Westbrook to Boston?

July 13, 2016 at 7:40pm in Boston, Celtics, Featured, NBA, Top Story
Westbrook could be the next big name to land in Boston. (Cheatsheet.com)

According to Howard Beck of bleacherreport.com, the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to trade point guard Russell Westbrook and the Boston Celtics are, “the most likely destination,” for him to land.

The Celtics recently lost out on the Kevin Durant sweepstakes when he opted to sign with the Golden State Warriors on July 4th, but now it looks like Danny Ainge is trying to acquire the other superstar player from OKC and bring him in to the current crop of C’s players, including newly signed big man Al Horford.

Oklahoma City obviously lost a huge part of their team when Durant left town and with only one year remaining on his contract, Thunder management must figure they should ship Westbrook off now and get something for him, instead of letting him enter free agency next summer where he could potentially leave for nothing.

The C’s are in prime position to deal for Westbrook because of the plethora of valuable trade-chips they have including young players like Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart, any of the six selections from this years draft, and most notably, the remaining Brooklyn Nets picks that project to be high lottery selections once again.

Adding Westbrook to this Celtics squad would make them the runaway favorites as the one team that could challenge the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, as well as an instantly more exciting team due to Westbrook’s electric, sometimes over-the-top, style of play.

One thing to keep in mind is since this will be Westbrook’s contract year, there is no guarantee he will resign next summer when his deal expires. This could affect the value of a potential trade for Westbrook in which Ainge uses this as leverage so he doesn’t have to give up as much to get him.

No matter what may happen these next few weeks, the Celtics are clearly showing they aren’t messing around this offseason and are serious about winning a title within the next few years. Although Westbrook might not put them over the top, they’ll be much closer to glory than most and will be one fun team to watch next season.

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1. Red Sox:

* The averages of the Red Sox lineup on Sunday: .303 / .305 / .331 / .334 / .299 / .333 / .271 / .324 / .453

* Jackie Bradley on pace for 17 outfield assists – Dwight Evans most ever was 15

* The two pitchers Sunday combined for 55 pitches in the first inning

* Red Sox pitchers threw first pitch strikes Sunday to 22-32 hitters

* How long before Robbie Ross gets hurt trying to catch home runs in the bullpen?

* Red Sox finished first half on a good note / bad news 44 of the remaining 75 games are on the road Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: All Star Break, 1979 Sox Triple Up, Viking Chant »

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Don Sweeney and Cam Neely won't be smiling for long if they can't sign a free agent defenseman. (Photo courtesy of sportact.net)

Since the Bruins failed to address their one glaring need of signing a capable defenseman at the start of free agency, they are left with limited options and signing an unrestricted free agent seems to be the way to go. Don Sweeney and Cam Neely must find a diamond-in-the-rough type of player in the remaining UFA group of defensemen now that big names Keith Yandle (6 years, 44 million with the Panthers), Alex Goligoski (5 years, 27 million with the Coyotes), and Jason Demers (5 years, 22.5 million with the Panthers) have already inked large deals. The B’s must bring in another blue-liner if they want any shot at a playoff spot this upcoming season so with that said, here are a few available defensemen that could fill the void on the backend and be relatively cheap options at the same time.

James Wisniewski: The 31 year old had a rough season last year after he blew out his knee just minutes into the first game, causing him to miss the remainder of the year with the Hurricanes.  Wisniewski has been injury-prone during his career but he might be the best all-around defenseman still on the open market. He’s a bit of a journeyman in his 10 year NHL career suiting up for eight different teams, yet he’s still put up decent numbers in that time. His best year came with the Blue Jackets in ’13-’14 when he recorded 51 points for Columbus. Wisniewski’s injury problems and lack of production might keep him off other teams radars for now, however look for him to be a prime candidate for a professional try-out (PTO) this fall. Given what the Bruins currently have and the likelihood that they can get him for cheap, the B’s should absolutely bring Wisniewski in just to see what he can still do.

