Posts Tagged ‘NBA playoffs’

We had what has to be considered the first upset in the NBA playoffs. On Thursday the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the San Antonio Spurs 113-99 to take Game 6 and win that playoffs series 4 games to 2. As Oklahoma City advances to the Western Conference Finals to face the Golden State Warriors the talk turned to what will San Antonio look like next season. The media stupidly wanted an immediate decision from Tim Duncan on if he would be back next season, but of course he didn’t have an answer. Duncan who just turn 40 years of age on April 25th was the #1 pick in the draft by the Spurs in 1997 and has spent the last 19 seasons with the Spurs. Duncan had a down year in 2015-16.San Antonio did what they could to keep Duncan healthy. He played in 61 games and averaged just 25.2 minutes per game which was a career low. Duncan also had his lowest points per game average (8.6) and rebounds per game (7.3) averages in his career. If Duncan does decide to retire he is a sure fire Hall of Fame selection. Duncan won 5 NBA championships with San Antonio and was Finals MVP 3 times. He was a 15 time All-Star and won the MVP of that game 1 time. He was also the league MVP in back to back seasons in 2001-02 and 2002-03. Duncan also won the Rookie of the Year in 1997-98. Besides Duncan the Spurs will also have to wait and see if Manu Ginobili decides to retire. Ginobili will turn 39 on July 28 and just completed his 14th NBA season. Don’t forget Ginobili didn’t start playing in the NBA until he was 25. Ginoblil played professionally in Argentine starting in 1995 before moving to Europe to play in Italy. San Antonio drafted Ginobili drafted in the 2nd round of the 1999 draft, but he choose to stay with his Italian team Kinder Bologna, which he helped win the 2001 Italian Championship, the 2001 and 2002 Italian Cups, and the 2001 Euroleague, where he was named the Euroleague 2000–01 Euroleague Finals MVP.[6] He was also named the Italian League MVP in 2000–01 and 2001–02, and made the Italian League’s All-Star Game three times during this period. Ginobili has won 4 NBA tiles with the Spurs. He is also a 2-time All-Star and was elected 6-Man of the Year in  2008. The 2015-16 season was the first time since his rookie season that Ginobili didn’t average double digit points per game. Will Duncan and Ginobili decide to retire? or will they try to make one more championship run in 2016-17?

Now over in the Eastern Conference it seems as though the Cleveland Cavaliers have been waiting two weeks to find out if they’ll play the Toronto Raptors or Miami Heat in the conference finals. Miami picked up a 103-91 victory on Friday night to force the series to a 7th game. The teams meet Sunday afternoon to decide who will move on t face the Cavaliers. Besides possible to much these playoffs couldn’t of went better for Cleveland. The Cavaliers are a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs with sweeps of the Detroit Pistons in the first round and the Atlanta Hawks in the second round. As the Cavaliers wait for their next opponent you have to wonder what kind of shape that opponent will be in. Hasan Whiteside has a sprained MCL and has already been ruled out of Game 7 against Toronto and who knows if he’ll be ready to play in the conference finals. Luol Deng did play for Miami last night, but took just 5 shots as he’s dealing wit a wrist injury and is less than 100%. If the Heat do advance Deng’s injury will linger through that series. On the Toronto side Jonas Valanciunas left the series in Game 5 with a ankle injury and has been ruled out for the remained of this series. Would that ankle be healthy enough to allow him to play in a series against Cleveland. Also for Toronto Demarre Carroll played just 25 minutes in Game 6 because of a wrist injury. Carroll also took just 4 shots in Game 6. He’ll play in Game 7 and would also play if the Raptors advance, but he’s another player who won’t be 100%. It looks as though no matter which team advances to face Cleveland the Cavaliers are going to have a huge advantage health wise heading into the Eastern Conference Finals.

The NHL is down to just 4 teams and the Tampa Bay Lighting took the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals 3-1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It appeared with Steven Stamkos already out for Tampa Bay that Pittsburgh would have an advantage. Then when the Lighting’s Tyler Johnson went knee to knee with the Penguins Chris Kunitz and had to miss some ice time Tampa Bay had to wonder what was next. Sadly for the Lighting what happened next was goaltender Ben Bishop needed to be stretchered off the ice with 7:35 left in the 1st period. It looked as though Bishop caught a skate on the ice and fell awkwardly injuring a knee. It was reported that Bishop’s x-rays where negative for structural damage, but his status for Game 2 in uncertain. Bishop is a Vezina Trophy nominee, but like last seasons playoffs if he’s going to miss time back up  Andrei Vasilevskiy will take over in net. Tampa Bay got out to a 1-0 lead when Alex Killorn scored his 4th goal of the playoffs at 14:46 of the 1st period. The Lighting extended that lead to 3-0 on 2nd period goals by Ondrej Palat at 2:33 of the period and then Jonathan Drouin at 18:25. Pittsburgh picked up it’s only goal of the game in the 2nd period as well when Patric Hornqvist scored at 19:05 of the period. Pittsburgh had 16 shots on goal in the 3rd period, Vasilevskiy turned them all away. For the game he stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced after replacing Bishop. Game 2 is Monday night in Pittsburgh. The Western Conference Finals doesn’t start until Sunday night and that features the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have home ice and have reached the Conference finals by knocking off the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the 1st round and the #1 seeded Dallas Stars in the 2nd round. San Jose reached the Conference finals by beating the Los Angeles Kings in 5 games and then winning a Game 7 against the Nashville Predators to take that series.

Just to get it a record Dan the Man has picked Pittsburgh to come out of the Eastern conference after they knocked off his Washington Capitals. Dan also likes San Jose to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup finals.

