Archive for April, 2012

WATERCOOLER CHAT: NFL DRAFT, BOBCATS THE WORST

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, it was draft night.  The top 2 picks were foregone conclusions:  Stanford QB Andrew Luck went to the Colts, and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III became the man for the Redskins.  But then… things got interesting.  Right away, the Cleveland Browns traded up to ensure that they got Alabama superstar running back Trent Richardson.  This year saw a lot of trades due to the rule changes in the NFL (settled during the strike).  Before rookies could stand to make some serious money for being top picks, but now there is a rookie salary ceiling, meaning that teams have nothing to lose for trading up.  Sure, they’re giving up additional picks (which can turn into solid players), but they’re going for safer bets and nabbing some of the higher tier players.

Heading down the first round, some of the highlights included the Dallas Cowboys trading up 8 spots to take the top cornerback in the draft in LSU’s Morris Claiborne.  Shortly after, the Miami Dolphins made a leap of faith and took a risk on Texas A & M’s Ryan Tannehill, finally giving Miami  the potential franchise quarterback they’ve been looking for.  Tannehill is thought to potentially be the steal of the draft.  Then, with the #13 pick, the Arizona Cardinals finally got Larry Fitzgerald a threat on the other side, drafting Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.  And the Patriots traded UP, atypical for Bill Bellichick (who typically tries to stockpile picks), but this year he moved up to draft two solid defensive players that the Patriots sorely needed.  Then, at the end of the first round, we finished up with 2 running backs coming off the board — Boise State’s Doug Martin going to the Tampa Bay Bucs, and Virginia Tech’s David Wilson going to the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.  The Giants needed another back after letting their big man Brandon Jacobs go to the 49ers.  The draft continues tonight on ESPN, with many stars still on the board looking for a team.

 

BASKETBALL

Finally, in the NBA, a milestone has been set, as the Charlotte Bobcats 2011-2012 season is officially the worst in NBA History.  They finished the season 7-59, ending it on a 23-game losing streak.  This team simply had nothing to offer.  They had a decent rookie in UCONN’s Kemba Walker (who, to be fair, showed some serious upside), but aside from him, it was a bunch of scrubs.  Their other best player, former Duke standout Gerald Henderson, would barely ride the bench on a contender.  It’s very likely that head coach Paul Silas will be ousted very shortly, but the Bobcats are hoping to land a superstar in June’s draft.  And who’s overseeing this horrible team — none other than the greatest basketball player of all-time:  Michael Jordan.  Interesting.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: JETS WANT TRENT, OVERTIME GAME 7, CALVIN COVETED EA MADDEN COVER

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, get ready for the Draft Thursday night at 8:00pm ET.  The latest rumor is that the New York Jets might trade up to the #3 spot to take Alabama running-back Trent Richardson.  As of now, Richardson is expected to go #4 to Cleveland or #5 to Tampa Bay, but the Jets seem very interested in taking this guy.  The Jets would have to move up from the #16 spot, but they think it might be worth it.  Why?  Because their new offensive coordinator is a run-first guy, and they have a problem with depth.  Right now, Shonn Greene is the starter, but their back-up is LaDainian Tomlinson, who’s likely on his way out.  And behind him, former USC running back Joe McKnight, whose unproven.  Having a beast like Trent Richardson in that spot could make the Jets a very serious offensive attack.

 

HOCKEY

 

It was a much anticipated Game 7 between the defending champion Boston Bruins and the #7 seed Washington Capitals.  These has been a classic series, with multiple games decided in either overtime or the closing minutes of the 3rd quarter.  This one was to decide it all.  Matt Hendricks gave the Capitals an early lead in the first period, and the Capitals would hold that lead until the 2nd period when Boston’s Tyler Seguin put one in for the Bruins to even it up.  In the 3rd period, it was all defense, and neither team could get a goal.  So we were headed to Overtime in a Game 7 — SUDDEN DEATH!  You can not get any better than that.  Then, in OT, Washington’s Joel Ward had a break away, and  put the puck in the back of the net.  And with that, the Caps secure the win, and will advance to the next round.  Washington 2, Boston 1.

FOOTBALL

Finally, in the new annual competition for the Cover Athlete of EA Sports’ Madden football franchise.  Last year, Peyton Hillis beat out Michael Vick to nab the Madden ’12 cover.  So who would be the cover boy for Madden 13?  EA Sports did a 64-player bracket for fans to vote.  It included everyone from Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis to Patriots tight-end Rob Gronkowski.  Basically, everyone had a shot.  And it all came down to the Final 2:  Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Lions superstar Calvin Johnson.  The winner was announced LIVE on ESPN’s Sports Nation, and revealed on a billboard in Times Square.  And when it was all said and done, Megatron (Calvin Johnson) won the cover spot.  Johnson is a one-of-a-kind athlete that will try and avoid the Madden Cover Curse (typically when athletes grace the cover, they have bad seasons).

