Good morning. I’ll be handling both ends of the doubleheader today, pinch-hitting for Bruce with news links this morning, then bringing you afternoon blog links as I do every Thursday.

It’s been a gratuitous week in Boston, as Tim Thomas gave up an 80-foot slapshot and a point in the standings, Bill Belichick tossed a complimentary starting OLB into the bag as casually as the neighborhood Chinese take-out throws a handful of duck sauce packets into my order, and the Celtics played gracious hosts to the Pistons on Sunday, surrendering 24 points in the last seven minutes.

So, let’s go down to the Meadowlands, where the Celtics came 20 seconds away from following up Sunday’s philanthropy with another fourth quarter handout. That’s when Paul Pierce’s bucket broke a 111-all tie and the C’s held on for the 115-111 win. Mark Murphy has the C’s overcoming a night of defensive lapses in pulling this one out. Frank Dell’Apa has the morning shootaround’s defensive emphasis falling on deaf ears, as the C’s couldn’t slow down Vince Carter or Devin Harris all night – at least, until Carter’s final drive to the hoop. The Post’s Fred Kerber has Pierce ending the Nets’ strong fourth quarter surge. The Daily News’ Julian Garcia muses that Stephon Marbury did nothing to win this one for the C’s.

Murphy’s Celtics Notebook has Number 8 looking for a fresh start and facing the media on his first return to the Apple as a Celtic. The Star-Ledger’s Colin Stephenson has Marbury grateful for a new lease. George Scione thinks we’re all hypocrites for embracing Starbury while dissing Manny.

Bruins

The NHL trading deadline has passed, as the Bruins acquired help in the form of defenseman Steve Montador and winger Mark Recchi. Kevin Paul Dupont doesn’t love the pick-ups, but he likes them. Bud Barth says it was addition without subtraction. Stephen Harris calls it a good day for GM Peter Chiarelli despite no big-name acquisitions. Dennis Gorman has Chairelli and the B’s as one of yesterday’s five winners. Fluto Shinzawa has more on Montador and Recchi. Mike Loftus says the new guys failed to add size, but might create some internal competition that can reignite the swooning B’s. Steve Conroy has the B’s regrouping after their Eastern Conference lead has been halved.

Red Sox

An off-day in Fort Myers yesterday, so we’ll open with Sean McAdam‘s positional State of the Roster. Adam Kilgore has Jed Lowrie free of wrist pain and pushing for the starting job at short. McAdam’s Red Sox Notebook has Lowrie’s wrist feeling great. Hey, it might be a while before Lars Anderson makes The Nation forget about Mark Teixeira, but Joe McDonalds says the lesson has begun. Joe Haggerty has Takashi Saito making a nice Option B to Jonathan Papelbon. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but what if it’s busted beyond repair? Kilgore’s Red Sox Notebook has Jason Varitek making changes to his batting stance this spring.

Maureen Mullen has the Sox running into old friend Alex Cora at City of Palms Park this afternoon. Nick Cafardo brings us details on the Ramirez signing, which finally went down after the plight of 4,000 misfortunate Los Angeleans injected some much-needed perspective into the talks. Ron Borges is ripped that Manny should get a $5 million raise for . . . being Manny. Better add in another $8.5 mil, as Jerry Kronenberg tells us Manny’s Boston penthouse is up for sale now that he officially won’t be coming back.

Patriots / NFL

Of course, the big football story today is T.O. Old friend Michael Smith gives us the full scoop from Dallas, where T.O. got his walking papers from the Cowboys. Charles Robinson says that, if NFL execs are smart, this should be T.O.’s swansong.

In Patriots Notebook, Christopher L. Gasper and Mike Reiss report on backup QB Patrick Ramsey and WR Joey Galloway each visiting Foxborough.

Odds & Sods

Bob Ryan has met the World Cup, and WBC, you are no World Cup.

Thomas Grillo introduces us to C’s president Rich Gotham, whom we can thank for all the amenities at TD Banknorth that keep us distracted from the game on the court.

And finally, some lawyers can lie without ever having to move their lips. Donna Goodison brings us the story of Dan Duquette attorney Anthony Froio, who let his bio do the talking.

That’s it for now, but be sure to join us for blog links this afternoon, as we tour the sports world’s counterculture where talented writers show us what can be done with a little more editorial freedom. Until then, you can ring me up at bob02878@yahoo.com.

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