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NFL

The 1st round of the NFL draft is 12 days away. This week the Tennessee Titans traded the #1 overall pick in the draft to the Los Angeles Rams. What did the Titans get for that pick? Tennessee got the Rams 1st round pick this season which is the 15th pick. Tennessee also got two 2nd round picks; the 43rd and 45th pick of this draft as well as a 3rd round pick; 76th pick in this draft. Wait there’s more as Tennessee will also receive the Rams 1st round draft pick in the 2017 draft along with a 2nd rd round pick in next years draft. Besides the #1 overall pick the Rams will also receive the Titans 4th round pick; at 113th and Tennessee’s 6th round pick which is 177th pick in this years draft. So Tennessee gave up 3 draft picks and moved back 14 spots in the 1st round while Los Angeles gave up 6 draft picks to move up to the top spot in the draft. Was it too much for Los Angeles to give up?

It appears as though the Rams made the trade so they could select their franchise quarterback be it Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. There was even a report saying the Rams wanted to make this deal as early as they did so they would have the time to decide between the two quarterbacks. It’s doubtful that the Rams could’ve stayed at pick #15 and been able to draft one of these two quarterbacks; so if they wanted one they had to move up. Did they have to move up to #1 is the question. Now all off season long the experts have been saying there not sure if there’s a franchise quarterback in this draft. Do the Rams see something in Goff or Wentz that makes them think that they’ll be that franchise guy or was Tennessee the only team they could work out a trade with pre-draft?

Just a few seasons ago in 2012 the Rams where on the opposite end of a deal similar to this. In 2012 the Rams sent the #2 pick in the draft to the Washington Redskins in return for 4 draft picks. The Rams received Washington’s 1st round pick in 2012 which was 6th overall as well as a 2012 2nd round pick which was the 39th pick. The Rams also received the Redskins 1st round picks in 2013 and 2014. Washington traded up to select a quarterback as well. They took Robert  Griffin III with that 2nd pick. The Rams drafted Morris Claireborne at #6 and Janoris Jenkins at #39 in 2012. The 2013 1st round pick they aqcuired ended up in another trade as it was sent with a 2015 7th round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for 3 draft picks. The Rams picked up the Falcons 2013 1st round pick which was #30 and they selected Alec Ogletree. The other 2 draft picks the Rams got where a 3rd rounder (#92) and a 6th (#198) in the 2013 draft.The other 1st round draft pick the Rams got from the Redskins ended up being the #2 pick in the 2014 draft and the Rams used it to select offensive lineman Greg Robinson. Now that the Rams are the team giving up multiple draft picks it will be interesting to see who Tennessee ends up drafting with them.

The NFL also released it’s schedule for the upcoming 2016 season. As they like to do the opening Thursday night game is a Super Bowl rematch as the Denver Broncos host the Carolina Panthers. If you’re interested in looking at the NFL schedule here’s a link for you to check it out. 

NBS

The first round of the NBA playoffs start today (Saturday) with 4 games. There are two Eastern Conference match ups and two Western Conference match ups on the schedule. The 7th seeded Indiana Pacers  at the 2nd seeded Toronto Raptors  tip-off their Game 1 at 11:30 a.m. Central Standard Time (cst) that’s followed by the 8th seeded Houston Rockets  at the #1 seeded Golden State Warriors are at 2:30 c.s.t. The third game of the day has the 5th seeded Boston Celtics at the 4th seeded Atlanta Hawks and the night wraps up with the 6th seeded Dallas Mavericks at the 3rd seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.  On Sunday the NBA action tips off at 2:00 p.m. cst with the 8th seeded Detroit Pistons taking on the #1 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. Game two has the 6th seeded Charlotte Hornets facing off against the 3rd seeded Miami Heat. Game 3 has the 7th seeded Memphis Grizzlies at the #2 seeded San Antonio Spurs and the night cap has the 5th seeded Portland Trail Blazers at the 4th seeded Los Angeles Clippers.

On yesterday’s Sports Time Radio podcast Dan the Man made his picks for the series winners in the NBA. Starting in the Eastern Conference he has the #1 Cleveland Cavaliers over the #8 Detroit Pistons. Dan likes the #7 Indiana Paces over the #2 Toronto Raptors. He went with the #3 Miami heat over the Charlotte Hornets and Dan also likes the #5 Boston Celtics over the #4 Atlanta Hawks. Over in the Western Conference Dan has the #1 Golden State Warriors over the #8 Houston Rockets. Dan also mentioned that he thins this series will be a sweep for the Warriors. Dan likes #2 San Antonio Spurs over the #7 Memphis Grizzlies. He also likes #3 Oklahoma City Thunder over the #6 Dallas Mavericks and he also has the #5 Portland Trail Blazers over the #4 Los Angeles Clippers. Feel free to leave your picks here in the comments or reach out to Dan on Twitter @SportsTimeRadio or @DanZeeeMan and let him know what you think about his picks.

NASCAR

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at Bristol Motor Speedway this week for the Food City 500 and Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started off the weekend about as good as you can. Not only did JGR driver Carl Edwards win the pole with a speed of 127.997 mph but 4 of the Top 5 starting spots in the race went to JGR drivers. Edwards teammate Matt Kenseth will start next to Edwards in 2nd while JGR’s Denny Hamlin starts 4th and final JGR driver in the race Kyle Busch goes off 5th. The only non-JGR driver in the Top is Joey Logano from Penske Motorsports. Will qualifying success lead to victory lane you never know, but it’s better to start up front at Bristol than in the rear. Just a side note Dan the Man’s favorite driver Clint Bowyer will start 36th for Sunday’s race.

You can listen to the Sports Time Radio podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com and you can find me on Twitter @Burketime

 

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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The 1st round of the NBA playoffs will wrap up tonight when the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers play Game 7 of their series tonight in Los Angeles. This has been the only interesting series of the first round. Even though the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets found ways to win a couple games against their higher seeded opponents there was never any real doubt who would win those series. Even though the Washington Wizards where the #5 seed in their series against the Toronto Raptors; Washington was playing better basketball coming into the playoffs and it showed when they swept the series. The majority of these series were boring and uninteresting with the exception of the Spurs/Clippers series. As the NBA playoffs start the 2nd round let’s hope the games get better and more interesting.

