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Danny Ainge Just Screwed Up Big Time

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The NBA just saw its most one-sided trade since Danny Ainge sold one year of Paul Pierce and two years of Kevin Garnett into three top 5 picks, essentially.  The Celtics had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of this one, as well, but Danny Ainge passed for reasons that will likely remain a mystery forever.

The Sacramento Kings just traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, their 1st rounder this season, and Philly’s 2nd rounder this season.

That’s it.

New Orleans just got a 26 year old, 3x All Star for the 10th-15th pick in the draft, a good 2nd rounder, a 23 year old rookie with a 9.97 PER, a 25 year old with an 11.25 PER, and a decent player on an expiring contract.  I just have one question:

HOW THE HELL DID DANNY AINGE NOT BEAT THIS OFFER???

I’ll admit that I’ve been very high, maybe too high, on Boogie for some time now.  Like when I wrote this piece titled “Celtics should go all in for DeMarcus Cousins” 12 months ago, when I said that Celtics should offer 2 of the 3 Brooklyn picks plus Terry Rozier and some other stuff for the big man.  I also said, “The C’s will have to trade at least 1 of the Brooklyn picks without a doubt, but I’d try as I could to not trade Marcus Smart.

Turns out, the price would have been Rozier, Tyler Zeller, a 1st round pick, and either another 1st or one of the Euro guys that Danny stashed last year. (You know Vlade Divac would have loved one of the Euro big men.)

Danny Ainge has always thought in terms of assets, and he has been 100% right to do that.  That’s how he got Isaiah Thomas for a 1st and Jae Crowder and two 1st rounders for half a season of Rajon Rondo.  He HAS to know that DeMarcus Cousins is a much better asset than the pile of garbage the Pelicans sent to NorCal.

Even if DeMarcus Cousins wound up clashing with Stevens and reopening his beef with Isaiah, Ainge could have dealt him during the summer for at least 80% of the same price.  At best, you just got the final piece that takes you over the Cavs and the Warriors by 2018.  (Even with Cousins, a title in 2017 would still be very unlikely.)  At worst, you lose a little bet of your chip count that is still loaded.

I’m still thrilled to have had Danny Ainge leading the Celtics’ front office for the last handful of years, especially during this masterful rebuild.  However, the point of hoarding assets is to be ready to pounce when a superstar becomes available.  If the C’s aren’t huge fans of Boogie, then that’s totally fine.  But when the price for a top 15 player is this low, you have to do it.  Danny Ainge didn’t pull the trigger, and I’m not sure that he’ll get another shot this good for a long time.

Bill Simmons Was Never Meant for TV

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Despite the title of this column, I don’t blame Bill Simmons one bit for trying his hand at television.  When he took ESPN’s offer to work on NBA Countdown, he wanted his unique voice to reach more basketball fans, and he wanted to prove that a non-former player could hang with the cool kids who could speak from personal experience.  Simmons had (and still has) many lumps as a TV personality, but it’s not like his time on NBA Countdown was a disaster.  Well, a few moments were disasters.  This one still makes me cringe more than The Situation at the Roast of Donald Trump.

Simmons’ departure from ESPN in 2015 meant that two things would happen:  One, he’d continue to take shots at ESPN like a salty ex-girlfriend for months and months.  Two, Simmons had his own show on HBO after getting paid a boatload of money, reportedly between $7 and $9 million per year.

Now that Any Given Wednesday has been canceled, it’s safe to say that HBO overpaid for the man who has consistently (and fairly) criticized NBA general managers for dishing out horrible contracts.  Simmons will still have value to HBO sports going forward, but now Simmons’ best case scenario is that he and his contract become Rashard Lewis almost a decade ago, whose contract was rightfully panned by Simmons himself.  Lewis got a contract that made no sense and was a huge overpay, but he still was a valuable part of an Orlando Magic team that did well enough to make the 2009 Finals.  That’s what HBO is hoping for out of The Sports Guy right about now.

Bill Simmons’ mistake was not in taking his shot at TV.  His mistake was almost completely abandoning his writing.  Simmons seems to have forgotten where his bread is buttered.  Let me ask you this: When you think of Bill Simmons and what he does now, is the first thing that comes to your mind “sportswriter?”  For me, I now think of him as a TV guy who also runs a website.  When your fans don’t think of your best skill when they think of you, that’s a problem, and it’s a problem that Simmons created for himself.  He should have been writing last fall when he didn’t have  TV show, his own columns need to be a bigger part of The Ringer, and he should have his own section on the top heading of the website like he did with Grantland. But his writing has become an afterthought, which is where Simmons deserves the most blame.

