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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Gronkowski got off easy for ugly hit

By MIKE SHALIN
December 06. 2017 12:21AM
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski smiles on the sidelines against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an Oct. 5 game at Raymond James Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)



He got off easy.

Patriots fans far and wide can finally stop whining about how the NFL is against their team. Rob Gronkowski, who embarrassed even his coach with that ugly hit Sunday, got a one-game suspension.

And he appealed. He lost.

Anyone who has spent time perusing this space knows what this voice thinks of Gronk. In terms of degree of difficulty, I think he’s the best player in the NFL. The best.

He often gets the short end of the whistle. In the first half Sunday, he was called for a ridiculous offensive pass interference penalty. Then, of course, came the middle defensive interference call that led to an interception — and Gronk losing his mind.

Tell me the last time Bill Belichick apologized to the opposing coach for the actions of a Patriot player. Has he ever?

What the one-game suspension comes down to is Gronk sitting out a game against a chippy team on a lousy grass field. The rest will do him good and he’ll be back for the game at Pittsburgh when, in these eyes, he shouldn’t have.

One reason Gronk appealed is money. Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com pointed out the suspension could cost the big fella up to $2 million in salary and lost incentives.

He’s the best

I used to do a cable show known as “Forever Baseball” with pal and co-host John Molori and he offered his knowledgeable take on Facebook about Gronkowski.

“I never saw the likes of John Mackey or Mike Ditka play, but I’ve seen every NFL tight end since 1976. I loved Dave Casper, Russ Francis, Riley Odoms and Billy Joe Dupree in the 1970s. Mark Bavaro, Jay Novacek, Kellen Winslow, Brent Jones, Ben Coates, Shannon Sharpe and Ozzie Newsome were all great. Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Travis Kelce had or have immense skills. There have been others for sure, but Rob Gronkowski is the best damn tight end ever. Period.”

Can’t disagree —and I DID see Mackey and Ditka.

Special kid

Brad Stevens says he knew there was something about the way Jayson Tatum shot the basketball when he came in for his draft workout. But even the coach couldn’t have imagined what we’ve seen so far in this 19-year-old’s rookie season.

“When he came in for his workout, he made a lot of shots,” Stevens said after Tatum hit four straight 3-pointers in the first quarter Monday. “It looked effortless and that’s usually a pretty good sign. It didn’t look like it was just one of those days where he was hitting everything.”

In 25 NBA games, all as a starter, Tatum is shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 51.3 from 3-point range. He is averaging 13.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd, whose team has faced Tatum three times, is impressed. “His mannerisms are just … where you can’t see if he’s rattled or not,” Kidd said. His composure is at a very high level to be, I think, only 19. He knows how to score the ball. He knows how to play the game. He has a very high basketball IQ, which helps their team.”

Asked if he expected to be shooting over 50 percent in the pros, Tatum said, “No I didn’t … it’s just repetition.”

And talent.

Tatum also had an interesting take on what he feels about missing Duke, where he only stayed a year before going pro.

“Yeah, I miss college,” he said. “I miss college a little bit. But I didn’t really like going to class that much. I’m good where I’m at.”

No Kidding

Kidd is eligible for the Hall of Fame next year and should be a slam dunk. He’s second all-time in assists and steals, ninth in 3-pointers, he’s a five-time All-NBA player, has two gold medals and was a college All-America.

“I gave everything I had to where you are exhausted on a nightly basis,” Kidd told Marc Spears of The Undefeated. “I made the organization better. But the biggest thing I will always treasure or feel is that I made my teammates better, no matter who it was: the 15th guy, 14th guy, the student manager at Cal, the guy who hardly played so that when he played he felt comfortable helping us win.”

The Freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo still has work to do on his outside game (Kidd can relate as he became a better shooter in the NBA), but his driving ability and ability to handle the ball at 6-11 is special.

“When he gets going downhill, he finishes so well around the rim,” said Stevens. “That’s the thing, we were between him and the basket on a lot of those finishes. He’s really special and he’s going to be special a long, long time.”

The “Greek Freak” is another in those overlooked early draft picks — like Mike Trout (25th) in baseball, Mike Bossy (15th) in hockey. Antetokounmpo went 15th in the 2013 NBA draft, two selections after the Celtics swiped Kelly Olynyk.

Here’s a list of the first 14 picks:

1. Cleveland: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV

2. Orlando: Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana

3. Washington: Otto Porter, F, Georgetown

4. Charlotte: Cody Zeller, F, Indiana

5. Phoenix: Alex Len, C, Maryland

6. Philadelphia (from New Orleans): Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

7. Sacramento: Ben McLemore, G, Kansas

8. Detroit: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia

9. Utah (from Minnesota): Trey Burke, G, Michigan

10. Portland: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh

11. Philadelphia: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse

12. Oklahoma City (from Toronto via Houston): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

13. Boston (from Dallas): Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga

14. Minnesota (from Utah): Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA

Here and there

Wednesday night could mark Dirk Nowitzki’s final visit to TD Garden as he may retire at season’s end. … Aaron Boone will be formally introduced as the Yankees’ 35th manager today. … Al Horford: “I feel like we’re starting to find a rhythm as a group and I’m finding my rhythm too.” … Into numbers? It’s fitting that if you flip Marcus Smart’s number around you get 63; that’s Brad Marchand — and you get the two TD Garden athletes most prone to do silly things in their games. … ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Twitter: “Patriots have held foes to fewer than 20 points in each of last eight games, which is a first in Bill Belichick era. Given all the moving parts, coordinator Matt Patricia deserves credit for ‘magical’ work.” It’s actually 17 points or fewer in the eight games. … No problem at all here with Houstonians J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve picked as SI’s Sportspersons of the Year for their off-field work (not to mention Altuve’s MVP and title). … Tweet from @usatodaysports: “Ohio State fan LeBron James said he agrees with the College Football Playoff committee’s assessment that left the Buckeyes on the outside looking in. … Former Bruin Blake Wheeler and his Jets are on fire. They haven’t lost a home game in regulation time since Oct. 17. … Finally, from old friend and colleague Bill Madden on Twitter: “First Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. Now comes word Derek Jeter fired scout Marty Scott recovering from colon surgery. What a guy.”

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


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