Farewell June 2013

Normally, I embrace the month of June.  In fact, it is my favorite month of the year.  Summer begins, warm weather, trips to the beach, hell my birthday is in June.  However; June 2013 was simply awful for a Boston sports fan.  I, myself, can’t wait until Monday morning when I can turn the calendar to July.

Since I started blogging (even dating back to the McKeon and the Mongoose days), as a Boston sports fan, I have primarily been able to write about successes, champions, and legendary athletes. Boston fans have seen two World Series’ trophies, four Lombardi trophies, 1 Stanley Cup, and 1 Larry O’Brien trophy.  We have also seen three out of the four teams we root for lose more than one championship game or series.  None of that pain or disappointment comes close to what Boston fans have endured over the month of June.  Where do I even begin?

Aaron Hernandez

The most notable detrimental event in June is Aaron Hernandez being charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.  Sure as a Patriotsap_aaron_hernandez_mi_130728_16x9_992 fan this bothers me.  But as a human being it down right pisses me off.  I hold true to the belief set forth by Robert DeNiro’s character, Lorenzo, in A Bronx Tale. “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”  That is just what Hernandez is, wasted talent.  This kid was given everything out of the womb from a physical standpoint.  Bill Walton would refer to him as “the biggest winner of the genetic lottery known to man.”  Hernandez is 6’1, built out of granite, and has amazing agility.  He was given everything: A full scholarship to the University of Florida, drafted by the best organization in the NFL, to play with the best quarterback in the history of the NFL, and as of last August given a sizable contract.

In life, all Hernandez had to do was stay in shape.  Everything was given to him.  He never pulled an all nighter trying to finish a term paper in college.  He never had to sit in a cubicle hearing a boss drone on about TPS reports. Hell the guy probably never had to clean his house or even take out the garbage.  He was living the American Dream; being paid millions of dollars to play a game. And he blew it all.

I have to wonder when it will all hit Aaron.  He will no longer enjoy his mansion in North Attleboro.  He will no longer be able to eat at 5 star restaurants.  He will never hear the roar of 60,000 fans cheering as he catches a pass from Tom Brady.  It is all gone.

Boston Bruins

Back in the middle of May, the Boston Bruins pulled off an improbable comeback over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Down 4-1 with eight minutes left, the Bruins came from behind to shock the world and advance to the second round against the New York Rangers.  The Bruins skated past the Rangers in 5 games setting up a date with the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.  Most experts believed the Bruins would have a hard time beating the Penguins because of their offensive juggernaut. The Bruins proved all the naysayers wrong, owning the Penguins in 4 games.

The Bruins advanced to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.  The Bruins looked to be a team of destiny.  The Andrew Shawmiracle comeback over the Leafs, the dismantling of the Rangers, and sweeping the Penguins.  Gregory Campbell helped kill off a penalty for 1 minute skating on a broken leg.  All the plots to the beautiful story line were in place.

The Bruins came to Boston down 3-2 for Game 6. Milan Lucic scored a goal late in the third period.  It looked as though the Bruins, the improbable Bruins, would force a Game 7 in Chicago.  The with 1:15 left in the game, Brian Bickell beat Tuukka Rask to tie the game.  17 seconds later, Dave Bolland beat Rask to put the Blackhawks ahead and bring the Cup back to Chicago.  I will not attempt to get fancy in describing my feelings as these events unfolded on June 24 (the night before my birthday).  The Bickell goal felt like a wild mule kicked me square in the genitals.  The Bolland goal felt like I lost those genitals 17 seconds later.

After the Bruins were able to shock the Maple Leafs, I was convinced they were going to win the Stanley Cup.  They destroyed the Rangers resulting in John Tortorella receiving a pink slip.  Their win over the Penguins cemented my belief the Cup was coming home to Boston.  Then I sat there on my couch on June 24, watching Andrew Shaw lift the Cup over his head on the TD Garden ice.

How can that be?

