ago. But lost in their success among fans was Bogut’s defense which covered up for a lot of mistakes, miscues and blown assignments.

Whatever team Bogut signs with, ideally he would be looking to provide that same interior presence.

But here’s another issue.

Adding Bogut means waiving a player, most likely a young player that the Celtics will have essentially decided to give up on.

Since Bogut is a big, the logical target of being waived is Jordan Mickey.

The second-round pick from 2015 has shown improvement, but not nearly enough to garner steady minutes or even sporadic time on this roster.

Amir Johnson and Al Horford are the starters, with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko rounding out their four-man big rotation so they're not going anywhere.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens typically plays those four bigs every night, so the idea of adding a fifth to the regular rotation doesn’t make sense.

Will one of those four be cool with not playing some nights or having their minutes severely carved up?

Would Bogut be cool with sometimes playing in games, or sometimes playing the role of waving a towel supporting his team from the bench?

And how does his presence affect chemistry which is a major deal for this team and its success this season.

Boston’s bigs in terms of rebounding, have not been good all season.

We can all agree on that.

And yet despite those struggles, they have the second-best record in the East (38-22) along with being a top-5 or top-6 team record-wise in the NBA.

They’re able to win because they have solid talent and Teflon-strong bonds to where they don't just play with each other, but for each other every night. 

We have seen stretches this season when the minutes have been cut or wiped out altogether for rotation players like Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and Jaylen Brown.

And yet during the time when they are not playing as much, you never hear any public grumbling or private bickering among themselves or to the media.

There is a high level of accountability with Brad Stevens-coached teams that if you’re doing your job well, you’ll play. If not, your minutes might go to a teammate.

The best example of this came earlier this season when Gerald Green was essentially a practice player until Christmas Day when he came up big in Boston’s win over the New York Knicks.

Green saw more minutes going forward, but soon found himself struggling to get on the floor afterwards on some nights and the man whose minutes he took – Rozier – was back in the playing mix. 

During those times when Rozier wasn't playing, he said Green was a fixture in his ear, offering words of encouragement regardless of whether he was playing a lot or not at all. 

“Gerald’s always encouraging me, encouraging the young guys to just keep working, be patient and when your time comes, run with it,” Rozier recently told CSNNE.com. “He’s been a great vet for us young guys.”

And while Bogut wouldn’t come in looking to mess with the team’s chemistry, that doesn’t matter.

Anytime a new guy is added to the mix, it has the potential to be a really good pick-up or a potentially catastrophic equation of subtraction by addition.

In talking with a league executive who Bogut played for earlier in his career, he said Bogut would be a good addition to the Celtics roster from a basketball standpoint.

“But you never know about how they fit outside of that,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “As we’ve seen, sometimes it’s just as important that guys click off the court as it is that they can play together on it. I don’t think that would be an issue, but with new guys and not knowing how that locker room works and its dynamics, you just never really know how it’ll play out.

The executive added, “But if they can get him after the Philly buyout, do it. He can help them. His strength is their weakness; it makes a lot of sense for both sides honestly.”

Bradley on return to Celtics lineup: 'I wish I played a little bit more'

Bradley on return to Celtics lineup: 'I wish I played a little bit more'

BOSTON – Before Monday’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley talked about how hard it was going to be for both him and head coach Brad Stevens to accept his minutes restriction.

The 6-foot-2 guard, returning to the lineup after missing 18 straight games with a right Achilles injury, logged just under 15 minutes (14:58) on Monday while scoring six points on 2-for-4 shooting as well as tallying a game-high three steals.

“I wish I played a little bit more,” Bradley said following the game. “But it felt good to be out there.”

Stevens had similar thoughts on Bradley’s limited return.

“Both Avery and I, we were both like, maybe five more minutes or six more minutes,” Stevens said. “But the plan going in was to play him through that first half, hopefully two good stints, about 15 minutes, and then increase that piece by piece over the next few games.”

Despite the long layoff, Bradley looked very much like the Avery Bradley that was playing at a near All-Star level prior to the injury.

You figure even with the long lay-off, Bradley’s defense was going to be close to where it was earlier this season.

But the fact that he was able to quickly get into a nice shooting rhythm – he made his first shot attempt – was indeed a pleasant surprise to him.

“I’ve been able to just get shots up and I was a little nervous to see how it was going to translate in the game,” Bradley said. “But I felt comfortable out there. I just tried to focus on defense and I told myself if I focus on defense I’ll make shots on the offensive end.”

Prior to the injury, Bradley was averaging 17.7 points per game which was second on the team, along with a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.

With his minutes being limited for at least this first week, there’s no telling how long it will take for Bradley to start posting those numbers again.

But Monday was a great first step in the right direction for a player whose talents will be essential for the Celtics to have the kind of finish to the regular season that they want going into the playoffs.

While building up towards being at the top of his game is certainly a goal Bradley has for himself, patience, trusting the rehabilitation process while maxing out his production with a small window of playing time, are all keys to his recovery.

“I wish it was split up or something in the second half but it is what it is,” said Bradley, referring to his playing time being limited to 15 or so minutes now. “I just have to go out there, no matter how many minutes I get, and play as hard as I can. That has to be my mindset.”