On last week’s Any Given Wednesday, Simmons did a bit on curses in sports.  You should watch it here to know what I’m talking about, and the fact that it’s only 2.5 minutes makes up for the fact that it’s pretty bad.  Simmons listed off the four biggest remaining curses with the undertone that it’s pretty easy to get fans to buy into any curse.  Fittingly, the fourth curse that Simmons listed was actually fake.  On TV, it was horrible.  It didn’t work at all.

In writing, however, that would have been pretty funny.  Bill Simmons was masterful with those relatable stories, tangents that somehow made sense, and creative arguments that always proved his point, like the one with curses.  But his tone plays much better in writing than on TV.  His proof that curses are easy to create would have been fantastic at the end of a paragraph, but it didn’t play at the end of a TV segment.  Simmons’ still has at least 80-90% of the same smart, funny, and influential tone that he always did, but now you can’t find that tone in the medium that it actually works for.  That was his one giant mistake throughout this whole ordeal, not giving TV a shot.

Patriots 2016 Season Preview

2016 IS HERE! LET’S GO!!!!!

Ever since that damn 2 point conversion, we’ve been waiting for this day.  The Pats are back, and that void in our lives has been filled.

Let’s be honest, though.  We’re a little nervous about the 2016 season, at least compared to previous years.  With the team that New England has this year, the Pats should have an automatic top 2 seed before the season even starts.  They started out 10-0 last year, earned the #2 seed, and would have had homefield advantage throughout had it not been for injuries and a dumb decision to lay down in Week 17.  Their only real loss from the team was Chandler Jones, and Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, and co. should be able to serve as decent enough replacements for the synthetic pothead.

But this year doesn’t look too good out of the gate.  Brady is out for 4 games, and Gronk is out at least tonight.  My gut tells me that Gronk will miss at least 2 more games, because it wasn’t like it was a gametime decision for him not to play today, as we heard the news yesterday.  That makes a Week 2 comeback unlikely, and week 3 is on a Thursday night after a short week.

As far as Brady’s B.S. suspension goes, I think there’s a higher potential for disaster in Garoppolo’s first 4 starts than most Pats fans do, especially without Gronk.  Pats fans point to the fact that the team’s next 3 games after tonight’s are all at home, but they conveniently overlook the fact that the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills collectively make up a fearsome foursome of defensive lines.  Both before and after the severity of Gronk’s hamstring injury came to light, I thought that a 2-2 record through the first 4 was most likely.  Before Gronk’s injury, I thought that 3-1 was more probable than 1-3.  Now, though, 1-3 feels more likely than 3-1.

A 1-3 start would be rough for the Patriots, but not because it would put their playoff chances in doubt.  After all, I’m the guy who just wrote that it’s insane that the Pats are only -350 to make the postseason.

What should worry you, though, is the Pats’ seed in the playoffs.  They’ve never made a Super Bowl without having a 1st round bye.  They could easily make the Big Game from a 3 or 4 seed, but Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and especially Denver, as I wrote last year, represent very difficult places to play in January.

Still though, New England is the most likely AFC team to earn the top seed and make the Super Bowl.  Denver’s defense simply can’t repeat itself from last year, as elite defense is more volative year to year.  They also lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan.

Kansas City is going to be a tough, ballsy team this year, and I’m glad that the Pats don’t face them in the regular season.  But I just can’t bet on an Alex Smith team to beat a Tom Brady team to the top seed.  And let’s stop the “If Pittsburgh can get healthy” talk.  Ben Roethlisberger is always prone to missing a few games, Maurkice Pouncey is always prone to missing the whole season, and Le’Veon Bell is out for at least 3 games and maybe more if the injury big hits him again.

The Pats may stumble out of the gate thanks to Roger Goodell’s sliminess and the NFLPA allowing the NFL to run their lives during the last CBA, but this season might wind up being the opposite of 2015:  Start out slow, go on a run when Brady and Gronk are both back, and be healthy late in the year rather than early in the year.  If the Pats can earn the top seed or even the 2 seed after missing Brady for 4 games and Gronk for a few to start the season, everyone will be talking about how they’re the best team heading into the playoffs.

What else is new?

Prediction:

Garoppolo goes 2-2, but the Pats have a point differential of -15 in those 4 games, leading everyone to worry if something is truly wrong with the Pats.  Brady and Gronk come back and right the ship, and the Pats have decent injury luck throughout the rest of the year.  They finish 12-4 and earn the top seed because the AFC doesn’t have many elite teams.  They’ll make the Super Bowl and face the Packers in a Brady-Rodgers showdown, and ultimately Brady will come out on top.  

