The NBA playoffs have begun

(Sunday links by Bryan, bryan@bostonsportsmedia.com)

Some abbreviated links this Sunday evening after watching back-and-forth beanballs and ejections during the Red Sox-Devil Rays game …

There have been several interesting articles today from the local press. The NFL Draft, Celtics, and baseball are all on tap. One last call to e-mail me your thoughts on the media coverage this weekend. I’m hoping to put together a mailbag of sorts later tonight.

Young guns spark Celtics
The playoffs began in roaring fashion for the Celtics with a 102-82 pasting of the Pacers last night at the Fleet (box score). The Boston bench, which broke open the game in the second quarter, is the subject of much praise by Jackie MacMullan. A column from Dan Shaughnessy, meanwhile, notes that the victory was the 12th straight in the playoffs for Boston’s major sports teams. Like MacMullan, Howard Bryant (online subscription required) is impressed with the Celtics’ second unit, and he writes that the fortunes of Al Jefferson, Marcus Banks, Delonte West, and Tony Allen have come a long way in the past year.

NFL Draft
The NFL Draft is complete, and Mike Reiss continues to provide the most up-to-date local coverage of New England’s selections in his Reiss’ Pieces blog.

On to the analyses of team’s performance yesterday, when the Patriots drafted Logan Mankins in the first round (No. 32 overall), and Ellis Hobbs III (No. 84) and Nick Kaczur (No. 100) in the third round.

Ron Borges delivers a positive review in the Globe:

When you are picking dead last, it is difficult to maximize your position, but Belichick and player personnel director Scott Pioli appeared to do that, then improved the team further with a solid trade, holding the Ravens up for three picks so they could get a shot at a player they wanted at the tail end of the second round.

It’s a decidedly different tune from the Herald’s Kevin Mannix. While he doesn’t bash the talent of Mankins, Mannix does question the wisdom of taking the offensive lineman in the first round:

Nobody's perfect, even three-time Super Bowl champions.

That's pretty much the bottom line on the Patriots' first day of activity in the NFL draft. When your first two picks net you a projected interior lineman (Fresno State's Logan Mankins) and an undersized, unheralded defensive back (Ellis Hobbs III) you haven't gotten the value of either pick.

In the ProJo, Tom E. Curran writes that Mankins will slide in nicely on the left side of the Patriots’ offensive line. Christopher Price also has a look at Mankins and his propensity for delivering “pancake-knockdown” blocks. Lamar Lopez reports on the Lankins selection for the Fresno Bee.

Lastly, Cold, Hard Football Facts examines the very inexact science of mock drafts, and rates the accuracy of this year’s first-round predictions from Borges and Mel Kiper, among others.

Around baseball
The best baseball read of the day is found not in a Boston paper but in the New York Times Magazine. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, has the story of two players’ journeys through the minor leagues (one is disabled Kansas City rookie Mark Teahen), and the pressures they face to abandon their natural hitting styles in favor of swings that will produce more power. As part of his article, Lewis also writes that organizations still struggle to accurately project a prospect’s professional baseball future.

While Lewis focuses on offense, Karen Guregian writes about defense in the major leagues, and more specifically, the lack of attention paid to accurate outfield throwing in today’s game. Guregian has former Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans lamenting teams’ failure to practice this seemingly lost defensive skill before games.

In their Sunday notes columns, Tony Massarotti and Gordon Edes both lead with reports on the fast start by the LA Dodgers. Without mentioning Bob Ryan’s controversial Friday column by name, Edes also has this:

Garciaparra has had a startling run of injuries, but in the absence of any evidence, it is treading very dangerous ground to suggest that they were the result of his intense training program, or the muscle-building supplements (like creatine) that he has acknowledged using, or illegal substances he has vociferously denied using, an assertion backed up by Red Sox medical officials and teammates.

The Ryan column was also a point of discussion on a Sunday NFL Draft edition of the “Dale and Holley Show” on WEEI earlier today. Expect the conversation to continue tomorrow.

Finally, on the baseball front, John Tomase has a salute to Tim Wakefield, and Dom Amore writes about the boos for A-Rod in the Bronx.