Now the NHL has started the 2nd round of their playoffs and 3 out of the 4 games were great to start these series off. The Anaheim Ducks did have an easy time in Game 1 against the Calgary Flames winning 6-2. The Washington Capitals won Game 1 of their series against the New York rangers by scoring a goal in the final seconds of the 3rd period to steal a 2-1 victory. It took double overtime to settle Game 1 of the Montreal Canadiens/Tampa Bay Lighting series.. Nikita Kucherov scored in the 2nd overtime to win the game for Tampa Bay 2-1. The Chicago Blackhawks jumped out to a 3 goal lead in Game 1 of their series against the Minnesota Wild and looked like they would cruise to a victory. Minnesota turned around and scored the next 3 goals to even the game, but the Blackhawks managed to out 1 more puck in the net and take Game 1, 4-3. The 2nd round of the NHL playoffs got off to a great start and hopefully they’ll carry it on through these series.

I’ve always enjoyed watching the NFL draft, but this may be the last season I take the time to do that. I’ve tried watching the coverage on ESPN and the NFL Network and they both stink. They’ve spent way too much time just doing nothing. The picks get backed up 3 or 4 teams and it’s like neither network has never covered a draft before. Now I have no issue when things slow down to salute the military or have someone from a charity the NFL works with come out. It’s nice to see a former player like Jim Kelly or Rick Upchurch get the applause from the crowd for the battles they’re fighting. It’s even funny to see Ickey Woods announce a Cincinnati Bengals draft pick and “Shuffle” for the fans, but the NFL and the networks need to find a way to speed up the announcement of the picks. Rounds 4-7 start in about 4 hours and they are outside today, but luckily they’re going to get some good weather in Chicago for it. They also mentioned that the picks will be announced from the teams war rooms; so I’m interested to see how this works out and if it might speed things up a little.

On the Sports Time Radio podcast yesterday (Friday) we had Zach Alapi from http://www.TheLivingDaylights.co on with us to talk about the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao boxing match that takes place tonight. Zach has Mayweather winning this fight by decision, but his staff was split on who would win. 3 of the writers on his website had Mayweather winning, but there where 2 writers who picked Pacquiao to win. On the podcast Dan the Man, Mr. Fantasy and I all have Mayweather winning tonight and just like Zach we see the fight going to distance. On one of the sports networks I get they were actually announcing which celebrities were sitting ringside and all I could fins myself asking was; who cares. This is a fight boxing fans have been waiting for and why does it matter at all who’s sitting ringside. With the price of tickets who else did they think would be in those seats.

The other big event happening today is the Kentucky Derby. It’s the first race in the Triple Crown from Churchhill Downs. I made my pick on Wednesday and I’m sticking with Mubtaahji. Mr. Fantasy likes Danzig Moon and Dan the Man has Firing Line to win. I will caution people not to take our advise on horse racing as we know little to nothing about the sport and I’m pretty sure we all just took a name we liked. I actually do watch the derby, but I’m just interested in the actual race and I can do without all of the pre-race stuff. There are some experts who will tell you that horse racing and boxing are dying sports. Isn’t it interesting that they both ended up having huge events on the same day.

Last night in Fenway Park Alex Rodriguez tied Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with hitting his 660th home run. While this should be a celebrated event for baseball I could care less about it. There’s a pretty good chance that Rodriguez has been using some type of performance enhancing drug his entire baseball career and there were even some reports about him using P.E.D.’s in high school. The high school rumors were never proven, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. 660 home runs is a great accomplishment for a player who didn’t cheat the game. Is there anyone out there who even cares about this that’s not a New York Yankees fan. It was no real surprise that the Boston Red Sox fans booed Rodriguez when he was announced as a pinch hitter. Mike Shuster is the Red Sox fan who was sitting on top of the Green monster and caught Rodriguez’s 660th home run. Shuster has told the New York Post that he won’t be giving the baseball to Rodriguez. It is being reported to “stay tuned” to this story as Shuster might have a price. A Hall of Fame spokesman said they would accept Rodriquez’s 660th home run ball or “milestone” as the spokesman put it. Maybe they could put a side note on the ball explaining how Rodriguez got to this number, but I doubt they actually would.

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The NBA is in the 1st round of it’s playoffs and most series have played 2 or 3 games and a few teams have chances to close out their series today. There is just 1 series where each teams has won a basketball game. That series is the San Antonio Spurs vs. the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers won Game 1 of the series by 15 points, 107-92 and there were quite a few experts saying that the Spurs were done after just 1 game. They seemed to have forgotten that the Spurs were one of the hotter teams heading into the playoffs and the only reason they were facing the Clippers was because the Western conference standings were so tight that when they lost their last game of the season they feel from the 2nd or 3rd seed down to the 6th seed. So with the Spurs being declared out of the series after 1 game they turned around and took home court advantage in the series by winning Game 2 111-107. Game 3 was last night (Friday) in San Antonio and if you would’ve told me that one of these teams would win this game by 27 points I would’ve thought you were crazy. Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points and the Spurs beat the Clippers 100-73 to go up 2 game to 1 in the series. Besides Leonard only 2 other Spurs players scored in double figures and neither of them was named Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili. It was Boris Diaw (15) and Danny Green (11) would scored double digit points in San Antonio’s win. The Clippers shot 34.1% from the field and 6-23 from behind the 3-point line. Blake Griffin going 6-15 from the floor and 2-3 from the free throw line and led the Clippers in scoring with 14 points. Chris Paul struggled from the field going 3-11 and Jamal Crawford had a horrible shooting night going just 1-11 from the floor. Austin Rivers scored 11 points and DeAndre Jordan had 10 points; as the only other Clippers who scored in double figures. San Antonio has found different ways to win Game 2 and Game 3 and with Game 4 Sunday in San Antonio do the Spurs have a 3rd different way to win a game in this series. Does Game 3 become a must win for the Clippers or would they have a shot at winning the series if they went back to Los Angeles down 3 games to 1.

