Saturday, February 06, 2016

Time For Ainge To Make "The Move"

The Boston Celtics woke up this morning tied for the third seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to a recent stretch in which they've won 8 of their last 10 games including last night's 104-103 win in Cleveland.

Stocked with young players and enough draft picks to make Bernie Sanders think it's time for the government to start taxing such assets, Danny Ainge not only has built a playoff team but also has the capital to significantly upgrade his team into a contender for the NBA Finals.

Rumors have been swirling around Blake Griffin of the Clippers, who is recovering from a broken hand suffered when he got into a fight with a team employee, and Al Horford of the Hawks, who is going to be a free agent at the end of the season.

Armed with multiple first round picks and cheap young talent, now is the time for Ainge to capitalize and make the Celtics a legitimate threat to the Cavaliers in the East.

With the Clippers sinking in the West - they are currently fourth but will likely fall lower with Griffin out - and the Hawks possibly looking to cash in on Horford, Ainge can manipulate a move to help Los Angeles and Atlanta reboot while making his own team a contender.

Ainge can flip David Lee's expiring contract to the Clippers along with Jared Sullinger and James Young and the first round pick owed to Boston from the Mavericks while also sending Terry Rozier to the Hawks along with Boston's own first round pick in this year's draft.  In this three-way deal, Atlanta will send Horford to the Celtics and Jeff Teague to the Clippers while L.A. will move Griffin to Atlanta and Paul Pierce back to the Celtics.

The Clippers get out from Griffin and instantly become a factor in free agency this summer while Atlanta adds a star in Griffin in exchange for Horford, who they risked losing for nothing this summer.  Both teams also add a first round draft pick.

Boston rids itself of some redundancy and adds focus to the roster for Brad Stevens to form into a contender by Spring time.

A starting five of Amir Johnson, Horford, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas with a bench of Marcus Smart, Pierce, Kelly Olynyk, and Evan Turner - with Jonas Jerebko or Tyler Zeller as additional big man depth - is enough to get to the Eastern Conference Finals this year and possibly win the Conference.  With Ainge holding on to the unprotected first round pick from the Nets in this deal, the team is also set up to add a potential impact player via the Draft in June and would be the lead candidate to sign Horford, who would be in position to compete for championships in Boston.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Broncos Take AFC Title

I'm too frustrated to put my thoughts into coherent sentences.  But here's what I have for you this morning.

***

The Broncos defense was nothing short of amazing.  As good as any defense I've seen the Patriots go up against in a playoff game, including that of the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.  Wade Philip's gang pressured Brady and blanketed his receivers at a championship level.

Tom Brady's struggles look to be solely related to his offensive line being, sorry for the pun, offensive but that takes away from the job completed by Denver's defense.  Anyone who thinks Super Bowl 50 is going to be a rout best watch the film from yesterday.  I'm not sure Denver will beat the Panthers but their defense will keep them in the game unlike when they were humiliated by the Panthers two years ago.

***

Peyton Manning gets one more crack at a second Super Bowl.  While his role in the offense has changed from play maker to game manager, he's still vital to the Broncos chances.  If he can orchestrate a few scoring drives early in the game, Denver has a chance.  On the other hand, if he gets pressured by the Carolina defensive line and is sliding to avoid sack after sack, the Broncos are in deep trouble.

***

Finally, I'm not going to play the "what if" game with this team.  I grew up as a Patriots fan who could not count on watching home games because they rarely sold out home games.  Who could blame the fans of a quarter century ago?  The ownership and management were bad and they consistently put out a bad product.

The 22 years of the Kraft Family's ownership, and especially the 16 years with Bill Belichick making the football decisions, have been fabulous.  I've watched them play in seven Super Bowls since 1996, winning four.  They've been to eleven AFC Championship Games in that same time frame.

