01.24.06 Afternoon

A few afternoon links to pass the time for you…

(updated 4:30 PM) Michael Silverman on the Herald Clubhouse Insider blog reports that Theo Epstein will be named Red Sox GM with pretty much the same role and power he had before.

Mike Fine looks at the Celtics win over the Hornets last night, and notes that with this Boston team, you have no idea how they are going to play from one night to the next. Jim Fenton looks at the Celtics reaching the halfway point of the season, and urging us not to hope that they can make a second half run like they did last year, which resulted in an Atlantic division title. Fine’s notebook looks at the hot streak Ricky Davis had last night, and how he had to keep pushing it until he finally missed. CelticsBlog takes a look at Gerald Green.

Rob Bradford has another look at Coco Crisp today as the outfielder awaits word as to whether he is officially a member of the Red Sox. Bob Stern and Alan Greenwood also have articles on Crisp. Chad Finn weighs in with his thoughts on Crisp, as well as on Alex Gonzalez and the return of Theo Epstein. Chaz Scoggins looks at how the Red Sox are attempting to develop young players, save money and remain competitive all at the same time. The Boston.com Extra Bases blog has a recap of this morning’s Curt Schilling appearance on Dennis & Callahan.

Mike Reiss takes a look ahead to the Patriots offseason plans in today’s edition of the Ask Reiss Mailbag.

Deadspin trots out another edition of “Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks” and this week it features beleaguered Globe scribe Ron Borges.


Double Wins for the Locals

The Celtics used a third quarter burst keyed by some hot shooting by Raef LaFrentz and Ricky Davis to cruise to a rare easy victory last night 91-78 over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Peter May, Steve Bulpett and Shalise Manza Young all report on the same from TD Banknorth Garden. Ricky Davis most decidedly did not “suck” in the second half last night, lighting up the scoreboard for 23 second half points, including 17 in the third quarter alone. Mark Murphy and Lenny Megliola report on the hot night for Davis after a few less than stellar games from the Celtics swingman.

Dan Shaughnessy looks at how Hurricane Katrina has affected the Hornets, who have been displaced every bit as much as the New Orleans Saints, but with less fanfare. Bulpett looks at Paul Pierce, whom Doc River feels is a different player from the one who had issues during the 2002 World Championships and deserves a second look from the national team. Murphy gets some reaction from the Celtics regarding Kobe Bryant’s 81 point game the other night. May’s notebook and Young’s notebook each have more reaction on Bryant. Bulpett’s notebook says the trade winds are quiet for now, though he does bring up the name of Seattle’s “Flip” Murray as someone the Celtics might be looking at.

It’s a rare night these days when both Boston winter sports teams come out with a victory, but thanks to the Bruins’ 3-2 victory in Washington over the Capitals, that’s exactly what happened last night. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell, Steve Conroy and Dan Hickling report with details of the Bruins going up 3-0 and then hanging on for the victory with Tim Thomas in net. Conroy reports on the defense of P.J. Axelsson being a big factor last night. With two goals last night, Wayne Primeau has shown more scoring that the Bruins could’ve hoped for when they traded for him. Hickling’s notebook and Conroy’s notebook each look at the tenacious Primeau. Burrell’s notebook looks at what another new addition, Marco Sturm has done for the Bruins since coming over.

Jeff Horrigan says that the additions of Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez to the Red Sox are imminent, and examines what Crisp will bring to the Red Sox. Rob Bradford had a profile of Crisp in yesterday’s Eagle-Tribune, with the scout who originally signed him saying that they are going to love him in Boston. Dan Shaughnessy has a short report stating that the Red Sox will issue a statement, rather than hold a press conference to outline what Theo Epstein’s new role with the Red Sox will be. David Borges looks at some minor league veterans signed by the Pawtucket Red Sox that could see time in Fenway this season. Gerry Callahan (subscription only) says that this years version of the Red Sox is an upgrade on the field over last year’s edition. The column is basically a rebuttal to what Ken Rosenthal wrote for FOXsports.com yesterday.

Ron Borges notes that the Seahawks struggled against the only 3-4 defense they faced this season, and now they are going against “perhaps the best 3-4 defense in football” in the Pittsburgh Steelers. He looks at how they must address this potential problem. Jonathan Comey says that the Steelers are going to win this game as it is clearly their year. Jim Donaldson has a “thoughts” column where he says the Seahawks are being disrespected. John Altavilla has some ideas for those who can’t go without football for the next 12 days.

NESN has Bruins/Thrashers at 7:00. ESPN has Kentucky/Auburn at 7:00 and Indiana/Iowa at 9:00. (HD) OLN has Coyotes/Wild at 8:00.