Odds and ends
Two last links in this posting: Bill Griffith checks in with a couple of Seans–McDonough and Grande–and Bobby Orr speaks out about the state of the NHL.

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Busy Saturday

(Saturday links by Bryan, bryan@bostonsportsmedia.com)

A full plate of coverage this Saturday morning, as the Celtics open the NBA playoffs, the NFL draft begins at noon, and the Red Sox fall in Tampa Bay. We also have news of disciplinary action (not a firing) against Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.

I am also looking for your feedback on the media coverage this weekend. See the end of today’s posting for more. To the links …

Celtics-Pacers
We’ll begin with the media coverage of the Celtics, who meet the Pacers at 8:00 tonight at the Fleet in Game 1 of an opening-round, best-of-seven series. What, no special playoffs section in the Globe for the event? The paper has only four stories from staff writers (plus one AP notebook article) and nothing from its three main columnists; Howard Bryant does weigh in for the Herald, but the tabloid offers us only three other stories from its own reporters (plus two wire articles). It’s not really a surprise, but it is disappointing.

Tony Allen is the subject of the lead basketball story in the Globe, Herald, and ProJo (curious, no?). Shira Springer, Mark Murphy, and Carolyn Thornton spotlight the rookie guard, who returns to the starting lineup tonight and draws the assignment of defending Reggie Miller.

The Celtics notebooks from Murphy and Springer focus on the team’s reserves and on not having to see Ron Artest suit up for the Pacers.

Murphy has the traditional position-by-position matchup article for the series in the print edition of today’s Herald, though I’m not seeing a link online. Murphy gives the edge to the Celtics at power forward, small forward, and point guard, and he favors the Pacers at center and shooting guard. Boston’s bench beats out Indiana’s, according to Murphy, while Rick Carlisle holds the advantage over Doc Rivers.

Peter May previews all eight of the NBA’s first-round series, picking the Celtics over the Pacers in seven games. He also predicts that the Pistons will ultimately face the Spurs in the NBA Finals, and that Detroit will repeat as league champions.

If you went out and bought the Herald this morning, as I did, you could read Howard Bryant (available online by subscription only) wishing that Reggie Miller could close out his NBA career with a first-round playoff game against the Celtics at the original Garden. A good column from Bryant here, as he recaps some memorable Miller moments.

Here’s wishing that Bob Ryan could have skipped his column of steroid speculation on Nomar Garciaparra yesterday (see reaction from Nomar below) and instead written his thoughts on the Celtics as they begin the playoffs. In his weekly segment on WROR Thursday morning, Ryan essentially said that he didn’t know what to expect from this likable-but-unpredictable bunch.

Draft day
Do you have your NFL mock draft cards filled out? Today is Day 1 of the 2005 NFL draft from New York, and the Patriots check in at No. 32, the final pick of the first round. Be sure to check out Scott’s Shots throughout the weekend, as David Scott blogs his way through what he calls the “Most Overhyped Non Event”. BSMW Draft Central is also a good reference for reading about potential Patriots picks.

In their mock drafts today, Ron Borges projects that the Patriots will select Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson, while Kevin Mannix has the team taking safety Brodney Pool.

More stories on this weekend’s draft, and speculation on how the Patriots will proceed:

* Tom E. Curran wants the team to select linebacker Odell Thurman of Georgia, but predicts they’ll instead take LSU cornerback Corey Webster.
* Eric McHugh looks at several “wild card” players the Patriots could consider.
* Michael Parente writes that New England is drafting for depth.
* Jerome Solomon expects that the Patriots will simply select the best overall player available when their turn comes up.
* Michael Felger speculates that the Patriots’ first pick may be for offense, particularly if all of the top defensive players they like are off the board.
* Mike Reiss wonders whether New England will trade up for one of the top-tier cornerbacks.
* In a good leftover from yesterday, Reiss also serves up 32 “pre-draft pieces” in his Reiss’ Pieces blog. Look for frequent updates from Reiss throughout the weekend.

Finally, Nick Cafardo takes a look back at the Patriots’ 2004 draft class.