Kris Russell: Russell has gotten a lot of flack around these parts as being the one guy the B’s should avoid, and I’m not exactly sure why. From what I can tell, his game hinges around shot-blocking and a strong first pass out of the zone, similar to newly-signed Bruin John-Michael Liles. That doesn’t sound so bad to me as I liked what JML brought to the Bruins last year after the trade deadline. However, he is criticized for his unreliable defensive play and that’s one thing that would worry me if they did bring him in. The 28 year old might not be the most polished option, but he can’t be as bad as some of the players the B’s tried last year, cough Matt Irwin cough.

Luke Schenn: The former fifth overall selection in 2008 probably won’t be looking at Boston as a future destination after spending most of his career in hockey crazed cities such as Toronto and Philadelphia, but if it turns out Schenn does enjoy the high-pressure markets, Boston might be the right place for him. He isn’t a player that’s going to wow anybody with his stats but his physical, in-your-face style of play will surely have Sweeney and Neely eyeing his services. With Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid already locked up for a few years, it would only make sense to sign Schenn if Sweeney plans on trading one of the two.  This wouldn’t be the most ideal situation for the B’s as they really don’t need another hulking defenseman, however if he is signed, I’d trust him more with the puck on his stick than I would Miller or McQuaid.

Marek Zidlicky: Zidlicky was linked to Boston a few years back as another blue-line addition, but he was ultimately traded to the Red Wings that season. The 38 year old right shot defenseman would make a lot of sense on a one year deal with the B’s since his skill-set along with his age would create a low-cost, high-reward scenario. Zidlicky isn’t the same player he once was but his game also isn’t as diminished as it could be at this point in his career. His skating ability and offensive presence would certainly help a defensive squad often seen out of position, and off the score sheet, and his overall experience could replace that of Dennis Seidenberg, who was bought out last week. Zidlicky’s veteran presence, reliable game, and low cost seems like a great fit for a Bruins team that desperately needs fresh faces on defense.

 

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Red Sox acquire reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona (Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Dave Dombrowski has been in search of bullpen help as the August trade deadline fast approaches. Last night (or early this morning) the Red Sox acquired 36 year old righty Brad Ziegler from Arizona for prospects Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe. Ziegler will immediately help to stabilize a bullpen that has been teetering on the brink of implosion for months. Koji Uehara, while certainly effective at various times throughout the year, has been something of a “choose your own adventure” on the bump this season. You never know if you’re getting the dominant Koji we remember from 2013 who helped lead the Sox to a World Series title, or if you’re getting the guy we saw last night, giving up monster yabos to a less-than-stellar Rays lineup and nearly blowing a game that the Sox seemed to have in the bag. Junichi Tazawa, who has been an extremely valuable bullpen piece for the Sox over the past several seasons, has completely fallen off the rails this year. His ERA has ballooned since a solid start to the season, and he simply can no longer be relied upon in high leverage situations. Add in the fact that Carson Smith was lost earlier this year to Tommy John, and you begin to see why this move was imminent.

Ziegler will help to spell Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who has been dealing with some knee soreness in recent weeks. While Kimbrel certainly hasn’t been the dominant closer we all expected coming over from Atlanta in the offseason, he’s still the best relief pitcher on this staff by a wide margin. Dave Dombrowski didn’t bring Brad Ziegler in to take Craig Kimbrel’s job. The move is more of an “insurance policy” of sorts. Ziegler does an excellent job of pitching to contact, and he is a veteran reliever who is comfortable pitching in almost any situation. One of the biggest knocks on Kimbrel this year has been his inability to perform in non-save situations. Ziegler should help to remedy that issue, in addition to taking over the eighth inning role for Koji.

What really gets me excited about the Sox recent acquisitions is the idea that Red Sox front office is gearing up for bigger, better moves as the trade deadline draws closer. Getting a guy like Aaron Hill, who has been a terrific hitter at Fenway throughout his career (.308) to play third against lefties and give Pedroia the occasional day off at second was the first of what feels like many moves on the horizon for Dave Dombrowski and the Sox. Then Ziegler today, instantly fills another void.

In order to make the “big splashes” on the trade market, a savvy GM  first must take care of the leaks and crevices. Getting a big name pitcher the likes of Jose Fernandez of Chris Sale is of no value to the Sox if their bullpen is just going to give up the lead in the 7th or 8th. It’s now clear that the Sox are in it for the long haul, and that Dave Dombrowski has a few more tricks up his sleeve before the August 1st deadline.

