The NHL Landed The Dream Scenario Conference Finals+Coaching Chaos

Man, these NHL Conference Finals have sure been something.  Both series are tied at 3 coming into this weekend, with  Game 7 of Lightning-Rangers tonight and Game 7 of Blackhawks-Ducks Saturday night.  This is the “dream scenario” for the NHL.  I mean, for fans, for TV ratings, for ticket prices.  This is what they want.

Most casual NHL fans aren’t huge into the business of the league.  They care about who’s in the Cup, and let me tell you this, they root for certain teams.

Now, don’t take that too literally.  What I mean here, is that certain teams draw fans.  Bandwagoners or not, certain teams draw the interest of casual hockey fans.  The Blackhawks, for example, are an Original Six team, who’s been around forever.  They have a huge fan base, whether it’s full of bandwagoners or not.  People care more about them than rather say, Columbus, or the Hurricanes in Carolina.

The NHL probably wants Chicago to beat Anaheim tonight.  Why?  They draw more fans.  Chicago is the bigger market (Anaheim is overshadowed by the whole LA area, plus there’s a second team in their TV market).  The Kings are the more popular team in Southern California.  Bottom line.

In the East, the NHL wants New York.  Why?  Well, while the Lightning have good fans and are successful, it’s Florida.  It’s Tampa Bay.  People are gonna be at the beach rather than the hockey game in June.  Honestly, there shouldn’t be any sports teams in Florida (That’s a personal opinion).   While the Lightning posses Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, two of the bigger names in the sport, the Rangers have the “starrier” names.  Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash.  They play at Madison Square Garden, one of the most famous arenas there are.  Why wouldn’t the NHL want another Cup being played there?  Why wouldn’t the NHL want Cup games being played in Chicago, one of the biggest hockey markets there are?

Sports are a business.  The NFL is a perfect example of how and where the faults are.  The NHL doesn’t rig the playoffs (trust me), but they have strong rooting interests.  Obviously, whatever happens happens, but the NHL offices are gonna pretty happy if they get Chicago-New York in the Stanley Cup.

But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.  I’m not previewing each Game 7 (kinda hard to preview one hockey game).  I’m just giving points on what’s gone on with each series and what I think happens this weekend.

Lightning-Rangers:

  • I’ve taken a ridiculous amount of crap at school this week about the Rangers.  My best guess on the whole thing is that it’s just a bunch of depressed Wild fans or bandwagon Chicago fans who’re scared of my Rangers in the Cup.
  • New York has made it to seven games without being insanely productive on the power play, which is something I stressed in my preview.
  • There’s been a ton of goals scored in this series, and that isn’t particularly a surprise.
  • It seems like these games are either blowouts or down-to-the-wire.
  • I mean, really, it’s been three great games and three blowouts.
  • Game 7 prediction: Rangers win 4-3

Blackhawks-Ducks:

  • This has been a classic series.  Every game has been fun.
  • Only have had two blowouts, Game 1 and Game 6.
  • I watched all of Game 2, which went till 1:09 PM CST last Tuesday night.  Turns out head butting the puck isn’t allowed.
  • Every game has been players flying up and down the ice.  Not a lot of boring periods.
  • The matchups in this series have played up to expectations.
  • Corey Crawford has been on point this series, which was something Chicago desperately needed
  • Game 7 prediction:  Ducks win 4-1.

What Cup matchup the NHL wants:  Chicago-New York

What I want:  Chicago-New York

What’s gonna happen:  New York-Anaheim


On all the latest coaching news…..

There’s been a lot of coaching news lately.  And I love it!  I’m gonna go through the latest.

Flyers hire Dave Hakstol:

I don’t follow college hockey much, but Dave Hakstol was an amazing coach the past 11 seasons at North Dakota.  He coached players like Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie, and Matt Greene.  He never won a title, but has produced talent out of the program that earned him the huge promotion to coach Philadelphia..  This is a wait and see when it comes to how successful his term will be.  The Flyers might have some serious roster re-build to do.  Hakstol, who’s going play a part in the scouting community, should have a large amount of say with the roster.

Oilers hire Todd McLellan:

The Oilers got the No.1 overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft again, and with all the talent already there in Edmonton, Todd McLellan is gonna have a lot to work with.  McLellan, as coach of the Sharks, had a great tenure, but it was time for a change there.  San Jose is another team about to go through a re-build, which is something they should have done a Summer ago.  None of that was McLellan’s fault, and I can’t believe Edmonton stole him from someone else.  He’s a very good coach.  The past two seasons just hurt his rep.  The Oilers have a bright future, it’s just a matter of whether how quick it becomes a reality.

Maple Leafs hire Mike Babcock:

I have a ton of thoughts on this.  First, I really believe that part of the reason for Babcock’s departure from Detroit has to do with the future of that team.  He knows something we don’t, and it revolves around that roster.  Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterburg are both out of their prime, with Datsyuk being 36.  The next couple years don’t look great for that franchise, and Babcock probably took a look at how the landscape would change.  He knows something we don’t.  I wonder when that something will break.

The money for Babcock was insane.  He signed a 8 year, $50 million contract to coach a hockey team.  The chart shows how his salary compares to other coaches in the league.

There’s no doubt that was part of it, but it is Toronto.  They have the ability to do and offer that.

I had been speculative about what Toronto was going to do this offseason.  I really believed they would blow it up, and trade stars like Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.  With Babcock coming in, I believe he’s gonna try and make this roster work again.  The Maple Leafs’ roster isn’t bad, it just didn’t have a great season fitting together.  Changes of scenery and new voices help.  My money is on Toronto keeping this current roster, and trying to make it work again.  If it doesn’t, they blow it up.  Babcock is that good of a coach.  He can turn teams around, and that’s why Toronto was the perfect fit.

Sabres hire Dan Bylsma:

Buffalo performed the ultimate tank-job this season to try and land No.1 overall (Todd McLellan rubs his hands together).  That kinda failed, as they ended up with No.2.  Buffalo fired their coach Ted Nolan to make it look like it was his fault for the bad record, when really the decision came from the front office.

Bringing in Dan Bylsma is odd.  I mean, I can’t say I like this move.  He would have been a perfect fit for a team like Detroit, or Toronto, that’s ready to win soon.  Buffalo is a project, and I can’t say Bylsma is that type of coach.  Then again, he’s pretty excited about having Jack Eichel.