Devils Rays top Red Sox in 9th
A walkoff home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the 9th by Eduardo Perez lifted the Devil Rays over the Red Sox, 5-4, last night at the Trop (box score). Steven Krasner, Cafardo, and Jeff Horrigan have the game stories.

Gordon Edes looks at the towering game-winning blast by Perez, the son of Hall of Famer and former Red Sox Tony Perez.

Michael Gee (subscription only) has a column about the three walkoff homers allowed by the Sox bullpen so far this season.

The Sox notebooks from Cafardo and Horrigan focus last night’s effort by Tim Wakefielder (two earned runs in six innings). Krasner has an update on injured Tampa Bay outfielder Rocco Baldelli.

In a story that may develop some legs on the local sports media scene, Garciaparra reacts to Ryan’s column from yesterday. It’s only a wire-service article this morning, but it certainly isn’t a stretch to suggest that discussion of both the original column and Garciaparra’s response will gather steam over the next few days.

(Afternoon update:) Dan Kennedy, in his Media Log for the Boston Phoenix today, offers his thoughts on the column, saying he doesn’t quite know what to make of it. He includes an excerpt on Nomar from a February 11 Gerry Callahan column (online subscription required).

In the Hartford Courant, David Heuschkel has quotes from several Red Sox players criticizing steroid allegations against their former teammate.

Albom suspended
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom and four other staff members have been disciplined by the paper over an April 3 story. Publisher and editor Carole Leigh Hutton has a letter to readers. She doesn’t detail the disciplinary action beyond the short-term suspension of Albom’s columns, nor does she name the other staffers.

Weekend lineup
Four NBA games today as the playoffs get underway:

3:00pm, ABC: Philadelphia at Detroit
5:30pm, ESPN: Houston at Dallas
8:00pm, FSN, ESPN: Indiana at Boston Celtics
10:00pm, ESPN: Sacramento at Seattle

Four more games are on tap tomorrow:

3:00pm, ABC: Game 1, New Jersey at Miami
5:30pm, TNT: Game 1, Washington at Chicago
8:00pm, TNT: Game 1, Denver at San Antonio
10:30pm, TNT: Game 1, Memphis at Phoenix

ESPN has the NFL draft beginning at noon today, and ESPN2 picks up the coverage at 5:30pm. Patriots.com will have streaming audio of the draft from 3:00-6:00 today, and from 12:00-3:00 tomorrow. Tomorrow, ESPN continues its draft coverage at 11am.

NESN has a pair of Red Sox games this weekend, at 6:00 tonight at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon.

What do you think?
Send me your thoughts on the media coverage this weekend, and I’ll publish a sampling of your e-mails tomorrow night. The NFL Draft, Celtics-Pacers, Red Sox, WEEI, Ryan/Garciaparra, and local papers are all fair game. My e-mail: bryan@bostonsportsmedia.com

Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots Weekend

Another gem by a Red Sox starting pitcher, the Celtics prepare to tap off the NBA playoffs tomorrow night, and plenty of NFL draft coverage highlight today’s links.

The Red Sox shut down the Orioles for the second night in a row, as Matt Clement threw eight shutout innings last night, winning under the narrowest of margins, 1-0. Chris Snow looks at the Red Sox winning despite their own bats being shut down by Rodrigo Lopez. Jeff Horrigan looks at Clement shutting down the Orioles lineup that had been feared coming into this series. Steven Krasner looks at a game made up of “key moments, stellar defensive plays and superb individual performances.” David Heuschkel says this was a switch for Clement, who lost two 1-0 games last season with the Cubs. David Borges says Clement last night and Wells the night before made the Orioles lineup “look like a bunch of Mark Belangers”. Bob Ryan looks at Kevin Millar’s role in last night’s game. Michael Gee (subscription only) says that Matt Clement showed that he does possess mental toughness because soft pitchers don’t win 1-0 games on the road. Gee also writes about the Nationals cutting into the Orioles attendance. Bob Ryan looks at Nomar’s injury the other night, and raises the inevitable question.

