Welker hoping to be happier after Houston rematch

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Welker hoping to be happier after Houston rematch

FOXBORO -- Wes Welker probably has some ugly memories from the last time New England played the Texans. 
It's not the fact that his team lost that game, the 2009 regular-season finale. No, it's that Welker tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee that day. 
This Friday, he was prompted to remember.
"I try not to think about it too much. I appreciate you bringing that up," he said sardonically. "But I've just moved on from it, and worked hard to get better, and luckily I am where I'm at today."
Welker's production in New England -- both before and after the injury -- is remarkable. 
He's led the league in receiving three different times since joining the Patriots in 2007. With eight more catches in 2012, he'll become the first receiver in NFL history to have 100 or more in five seasons.
Can he appreciate the milestone upon approach? Not really.
"Maybe when I'm done," Welker guessed. "Right now I'm just focused on however many catches I need to get to help us win. Whatever that is is what it is.
"I'm really just trying to move forward. I don't really think about the past all that much. What's done is done. We just continue to get better and try to win."
When the Patriots take on Houston this time, they will already be dealing with not one, but two significant injuries to the receiving corps: Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a broken forearm November 18 against the Colts, and Julian Edelman, who left last week's Miami game because of a season-ending foot fracture. 
New England has since re-signed Donte' Stallworth, but the weight on Welker's shoulders could still be heavier than usual. Whereas he averaged 9.25 targets through the first four games of the season, he's gotten 12.5 through the last four. 
He doesn't worry about the way the numbers rise and fall. Welker's concern is that when quarterback Tom Brady needs a target, somebody is there. 
"I think it puts pressure on everybody. Everybody has to come out, everybody has to step up and come out and play the way we need to to win the game."
A victory against Houston, whether with two catches or 10, is all Welker wants this week. 
It would certainly make for better memories. 

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

TORONTO – The decision to stand pat at the trade deadline for the Boston Celtics was made in part because they felt that as their roster is constructed, they can hold their own with anybody.

We’re going to find out just how true that is tonight as they face a revamped Toronto Raptors team that added a couple of notable players via trade, chief among them being Serge Ibaka from Orlando.

“That was a really good trade for them,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “Bringing in a guy like Serge Ibaka; a defender, a four-man that can switch out on guards. A guy that can space the floor, shoot the 3.  So that was a good addition. I’m excited to see how that’s gonna work other than tomorrow.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was also impressed with the Ibaka trade.

“That’s an improvement; there’s no question about it,” Stevens said. “Now you can play a number of different ways. He’s a really good player; he’s very agile. He’s a very good shooter. You can play him or (Patrick) Patterson at the four (power forward) the entire game now. You can play them together as a small-ball four and five (center). It gives them a lot of options on offense and defense.”

While praise for Ibaka is nothing new, you have to remember there were reasons as to why the Magic decided to give up on him so quickly, something even more hard to understand considering the assets they gave up (Victor Olidipo and a 2016 first-round pick used to select Domantas Sabonis, among others) to acquire him.

The Magic decided that they would not be in the running to re-sign Ibaka when he hits the free agent market this summer; this coming after the Thunder traded him primarily because they did not plan on giving him the near-max contract he’ll be seeking. So rather than play out this season and lose him for nothing, the Magic decided to trade him while they still could get something (Terrence Ross) in return.

While in Orlando, Ibaka averaged a career-high 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game. For his career (all prior to this season spent in Oklahoma City), he’s averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

But he never seemed to provide the kind of impactful, difference-making play that Orlando was seeking.

And while the Celtics speak highly of Ibaka, he hasn’t been much of a problem for the Celtics this season.

In two games against Boston, Ibaka has averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Jae Crowder believes the struggles Ibaka has endured against the Celtics, are not a clear reflection of what he’s capable of doing as a player.

“For sure it makes them better,” said Crowder in describing the Raptors with Ibaka. “He’s a guy that can stretch the floor and rebound at a high rate. We know what he brings to the table.”

And those struggles we saw of him with the Magic?

“I think it was him more so than us,” Crowder said. “I give him credit because he wasn’t playing with the energy and passion he usually brings. I’ve been able to line up against him a quite a few times.  He didn’t have that passion like he did when he was in O-K-C (Oklahoma City). Maybe he’ll have it now. I know exactly what he’s capable of doing; he’s capable of changing the game with his play.”