Now when the NBA playoffs started there was a lot of complaining that there were teams that finished the regular season under .500 that made the Eastern conference playoffs. With the way the 1st round of the playoffs have went is that the biggest problem or could the issue be that there are too many teams in the playoffs. Besides San Antonio the Washington Wizards are the only other lower seeded team to win a playoff game. The Wizards went into the playoffs as a #5 seed and were matched up against the Toronto Raptors. It’s not a huge surprise that the Wizards are winning this series as there’s not a lot of difference between a #4 and #5 seed, but the Raptors really struggled down the final stretch of the regular season. If the playoffs went from 16 teams to 12 teams no under .500 teams would’ve made it. The Milwaukee Bucks where 41-41 and are the 6th seed in the Eastern conference. Now lowering the number of playoff teams will never happen, but when the 1st round plays out like this doesn’t it take some of the excitement out of it. Now the Memphis Grizzlies/Portland Trailblazers series has just played 2 games; so maybe something will happen their with Memphis up 2 games to 0 and Game 3 today. The Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets have only played 2 games with Atlanta winning both of them, but does anyone think Brooklyn will win a game in this series. Atlanta is the eastern conferences #1 seed while Brooklyn barely found it’s way into the playoffs. While there has been a game here or there that has been exciting I’m not sure this is the 1st round the NBA had hoped for.

I took a chance last season on my fantasy teams and late in both drafts I managed to get Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals. He had a very good rookie season going 14-10 with a 3.20 E.R.A, in 30 regular season starts and was one of the big reasons the Royals found themselves playing Game 7 of the World Series last season. In the off season the Royals decided not to re-sign James Shields and allow Ventura to become the ace of the pitching staff. So this season Ventura has made 4 starts; he is 2-1 with a 4.09 E.R.A. over 22 innings so far. In what may be some kind of record in his last 3 starts the benches have cleared and he’s been right in the middle of it. Now when this happened in his start against the Oakland A’s in understood it. Ventura hit Brett Lawrie who had taken out the Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar with a slide into 2nd base the game before. The pitch hit Lawrie low and even Lawrie acted like he knew it was coming and just went to 1st base. Ventura  escalated the situation by barking at Lawrie who was going up the 1st base line while Ventura was leaving the game. That didn’t bother me too much as Ventura was just defending a teammate. In Ventura’s start before that against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim/ After Mike Trout scored a run and with Ventura was backing up home plate they started to exchange words over something and this led to the benches emptying. Then in his last start against the Chicago White Sox Adam Eaton hit a ball back up the middle that Ventutra fielded. While Eaton was running the ball out Ventura started barking at him more or less because he hit the ball back up the middle which is something I heard Ventura doesn’t like when hitters do. This led to yet another bench clearing for the Royals and there where even some punches thrown. There have also been reports that White Sox pitcher Chris Sale tried to get in the Royals clubhouse to find Ventura and continue the fight. Now I understand that pitchers are going to throw at batters and there’s going to be times when players get upset and it will lead to on field fights, but in your last 3 starts. Kansas City looks like they have a very good team again and may have a shot to get into the playoffs, but can they do that with their best pitcher starting fights every time he takes the mound. Then you also have to wonder how many more times are Royals hitters going to be understanding about getting drilled because of something Ventura did or said. Is it time for major league baseball to step in and suspend or fine Ventura for his actions or will the Royals be able to police themselves and get their ace under control.

Now the 1st round of the NHL playoffs are also going on and 2 of their series have already ended. The Anaheim Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets 4 games to 0 and the New York Rangers closed out the Pittsburgh Penguins 4 games to 1 last  night. I was a little disappointed to see Sidney Crosby go out of the playoffs in the 1st round and his team not even out up much of a fight. There is a chance that 3 more series will come to an end tonight. The Washington Capitals have a chance to close out the New York Islanders. The Chicago Blackhawks can eliminate the Nashville Predators and the Calgary Flames can send the Vancouver Canucks home with a win. The Tampa Bay Lighting hist the Detroit Red Wings as well today, but that series is tied at 2 games apiece.

So how was your week?

