Trying to find the brightside for the Red Sox

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Trying to find the brightside for the Red Sox

With 1.8 percent of their season in the books, the Red Sox are already beyond repair.

They've got no bullpen. No starters. No heart. No chance. They've picked up where they left off in September, and it's only a matter of time before the clubhouse explodes and ownership plants pills in Bobby Valentine's locker.

We're only three games in, but the Red Sox yacht is already sinking!

Everyone abandon ship!

But please be careful on your way out the floors can get slippery.

Ahhh . . . isn't it amazing what one weekend can do?

Isn't it amazing what one team can do?

In only three games, the Red Sox have turned Boston into an asylum. They've driven us mad; certifiably, Julian-Tavarez-after-10-tequila-shots insane. They've left so many fans without hope. Inspired so many snarky eulogies and bad beer and chicken jokes. They've taken any chance there was to leave last season in the past, and replaced it with forecasts for an excruciating summer filled with bickering, backstabbing and weekly visits with Michael Kay.

Ladies and gentleman, the Red Sox are back!

Ladies and gentleman, the Red Sox are dead!

In lieu of flowers, please send charitable donations to Liverpool FC.

OK, I'm done being an idiot.

Because the truth is that I don't believe it.

I don't believe the Red Sox are screwed. I don't believe they're a pathetic bunch of overpaid saps who aren't worthy of our time andor respect. I don't believe that they don't have heart.

Could I be wrong on every single count?

Yup, but one bad weekend on the road against one of the best teams in baseball is not enough to convince me otherwise.

Do they have problems? Yeah, sure. They've got problems. First of all, the back of their bullpen is a mess. They haven't found a reliable closer.

But at the same time, if we're going to write off Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon as viable options, don't we also have to assume that Franklin Morales will be unhittable against lefties, and that Vincente Padilla will be the most devastating long-reliever in baseball? Doesn't it have to work both ways?

Yes, it does. So on every level, let's just wait and see.

Especially with Aceves. After all, it wasn't too long ago that he was the most reliable guy in a bullpen that included Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. No one exuded and inspired more confidence than Aceves did last season. You felt like he had the physical and mental makeup to do anything that the Sox asked of him. And for the most part, he did. Now, obviously things couldn't have started off any worse for him this season, but are two outings enough to convince you he's not worthy to handle the ninth for a few months?

On Thursday, he was put in an awful position, hit a guy, and then gave up a choppy walk-off single that barely snuck by Boston's drawn-in infield. Yesterday, he came in and gave up a single, then a weak infield single and then a home run to Miguel Cabrera. It was unfortunate and beyond frustrating. But it was also pretty unlucky. And no matter how awful he was, you can't judge a guy's season on 14 pitches. If so, Franky Mo might not want to make any plans for this year's All-Star Break.

So, if the bullpen is one problem, the starters are another.

Now, I'm not saying we give Clay Buchholz a complete pass, but considering it was his first start in almost 10 months, that it came against a devastating line-up and that if Jacoby Ellsbury holds on to that ball in center field, the entire trajectory of Clay's afternoon would have changed, I say we give him one more try before throwing him to the wolves.

And as for Beckett? If you want to throw him to the wolves, that's fine. I can't defend him, and don't really want to, but I will say this: He's no stranger to slow starts. In fact, Saturday marked his fourth awful "first start" in the last five years.

2011: Five innings, five hits, three runs, four walks, four strikeouts.
2010: 4.2 innings, eight hits, five runs, three walks, one strikeout
2009: Seven innings, two hits, one run, three walks, 10 strikeouts
2008: 4.2 innings, three hits, five runs, four walks, six strikeouts

Is that incredibly uplifting? Not really, but I'm just saying that some guys are slow starters, and Josh Beckett is one of them. The reasons why are up for debate, but the facts are the facts.

And here are a few other facts from these past three games. On Opening Day, your heartless, worthless Boston Red Sox erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning against a closer who hadn't blown a save in over a year. Yesterday, they fell behind 4-0 in the first inning, before fighting back to take a 10-7 lead into the ninth. And then, after that comeback was wasted, they fought back again to take a two-run lead in the 11th.

Call me crazy, but is that not heart? Does that not take a little bit of fight, and pride and determination? Does that not give us a little glimmer of hope that this season will not play out as painfully as last September and that these universal declarations of death are wildly immature?

I think so.

I think they've played 1.8 percent of the season, and that giving up and jumping to grand conclusions is easy, but overall, pretty stupid.

As stupid as I'll look if the Sox don't turn this around.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Ainge: Tatum was always the Celtics' top choice

Ainge: Tatum was always the Celtics' top choice

BOSTON --  For the past couple of years, Jayson Tatum has been a big-time talent.
 
As a high schooler, he was among the nation’s best. In his lone season at Duke, the 29-year-old established himself as one of college basketball’s top players.
 
And just like that, he’s off to the latest and greatest basketball challenge of them all -- the NBA, after the Boston Celtics selected him with the third overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
 
The Celtics had the top overall pick, but traded it to Philadelphia for the No. 3 selection and a future first-round pick.
 
Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, made it clear that had they not struck a deal to move down a couple spots, they would have selected Tatum with the number one overall pick.

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“It was a great compliment,” Tatum said via conference call after the draft. “I’m excited Danny Ainge thinks that highly of me.”
 
Said Ainge: “We like his size, length, shooting, intelligence, character. There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”
 
Coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments.
 
“He’s a really skilled player, really talented scorer,” Stevens said. “Great kid, great work ethic. We’re excited to have him aboard.”
 
