It has been a long-time coming, but the NBA playoffs have been more exciting than the NHL playoffs this year.
For a team that had aspirations of winning the NBA championship, the Chicago Bulls season ended with a thud. To lose three straight games to Cleveland including the final one on your home court by 23 will make it a long offseason. Tom Thibodeau no longer seems like a good fit, although he will easily find a job. Derrick Rose looks like he is finally healthy as he had an excellent series, but can you truly depend on him moving forward with his injury history? I wonder what would have happened this season with Chicago if Carmelo Anthony had gone there instead of resigning with the hapless NY Knicks.
Talk about turning back the clock. Paul Pierce was already a lock for the Hall of Fame, but if there were any doubts, he was awesome against the Hawks. He hit a game-winner in Game 3 and was 1/10 of a second away from hitting an amazing game-tying shot in Game 6 before the Wizards finally bowed to Atlanta. There has been talk of him returning to the Celtics next year since he will almost definitely not exercise his player option, but I believe he stays with the Wizards and if not, would opt for a contender knowing that next season would be his last.
The Cavs should easily dispatch the Hawks in five.
The Houston-Clippers series was tremendous, but the Clippers looked completely unprepared in Game 7 and for all the experience Doc Rivers has, his teams are not only 0-4 in road Game 7’s, but he is the only coach in NBA history to blow two 3-1 series leads. And how about the Clippers never even making it to the Western Conference Finals in their 37-year franchise history. The expansion franchise Hornets, Pelicans and Raptors are the only other NBA teams to have that distinction.
I’d say Golden State beats Houston in seven games. The Rockets have the talent to win, but Steve Kerr will outcoach Kevin McHale when it matters most which pains me to say.
Congrats to Isiah Thomas (the annoying one that used to play for the Pistons), for his new job as President of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Now there will be an unlimited amount of women he can sexually harass. I hope the Liberty are saving because he cost the Knicks 11.6 million that was paid out to his victim.
I ask again on behalf of Joe Namath, for players to stop guaranteeing victories. I wish there was a win-loss statistic for players who have guaranteed victory since Namath successfully did it in Superbowl III.
Alex Ovechkin guaranteed a Game 7 victory in New York and despite scoring a goal, his Washington Capitals once again failed to advance past the semifinals and haven’t in 18 seasons.
Remember all of Rex Ryan’s guarantees of the Jets going to the Superbowl? How about Cavs owner Dan Gilbert guaranteeing the Cavs would win a title before LeBron won one in Miami. In 2007, during the Pats undefeated run, Steelers defensive back Anthony Smith guaranteed the Steelers would end the streak but Pittsburgh went on to lose 34-13. I guarantee the next time a player guarantees victory, no one will care.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to beat all Original 6 teams en route to winning the Stanley Cup. They beat the Red Wings in the first round, the Canadiens in the second round, are playing the New York Rangers in the third round and would play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup if the Hawks get by Anaheim.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is duplicating the business model he learned in Detroit. The Red Wings built their dynasty in the 90’s through hording Russian players and then followed it up by dominating the Swedish market. Yzerman has four dynamic young Russian players on Tampa Bay and has an overall winning foundation for years to come.
Since Montreal lost to Tampa Bay, the winningest team in NHL history has now gone 22 seasons without a Stanley Cup with only two appearances in the Conference Finals in that span.
I wonder how the Boston Bruins GM search is going?
One last hockey note, congrats to Canada on squeaking past the competition at the World Championship by going 10-0 and outscoring the opposition 66-15. By the way, Ovechkin guaranteed a loss for Russia in the gold medal game and he came through.
Okay so we are at the quarter pole in the MLB season.
What in the name of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio is going on with the Houston Astros. They have the best record in the American League and are one game out of the best overall record in baseball. They are 25-14 overall and a staggering 12-4 on the road. To say this kind of leap was unexpected would be an understatement. In the Astros previous six seasons, they have compiled a 382-590 record and have finished a combined 184 games out of first place.
The Kansas City Royals not only don’t look hungover from last year’s surprising World Series run, but they are out to prove to everybody they are not a fluke. Fox can already taste that Royals-Astros ALCS.
As for the Red Sox, you have to go out of your way to have your #2-#6 hitters all hitting under .200 with runners in scoring position. My big question about the Red Sox these days is the lack of organizational development. From the mishandling of Will Middlebrooks (not referring to Jenny Dell here), to the shifting of positions of Xander Bogaerts last season, to the indecision of having too many outfielders and forcing a 72 million dollar player Rusney Castillo to waste away in the minors, this organization lacks clear direction. I am all for compiling assets, but once you compile them, you need to have a plan to effectively utilize them and that plan is missing. The AL East is an embarrassment and is among the worst divisions in baseball. But Sox management seems to be content with hanging around in an inferior division. I guess it beats finishing in last place again.
Jacoby Ellsbury exited the Yankees game tonight with a knee injury. He was on pace for four homers and twenty four RBI’s this season. Can they shorten the porch at Yankee Stadium even more?