It’s not biased if they truly are the best team.  Can you honestly tell me anyone else is better?  God, it’s good to live in New England.

We’re Back

Life sucks sometimes.  Actually, pretty much all the time.  I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to post for a full 2 months, and I apologize for that.  The good news is that the 2 months I missed featured no Boston teams in the playoffs and only the Red Sox during the regular season, and I’m back for the baseball pennant race and Pats training camp, preseason, and the regular season.

Bruins Sign Kevan Miller to 4 year, $10 million deal

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YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!

You would think that Don Sweeney learned his lesson last year after signing Adam McQuaid to a 4 year, $11 million extension and watching McQuaid fail to play 65 games for the FOURTH year in a row, but nope, Sweeney keeps shelling out cap space to guys who he could replace for half the cost.

I’m not as low on Kevan Miller as many Bruins fans.  While people around these parts feel that Miller should be riding a bus in the AHL, I’m cool with him as a 7th or mayyybe 6th defenseman on a contender.  However, under no circumstances does he deserve $2.5 million per year.  The cap is rising and $2.5 million isn’t what it was in the NHL 5 years ago, but a depth defenseman almost never gets more than $1-1.5 million per season.  Kevan Miller could be replaced with any 6th/7th defenseman off the street for about a million bucks per year, and a the Belichickian way of thinking dictates that it’d be easy for the Bruins to get 90% of the player that Miller is for 30 or 40 cents on the dollar.  But Don Sweeney is no Bill Belichick.

Sweeney obviously has his job through this summer and well into next season, but unless something drastic changes, I’ll be pissed if he has a job in Boston. on July 1, 2017.  Sure, moves like the Lucic trade or the Beleskey contract were smart, but his batting average on good moves is way too low because of stupid decisions like the McQuaid contract, giving up a 3rd round pick for Zac Rinaldo, the infamous Dougie Hamilton trade, and now the Miller contract.  Claude Julien changed his coaching style during the season in order to turn the Bruins into a more offensive team this year, and he almost got the B’s to the playoffs.  Don Sweeney is trying to make sure that the Bruins are consistently the 9th seed in the East.

 

Trade Deadline: Final Predictions

We’re about a half hour from the deadline, which means that we’re probably about 90 minutes from the final announcements of trades.  The Celtics haven’t done anything yet, but Trader Danny pulled off the Isaiah Thomas trade last year with 2 minutes to go, so we’re hopeful that he’ll pull the trigger again.  Around the league, there are quite a few players who were involved in a million rumors that may be moved in the next half hour.

Here are my final predictions for what happens, and I’ll be sure to let you know whether or not the trades are based off logic… or absolutely nothing at all other than my own (probably false) gut feelings.

  • Dwight Howard stays.  The Rockets are headed for a disaster with Dwight, because nobody wants him, Daryl Morey won’t pay him a 5 year deal starting at $31.3 million, and teams won’t see the value in pulling off a sign and trade for him that will necessitate them giving Dwight that same contract.  My prediction is that Dwight stays through the deadline, then bolts somewhere else in the summer on a 4 year max deal with no compensation for the Rockets.  Daryl Morey breaks down crying at the next Sloan Conference in Boston.
  • Pau Gasol goes to Sacramento, then gets massively overpaid in the offseason: Rumors last night suggested that the Bulls like Ben McLemore, the Kings like Gasol, and the Kings might even be willing to decrease the protection on the Kings’ 2016 pick that the Bulls already own.  If that happens, then it’s a done deal.  The Bulls have had a disappointing season, but getting a pick that’s basically guaranteed to be in the 8-12 range is a huge pick-me-up, especially for a UFA.  The Kings keep their pick if it’s in the top 10, but if that was changed to 7 or 8 — plus the addition of McLemore in the deal — then there’s no way that the Bulls say no.
  • Horford stays, Teague goes to New York: The Hawks love Al Horford and were clearly hoping that some team would overpay for Horford in a trade.  But just like with Howard, teams don’t wanna pay Horford the full 5 year deal, even if the max is slightly cheaper than Howard’s next deal.  If you’re the Hawks and you can barely get any good players, why not keep one of the few great players that you’ve ever had and hope to get lucky next year?  As for Teague, I have no idea what the Knicks have to offer, but I think they’re gonna sell every asset they have other than Carmelo and Porzingis.  They’ll be happy to sell their future for a point guard.  They’re the Knicks, after all.
  • Celtics get Kevin Love: This one is totally baseless, but Danny Ainge is high on Love.  My complete guess is centered around the fact that Love isn’t working in Cleveland, and we know that Danny Ainge has been high on Love forever.  There would definitely be a 3 team trade involved here.  Wouldn’t it make complete sense for Danny Ainge to strike a deal on the one guy who everybody assumed he had already passed on, instead of the guys that we keep hearing rumors about?  That would be the most Trader Danny thing ever.