Boston Celtics

I made a promise to myself I would not watch a single second of the NBA Final because I did not want to give David Stern his much desired television rating.  My problem, however, is my access to Twitter.  Tuesday, June 18, the Spurs were 5 seconds away from beating LeBron James and the Miami Heat for the NBA title.  My twitter feed blew up.  I could not resist temptation.  I had to tune in to see the sad faces of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.  I even had my tweet all lined up.  Not 6, Not 5, Not 4, Not 3, Not 2!  1!  I tuned into the game just in time to see Chris Bosh tip a rebound out to Ray Allen, yes Ray Allen above all people, bury a three from the corner to send the game into overtime.  Why did it have to be Ray Allen?  Former member of The Big Three.  The guy who left town to take less money because he did not want to play in Boston in anymore.  The guy who abandoned Pierce and Garnett to go play with the Celtics’ biggest rival.  Why did it have to be Judas Shuttlesworth?

As we all know the Heat went on to beat the Spurs and win their second straight NBA title.

On the local front, the Celtics traded Doc Rivers to the Clippers for a 1st round draft pick.  I am yet to determine how I feel about NBA Finals Game 6: Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celticsthis. The beef between Bill Simmons and Rivers further complicates things.  I have long been a fan of Doc Rivers.  I am on the fence about Simmons.  Some days I like him, most days I find him wildly annoying.  As it stands now, I find myself being annoyed with Doc Rivers.  He essentially asked out-of-town because he did not want to be apart of a rebuild.  Knowing he did not want to be apart of a rebuild, he had no problem signing a 5 year contract for $35 million last season.  Obviously KG and Pierce would not be around for those 5 years.  He obviously knew a rebuild was happening.  Instead of owning up to him quitting on the current Celtics, he has made many excuses as to what went down between he and Danny Ainge leading up to this trade.

There is a lot of Ray Allen in Doc Rivers.  The both feel the need to be liked by the fans.  They can’t handle the fact Boston fans may be upset with them.  Ultimately, I am glad the Celtics received compensation for Rivers.  But the bottom line is Rivers did quit on the Celtics and he is currently trying to protect his reputation with Celtics fans by saying it was not his idea to leave town.

After Rivers asked to be dealt to the Clippers, the writing was on the wall Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would be moved as well. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce Believe it or not, I have mixed emotions about this one.  Paul Pierce has been a Boston Celtic since I was 13 years old.  I can’t remember what the Celtics were like without him.  I remember when he slipped to the 10th pick in the 1998 draft.  I was ecstatic,  That ecstasy lived on for the last 15 years.  Anyone who knows me, knows I will argue Pierce is a top five player over the course of his career.  Seeing him don a Brooklyn Nets uniform will be difficult.  Seeing him be coached by Jason Kidd will blow my mind.  It is not hard to forget the Nets were Celtic rivals in the early 2000’s.  Right at the center of that rivalry? Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd.

Seeing Kevin Garnett go will be difficult as well.  I remember working as a camp counselor the summer of 2007 when Garnett was traded to the Celtics.  I walked around the camp with a radio, listening to WEEI, as the trade talks heated up.  Garnett brought an unparalleled intensity to Boston.  It was impossible not to get fired up along with him when you were at the Garden.  Credit Garnett for getting that building as loud as it got most nights.  Without Garnett, there is no Banner 17 hanging from the rafters.

#34 will hang from those same rafters one day.  I hope #5 does as well.  They were great Celtics.  Great isn’t even the word.  There are no words to describe Pierce and Garnett.  Their last move as Celtics?  Bringing home three first round picks to help rebuild the franchise.  It does not get any better than that.   Damn it, I hope they knock off the Heat next year.

June was an awful month in Boston. July 2013, I welcome you with open arms.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

2013 NTCF NBA Mock Draft

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time of year again and even more surreal that the Celtics will be drafting players who will not be playing for Doc Rivers. Boston has been at the center of trade rumors galore, specifically surrounding Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It could be time for the C’s to enter full-blown rebuild mode with Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Avery Bradley at the core.

ImageWith that said, here’s a look at who could go where in the latest edition on the NBA’s “incoming class.” As always Scottie and I picked every other selection to figure out who will be wearing what color jersey come Friday morning.

