|Notes and Observations Week 16: Patriots Escape from New York with 17-16 Win; Clinch First Round Bye.||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets|
It’s been a strange NBA season to say the least. We had the lockout to start the season and that produced this ridiculous condensed schedule. There have been countless injuries, and of course the endless free agency speculation involving Magic center Dwight Howard. Despite all that, TV ratings are up over last year and the teams that were predicted to challenge for the championship, Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma, and the Lakers are right there atop their conferences. So for the first time in awhile the NBA trade deadline was rather quiet.
Dwight Howard, who has been rumored to be leaving Orlando for two years decided to re-up for one more year subjecting us to more endless whining and for another season. Meanwhile, Deron Williams the other top free agent prize, sits in New Jersey counting the days till free agency begins.
There were some moves – the Lakers jettisoned long time guard Derek Fisher and picked up point guard Ramon Sessions and big man Jordan Hill. Fisher will get bought out by the Rockets, and thanks to a new rule, he cannot end up back with the Lakers. The Spurs swapped small forward Richard Jefferson for troubled but talented Stephen Jackson in the other major deal of the day among contenders. The NBA is the one sport where the cream almost always rises to the top, so I expect the championship matchup to include a combo of Miami, Chicago, OKC or the Lakers.
Locally, there was a lot of pressure for the Celtics to “blow it up.” Last year the Celtics led the trade deadline headlines with the Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green deal. This year, GM Danny Ainge opted not to move any of the Big Three despite rumors to the contrary. Details are sketchy on what the Celtics were offered but the media rumors were that few teams were willing to give the Celtics what they wanted, #1 draft picks or young up and coming talent. The lack of any real detail didn’t prevent “The Sports Hub” for criticizing Ainge for not making a deadline move for sake of making a move. Michael Felger on his weekly radio show and Damon Amendolara on “Sports Sunday” were openly critical of Ainge for not “blowing it up.” Unfortunately, like has been the case with the local media, no one challenged them on what Ainge should actually have done. As Terry Francona once said to Mike Felger, “Not having all the facts hasn’t stopped your from having an opinion.”
The faultiness of the NBA system is a column for another time. It’s a heavily flawed league where seven teams have advantages over the rest of the league based on location or celebrity culture. It’s also a league that takes endless years to rebuild which is why I think it is a sport headed to individual rooting interests as opposed to team. The fans will associate themselves with individual players almost like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the PGA tour. Bob Ryan said it best last week when he told Celtic fans to get ready for some lean years.