Look, I'm hardly the first person to raise the question. When he was with the Red Sox, who was bold enough to link our fair shortstop, a noted workout guy, with the dreaded S-word? But he did go from, like, standard athlete issue normal to ultra-buffed in one winter, and he has been -- there is no other way to say it -- systematically breaking down for the past six years, so you can't help wondering just what he's been putting into his body other than Wheaties and sirloin steaks. If we're going to assume that Mark McGwire's physical breakdown was because of a reliance on steroids, then it would be quite logical to adopt the same line of thinking about Nomar. It's a legitimate question.

It’s quite a statement from Ryan there, and although some people may have been thinking this, it’s quite a leap to put it down in writing. Still on Nomar, Jon Meterparel apologized this morning for his comments yesterday when he stated that Nomar might’ve been faking the injury because of his batting slump and he wanted to get some time off. If you missed yesterday’s comments, John Dennis fed Meter by noting that he had had a grin on his face all morning, after a few minutes, they led into Nomar getting hurt, with Meterparel saying “Gerry, are you buying the fact that he

Bring On The Playoffs

The Celtics wrapped up the regular season, David Wells pitched a gem for the Red Sox, and Ron Borges is again in the crosshairs, and not from BSMW.

The Celtics once again went mostly with their kids last night, and jumped out early on the New Jersey Nets, who were playing for their playoff lives. However they couldn’t sustain it, and ended up on the short end of a 102-93 regular season ending loss. Next up, the Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, starting Saturday night at home. Shira Springer reports that Doc Rivers was quite pleased by the effort of his youngsters. Mark Murphy says that the kids made a spirited effort, but in the end they were shot down by the NJ veterans. Carolyn Thornton also reports on the efforts of the first and second year players for the Celtics. Christopher Price looks at the stiff test the Celtics will face in the first round, going up against the talented Indiana Pacers. Steve Bulpett looks at what the advantage of having home court in the first round means for the Celtics.

Michael Holley went off on the Celtics this morning, and Doc Rivers decision to play the kids and not make the full effort to knock the Nets out of the playoffs. Calling it a “lack of competitiveness” that drives him crazy, and saying if he was a fan he’d ask for his money back. I can’t tell if he’s really mad, or if he’s acting on an edict from above to be more “edgy”. (He insists it isn’t) Bill Reynolds feels that the Celtics mission for the playoffs should be to make people care about them again. Steve Buckley (Subscription only) also tackles this subject, saying that the Celtics have a chance to make a little noise and get some attention, even if they don’t raise banner 17 this year. Michael Vega looks at Vince Carter, who scored 37 last night as has been a big boost to the Nets in their charge to the playoffs. Springer’s notebook looks at a couple veterans getting the entire night off for the Celtics last night. Murphy’s notebook takes a closer look at the play of some of the youngsters. Thornton’s notebook has Rivers criticizing three of the young players for their efforts against Cleveland on Tuesday night.

David Wells was in fine form last night, throwing eight shutout innings against the Orioles, who have been mashing the ball early this season. Chris Snow says that it was vintage Wells last night. Jeff Horrigan says it’s a cosmic fit for Wells to have done well in Baltimore. Steven Krasner tells the tale of when Terry Francona visited Wells on the mound in the sixth inning. David Heuschkel and David Borges round out the game stories from Camden Yards. Bob Ryan has a good look at the effort by Boomer last night against the hot hitting Orioles, good enough that Wells even impressed himself. Michael Gee (Subscription only) says don’t let Wells’ body fool you, his arm and mind are in perfect shape.

Ryan also has a commentary piece in which he says he’s already sick of hearing about this whole fan incident from last week. It’s time to move on. Snow and Horrigan report that MLB will be taking no action against Gary Sheffield. Michael Gee has a piece on hot hitting Brian Roberts of the Orioles. Krasner’s notebook has an update on Wade Miller. Heuschkel’s notebook looks at Lee Mazzilli employing a little gamesmanship against David Wells. Borges’ notebook looks at Manny returning to the lineup, also the lead of Snow’s notebook. Horrigan’s notebook has Francona sticking by the scuffling Keith Foulke.