And Tatum comes in having been told lots of positives about Brad Stevens from his college coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
 
“He had nothing but great things to say about [Stevens],” Tatum said. “I got that impression when I met him for the first time.”
 
During his visit with the Celtics, Tatum said he watched film of Boston’s offense with Stevens in addition to some film of when he played at Duke.
 
Tatum understands there will be a learning curve of sorts when it comes into the NBA.
 
But his growth must also come about physically, too.
 
He arrived at Duke weighing less than 200 pounds, but the 6-foot-8 wing player has gained about 10 pounds since then.
 
Aware that he needs to add additional weight, Tatum isn’t overly concerned about that right now.
 
“I’m just 19,” he said. “So I’m pretty sure my body’s going to continue to fill out and see where I get; a comfortable playing weight.”
 
He has identified three areas of his game that need to be strengthened at the next level: Consistency on defense, getting stronger and consistency shooting the ball.
 
And as a Celtic, Tatum has quickly picked up on one of the seldom-talked about but vital aspects of being a Celtic: A disdain for the Los Angeles Lakers.
 
That might be a little tricky at first for Tatum, who grew up a Kobe Bryant fan.
 
“It makes it easier that Kobe doesn’t play anymore,” Tatum said. “Kobe was always my favorite player. I guess I just rooted for them because he was on there.

"But I’m a Celtics fan now.”

Bulls trade Butler to Timberwolves in blockbuster draft-night deal

Bulls trade Butler to Timberwolves in blockbuster draft-night deal

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ever since Tom Thibodeau took over in Minnesota last summer, a reunion with Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler seemed destined to happen.

For the coach that desperately wanted a defensive-minded veteran to set the tone for a talented young roster, and for the player who only truly realized what he had in that hard-driving leader after he was gone.

"It's been something that over a prolonged period of time there have been different moments where he's had to consider it and think about it," Butler's agent, Bernie Lee, told The Associated Press. "In some ways it feels like it was spoken into reality."

In the blockbuster move of draft night, the Bulls traded Butler and the 16th overall pick Thursday night to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick as the Wolves try to finally put an end to a 13-year playoff drought.

The trade brings together Butler and Wolves coach and president Thibodeau, who coached the Bulls for five seasons before being fired in 2015. Thibodeau helped Butler become an All-NBA performer and earn a $95 million contract and Butler helped Thibodeau instill the brass-knuckle mentality into those Bulls teams.

"The longer you are with somebody, the more deposits you have with each other, the trust is there," Thibodeau said. "You're not afraid to tell them the truth. So I think I know him well. I know the things that are important to him. I know he wants to win. And he wants to win big."

Now they're together again, trying to lead a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2004.

"It's one of those moments where the excitement of tonight has to carry forward to the work that has to come," Lee said. "And if it does, it will really be a beautiful thing to see."

The Wolves paid a big price: Besides surrendering the lottery pick, they gave up a rising star in LaVine, who is coming off of a torn ACL and Dunn, last year's No. 5 overall pick. They were among the youngest teams in the league last season, cast as a team that could be a force once all of their pups grew up.

After a disappointing first season overseeing the operation, Thibodeau grabbed a fully grown pit bull to toughen the team up.

Butler played for Thibodeau for four seasons in Chicago, developing from an unheralded, late-first round draft pick into a perennial All-Star. The two strong-willed workaholics clashed on occasion during their time together and Butler said during the Olympics in Rio last summer that it was "love-hate" relationship.

But he also acknowledged that his appreciation for Thibodeau's hard-driving style increased as time went on, especially when the Bulls struggled in their first season under the more player-friendly Fred Hoiberg.

"They've come by their relationship honestly," Lee said. "They worked through a period to where they really came to learn what the other is about. ... They have a basis to work from, but things have changed and they've changed and adapted. They will take the starting point that they have, but they have to build on it."

The Wolves drafted Arizona sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen for the Bulls at No. 7 and the Bulls took Creighton forward Justin Patton at No. 16 for the Wolves. Patton is a 6-foot-11 forward who was the Big East freshman of the year after averaging 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds last season.

When Thibodeau was hired as team president and coach last summer, he quickly set his sights on bringing Butler to Minnesota. The two sides engaged on serious discussions on draft night last year, but couldn't close it.

LaVine was having a breakout third season in the league when he tore the ACL in his left knee in February. His rehabilitation has gone well, but the injury certainly complicated the Wolves' re-engaging Chicago on Butler. Adding to the difficulty was Dunn's underwhelming first year in Minnesota, which diminished his trade value.

With all that in play, the Wolves were forced to also offer up the No. 7 pick this season to push the deal over the top. But they did receive Chicago's first-round pick in return. The move, and the package they assembled to make it, signal an organization that is desperate to start winning.

Butler averaged career highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5) in his sixth season. He is also one of the league's top defenders, an absolute necessity for a young team that finished 26th in the league in defensive efficiency last season. He will turn 28 in September, right in the middle of his prime for a team in need of veteran leadership.

"The most important thing to me are the things he does every day, the way he practices, the things that he does in meetings, the way he prepares before a game, the things that he does for recovery," Thibodeau said. "He'll show our players a lot of the things that he's learned along the way."

The move also represents the first significant steps toward an overhaul for the Bulls. Despite a spirited effort, the Bulls were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Wade opted in for the final year of his contract, but that isn't stopping Chicago from pivoting to a new, younger nucleus that includes LaVine, Dunn, Markkanen and Denzel Valentine.

Now that Butler is gone, the 35-year-old Wade could become a buyout candidate as the Bulls go into rebuilding mode.