Wakeup Call: Unhappy New Year for the Clippers

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Wakeup Call: Unhappy New Year for the Clippers

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Wednesday, January 2:

AUTO RACING
R.I.P., Salt Walther. (AP)

BASEBALL
Winning the Cy Young Award was worth 10 million to David Price. (AP)

Miguel Tejada? Back in the majors? Really? (AP)

From the "Probably Never Going To Happen, But It Was Reported So We'll Pass It Along" file . . . (NBC's Hardball Talk)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Tough times in Storrs. As the Big East collapses around them, UConn loses to Marquette. (AP)

If you're Iowa State, you really can't be happy that you had to rally to beat Yale. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
For the record, here are your winners in the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Capital One Bowl and the Heart of Dallas (huh??) Bowl. (AP)

Northern Illinois shouldn't be too downcast over its 31-14 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. NIU took big strides in 2012, and the best may be yet to come. (CSN Chicago)

The state of Pennsylvania is bringing the NCAA to court over the stiff sanctions it slapped on Penn State over the Sandusky scandal. (AP)

GOLF
Is it already time for the golf season to start? (AP)

HOCKEY
Now they're trading "comprehensive" counterproposals. Better than nothing, which is what they've been doing for the last three weeks. (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

Come back quick, boys. Jordan Eberle's wasting his talents in the AHL. (Pro Hockey Talk)

Apropos of nothing (probably), many of the boys are coming back. (CSN Washington)

Alex Ovechkin and tennis' Maria Kirilenko are engaged. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
The Clippers, who didn't lose a game in the last five weeks of 2012, were probably sorry to see the old year depart. Because they sure didn't start the new year off very well. (AP)

For those of you scoring at home, this makes the Knicks 31-41 in games when Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are on the court together. Even though 'Melo scored 45 last night. (AP)

The Sixers beat the Lakers in L.A., which must have been sweet revenge for Andrew Bynum. Oh, wait . . . (CSN Philly)

Back in the 1960s, the AFL put the Houston Oilers in the Eastern Division. The present-day Rockets wish the NBA had that same skewed sense of geography. (CSN Houston)

PRO FOOTBALL
Well, that didn't take long. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

The Eagles, meanwhile, say they're going to take their time to find Andy Reid's replacement. (AP)

And one of the places they're looking is State College. (CSN Philly)

How "stupid" was the Bears' firing of Lovie Smith? Very, says Mike Ditka. (Pro Football Talk)

Yeah, well, if he'd made the playoffs once in a while, he'd probably still be on the job. (AP)

Jon Gruden was able to push a talented team over the top in Tampa Bay years ago. So, asks Jim Miller, why not Chicago? (CSN Chicago)

The Bills' search for a new coach is taking them to Arizona, a fertile ground for present and former Cardinals staff members. (AP)

No, no. Nick Saban says he's not leaving Alabama. Just like he wasn't leaving the Dolphins. Just like . . . (Pro Football Talk)

The Packers will have Charles Woodson back in the lineup when they host the Vikings Saturday night. (AP)

Forget the last four games. And the mixed metaphor. The Texans say they're "flipping the mentality" to get back to how they were playing when they were 11-1. (CSN Houston)

Here's five things they're going to need to change if they want that mentality to flip. (CSN Houston)

Chuck Pagano spent four years with the Ravens as secondary coach and defensive coordinator, and Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers, who played Baltimore twice a year, from 2007-11. So do the Colts have an advantage in preparation for this weekend's game? Absolutely . . . and even Pagano admits it. (CSN Baltimore)

Um, 49ers? You think this guy's an upgrade? Can I show you a tape of last year's AFC Championship Game? (CSN Bay Area)

TENNIS
Maria Sharapova doesn't want to miss the Australian Open, so she and her injured collarbone withdraw from the Brisbane International. (AP)

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.