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2021 Patriots Positional Preview: Running Backs

Patriots Positional Preview: Quarterbacks

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Red Sox Notes: Alex Cora Slaps Significant Label On Alex Verdugo

‘There’s a reason he’s hitting second’

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Alex Verdugo often can be overlooked as fans and media members alike fawn over the Red Sox offense.

This isn’t necessarily a slight of Verdugo. J.D. Martinez still is among the game’s best sluggers and Rafael Devers is on his way to becoming one of baseball’s most feared bats. Xander Bogaerts is, well, Xander Bogaerts.

But as Alex Cora explained after Friday’s walk-off win, Verdugo can do it all at the dish.

Verdugo’s latest thing of beauty with the bat: a game-winning knock plastered off the Green Monster that gave Boston a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The heroics prompted Cora to a shine a light on the dynamic young outfielder.

“…There’s a reason he’s hitting second,” Cora said on a video conference after the game. “He’s probably the most complete hitter that we have. He can go the other way, he can hit for average, he can hit for power, he works the counts, you know? That’s the reason he’s hitting second.”

Cora continued: “…I’m very impressed for young he is, the way he controls his at-bats. He goes to the dugout and he’s upset about certain things, but then he slows it down and goes to battle. In left field today he was great. He made some good throws. He played the wall perfectly. Like I said before, this kid — he’s a good one. We got a good one. We just got to keep working with him.”

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Why Boston Is The Greatest Sports City On The Planet

Located in the heart of New England, Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. They’re not only known for their rich history, but it’s also their much respected sports teams. Boston has four of the best teams in their respective sports: the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, and the Boston Celtics.

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Located in the heart of New England, Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. They’re not only known for their rich history, but it’s also their much respected sports teams. Boston has four of the best teams in their respective sports: the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, and the Boston Celtics.

All of whom are arguably the best at what they do when it comes to both championships, and respect from the rest of the country. Are they the greatest sports city in America? There are valid points and arguments you can make for this case.

There are specifically three points I’d like to go over and review.

3. The Fanbase

Beantown has some of the most die-hard fans when it comes to their sports teams, that you will find anywhere. These men and women take heavy pride in their rich sports history with all of the championships and influences that their teams have  brought to their respective sports.

Their attendance at sporting events is something unheard of, as you will almost never see a low crowd count at any event. These fans will do anything and everything in their power to show their teams that they support them, and will do anything for them to win yet another championship.

2. Influence Around The Country

From Tom Brady to Bobby Orr, Boston provides some of the greatest athletes and figures in the history of the sports. The players of the teams take as much pride in their city as the fans do. When ‘Big Papi’ David Ortiz said after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, “This is our F***ing city!”, it provided a mass amount of support, and even began the trend of “#BostonStrong”.

The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series for the third time of the new millennium, but this isn’t all about the Red Sox. The New England Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI after the national tragedy that was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was obviously a very important championship, as the whole nation watched the (ironically named) Patriots win as the highly doubted underdog over the St. Louis Rams.

Both of these championship runs not only showed great pride in their city, but their country as well. As athletes, Tom Brady is a 5x Super Bowl champion and is argued to be the greatest NFL QB of all-time.

David Ortiz is one of the most notorious hitters of all-time, and often gained respect from opponents, based on his power alone.

Larry Bird is again one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, as his outstanding leadership and shooting ability is respected around the whole NBA, as he even made it on the 1992 U.S. Olympics team, which was also known as “The Dream Team”.

Bobby Orr is arguably the best hockey player to ever set foot on the ice, and is a icon in the history of the sport. Not to mention, he was also a icon off the ice, as he opened his house to help people with illness and addiction.

1. The Championship Count 

5 Super Bowls, 7 World Series, 6 Stanley Cups, and 17 NBA Finals Banners. These are the things that makes Boston sports respected. Few cities across the country can say they have what Boston does. They are consistent winners, most recently being the New England Patriots, as they won Super Bowl 51 in a comeback fashion.

The Red Sox won it for the city in 2013, after what was mentioned before with the Boston Marathon bombings. The Bruins won it in 2011, ending a fourty-year drought. The Celtics winning seventeen is impressive as it is, but winning 9/10 in the decade of the 1960’s is unheard of.

The consistency is key in Boston, and somehow they are always in the running for another national title. They have some of the greatest franchises in history when it comes to winning.

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Boston Celtics: What point guards should Cs target this off-season?

Boston Celtics are likely to part ways with their former All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. After his chronic knee injury cost them multiple wins this season to move up in the Eastern Conference standings, on top of him showing he just does not fit behind two scoring wings, it was to be expected Walker would be on the move this off-season. With that said, Walker is likely to net in return Al Horford from the Thunder which begs the question, who will replace Kemba?

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Boston Celtics are likely to part ways with their former All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. After his chronic knee injury cost them multiple wins this season to move up in the Eastern Conference standings, on top of him showing he just does not fit behind two scoring wings, it was to be expected Walker would be on the move this off-season. With that said, Walker is likely to net in return Al Horford from the Thunder which begs the question, who will replace Kemba?

In this article, I am going to throw out a multitude of names that could be suitors to take up the reigns of starting point guard on the Celtics, but I am also going to rule out a few popular suggestions. Let’s get started with who the Cs should target.