Kevin Mannix looks at the linebackers in this years draft. From the headlines of Mannix’s columns this week, it would appear there are no prospects at any positions except wide receiver. Today: “Prospects backin’ in: Few blue-chippers in this field” Yesterday: “No great rush to get these guys” Tuesday: “Talent pool isn’t deep on the line.” and Monday: “Williams part of another solid corps”. (Receivers) Mannix today says of prospect Kevin Burnett: “needs to play more aggressively at the point of attack.” What do you think they odds are the Mannix has seen Burnett play at all? Shouldn’t he tell us where this information came from. Of course, many of the other writers do the same thing, it’s not just Mannix. Michael Felger tells us what the Patriots would be looking for in a linebacker. Michael Parente also looks at the linebackers. Jerome Solomon and Alan Greenberg look at the receiving prospects in the draft. Solomon also looks at Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. On the offensive line, Tom E Curran says that the Patriots aren’t going to spend an early pick on this position. Eric McHugh writes that time is the only way to make a proper judgement on a draft. Michael O’Connor looks at Boston College NFL hopefuls.

As mentioned on Dale & Holley yesterday, the lads at Cold, Hard Football Facts took Ron Borges to the woodshed once more yesterday, showing Borges to be wrong regarding a recent column on Patriot Fullback Patrick Pass’ new deal. They also have Borges’ reaction to the column as well. Borges made his weekly appearance on the Eddie Andelman show yesterday and was his usual entertaining self. Overheard on the WWZN stream:

Eddie Andelman: Well there would be a revolution if they didn

Red Sox for Life

Another busy morning in the newspapers. The Red Sox and Celtics both lost last night, Tim Wakefield signs on to be a Red Sox for life, the fans in the Sheffield incident are going to be facing charges, and Bill Belichick speaks on the Patriots draft.

The Red Sox bullpen was unable to hold a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and the Sox wound up losing to the Blue Jays 4-3 at Fenway. As it was the night before the road trip, most of the regular beat writers had the night off. Chris Snow however was still on the beat, and he witnessed a Manny Ramirez home run that could’ve eclipsed the 502 foot Ted Williams blast marked by the red seat. The blast by Ramirez cleared the light tower. Michael Silverman focuses on the bullpen imploding after David Ortiz had also launched one, giving the Red Sox the lead. Shalize Manza Young covers the rough night for Alan Embree and Keith Foulke. Sean Courchesne and Paul Teves round up the game stories. Lenny Megliola looks at the bullpen melting down for the Sox last night. Tony Massarotti looks at Manny Ramirez leaving the game early with what was called a strained quad. As is always the case with Ramirez, the severity and veracity of the injury is immediately called into question. Ron Indrisano and Steve Conroy look at a good outing from Bronson Arroyo going to waste.

The Red Sox announced yesterday that they had agreed to a long term deal with Tim Wakefield, to keep the knuckleballer pitcher with the club as long as both sides want him. An unusual deal, to be sure. Sean McAdam writes that Wakefield has shown a lot of loyalty to Boston by agreeing to this deal, which for once, is not about the money to the player. Dan Shaughnessy also lauds Wakefield and has an overall feel-good piece about the knuckleballer…until he takes his obligatory shot at Pedro Martinez towards to end, putting a mar on an otherwise sterling column. But I guess it just wouldn’t be Shaughnessy not to do that. Alex Speier and Christopher Price also have articles on the signing, as do Snow, Teves and Massarotti. However, it is noteworthy to observe that all of the articles basically refer to this deal as being “in perpetuity” – without an end until the Red Sox say so. Massarotti’s article though, is the only one that says that the Sox hold options until 2009. That’s only 4 seasons beyond this one. If Massarotti is correct, he’s got information that I didn’t see anywhere else this morning. Steve Buckley (Subscription only) has a piece on how Wakefield and David Ortiz have forsaken big money elsewhere to remain here in Boston, and how that endears them to the Boston fans. A feelgood article without taking shots at anyone else.

John Ellement in the Globe looks at the Boston police looking to file charges against the fans involved in the Gary Sheffield incident last week.

Marathon Manny Madness

The Red Sox win their fifth game in a row, the team revokes the season tickets of Christopher House, the Patriots continue their draft preparations and the Celtics clinch home court advantage in the first round without playing. All this and analysis of the NFL’s move of Monday Night Football from ABC to ESPN.

