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Mike Shalin's Working Press -- Celts-Cavs: It's time to bring it on

By MIKE SHALIN
October 16. 2017 10:14PM

Oct 6, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives toward the net during the third quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics won the game 110-102. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports 

“I don’t think they really pose a big threat to us.”

The words came from old pal J.R. Smith on Monday when he was asked about the Boston Celtics.

The Celts and Cavaliers, who made a whopper of a trade during the offseason, get after it for real tonight in Cleveland. When it comes to these two teams, especially after the trade, we mean for REAL.

Isaiah Thomas won’t be playing. LeBron James has an ankle problem that makes him questionable for the opener (Smith vows James will play and we tend to agree with him).

There will be a video tribute to Kyrie Irving, who is likely to hear it from his old home crowd and plays down the return with the words, “Man, it’s just hoops.”

Jae Crowder … remember him? He’s ready to start his new life, and starts it by guarding Gordon Hayward.

“I’m over it. I’ve moved on,” Crowder said Sunday. “I’m with a great group of guys right here who have worked very, very hard each day we’ve been at practice. It’s been fun to be around. Of course, at the time I was shocked, but now that I’ve moved on, I’m not.”

The storylines for this one are bursting at the seams. Marcus Morris, one of the thousands of new Celtics on the rebuilt roster, won’t play because of a knee injury, thus elevating top draft pick Jayson Tatum into the starting lineup.

The Celtics fly right out of Cleveland and come home for Wednesday night’s home opener against the Bucks, who can watch Tuesday night’s game from their Boston hotel rooms.

Mark this down: The Celtics are good. But it appears you can also count on some growing pains as the players learn each other. That’s Brad Stevens’ biggest task as he gets these guys primed for another run at the Eastern Conference finals.

Irving will lead the way.

He knows the atmosphere will be crazy in Cleveland but says, “I’ve been in Game 7 in San Francisco and playing in a high-intense environment. There is no blocking out the noise or anything like that. It’s going to be there whether I like it or not. It’s going to be rowdy in there.

“It’s going to be a great first season game opener, like it has been for the last six years when I was there. It was the same, getting used to the unbelievable Cavs fans ready to cheer on the Cavaliers. Now I’m coming in as an opponent trying to get a W.”

Hayward, making his Celtics debut, has become a background story thanks to Irving returning to Cleveland. “I guess I’m just ready to get going,” said Hayward. “Lot of things happened this summer, lot of buildup, just ready to get to the games. It’s gonna be a fun matchup for sure.”

Bruins limp home

The schedule makers did the Bruins a huge favor starting out the NHL season. Nashville at home was a decent test (and a win), but it was at home, but then came two games with Colorado, the second on the road, and then weekend road games at Arizona and the expansion team.

They come home for Thursday’s game against the Canucks with a 2-3 record — and with the added sting of losing to the goalie they just gave away.

They have the next four games at home — against Vancouver, Buffalo, San Jose and Los Angeles — and the second and third games of the homestand are separated by four days that allow for practice.

After the Bruins scored only one goal on Sunday in Las Vegas, coming on a lucky bounce with 30 seconds left against a hardly overworked Malcolm Subban, Brad Marchand said, “We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck. Weren’t directing enough pucks to the net, which makes it tough to get there. You can’t get rebounds.”

This team is hardly loaded with offense and playing those first five games without Patrice Bergeron, just getting Torey Krug back and with David Backes going down didn’t make things any easier. Bergeron remains day-to-day and we’ll see if the break between these games will help get him back.

Blown call?

I really don’t care what the NFL’s explanation was for taking that touchdown away from the Jets Sunday. There wasn’t one person in that stadium who thought that was even a consideration and the only complaint the Patriots could have had was asking for either an incompletion or the ball would be placed short of a touchdown. I have watched the play 25 times and still don’t see a clear fumble.

Naturally, the conspiracy theorists were front and center after this stupidity. Patriots fans, who normally think everything the NFL does is aimed AT the Patriots, couldn’t say much. Jets fans, and just about everyone else who hates the Patriots around the country, screamed the opposite — that the NFL wasn’t about to allow Tom Brady to lose to the Jets on another record-setting day for Brady.

Both are full of it. There’s no conspiracy. There’s just good calls and bad calls. I love a good conspiracy but all of this is bunk.

So is Colin Kaepernick not having a job — and now he’s taking his case to arbitration. I hope he wins.

Time to spend

This from the Globe’s Alex Speier Monday regarding the Red Sox and the luxury tax:

“It’s almost impossible to imagine the Red Sox staying below the tax threshold again. To the contrary, if they hope to improve their roster — with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski already on record saying that he has to add more power to the lineup — then the question will shift from whether they’ll stay below the threshold to just how far beyond it they’ll spend.”

If that’s the case, the fans will be happy. With dead money on the books, more money has to be spent to make this team better for a new manager.

Wrote Speier: “Unless the Red Sox either find a taker for one of their biggest contracts (David Price, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello) or decide to trade multiple arbitration-eligible players who represent relative bargains for their production, they seem poised to blow past the luxury tax threshold, which has been set at $197 million for the 2018 season. ”

Here and there

My favorite stat of the weekend? Duke is 0-20 against Florida State in football. … The NFL continues to lose stars at an alarming rate, Aaron Rodgers the latest. … All six quarterbacks have thrown for over 300 yards against the Pats this season and, going back to last year’s playoff, it’s seven out of eight (the Steelers did it in the AFC title game but the Falcons did not in the Super Bowl.) … Finally, Boston College freshman A.J. Dillon, who ran for 272 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries in Saturday’s upset of Louisville, won both the Walter Camp national of the week and ACC rookie of the week awards and was also named the ACC co-offensive back of the week, the latter a strange honor in light of the national award, right?

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL

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