PATRIOTS, CHIEFS and other things noteworthy on a Championship Sunday/Red Sox Winter Weekend:
• Nervous before big games? “I think the nervous process is definitely part of doing something that you care about,” says Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. “I definitely get a little nervous, but when that happens I just try to go back and just go over everything that we put in and it’s kind of like studying for a test. Just going over your game plan, going over film, going over everything they do and trying to just prepare yourself to the most you can possibly do. I definitely get nervous.”
And head coach Bill Belichick? “Just let me know the next game that doesn’t matter so I can take that into account,” Belichick says, noting every game produces anxiety.
“You want to go out there and do well. There’s an anxiety,” he said. “We all have things in the game that we have to do. You want to perform them well and not let your team down. Everybody’s counting on you to do your job. You’re counting on everybody else to do theirs. You don’t worry about everybody else; you just worry about doing what you can do and making sure you don’t screw up what you’re supposed to do and are responsible for because no one else can do that. That’s your job. We all have jobs to do and we all want to do them well.”
• Forgetting some of his comments, you have to admire what the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving is doing on the court. From @celtics_stats Friday: “Kyrie Irving is the first Celtics player to record 27+ points and 11+ assists in consecutive games since Larry Bird (Feb. 13-14, 1986).”
• The Red Sox are slated to go to the White House Feb. 15. Owner John Henry says the government shutdown threatens that for security reasons. Manager Alex Cora may or may not go because of his strong feeling on his native Puerto Rico and the way the island has been treated by the administration.
• WEEI’s Ryan Hannable has changed his mind, now picking the Pats over the Chiefs. Breaking down the Pats’ advantages, including the Tom Brady/Belichick combo over Patrick Mahomes/Andy Reid and the fact the home field thing is “Overrated,” Hannable concludes with, “So, come Sunday around 10 p.m. I could be saying I told you so. Or I could be pretending I never wrote this and stuck with what I thought early in the week. It should be fun.”
• Red Sox starter Chris Sale is ready to repeat, saying, “Nothing changes. My wife asked me that same question. You worked your entire life to achieve this goal, what do you do once you achieve it? (Bleep), you do it again.”
• From Celtics stat maven Dick Lipe: “Since Dec. 15, Marcus Smart has shot .474 (36/76) on 3-pointers, which ranks fifth best in the NBA (minimum 25 made) and 2nd in the East, behind Brooklyn’s Joe Harris. He’s even been better since Jan. 4, making 22 of 40 (.550). Incredibly, that’s second best in the NBA during that stretch.”
• ESPN continues to have the Patriots last of the Final Four in chances to win the Super Bowl. It’s Chiefs (34 percent), Saints (33), Rams (18) and Patriots (15). Interesting.
• Cora on repeating: “You guys might write this somewhere, I don’t care. If you thought last year was special, wait till this year.”
• Pats PR chief Stacey James after Jeff Howe‘s look back at the 25th anniversary of Robert Kraft buying the Pats in The Athletic: “25 years ago today, I was sure I was moving to St. Louis, and then this happened ... thank you RKK and thanks @jeffphowe for telling the story.”
• The Bruins allowed their 10th shorthanded goal of the season the other night. Friday night, the Flames scored their 15th shorty – both leading the league, one proud, one not.
• Cora on unsung bullpen heroes: “I’ll say it right now: Without (Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson), there’s no way we win the World Series.”
• From Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal: “As of this morning, Celtics are on track to have just two first round picks in 2019. Clippers’ five-game losing streak has dropped them back into lottery for the time being in loaded West. Memphis now tied for sixth worst record.”
• The Baseball Hall of Fame announcement is Tuesday. Once again, my picks were Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Omar Vizquel, Curt Schilling, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Mike Mussina.
• Houston’s James Harden posted back-to-back 57-point games – and there wasn’t a single assist on any of those points.
• Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski on the team’s closer as it stands at this moment: “To me, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone we have stepped up and did it.”
• Boogie Cousins made his Warriors debut Friday night, making the Dubs the first team since 1976 to start five reigning All-Stars. Cousins slammed home his first basket, fouled out in just 15 minutes, but know this: the Warriors are rolling. By the way, the 1975-76 Celtics were the last to do it: John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, JoJo White, Charlie Scott, Paul Silas.
• From the NHL: “Through 47 games, the Islanders lead the NHL with only 119 goals against (including three shootout-deciding goals). At the same point last season, the club had allowed 173 goals against, the most in the league.”
• From The Athletic’s Derek Bodnar: “I knew their record was good, but I didn’t realize it was this good: the Sixers have a 17-5 record when all of (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons, (Jimmy) Butler and (J.J.) Redick are available. Most of their “signature losses” if you will, had one or more missing from the lineup.”
• John Henry realizes where his team is regarding the luxury tax. As far as staying under the $246 million, he said, “How important is it? It’s obviously not that important.”
•Isaiah Thomas is apparently set to make his Nuggets debut before the All-Star break after hip surgery. If not before the break, then soon after.
