Boston Celtics

Youkilis hopes it's not his last season in Boston


Youkilis hopes it's not his last season in Boston

FORT MYERS, Fla. With Tim Wakefields retirement and the uncertainty of Jason Variteks status with the Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis (eight seasons) and David Ortiz (nine) enter the 2012 season as the longest-tenured players.

Were very close to having no 2004 players. I get it, Youkilis said Monday morning, sitting on a bench outside the clubhouse at teams spring training complex.

It is kind of wild that that 2004 team theres only two of us left. And whatever Varitek does, we dont know. But yeah its crazy. I dont know if that makes us seem older, how time flies. But I think its definitely kind of weird. It was fun when Derek Lowe walked in the other day for Wakefields retirement ceremony and saw him, and Wake here, too. Its just weird. But thats just the game of baseball. Guys keep coming and going.

"For us, David and I have definitely gotten a lot closer over the years. Its one of those things we sit there and like Man, can't believe were the only ones left here. But I guess we just got to keep that torch going for as many years as we can.

Youkilis turns 33 on March 15, and how long he will hold that torch remains to be seen. He said he would like to end his career with the Red Sox but is entering the final year of a four-year, 41.125 million contract. The team holds a 13 million option (with a 1 million buyout) for 2013.

The way Youkilis sees it, the ball is in his court. He would like to force the team to bring him back.

I think its definitely a business side on both sides, he said. I think if you dont play to a certain point you have 'X' amount of dollars and if it doesnt fit in that equation, then youre not going to be here. Thats something I cant worry about because thats something for them to worry about.

My whole job is to win ball games. And I know if Im out there starting every day and we win a World Series, theres a good chance I might come back. Thats my whole goal. I know if we win and we win a World Series, its going to be hard for them not to bring me back. And Im going to make it as hard on them to not bring me back as I can.

Asked if he thought of himself as a team leader now, Youkilis replied:

I dont know the whole leader-in-the-clubhouse thing, and all the leader things. I think theres different types of leaders. Theres vocal leaders. Theres guys that are leaders by being the funny guy in the clubhouse. For myself, Im a leader on the field, just playing the game hard and playing the game the right way. In the clubhouse, too.

"A lot of times too its just little things the media isnt going to see around. We talk to guys, young guys and tell them, Hey, dont do this. Dont do that. You are a leader, I think, as the older guys. But I think leading by example is the best way. If younger guys see you acting a certain way, they might follow in that way. So I think you have to act like a professional and do the right things and theyll follow in the right footsteps.

Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January


Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.

The All-Star point guard, acquired from the Celtics this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.

Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.

Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.

When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.

Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.

Copyright The Associated Press.

Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016


Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots traded their first-round pick in the 2017 draft for Brandin Cooks, they gave Tom Brady one of the most productive deep-ball receivers in the NFL over the course of the last few seasons. 

The Cooks acquisition not only made the Patriots offense more versatile, it also may have signaled an acknowledgement that the team needed more pass-catchers who could produce down the field and outside the numbers.

In the playoffs last season, against Houston's and Atlanta's defenses -- both of which were effective at times in taking away the short-to-intermediate areas of the field -- the Patriots could have benefited from someone like Cooks. In both games, the Patriots were able to hit on throws deep and on the outside in critical moments with likes of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. 

Now after three weeks, and after having faced two defenses in Houston's and Kansas City's that were intent on packing the middle of the field with defenders, it's clear that the move to grab Cooks is paying dividends. 

In Sunday's win over the Texans, 36-33, Brady threw eight passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, and he completed five for 185 yards and three scores, according to Pro Football Focus. On the season, Brady leads the league with 22 attempts of 20 yards or more, per PFF. He's completed 11 of those for 368 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating on deep attempts (135.4) is second in the league. 

Compare that to last season's totals for Brady on deep passes -- 23 completions for 834 yards and eight touchdowns -- and he's on pace to blow those numbers away. Whereas he only attempted deep passes on just over 11 percent of his throws last season, according to PFF, so far this year one in every five of his throws is traveling 20 yards or more.

The biggest beneficiary of the new approach? Cooks, of course, who Brady has dubbed "Cookie." 

PFF says Cooks is leading the league in deep-ball receiving through three weeks, with 187 yards on five deep catches. Three of those came on Sunday and they resulted in 111 yards and two scores. In Week 1, Cooks had three catches for 88 yards -- including a 54-yarder -- and he drew three penalties that resulted in an additional 38 yards. In Week 2, Cooks had two catches for 37 yards -- including a 22-yarder.

Last year? The leading receiver for the Patriots on passes that traveled 20 yards or more was Hogan (10 catches for 397 yards). 

One more indication that the Patriots offense has shifted with Cooks in and Edelman sidelined: Cooks leads the NFL in yards per catch through three games (25.6 yards per reception), while Danny Amendola (16.4 yards per reception, seventh) and Rob Gronkowski (14.9, 13th) are all found among the league leaders in that category.  

Opposing defenses may continue to play the Patriots as the Texans and Chiefs did this season: Flood the middle of the field and pressure Brady with just three or four linemen. They may be content with allowing Brady to attempt lower-percentage throws down the field as opposed to letting him slice them up with shorter tosses. 

It worked well enough for the Chiefs to win, and it nearly worked well enough for the Texans. Perhaps "the blueprint" is still the blueprint. But with the addition to Cooks, Brady and the Patriots have proven that they've evolved to more efficiently combat those schemes.