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: LUCK’S OFFICIALLY WITH COLTS, NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP CLOSER, YU DARVISH SPECIAL

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, with Round 1 of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, there’s been a lot of suspense about who would be the #1 overall pick:  Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.  For a long time, everyone thought the #1 pick was going to be Luck, but then there were rumors that the Colts might actually take RG3.  This is a big deal because (A) there’s high bragging rights for being the #1 overall pick, and (B) because the #1 guy makes more money than the #2 guy.  But yesterday, the Colts officially announced that they would be taking… Andrew Luck with the #1 pick.  Luck will be the heir apparent to Peyton Manning, and it’s almost a certainty that Robert Griffin III will be the new face of the Washington Redskins for the foreseeable future.  Both of these teams will be very fun to watch next season.

And in college football, we may be moving closer to actually getting a playoff for the National Championship.  Many thought having a playoff would be impossible given all the money that’s wrapped up in the bowl games.  After all, it took forever just to get an official National Championship between #1 and #2.  But now there’s a proposal in place that calls for a semifinal game played on a neutral field.  This way, the Top 4 teams in the nation would get a chance to prove that they are in fact the best team.  An actual Final Four for college football.  There was a plan in place that suggested that the semifinal game be played at the home field of the better team, but that plan wouldn’t work because of stadium size.  For example, if Boise State finished #2 in the nation, you couldn’t expect fans from, say, Ohio State to come out and try to cram into that small stadium.  And there definitely wouldn’t be enough hotels to accommodate all the visitors.  This change wouldn’t take place until the 2014 season, but it’s hard to believe that the committee would go this public about a plan and then withdraw it.

BASEBALL

The Texas Rangers  investment in superstar pitcher Yu Darvish is finally starting to really pay off.  Yesterday versus the Yankees, Darvish was simply dominant.  He pitched all the way into the ninth inning, and struck out 10 batters in a shutout.  If he can do that to one of the league’s best offensive line-ups, you have to assume that he won’t have much of a problem with the rest of the league.  Darvish is now 3-0, and getting better with each start.  A few more of these games, and we have to start having some serious discussions about how good this guy actually is.  This may truly be the beginning of a very special pitching career.  Texas 2, NY Yankees 0.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: PETRINO OUT-SMITH IN, SPURS ENIGMA, PARKER TO UCLA

FOOTBALL

In college football, the affair scandal with Bobby Petrino, which resulted in his firing, has left the Arkansas football program in a bit of a dilemma as to who was going to take over this very good football team.  Arkansas won a major bowl game against Kansas State last season, and they will be expected to compete for a National Championship again under quarterback Tyler Wilson and returning star running back Knile Davis.  But, they need a new head coach.  They searched for a few weeks, and yesterday they finally settled on their man:  John L. Smith.  Smith was the assistant coach alongside Petrino, and the fans in the area were calling for his name.  However, Smith was headed to be the head coach at Weber State, never thinking that he’d ever have a chance to coach a program as amazing as Arkansas.  Now, he’s got the gig (for at least a year), and will do his best to bring the program to the promised land.

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have been having a great season.  They look to be on a mission, and given their team’s older average age, they have a slight advantage with this shortened season.  Head coach Gregg Popovich made some very strategic decisions this year, opting to bench his stars when they didn’t need to play, in an attempt to be as fresh as possible during the playoffs.  Yesterday, the Spurs had a chance to gain their 8th straight win and clinch the #1 seed in the Western Conference.  Tim Duncan had a great game with 18 points and 8 rebounds, and the Spurs easily nabbed the win and clinched the top spot.  However, last season, the #8 seed Memphis Grizzlies knocked the Spurs out of the playoffs, and that could happen again this year.  The Spurs are likely the NBA’s biggest enigma.  San Antonio 124, Portland 89.