(Also, as always… I get the first pick! @BIG3Sports always gets honors hahaha.)

1. Cleveland – Nerlens Noel – F/C – Kentucky

Rumors continue to swirl that the Cavaliers could be taking Maryland big man Alex Len, while there are still others that expect the Cavs to trade the pick. I’m sticking with Noel, Imagewho without the injury would be a shoe-in here. A defensive game-changer in the post, he should pair well with the backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

2. Orlando – Victor Oladipo – G  – Indiana

With the trade winds kicking up that Aaron Afflalo could be moved to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, it opens up a spot at the two guard. Oladipo is my favorite player in this draft and that’s for his defense alone, especially after meeting him at the Sweet 16 this year. He could grow into a tremendous player for years to come. Ben McLemore could also get a look here, while another team could trade up for a shot at Alex Len or Nerlens Noel, depending on who’s still on the board.

3. Washington – Otto Porter, Jr. – SF – Georgetown

The Hoya product is one of the most well-rounded prospects this year and is hands-down the best small forward in the draft. A chance to stay home would be a perfect fit for the Wizards who have a big need at the 3.

4. Charlotte – Alex Len – C – Maryland

Len has been shooting up draft boards and could be the No. 1 pick overall.  Michael Jordan may want to take Ben McLemore here, who is the best shooter in the draft, but the Bobcats need help down low big time and can’t pass on Len or even Anthony Bennett.

5. Phoenix – Ben McLemore – SG – Kansas

I saw McLemore play in late December in Allen Fieldhouse and was not overly impressed. ImageHe often looked disinterested and rarely took over. However, he puts up the purest shot of anyone this season and has the ability to make top 10 plays driving to the rim. On a team loaded with seniors its not surprising that he was not the focal point. He could be the best of the best of 2013 when look back a we few years from now.

6. New Orleans – Anthony Bennett – F – UNLV

The Pelicans have said they will take the best player on the board at pick No. 6, which is Bennett. He has injury questions and is said to be overweight, but should be able to shed the pounds and make a formidable one-two duo with last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Davis.

7. Sacramento – Michael Carter-Williams – PG – Syracuse

A 6-foot-6 point guard with the best floor vision in the class. Not a bad pick for a team that just needs to keep stockpiling talent. He would be able to work in slowly, playing behind Isaiah Thomas and with rumors of Jimmer Fredette to Indiana, it could be a good situation for the young Syracuse guard.

8. Detroit – Trey Burke – PG – Michigan

Another player with a chance to stay home. The National Player of the Year has some serious talent but is undersized. With Brandon Knight proving to be a better 2 than 1 guard, Burke could eventually pair with the former Kentucky prospect and make a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backcourt.

9. Minnesota – C.J. McCollum – G – Lehigh

Even though he comes the Patriot League and was injured for most of the season, he was second in the nation in scoring at almost 24 points per game when he went down, and led ImageLehigh to an upset of Duke in 2012. McCollum can play either guard spot and shoot it well, but can immediately come in and defend.

10. Portland – Cody Zeller – F/C – Indiana

Indiana becomes the first team with two players off the board as the seven-footer goes to a team in desperate need of size to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. Zeller can really run the floor and while he does not do some things well, he plays hard and is a student of the game. He could see minutes right away with last year’s draft pick Meyers Leonard still learning the NBA game.

11. Philadelphia – Steven Adams – C – Pittsburgh

Another team in need of size, especially with the status of Andrew Bynum completely up in the air. Adams is a tank, but a raw and unrefined one. With seasoning, he could become a starting center in the League for years to come.

12. Oklahoma City – Kelly Olynyk – F/C – Gonzaga

Make it three-straight centers. Olynyk could immediately help the Thunder on the low block with a bevy of low-post moves. There are some questions if he is strong enough or can defend at an NBA level, but the offensive production makes him worth the risk at the end of the lottery.

