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Celtics practices get spirited

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Celtics practices get spirited

Ime Udoka has promised a “harder” environment, and based on the last two days of practice, the Celtics coach is getting the necessary sparks.

On Wednesday he had to calm his players down after some excessive griping with the performance coaches recruited as referees, and on Thursday a scrimmage ended in a verbal scrap between Marcus Smart and Grant Williams.

It seems that Smart, a hall-of-fame level actor when the situation calls for it, was offended by what he thought was a flop by Williams.

The other Williams, Robert, was certainly inspired by the spirit of the moment.

“Nobody’s taking (bleep), you know? Everybody’s out there battling,” said the Celtics center. “The altercation just happened at the end of the scrimmage, with Smart and Grant, but we’re brothers.

“I’d rather it happen in here than out on the court. So I just like the competitive energy from everybody. It’s not ‘Okay, well you’re this player, so I’m a let you do this.’ Nah, everybody’s coming to take (bleep).”

Of the actual play, Williams said, ““Grant flopping and (bleep). You know how it goes, man. He felt like he ain’t flop, we felt like he flopped, but like I said, it’s better to get that (bleep) out now than when we play against other people.

“You know, we brothers, man. It’s gonna happen every day, damn near.”

Josh Richardson sees similarity between these Celtics and the team he started out with in Miami.

“Just the level of competition. Every day, every time we start to scrimmage or every time we do something live, it’s like everybody is trying to kill each other,” he said. “It’s real physical, everyone is talking shit to each other and the way I’m cut and the way a lot of these guys are cut, I can tell that’s good for us because it keeps you engaged in practice. It’s been great.

“It’s real for sure. When you are there, you kind of feel like it’s kind of different. The way that everyone is treated, the way that the 15th guy on the bench can go talk and tell the first guy in the game what they can do better and there’s no misunderstandings. Everywhere is not like that and that’s not a knock on anybody but that’s probably one of the biggest things I picked up and accountability. Accountability is a big thing there. What I’ve seen here, it’s a big thing too. It’s been good.”

Ex-Celts in hot water

The arrest and charging of 18 former NBA players for allegedly defrauding the league’s health insurance plan — the charges involved the filing of false claims — had a significant shamrock flavor to it.

Former Celtics Tony Allen and Glen “Big Baby” Davis were among those arrested, in addition to fellow green alumni Milt Palacio, Sebastian Telfair, and Terrence Williams.

Williams, who closed out his NBA career with the 2012-13 Celtics, is listed in the complaint as the leading figure and recruiter in the scam.

Horford ready for full workload

Though Al Horford sat out on the second night of back-to-backs last season in Oklahoma City, before being rested for the last 27 games in favor of Thunder youth, the well-rested veteran won’t need that kind of precaution now.

“Yeah it’s definitely something we’ve discussed. We’ve already started looking at scheduling a little bit. But like I mentioned before, Al’s come in in great shape,” said Udoka. “He knows what he brings to the team and a goal of his is to obviously play in a ton of games. We’ll discuss things down the line as we get into the season, but for now yeah (he’ll play in back-to-backs.

“As I mentioned, he didn’t play half the season last year. He feels great, he looks great. He’s in great shape. So that’s something he wants to do is be an every night guy, someone we depend on for leadership and things on the court.”

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Prosecutor: Jussie Smollett reported ‘fake hate crime’

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At Jussie Smollett trial, Osundairo brothers at center stage

By DON BABWIN

CHICAGO (AP) — Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic assault and told police he was the victim after the television studio where he worked didn’t take hate mail he had received seriously, a prosecutor said during opening statements in the ex-“Empire” actor’s trial Monday.

Smollett has maintained he was the victim in the January 2019 attack in downtown Chicago. But special prosecutor Dan Webb said the actor recruited two brothers he worked with to help him carry out the fake attack. He then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 hours on the investigation.

“When he reported the fake hate crime that was a real crime,” Webb said.