Sharks hire Peter DeBoer:

The former Devils coach was hired this past week by the Sharks, and I’m okay with it as a San Jose fan.  I get that this roster isn’t gonna be around much longer, as the Sharks are another team who’re probably gonna blow it up.  DeBoer won’t be faced with a project, but there’s change coming to San Jose, so he won’t be the only new guy around there.  Having that type of situation is usually a good thing, and I really hope it works out.

Enjoy the Game 7s!!!!

 

Getting On (First) Base With The MLB: How The Show Looks After One Quarter Past

FYI:  For stats that aren’t common to the average reader, I’ll make a note of what they do/mean.

This is my first baseball column since my preview.  It’s been a while.  I’ve waited for a couple reasons: 1) I haven’t seen as many games as I feel like I’d needed to yet.  2) It’s still early, even though we’re at the quarter mark.  Baseball is weird.  There’s a lot of weird stuff going on right now.  Here’s some of the biggest stories so far:

Does anyone want to win the AL East?

Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays lead this division by a half a game over the Yankees.  First of all, DH David DeJesus is batting  .315/.367/.477 (BA/OBP/SLG).  With an OPS of .844, he’s getting on base and is hitting the ball very well.  Evan Longoria is hitting the ball well at .280/.366/.435, giving this team the offense to power through the division.  Their pitching staff has been dealt blow after blow after losing Drew Symly and Alex Cobb to arm injuries.  Their defense has made up for it, as they’re 3rd in bigs in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved).  The pitching though, hasn’t taken a huge hit even with the losses.  They’re 1st in the AL in ERA with a 3.39.  Chris Archer, at 5-4, is pitching surprising well.  With a SO/9 (strikeout per 9 innings) of 10.5, he’s using that 96 MPH four-seamer to strike guys out.  The Rays are leading the division for now, but it seems like a lot of change is in store.  Whether they can keep it up is the question.

The Red Sox, the division favorites, have been stumbling out of the gate.  They’re sitting in 4th, with only an underachieving Blue Jays team behind them.  Boston is a little bit of a mess.  They can’t hit or pitch, with the mound being the bigger issue.  The rotation looks good on paper, but  Wade Miley and Justin Masterson are giving up 1.3 and 1.6 WHIPs. (Hits/walks per inning).  Masterson has been a train wreck.  His ERA is ballooning to 6.37, and while that’s the biggest problem of the rotation, there’s still other problems.  The Red Sox have to be in the market for a starter, whether they wait till the deadline or do it now, somethings needs to happen here.  They could flip an outfielder for someone, say Daniel Nava or even Jackie Bradley Jr. for Cole Hamels.  The Red Sox outfield has been a story since December, and while we though they would do something, they never cleared it up.

Toronto, a team who I thought would be playing well at this point, is scoring runs, but has similar issues to Boston when it comes to pitching.  The Yankees have been surprising many, with Alex Rodriguez hitting .262/.363/.545 and 10 HRs.  New York, if Boston and Toronto don’t improve and the Rays fall apart, could be sitting pretty here in the next couple weeks or so.  And the Orioles, they’re just boring.  Sorry.

The NL Central looks about how we thought it would

I came into this season with the mindset that there were two main playoff contenders in the NL Central, with the possibility of another team challenging for a playoff spot.  As of now, that looks about right.  The Cardinals and Cubs are pulling away already.  St. Louis is 4.5 games up on Chicago, and 6.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.  They’re sitting pretty right now.

Losing Adam Wainwright was expected to be devastating.  Wainwright, a Cy Young contender every year, looked great in his three starts before the injury.  We can talk about pitchers batting later, but for now, it seems less and less necessary.  The Cardinals rotation has been fine without Wainwright.  Michael Wacha is pitching out of his mind.  He’s 7-0, with a 1.87 ERA and is only walking 2.2 guys per nine innings.  His cutter helps trick guys. It isn’t Rivera-like, but that spin….oh man.  It’s pretty.

Wacha is leading the Cardinals rotation.  Behind him there’s still talent, even with Carlos Martinez’s struggles.  They’ll be fine.  Their bats, featuring Matt Carpenter and Matt Holiday are really helping them out.  Carpenter is batting .325/.391/.589 with 8 HRs.  He’s killing the ball, and it’s everyday too.  This guy has reinvented his batting skills.

The Cubs, after a crazy offseason, are 3.5 games out of 1st place in the division.  This young squad, with two out of their eight position players under 30, is struggling to hit.  With a team average of .242., they’re 10th in the NL in batting average.  Chris Coglan is struggling (but has 7 HRs), batting .208/.283./.440.  He’s swinging for power, but isn’t getting base hits.

Chicago has outfield issues, as they’re DRS ranks 17th in the league.  And that wasn’t unpredictable if you watched them Opening Night.  The Cubs will be fine, but with St. Louis playing like one of the best teams in the league, it’s unlikely they move up anytime soon.  No one else in this division seems to be scary at this point.  But then again, baseball is weird.

Astros?  Astros?  Astros!

Wait?  Where has this cOme from?  What Houston has done this first quarter is just amazing.  They’ve gotten contributions from guys you wouldn’t expect it from.  They have a rookie manager, in A.J Hinch.  It’s another young team, none of their position players are under 30.  Houston, an all-in sabermetric team, is using stats and baseball logic to create winning ways.  They shift more than other team in the league.

From an on paper, gazing over stats standpoint, You wouldn’t think this team would be where they are.  They’re batting .231 as a team, 13th in the AL.  Jose Altuve, not surprisingly, has the highest batting average on this team at .294.  He’s playing great, but is batting .294/.345/.428 overall.  The strength of this Houston team isn’t coming from the bats though.  And in the park they play in, it’s not shocking.

Dallas Keuchel is 6-1 this season, with a 1.67 ERA and a SO/9 ratio of 6.4.  He’s pitching so good, that hitters are batting .191 against him (via ESPN).  The guy has been a machine, and the sinker is helping him strike guys out.  Oh yeah, and this is a guy who doesn’t even have a curveball.

The Astros have to hope the batting improves though.  Guys like Chris Carter are slumping early, batting .170/.281/.327.  He’s a power hitter, and they need all the offense they can get in their park.  Still, with the shifts that rank 12th in DRS, and the great pitching from Keuchel (But not anyone else), they’re fine for now.  The AL West should be a tough division as the season unfolds soon.  I mean, the Angels are lurking, but are out six games.  The Mariners well… Hey!  Speaking of that!!!

What’s going on with the Mariners and Indians?

These were my two AL Wild Card spot holders.  Both sit in 4th in their respective division, and neither are bound to improve at this point.  We’ll start with Cleveland.

