Time to step up

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Time to step up

By Michael Felger

So the Bruins are back in the playoffs. That elicits a lot of feelings.

Excitement is definitely one of them.

So is nausea.

Hey, FelgerWhat should the realistic expectations of Bruins fans be heading into the playoffs? What would be a successful season? I mean, the team has made the playoffs three straight seasons, and won a playoff series the past two years, but just can't get over the hump and get to the Eastern Conference finals. I know you have an issue with Claude and how he is just an average coach; how much pressure is on him this postseason to win two series and get to the conference finals? Personally, I don't think the Bruins are built for the playoffs. The problem is the playoffs are where great players shine, and the Bruins just have a lot of pretty good players. We shall see.Ryan

That last part is pretty well put, Ryan. Theyre pretty good, not great. So if the Bruins fall short of a Cup, you cant pin it all on Julien and you cant even pin it on Chiarelli yet. The players just arent good enough to win a championship, in my opinion.

However, this roster IS good enough to get out of the second round. Whats more, they were good enough against Carolina in 2008-09, and they sure as heck should have done it last year against Philadelphia. So if they fail to get there again this year, what are we left with? I would contend were left with a coach and GM that havent gotten the most out of their team.

Ive made this point many times but Ill do it again here because I think its important to note: Chiarelli and Julien dont suck. When they arrived (in 2007 and 2008, respectfully), the Bruins were at rock bottom. They werent a playoff team, having missed the postseason each of the previous two years, and in terms of their market share in Boston they were off the map. Chiarelli and Julien brought them back. This is their fourth straight playoff appearance, and hockey matters in Boston again. Those guys are a big part of the reason why. I just have my doubts as to whether they are capable of winning a championship. I think the same goes for this core of players, by the way.

Personally, I think making the conference finals is a minimum requirement. There are no excuses not to. They are healthy, rested and experienced. They finally have their PMD (puck moving defenseman). Defeat in any form in the first two rounds is a failure. Then it will depend what happens in the conference finals. If the Bs go up 3-1 in that round, regardless of the opponent, and then lose the series, would their postseason run be considered a success? Hell, no. It would be another gag. So lets see how it ends before we really pass judgment.

Felger, You DB! Great interview with Sgt. Ian Lafrenire of the Montreal Police. It was nice to see that there is at least one person in Bleu Blanc and Rougeland that still has a firm grasp of common sense. And while it was refreshing to hear Sgt. Lafrenire say that this case is not a priority and that the Bruins and Chara will probably not be bothered with it during the playoffs, I remain skeptical. Not because I doubt what Sgt. Lafrenire said. I thought he was very forthright and also entertaining, even without any Pink Panther references. It's because Sgt. Lafrenire and the Montreal Police were very obviously forced to do this by someone in the Provincial government. The investigators may have placed this sham investigation rightly on the back burner now, but what's to keep the same Provincial official with the Habs footie PJs, whom Sgt. Lafrenire referred to as his bosses, from demanding Chara be questioned and detained during the series? We are obviously not dealing with a business-as-usual situation here. Never underestimate the stupidity of a Habs fan, and this goes triple to someone who has to depend on the votes of these cretins for their job. Chara is not out of the woods yet. And that is just fine with me. Book him. Fingerprint him. Question him. I want a full episode of CSI Montreal. Why? It's two-fold Mikey. First, because I think we then get an angry Chara. Normally Z is just accidentally dangerous and menacing. I want full-on, shredded-purple-pants Hulk rage from Chara, and having Dudley DoRight processing him at the behest of some lunatic in a powdered wig and culottes should do the job without gamma radiation.

Secondly and most importantly, nothing will galvanize this team more than their Captain being subjected to the whims of a deranged governmental jackass. You want to see a rabid locker room? You want to see a team ready to turn P.K. Subban into dasher signage? Have Chara get yanked off the team bus by the Mounties. That will light a riot-sized, hate-fueled fire under this team that could last two or three rounds deep. Exactly the kind of tangible passion that B's fans have been wanting from their team and its Captain for a while. A kind of energy PC and Claude could never and will never manufacture. The series would be over before Sgt. Lafrenire and his men could finish the paperwork. The only question is who Chara would use his one phone call on. A Pizza place or a Massage parlor? May I suggest Wanda's? MikeAttleboro

I dunno, Michael. Youre saying this Bruins team would actually grow a pair? What evidence have you seen of that being possible? Talk about calling for an investigation. Lets bring in Lafrenire and see if he can find the Bs testicles, because right now thats a cold case.

