I understand Kevin Love was frustrated and who wouldn’t have been. After toiling with Minnesota for six years and now he finally had a chance to not only participate in the playoffs but potentially contribute to winning a championship. But let’s be honest, Kelly Olynyk did not do this intentionally. Many Celtics have come to his defense and said Olynyk doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body. Well I say he doesn’t have an intentional bone in his body. He never intentionally plays defense, never intentionally gets rebounds or boxes out and never intentionally plays with any intensity or physicality. If anything, when Olynyk got tangled up with Love, it was more out of a lack of coordination or just plain frustration. One other note, Olynyk hooked Love’s arm for four seconds before a whistle was blown and if you watch the replay, you can see that Olynyk was steering Love away from the play in hopes that Bradley would grab the loose ball. By the way, if you aren’t a Celtics fan, it would be completely understandable if you didn’t know who Olynyk was.
A few other notes from that game and series. The officiating in Game 4 was horrendous and embarrassing for the league aside from the Olynyk incident. First, after Kendrick Perkins two-fisted Jae Crowder in the face, he walked toward him to initiate a fight and then after they got tangled hit him in the face again. Perkins had been in the game for a grand total of 40 seconds and he turned into Rick Mahorn. A bit player off the bench who sparks an ugly incident and isn’t ejected? What happened to keeping the game under control? If the referees had rightfully ejected Perkins, the J.R. Smith incident wouldn’t have happened and Jae Crowder doesn’t sprain his ACL and the game doesn’t deteriorate. And how could I leave out Isaiah Thomas mugging Lebron James on the inbounds at the end of the game which helped the Celtics force a turnover. Three referees on the court including the one that handed LeBron the ball and nobody saw it? The height of incompetency.
The Spurs-Clippers series has been the best series so far and Game 6 should be a doozy. The Clippers are playing their hearts out but as usual the defending NBA champs find a way to win which is why they are up 3-2. It would be nice just once if after the Clippers lose a close game, if Coach Doc Rivers didn’t blame the officials which has now become an ongoing pattern.
How about Deron Williams? Paul Pierce started the bashing and many other NBA players and media alike piled on before he woke up and dropped 35 points on the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2. In his previous three games he was 7-of-26 from the field with a grand total of 18 points. For a guy that has underachieved as badly as he has since arriving in Brooklyn, he would be forgiven by a lot of his naysayers if he led the Nets to upset the Hawks in the series. The Nets, behind a rejuvenated and energized Deron Williams could potentially beat the Wizards in the next round also.
By the way, Pierce in potentially his last hurrah led the Wizards to a quick disaptch and sweep of the Toronto Raptors.
Who would have thought that Rajon Rondo would lead the Mavericks to as many playoff victories as the Celtics earned without him? Rondo will probably be forced to take a one year deal with the Lakers now to show he is not a coach killer or malcontent. With that said, his lack of boundaries, mental and emotional discipline and declining play have cost him potentially 20 to 30 million dollars at least. When a guy can’t even pretend to be a good guy or stay on his best behavior going into his free agent year, that speaks volumes.
As the Celtics head into the offseason, let’s truly assess where they are at. Jae Crowder can play for my team anytime as a sixth man. Thomas is the best guard off the bench that any team has in the NBA. Tyler Zeller is a quality backup center that GM Danny Ainge stole from Cleveland. Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley are a legitimate starting backcourt moving forward, but otherwise this team is still very far away from an NBA championship. Ainge needs to attract two marquee players and a couple of veteran big men for this team to be truly relevant. As Coach Brad Stevens said, it was a blessing to play Cleveland in the first round, because it tells the Celtics where they need to get to. Going from 30 wins to 40 wins is a lot easier than going from 40 to 50 or more.