The Indians are struggling to hit the ball this season.  While they have a team average of .252, they aren’t getting offensive contribution from their position players.  Jose Ramirez, playing at shortstop, can’t even get on base.  With an OBP of .259, he’s not getting walked. PITCH f/x tells us he’s swinging out of the strike zone too much, causing all the strikeouts.  Catcher Roberto Perez, who’s filling in for the injured Yan Gomes, is hitting .177, worst on the team.  It’s not the park; Progressive Field is know for being balanced.  Cleveland just isn’t seeing the ball to start the season.  The guys who are producing (Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley) aren’t getting any help.  The Indians are playing in the best division in baseball though.  I’ll get into that later.

The Indians pitching has been okay, but not anywhere near expectations.  Corey Kluber has been alright, but already has his season overrated due to 18 strikeout gem he pitched on May 13th.  His ERA is 3.49, and he’s 2-5 on the season.  Granted, the offense and horrific defense can be blamed for it.  The rest of the rotation has been spotty, and is kinda unpredictable.  The bottom line with Cleveland:  They’re gonna have to pick it up soon.  The AL Central is too tough.

The Mariners are really weird.  I mean, there’s not one thing with this team that you can point to.  There’s nothing great, but nothing horrible.  They kinda seem average, and that’s not what anyone had in mind.  You could blame the defense, as they score a -12 in DRS, 22nd in the bigs.  Taijuan Walker hasn’t improved at all.  He’s 1-5 with a 7.33 ERA.  He throws a lot of flyball pitches (sinkers and cutters).  Perhaps the bad defense is to blame.  I mean, again, there’s not a huge, blaring hole.  The bullpen could use work, with their top two guys throwing games with ERAs over six.

Seattle, out of the two, is more likely to pull out of this.  It’s not a great start, but they’re in the easier division.  Cleveland is dealing with Detroit, Kansas City, and maybe, just maybe, the Twins.  I can’t believe I just typed that.

Is the NL West shaping up like last summer?

One of the the first columns I ever wrote was about this same division last summer.  Warning:  It’s not great, and is like 600 words.  But, this division once again proving to be fun, and tight.  The Dodgers, coming into tonight, are up two games on the Giants, who’s record is at 26-20.

LA has dealt with injuries quite well, with two of their three starting outfielders on the DL.  Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford hit the list in the first 16 games of the year.  Neither were smoking the ball, but it took away a good amount of power in the lineup.  Joc Pederson, one of LA’s best young prospects, took over, and it hitting .250/.388/.556 since being inputted.

The Dodgers are playing very well on defense, scoring a +3 DRS, 8th in the bigs.  Get scoops, Adrian Gonzalez! (He’s killing the ball FYI).

LA’s rotation is decent.  The top of the squad is fine, though Clayton Kershaw’s ERA is a tad high for him at 4.32.  Zach Greinke is pitching great, relying on his screaming fastball.

The back end of the rotation isn’t great, and Dodger’s pitchers aren’t lasting very long in games.  There’s only been one complete game all season from their five guys, and it’s not like that bullpen is very strong.  However, the pen is missing guys like Joel Peratla.  The pitching staff overall needs upgrades, but so could other teams in their division.

I’m stoked and honestly stunned that the Giants are where they are.  They’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games, and that’s, for the most part, with out Hunter Pence.  San Francisco has started Justin Maxwell in right field for Pence, who’s hit three HRs and owns an OPS of .676.  He’s been a great placeholder.  San Francisco, also, lately, made a change at third base, demoting Casey McGehee and starting Matt Duffy.  Duffy has batted .302/.330/.396, driving in 20 RBIs in 33 games.  McGehee wasn’t batting well at .200.  The move could mean two things:  1) A long term commitment to Duffy at third, suggesting he could be their future starter.  Or 2) A place-holder till they can get an upgrade.  The Giants don’t usually pull off big trades, but if they do, it could be for Texas’ Adrian Beltre, as Jonah Keri laid out.

San Francisco’s pitching staff has been a little bit of a surprise, with Chris Heston and Tim Lincecum pitching well.  Lincecum has a 2.56 ERA and is 5-2 on the year.  The rest of the rotation is up to expectations, but in this division, who knows whether that’s enough.

Quick Hits:

  • More on the NL West:  The Padres will be fine.  It’s a slow start for a new team.  I can’t say they’ll get near first, but they have to keep grinding.  Look at what happened to some of the good teams last year.
  • The NL East is so boring.  Just book Washington for 94 wins and hand it to them.
  • However, the Mets are interesting.  Great pitching.  With everyone healthy, this could be a Wild Card contender.  They have a move to make.  Not sure where yet.
  • I thought the A’s knew what they were doing this offseason.  At 17-30, the moves aren’t looking too great.
  • The White Sox never knew what they were doing.
  • The Twins are playing phenomenal and it has people super excited in the Twin Cities.  Too bad they’ll have their hearts broken at the end of June.
  • Milwaukee firing Ron Roenicke was interesting to say the least.  I mean, I can’t say how much of an effect he had on the start to the year.  I’m not sure how valuable managers even are.
  • On the Marlins madness, I mean, here we go again.  GM/coaches aren’t usually a good thing.  Doesn’t matter what sport.  If this keeps happening with Miami, Giancarlo is gonna be taking his talents out of South Beach when that option comes around.
  • Best division:  AL Central
  • Worst division: NL East

All stats are above the section on the NL West is current as of yesterday.  Everything below that is current of today.  

Give me time for my next baseball column.  Two weeks of school left and the NBA Finals/Stanley Cup, then I’ll be 100% in.  I’m hanging at like 90% right now.  

Dolphins Show They’re 100% In On Ryan Tannehill

After a busy offseason, the Miami Dolphins capped it off by giving us a healthy surprise Monday afternoon.  Miami locked up quarterback Ryan Tannehill, giving him a six year, $95 million contract extension, with $45 million guaranteed.  However, of that $45 million, $21 million of it will be given to him within the first two years of the deal, which works out better for the Dolphins.

I’m not 100% sold on Tannehill as a franchise QB, but the Dolphins sure are.  He’s good, but hasn’t been what I expected him to be so far.  He hasn’t made the playoffs in his three years as a starter, but part of that can attributed to the lack of weapons the Dolphins gave him.  That’s where giving him the money now makes sense.