HEY, FELGER!I had a chance to listen to you interview the sergeant from Montreal about the Chara investigation, and I'm trying to figure out if Montreal is either stupid or needs psychiatric treatment. I can only imagine what would happen if the Bruins beat the Canadiens in the playoffs. I thought Philly was a bunch of yahoos, but Montreal is the champions of yahoosMattFramingham

Indeed, I have given fans of the Jets, Steelers and any Philadelphia team a lot of crap over the years, but this experience with the Canadiens fans has refreshed my memory. They are, by far, the worst. What a bunch of children. Say what you will about Firemen Ed, but hes not calling the cops on Bill Belichick.

Felger,Bruins playoffs: Who sits, Ryder or Seguin?I think Ryder.MichaelQuincy

Seguin, unfortunately. He may be the Bs best pure finisher (which is truly an indictment of this roster), but Claude just doesnt trust him. Part of me doesnt blame him, either. All you have to do is challenge Seguin on the puck and hell cough it up. I can count on one hand the number on one-on-one battles hes won this year.

Quick one this week, Felgy. There isn't much to say with this Bruins team. Its time to put up or shut up. But I'm not going to lie. I'm a-scared of the flopping.DaveWoburn

You and me both, Davey. I can easily see the Habs playing their cowardly game and winning the series on the power play. The simple fact is they have more guys who can put the puck in the net. The less five-on-five play, the worse it is for the Bs.

Felger,I haven't been one of the "Green Teamers this year and I prematurely ripped Rondo for his miserable March, like so many of us . . . but my question is about Kevin Garnett. He's tops on the team in FG percentage (Shaq's is higher but doesn't count here) and it seems he could put up some huge 20-point15 rebound-type games in the playoffs IF he gets aggressive on offense, IF he calls for the ball more often, and IF his body allows it. Is seeing KG go on a playoff tear just a dream from the past? What do you think about KG's postseason?DaveBerkshire County

I agree 100 percent on Garnetts offensive game. The more he shoots, the better. Period. And I dont care where its from. I think his spot-up jumper from beyond the free-throw line is absolute money. If Im a Celtics fan, I want him shooting that sucker as often as possible. Unfortunately for you, hes never really been that guy in the postseason. Ask the folks in Minnesota. Hes just not a give-me-the-ball kind of player.

Felgy,To most people in Boston, Carl Crawford has been the biggest disappointment of all the Red Sox off-season acquisitions. However, I personally think it's been Adrian Gonzalez.By virtue of never seeing him play in San Diego, local fans, in my opinion, created a picture of Gonzalez that wasn't entirely accurate: that he's one of the top three sluggers in the game and would easily put up 45-50 HRs in a more hitter-friendly park. In light of the corner power questions we've had over the last few years, Gonzalez was supposed to be the answer. Yet, after 11 games, it appears Red Sox fans were wrong -- it appears that AG is more "Tony Gwynn with more pop (to quote Pedroia) than a top-three slugger. Therefore, the middle-order questions remain.Besides having no leadoff hitter, Felgy, don't you think we all overlooked the power problems this team would have? Granted, leading the league in HRs doesn't equate to leading the league in runs scored, but given the weaknesses in starters 3-5 and middle relief, power problems spell an inability to come from behind. If Gonzalez is closer to Texiera than Joey Votto, in my opinion, the problem remains. I was never into Crawford, but most fans projected Gonzalez to be a notch under Pujols. Thank you,
GregManchester, NH

I still think Gonzalez is going to be there, Greg. I think hes a beast. Hes going to play every day. And when the weather warms and he really gets comfortable, hes going to crush it. You know me; the eternal optimist.

Felger, What's up with the Red Sox? I think they have a serious issue with the hitting coach. Ever notice they either score a bunch of runs or nothing? On the days they score nothing, why are there never any kind of adjustments made the second time through the order? I would think that would be the job of the hitting coach. Based of Dave Magadan's career stats I cannot fathom why he is an MLB Hitting coach. Shouldn't the hitting coach actually be somebody who hit well in his career? Some people may say this is a stretch, but if the hitting coach doesn't matter then why not just throw me in there? Must mean something . . . MattTewksbury

Yes, the hitting problems may have something to do with Magadan. And, yes, the pitching problems may have something to do with Curt Young. But how do we know that yet? It amazes me how many people want to put the pitching problems, in particular, on Saltalamacchia or Young. Why dont we start with the pitchers themselves first? And when it comes to Magadan, didnt he coach an injury-riddled lineup to the second-most runs in the American League last year?

Everyone on the Red Sox bears some responsibility for this start, including Francona, but I say we put the players on the top of the list. Dont let them off the hook.