The Cubs would make the playoffs as a wildcard if they started today. 106 seasons could be a distant memory.
Before I get into this week’s blog, I wanted to introduce a new section that will close each blog called “Sports Cheater of the Week”.
I want to start out by defending Joe Montana. It is just downright unfair all the grief he is getting for having inflated stats thanks to his main man Jerry Rice cheating all those years. Apparently, Rice who played in the NFL from 1985-2004 missed the NFL memo in 1981 that said stickum and other adhesives are banned. Montana, who played with Rice from 1985-92, said he believes that quarterback Tom Brady cheated and is responsible for the New England Patriots cheating leading up to the Superbowl. What are the odds that in eight seasons together, Montana ever witnessed Rice using stickum or high fived him/shook hands with Rice while he had the substance on? I would hate to think Montana turned the other cheek. It’s unfortunate that such a deity like Montana would allow his Hall of Fame teammate to cheat knowing that his touchdown, yardage and Superbowl total could have been adversely effected when those passes weren’t sticking to Rice’s hands.
Two last Superbowl notes. Pete Carroll continues to get grilled for not handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the end of the game but the flack is somewhat misguided. If Carroll had thrown to Chris Matthews on a fade or a much lower risk play in general, there would have been very little grief about him passing. It was the type of pass play he chose as opposed to passing the ball. Even if it is incomplete, he still has two more downs to give the ball to Lynch with one timeout remaining. Also, the contention that Seattle lost the game as opposed to the Patriots winning is misguided as well. The Patriots outplayed Seattle the entire first half aside from the last 30 seconds (which could go down as the worst 30 seconds of defense in franchise history). Seattle won the third quarter, New England won the fourth quarter and Jermaine Kearse made a miraculous catch on 3rd and 10 that allowed Seattle to have the chance to blow it in the first place. New England played a better overall game and executed when it counted the most. The best team won.
The Boston Celtics continue to be a black mark on the Hub sports scene as they now have the longest drought without a championship as they haven’t won since the 2007-08 season.
The teams with the best hope of snapping their cities’ drought are Cleveland who has gone 66 years and has hopes with the Cavaliers and Atlanta who has gone 19 and has hopes with the Hawks.
Chris Paul was in the news twice in the last week and not showing well in either. The first was when he criticized a rookie female official to a reporter after the game regarding a technical foul he received. In his post-game rant, he implied that “This might not be for her.” So the question was whether he was degrading the referee because she was female or because she was a rookie. My guess is a little of both although in fairness to Paul he has no negative track record in this area. The Clippers lead the league in technicals and had issues with Lauren Holtkamp earlier in the season but Paul didn’t endear himself to anybody by leaving himself open for ridicule. And then to add insult to injury, in Sunday’s matchup with Oklahoma City, Paul drilled a jumper in the face of Thunder player Mitch McGary and preceded to stare down the Thunder bench to which Kevin Durant yelled “You’re down 20 now, homie.” No better response to a taunt than “scoreboard.” The Clippers lost 131-108.
And lastly, what would be a blog without a New York Knicks reference. Ever-popular owner James Dolan, who is probably only runner-up to Al Davis for consecutive years destroying a franchise got into it with a long-time Knicks season ticketholder this week. Irving Bierman, who claims to have rooted for the Knicks since 1952 lambasted Dolan in a letter regarding scandals and poor decisions during Dolan’s tenure. Dolan responded by calling Bierman a sad and possible alcoholic who makes his family miserable and as if that wasn’t enough, really dug in when he encouraged Bierman to start rooting for the Nets instead. If Dolan really wanted to insult the guy he could have said any of the following to Bierman: You deserve to get business advice from Isiah Thomas. You deserve to get traded to Denver with Marcus Camby, Nene Hilario and Mark Jackson for only Antonio McDyess. You should sit next to Renaldo Balkman at all future games since he was drafted one pick before Rajon Rondo and lastly, you should be forced to feed Eddy Curry since to acquire him the Knicks gave up the draft picks that turned into LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah. On second thought, the Nets don’t look so bad.
Great move by the continuously improving San Diego Padres for locking up James Shields to a four year and approximately 75 million dollar deal. Petco Park is a notorious pitcher’s park and a small market which will be perfect for Shields after his days in Tampa and K.C. Interesting how much less Shields took in years and money than Jon Lester and Max Scherzer who are clearly better. Lester got double the money and Scherzer almost got triple.
Sports Cheater of the Week:
Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. Every sports has ways athletes can cheat and let’s face it, the majority of professional athletes will utilize any advantage they can get unless you are Cris Carter and have never broken a rule in your life.
Subban, who is a notorious diver/embellisher etc. was fined $2000 for trying to trick officials into calling a penalty after his second infraction of the season. This embarrasses the game and his team and is unnecessary for a player of his caliber. Interestingly enough, Subban continues to do this on a regular basis which would seem to imply that it is not discouraged by the coaching staff or management.