Miami traded for wide receiver Kenny Stills in March, signed tight end Jordan Cameron, and added DeVante Parker in the draft.  Those are three big time weapons for Tannehill to throw to.  The confidence in him within the Dolphins organization was high before.  With these set of targets and the big contract, he’s gonna have higher standards.

As I said above, I’m not 100% in on Tannehill.  I’m hanging around 75% right now.  Why?  I just haven’t see enough that makes me think he’s a franchise QB.  It’s just not there.  However, the new weapons are a huge addition.  Last year, Tannehill passed for 4,045 yards and 27 TDs.  Those aren’t bad stats, but arm strength has been an issue for him since he joined the league.  The longest pass he completed last year was 50 yards.  No matter who your receivers are, that number should be higher.  With guys to work with, we should see improvement from Tannehill.  The question is how much.

I had someone complain about the amount of money Tannehill got.  It’s a valid argument, I mean, $96 million over six years is a lot.  Tannehill’s average salary comes out to be $16 million.  Out of the top 18 highest QB salaries in the league, Tannehill’s cap hit is tied for 14th (based on average salary, list from dailydolphin.blog.palmbeachpost.com).  Tannehill’s salary ties Andy Dalton’s, whose contract is structured similar.

Comparing Dalton and Tannehill has pros and cons, but neither has had postseason success.  Dalton hasn’t won a playoff game, as his team seems to underachieve every year.  Tannehill hasn’t made it, but the Dolphins are hoping that’ll change this year.  The money is the same between the two.  It’s very likely they have similar paths these next couple years, whether that’s in a positive or negative direction.

My main point:  $16 million a year is the starting salary for a franchise QB these days.  That’s how much they cost.  It’s the simple.  If you feel a guy is gonna lead your team, that’s how much you pay them.  If you look below No.18 on the list, the only competent QB who isn’t on a rookie deal is Tom Brady.  Brady takes less so that he can allow his team to sign guys to help them out (Example: Darrelle Revis).

As the guys at Around The NFL put it on NFL.com, it’s basically the Dalton Scale.  Above Dalton’s number, he’s your guy.  Below, nope.  Tannehill’s matching it.  And for now that’s fair.

You have to expect Tannehill and his team to improve.  I always say it:  Give a guy weapons, then decide if he’s your guy.  Tannehill’s shown enough to prove to the Dolphins he has the skill.  And now, they got some toys for him to play with.  It’s a smart thing to do for your franchise.

The main concern I have with the deal is if they did it too early.  He was a free agent in two years, and it seems like they might have been nervous to lose him had they waited.  Again, giving him weapons should help, but flukes have occurred in the past (Bears fans mop up tears).  There’s always risk here.  This upcoming season is huge for Tannehill, but is a unfortunate measuring stick for the Dolphins.  Say next season doesn’t go so well, the Dolphins could be feeling like the Bears did last year…. Stuck in buyer’s remorse.


 

On the NFL’s change to the PAT…..

On Tuesday, the NFL announced changes to the point after and two point conversion.  This came after a Peter King MMQB column Monday morning, where he detailed what changes were on the table between the owners.  The vote was made Tuesday afternoon then announced.  The changes are as follows:

  • Extra point moved to the 15 yard line from the two yard line
  • Two point conversions are returnable if a turnover occurs, as well as blocked extra points

The move wasn’t a shock.  We knew this day was coming, and most of us wanted it to.  Based off what I’ve gauged, most people seem to like it.  The rule change puts a new emphasis on extra points, which were being called good at a rate of 99.5% .  Moving it back to the 15 is a 33 yard field goal, which will drop that number.  As for exacts, we can’t say how many point it’ll drop, but my guess is it’ll be in 80 percentile.

Adding bad weather would drop it farther, and with a stadium or two dealing with that every Sunday, it’ll make the kick more challenging.  Overall, that one point could decide a game.  Shanks are always possibilities too.  Can you imagine shanking a 33 yard kick at the end of the game when your team is trying to tie?

The returnable two point conversion is a smaller addition, but they get picked off all the time.  That could a new wrinkle to games.

This is one of the smarter things the NFL has done in the past year or so.  Let’s hope that trend continues.

NBA Playoffs Preview: Conference Finals

We have four teams left in the NBA Playoffs.  A little scary, right?

In the second round, we had a disappointing but great for making fun of Game 7, three buzzer beaters, and almost a 4th one that would have continued Washington’s season.  This second round definitely made up for the first.

Eastern Conference Finals:

Hawks vs. Cavaliers

Well, this wasn’t a shocker.  I mean, even though I went against Cleveland in the second round, this is what we pretty much expected coming into the playoffs.  The Hawks survived Washington, and the Truth.  Paul Pierce was insane in that series, giving them life after John Wall sat out a couple games.  The Hawks were really tested, but it was the best they’ve looked this postseason.

Cleveland rolled over the Bulls, even with their multiple injuries.  Lebron James has proved us wrong over and over again.  It doesn’t matter what he age is.  He can still do it all.  That wasn’t supposed to happen with this Cleveland team, but look at where we are.  Hopefully, Kyrie Irving can get healthy and play 100%.  He was nothing but a liability on the court in the 2nd round.

Both of these teams are driven by their offense.  Atlanta has the best spacing in the league, with two big men and two wings.  They run the pass or shoot offense, and don’t allow guys to stand in the corner.  Dribbling around isn’t what the Hawks do.  They spread the ball out and find the open shot.  This will get Cleveland pestered on defense.  Expect a lot of points out of Atlanta.

The Cavaliers have the ability to catch up though.  Kyrie Irving is the x-factor.  If he’s healthy, they can run their normal offense, with him playing de-facto point guard.  Kyrie can score, and the Cavs are gonna need him to do that.  The matchup against Jeff Teague is interesting, especially if Kyrie isn’t 100%.  Teague can get steals, but isn’t a lockdown defensive player.  Kyrie will be able to get to the lane, but that’s if he’s not hidden.

In a worst-case scenario, Cleveland could just give the ball to Lebron on every possession, and with DeMare Carrol guarding him, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Carrol is gonna make some money this summer, but is no match for the best player in the league.  The Hawks could go big, and put Paul Millsap on Lebron, forcing him to take more outside shots.

Lebron, as I said above, is in a certain mode right now, where…. he might be just unstoppable.  It could be, that no matter who the Hawks put on him, he’s still winning the game for the Cavs.