Finally, in college basketball, the UCLA Bruins, arguably one of the Top 3 programs of all-time, has been struggling ever since their 2008 season.  A season where they boasted an incredible amount of fantastic NBA talent including Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, and Jrue Holiday.  But the last 4 years have been very uninspired.  A lack of talent on the recruiting end, and rumors that head coach Ben Howland had lost control of his team.  Now, UCLA is having a fantastic recruiting off-season, and it was just made better that they nabbed one of the top center prospects in the country in Tony Parker.  This is a big deal because the top recruits tend to want to play at the programs that are currently the hottest.   At this time, that’s Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, North Carolina, and basically any team that everyone’s paying attention to.  So it’s almost a risk going to play for a team like UCLA that may not be in the national spotlight until tournament time.  But this is a great thing for a program looking to get back to the Top 10 and make a run at the National Title.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HUMBER’S PERFECT GAME, LAKERS EDGE THUNDER, KINGS ADVANCE OVER CANUCKS

BASEBALL

We’re very early in the season, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t see amazing feats of greatness.  On Saturday, the Chicago White Sox visited the Seattle Mariners with Philip Humber taking the mound.  The Mariners are not a good team, and this was supposed to be just a routine start for Humber, a pitcher that most people have not heard of.  So nobody expected him to throw a perfect game, but that’s exactly what he did.  For those who don’t know, a ‘perfect game’ is when a pitcher doesn’t allow any hits or ANY body on base (as opposed to a no-hitter, which means just that ‘no-hitter’, but walks are still allowed).  A perfect game is one of the most crowning achievements in sports.  It’s the best thing a pitcher can possibly do.  In the 143 years of major league baseball, there are only 20 official ‘Perfect Games’ on record.  Humber threw the 21st.  It was purely amazing.  Just yesterday, Humber was just another major league pitcher.  And now, he will have his name on a plaque in the Hall of Fame.  It’s a great story, and Humber deserves all the accolades he’s receiving.  Chicago 4, Seattle 0.

BASKETBALL

 

Kobe and the Lakers played host to the #1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder.  The Lakers have been an up-and-down team this season, so this was a real test to see if they could beat the best in the West.  After all, these two could meet in the playoffs.  The game was a back and forth battle the whole way, that even got a little physical with Metta World Peace elbowing the Thunder’s James Harden in the side of the head to take him out of the game.  Pau Gasol had an amazing night for the Lakers with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists, helping the Lakers rally from an 18-point deficit to bring the game to overtime.  In OT, the battle continued, and Russell Westbrook had a chance to ice the game with a 3, but it falls just short.  We’re headed to double-overtime.  And Kobe is not going to lose a game in double-overtime on his home court.  He hit some clutch jumpers to maintain the lead, and the Lakers officially edge the Thunder.  Can they do this in a seven-game series?  LA Lakers 114, Oklahoma City 106.

HOCKEY

The superstar team of last season was easily the Vancouver Canucks.  Even though they lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, they were still dominant during the regular season.  This year they re-entered the playoffs as the #1 seed, but would take on a pesky #8 Los Angeles Kings team.  Now, the Canucks were without one of their best players, Daniel Sedin, but the Kings are hot right now, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are always ripe for upsets.  This was Game 5, and the Canucks did have Daniel Sedin playing again.  And the Canucks would need him.  The game required an overtime, but in OT, the Kings Jarrett Stoll got a beautiful goal to win the game and knock Vancouver out of the playoffs.  Now the Kings advance to play the St. Louis Blues in the next round.  Can the Kings go all the way to the Cup as a #8 seed?  We’ll see.  LA Kings 2, Vancouver 1.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT BRING IT ON, HOWARD’S BACK, BROWN TO SMU

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, it was a battle sparring for the #1 spot in the Eastern Conference between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.  Currently, the Bulls are sitting in the top spot, but the Heat are trying to chip away at their lead.  But here’s the thing, the Bulls are still without Derrick Rose.  That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t still play.  They’ve got a fantastic bench, and a team that truly gels together.  Except, they were going against LeBron, Wade, and Bosh — and gelling just isn’t enough.  LeBron had a 27 point, 11 rebound night and helped seal the deal.  Now the Heat are just a game and half from getting the #1 spot.  This will become very valuable during playoff time, as home court advantage seems to mean everything in basketball.  Miami 83, Chicago 72.

Elsewhere in the NBA, some very bad news for Orlando Magic fans.  No, Dwight Howard hasn’t been traded, but it looks like he will miss the rest of the season AND Olympics because he needs back surgery.  He’s been dealing with back issues since March, and the team felt that there’s no reason to risk it getting worse.  So the Magic will be without him for the post-season.  This… will be a catastrophe, as the Magic become a very beatable team without Howard.  Their bench isn’t deep, and they don’t even gel that well as a team.  It’s possible that the Magic could not only suffer a first round loss, but also get swept.