Sure, it's frustrating to watch your team lose on the big stage but please, have some perspective Patriots fans.  A fan of the Browns, Lions, or Jaguars would love to even be in a Conference Championship Game, let alone the ten that Brady and Belichick have gone to since the 2001 season. Enjoy every moment of this historic run because, sadly, it's going to end in the not to distant future.

They were close.  Really close.  But they've also been really close to losing in the championships that they have won.  Football can be a crazy game, 60 minutes of violent hits and execution of game plans often comes down to a weird bounce or a few inches and that's what makes it such a wonderful game to follow.



Take a few days.  Maybe even skip the Super Bowl.  Then get ready to follow the offseason moves, the offseason workouts, the preseason, and (hopefully) another season with the Patriots being one of a small handful of teams that has a real shot at winning the Lombardi Trophy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Conference Championship Game Picks

All picks against the spread and home team in CAPS.

AFC

Patriots (-3) over BRONCOS

Thoughts:

The hype for Brady-Manning XVII is understandable but the real match-ups are the Patriots offensive line against the Broncos pass rush and the Patriots receivers against the Broncos secondary.  If the Patriots receivers are able to get open quickly, Brady will be able to get rid of the ball quickly which will in turn negate the Broncos pass rush and keep the pressure off of Brady.

The Patriots defense should match-up well with the Broncos.  Stopping the run early will be critical in order to put pressure on Manning to come up with a big game, which I'm not really convinced that he's capable of at this point.  Dont'a Hightower needs to have a big game to shut down C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.

Manning is not a cold weather quarterback and although it's expected to be in the low 40's at kickoff, it is also expected to drop into the low 30's as the day moves along.  Something to keep an eye on.

The X-Factor for the Patriots offense might be James White.  He's been under the radar the last few weeks but if Denver loads up on stopping Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski than the second-year back from Wisconsin could be a clone of what Shane Vereen was in Super Bowl XLIX last February, giving Brady a quick receiver out of the backfield.

Final score?  30-16 Pats.

NFC

Cardinals (+3.5) over PANTHERS

Thoughts:

Cam Newton might be due for a bad game but I don't think it happens at home in a Conference Championship Game.  Love him or hate him, you must respect what Newton has accomplished in leading the Panthers - go ahead, name his two starting wide receivers - to a 15-1 regular season record and a spot in the NFC Title Game.

The snow that's going to blanket Charlotte on Saturday is expected to blow over by Sunday but it will still make the ground muddy, which is probably not the recipe for success for Arizona's passing game.  The conditions should favor the physical Panthers rushing attack.

Final score?  21-20 Carolina.

Last Week: 1-2-1
Playoffs: 4-3-1
Regular Season: 132-118-5

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Is It Sunday Yet?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Divisional Round Playoff Picks

TheBostonInsider made you money in the regular season.  TheBostonInsider made you money on Wild Card Weekend.  TheBostonInsider will make you money this weekend.

Unlike the New England Patriots, TheBostonInsider is healthy and focused on this weekend's games. My feet, ankles, knees, and back are at 100% - or at least as close to 100% as they can be for a 34-year-old who counts eating McDonald's just once a week as a "step in the right direction" - and I haven't touched any drugs, synthetic or not, since college.

Yeah, that's right, I'm calling out the Patriots.  I know injuries are out of their control but this mess with Chandler Jones has me worried that their focus has been distracted from preparing for the Chiefs.  Bill Belichick is better than any coach in this era at getting his team to focus on what they need to do in order to win, especially in the playoffs, but I'm worried that the injuries that have decimated them for the last several weeks combined with Jones' foolishness could provide the perfect storm for Andy Reid's team, winners of 11 straight games and armed with a defense that could attack Tom Brady, to go in to Foxboro and upset the Patriots.

Anyways, here are the picks.  All picks are against the spread and home team is in CAPS.

Chiefs (+5.5) over PATRIOTS
CARDINALS (-7) over Packers
PANTHERS (-1) over Seahawks
BRONCOS (-7) over Steelers

Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs: 3-1
Regular Season: 132-118-5