Celtics Narrowly Miss Out on Perfect Night of NBA Basketball

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You know how you know if you care way too much about your sports teams like I do?  It’s when you’re actively rooting hard for every game that has even a .0001% chance of significantly affecting your team.

That’s how I felt tonight as the Celtics faced off against the Suns.  Around the NBA, there were 7 games that could affect the Celtics from a seeding or draft pick stand point, and there were only 9 games on the NBA’s Friday Night slate.  The Celtics narrowly missed going 7 for 7 in these games, which would have been an awesome night… if anyone other than me noticed something as ridiculous as this.

First, we have the 2 most obvious games: The Celtics game and the Nets game.  The C’s won easily against the Eric Bledsoe-less Phoenix Suns, who are almost as bad of a team right now as Robert Sarver is as an NBA owner.  (MILLENNIALS SUCK!!!)  The Nets faced off against Portland in Brooklyn, and this has been the kind of game that the Nets have been stealing ever since their horrible 0-7 start.  Luckily, the Trail Blazers handled their business and pulled away in the 4th quarter.

Then, we have the games that only a maniac like me would care about.  The Wizards mopped the floor with the Pacers, which is good because the Celtics are below the Pacers and above the Wizards in the standings.  I’ll trust that the C’s stay ahead of the Wiz in the standings as long as Boston doesn’t revert to the horrible 7 game stretch that we just saw and as long as the Wizards don’t turn into that fearsome Paul Pierce-led team from last spring.  It was better for the Pacers to lose that game simply because they’re higher in the standings right now, and also because the Wiz play the C’s tomorrow, so maybe they’ll be a little too cocky after a 14 point win on the road?  Yes, I know I’m reaching.  Told you I’m a maniac.

Next, the Bucks beat the Hawks in overtime, and this one is a little more clearly in favor of the Celtics.  Milwaukee doesn’t have a realistic shot at catching Boston, but the Hawks and Celtics could duke it out for playoff seeding down the line.  Thanks to the Greek Freak for posting the incredible stat line of 50 minutes, 28 points on 10-18 shooting, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Now, here’s the one that seems ridiculous but is actually a huge deal.  The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Hornets by 2 thanks to future-Celtics-trade-deadline-acquisition Ryan Anderson’s 32 points off the bench.  Why does this matter?  It’s not because the Hornets are in the East and have an outside chance at being in a seeding battle with the C’s.  It’s because it was the Pelicans’ 13th win on the season, and the Nets have 11.  It’s imperative that the Nets finish with the 2nd or 3rd worst record in the league, and it helps a ton when the Pelicans win.

Now, here were the pair of narrow misses for the Celtics.  First, the Mavericks beat the Bulls in Chicago, which wasn’t a huge surprise because the inconsistent Bulls barely won in overtime last night.  But the Bulls were winning in the 1st half of the game, and the contest was tied at one point in the 4th quarter.  The Mavs only won by 6 in an ugly game because both teams played last night, and it could have gone either way.  Too bad the Mavs couldn’t drop this one and improve the C’s draft pick ever so slightly.

Finally, the Denver Nuggets collapsed against the Miami Heat after having a big lead in the 1st half.  The Heat won by 3, and they were up 2 when Danilo Gallinari missed a 3 pointer with under 10 seconds to play.  If that falls, then one of Boston’s chief opponents in the Eastern Conference standings would have lost in an upset.

All in all, I’ll still take tonight, because the Nets losing and the Pelicans winning (not to mention the Celtics winning, of course) is a huge deal for the C’s draft pick, whether or not anyone realizes it.  But the C’s were very close to a perfect 7-for-7 sweep in tonight’s NBA action.  You’re welcome for being insane enough to realize that.

NFC Wild Card: Packers-Redskins Preview & Picks

Since the Vikings beat the Packers in Week 17 to decide the NFC matchups, this is the one game that I haven’t been able to get a feel for whatsoever.  The line has been hovering between either team favored by up to 2 points depending on where you check, because nobody else has a feel for this game, either.