Cleveland’s defense is best at the wing, and that’s probably a good thing since the Cavs have to guard Kyle Korver.  Korver is a speciality guy, who honestly wouldn’t be starting if he didn’t have that three ball.  He is unstoppable from beyond the arc, and with him in the game, the Hawks are never out of it.  Iman Shumpert has been great since being acquired at the deadline.  This is the series he’s built for.  Shutting down Korver takes a huge relief off of Cleveland.  Shumpert is the guy to do that.

With Kevin Love out, the Cavs have started Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson at 4 and 5, and it’s given them a better defensive plan.  Both are rim protecters, with Thompson able to slide out beyond the paint in certain situations.  Having those two on Millsap and Al Horford gives Cleveland stability, but if the Hawks want to win this series, Millsap and Horford will have to get open.

This series could go two ways:  1) A domination put on by Cleveland 2) A close, fun (but not at a Western Conference fun level) series that goes 6 or 7 games.  As I said in details above, Kyrie Irving is a huge x-factor.  I don’t think Atlanta is gonna win this series, but they may be able to keep it closer depending on how things break.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

Western Conference Finals:

Rockets vs. Warriors

I’m not gonna talk about Clippers-Rockets here.  I have many thoughts on that below.  As for the Warriors, they were tested.  They got it done in six.  I came into this postseason with the mindset that Memphis was the only team who could beat Golden State.  That didn’t happen.  The Warriors have proven they are unstoppable.  That’ll continue.

Part of what makes Golden State so tough is the matchups they pose.  They can go anywhere on the court.  Top of the key, on the wing, in the corner, down low.  They have players who can play anywhere.  Houston is gonna be challenged like nothing before.

Even though Dwight Howard played well in the last series, he was still killed on defense.  The Rockets didn’t have rim protection, as Howard was down there alone.  They just aren’t big enough, but can make up for it on the outside.  The loss of Donatas Montiejunas has been a big blow to Houston, leaving them without a second rim protecter.  Against Andrew Bogut down low, Howard should have more room to work.  Golden State will spread out their 1-4 guys on the wing, leaving Howard and Bogut down low in what should be a great battle.  Watch out for the elbows.

Where this series is gonna be decided is on that wing.  Both teams live and die by the three.  Houston runs a system around Howard where, it’s full of wing players who can shoot.  They’re also long, and make for good defenders.  They don’t have a ton of size; guys like Jason Terry and Corey Brewer aren’t very physical.  The Warriors posses Draymond Green, who, oh boy, you probably don’t want to mess with him.  Having Green on anyone is a nightmare, and the Rockets don’t have the offensive players to be able to get around him.  Watch out Trevor Ariza.

It’s gonna be raining threes.  Someone will get desperate at a dire time, and’ll start jacking them up.   When playing the Warriors, you have to prepare for the three ball.  Memphis knew it was coming, they just couldn’t answer back.  The Rockets have the ability to answer back.  Everyone (well, almost everyone) on both rosters has the ability to hit the three.  Defense won’t be totally important.

The Rockets could take a different approach to the game, and get it down low early, stacking fouls on Andrew Bogut.  I don’t totally see that happening, but if they’re cold in one game, that may be an option.

This series is going to be about who can score more points than the other, and as the sounds ridiculous, it truly will come down to that.  Golden State is a great defensive team, but I’m not sure they’ll have to play it as much.  If they do their thing on offense, they’ll be fine.  A cold shooting night will come for the Warriors, and we know what happens then. Houston will have to take advantage of that situation.  That’s how they win a  game or two.  Again, I thought Memphis was the only team who could beat Golden State in these playoffs.  That should give you a pretty good idea about how I feel about them and the rest of the remaining teams here on out.

Prediction: Warriors in 6


 

On the Clippers’ collapse…… 

Man, what happened here?  The Clippers had a 3-1 series lead on the Rockets, and somehow Houston ended up in the Conference Finals.  LA had multiple issues down the stretch, but one blown lead costed them the whole thing.  With one quarter left in Game 6, the Clippers had a 19 point lead.  Their win probability at that time was at 99%.  99%!!!!  The Clippers then managed to blow that lead, due to a smart read by the Rockets in the 4th quarter.  The Clippers seemed to slow down offensively, and weren’t giving the ball to Blake Griffin.  Houston saw the shift in thinking, and decided to go at it a different way:  Getting it down low.  When the lead was manageable, they started jacking up threes, and made them.  We know the rest; Houston won by 12 points, and then proceeded to kill the Clips in Game 7.

I can’t blame the Clippers roster on the Game 6 collapse.  They were up, they thought they had it.  They kinda coasted toward the end, while Houston went down the mountain on a longboard.  It was a very smart move by Houston, that came at the wrong time for the Clips.

Game 7 was the perfect example of a team being tired.  The Clips were never in it.  Houston killed them by shooting threes and playing defense on the perimeter.

Overall, I think a big change is coming to LA this summer.  DeAndre Jordan is a free agent, and that’s where this whole thing starts.  First, DeAndre is getting the max deal, no matter how you feel about him.  I personally think he’s overrated, but he’s a max player.  He is (by the way) the best rebounder in the NBA.  But on offense, Jordan isn’t a huge addition to a team.  He’ll put up baby shots within four feet of the bucket, and that’s about it.  He can dunk, however…. Maybe the 76ers will look at him to give their fans some actual excitement on the court.

Anyways, he’s the first piece to go.  Not only does shaping an offense around Blake Griffin make sense, but the Clips can’t totally afford Jordan.  You’re basically looking at three max-players….. On one team.  They need bench help, as this postseason was a perfect example.  Putting three max guys on a roster without a bench doesn’t work.  You have to make sacrifices.  Maybe someone can slap some sense into GM Doc Rivers, who oh-by-the-way is their head coach.

LA might be able to swing a couple trades to acquire low-cost bench players.  Matt Barnes is an interesting trade option for a team that needs a wing (Charlotte, but they have other options).  The Clips could replace him in the draft, which is heavy with wing players.  LA doesn’t have the option of using free agent money to sign free agents.  They’ll have to build a bench through trades, which is always risky.

Doc is safe as coach, but the GM side of him needs to go.  He destroyed that team’s bench this year, giving them seven real NBA players to work with.  You need at least 8 guys to win a ring.  The Clips had seven, or you could say 6.5.  Turns out Doc the GM just couldn’t do math.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview

Oh man, we made it all the way here.  Four teams left.  Two series.  The winners play for the Stanley Cup.  Let’s jump right into it:

Western Conference Finals:

Ducks vs. Blackhawks

Anaheim did what I expected them to do in the second round against Calgary.  They out-skated them up and down the ice, and took advantage of all the defensive miscues made by that young team.  Lesson learned, you have to play defense against the Ducks.  They kill you if you don’t.  And when they’re angry, or are playing faster than usual, they’re unstoppable.  Anaheim handled the Flames in five, as I nailed the pick exactly.  It was a great run for the young Flames.  Nobody expected them to get that far.