Loco for Coco

The Red Sox and Indians continue to work towards a deal that would send outfielder Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. After the Herald had the details of the deal first yesterday, Tony Massarotti says today that physicals are the only thing holding up the deal from being made official. He also says in that same report that the Sox are also awaiting a physical on free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and once he passes, he will also be a member of the Red Sox. He talks to Gonzalez’s former manager, Jack McKeon, who raves about his defensive abilities. Massarotti and the Herald had Crisp and Gonzalez coming to the Red Sox in yesterday’s paper, giving them a good scoop over the Globe. Chris Snow in today’s Globe also reports on the deal, and says that that only possible deal killer could be Guillermo Mota’s physical status. However Snow’s version of the trade is expanded somewhat to include six players today. The Red Sox would send Andy Marte, Mota, and Kelly Shoppach to Cleveland and in return would receive Crisp, reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard. Elsewhere, David Heuschkel builds on the Herald report from yesterday in reporting about Crisp and Gonzalez coming to Boston.

Vin Sylvia in the Union Leader on Saturday asserted that Theo Epstein must now have control of the baseball operations department. There could be no other reason for his return. Steve Buckley (subscription only) says that the Red Sox cannot spin this situation. They need to address it with candor, and not try to make it seem like Larry Lucchino had nothing to do with Theo’s temporary exile from the franchise. Lenny Megliola says that we can always count on one thing in Boston with the Red Sox. There is never a dull moment. He too is looking forward to how the Red Sox spin this return.

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Michael Felger says that the Patriots would’ve had their hands full with the Steelers yesterday had that game be held at Gillette, and Pittsburgh deserves to be going to the Super Bowl. Jerome Solomon reports on the Steelers upsetting the Denver Broncos 34-17 to earn a trip to Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Bob Ryan looks at the maturation of Ben Roethlisberger into a playoff tested QB. Solomon’s notebook looks at Jerome Bettis going home to Detroit for what is likely the last game of his career.

Nick Cafardo was in Seattle to report on the Seahawks 34-14 win over Carolina to clinch the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth. Cafardo’s running mate, Ron Borges reports on Seattle getting off to a quick start yesterday and never looking back. Cafardo’s notebook looks at Mike Holmgren getting back to the Super Bowl.

Get more on the conference championships and other sports on the New York and Bay Area sports pages.

At the moment, there are still no Celtics trades to report, though the rumor mill has been grinding all weekend. Despite the lackluster blowout loss to the Nets on Saturday night, there is still some reason for optimism around the Celtics given the play of their own young version of the twin towers, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins. Steve Bulpett says that the Celtics need to raise their own expectations as well as their mental toughness. Shira Springer says that the Celtics just need to develop more consistency from quarter to quarter and game to game. Tim Weisberg notes that the Celtics youngsters are getting their shot, and seem to be taking advantage of it. He also has a report on Gerald Green from the NBA Developmental League. Kevin Henkin says that we need to ease up on Doc Rivers. Yesterday, Lenny Megliola caught up with former Celtics coach John Carroll, who is now coaching his son at Belmont Hill and doing some work for ESPN.com.

Stephen Harris takes the unusual (and difficult) task of trying to defend Mike O’Connell. Harris argues that more of the blame should be directed to Jeremy Jacobs and Harry Sinden. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell reports on Tim Thomas volunteering for some extra work during yesterday’s workout. Harris’ notebook says that Sergei Samsonov should be good to go for the Bruins next game.

OLN/INHD has Bruins/Capitals at 7:00. FSN has Celtics/Hornets at 7:30 (HD). ESPN has Syracuse/Pitt at 7:00 (HD) Oklahoma St/Texas at 9:00 (HD) and Utah State/Nevada at midnight (HD). OLN also has Mighty Ducks/Kings at 10:30.


So now what?

New England sports fans find themselves without a horse in the January NFL playoffs for the first time since 2003. While there will still be football games going on, it won’t quite be the same without Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company occupying the most anticipated time slot of the weekend.

However, the local media has the Red Sox to thank for providing them ample fodder for discussion with their press release last night about Theo Epstein’s return to the organization and the promise of a press conference next week to further discuss the issue.

The two NFL conference championship games will be held on Sunday, with CBS broadcasting the AFC title game (Pittsburgh at Denver) at 3:00 and FOX carrying the NFC game (Carolina at Seattle) at 6:30.

Jim McCabe and Jim Lazar have their picks for this weekend. I.M. Bettor likes the home teams this weekend, but Double D thinks that the Steelers might be worth some play.

The Globe has short scouting reports on Steelers/Broncos and Panthers/Seahawks. Alan Greenberg has a good piece on Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who talks about his interception of Tom Brady last week.