13. Dallas – Shabazz Muhammad – SF – UCLA

Dallas is actively trying to trade the pick to clear cap space and make a run at Dwight Howard so taking the best player on the board may make sense. Muhammad has a lot of question marks around his character, but remember; this kid can play. With the right coach and the right situation he could flourish.

14.  Utah – Shane Larkin – PG – Miami

It is amazingly obvious that the Jazz need a point guard. Larkin ran a heck of an offense for the U this year and though undersized, he has proved to be an active sparkplug with Imagetons of energy. If not Larkin, Utah could take German point guard prospect Dennis Schroeder.

15. Milwaukee – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – SG – Georgia

The Bucks will be without Monta Ellis next year and while they truly need a small forward, taking the SEC player of the year to try and replace Ellis may not be a bad idea. Caldwell-Pope did not shoot overly well last season, but was asked to do entirely too much on a bad Bulldog team.

16. Boston – Lucas Nogueira – C – Brazil

The Celtics could go in a number of directions. They need size, a backup point guard and more talent in general. If they are truly in full-rebuild mode they could take a project center like Nogueira. He could develop into a dynamic force down low, but will take a few years to get there.

17. Atlanta – Sergey Karasev – SF – Moscow

Karasev has been shooting up draft boards as of late in a small-forward depleted draft class. Josh Smith may be on the outs and Karasev could step into some serious minutes for the Hawks.

18. Atlanta – Mason Plumlee – C – Duke

Plumlee looked good at Duke, but scouts fear he does not have a high upside. Even if he can replicate what he did for Coach K, he could prove to be a strong pivot for ATL, allowing Al Horford to move to his natural power forward position.

19. Cleveland – Reggie Bullock – SF – North Carolina

Another team in need of a small forward as they have even been linked to Paul Pierce. They should be in take the best player available mode, but could move up or deal the pick. Right now Chad Ford has them taking Bullock… that’s good enough for me.

20. Chicago – Tony Snell – SF – New Mexico

The Bulls need help on the wing even with the emergence of Jimmy Butler. Snell, Crabbe, Goodwin, Ledo or Franklin could also be in play here.

21. Utah – Rudy Gobert – F/C – France

Gobert is physical freak at 7-2, with a 7-9 wingspan, but is wildly small in frame and needs Imageto put on serious weight. He could turn out to be a serious player in the right situation, but needs at least three years to start to contribute on an NBA roster.

22. Brooklyn – Giannis Adetokunbo – SF – Greece

His people are playing him up as a point guard and he needs the ball in his hands to be truly effective but at 22 he could be a great pick for the Nets. Foreign players are always a risk, but this is one that could pay off.

23. Indiana – Dennis Schroeder – PG – Germany

It is highly unlikely that Schroeder will still be available here, but it would be a good fit for the Pacers who need a backup point guard after D.J. Augastin proved to be ineffective in the playoffs this year.

24. New York – Ricardo Ledo – SG/SF – Providence

PC fans are familiar for Ledo, but only because he did not play for them this year. He has a ton of talent, but could not make the grades. Had he played this season he may be much higher up on this board. He could be a steal for whoever takes him late in this draft.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Gorgui Dieng – C – Louisville

Dieng looked to be a defensive force for the Cardinals in the NCAA Tournament with a developing low-post game. A team could reach for him around 15-20, but if he slips, don’t expect him to get past the Clippers who could need some muscle around Blake Griffin, especially if they trade DeAndre Jordan.

26. Minnesota – Jeff Withey – C – Kansas

Withey was a player who really stood out when I watched the JayHawks in person back in December. He runs the floor ok for a big man and can finish at the rim, but his defense is what sets him apart. He is no overly built, but uses his body well. With an offensive minded coach, he could develop a decent low-post game and can easily step in for Pekovic right now.

27. Denver – Jamal Franklin – SG – San Diego State

Another player I anticipate going earlier in the draft, he did it all at SDSU. Exteremly athletic if not a tad wirey, he would fit well with a Denver team that is full of athletes and likes to get up and down.

28. San Antonio – Nate Wolters – PG – South Dakota State

The Spurs are always an interesting team to pick for and even though they have Gary NealImage behind Tony Parker, Wolters could be a good fit (although they still may be able to get him in the second round). The Jack Rabbits were a popular upset pick over Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tourney because of the 6-5 point guards ability to shoot.