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How was your Week

Posted: April 18, 2015 by Sports Time Radio in baseball, basketball, sports
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The baseball season is only a couple of weeks old and while it’s my favorite sport there are a couple of trends that have bothered me even this early in the season. The first one is hitting a power type of guy in the 2nd spot in the batting order. I understand that in the new sabermetric era of baseball the stolen base doesn’t mean as much and strike outs don’t mean anything at all. Now I’m not saying you need a 100 stolen base a year guy at the top of your batting order like Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills were, but you at least need a little bit of a speed threat at the top. Now it’s tough to get your running game going when the guy behind him in the batting order is a low contact high strikeout guy. You also wouldn’t want to get a guy thrown out at 2nd base when the guy in the batters box could get you 2 runs with one swing of the bat. Growing up watching baseball the 2nd hitter in your line up was always a guy who could handle the bat. He could hit with 2 strikes on him and would take pitches to see if the runner in front of him could steal a base. If a bunt was needed to move the runner over he could do that or he could hit behind the base runner if needed. Not to mention that he would be one of if not the best defensive player on your team. Do these type of baseball players still exist? and could they help a team win games? I can understand a team like the Cincinnati Reds putting Joey Votto in the two-hole. While he’ll hit his share of home runs, he’ll take pitches, he makes contact and doesn’t strikeout a lot. Now teams like the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs are going with higher strikeout guys in the 2nd spot of their batting order. With Jose Altuve coming off of a career year in 2014 you’d think the Astros would like a guy hitting behind him who could give him a chance to steal a base or get himself in scoring position another way. It’s George Springer who’s hitting 2nd in the Astros batting order. In 10 games this season Springer is hitting .135 with 16 strikeouts and is tied for the most strikeouts. The Cubs have Dexter Fowler in the lead off spot and while he’s not a big stolen base guy he can easily get to 30 steals a season. Jorge Soler has been hitting behind Fowler quite a bit early in the season and while his batting average is good (.294) he’s struck out 11 time in 9 games. I’ve heard the reasoning of getting the guy a few extra at bats, but wouldn’t it be more important to score runs and win games over getting extra at bats for a guy. The other trend that is driving me crazy this season is hitting the pitcher in the 8th spot. There are pretty much only two reason this happens. The first one is because your manager has no confidence at all in your starting pitcher and he wants him a spot up in the batting order so he can get him out of the game an inning earlier. The second reason would be because your manager is looking for cheap attention from the media. There are always questions for a manager when the pitcher isn’t hitting 9th and the only one who can answer them is the manager; so he gets the media attention he’s looking for. Even this early in the season I’ve seen this come back to hurt teams, Now if there are runner on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs they would probably walk the 8th place hitter to get to the pitchers spot anyway, but on a couple of occasions the pitcher has come up with the bases loaded and 2 outs. If this was an actual 8th place hitter there would be a chance for the team to score some runs, but with the pitcher up; he’s as close to an automatic out as there is in baseball. There are 3 pitchers with 3 hits so far this season, but would you rather have them at the plate or your regular 8th place hitter. Here’s hoping these teams wake up and stop trying to re-invent baseball and concentrate more on putting there teams in better positions to win.

The NBA playoffs get started this afternoon with the 1st of 4 games on the schedule today. The Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors kick things off today. They are followed by the New Orleans Pelicans against the Golden State Warriors. The 3rd game on the schedule today is the Milwaukee Bucks against the Chicago Bulls and the night wraps up with the Dallas Mavericks against the Houston Rockets. The other 8 playoff teams get started on Sunday and their schedule looks like this. It’s the Boston Celtics vs. The Cleveland Cavaliers to start the day. That game is followed by the Brooklyn Nets taking on the Atlanta Hawks. The 3rd game on Sunday is the Portland Trailblazers vs. The Memphis Grizzlies and the final game is the San Antonio Spurs against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Now I saw the odds that Las Vegas has put up on who will win the NBA title and they didn’t give the best odds to either of the #1 seeds in the conferences. It’s the Cavaliers who open as the 9 to 4 favorite to win the title. The Warriors are 2nd at 5-2 with the defending champion Spurs next at 4-1. The team with the best record in the Eastern conference Atlanta is 12-1 while the Bulls, Clippers and Rockets are all 14-1 odds. The Grizzlies are 25-1 odds while the Raptors and Trailblazers are 50-1 odds and the Mavericks and Wizards landing at 60-1 odds. If you like a long shot how about the Pelicans at 100-1 or at 200-1 you can have the Bucks, Celtics or Nets to win it all. So with the betting odds posted I figured I’d get Dan the Man and Schaumburg Stu along with myself to make our picks on who will win. Here’s what we came up with. Dan the Man has both of the #1 seeds going to the finals; so it’s Atlanta and Golden State for Dan with Golden State winning. Schaumburg Stu went with Cleveland out of the East and Golden State out of the West with Golden State winning the title. I like the Cavaliers to get to the finals out of the East and the Spurs to get to the finals out of the West with the Spurs repeating as NBA champions. Who do you have?

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The NFL draft is just 15 days away. Remember it starts on Thursday now and runs through Sunday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the #1 pick and they should take a quarterback. It still appears that they’re leaning towards Jameis Winston the former Florida State quarterback. There has been a couple of reports that Tampa Bay may go with the Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota over Winston, but I think they’ll take Winston #1. While there is no question at all that Tampa Bay is keeping and using there pick the same can’t be said about the #2 pick in the draft. That #2 pick belongs to the Tennessee Titans and the  rumors are beginning to fly on who wants that pick and what they might give up to get it. Let’s just work our way down the draft order and try to cover who might move up to #2. The New York Jets have the #6 pick and I heard a report that the Jets would deal that pick along with a 2nd rounder and a couple of their defensive players to move up to the 2nd pick. The Chicago Bears have the #7 pick and there have been reports that the Bears would trade that pick along with quarterback Jay Cutler and a 3rd round draft pick to move up to the 2nd pick. The St. Louis Rams have been mentioned, but I haven’t seen any reports on what the Rams might have to give up to move up to #2 in the draft. The Rams own the #10 pick in the 1st round, but did acquire Nick Foles from the Philadelphia Eagles this off season; so I don’t know why they’d be interested in moving up to #2. The Cleveland Browns have two 1st round picks; the 12th and the 19th pick. I heard a report that the Browns might be willing to deal those two 1st round picks plus a 2nd round pick in 2016 too move up to #2. The San Diego Chargers have the 17th pick in the 1st round and I heard yesterday that Phillip Rivers may be on the trading block. You’d guess the Chargers would have to send Rivers, the 17th pick and maybe another draft pick to Tennessee if they wanted to move up to #2. Then we get to the Eagles who have the 20th pick in the 1st round, but I heard a report that Chip Kelly may be willing to give up 3 1st round draft picks to move up to #2. That’s quite a few rumors and if Tennessee is interested in trading the #2 pick it doesn’t look like they’ll have any trouble finding a trade partner. I guess the question would then become are Winston or Mariota worth that price tag and would they turn into the franchise quarterback that a team would be moving up to get. There is good reason not to be sold on either of these guys; so I’m not at all sure why a team would give up that abundance of picks to move up to get one of these guys. Instead of dealing away a boat load of draft picks to move up teams might be better off sitting tight and see if a quarterback like Brett Hundley from UCLA, Bryce Petty from Baylor, or Garrett Grayson from Colorado State is your draft board come the 2nd or 3rd round. I’ve even heard some draft experts say that Sean Mannion out of Oregon State may turn into a good pro quarterback and he should be on the most teams draft boards in the 4th or 5th round. I guess if your advanced scouting has Winston and Mariota as franchise type quarterbacks then it would make sense to give up the draft picks you’d have to give up to move up in the draft and get your guy. I actually think the team that doesn’t make that deal might be just as well off drafting a quarterback in one of the later rounds. Whatever happens come April 30th the big winner here is Tennessee.