Mike Reiss has the news of the Patriots officially naming Josh McDaniels as Offensive Coordinator. Beyond the fact that McDaniels was in many ways the public face of the position this season, the move makes sense from the standpoint that if another team had wanted to interview and hire McDaniels as their OC, they would not have needed to get permission from the Patriots as it would’ve been an upward move from the Quarterbacks Coach title McDaniels had officially held.

Yesterday, Greg Gatlin in the Herald wrote a column entitled Fans: Hitting home team foul. It is a look at whether fans will put up with sportswriters criticizing the New England Patriots. It is centered around the column from this site last Friday which called for the firing of Ron Borges. I think the article is pretty fair for the most part, though there are still some areas where I think our point is being missed. Gatlin writes:

The anti-Borges crew insists that they

The Prodigal Son Returns

The worst kept secret in Boston over the last few months has been the impending return of Theo Epstein to the Boston Red Sox. That move became official last night as the Red Sox issued a press release around 7:30 or so stating that Epstein was returning to the Red Sox in a full time baseball operations capacity and that more about his role would be revealed in a press conference next week.

Chris Snow and Michael Silverman report on the return of Theo to the Red Sox. Interestingly, Snow’s article contains quotes and comments from John Henry, as Snow acknowledges in the course of the article that the Globe had an interview with the Red Sox principal owner prior to the team making the official announcement and that Henry had stated that Epstein would be returning, but that he is ”not going to come back in a higher position” than what he previous held as GM. Sean McAdam also reports on the return of Theo, and notes that Larry Lucchino had “lobbied to hire Jim Beattie as Epstein’s permanent replacement, but was consistently rebuffed by ownership.” That could make things interesting within the Red Sox. David Heuschkel wonders what has changed to make Theo change his mind on working for the Red Sox. David Borges and Garry Brown have more on Epstein’s return to the Red Sox.

Tony Massarotti says that it has taken the Red Sox 2 1/12 months to simply run in a circle and end up where they were before. He notes their curious move of issuing the release and then holding off on the press conference until next week, stating that the are “Acting like a collection of children who cannot garner enough attention

The Young Bigs Get It Done

Was that a bit of the future that we saw on display last night at TD Banknorth Garden? The Celtics defeated Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves 103-96 behind 25 points from Paul Pierce. However, Pierce was ably assisted by the young big men duo of Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson, who played in crunch time together for really the first time and contributed 17 and 18 points respectively. Shira Springer, Steve Bulpett and Shalise Manza Young have the stories of the game. Lenny Megliola notes that a mixture of old and new led the Celtics to the solid victory last night.

Jackie MacMullan says that Michael Olowokandi would not be a good fit with this Celtics team, which needs time to grow and develop. Tony Massarotti says that Olowokandi was the center of attention last night with all the trade rumors swirling involving he and Mark Blount. Tim Weisberg says that Blount isn’t likely to be here for long, even if nothing happens with Minnesota. Mike Fine also looks at the trade rumors, which will continue to circulate in the coming weeks, or until something is done.

Massarotti has Pierce and Garnett speaking about the Celtics young players and what it is going to take from them to get them to the next level. Bulpett has Pierce still holding out hopes of a playoff berth for the Celtics. Weisberg reports that the Celtics have a new member of their ownership group, in New Bedford native Joe Lacob. Bulpett’s notebook says that the trade rumors are quiet for now, while Springer’s notebook has both Blount and Olowokandi speaking about the possibility of being traded.

Michael Felger hands out his season ending report card for the Patriots. Alan Greenberg looks at the AFC East choosing to copy the Belichick model for the most part. Nick Cafardo looks at the trend in the NFL this year to go with new names as head coaches rather than recycling the same old candidates. Eric McHugh looks at the Patriots naming Dean Pees as Defensive Coordinator. He also has the always-ready-to-talk Pete Kendall talking about his new coach, Eric Mangini.

Karen Guregian has a look at Vince Wilfork stepping up his game along with the rest of the Patriots over the second half of the season. He also gives his thoughts on Dean Pees being promoted. Buddy Thomas says that his Colts may have been beaten, but that Tom Brady choked. Jerome Solomon looks at Ben Roethlisberger, who is now a playoff veteran in his second season.

Fluto Shinzawa reports on Andrew Raycroft not making the trip with the Bruins because of his swollen knee. There have also been trade rumors surrounding the Bruins goalie as well. Joe McDonald examines the play of Tim Thomas while filling in for the top two injured goaltenders for the Bruins. Stephen Harris reports on the Bruins going into Philadelphia, where their real struggles began earlier this season on November 8th. Harris’ notebook has more on Raycroft missing tonight’s game.

