Friday, April 18, 2008

You find out who your friends are

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Wonder if Pistons fans are aware that Kevin Garnett's good buddy Chauncey Billups advised him, when KG was uncertain if Boston was the right fit, that accepting a deal here would be a wise career move, in part because it would be "easier to win." You have to give Billups credit for being a loyal friend, though should the Celtics bounce the Pistons from the postseason, I wouldn't blame Detroit fans for questioning his loyalty to them.

2. Sure, I admit it. I've hopped aboard the Bruins' playoff bandwagon much in the same way noted college hoops aficionado Bill Simmons suddenly thinks he's some sage combination of Jay Bilas and Pat Forde every March. So take my opinion on this with a whole shaker of salt, but from my mildly informed perspective, it seems like Claude Julien has handled his team brilliantly in this series. Consider: After a gruesome Game 1, he decides his team's only chance of making this a series is to emphasize smart aggression and discipline, so he sits talented softie Phil Kessel. That strategy works for the most part and the Bruins scrap to make it a series, yet they struggle to put the puck in the net, so Julien brings back a clearly motivated Kessel for Game 5. Not only does Kessel (who looks like a young Gary Busey) score a goal, but he tries to do all the little things that he usually avoids. Pretty astute coaching and knowledge of your personnel, I'd say.

3. One more Bruins item: Got a kick out of watching the Montreal "faithful" stream out of Le Ribbit Centre Thursday night after the Bruins took a two-goal lead with about 10 minutes remaining. Who knew those little towels they like to wave were actually white flags? In that sense, the Canadiens fans reminded me quite a bit of Yankees fans, except with a much better command of English.

4. Just can't imagine the Falcons will spend that No. 3 overall pick on BC quarterback Matt Ryan. They've already had Joey Harrington once.

5. Manny's turning Mike Mussina into his personal batting-practice pitcher while crushing the ball like he's 28 again. Papi's hitting like he's possessed by the ghost of Calvin Pickering (until last night, thank goodness). And strangely enough, both developments have left me with the same thought: Man, we've been so lucky to watch these two phenomenal hitters do their thing all these years. Savor it while it lasts, because, damn, is it ever going to be a bummer when it ends.

6. Having seen him quite a few times for the Sea Dogs last season, I can say with confidence that defensively, Jed Lowrie will never be an everyday major league shortstop. His range is Jeterian, and his arm isn't all that accurate. But the kid's going to be a good hitter for a middle infielder - it wouldn't shock me if he duplicated Mark Loretta's career - and it is barely an exaggeration to say he's helped the Sox more in his first week here than shortstop incumbent Julio Lugo has in a year-plus.

7. Though you, me, Todd McShay, and especially Mel Kiper have no idea what they are going to do, the hunch here is that the Patriots will spend the No. 7 pick on one of the recent graduates of Jacked And Pumped University - linebacker Keith Rivers or defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis. I just can't see them taking a cornerback in that spot. (And with that said, watch, they'll take a cornerback in that spot.)

8. Of all the wonderful developments with the Celtics this season, one of the most satisfying is the emergence of Leon Powe as a tough, reliable, and remarkably efficient force off the bench. My only question is this: What took so long, Doc? I never understood why Powe couldn't get significant minutes on last season's flame-engulfed zeppelin of a basketball team.

9. I don't think I laughed more than once or twice during the first 20 minutes of "The Office" Thursday, and I have to admit, I caught myself wondering whether this uneven fourth season is a sign that the show has lost its way, that it would never be as hilarious and heartwarming as it was in its outstanding second and third seasons. But damned if the writers didn't redeem themselves entirely in the final 10 minutes. Not only was the Jim/Pam twist brilliant in that it restored the pleasant tension that has been missing since they got together, but it was also nice to see Kevin step out of his usual role as a caricature. Consider my faith restored that this show will find greatness again by season's end.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:



This is easily my favorite Onion item since . . . well, since the last column by Jim Anchower, probably. The strange thing is, Williams actually looked like he was encased in cement his last few seasons in center field.

* * *

Just a quick note to let you know I'll be loading all the Random Baseball Cards and other silly trinkets into the U-Haul and heading over to Boston.com for good this Tuesday. Yep, the move is officially official, officially. I'll post a link here that will point you toward TATB's new home, and of course I hope all of you will check out the new neighborhood. - CF

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