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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Maybe There Is a Method to Don Sweeney's Madness After All

This is such a wasteland on the American sports calendar every year and it certainly doesn't help when the Red Sox are so unwatchable and irrelevant by the middle of May. I'm trying to (partially) rationalize why we tend to overreact to any significant trades involving our local teams that come at this extremely dull point of the summer. Case in point, the Bruins last week looked like a drunken mess as they traded Carl Soderberg to Colorado for a sixth-round pick, Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for three picks and Milan Lucic to Los Angeles for Martin Jones, a minor league defenseman and a pick. We wondered, "what the hell is Don Sweeney doing?" He doubled up on the crazy by rewarding mediocre defenseman Adam McQuaid with a four-year contract.

For a change from last week's constant drama and unending questions, today brought some sense of clarity for the Black and Gold. First, they signed coveted free agent left wing Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $19 million. He's the exact same age-down to the day-as Lucic (27) but unlike the former Bruin, his career trajectory seems to be trending upwards. Last season, he put up a career-best 22 goals in the regular season (65 games) followed by eight goals in the postseason for Anaheim. Granted playing with Cory Perry and Ryan Getzlaf would turn almost anyone into a 20-goal scorer but Beleskey similarly should bring size (206 pounds), toughness and the left-handed shot that they were looking for. Put him with David Krejci and David Pastrnak or Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand then we might have something.

Sweeney won more support by trading away oft-criticized forward Reilly Smith and Marc Savard's $4 million cap hit to Florida for former BC star and Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes. Smith scored 20 goals two seasons ago but that went down to only 13 this past campaign. That coupled with the fact that he does literally nothing else made him easily expendable. I would normally bitch about the Bruins giving him that silly extension last year but I'm tired so oh well. Hayes' numbers were pretty similar to Smith's last season (19 goals, 16 assists) and his huge frame (6-foot-6, 221 pounds) should help the Bruins crash the net better (something that nobody consistently does for them).

Now it's time to sign some NHL-caliber top-six defensemen since at the moment, Boston has like four that they can reasonably count on: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug and McQuaid (kind of). Matt Bartkowski signed a one-year deal with Vancouver and Gregory Campbell agreed to a two-year deal with Columbus; needless to say after their rough performances last season, most Bruins fans aren't sad to see those two leave town.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sadly, The Celtics Still Remain Stuck In NBA Purgatory

The unfortunate reality of today's NBA is that your favorite team is going nowhere unless they have multiple All-Stars and/or reside in a sunny location like LA or Miami. Even worse, places which should be attractive to free agents like Boston or New York are not at all, meaning that one of the league's marquee franchises-the Celtics-will be nothing more than a slightly above average team until they can hoodwink a former player to trade another franchise guy (thanks again Kevin McHale for Kevin Garnett).

Armed with four draft picks last week (2 in each round), we hoped that Boston would move up to get an impact player. Instead, GM Danny Ainge stuck with all four to get a mostly uninspiring group: Louisville guard Terry Rozier, Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter, LSU power forward Jordan Mickey and William and Mary (yes they play basketball there) Marcus Thornton (the other one). Free agency began last night at midnight and as expected, the Green and White have been pretty quiet thus far. There has been whispers about free agent power forward Greg Monroe (who would be perfect for the C's) but that died down rather fast as he got wooed by more likely suitors.

All Boston has done so far is sign former Raptors power forward Amir Johnson (2 years, $24 million) and re-sign power forward Jonas Jerebko (2 years, $10 million) and swingman Jae Crowder (5 years, $35 million). Don't get me wrong, these are all decent players that will help but truthfully, they don't bring the Celtics any closer to that elusive Banner 19. They are all role players and that'll probably never change.

Johnson is quite a success story since he skipped college and was drafted late in the second round (56th overall by the Pistons) in 2005. He's 28 and he's coming off of a six-year run North of the border. Last season, he averaged 9.3 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and he shot 57% from the floor and 41% on 3-pointers. He's 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds but not the most physical guy so you won't see him battling too much down low (a big issue for the undersized Celtics last season). He is a good shooter with decent range for a big guy.

Jerebko was a complete unknown when he was traded here last season for Detroit. At 28, he is a perfect bench player as he showed in 29 games with the Celts (7.1 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 41% on 3-pointers). Likewise, Crowder seemed like a throw-in from the Mavericks to complete the Rajon Rondo deal (remember him?) but he can really play. A versatile and tough defender, he brought an edge to the C's as they made that surprising run to the playoffs before they were swept by the Cavaliers in the first round. After not getting much of a chance to show what he can do in Dallas, Crowder made the most of his opportunity last season: averaging a career-best 9.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and one steal per game for Boston in 57 games. He turns 25 on Monday so a longer contract makes sense since he is currently one of the Celtics' best players (really).

Where else does Boston go from here? Your guess is as good as mine; just don't count on them bringing in any big names. With head coach Brad Stevens and a bunch of coachable, hard-working, team-first players, the C's are destined for another playoff spot and a quick exit once again when they go up against one of the East's best teams like Cleveland, Chicago or Atlanta. Are you having fun yet?