Two brothers say Smollett paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers on a frigid night in January 2019.

Webb was named as special prosecutor in the case after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped the original charges filed against Smollett. A new indictment was returned in 2020.

Smollett, who arrived at the courthouse in Chicago Monday with his mother and other family members, is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Twelve jurors plus three alternate jurors were sworn in late Monday in a trial Judge James Linn said he expects to take about one week. During jury selection, Linn asked potential jurors if they have been the victim of a hate crime, if they have watched “Empire” or TMZ, a program and website about celebrities, or if they belong to any civil rights or pro-police organizations. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and the proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike in other recent high-profile trials.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they have told police officers and prosecutors: that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s behest.

Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing a red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply shop hours earlier.

Smollett’s attorneys have not spelled out how they will confront that evidence. Lead attorney Nenye Uche declined to comment ahead of this week’s proceedings. But there are clues as to how they might during the trial.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from an area resident who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could back up Smollett’s contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements — widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are Black — that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

Given there is so much evidence, including the brothers’ own statements, that they participated in the attack, it is unlikely that Smollett’s attorneys will try to prove they did not take part. That could lead the defense to contend that Smollett was the victim of a very real attack at the hands of the brothers, perhaps with the help of others, who now are only implicating the actor so they won’t be charged.

The $3,500 check could be key, although Smollett says he wrote it to pay one of the brothers to work as his personal trainer.

“I would assume the defense is going to zero in on that,” said Joe Lopez, a prominent defense attorney not involved with the case.

What they will almost certainly do is attack the brothers’ credibility, reminding jurors that they are not facing the same charges as Smollett, despite admitting they took part in the staged attack.

“Everything Smollett is responsible for, they are responsible for,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law and is not involved in the case.

Finally, Smollett’s career could take center stage. Prosecutors could make the same point that then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made when he announced Smollett’s arrest in 2019: that Smollett thought the attack would win him more fame and a pay raise.

But Lopez said the defense attorneys might ask the jury the same question he asked himself.

“How would that help him with anything?” he asked. “He’s already a star.”

___

Associated Press reporter Sara Burnett contributed to this report.

___

Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

In Zach Wilson’s return off a knee injury, the No. 2 overall pick struggled. Wilson threw for under 150 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception.

But the coaching staff stepped up and Wilson allowed him to manage the game as the Jets snagged their first road win of the season over the Texans in Week 12.

While there was some disappointment from the fan base on Wilson’s outing, Robert Saleh was pleased with the performance of his rookie.

“Was it his best game? No. Did he do a lot of things? Did he get comfortable as the game went on? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “He orchestrated two 13-play drives that led the scores where we were able to lap them. Scored before the half, scored after the half and another eight-plus-play drive. So, he orchestrated three pretty long drives and did enough to win the football game and that’s what’s most important.”

Wilson wasn’t happy with his performance, but Saleh looked at those emotions as a positive because of his quarterback eagerness to improve.

“I love that he’s hard on himself,” Saleh said. “His desire to get better is up there with anybody. I mean, he works his tail off at it.”

Saleh added that when Wilson struggles, it isn’t all on the rookie.

“But at the same time, coaches also, we’re hard on ourselves, too. It’s our job to help him get better and do everything we can for him,” Saleh said.

And to the coaching staff’s credit, they helped Wilson in the second half. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur realized the flow of the game and took the pressure off of Wilson.

In the first half, the Jets were more balanced as they ran the ball 11 times for 49 yards and Wilson threw it 12 times as he completed six passes for 44 yards with an interception.

LaFleur realized his quarterback was struggling and his running attack was working and leaned on the run game.

They ran the ball 23 times for 108 yards in the second half. That alleviated pressure off Wilson. His first pass out of the half was a play action throw to Elijah Moore for 22 yards. Moore was wide open on his deep curl route because the linebackers bit on the fake.

That running attack allowed Wilson to manage the half as he went 8-for-12 for 101 yards in the second half.