The Blackhawks swept the Wild, in a rather disappointing series.  Minnesota, who had convinced many that they could be Cup sleepers, just fell apart in the series.  They had too many issues, with a different one popping up in every game.  The series gave the Blackhawks a good amount of rest, which is something they’ll need against Anaheim.

This is gonna be a series full of speed on the ice.  Both teams are fast and can score.  While Chicago plays excellent defense, Anaheim is just too fast. It’s gonna be up to Corey Crawford again.  Crawford, after losing the starting spot in the first round, played great against Minnesota last round.  While the stats don’t totally back him up, he was one of the reasons Chicago swept Minnesota.

With Anaheim’s ridiculous offense, Crawford has to stay alert.  If he continues his second-round-like play, he’ll keep the job.  Scott Darling is his backup though, and in case of a collapse by Crawford, Darling is there and ready to go.  Crawford will have to trust his defense in this series, which is a tad risky.  In the second round, Minnesota didn’t push the puck much.  The Blackhawks defense shut them down, but the Ducks are sometimes unstoppable.

Anaheim’s offense has two levels.  The normal, top ten ranked league-wide offense that features Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.  That’s pretty hard to defend itself.  But then there’s the top level, a type of offense that goes 110 MPH rather than the speed limit.  It usually sparks when there’s around five minutes left, no matter what the score is.  The Ducks were never out of games because they kept up.  When the score wasn’t going their way, they answered, quickly.

This is what Chicago has to be scared of.  This will be the best offense their praised defense has faced.  Losing Michal Rozsival for the rest of the post-season was killer, and please, don’t look up his ankle injury.  It’s not pretty.  Johnny Oduya has only scored two points this postseason, dropping his +/- to -5.  This is the series they need him and others to step up.

Where this gets frisky for the Ducks is the same place it does for Chicago.  Defense.  I’m expecting a lot of goals between these two teams.  The Ducks defense is simply okay, and statistically below average this season.  It’s been much better in the postseason, but you could argue this is their first true test.  Patrick Kane has been phenomenal this postseason, tallying 13 points including seven goals.  Duncan Keith’s offense impact has been huge too, as his +/- is soaring to a +10.

The Blackhawks have plenty more to offer.  Brad Richards has been great in the playoffs, and Brent Seabrook is laying down a +4 while playing hefty minutes.  Chicago is really deep, and they don’t have a ton of holes.  They’re also working against a goalie who’s been decent during most of the year.  While the stats disagree, Frederick Andersen has been average this season.  The postseason record this year is pretty, but it’s the offense that’s winning games for the Ducks.  The Blackhawks love to take time with attacks, and they’re super good at setting up.  Pushing the puck to get Andersen off guard is the key to scoring.  Chicago has to keep up in this series, or else they’ll find themselves in trouble.

Since neither team matches up totally well with each other, this series is super hard to pick.  I feel like I have strong cases for both teams.  Overall, Anaheim has been unstoppable in these playoffs, but haven’t played anyone super tough.  Chicago has a great combination of everything, but has a frisky goaltender who can collapse at any time.  Anaheim has the tougher task overall, but they’ll get it done.

Prediction: Ducks in 7

Eastern Conference Finals:

Lightning vs. Rangers

The way both teams got here has been severely different from one another.  The Lightning took a 3-0 series lead over Montreal, but got it done in six games.  The Rangers found themselves in overtime in Game 7 against Washington Wednesday night.  As a Rangers fan, I having a seizure on every New York possession, then this happened:

Then capped off my celebration with this:

Let’s just say, it was quite a series.  Just incredible.  But that’s what these playoffs are about right?

The Rangers face a similar dilemma as the Blackhawks above.  They have to score, a lot, in this series.  If they don’t, they’ll fall behind fast.  No one has been able to stop the Lightning’s offense all year, and that only continued in the postseason.  Montreal was caught totally off guard, as the Steven Stamkos/Tyler Johnson duo killed them.

The Rangers’ defense is what they’re know for, and that trait will have to show up.  Dan Girardi has had a great postseason, putting up a +5.  He had a great end to the season, and is continuing the success through the playoffs.  Containing Stamkos and Johnson is priority No.1 for the Rangers.  Henrik Lundqvist, who has been a wall this postseason, has to get help.  Every goalie has faults, and the Lightning know how to expose them.

New York has to expect a lot of scoring from Tampa Bay.  I wouldn’t be shocked if see three goals a game being produced by them.  The Rangers will have to match it.  Meaning, they’re gonna have to score too.  The Lightning can pile it on teams, as they did in Game 2 against Montreal.  Thankfully, the Rangers aren’t going up against a great defense.  Tampa Bay’s has been good enough to get them here, but not fantastic.  They’re similar to Anaheim:  The offense wins them games.  We’re just gonna pile it on you.

New York is a very good power play team, and getting penalties from Tampa Bay will be a huge boost to their offense.  The Lightning led the league in minor penalties.  If that keeps up, the Rangers will make them pay.

From a big picture, this series is all about who can keep up.  Both teams have the ability to score, it’s just a matter of who will.  Ben Bishop has been good this postseason, but it’s not him who’s really winning games for the Lightning.  New York has to control the offensive attack from Tampa Bay, and take advantage of any power play they can get.  The Rangers don’t play insanely fast, and take their time on attacks.  Getting many shots on goal in a short matter of time to distract Ben Bishop is the key.  Settle down and play your game.

This is going to be a good series, but I think it could be over sooner than we think, either way.  Both teams are gonna be able to score.  It’s a matter of who can take advantage of the other’s weakness and when.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

Enjoy the weekend!!!!

NFL Puts The Cherry On Top For The Patriots

I can’t believe that I’m writing two columns in a week on this matter.  On Monday, the NFL released punishment against the Patriots for the DeflateGate scandal, a whole five days after the Wells Report came out.  While DeflateGate isn’t on the NFL itself, they still have a whole lot to do with why the media is obsessing over it, and why I’m writing about this again.

I’m not here to rip the NFL, like I have done in the past, deservedly so.  At least, I’ll try not to.  No promises.