• Pats-Chiefs? As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
• @NBArefs will start tweeting during games Monday night. Off-duty refs will weigh in on social media on controversial calls. Could be interesting. Fans will be able to interact in selected games.
• Former White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson says “Retirement is overrated. All I’m doing is watching ‘Walker: Texas Ranger’ and turning a lot of Smirnoff into urine.”
• Brady on being nervous before big games: “Yeah, a little bit. Probably more so during the week than probably leading up to the game, but more like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, just as you’re preparing and trying to get to know the other team. I feel like the more I prepare, the less nervous I get because I can kind of expect how things are going to go a little bit more if I have a little more information on the team. So, the more film I watch, the less nervous I get, and as soon as the ball’s kicked off, there’s not too many nerves.”
• Red Sox reliever and Connecticut native Matt Barnes, asked Friday about his favorite team growing up, threw his cap over his face and said, “I was a Yankee fan growing up, man – whattya want?”
• From Christopher Kanka of NBC Sports Chicago: “Pitchers with more career saves than hits allowed (minimum 2 saves): Craig Kimbrel 333 Saves, 285 Hits. That’s it.”
• Goof of the week to Michael Beasley, who tried to enter a game for the Lakers the other night while wearing his practice shorts. He had to run back to the locker room to change.
• Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers says he’s not going to the White House, but not because of politics. “The opportunity was presented and I just wasn’t compelled to go,” he said Saturday through an interpreter. Others are expected to join this list.
• Hey, guess who’s No. 1 in the Bruins net? Zdeno Chara after Tuukka Rask tied the franchise record for goalie wins: “I’m very happy for him – everybody was. It’s quite an accomplishment and he’s not stopping now but it just shows you he’s very loyal to the organization. It’s a big number and to be up there and obviously playing as many games and years as he is, it’s nice to see.”
• Sale says he’s watched the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, “a couple of hundred thousand times.”
• Patriots rookie Sony Michel on playing a second straight game in cold weather: “Just another football game. I mean, it’s going to be cold. You’re going to be a cold winner or a cold loser. Either way you’re going to be cold.”
• Does the Bruins’ Brad Marchand regret licking Ryan Callahan‘s face during last year’s playoffs? “His visor was in my face and I was like ‘this will probably (tick) him off,’” Marchand told NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen. “So I tried to do it, tried to get him to hit me and draw a penalty and it kind of went the other way. That was definitely a decision that (you) go back in time and you would play out a little differently.”
• Red Sox utility man Brock Holt accepting the Jackie Jensen Award at Thursday night’s Boston baseball writers’ dinner: “I’m looking forward to coming back next year and accepting my MVP trophy.”
• Kraft to ESPN on Brady: “Definitely the greatest player of all time — not just quarterback in my opinion. Because he’s such a leader in the locker room. For someone double the age of some of the players to be able to lead like that, and connect like that, and have the work ethic that he has, and at the same time so pleasant to be around — I’m really the luckiest guy in the world.
”I think of him as that skinny young man coming down the steps of the old stadium with the pizza box and introducing himself to me. I said, ‘I know who you are, you’re Tom Brady from Michigan, our sixth-round draft choice.’ And he said, ‘And I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.’
”Of course, he was fourth on the depth chart. But I think he sure was right. But the greatest thing about him is he’s the same guy he was then. He’s a genuine person. He’s kind. He’s polite to everyone. He’s a very caring person.”
• Celtics fans have to be sad seeing the trials and tribulations of the Chicago Bulls. “We’re getting blown out every game,” says Zach LaVine. “People are licking their chops, looking at us on the schedule, marking this game off. It’s not like it’s going to stop. We have to do something.”
• Our buddy Kevin Kernan of the New York Post says the Yankees haven’t done enough to catch the Red Sox. “At this point, I don’t believe the Yankees have done enough to take down Boston,” Kernan wrote. “The Red Sox still own the starting-pitching advantage with Chris Sale and David Price at the top of the rotation, and it was key to keep Nathan Eovaldi in a Red Sox uniform. What Cora brings to the party is special. He wants to beat you and is not afraid to say it.”
• Insanity? The Nets and Rockets attempted a record 106 3-pointers in an overtime game this week. The Rockets took 70 of them, making 23 – and losing the game 145-142.
• The great Spurs coach Gregg Popovich notched his 520th career road victory Friday night and did it without an injured DeMar DeRozan. That tied Popovich with Pat Riley for most career road wins by an NBA coach.
• Old pal Ben Watson, retiring at the end of this season, will miss the remainder of action for the Saints because of appendicitis.
• Finally, SportsLine simulated the AFC title game 10,000 times. The winner? Chiefs 30, Pats 25. Projected stats? “For the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes throws for 310 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He links up with Travis Kelce six times for 88 yards and a score while finding Tyreek Hill five times for 87 yards and another score. Damien Williams contributes 109 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. For the Patriots, Tom Brady throw for 289 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Sony Michel rushes for 86 yards on the day while Julian Edelman catches six passes for 78 yards.”