“The run game, defense, special teams, that’s what travels. And especially in this time of year, in cold weather, when people are hurting,” Saleh said. “And so, the offense to run the ball the way it did yesterday, the o-line was moving people, there was space, the backs were finding the creases, they were hitting it hard, they were breaking tackles, they were awesome all the way across the board. And so, yeah, whenever you get the run game going, it takes pressure off of everybody.”

And Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s gameplan shut down the Texans offense as they mustered 202 yards, and held them to 45 yards in the second half.

Gang Green defense shut down the Texans’ rushing attack by holding them to 96 yards. And on passing downs, they exploited the weak offensive line with a four man rush, the style Saleh wants to play.

They sent four on 71% of Texans QB Taylor’s dropbacks and he went 11-for-19 for 112 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Taylor had a passer rating of 70 and was sacked three times.

While Wilson worked off the rust, the parts around him showed up.

INJURY REPORT

Mike White tested positive for COVID last week and missed the game against the Texans. He’s still in the protocol and isn’t expected to be available against the Eagles.

Joe Flacco was placed on the COVID list because he was deemed a close contact. Flacco didn’t test positive but he missed the Texans game. He was activated on Monday.

Denzel Mims was inactive against the Texans as he worked back from COVID. Saleh says he will practice on Wednesday.

Mekhi Becton has been out because of a knee injury he suffered Week 1 against the Panthers. Becton is on track to do field work as he works his way back to practice.

Tight end Trevon Wesco suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and is out two to four weeks.

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Probe of Brighton councilman stems from alleged DUI incident before a council meeting

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Probe of Brighton councilman stems from alleged DUI incident before a council meeting

An investigation launched last week by the city of Brighton into the conduct of Councilman Kris Jordinelli stemmed from an incident in August in which police say Jordinelli drove drunk to a city council meeting, and when later questioned at his home, identified himself as an elected official and told the officer “you don’t want to mess with me.”

City of Brighton

Brighton Councilman Kris Jordinelli

The Aug. 17 incident is outlined in a 12-page police report obtained by The Denver Post. Jordinelli, who was elected to the council in November 2019, was charged with misdemeanor DUI. The case is scheduled for a Feb. 7 hearing in Adams County.

The city’s investigation, for which the law firm of Wilson Williams LLP was hired as a special prosecutor, is limited to looking at whether Jordinelli’s alleged statement to police broke any ethical standards or municipal laws. The city is paying the firm $250 an hour for its work.

The decision by city council last week to appoint the firm to look into the matter was unanimous. Jordinelli was absent for the vote. Brighton officials declined to disclose the identity of the councilman under investigation at the time of the city council vote.

The police report states that Jordinelli, 64, arrived for the meeting “disheveled” in shorts and a polo shirt and “was walking with an unsteady gait.” Several officers described a strong smell of alcohol on his breath and video surveillance later obtained by police showed that Jordinelli had driven to city hall right before the meeting and parked his Buick “at an angle occupying two parking spaces.”

After being escorted downstairs by a fellow councilman from a hallway outside council chambers, Jordinelli was walked to his nearby home by two city staff members, the report said.

When police contacted him at home to ask him about his car being at city hall, they described Jordinelli as having “red watery eyes,” “slurred speech” and being “unsteady on his feet.” In the report, police said Jordinelli opened his garage door in an apparent effort to show officers that his car was at home. The garage was empty.

Jordinelli, according to the report, then asked the officers if they knew who he was. After informing the officers that he was a city councilman, he said “You don’t want to mess with me.”

Jordinelli on Monday said the case “arises out of my suffering a serious medical event prior to a meeting and one of my political opponents trying to use that event now, several months after it occurred, to try to oust me from office.”

“I am sad to see how low others have gone to try and get rid of me just because we may not agree on political issues,” he said in an email. “I look forward to being vindicated of this baseless charge in court.”

He did not identify who his political opponents are.

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