The NFL’s punishment against the Patriots included all of the following:

  • A four game suspension for Tom Brady
  • A $1 million dollar fine against the Patriots
  • A loss of their 2016 1st round pick and 2017 4th round pick

As for the two locker room assistants, they have been suspended by the Patriots.  They are not league employees, they’re team employees.  New England has the right to do anything they want to with them.  Honestly, I’m not sure how hard it is to not just fire them and be done with it.  But then again, it seems the Patriots and NFL are doing all they can to drag this out and make a bigger deal out of it than they need to.  Heck, the two locker room people were the biggest culprits in this.  Just get rid of them!

I didn’t think Tom Brady deserved to get suspended.  This is a minor violation of rules, even though it is cheating.  However, the length of Brady’s suspension had less to do with his role in the incident and had more to do with his behavior.  First, Brady was not cooperative with investigators while the Wells Report was being put together.  He wouldn’t give much up.  Second, Brady did lie to investigators, the NFL, his team, his coach and owner.  That, I think, has more to do with it than anything.  And that affects his legacy more than anything else in this situation does.  He lied, he wasn’t cooperative.  The NFL made him pay for it.  But how come Roger Goodell didn’t pay for it when he lied???

When it comes to Brady lying, I really think that, during Super Bowl Week, he was focused on the game, and didn’t want any distractions, so he shot it down, but didn’t realize the consequences that would come later.  He didn’t handle it like a professional.  I think it’s that simple, and I hope it is.

Jimmy Garoppolo is gonna start for the first four games of the year, and as it’s too early to say how he’ll play, this is a big opportunity for a young guy to show his stuff.  It will also give New England a good hint at whether he could be the successor to Brady when the time comes.  The Patriots’ schedule those first four weeks is kinda tough.  I’d say, even though it’s early, that New England will be favored in no more than two of those games.

The $1 million dollar fine is the largest handed down in NFL history, but c’mon, this is a team that drives in $428 million in revenue a year.  To them, that’s chump change.

The draft picks are just killer, and this is where I feel like the NFL might have gone overboard.  Losing a first rounder is one the harshest penalties you can get, and you never know what a 4th round pick can bring.  New England lost a pick when SpyGate came along in 2007.  Actually, even though it’s past and over it with, that incident came back to haunt the Patriots again.  The NFL treated them as second time offenders to the “integrity of the game” rule.  That made the penalty harsher.

The NFL dragged this out longer they had to.  Following the AFC Championship Game, they said the investigation would be complete in three weeks.  It was somewhere around 85 days after that statement when the Wells Report came out.  Then, the NFL made us wait five days after that for the punishment.  Here’s my issue:  The NFL has had the report done for awhile now.  They had it the whole time (Oh, that sounds familiar!).  The NFL waited to release the report to create drama.  Then, they waited the five days to release the punishment because they were worried that they’d get trashed again.  Really, the media decided the punishment.  The NFL gauged public opinion on the Wells Report before punishing the Patriots.  Really, the media made the decision about punishment.

We still made a bigger deal out of this than we should have.  Really, the NFL might’ve.  While I did have a change of mind about how the PSI of the football’s would give a team an advantage, it still didn’t affect the AFC Championship Game.  Catching a deflated football or a normal football shouldn’t matter when you’re wide open; that shows you how the Colts played in the second half.   We should all feel ashamed that we spent this much time on this, but in the end, it may not have been our fault.

What To Do About Hacking+NBA Playoffs Update

Coming into the Rockets-Clippers series, we knew there were going to be a ton of free throws.  I even predicted it.  Both teams would experience with hacking, nicknamed Hack-A -Shaq due to the origins of the technique.  We change the name depending on who’s getting fouled (Hack-A-Jordan/Howard/Drummond/Okafor (that’s coming, don’t worry).

But Sunday night’s Game 4 of Rockets-Clippers was a different kind of hacking.  The point:  DeAndre Jordan attempted 28 free throws in the first half.  He made 10 of them.  That’s an NBA Playoff record for attempts in a half.  Houston fouled him, and kept fouling him, and then did it some more.  They were somehow down 60-54 at halftime.  Turns out, it totally backfired on them.

The Clippers came out of the break on fire, as Houston stopped fouling due to a lack of guys with a no fouls.  The Rockets hadn’t really played defense all night, due to most of the Clips’ offensive possessions coming from the line.  After halftime, they still didn’t.  The game turned into a disaster, and Houston found themselves giving up 43 points in the 3rd quarter.  Halfway through that quarter, they were down 81-58, having scored four points in six minutes.

The hacking technique back fired on Houston Sunday night, and even though it didn’t work for them completely, the debate rages on about whether this excessive and constant fouling should be allowed.  Many hope for a rule change, others say to deal with it.

The Case For A Rule:

Inputing a rule that prohibits excessive and intentional fouling would solve most the problems.  It makes awful television to watch one guy shoot free throws over and over again.  The NBA is an entertainment broadcast, and watching a guy shoot upwards of 15 free throws in a half is not entertaining.  The NBA is also a business, and while it might be a fair strategy, they care about TV ratings and money.  People won’t watch the games featuring the teams with players on them who I listed above.  Adding a rule would gain more viewers back.

A rule wouldn’t put a burden on the certain players who have issues with free throws.  Guys wouldn’t have to stress about making them, and could remain in the game to help their team on defense.  The guys that struggle with the freebies are great defensive players, like DeAndre and Dwight Howard.  That’s where they specialize.

The specifics of a rule are a little hard to bang out, but maybe, if one’s inputed, it would have a certain frame of time.  Say the rule allows hacking with under six minutes left in the 4th quarter, but prohibits it at any other time in the game.  This would be a farce for the other team.  Zero or one point(s) per possession in the final minutes will lose you a game.  It would force guys to make their free throws, with consequences being costly.  Games already slow down in the 4th quarter, but we could make up for it if it didn’t occur in the middle of the 2nd.

A rule where hacking is prohibited in the final minutes makes no sense.  Having drama at the end of games should be a goal of the NBA’s.  There’s no real drama in the middle of 2nd quarter.  No one wants to watch free throws excessively in the middle of the first half.  If a rule is inputted, it should allow hacking in the final six, but that’s it.

The Case Against A Rule:

This is where I (sorta) stand on this matter.  The easiest point against a rule is:  You should be able to make your free throws.  There’s no one guarding you.  You’re 15 feet from the hoop, standing still, and trying to put a ball in a hoop.  Is it really that hard?  No!  I could go to a court and shoot free throws, and I have never played organized basketball on true team (unless you count pick-up or playground….playground meaning at school).  My Dad has a serious issue with guys who can’t make free throws.  He thinks there should be a clause in a contract that doesn’t allow you to earn a certain amount of money if you’re not shooting at least 70%.

