We’re just about 10 days away from opening day and the last thing a team wants is to lose a player late in spring training to an injury. Unfortunately the Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a big loss as outfielder Andre Either was diagnosed with a fracture of the right tibia and will be out 10 to 14 weeks. Either fouled a ball off his shin in Friday’s exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The original X-rays that day revealed no broken bones, but the Dodgers said Tuesday that a follow-up CT scan showed the fracture. The only good news for Either is the fact that he wont need surgery to repair his injury. Either was being projected as the Dodgers starting left fielder for this coming season. With Either out the Dodgers will go with Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke or possible Trayce Thompson in left field. Ethier batted .294 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs in 395 at-bats last season. He also had seven triples and a .366 on-base percentage. Ethier ranked second on the Dodgers in OPS (.852) in 2015, nine points shy of Justin Turner for best on the team among those with at least 200 plate appearances. He ranked 18th in the National League in on-base percentage, 20th in slugging percentage (.486) and 17th in OPS among players with at least 300 plate appearances. The Dodgers have been bit hard by the injury bug this spring. Don’t forget they already lost left-hander Brett Anderson for an extended period of time, as his back injury will keep him on the shelf for three to five weeks. Besides Either and Anderson there is quite a list of Dodgers who are either working back from some type of an injury or recovering from an off season procedure. That list includes Alex Wood, Brandon Beachy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Enrique Hernandez, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Scott Van Slyke and Julio Urias. Seager should be back from his sprained knee by Opening Day, Gonzalez and Kendrick are at full strength from their nagging injuries and Turner is rounding into form quickly, so at least some areas are headed in the right direction for the Dodgers. The health issue is a concern for all teams, but the Dodgers will have to keep a particularly close eye on things.
It was announced this morning that Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints have agreed to a 5-year which will keep him with the team until the 2020 season. It is being reported that the deal will pay Payton in excess of $45 million. Payton, who has coached the Saints for 10 years, was already one of the NFL’s highest paid coaches at $8.5 million in his previous deal, which ran through 2017. There was a lot of speculation last season that Payto might leave the Saints for another NFL team if a compensation package could’ve been worked out. Nothing ever materialized and Payton has a new contract to stay with the Saints. In addition, the Saints are continuing negotiations with quarterback Drew Brees on a proposed 4-year contract extension, which would also keep him with the team through the 2020 season. Negotiations with Brees, who has one year remaining on his own contract, has picked up recently as the Saints have incentive to lower his NFL-high salary cap figure of $30 million for 2016.
With the NBA season winding down the Cleveland Cavaliers are still the only team in the Eastern Conference to lock in a playoff spot. Looking at the standings it does appear that the Top 6 teams in the Eastern Conference will eventually lock in a playoff spot. The question becomes; who ends up with the 7th and 8th seeds? The Indiana Pacers are holding down the 7th seed right now at 37-33. The Chicago Bulls are holding onto the 8th seed, but they are just a 1/2 game behind the Pacers at 36-33. On the outside looking in right now are the Detroit Pistons who are 37-34 and just 0.001 percentage points behind the Bulls for that final playoff spot. Then there’s the Washington Wizards who are back to .500 at 35-35 and have the longest current winning streak in the Eastern Conference at 5 games. If you’re the Cavaliers is there a team you prefer to see end up in the 8th spot? While I don’t think the Cavaliers would have any problems winning a playoff series against any of the teams listed there are some teams that might give them more trouble than others. What may be interesting is if a team can get into the 7th spot because the Toronto Raptors have had issues against some of the teams competing for a playoff spot. Is it possible we could see a #2 seed like the Raptors go out in the first round of the playoffs?
Now the Western Conference is looking a little clearer. It looks like the Top 5 teams are set and then it’s just the order of the final 3 teams that will have to play out. There is an outside chance that the Utah Jazz could take away a playoff spot from either the Houston Rockets or the Dallas Mavericks. The Jazz currently trail the Rockets by 1/2 for the 8th spot and the Jazz are just 1 game behind the Mavericks. Is it time to start wondering if getting into the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed in the Western Conference really a plus for your season. The 7th seed will get to face the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round and the 8th seed matches up with the Golden State Warriors in Round 1. Would the Rockets, Mavericks or Jazz even win a game in a 1st round playoff series against the Spurs or the Warriors; probably not. We probably shouldn’t lock the Portland Trail Blazers into the playoffs just yet. The Trail Blazers are just 1 1/2 ahead of the Jazz; so a bad streak here in the final 10 games could have them out of the playoffs. You just know any team would like to get themselves into that 6th seed; so they could face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 1st round.
Barring any major upsets you’d have to think will see the Warriors vs. the Spurs for the Western Conference title and then the winner of that series would move on the play the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The outcome has looked like this for a while now and I have to wonder if this will affect the ratings of the opening round playoff games or maybe people will watch rooting for the upset?
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