Hey, FelgerI am fully on board with the Pats being proactive in the search for an eventual successor for Tom Brady. We do not want to be like the Dolphins and the 49ers, who are still searching for long-term replacements for former greats like Marino and Young. But I cannot justify the talk of potentially using a first-round pick on a QB like Jake Locker. Not only does Locker not seem like the type of QB Belichick would go after (more brawn than brains, struggles with decision-making and turnovers, lacks elite accuracy, 15-25 career record as a starter, more of an athlete than a precise pocket passer -- a guy that seems more like Steve Young than Joe Montana), but going after any QB in the first or second round of this year's draft would be doing a disservice to the team and the fans, in my opinion. In this day and age of modern medicine, and with QBs like John Elway and Kurt Warner posting some of their best seasons and going to the Super Bowl at the ages of 37 and 38, it is not unrealistic to assume Brady should be able to perform at a high level for the remainder of his contract.However, Brady's window is closing and the chances you find another Hall of Fame-caliber talent like him are slim to none, so you've got to take advantage of his remaining years. Use those picks to address the main things that have been holding this team back over the last few years: an offensive line that pees down its leg in the playoffs and has not given Brady good enough protection, a defense that has not been championship-caliber for 4-6 years, a running game that is not consistently good enough to be relied upon in big games, a team that has been the less physical and less aggressive team in each of its last three playoff losses.This is not the year to use a high pick on a QB that will likely be sitting on the sidelines until 2014 or 2015. This is the year to move up in the draft if necessary to get some playmakers and difference makers on both sides of the ball that can restore the Pats to being a fierce playoff team. I don't know how using a first round pick on a QB that will sit on the bench could possibly be more beneficial to this team than getting a stud pass rusher to help this league-worst third-down defense and anemic pass rush.JP
A very intelligent and measured email, JP. Are you sure you dont have the wrong mailbag? This sounds like something for Reiss. Youre supposed to call me a DB and rant incoherently in here.

Anyway, its hard to argue with any of your points. And I would have no problem if the Pats passed on Locker and every other QB in this draft. All Im saying is that they have to start thinking about the transition plan. Note, I didnt say they need to have a quarterback competition this year. Note, I didnt say they should bench Brady. I said they should start thinking about the future of that position. The two best examples of passing the torch are the 49ers in the '90s with Steve Young, and Aaron Rodgers currently with the Packers. And in both cases the young torchbearer had several years to learn and develop within that teams system. They sat. They watched. They learned. They had multiple years in the playbook. And when their turn came they knew the offense, the coaching, their teammates, the media and the fans. There were no surprises. Now, theres no guarantee that this approach will work for the Patriots or anyone else. But I think it gives you best chance.

Also please note, the Pats already may have this player on their roster. If Bill Belichick has identified Brian Hoyer as the guy, then great. But if they dont, the Pats have to start the grooming process in the next year or two. Brady will be 34 by the time next season starts and he has four years left on his contract. The goal should be to have the next guy fully ready by the time Brady enters his final season. Were talking 2014.

Who knows? The Bruins might even have gotten out of the second round by then.

Read Felgers weekly column on Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Blakely: Bradley not letting trade rumors get to him

Blakely: Bradley not letting trade rumors get to him

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter what Mother Nature is doing weather-wise, Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley has been around the NBA long enough to know that the potential to be traded is always in season.

This summer has been no different, with Bradley being among the Boston players whose name has been included in several rumored trades.

“I try not to worry about it too much because it’s out of my control at the end of the day,” Bradley said after his basketball camp at Brandeis University with additional camps in Trinadad having been completed with additional ones this summer in Tacoma, Washington and Vancouver.

Bradley is entering the final year of the 4-year, $32 million deal he signed in 2014.

And make no mistake about it.

Bradley is going to get paid a lot, whether it’s by the Celtics or another team.

His steady improvement from one year to the next has been a constant for the 26-year-old who last season was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive first team.

But he knows the Celtics’ brass well enough that if they see a chance to significantly upgrade the roster, they won’t hesitate to trade anyone, himself included.

“I don’t worry about it,” Bradley said. “I know that was the case and I get traded, the Celtics are going to do what’s best for them and I’m going to have to do what’s best for me if I’m put in a different situation.

He added, “our job is to play basketball, not worry about trades. I just try to focus on that.”

Having been in the NBA for seven years, Bradley acknowledged it does get easier to put the trade speculation in perspective over time.

“It’s part of the business, man,” he said. “You just to accept and understand that your name is going to be thrown in trade talk. You can get traded at any time. You just have to be prepared and focus on just being the best player that you can be.”

That approach has been critical to Bradley’s steady improvement as an NBA player who began his career as someone who was charged with playing elite defense, into one of the better two-way talents in the league.

Last season, Bradley averaged a career-high 16.3 points per game along with 6.1 rebounds which was also a career-high.

This season, Bradley has a long list of areas he wants to improve upon, with finishing at the rim near the top of the list.

Looking at his track record, you can count on that area of his game showing noticeable improvement.

And whether it’ll manifest itself while he’s a Celtic, remains to be seen.