There are 14 games on the NBA schedule tonight and it’s also the last day of the regular season. Now 14 of the 16 playoff spots are locked up, but there are 4 teams in contention for those last 2 playoff spots. In the Eastern conference the Indiana Pacers are 38-43 and hold a 1 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets who are 37-44. Indiana won 99-95 over the Washington Wizards last night in double overtime and now they have to turn around and play Memphis Grizzlies. The Nets have an earlier game against the Orlando Magic; so the Pacers will know that outcome before they take the court tonight. Of course the team that ends up with the 8th seed draws the Atlanta hawks in the 1st round of the playoffs. Over in the Western conference it’s the New Orleans Pelicans who are holding onto the 8th spot right now. New Orleans and the Oklahoma City Thunder have the same record of 44-37, but New Orleans owns the tiebreaker and would take the 8th seed if both teams end the season with the same record. Oklahoma City is playing the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. The Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA at 16-66; so it’s a game Oklahoma City should win. New Orleans on the other hand is matched up against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs tonight. San Antonio is currently in the 3rd spot in the Western conference and you have to wonder if it is important to them to even move up to the 2nd spot. There is a chance that San Antonio will rest it’s starters and just get ready for the playoffs. The Oklahoma City and New Orleans games tip off at the same time; so neither team will know the outcome of the others game until they’re done. Should make for an interesting night of basketball for some NBA teams.

The NHL playoffs get started tonight (Wednesday) with 4 games on the ice. Here’s the match ups for tonight it’s the  Montreal Canadiens vs. the Ottawa Senators. The New York Islanders vs. the Washington Capitals. The Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Nashville Predators and the Calgary Flames vs. the Vancouver Canucks. The rest of the series get started tomorrow (Thursday with the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the New York Rangers. The Detroit Red Wings vs. the Tampa Bay Lighting. The Winnipeg Jets vs. the Anaheim Ducks and the Minnesota Wild vs. the St. Louis Blues. The NHL always seems to have some upsets in the 1st round; so which top seeds may fall? While my predictions haven’t been all that great as of late I’m going to give it another shot here. I’ll take the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Eastern conference and even though it’s a huge homer pick I’ll take the Chicago Blackhawks out of the Western conference. Who’s going to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup at the end of the playoffs well I have to go with the Blackhawks to bring the cup bacl to Chicago.

I’m the Big Jack and you can follow me on Twitter @burketime

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With the Oklahoma City Thunder hanging on to the 8th and final playoff seed in the Western Conference it was announced that last seasons M.V.P. Kevin Durant will miss the rest of the season. Durant has missed large chunks of the year after having “Jones fracture” surgery back in October, and the latest operation will see him sidelined for another four-to-six months. Durant returned to action in early December, but by the middle of February he started to feel pain again, and had a minor procedure to replace a screw that was rubbing against another bone. Durant consulted with multiple specialist and the decision was made that he will have bone graft surgery. This surgery is needed in five to eight percent of Jones fracture surgeries that do not initially have success or experience setbacks sometime within the recovery period. This latest operation will see Durant sidelined for another 4 to 6 months. Durant’s 2014-15 season saw him play in 27 games averaging 25.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 4.1 APG while shooting 51% from the field and 40.3% from behind the 3-point line. Durant will be entering the final year of his contract next season and the Thunder will have a big decision to make. Oklahoma City will have a year to decide if Durant is a max contract player or if they’ll actually let him walk away as a free agent. The Thunder have given themselves a little bit of a lead for that 8th playoff spot. They are 3 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns. Oklahoma City has 10 games left while the Pelicans have 9 games left and Phoenix has 8 games left in the regular season. In Durant’s absence Russell Westbrook has played at an M.V.P. type level, but going into the playoffs as the 8th seed the Thunder will match up with the Golden State Warriors. When there was a chance that Durant might return this season there was a lot of talk that the Thunder might ne able to upset the Warriors in the 1st round, but with just Westbrook what are the Thunder’s chances of that still happening. Is it time to start wondering that if your name isn’t LeBron James it’s a curse to win the M.V.P. award. Since 2008-09 James has won the M.V.P. award 4 times. Derrick Rose won the award in 2010-11 and Durant won it last season. Rose has pretty much had injury issues ever since and now Durant has a foot problem; just saying.

With Oklahoma City looking to have grabbed the last playoff spot in the Western conference teams can get ready for the playoff to start, but over in the Eastern conference there are 5 teams looking for those last 2 playoff spots. The Miami Heat gave the 7th playoff seed right now and the Boston Celtics are holding on to the 8th playoff seed. The Brooklyn Nets are 1/2 a game out of the 8th spot and 1 1/2 games out of the 7th spot. The Indiana Pacers are 1 game out of the 8th spot and 2 games out of the 7th spot and the Charlotte Hornets are still in the playoff hunt. The Hornets find themselves just 2 1/2 games out of the 7th spot and 1 1/2 games out of the 8th playoff spot. Even the Detroit Pistons haven’t officially been eliminated, but they are 4 games behind the Celtics and things would have to fall just right for the Pistons to find there way into the 8th seed. Do you think it would be better to finish 8th and play the Atlanta Hawks in the 1st round of the playoffs or finish 7th and draw the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening playoff series?