Finally, in college basketball, the SMU (Southern Methodist) Mustangs have been a complete afterthought.  You never see them in the tournament, and probably didn’t even know they had a team. But now, they want to start seeing a good basketball program, especially since their football program is getting better.  How to accomplish this?  Bring in a future Hall of Fame Coach in Larry Brown.  Brown is renowned not only as one of the greatest college coaches (given his tenure at Kansas), but also one of the best pro coaches (given his reputation for turning average teams into championship contenders).  Now he’s going back to college where he started, and hopefully SMU will have a team to root for again

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: FLYERS STILL ALIVE, PUDGE RETIRES, END OF ERA FOR SUMMIT

HOCKEY

It was time for Game 4 of the vicious series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.  These are two hockey towns that love their teams, and when you have that type of fan base, you can expect trash talking.  And when there’s trash talking, there’s going to be fighting.  Even though these teams hate each other, the series has been controlled by the Flyers.  They have been a scoring machine!  And this was their chance to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs.  But a team like the Penguins, armed with the best player in hockey, Sidney Crosby, weren’t going to go quietly.  They scored 10 goals on the Flyers, and totally exposed the Philly’s atrocious goal-tending.  The Flyers are hot right now, but when you have an Achilles heel like bad goal tending, you are in serious trouble in later rounds.  The Penguins stay alive, but how much longer can they survive.  Pittsburgh 10, Philadelphia 3.

BASEBALL

It’s the end of an era in a day that had two prominent sports figures calling it quits.  First up, Ivan Rodriguez, or ‘Pudge’ as most call him, has had one of the best careers for a catcher in major league baseball history.  He started his career with the Texas Rangers, and then went to various teams contending for a World Series, even helping them nab some titles.  In baseball, having a solid, smart catcher who can both hit AND call the game with intelligence is a very valuable commodity.  But now, after more than 20 years in the majors, he’s going to retire, and as a Texas Ranger where he started.  The game will miss him.

BASKETBALL

 

And in women’s college basketball, an icon is stepping down. After 38 years as head coach, yes that’s  38 YEARS, Tennessee’s Pat Summit is calling it a day.  In her tenure at Tennessee, she turned the University into the elite team almost every season, and guided the Lady Vols to 8 National Championships.  That is simply amazing!  Sadly, less than a year ago, Summitt was diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer’s.  She said it was in the best interest of the university she loves if she just steps down from the role of head coach.  Still, Summitt will serve as an adviser to the program, but it’s truly the end of an era and a fantastic career.  Summitt was one of the biggest role models in women’s sports… and sports in general.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: KNICKS STAY IN 8TH SPOT, FAME A CURSE FOR ROSE, BIG TEST FOR MANNING

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, the Knicks have been red hot lately, as they’re trying to hold on to the #8 seed in the playoffs.  Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden they were faced with the equally scorching Boston Celtics.  The Celtics got one heck of a night from Paul Pierce — he posted a whopping 43 POINTS!!!  But who would have thought that would be the second best performance of the game, as Carmelo Anthony just exploded for an insane triple double.  35 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.  The Knicks even got great bench support from J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, each of them scoring 25 points.  With the win, the Knicks stay in the 8-spot, which actually oddly gives them a favorable match-up against the Bulls in round 1.  NY Knicks 118, Boston 110.

Elsewhere in the NBA, Derrick Rose is one of the hottest young stars in the league.  A future Hall-Of-Famer for sure.  But Derrick Rose came out lately saying he was very uneasy with fame.  He’s easily the biggest celebrity in Chicago, but Derrick Rose has a very subdued personality and very uncomfortable with the limelight.  He says the better he plays, the more attention he gets, and that’s very tough to deal with.   Rose added that he’s never alone, that he always has to have someone with him for a semblance of protection, and that he cherishes his days alone.  But Rose also says that he doesn’t really go out at night — that it seems like every place he wants to go is marked as unsafe.  Fame can definitely be a curse.