Chris Snow and Michael Silverman report on Bronson Arroyo nearing a three year contract with the Red Sox…against the advice of his agent. Alan Siegel looks at Brooklyn Dodgers great Don Newcombe speaking to Londonderry students about the civil rights movement. John Habib reports on former Red Sox draftee Jay Yennaco being named pitching coach for the Nashua Pride.

David Scott reports on rumors that have Duke Castiglione being approached about coming to Boston as part of ESPN Radio and even as a possible replacement for Bob Lobel at CBS4. John Molori’s Media Blitz looks at new book about the often overlooked 1972 US Olympic Hockey team, which won a Silver medal.

NESN has Bruins/Flyers at 7:00. TNT has Pistons/Knicks at 8:00 and Lakers/Kings at 10:30.

Dean of the Defense

The Patriots didn’t wait long to name a successor to replace departed defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, tapping veteran coach Dean Pees, who spent the last couple season coaching linebackers for the Patriots, and naming him as their new defensive leader. Mike Reiss notes that it was a quick ascension for the 56 year old Pees, who ad coached in the college game for 25 years before joining Bill Belichick’s staff two years ago. John Tomase says that Pees is a logical successor because of his experience and penchant for speaking up in team meetings. Tom E Curran says that “The youth and promise of Eric Mangini will be replaced by the experience and stability of Dean Pees.” Alan Greenberg has a brief bio of Pees, while Chris Kennedy notes that Pees’ group of linebackers was the most productive unit on defense last season. Christopher Price also looks at the promotion of Dean Pees.

Greenberg talks to Mangini’s college coach, Kevin Spencer, who first recommended Mangini to Belichick in a phone call 12 years ago. He also talks to others he knew Mangini at that stage of his life. Nick Cafardo looks at Eric Mangini’s first day as coach of the New York Jets. Tomase has Mangini saying there was no rift between he and Bill Belichick over whether he should take this job or not. Albert Breer says this is the right move for both the Jets and Mangini, as more often than not taking a talented assistant from a championship program works out. John Altavilla says that the Jets feel that Mangini’s experience and training will make up for his youth. Eric McHugh looks at the hiring of Mangini, while the New York Sports Pages are filled with coverage of the hiring as well.

Michael Felger says that the Patriots may have even upgraded by replacing Mangini with Pees, and says that the “majority” of players feel that Mangini is not ready to be a head coach. He also looks at what other holes will need to be filled on Belichick’s staff. Jerome Solomon talks to owner Bob Kraft, who is trying to be positive after the loss in Denver last week, and feels good about how his team is positioned for the future. Tony Massarotti says that the loss of Mangini shouldn’t be a big deal for the Patriots. Jim Donaldson notes that now only the Bills are lacking a Belichick connection in the AFC East. Hector Longo insists that the Patriots defense is in “total transition” and that this is the most crucial offseason of Bill Belichick’s tenure. Jerry Spar reports that there was another missed call in Denver…Troy Brown was apparently touched by a Denver player before the ball hit the ground on his muffed punt catch.

Peter May has a good look at Celtics rookie Gerald Green as he sends some time in Fayetteville, N.C in the NBA Developmental League, getting some playing time and court experience. Shira Springer and Steve Bulpett address and examine the trade talk surrounding Mark Blount, who apparently could be dealt at any moment. Minnesota, Cleveland, Denver and Memphis are all mentioned as possible trade partners. Bulpett’s notebook has Doc Rivers insisting once again that he is only going to play the kids if they earn their keep and don’t hurt the team while they’re on the floor. Celtics TV guy Mike Gorman took a couple minutes to do a little Q&A session over on the FSN website.

Rob Bradford has a good profile on new Red Sox backup catcher Ken Huckaby, who should fit right in here in Boston, as he has received death threats from Yankees fans in the past. Bob Ryan looks at the Hall of Fame case for Albert Belle, who despite having impressive numbers, only picked up 7.7% of the vote in the recent balloting. Michael Silverman reports on the Red Sox agreeing to a one year deal with reliever Guillermo Mota, who was acquired in the Josh Beckett trade. Chris Snow also reports on the signing, and says that the Red Sox are talking to Bronson Arroyo about a three year contract. Jon Couture says that we all might end up watching the World Baseball Classic…simply because there won’t be anything else on at that time.

Fluto Shinzawa looks at goalie Tim Thomas, who has been able to step in and make some good plays in net for the Bruins. Stephen Harris says that contract negotiations with Sergei Samsonov are going nowhere.

FSN has Celtics/Timberwolves at 7:30 (HD). ESPN has N.C. State/Duke at 7:00 (HD) and Cavs/Nuggets at 9:00. ESPN2 has Wisconsin/Ohio State at 8:30.