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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Struggling Celtics still need a big man

December 27. 2017 1:52AM
Boston Celtics forward Al Horford (42) drives to the basket while Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) defends during the second half at TD Garden in Boston on Dec. 25, 2017. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Al Horford called it “an honor” to play at home on Christmas Day. His coach was all for it as well.

It just didn’t work out.

“I don’t take it for granted,” Brad Stevens said before the game. “There are good teams that aren’t playing today, and obviously because of our tradition, our history, the Celtics’ name, but then being able to be a little bit better the last few years. You know, having not played on this day a couple years ago, it makes you appreciate it for getting a chance to play today.”

Now, as far as the team. The Celtics are 5-6 in their last 11 games as they visit the lowly Charlotte Hornets tonight, the first half of a back-to-back that finishes with the Houston Rockets at TD Garden on Thursday night. Does this mediocrity continue?

“We are still the same team,” said Horford. “I actually think that we are better.”


“We’ll, we’re 30 games in, we feel better as a group, we know each other a little more. (Jayson) Tatum has more experience, a lot of our younger guys have more experience and we are going to continue to get better. It’s a long season, disappointed about tonight. I felt like we had our chance there to kind of take the game and we just didn’t take it.”

One reason was, with both teams playing small, the Celtics didn’t grab a defensive rebound for the final 6:56.

This voice has felt all along that in addition to a pure shooter, this team needs a board banger. Yes, the game has gone away from the big man, but a bulky body inside can make a difference.

Tatum update: The kid is shooting 51.5 percent from the floor overall, an even 50 percent from 3-point range (56-for-112).

Count J.J. Redick among those who DON’T want to play on Christmas.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to once again say for, I believe, the 10th time, I’m not a fan of playing on Christmas,” he told ESPN. “I wish we had this holiday for our families. I understand we are entertainers and we have to provide this for all the basketball fans out there.”

Jimmy G

Jimmy Garoppolo is the first 49ers quarterback ever to win his first four starts. Sunday, he led the Niners to a 44-33 victory over the Jaguars that assured a first-round bye for his old team.

For Patriots fans, his success is bittersweet — you know, they traded him away.

Garoppolo is set for a payday this offseason and appears to have found a home in San Francisco.

“Max the man out,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said after Sunday’s game. “He deserves it. I think he’s everything that we’ve been looking for.”

Said running back Carlos Hyde: “Ya’ll definitely know that quarterback play is a big part on any team, so as long as you’ve got a good quarterback on whatever team it is, you’re going to have a good chance to win the game. So that’s been our deal right now. Things haven’t always been good here but definitely changing and things are definitely getting better. The future is bright and I’m really looking forward to the future.”

Jimmy G., now 6-0 as an NFL starter, has completed 69 percent of his passes, throwing for five touchdowns and having three picked off.

Tackle Joe Staley says “football’s fun again” and when asked how much of that has to do with the new QB, said, “Everything.”

His coach, Kyle Shanahan, told “He’s doing everything we hoped for, and more. And all the guys around him — I can’t even explain to you how much better everyone is playing since he got here. He has rubbed off on everyone. It’s too bad we have to take a break here soon.”

Tom Brady, making his regular WEEI appearance Tuesday, said, “He’s done a great job. You go in there and get the opportunity to play and win games, that is what we are all here for. It was good to see and good for them to beat Jacksonville. That really helped us. I am really happy for Jimmy and he’s worked really hard. It shows up when he goes out there and plays really well.

“It’s really a credit to him. You do what you can with the opportunities you get. I think it is great for any player and anyone who has been in the Patriots’ system to watch how the coaches prepare the players. There is obviously a high standard and high expectations for us every time we take the field. Anytime you’re in a winning environment, that definitely helps and I think guys really enjoy that. You take what you can and use that in other places if that is where you go. Like I said, what they are doing is a credit to them. I don’t think anyone should take credit for what those guys have accomplished.”

Under review

The Bills felt they were robbed in Foxborough on Sunday. Many other people felt the same way.

But can we please stop with the NFL conspiracy theory, the one that has the league rooting for the Patriots? It’s stupid. Just as it was stupid when Pats’ fans said the league was out to get them.

Incompetence? There’s plenty of it. Stupid rules on what is a catch? Sure, and it has really worked out for New England three times this season (the call against the Jets was the worst).

Conspiracy? Stupidity.

The vote is in

OK, I mailed my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot out Tuesday and have to say there were easily 15 qualified people trying to horn in on the maximum of 10 given to the voters.

Perhaps spurred further by Joe Morgan’s silly letter to voters saying we shouldn’t vote for steroid guys, I loaded up on them — Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa.

The others? Edgar Martinez, Vlad Guerrero, Curt Schilling (back on my ballot after a one-year suspension), Chipper Jones, Larry Walker and Omar Vizquel.

Apologies to Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Fred McGriff, Trevor Hoffman and Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Jeff Kent and Andruw Jones. All are worthy.

Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Here and there

Boston College and Iowa, who meet in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium today, both toured the 9-11 Museum in lower Manhattan Monday. … P.J. Carlesimo was in Boston doing Monday’s game on the radio. He admitted he loves broadcasting (and he does a great job) and doesn’t miss the aggravation of coaching, but you can tell that he misses the competition. … Hey, Lonzo Ball is starting to play — and shoot. … Joel Embiid is just plain nasty. … The NHL is making a PR mistake shutting down for three days for Christmas. Out of sight, out of mind. … Close your eyes, Pats fans, and imagine James Harrison playing the AFC title game against the Steelers. Motivated much? … Finally, a few teams have protested that the Packers put Aaron Rodgers back on IR. The rule states there has to be a new injury. There’s even been talk of the NFL having to declare him a free agent. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

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

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