On the Sports Time Radio podcast last night (Friday) we previewed to American League Central teams. We talked with Nick Dudukovich from FactoryofSadness.com about the Cleveland Indians upcoming 2015 season then Tony Fischer from DetroitJockCity.com came back on the podcast to preview the Detroit Tigers 2015 season. While both teams seem to have their everyday line ups ready to go both teams have pitching questions coming into the season. The Indians have Corey Kluber last seasons Cy Young award winner to anchor the starting rotation. Carlos Carrasco looks to be the #2 starter, but after that they’re filling the rotation with young talent. Trevor Bauer and lefty T.J. House look to be in the rotation and the last spot should come down to a choice between Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister. Most experts had Danny Salazar penciled in as the 5th starter, but the Indians demoted him yesterday after a difficult spring. If Salazar can get righted quickly in the minors he’ll be back and in the rotation for Cleveland. The Tigers starting rotation is set and ready to go for the season. David Price gets the opening day start with Justin Verlander behind him. Verlander left his spring start yesterday, but it’s being reported that there are long injury concerns and he’ll be ready for his 1st start of the season. Anibal Sanchez is #3 with newcomers Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene filling the #4 and #5 spots. The Tigers have a good rotation the problem will be who makes a start if there’s an injury. The Tigers would look to 24 year old Kyle Lobstein or 23 year old Buck Farmer. While it looks like the Tigers are in a little better shape in the rotation the Indians may hold the advantage in the bullpen. Detroit is looking for Joe Nathan to return to the form that made him one of the games best closers. Nathan has a 5.79 ERA over 9 1/3rd spring training innings. How quickly would the Tigers turn to Joakim Soria if Nathan struggles early in the season. Or would they turn to Bruce Rondon. Rondon was considered in 2013, but had control issues. He’s only walked 2 guys in 6 1/3 rd innings this spring; so could he be the next in line to close games in Nathan has issues. The Indians bullpen and their roles look set to open the season. Cody Allen will close with Brian Shaw, Scott Atchison and lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski in front of him. Can these 3 relievers repeat their performances from last season and will the fact that they made a combined 223 appearances affect them at all. As both the Indians and the Tigers go into the season both of our guests last night had their teams right at the 91-92 win area; so will they both compete for the A.L. Central title?

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The NFL 2015 officially opened yesterday with a flurry of free agent signings some trades and even a couple of retirements. Now some of these moves had already been announced, but they couldn’t become official until March 10th. I think the transactions that surprised me the most were the trades that were made. The Detroit Lions acquired Haloti Ngata and a 7th round draft pick for a 4th and 5th round draft picks. Since Ndamukong Suh has agreed to terms with the Miami Dolphins the Lions need someone to fill his spot and they got Ngata to do that and it didn’t cost them a ton to do that. Most experts will tell you that the Seattle Seahawks need a threat in the receiving game. I think most experts thought it would be a wide receiver, but would they settle for one of the top tight ends in the NFL Seattle sent center Max Unger and their 2015 1st round draft choice to the New Orleans Saints for Graham  I’m not quite sure what the Philadelphia Eagles were thinking when they sent Nick Foles plus a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft and a 2nd round pick in 2016 for Sam Bradford and a 2015 5th round pick. Are the Eagles under the impression that Bradford will stay healthy with them. It had been reported that San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis was going to announce his retirement, but it was a bit of a surprise when Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds also announced their retirements yesterday. There where a bunch of free agent signings announced and I’m not going to go through and list them all for you. There will be a lot more to come as things move forward. It’s just interesting to me that with spring training moving along in baseball and both the NBA and NHL teams making playoff pushes the NFL found a way to rule the day in their off-season. Is the NFL the #1 sports league in America?

Would you believe that the hottest team in the NBA Eastern conference are the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are on a six game winning streak and have moved into the #7 playoff seed. The Pacers put their winning streak on the line tomorrow (Thursday) when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are currently in the #6 playoff seed and are four games ahead of the Pacers in the standings. I’m not sure if anyone had the Pacers making the playoffs this season when Paul George suffered that horrific injury playing for Team USA and there are rumors that George may return before the season ends. While I’m not sure if a return would be in George’s or the teams best interest, but it would be an emotionally lift for this team. Right now the Charlotte Hornets are holding on to the #8 seed in the Eastern conference and are one game behind the Pacers. The Miami Heat are the team on the outside looking in at the moment, but are just a half of a game behind Charlotte and a game and a half behind the Pacers. With a little over a month left in the NBA season these final two playoff spots look to be up for grabs between these three teams.

In the Western conference the team rolling along on a six game winning streak are the San Antonio Spurs. Are you surprised that at this time of the season the Spurs seem to be playing better? The Spurs also out their winning streak on the line Thursday night as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs currently hold the #7 playoff seed in the Western conference, but they are just one game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the #6 seed. San Antonio has a five game lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder who hold that 8th and final playoff spot. The Spurs are also just three games behind the Houston Rockets and if they catch them they could move up to a 4th or 5th playoff seed. The Spurs have had a very San Antonio type of season. They’ve had their share of injuries and of course Gregg Popovich has rested his veteran players when he thought they’ve needed it. Would you be surprised if San Antonio ends up in the Western conference finals or even the NBA finals when it’s all said and done.

Over in the NHL it looks like the Eastern conference might have it’s eight playoff team set. The top three in the Atlantic division Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lighting and Detroit Red Wings are in. The top three in the  Metropolitan division the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins are in. The two wild card spots look like they’ll go to the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins unless the Florida Panthers who are currently six points behind the Bruins or the Ottawa Senators who are seven points behind the Bruins can get on a roll the Eastern conference is all set.

