A SUNDAY GLANCE at your sports world as we get ready to celebrate the new year:
…Devin McCourty was asked the other day if he sees any difference in Rob Gronkowski as talk grows that the big fella is disinterested and on his way out of the NFL (Gronk won’t commit to 2019). They entered the league together and “I don’t know, I think he’s a lot like the way he’s kind of been. I think he has this persona of, like, this party animal that’s always out partying, but if you see him, like when he was young, he was always in the weight room, always lifting the heaviest weights, like he was a big meathead. So he’ll probably say he does less meathead things and more functional movement and things like that.
“He’s still laughing, joking, he’s still a kid, and I think that’s good. I think it’s good for the team to have guys like that in the locker room. Sometimes around here, things are hard, we practice hard and it’s hard days. Bill (Belichick)’s not laughing often, so having guys like that helps in the locker room.
…Kyrie Irving is trying to get the Celtics moving consistently and steadily in the right direction. “Yeah, we have the talent, but it’s not enough in this league. It’s not enough,” Irving after Thursday night’s loss in Houston. “For us, it’s just about making sure we’re doing the little things. I was talking to a couple of our guys, a couple of our veterans, just making sure we stay on our young guys as well as us and having the responsibility of doing the little things — boxing out, limiting those guys to one shot per possession.”
…Word is neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado wants to play in Philadelphia. Reminds me of the old W.C. Fields joke: first prize is a week in Philadelphia; second prize is TWO weeks in Philadelphia.
…Arizona Cards coach Steve Wilks, in serious danger on Monday, even though he’s had only one year, laughed as he walked in to meet the media the other day. “Man, you know you’re getting to the end when they don’t give you a damn podium,” he said.
…Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites ripped into Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn Friday, saying, “They are f---ing horse----, I don’t know how else to put it. The team was OK. But Seguin and Benn were terrible. … ““For me, it’s (ticked) me off. What nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players. ... We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done. These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner, and they’re certainly not good enough for the general manager (Jim Nill), who I can’t speak for, but it’s not good enough for the job he’s done.”
…From @fieldyates on Twitter Saturday: “Colts K Adam Vinatieri turns 46 today. He made his NFL debut on September 1, 1996, when Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jets QB Sam Darnold and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson weren’t even born yet.”
…Bill Belichick on Darnold, who faces a Belichick defense for the first time today: “Darnold’s had a good stretch here since he’s come back with really all of the guys — Anderson, certainly (Chris) Herndon, Elijah McGuire. He’s gotten the ball to everybody. He’s thrown the ball well. They’ve been in a lot of close games — the Tennessee game, the Buffalo game, Green Bay game. Those are all tight games with a lot of critical plays in the fourth quarter or overtime last week. Obviously, they’ve gained a lot of experience, a lot of confidence. He didn’t throw the ball to just one guy. He’s done a good job. He’s scrambled, he’s made some key runs on some design plays and some improvised plays. I’d say overall their offense has continued to get better every week. They had a big output last week against Green Bay (38 points).”
…David Backes was nailed for three games for his head hit on Blake Coleman in Thursday’s loss and will miss Tuesday’s Winter Classic at Notre Dame. He deserved what he got, but the NHL needs to be more consistent with these calls. No appeal and this will cost him $219,512.19. Expensive, and it reminds you how the Bruins threw too much money at this guy.
…ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio says Gronk would have retired if the Pats had won the Super Bowl, and Florio thinks Gronk is gone after this season. “I think he has family members trying to get him to walk away because of concerns over head trauma and he can make a ton of money just being Gronk,” Florio said. “I’d be surprised if he’s back next year.”
…From NBC Sports’ Kyle Draper: “I asked Kyrie about giving a homeless man in Houston more than $240 the other day. He told me, “That’s just who I am. I don’t do it for looks or anything like that. I saw him when I was coming back from shooting in the morning and told him I had him next time I was coming out.”
...Old pal Rick Pitino picked up a win in his first EuroLeague game. “It was a great team win,” Pitino said. “Defensively we had 30 deflections. We had seven turnovers. When you play that hard at the defensive end and only turn it over seven times, you really want to win. And I commend the players for their desire to win this game, because that’s an excellent team they beat tonight.”