29. Oklahoma City – Tony Mitchell – F – North Dakota

A physical specimen in the mold of the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried, he has fallen down the board to questions about his character. He may have not played against the toughest competition, but has shown the ability to play the game. A solid pick this late in the draft.

30. Phoenix – Tim Hardaway, Jr. – SG – Michigan

Your dad was Tim Hardaway. You should be a first round pick.

Here Comes the Rest of the AL East!

Suddenly, the Boston Red Sox are dealing with adversity.  What was once a strength of the team in the early parts of the season, andrew-baileyis now a glaring weakness.  I am speaking, of course, about the bullpen.  Joel Hanrahan’s season ending shoulder surgery assured Andrew Bailey the closer’s role without any controversy.  Now, Bailey has given up five home runs in five consecutive appearances. He owes apologies to Felix Doubront and John Lackey for wasting their outstanding outings over the last week.  John Farrell has elected to go to Koji Uehara as Bailey’s interim replacement. I am not a fan of this decision.

I like Uehara in his middle relief/set-up role.  Uehara does not possess closer like stuff.  His fastball barely touches 91 MPH. Somehow, some way, Uehara does strike out batters at a high rate.  He has 42 strikeouts in just 30 innings.  But Uehara can’t go back to back nights.  I also feel Koji is extremely valuable getting outs in those middle innings.

I like to think outside the box.  I know I have said this before.  I will say it again.  I would like to see the Red Sox move Ryan Dempster to the closer’s role.  This will allow the Sox to keep Allen Webster in the rotation.  I understand Webster has not put up stat lines that would make anyone rush to keep him in Boston.  But I like the stuff the kid has.  Let him have some continuity, learn from Farrell, and give him some consistency.  Dempster has been a successful closer in the past.  He has 87 career saves.

Another option to bring up would be Rubby De La Rosa.  The kid is throwing smoke at Pawtucket right now.  His walk rate is a bit high.  He has walked 25 in 49 innings.  But opposing hitters are hitting just .166 against him.  Maybe it is time to give him a look in the rotation.

With all the bullpen woes that currently haunt the Red Sox, they are still in first place by two games.  The AL East does not have Munenori-Kawasaki-dodgers-570x291a team with a record below .500.  The Blue Jays are surging, winning 11 in a row.  They will be getting Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie back soon.  Watch out for them.  The Orioles are the best team in the division on paper.  If they add some starting pitching depth, they are surefire World Series contenders.  Joe Maddon always has his Rays in the thick of things in Tampa.  Will Myers is now up with the big club.  Expect him to spark their offense.  Lastly, the Yankees continue to hang around with a bunch of no names.  They should be getting Granderson, Teixeira, and Jeter back soon.

There is no doubt this will be a dramatic summer in the AL East.  I just hope the Red Sox will be able to hang in there.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

Red Sox Still in First Place; Dodgers in Last

I find it quite a bit ironic (ok more like hypocritical) one week after bashing a Boston Globe reporter for tweeting a Boston Red Sox update during the second overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, I come to you with my usual Red Sox article on their off day.  I figured I’d call myself out for it right away.  In fact the argument could be made, the Red Sox are #4 right now in the Boston sports news world.  The Bruins’s Stanley Cup run is clearly number 1.  Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett to the Clippers would be number 2.  I’ll even give Tebowmania the nod of the Red Sox at the present moment.  But here I am talking Red Sox.

The Red Sox remain in first place.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if they fell out of the top spot by their next off day.  Jon Lester has been atrocious over the last two months.  Clay Buchholz hasn’t been able to take the mound.  After those two pitchers, no one has been capable of stepping up and playing the role of stopper. It will be interesting to see if Ben Cherrington makes a run at a starting pitcher when the trade deadline comes.  Names that are sure to be on the market: Cliff Lee, Yovanni Gallardo, Josh Johnson, Mike Pelfrey, and Bud Norris.  Don’t be surprised if Jose Iglesias is dangled as trade bait.