Over in the Western conference there are still playoff spots up for grabs. While it looks like the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues will get into the playoff out of the Central division, but the final division spot and the wild card position have three teams looking to fill those two spots. The Chicago Blackhawks hold the 3rd division spot right now with the Minnesota Wild as the wild card team. It’s the Winnipeg Jets who are 3 points behind the Wild and six points behind the Blackhawks are hanging onto the 2nd wild card spot, but just by one point over the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are actually tied with the Calgary Flames for the 3rd playoff spot in the Pacific division, but the Flames own the tiebreaker. The San Jose Sharks are still hanging around looking for a wild card spot. The Sharks are three points behind the Kings and Flames, 4 four points behind the Jets and seven points behind the Wild. The Vancouver Canucks hold the 2nd spot in the Pacific division, but they only have a three point lead over the Flames and Kings. It looks like the only team safe in the Pacific division are the Anaheim Ducks who have an 11 point lead over the Canucks. We should be headed for quite a finish. With all these teams having about 15 games left any opportunity to pick up two points will be huge.

We’re doing are baseball previews on Sports Time Radio and today (Wednesday) at 5:00 pm Tim Kelly from Section215.com will join the podcast to preview the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies. The at 5:30 pm Matt Gajtka from CityofChampionsSports.com will come on the podcast to preview the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 season.

You can listen to the Sports Time Radio podcast cast at BlogTalkRadio.com

You can follow me on Twitter @BurkeTime

1/28/15

Sadly it looks like it’s time to ask the question is Kobe Bryant’s career over? Bryant is scheduled to have season ending rotator cuff surgery today. Bryant’s 19th NBA season will end with him playing in 35 games. This is coming off a 2013-2014 season where he played in just six games. Bryant almost played the entire season in 2012-2013 appearing in 78 games, but the season before 2011-2012 he was limited to 52 games. The injuries are starting to pile up and you have to wonder if it’s too much for Bryant to over come. He’s bounced back from an Achilles and a knee injury; now we add the rotator cuff to that list.Bryant was averaging 22.3 points per game this season, but that’s down from 27.3 in the 2012-2013 season and he averaged 27.9 in 2011-2012. His field goal percentage this season is .373 down from .463 in 2012-2013 season and his shooting percentage was .430 in the 2011-2012 season. Bryant is also shooting .293 from behind the three point line this season. The Los Angeles Lakers have managed to cut Bryant’s minutes a little this season to 34.5 per game, but is the wear and tear of a long NBA career catching up with him. Bryant has appeared in 16 All-Star games winning the MVP award four times. He won the league MVP award following the 2007-2008 season and also won back to back finals MVP awards in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Bryant is 3rd among players in career points scored with 32,482. Bryant has proven people wrong before coming back from injury and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him playing next season. What I don’t want to see is Bryant come back next season and not be in a Lakers uniform. While Bryant has been able to live up to the Michael Jordan comparisons I don’t want to see him follow in Jordan’s footsteps and end up finishing his career playing somewhere he shouldn’t be. Bryant turns 37 years old in August and would he come back for a farewell type of tour in 2015-2016. With every team in the NBA playing more than half of their regular season games to this point let’s look at the lower seeded playoff teams and who might get left out. In the Western conference this should be interesting as right now the Oklahoma City Thunder are on the outside looking into the playoffs. The Thunder are 10th right now in the West; three games behind the 8th seeded Phoenix Suns. Phoenix finds itself two games ahead of the 9th seeded New Orleans Pelicans, but just three games behind the 7th seeded and defending champion San Antonio Spurs. The Dallas Mavericks would be seeded 6th, but they are only four games ahead of the Suns and just 1 game ahead of the Spurs. This should make the second half of the season interesting as five teams will try to fit into three playoff spots. Could you imagine the 1st round of the Western conference playoffs without San Antonio, Dallas or Oklahoma City. The bottom seeds in the Eastern conference may shake out the same way just with worse records. The Charlotte Hornets are holding onto the 8th seed, but they are just one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and three games ahead of the Boston Celtics. Charlotte also finds itself just one game behind the Miami Heat who are the 7th seed right now. Charlotte is also just four games behind the 6th seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Can Charlotte hold onto a playoff spot with Kemba Walker being out possible for the rest of the season? Walker had surgery on a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee and may be back in six weeks. Walker had been Charlotte’s best player this year, and during the month of January was averaging 23.6 points per game, better than his 18.8 average for the season. So holding onto the 8th seed or even a playoff spot with Walker out might be tough for Charlotte to do. The NHL had its All-Star game on Saturday night where Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12; yes that’s right there where 29 combined goals scored. The game didn’t look anything at all like an actual NHL game. There where eight goals scored combined in the 1st period alone. Only two out of the 11 games played last night had eight or more goals scored total. If you’re an NHL goaltender why would you go to the All-Star game if you made the team. It’s not like anyone if going to play any defense in front of you and each team might as well just skate six players a side and leave the goals empty. I didn’t really watch much of the game and just flipped by it a couple of times. These type of All-Star games don’t interest me. The game was played in Columbus and Ryan Johansen of the home town Blue Jackets was the games MVP Johansen did have a good weekend; not only was he the #1 pick in the All-Star fantasy draft he also was in the Breakaway competition during All-Star Saturday night. In the Breakaway Challenge Johansen on his first attempt donned an Ohio State football jersey in honor of the national championship won by the Buckeyes on January 12th. On his next try he brought out 7-year-old Cole Vogt, the son of Blue Jackets trainer Mike Vogt, to score a goal and wrapped up his set with a “Flying V” formation from the Mighty Ducks movies with the help of his teammates. The fantasy draft I enjoy and I thought it was an innovative idea for a league that is considered 4th of the big four sports. The Skills Challenge is fun and interesting to see the players do the different events, but the game itself it terrible. I’m not sure if it’s as bad as the NBA All-Star game or the NFL Pro Bowl, but it’s right up there with them. Sadly there’s no way to change this type of game as star player aren’t going to check and bang with the chance of getting hurt and costing their actual team a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I wonder if moving the game to the end of the season would make it different, but with the NHL season as long as it is that’s not really an answer either. For me though I can’t watch these types of games; can you?

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