It was indeed a marathon at Fenway Park yesterday as the Red Sox and Blue Jays played nearly 4 hours of baseball yesterday. Chris Snow looks at Curt Schilling getting the win despite struggling once again at times. Jeff Horrigan says that the the early wakeup call was no problem for the Sox. Sean McAdam writes that the Red Sox hitters covered up a multitude of sins by the defense and pitching. David Heuschkel has more on the Red Sox bats picking up Schilling. David Borges has more on a wild midday at Fenway. Tony Massarotti says that the Red Sox aren’t just hitting at Fenway, they’re “annihilating people.” Jon Couture says that yesterday was a holiday from regular baseball and instead fans were treated to the full Manny Ramirez experience. Gordon Edes takes a further look at Manny’s adventures both at the plate and in the field yesterday. Ron Chimelis also looks at Manny’s day. Howard Bryant (Subscription only) looks at Manny’s afternoon, and the sun in the outfield, which also caused steady Frank Catalanotto to miss a ball, which made talk about Manny’s miscues subside.

Michael Silverman looks at a grueling outing for Curt Schilling, who is still rounding into form. Lenny Megliola has more on the effort for Schilling. Chimelis also says that Schilling needs to improve in order to be the ace the Red Sox need. Joe Haggerty also writes about Schilling laboring through five innings. Steve Buckley (Subscription only) writes that playing for the Red Sox gives Schilling “perks” such as heavy run support. Nick Cafardo talks to Shea Hillenbrand, who wasn’t upset at being hit yesterday, and had hoped to talk to Theo Epstein to clear the air. John Tomase says that Tim Wakefield might just be entering the prime of his career, if you go by some of the careers of other knuckleball pitchers.

The Red Sox revoked the season tickets of Chris House, at least for this season, following the incident last Thursday night with Gary Sheffield. Silverman, McAdam, Heuschkel and Borges all have stories on the decision by the Red Sox. Gerry Callahan (Subscription only) says that Chris House gave the Red Sox an excuse to make an example out of him, and comments that we know know all about House, (Boston.com even briefly posted a picture of his girlfriend last week before it was quietly taken down.) but we haven’t gotten the name of the GAP shirt wearing Gutless A. Puke (copyright Dale Arnold, 2005) who flicked his beer onto Sheffield. Snow’s article on this subject this morning gives the name of the beer thrower, Matthew Donovan of Dorchester.

Snow’s notebook looks at the fans clearing out nicely to give Trot Nixon room to make a catch. Horrigan’s notebook also reports on this as well as some on Mark Bellhorn. McAdam’s notebook looks at the sun and wind conditions yesterday which made things tricky for more than just Manny. Heuschkel’s notebook has more on Bellhorn. Borges’ notebook has more on Manny’s eventful day.

Mike Reiss reports on the Patriots signing free agent middle linebacker Wesly Mallard away from the Giants. Kevin Mannix says that the talent level isn’t high on the offensive line in this draft, while Jerome Solomon says there is talent. That’s ok either way, because Michael Felger says the Patriots don’t draft offensive lineman high anyway, choosing to develop them instead. Tom E Curran says the Patriots might be looking for a backup QB to develop behind Tom Brady. Alan Greenberg looks at the defensive back prospects in the draft. Don’t forget the BSMW Draft Central Website for player ratings as well

The Celtics clinched home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the Pacers losing to the Magic last night. Peter May says that the Celtics can also have a say in who gets the eighth seed in the playoffs as they play the two candidates for that spot, Cleveland and New Jersey in the first round. Curiously, the Herald has no Celtics article today, just a paragraph about getting home court in the first round.

Get full coverage of yesterday’s Boston Marathon from the Globe Marathon and Herald Marathon pages.

Bill Griffith looks at Monday Night Football moving from ABC to ESPN. John Molori’s Media Blitz also looks at the move as well as some WEEI commentary and rising and falling stars.

NESN has Red Sox/Blue Jays at 7:00. FSN has Celtics/Cavs at 7:00.