That’s the main case against a rule.  Other cases have a rule possibility disrupting the “integrity” of the game.  I know I know, that’s an NFL word, but still, some feel that the “originally” of the game would be affected by a rule.  Not inputting a rule would force guys to make free throws, and if they can’t, they’d hurt their team.  As I’ve also said above, the hacking applies to about four or five teams in the league.  That’s it.  It’s not like half the league does it.  Houston, the Clippers, Detroit (Andre Drummond), and whoever lands Jahil Okafor (Again, I did watch a good amount of college basketball this year, even though I didn’t cover it) in the upcoming draft (so add Minnesota or the Knicks or Philadelphia).

Not adding a rule applies to leagues below the NBA too.  Heck, this applies to community leagues and school teams in 6th-8th grade.  Youth coaches make their kids practice free throws.  Trust me, none of the kids like it, but they’re important, as Houston and LA showed you Sunday night.  Youth coaches have reportedly reached out to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, asking for no rule change, because they want their kids to be able to make free throws, and say “I can hit those, but Dwight can’t, ha!”

So what happens?  And where do I stand?

There’s a difference here.  First:  Where I stand….

I don’t want a rule, honestly.  These guys should be able to make their free throws.  It’s really not that hard.  Players obviously need to practice these more, and I don’t believe any of the science behind why or why not they can’t make them.  Make your free throws, and contribute to your team.  I know it’s sucky television, and it’s not fun to watch.  However, this is how basketball is supposed to be played.  Keep it that way.

What the NBA does this Summer….

I think we’re heading for a rule change.  It’s gonna really make me mad when it happens.  I believe it’ll have similar parameters to what I laid out above.  They’re gonna see the ratings, have a heart attack, panic and do something about it.  To me this sucks, but it takes a burden off some of these players.  It also makes the game more enjoyable.

Whatever happens, people will react, and this will be the one of the bigger stories this Summer in basketball.


 

Quick Hits On NBA Playoff Matchups:

This second round has been awesome.  It has totally made up for the lackluster first round that we had.  Here’s what I’ve seen from the four matchups so far.

  • Cavaliers-Bulls has been the best series of the second round so far.  I mean, two buzzer beaters, three close games.  We have this thing tied at 2 heading into tonight.  My original pick was Bulls in 7.  Chicago has played better than Cleveland in this series.  Granted, they’re taking advantage of the banged up Cavs.  Kevin Love is obviously gone, and now Kyrie Irving is dealing with a strained foot and knee tendinitis.  It shows.  He, in Game 4, had no chance against Derrick Rose.  Irving was slow on defense and couldn’t catch up.  On offense, he wasn’t attacking the basket.  Irving was literally standing there, afraid to run, and was shooting jump shots at the wing Sunday.  His two injuries aren’t going away soon.  Rose is gonna become a bigger problem for Cleveland.  It always seems that, this time of year, Lebron James always has to do everything.  That wasn’t supposed to happen this year, but look at where we are.  And now, he’s got a sprained ankle.  Cleveland continues to decimated by injuries.  It’s why I went against them in my preview.  It’s looking pretty good right now, aye?
  • This column was based around Clippers-Rockets, if you haven’t noticed.  Even if the hacking didn’t exist, this still wouldn’t be that fun.  Los Angeles leads 3-1 in the series.  They’re simply beating Houston down low.  Dwight Howard hasn’t been great, and that’s not good since he’s their only rim protecter.  The Clips are playing great wing defense, causing Houston to not get open looks from three, where they live and die.  It’s quite simple, and Houston faces a serious problem.  Perhaps they could try the hack again, but if it back fires, they’ll find themselves golfing while the Conference Finals are taking place.
  • Hawks-Wizards continues to be a very East-like series.  It’s a 2-2 tie after last night, but some of these games just aren’t fun.  Last night, the Wizards played well, but not good enough compared to the Hawks.  That was the best I’ve seen Atlanta play all year.  The spacing was back, Paul Millsap was healthy.  They really dominated Washington offensively, but the Wiz answered, keeping it close.  Washington will hang around, but John Wall’s injury is a huge concern.  We don’t know yet if he’s playing tonight.  While Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce have been fantastic, with Beal kinda taking over point guard, Wall is the guy.  He makes those incredible passes.  He is very good on defense.  The Wiz are gonna have to make up for this, but they’ve shown that they can.  All and all, the Hawks still get this done, but Washington is gonna fight in these next 2 or 3 games.
  • I don’t know why everyone is shocked by Memphis being tied with Golden State at 2.  I had the Grizzlies in the Finals most of the year.  This matchup has gone both ways with each team.  Memphis has been hitting outside shots, something they didn’t do much this season.  It’s throwing the Warriors off; they were prepared to defend the post game.  Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have been good, but the Grizzlies are figuring out that, with their stealth defense, they can explore other options on offense, since Golden State hasn’t been shooting well.  That was the big problem for them in Game 3.  They weren’t getting open looks, and everyone panicked.  Last night was a different story, as the MVP Stephen Curry showed up.  I have gone all over the place with this series, going anywhere from Memphis in 7 to the Dubs in 5.  I truly have no idea what happens from here on out, but it’s bound to be incredible.

On the Pelicans firing Monty Williams……

I’m sorry, but how is this a shock?  Every column I’ve read so far is basically a “I’m sorry” letter to Monty Williams.  It’s like a “Get Well” card on the rack at Target.  I mean, Monty Williams was not a good coach, and I don’t care if he made the playoffs this year.  The only thing that got New Orleans into the playoffs was Anthony Davis, and that’s it.  He had no help, and his coach definitely wasn’t a contributor.  Williams couldn’t figure how to use The Brow right, and it showed against Golden State in the first round.  I also felt that Williams had too much power within the organization, which led to the troubling roster.

This move also shows that, teams in the league really believe that Tom Thibodeau will be out in Chicago.  Reports have him gone no matter what happens this postseason, as him and the front office have butted heads for some time.  Orlando, Denver, and now New Orleans are all teams that are without coaches, and Scott Brooks remains without a team.  It seems likely that Thibs could join him, leading to an all-out bidding war.  New Orleans makes total sense for Thibs.  Could you imagine the Brow being coached by him?  Can you imagine how hard it would be to score against the Brow and the defensive mastermind Thibs is?  Be prepared, just in case it happens…