With the focus of the Boston sports scene centered on the Celtics and Red Sox, some important Patriots news has flown under the radar.
Most importantly, Matt Light retired. Light was a constant at left tackle for the Pats and he did an excellent job of protecting Tom Brady's blindside from the moment he was drafted in 2001.
The Patriots made the wise choice to trade up ahead of the Jets - who also liked Light - and take the Purdue product. Light might not have been the best tackle in the NFL but he was a leader of a franchise - on and off the field - that played in five Super Bowls and won three Lombardi Trophies during his career. He will be missed.
The Patriots also announced their coaching staff for the 2012 season. The most surprising news was the promotion of Matt Patricia to defensive coordinator, a position that has not been held since Dean Pees left after the 2009 season. This move, along with having Josh McDaniels back into the fold as offensive coordinator, takes a lot of responsibility off of Bill Belichick, who will now have the opportunity to focus on whatever areas he feels need to be addressed during the season instead of creating the game plan for the defense.
The Celtics are a legitimate threat to win the NBA championship thanks to a total team effort.
Paul Pierce (MCL sprain) and Ray Allen (bone spurs in his ankle), the teams two most reliable scorers, have not been 100% so the scoring load has been shared by Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
Garnett is playing his best two-way basketball as a Celtic. During the 2008 championship season Garnett scored but he focused most of his effort on defense and rebounding while leaving Pierce and Allen to be the primary scorers. A knee injury ended his season in 2009 and slowed him down through 2010. Garnett also seemed to defer to Pierce and Allen a year ago but this year has been different, especially since the All-Star Game. Now playing center, Garnett is looking for his offense, either catching and shooting his jump shot or by establishing position in the low post and going to the basket.
Rondo is also playing great basketball. He is turning the ball over a little more than usual (he had 7 in the Celtics win over the 76ers on Saturday) but that is mostly due to having to explore different scoring options with Pierce and Allen being banged up. He is playing well on both ends and even showed off an improved jump shot in the fourth quarter of the win over Philadelphia.
The Celtics have also benefited from the emergence of Avery Bradley as a two-way star. Bradley's defense is elite but the development of his three-point shot and his knack for cutting into open areas for lay-ups has brought some much needed offense to the C's.
The role players have also been a positive for Doc Rivers. Big men Greg Steimsma and Ryan Hollins bring a lot of energy and help out defensively and on the boards. Brandon Bass, who starts at forward, hasn't been knocking down his jumper like he did in the regular season but has been a reliable contributor all year. Michael Pietrus is another player the Celtics have received positive contributions from all year and although he has struggled with his shot in the playoffs (as well as a nagging hamstring injury) his defense on the perimeter is valuable. Keyon Dooling has given them solid minutes at guard and even Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels have shown a pulse when called into duty.
All this depth allows Doc to steal some rest for his veteran stars and also gives him flexibility with his rotations. The Celtics have enough size to play with big teams but they also have enough depth on the wing to go small for long stretches with Pierce and Allen at forward, Rondo and Bradley at guard, and Garnett at center. That kind of flexibility led the C's to a title in 2008 and it could do so again in 2012.
The Celtics will beat Philly and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in five years.
The road to the NBA Finals through the East may have gotten a little easier yesterday. Chris Bosh - the fraction in Miami's "Two and a Half Men" - is out indefinitely with an abdominal strain. Bosh has been criticized a lot during his two years with the Heat but he is the only big man on their roster who is taken seriously by opponents. His absence could lead to an early exit for the Heat as they are going up against a big Pacers team who should be able to take advantage of Bosh's injury by utilizing David West and Roy Hibbert inside.
So much for my prediction of Grizzlies-Knicks in the Finals.
Not a bad time to be a sports fan in Los Angeles with the Lakers and Clippers advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals and the Kings in the Western Conference Finals.
Enjoy KG tonight.