…SportsLine’s Projected score model for today: Patriots 32-20 and “Projected Statistics: For the Patriots, Tom Brady goes for 309 yards and two TDs and an INT, with Julian Edelman gaining 77 yards receiving and Rob Gronkowski adding 69 yards. For the Jets, Sam Darnold throws for 227 yards with a TD and two INTs. Elijah McGuire adds 86 yards from scrimmage.”
…The Twins have added 88 2018 homers and 229 RBIs in Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop. Cruz hit the longest homer at Target Field — 493 feet. From new Hall of Famer Jayson Stark: “Home runs last 5 seasons: Nelson Cruz 203; Twins DHs 97.”
…From @onlyinBOSTON Saturday: “11 years ago today, the 2007 Patriots defeated the Giants to become the first team ever to finish the season 16-0. Tom Brady threw 50 TDs against 8 INTs & Randy Moss had 1,493 receiving yards & 23 TDs for the regular season. Nothing happened after.”
…If you stayed up, you might have seen Rajon Rondo lead the Lakers to a win over the Warriors Tuesday night, winning even after LeBron James went down with an injury. Problem was, Rondo injured his right hand for the second time this season and needed two surgeries. He will miss 4-5 five weeks.
…My ballot is already in, but I already regret not voting for Fred McGriff on his final try. Hope he gets in one day.
…Brady, not likely to reach any of his five separate $1 million bonuses, asked which stat means the most to him, said, “I’m not a big stat guy. I’m into wins.”
…James Harden, ever unpopular in most NBA cities, on his MVP chances: “Of course I should be in that conversation. I receive a lot of hate. It won’t stop me from going out there and killing it every single night, being that dog that I am.”
…J.D. Martinez had the “honor” of hitting the shortest home run in 2018 — a 324-footer around the Pesky Pole. Trevor Story hit the longest: 505 feet.
…Old pal Anton Khudobin set a Dallas record with a 49-save shutout this week, at Nashville.
…Isaiah Thomas (remember him? It seems like 10 years ago), now in Denver and ready to make another comeback, on Twitter: “If my fans ever want their stuff signed just send to Pepsi Center and I’ll make sure to sign whatever you send and get it back to you. I appreciate the 1s who appreciate me.” The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett answered that tweet with, “A lot of players do things like this. But not a lot of players advertise their willingness to do it, thus making more work for themselves... If you don’t think (he) is special... well, respectfully, you’re incorrect.”
…While Anthony Davis says it’s more about his legacy than the money, @KevinOConnorNBA tweets: The NBA’s “supermax” isn’t so super: Over the next six years, Anthony Davis can earn $266.6 million with the Pelicans compared to a projected $252.3 million with a team that trades for him. That’s a difference of only $2.4 million per season.”
…From Celtics reporter Brian Robb Thursday: “(Terry Rozier)/(Jaylen Brown)/(Gordon) Hayward/(Daniel) Theis are a combined minus-84 over their 72 minutes tonight.”
…Gronk, who danced around the questions about his future (showing he still has moves, after all) on his season: “I mean, we’ve been through a roller coaster, up and down throughout the whole season, and what you’ve got to do is just stay focused and keep on preparing and keep on mentally and physically just grinding and just keep going.”
…Our tip of the cap is to Royals top 2018 draft pick, pitcher Brady Singer, paying off his parents’ mortgage and all their bills with his bonus money.
…Andrew Benintendi didn’t join his outfield buddies with a Gold Glove, but he did win the Associated Press’ Play of the Year honors for his diving game-saving catch on Houston’s Alex Bregman.
…My buddy Bill Ballou, semi-retired from the Worcester Telegram, got himself in some hot water with last week’s column declaring a “no” vote for Mariano Rivera. Bill doesn’t have much appreciation for the modern save. “The reaction in my email had been about 50-50,” Ballou told me. “Half the people want to shoot me in the head and the other half wants me to shoot MYSELF in the head.”
…Kevin Garnett says he told Davis to go to L.A. and LeBron James. “When Anthony Davis suits up for the Pelicans, that’s the best the Pelicans are going to be right there,” Garnett told USA Today. “They are capped out. They are playing at the top of the level they can play at. Davis with LeBron James — he goes to another level and that’s scary. That’s why he needs to go to a team where he has a chance to hoist the trophy or at least have a chance at going in that direction. He doesn’t have that. Great players need to be with other great players. He is still ‘the guy’ when LeBron is there. They are both ‘the guy.’ That’s why you bring your superpowers together.”
Happy New Year!!!