While the Red Sox are tied for best record in the American League with Oakland, it is fun to point out the Los Angeles Dodgers are in last place in the NL West.  Both Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford are on the DL.  Adrian Gonzalez has cemented his legacy as a guy that puts up nice stats but doesn’t help win games.  Someone, somewhere, has to have his splits in less than 3 run games and in 7th-9th innings of close games.  They can’t be pretty.

This column has been short and sweet because I realize no one cares about the Sox at this precise moment.  I just felt the need to keep up with my off day articles.

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF

 

Red Sox Back to Their Winning Ways

The Boston Red Sox came into their May 14th tilt vs the Tampa Bay Rays in third place in the American League East.  Many believed the Cinderella Sox were starting their skid into the basement of the division like many had predicted in the winter.  They were facing a stretch of 20 games in 20 days with 14 of those games away from Fenway Park.  Here we are on June 3rd, and the Red Sox are atop the American League East by 2.5 games, continuing an improbable 2013 season.  They went 13-7 over the last 20 games culminating in taking 2 out of 3 from the Yankees in the Bronx.

During this stretch they were bitten by the injury bug.  They lost Will Middlebrooks, Shane Victorino, and David Ross to the 040813_nava2disabled list.  Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury missed time as well.  The Red Sox have shown if they are anything, they are resilient.  The most pleasant surprise two months into the season is the production of Daniel Nava.  Coming into the season, Nava was an after thought.  Everyone expected Jonny Gomes and Jackie Bradley Jr. to patrol the outfield.  With Victorino hampered by a variety of injuries, Gomes off to a slow start, and Bradley Jr. figuring things out in Pawtucket, John Farrell was able to turn to Nava.  Nava is hitting .297 with 8 home runs and 37 runs batted in.  He is tenth in the American League in OPS at. .880.  That is better than Robinson Cano, Carlos Santana, and Ian Kinsler.  He has also been solid with the leather.

Dustin Pedroia is having an all around amazing season.  Word came out this week he tore a ligament in his thumb on Opening images-1Day. His .333 batting average and eye-popping defense make it seem there is no injury at all.  There has not been one game that has gone by where Pedroia hasn’t robbed someone of a base hit.  Water covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface.  Dustin Pedroia covers the rest.  He has played in every game this season and is yet to commit an error.  He has 153 assists and 93 put outs.  Someone put a call into Mr. Cano and alert him his Gold Glove is coming back to Boston, where it belongs.

Look at David Ortiz’s stats.  He his hitting .333 with 10 home runs and 36 runs batted in.  It is easy to forget that he actually missed nearly the first month of the season.  Hopefully he continues to stay healthy.  The Red Sox are a much different team with his bat in the lineup.  Fellow bash brother Mike Napoli has been producing as well.  Twice this season, opposing teams have intentionally walked Ortiz to get to Napoli.  On both occasions, Napoli made them pay dearly by hitting two grand slams.  Napoli has 45 runs batted in on the season.  If he can stay healthy throughout the season, I firmly believe the Red Sox should honor their original contract offer to him.  Give him a 2 year $27 million deal.

Jose Iglesias belongs in Boston.  Pedro Ciriaco does not.  Will Middlebrooks is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Mike Carp, Jose Iglesias, Jarrod SaltalamacchiaJune 8.  When he comes back, I sincerely believe Ciriaco will be given his walking papers.  He has been atrocious this season both mentally and physically.  He has brought back memories of Julio Lugo in the field, and has been an airhead on the base paths.  Iglesias has been producing for the Sox at the plate and his signature defense has been on display at short and third.  If the Red Sox send Iglesias down again, they will lose this kid forever.  They can’t afford to do that.

A look ahead shows the Red Sox have a rather difficult schedule over the next 13 games.  They host the Rangers for three games.  Remember how the Rangers sent them into a tailspin after sweeping the Sox earlier in the season in Arlington.  The Angels come to town after that and then they travel down to The Trop to take on the red-hot Rays.

 

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF