The Weekend Wrap Up

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The Weekend Wrap Up

It was an absolutely insane sports weekend in Boston and on planet Earth, so lets take a second and catch up on all that transpired . . .

First of all, the NHL is once again a thing. According to numerous reports, the league and its players have reached a tentative deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and will return to the ice as soon as Canadianly possible. In Boston, that means the return of the Bruins, currently the citys second-best chance at another title. It also, and more importantly, means that the restaurants, bars and other struggling TD Garden businesses are back in the saddle.

According to my impeccable hockey sources, the NHL schedule will kick off on January 19, with a 48-game regular season. That gives the B's less than two weeks to bring the team together and start building towards another Stanley Cup. It also puts Tim Thomas on the clock for his first Facebook bombshell of the new season.

Out in Vegas, "Pro NRA" is slated as the most likely topic at 3-to-1 odds. "The Al-JazeeraCurrent TV buyout" is 6-to-1. "An in-depth review of Zero Dark Thirty is at 15-to-1. The odds of Thomas playing hockey this season? Off the board.

Over in the NBA, the Celtics had their most productive weekend of the suddenly-not-so-young season. On Friday night, they took down the Pacers, who came in having won nine of their last 11 games. On Saturday night, they erased a 15-point halftime deficit and stole a win on the road against the much-hyped Atlanta Hawks.

Rajon Rondo had another triple double. (He now has eight since the start of last season, while no one else in the NBA has more than two.) Paul Pierce led Boston with 26 points, and after the game, revealed the details of a few halftime fireworks in the Celtics locker room.

"We were kind of bickering with each other at halftime about what to do defensively, and I just reminded the guys that the fight isn't against us, it's against the other team," Pierce said (Boston trailed 53-38 at the break).

He also suggested that some of the issues stemmed from players being unhappy with Doc Rivers: "I told our guys we have to accept coaching. Doc was telling us what to do, and guys were getting angry with him, and I told them the ones we need to be getting angry with is the other team."

Five quick points on that:

1. So, whos unhappy with Doc? I dont want to speculate, but I will say that whoever it is should be on the trade block. No questions asked. For the last five years, every ounce of Celtics success has been predicated on the team buying into Doc Rivers. That's part of the deal. You don't have to like what he says, but you have to respect and accept it, and trust that every thing is for the benefit of the team. And if you aren't feeling it? Then you're not a good fit. There are plenty of players out there who are ready and willing to run through a wall for a coach like Doc, and that's who the Celtics need to find.

2. This isnt the first time the C's have had a locker room altercation in Atlanta. Back in 2008, after Boston lost Game 6 of their first round series against the Hawks, James Posey and Kevin Garnett actually had to be separated during a heated post-game exchange.

The Celtics responded by blowing out Atlanta in Game 7, and went on to win the title. But that's not always the case. In fact, this kind of behind-the-scenes bickering only plays out in one of two ways: It brings the team together, or it triggers a collapse.

And while the second half of the Hawks game leaves you feeling good about which direction the Celtics are headed, the true test comes tonight at MSG, against Steve Novak and the Knicks.

3. Is it just a coincidence that the Celtics mini-revival corresponded with the return of Avery Bradley? Maybe. Either that, or it's time for everyone to finally come to grips with how essential he is to this team's success.

4. Regardless of what's going on with the Celtics, Boston can find happiness in the disaster that's unfolding in LA.

Mike D'Antoni is in way over his head, and is quickly becoming the Lakers' Bobby Valentine. Kobe and Dwight can't stand each other. The supporting cast (outside of Metta World Peace and (recently) Steve Nash) is non existent. But the biggest problem for the Lakers is that their defense is awful, and that's because Howard physically isn't the player that he once was. Not yet at least. He's not as quick; he's not as strong. It looks like he's lost at least five inches in shoulder width. And after re-aggravating another injury last night against the Nuggets, there's further evidence that Howard may be breaking down.

The Lakers still have a higher ceiling than the Celtics waiting for them on the other side of all this drama, but it's becoming increasingly unlikely that LA has what it takes to break through.

5. I'm in favor of trading any combination of players not named Rondo or Garnett for DeMarcus Cousins, but I have zero expectations of that happening.

In the world of Major League baseball, we saw the Red Sox continue their inspiring off-season with . . . nah, they didn't do anything. Except for maybe play a few rounds passive phone tag with Mike Napoli.

And then of course, there's the NFL. Wild Card Weekend. To be honest, the games were pretty miserable. I mean, I watched just about every minute and don't recall anything all that memorable. It was all just kind of blah. But now that it's over, the real playoffs can begin. THE ELITE EIGHT.

January 12, 4:30 pm: Baltimore at Denver
The Ravens showed a little extra something against the Colts, but not enough to make you believe that they'll pull off this upset.

January 12, 8 pm: Green Bay at San Francisco
Many have theorized that playing against Joe Webb will leave the Packers better prepared for Saturday's date with Colin Kaepernick. I don't see it making a major difference, but believe that Green Bay's still coming home with the win after Billy Cundiff misses a last second field goal for the Niners.

January 13, 1 pm: Seattle at Atlanta
Everyone will love the Seahawks here, and I totally get it. I think Seattle pulls off the upset, setting the stage for the ultimate Fail Mary rematch.

Seahawks at Packers, with a Super Bowl berth on the line. Just for fun, shouldn't they bring the replacement refs back for this one?

January 13, 4:30 pm: Houston at New England
And once again, the Patriots are in line for a trip to New Orleans.

Obviously nothing's set in stone. They could very well lose to the Texans on Sunday or next week in Denver, but at this point, the Pats are just as likely destined for their sixth Super Bowl in 11 years.

It starts on Sunday, at home against Houston. And all things being equal, the Pats certainly have the edge. You really believe that Matt Schaub can successfully lead the Texans into Foxboro?

A win over Houston most likely sends the Pats to Denver, and in that case, who knows? But the bottom line is that the Patriots are only two wins away from the Super Bowl; two wins against a pair of teams that they've already beaten by double digits.

From here on out, waiting is the hardest part. The idea of sitting around for a whole week in anticipation of next Sunday is enough to make you crawl out of your skin.

But for one today at least, the events of last weekend were enough to keep us occupied.

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

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."