FOOTBALL

The Denver Broncos have a new look, and a new attitude with Peyton at the helm.  When reporters asked wide receiver Demaryius Thomas if he was bummed about Tim Tebow’s departure, he said not really.  Thomas added that all people remember is that amazing pass Tebow threw to beat the Steelers in overtime, but nobody remembers the rest of the quarters and games where Tebow could barely connect on a pass.  Having Peyton running the ship is going to be a lot more fun for Thomas.  So which team did the NFL give the Broncos on opening day?  None other than a rematch against the Steelers.  This will be a fantastic first test for Manning.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: NHL PLAYOFFS, CLIPPERS FASCINATING, STRASBERG BACK

HOCKEY

 

In the NHL, the playoffs are in full swing, and one of the most anticipated match-ups of the first round are the defending champion Boston Bruins vs. the always-challenging, but playoff-choking Washington Capitals.  The Caps are a #7 seed, which could bode well for them, as they’ve become accustomed to early exits when entering the playoffs as a top seed.  With the series tied at a game a piece, we headed back to Washington, where the Capitals can really do some damage in front of their home crowd.  The Capitals jumped out early, getting a goal from Alexander Semin.  And from that point forward, it was a back and forth battle until the very end.  It looked like we’d be headed to overtime, but with just under 2 minutes, Boston’s Zdeno Chara busted the tie, and put the Bruins up by 1.  The Caps couldn’t rally, and the Bruins went on to take a 2-1 lead in the series.  Boston 4, Washington 3.

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers have been a fascinating team this season.  They started out red-hot, and looked like they’d be the team to beat in the West.  And it didn’t hurt that they got all-star Chris Paul AND Kenyon Martin.  But then, they went on a losing skid, where they looked like they would be an easy exit from the playoffs.  Much of the blame fell on the shoulders of their coach Vinny Del Negro, many criticizing him for not being able to coach.  After all, he did quite poorly when he was running the Bulls.  But, recently, the Clippers have been on a winning tear — back to the form from the beginning of the season.  And through it all, Del Negro said he never lost focus.  Even though he was being destroyed by the media, Del Negro said he relished the pressure and did everything he could to try and rise to the occasion.  It will be very interesting to see what the Clippers do in the post-season.

BASEBALL

The Washington Nationals had an absolutely terrible year last season, but now they have their ace Stephen Strasburg back and ready to go.  He’s already got one win this season, and took the mound again to take on the Astros.  The Nationals are currently in first place, and have established themselves as a team to be taken seriously early in the season.  Strasburg would pitch 6 innings, give up 6 hits, and nab 5 strikeouts, and that’s all they would need from him to get out of there with a win.  This could be the year when the Nationals finally stand up and remain competitive for the entire season.  They’ve got a good manager in place, and their young prospects are starting to shine.  Plus, they have #1 overall pick Bryce Harper slowly rising the ranks of the minor leagues.  Once he gets to the majors… watch out!  Washington 6, Houston 3.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT OVERCOME KNICKS, LAKERS OVER DALLAS, DODGERS NEW LIFE

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, the New York Knicks had won 10 straight games at Madison Square Garden going into the weekend, but that was until the Miami Heat showed up. The Miami Heat only visit New York one time during the regular season, so the big three only had one chance to come up big in the world’s most famous arena. And that is exactly what they did. Lebron James ended up with a double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Dwayne Wade finished with 28 points and nine rebounds, all while Chris Bosh added 16 points and 14 rebounds. The big three finished with nearly 80% of the team’s 93 points. The Knicks came into the night hot, and Carmelo Anthony tried to keep them that way. He led all scorers with 42 points and added nine rebounds. Both teams are looking to hit the playoffs in full stride, so it was a solid win for the Miami Heat. Miami 93, New York 85.

From the east coast to the west coast, big players came up big on Sunday. With Kobe Bryant out with a leg injury, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol needed to prove they were great players to finish a season sweep of the NBA defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Bynum came up with 23 points and 16 rebounds, while Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds. For the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki had a very inefficient 24 points by going 9 for 28 from the field. Coach Mike Brown, got his Lakers up to play even without the NBA’s leading scorer, and the overtime win should be a good confidence boost heading into the season’s final stretch. Los Angeles 112, Dallas 108.

 BASEBALL

In Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been in the news quite a bit for on and off field stories. After an ownership group led by Magic Johnson purchased the team for more than two billion dollars, it did not seem headlines for the Dodgers could get any bigger. But, everyone surely underestimated their best players, Matt Kemp. Almost unarguably, since the beginning of last year, Matt Kemp has proven that he is the best player in all of baseball. And last night just helped his case. Kemp went three-for-four with a home run. The homer was Kemps 4th in the past three days and leads all of the MLB in home runs and RBIs. Between Kemp and his teammate Andre Ethier, at one point Sunday night combined had more RBIs than 14 teams across the league. The Dodgers took care of business against the Padres even with defending CY Young award winner Clayton Kershaw having an off night only pitching 5.1 innings allowing 3 ER and striking out only three. And now the Dodgers begin the second full week of play with a MLB best 9-1 record. Los Angeles 5, San Diego 4

 

 

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