These two teams are going in opposite directions, but you already knew that.  Green Bay is 10th in total DVOA and 19th in weighted DVOA, while Washington’s rankings are 15th and 12th, respectively.

Here’s the one bit of analysis that you probably haven’t heard enough about, though.  The Redskins have a weak pass defense.  They’re 19th overall in pass defense DVOA, and they’re 25th in run defense.  The Packers without Jordy Nelson will struggle against any strong defense, but the Redskins aren’t very strong. Meanwhile, the Packers (somehow) clock in at the 6th best pass defense in the league, and that will help them greatly against a Kirk Cousins passing offense that has surprisingly become potent.

The fact that people are picking the Redskins seems a little bit too trendy.  They’re forgetting that Aaron Rodgers is a damn good QB who can win any game by himself, especially if the opposing defense isn’t great.  People are forgetting that the Redskins didn’t beat a single team as good as the Packers, and they’re forgetting that the Redskins played in the NFC East.

I’ll take the Packers +1 or whatever the spread is now, and I’ll obviously take them straight up as well.

NFC Wild Card: Seahawks-Vikings Preview

(Wait, ref, you mean we’re allowed to run something other than a slant route on the goal line?  Wish I had known that earlier.)

As much as I’ve used Football Outsiders’ rankings for the past 2 picks, they’re largely useless here.  The temperature can’t decide whether it wants to be positive or negative, but either way it’s close enough to change the outcome of the game entirely.

With those rankings, Seattle is 2nd on offense, 4th on defense, and 3rd on special teams.  But Marshawn Lynch is out and I doubt that the suddenly potent Seattle passing game will be at 100% when nobody can completely feel their hands.

Minnesota is 16th on offense, 14th on defense, and 4th on special teams.  The special teams for either team don’t mean much, as the field goals won’t go as far, the kicking coverage won’t hit as hard in the cold, and the punts are gonna be a little more duck-ish.

Ultimately, I’m taking the Seahawks to win the game, because a game in this kind of weather is about avoiding mistakes, and the Seahawks are simply the better team.  If they can at least contain Adrian Peterson, I don’t see Teddy Bridgewater beating the Legion of Boom in these temperatures.  Against the spread of SEA -4.5, I’m still going with the Seahawks, although that feels like too much of a coin flip.  When in doubt, ride with the better team.

Packers-Redskins preview to come after this game.

AFC Wild Card: Steelers-Bengals Preview & Picks

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NFL badly need this game to knock one out of the park, but I think it’s a safe bet that it will.  The storylines tonight when Pittsburgh goes to Cincinnati are abundant: Division rivals, PIT offense vs. CIN defense, A.J. McCarron, whether the Steelers D is legitimate, and how this game determines playoff matchups next week.

Let me say that as a Pats fan, I’d rather have the Pats face the Chiefs if Jeremy Maclin is out.  Travis Kelce worries me a little big against the Pats, but the offense as a whole would be way too weak to do significant damage against the Pats D if Maclin is out.

For that reason, we should probably root for the Steelers.  If the Pats can shut down the Chiefs sans Maclin, then so can the Broncos.  Their awesome secondary and pass rushers would smother a mediocre defense without its biggest threat.

As for the pick on Steelers-Bengals, I feel way more confident about my spread pick than I do about the straight up pick.  The Steelers are favored by 3, and that’s too much, so I’ll take Bengals +3.  PIT -2.5 would make me hesitate, but if a Steelers win by a field goal is a push and not a loss, I’m going the other way.

For the actual game, I’ll narrowly pick the Bengals.  Cincy’s Football Outsiders rankings are 1st offensively, 10th defensively, and 9th special teams.  Their defense can at least contain the Steelers without DeAngelo Williams, and their offensive weapons will be enough to take advantage of the weak Pittsburgh secondary.  The Steelers come in at 7th overall as opposed to the Bengals at #2, and Pittsburgh’s offense is 3rd, defense is 11th, and special teams are 18th.  As much as I love FO’s DVOA stats, i don’t buy the one about the Steelers’ defense.

Ultimately, I have enough faith in A.J. McCarron to get the job ton with the fearsome team around him, and a good home team as an underdog is too good to pass up.  Since the Wild Card Round started, home teams are 12-8 straight up and 13-7 against the spread, which explains why I’m taking the Bengals against the spread and straight up.  The public overrates Pitssburgh and underrates Cincinnati a little too much.  But if Jeremy Maclin is out, which seems likely, then I’ll be rooting for the Steelers.