In the name of Clyde Drexler, what kind of motivational tactics are the Portland Trailblazers using with lines like “We don’t lose to Spanish players”. Portland forward and French player Nicolas Batum took responsibility for the Blazers motivational card within the locker room saying he didn’t mean to insult anyone especially the Memphis Grizzlies Spanish center Marc Gasol. Well, as it turns out, the Grizzlies don’t seem to lose to French players as they are on the verge of knocking out Portland with a 3-1 series lead. By the way, Bob Cousy was the first French player in the NBA. The All-French team. Cousy and Tony Parker in the backcourt, Boris Diaw and Joakim Noah at forwards and the Stifle Tower Rudy Gobert at center.
Here is hoping the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Detroit in the seventh game tonight. The Lightning were 5-0 against Montreal in the regular season and that would be the second round matchup.
I have jumped on the Calgary Flames bandwagon, not just because they sent the Sedin brothers and Alex Burrows on an early vacation, but they are starting to bring back memories of the days of Theo Fleury, Gary Suter, Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk. The Flames beat Montreal to win their only Stanley Cup in 1989. In the previous 20 seasons, the Flames have missed the playoffs 12 times and been eliminated in the first round seven times. Here is the bad news. Not only do they have to play the Anaheim Ducks in the next round, but Calgary has lost 20 straight games in Anaheim.
Lastly, the St. Louis Blues continue to be a huge playoff disappointment after falling in the first round to the Minnesota Wild. In the four seasons since coach Ken Hitchcock has taken over, the Blues have had 109, 111 and 109 points respectively and the fourth shortened season (NHL lockout in 2012-13) they had 60 which was still third in the Western Conference. They have now lost in the first round three straight years and the fourth year they lost in the second round. In the last 10 years Hitchcock has coached, he has led his teams to a grand total of one playoff series victory.
A few thoughts as we gear up for the start of the 2015 MLB season.
The Boston Red Sox have had a somewhat bizarre offseason. They have seemingly loaded up on offense, could have the best 1-6 hitters in baseball if things fall right, but have no #1 or possibly #2 starter, have a 40-year-old closer Koji Uehara, who looked tired and ineffective the final months of last season and a bullpen that has some undefined roles and potentially a lot of mediocrity. I have always been a huge fan of compiling assets, but those assets seem to represent redundancy while leaving too many holes. The Red Sox have the best young prospects in baseball and have trade chips aplenty but here are the things I question most heading into the season:
1. The Red Sox declined to resign Jon Lester because of his age and potential decline. Yet, they opted to resign Uehara for 2 years and 18 million instead of resigning Andrew Miller for four years and 36 million despite the fact that Miller is a lefty, is in the prime of his career and is clearly trending upward. Miller went to the Yankees and this decision will be one the Sox sorely regret.
2. The Sox signed Rusney Castillo to a seven year-72 million contract last season. Who signs a player to an average salary of 10 million plus and then can’t find a place in the starting lineup for him? Shane Victorino was named the starter but not on merit and solely based on his past success and the likelihood that he will be a clubhouse problem and become petulant if he is coming off the bench.
3. Xander Bogaerts. I am a big fan and believer, but if he stumbles and he will get a huge leash, the Red Sox have a big hole at SS offensively and defensively. If the rumblings start midway through the season of moving Hanley Ramirez back to SS, that will create a whole new set of problems.
It will be interesting to see how former Red Sox player Will Middlebrooks does in San Diego considering it is not a good hitter’s park. If Middlebrooks does well, he hit .333 in spring training, and it proves out that the Red Sox panicked and gave up too quick, then the 95 million dollars spent on Pablo Sandoval will look bad. However, in light of the Sox losing Christian Vazquez, acquiring Ryan Hanigan for Middlebrooks could help save some face.
Speaking of the Padres, they are one of the most intriguing teams to watch heading into the season. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp have a chance to rebound for big years. Wil Myers and Will Middlebrooks get out from under the pressure of their previous teams and if either or both can perform effectively, the Padres could be a force to be reckoned with. San Diego also acquired all-star catcher Derek Norris, ace pitcher James Shields who should thrive in San Diego and they took minor risks on Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson.
The Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs saga is getting all too repetitive. So the Cubs sent him down to the minors so they could secure an extra year of service time and delay him going to free agency and having to deal with uber-agent Scott Boras. All Bryant did in spring training was hit nine home runs, knock in 15 runs and hit .425 in 40 at bats. Those are Stephen Drew’s power numbers over the last two season coupled with a batting average approximately 300 points less. The players association agreed to this rule and every time a team exploits it, there is an uproar. Next time the collective bargaining agreement comes due, surely this issue will be addressed. However, the Cubs have a potentially contending team for the first time in God knows how long and more importantly, their fans can say the word playoffs without breaking out in laughter. If at the end of the season, the Cubs miss the playoffs by one to three games, everyone will be asking if Kris Bryant could have made the difference and for a team that hasn’t won since… well let’s just say the last time they won: a loaf of bread was five cents, a gallon of milk was 32 cents and a gallon of gas was 11 cents, having another year of service time might not be worth losing a playoff spot.
And how could I finish baseball without discussing the Bronx Bombers. Anytime you go into the season thinking this could be our year if Mark Teixeira bounces back and stays healthy, Alex Rodriguez stays healthy and doesn’t implode, Carlos Beltran stays healthy and bounces back, Tanaka’s elbow holds up, Sabathia’s arm doesn’t fall off from overuse or from holding up his belly and Michael Pineda can stay healthy and fulfill his previous vast potential, you can’t feel good. The only lock on this team offensively might be Jacoby Ellsbury and let’s face it, he is so overdue to get hurt.
Too bad the New York Mets lost Zack Wheeler for the year because it would have been great to see Matt Harvey and Wheeler as a 1-2 punch.
As MLB gears up, the NBA and NHL regular seasons wind down.
As usual the Western Conference holds all the intrigue and excitement. Not thinking too many people are breathlessly awaiting how far the Atlanta Hawks or Toronto Raptors go in the playoffs. The Western Conference should ultimately come down to the Warriors and Clippers. LA has the talent, athleticism and coaching to stay with Golden State, but I am not sure the IQ is there and I truly believe Golden State could be a team of destiny this season as they have virtually no weakness. Everybody still has to get by San Antonio of course but seeing Stephen Curry and the young gun Warriors in the Finals would be refreshing to say the least. By the way, six of the top seven teams in the NBA are in the Western Conference.
Congrats to Phil Jackson on a brilliant first season with the Knicks guiding them to the worst season in franchise history as they are currently 14-61. I wonder if it was a big deal in losing out on getting Steve Kerr to coach the team and settling for Derek Fisher?
I pointed out in my last blog how much more successful the Celtics have performed post-Rondo and how much less successful the Mavs have performed. What seems to be the hidden gem from that trade though is Jae Crowder. He is a jack of all trades and a player Danny Ainge insisted on. Crowder can rebound, pass, shoot from the outside and defend any of the frontcourt positions despite being only 6’6’’.
With all the struggles Kevin Love continues to have in Cleveland and the steady improvement Andrew Wiggins is having in Minnesota, perhaps Cleveland wishes they could rethink that trade. But if Love leaves after this season or doesn’t live up to his potential come playoff time than that failed trade is on LeBron because Cleveland doesn’t pull the trigger on that without LeBron cajoling management.
I am about 50% over losing Darelle Revis and have two other thoughts. First, I thought it was telling last week that Revis felt the need to point out that the Patriots offer wasn’t in the ballpark. This was heavily reported after he decided to resign with the Jets anyway so this was hardly news. What Revis intentionally chose not to address was whether he would have resigned with the Patriots if the offer was in the ballpark. I maintain the Patriots didn’t make a competitive offer because they felt his heart was with the Jets all along and they didnt want to be embarrassed and match the Jets and still lose the player. On the flip side, if the Pats could have resigned him, but they were thinking towards next season when they will have to address the contracts of Donta Hightower, Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, then shame on them. Jones has been injury prone and inconsistent, Hightower is overrated and Collins looks very promising, but why not keep the proven commodity at a position that is virtually impossible to find a stud.
Can’t wait until MLB umpires start issuing delay of game warnings.
World Series prediction:
Washington Nationals win it all and beat the Baltimore Orioles in the Beltway Series.