“It doesn’t matter if you get traded or where you end up,” Bradley said. “If you’re prepared to be in any situation you’ll be fine.”

With draft drama behind them, Celtics move on to free agency

With draft drama behind them, Celtics move on to free agency

BOSTON -- The plan for the Boston Celtics to upgrade their roster began with draft night. 

They had the top overall pick and traded down with Philadelphia for the No. 3 spot, where they selected Jayson Tatum in addition to getting a future first-round pick.

Now on to phase two: Free agency.

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A year ago this time, the Boston Celtics went into free agency feeling pretty good about their chances of landing at least one high-impact difference maker.

Years of meticulous salary cap management had Boston in position to add a pair of max-salaried players in one haul, something you seldom see happen in the NBA.

Boston secured Al Horford,  who was widely viewed as the second-best free agent available, with a four-year, $113 million contract.

The Celtics were on the short list of contenders for the top free agent, Kevin Durant, who eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors and led them to an NBA title earlier this month, the franchise's second championship in the last three years. 

Free agency officially begins on Saturday and Boston once again finds itself on the short list of teams for one of the better free agents-to-be: Utah's Gordon Hayward.

“Target number one for Boston,” one league executive texted to CSNNE.com on Friday when asked about Hayward. "I'm not telling you something you and the rest of the NBA world [haven't] known for a while; he's the guy in this free agent class that they really, really want.”

While a number of teams may enter the race for Hayward, he is expected to choose from one of these three: Utah, Boston and Miami.

As good as a Hayward signing may be for Boston, he’s not the biggest name on the free-agent market.

That would be Durant and Stephen Curry, both of whom are expected to re-sign with the Warriors. The likelihood of either winding up on another team can be summed up in two words – no chance.

And that leaves Hayward as arguably the best free agent available to be on another team’s roster next season.

But in terms of addressing specific needs, the Celtics are among the teams that can benefit from what is shaping up to be a position-less NBA, one where your best scorers in the paint are guards and your best passers play in the frontcourt.

For a good chunk of last season, the 6-foot-10 Horford was Boston’s top assist man, while 6-2 guard Avery Bradley was the Celtics’ top rebounder.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, hears all the time about how the Celtics need to become a better rebounding team.

Despite finishing with more wins than any team in the Eastern Conference, Boston was among the worst rebounding teams in several categories. Their defensive rebounding percentage of .485 ranked 27th out of 30 NBA teams.

Boston was the only team to win 50 or more games last season that was not ranked among the top 20 teams in rebounding percentage.

And while the knee-jerk response would be to go out and sign big men whose strength is rebounding the ball, Ainge is convinced that rebounding for the Celtics has to be across-the-board team effort.

“You have to have other guys that rebound,” Ainge said during an interview with CSN’s Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “Those teams with small lineups, you still have to find a way to rebound. Obviously, we were a very good team this year and small at a lot of positions and it seemed our big guys took the brunt of not being good rebounders. It really is a team rebounding game. This was the case even when I played with the Big 3. We know that’s a weakness. We need to add size and length to our roster.”

That’s why in many ways, Tatum was such a solid addition for Boston in last week’s NBA draft.

While he is given a lot of praise for his offensive versatility, Ainge also liked the fact that the 19-year-old was a really good rebounder particularly on the defensive glass.

For Boston, become a better team on the defensive boards would go far in them improving their rebounding as a whole and in doing so, show growth for a team whose defensive rating (105.5) ranked 12th in the NBA after beginning the season defensively as one of the NBA’s worst teams.

“Rebounding and size goes to all the positions. Rebounding is a five-man effort. We just added size,” said Ainge, referring to Tatum. “That’s huge; he’s a terrific defensive rebounder.”

Boston should also benefit from a pair of first-round draft picks from last season, Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, who spent this past season playing overseas but are expected to join the Celtics roster for the 2017-2018 season.

“We have some guys that can help us improve in that area,” Ainge said.

And improvement, more than anything else, is the name of the game for the Celtics in free agency.

Well aware that no one single move will move them past Cleveland or Golden State, Ainge knows progress for his team may not be as instantaneous as some fans – or he for that matter – would like.

“We have a lot of really good players. A lot of gritty guys,” Ainge said. “But we could use like a little more talent; that’s the bottom line. The guy that can get his own shot, create for others, demands double teams on a regular basis. Maybe some of our young guys can develop into that. But that’s a ways away."

Ainge added, “But to me, a true contender, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that LeBron James and Kevin Durant are in the NBA Finals.  They’re arguably the two best half-court guys. They’re there with [Russell] Westbrook and James Harden, of course, are great offensive players. But you have to have more than just them. We feel we have the [other guys].  We just need a guy like that [to] give us a chance.”