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Kimbrel was selected to the 2016 ASG. Leon Halip (Getty Images)

Six Red Sox players were recently named to the All-Star team, with Dustin Pedroia currently on the outside looking in. Starting for the Red Sox in San Diego will be David Ortiz (DH), Xander Bogaerts (SS), Mookie Betts (OF), and Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF). Pitchers selected from the Red Sox include Steven Wright and Craig Kimbrel.

Five of the aforementioned names should have almost been shoo-ins. Ortiz, at 40, is hitting at an unbelievable rate. Bogaerts is clearly the best shortstop in the AL. Betts and Bradley Jr. have been impeccable in the outfield, and both are exceeding all expectations at the plate. Steven Wright’s ERA is 2.68, second in the AL.

But then there is one more name: Craig Kimbrel, who was acquired by the Red Sox for four prospects in the offseason. San Diego rightly touted him as the best closer in baseball, and at that point in time, it certainly seemed he was. When Boston brought him in, he was portrayed as a bullpen stabilizer and lock-down pitcher in the media.

When Kimbrel is called upon, who shows up on the mound might be based upon the score. From Scott Lauber (ESPN): “In save situations this season, Kimbrel has allowed nine hits and three walks in 18 2/3 innings, with 27 strikeouts and a 1.45 ERA. But in non-save situations, he has allowed 12 hits and 10 walks in 13 1/3 innings, with 21 strikeouts and a 6.75 ERA”.

These stats never shined brighter when Kimbrel faced the Rangers this week with a 3-2 Red Sox deficit. Kimbrel got zero outs, and gave up four runs, turning a potentially winnable game into an unwinnable one for the Red Sox, who are in dire need of wins.

So, is Kimbrel All-Star worthy? Is he worth the four prospects? Maybe. Some would argue that his 17 saves in 19 opportunities is respectable enough for a nod. But not many.

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1. Red Sox:

* Christian Vazquez will be captain of this team within two years

* Any fan who was still at the game in the 9th on Saturday night supporting the Red Sox down 19 runs should lose their right to drive

* Mookie Betts has the quickest hands I’ve ever seen at the plate

* Heard Jackie Bradley say the All Stars was special because of all the adversity he faced in his life – son of a major leaguer who was a stud from Little League on up – he doesn’t know what adversity is

2. Theo Epstein All Star game:

Responsible for the following players… Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Theo, Bruins Old Timers, Hull High School »

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Al Horford is coming to Boston (nbatitlechase.com)

This is what we came for baby! It’s all happening! Everything is awesome! It’s not a stretch to say that yesterday was the biggest day in the Groesbeck/Ainge/Stevens era in Boston. Danny was finally able to close that elusive big-name free agent, and Wyc was able to make good on his promise of “fireworks” that the fan base has been waiting on for what feels like centuries. Sure, $113 million over four years seems like a pretty penny, but with the money being thrown around this offseason and the huge cap increase on the horizon next season, Horford’s deal is actually somewhat of a bargain.

Horford’s game will fit seamlessly within the Brad Stevens system. He provides a much needed presence at the rim, and gives the C’s the go-to fourth quarter scoring option that they were sorely missing in last year’s playoffs. I cannot WAIT to see Isaiah and Horford running the pick and pop down the throats of the entire Eastern Conference come October.

By no means is Al Horford a perfect player, as evidence by his lackluster performance in the playoffs last season against these Celtics. He struggles defensively at times, particularly on the perimeter defending the pick and roll. The C’s team approach to defense should help to conceal some of Horford’s defensive deficiencies over the course of the season.

Hot damn, the Celtics are officially back. They finally landed a big name free-agent for the first time in the history of the franchise, (Go ahead look it up, I’ll wait) and they got a guy who WANTS to play in Boston. KD or not, this signing was a huge step in the right direction for this franchise. If TB12, Big Papi, and Julian Edleman have anything to do with it, Kevin Durant will be donning Celtic green next season in the city of champions. What a time to be a Celtics fan. What a time to be alive.

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