Mike Conley is the absolute best-case scenario for the Celtics if Kemba Walker is dealt and they do not net a point guard in return. After having one of the worst seasons of his career, Conley bounced back and returned to what the Jazz traded for.

He averaged 16 points and 6 assists with just 1.9 turnovers per game. Conley was tremendous off the ball as a shooter, hitting 40.6% of his 128 catch and shoot threes. He was one of the best facilitators in the league and was masterful in pick and roll with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, ranking 85th percentile as a pick and roll ball handler.

Even at 6’1, he is a positive defender that excels at navigating screens and making plays off the ball with his quick hands. At 33 years old and starting to pick up more and more injuries, it’s unlikely Conley receives max money in free agency but it will cost a significant amount to retain him. If the Boston Celtics were to get a meeting with Conley and his camp, I would expect Stevens to offer him a 2 year $50 million deal.

However, it’s unlikely the Celtics free up this kind of space, and even more unlikely Conley sets up meetings, seeing as he is likely to return to the Jazz.

Patty Mills should be at the top of the Boston Celtics’ list of priorities in free agency. He’s one of the most realistic free agents on the market for the Cs and he offers exactly what the Celtics need. He’s been in the league for 11 years now and has made a name for himself as one of the best shooting and off-ball point guards in the league.

He has one of the fastest triggers in the league and is an expert at moving between screens and coming off of pin downs with speed and balance. He’s not the passer the Celtics could hope for, but his movement off the ball and ball handling would be of great use to the Celtics’ stagnant offense. He’s 32 and is currently making around $12 million.

I estimate the Boston Celtics could offer him around 2 years $16 million and he would take it. They’d be using the full MLE but it would be well worth it seeing as they’d be bolstering their depth as well as bringing in some much-needed shooting.

The last option to take Walker’s place as the Celtics point guard is Lonzo Ball, but there’s a reason he’s last. Ball would bring some much-needed passing to the C’s backcourt while also providing some high-level defense at the guard position. He’s not undersized and he isn’t a ball-dominant scorer.

The eldest Ball brother can fling the ball all over the court and help get the Boston Celtics back to their ball movement-player movement-centric offense. He’s still got a little ways to go in terms of improving his shooting form and scoring, but with the Cs developmental staff, there is not a doubt in my mind that they couldn’t unlock his full shooting potential within a season.

However, with all that said Lonzo Ball is a restricted free agent, which means the Celtics could not just sign him outright unless they outbid everyone looking at him. And seeing as there are a lot of teams looking at him, that is extremely unlikely. The Boston Celtics would have to give up some serious assets to net Ball, on top of having to pay him more than they might like.

Reports say Ball is looking for a deal in the neighborhood of $20 million for multiple seasons. Being a former #2 overall pick who’s shown tons of promise his past three seasons, this price tag is understandable but it makes the chances of the Cs landing him extremely slim.

Not only would they have to find a way to come up with that kind of cap space, but they would also forfeit their chances of bringing back Marcus Smart the next off-season since he is likely to pursue the same deal. As palatable as a Smart and Ball backcourt may sound, it’s not nearly worth paying $40 million for. The only way I see the Cs moving for Ball is if they move Smart in another deal to net a star, which as I have said before, is unlikely.

Heading off the list of who the Boston Celtics should not target is Dennis Schroder. Much like Lonzo Ball, Schroder will be looking to secure a multi-year $20 million bag this off-season which the Celtics should not even consider paying. He’s one of the best bench creators in the league that can shoot and finish at the rim as well as defends his position at a high level.

However, he is not the passer that the Celtics need and his skill set is not what the Cs are missing. There is more than enough creation to go around between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Schroder will more than likely stunt their offense or his own if he was to come to Bean Town.

The second biggest no-no amongst point guards hitting free agency this off-season is Elfrid Payton. He has been a punching bag for Knicks fans all season and for good reason. He is not only a bad scorer but a detrimental one that ruins the flow of the offense.

He would bring the passing that Boston covets and his defense would be a plus but both pale in comparison to how bad of a scorer he is. The Boston Celtics want to be a competitive playoff team, to do that they’ll need guys that can be respected in the halfcourt come playoff time. Payton is not one of those guys.

He is a poor shooter, hitting just 28.6% of his 3s and shooting 37% from midrange as well as being one of the worst finishing guards in the league, shooting 56% at the rim. Teams will lay off Payton in favor of guarding Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum which will create a rift in the half-court that Payton won’t be able to bridge. He is not the guard the Cs want leading their offense.

There is a multitude of other options out there, but these are the guys I expect Boston to be in the mix for and the guys that I expect they will look to avoid. Mike Conley will likely stay in Utah and Lonzo Ball will likely end up in a place that can afford him, which leaves Patty Mills as the most realistic candidate to replace Kemba Walker.

Underwhelming? Yes, but take that statement with a grain of salt. Patty Mills won’t be replacing Kemba Walker in a literal sense; that would be Marcus Smart. Rather, Mills will come off the bench and play a similar role Payton Pritchard played last season. Don’t worry, Pritchard is not going to be cut from the rotation as he and Mills will continue to alternate between point guard and shooting guard like the Celtics did this season with Walker, Smart, and Pritchard.

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