Business
376
Sports
293
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
unread news (Demo user)
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
unread news (Demo user)
The Nets-Sixers series ended with the most pointless beef
In the final minutes, Jonah Bolden, Rodions Kurucs, Greg Monroe and Dzanan Musa were ejected. Yep. The unnecessarily dramatic Nets-Sixers first-round NBA playoff series is over, and it could not have ended on a more on-brand note. A series that revved up when a 33-year-old veteran triggered an arms war with a mundane (and accurate) statement about a 22-year-old All-Star finished with the most ridiculous four-player ejection in the final minutes of Philly’s 22-point series-clinching win. Tangled up under the rim, Sixers reserve Jonah Bolden and Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs wouldn’t let go. The two went face-to-face and tested referee Brian Forte’s box-out abilities to separate them. It worked and it didn’t, as the two players reunited for one last bout of unsavory words that absolutely couldn’t have mattered less. Kurucs and Bolden acting tough but don't really want to fight each other pic.twitter.com/r1DGLSn1rJ— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 24, 2019 Somehow, both Sixers big man Greg Monroe and Nets rookie Dzanan Musa, who came into the night having played 10 minutes in the series, were also booted. What a glorious ending to a series so hilariously theatrical, it was tough to take seriously. This beef was always overcooked without marinade. The Sixers blew out the Nets in Game 5 to take the series, 122-100, and the game wasn’t really that close. Seriously, the Sixers started off with a 23-2 lead. What does this mean for the future? I guess — long lasting beef? Philly sports fans won’t forget this, and ex-Knicks fans-turned Nets fans won’t either, unless their landlord raises the rent and they move back to a forced triple in midtown. (This may or may not be the case for several people I know.) But a Ben Simmons vs. Jared Dudley feud feels so silly. I mean, Joel Embiid has already called him a nobody. .@JoelEmbiid speaks with @ROSGO21 after the @sixers go up 3-1 in the series! #HereTheyCome | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/YrIgC7LHwF— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 20, 2019 Oddly, the overdone drama that was Philly-Brooklyn made this series bearable, so stay thankful for that. But if it re-ignites next season, it better get spicier than a Kurucs-Bolden face-off.
2 h
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Chiefs’ trade for Frank Clark is all about winning now
Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz lays out the Chiefs’ plan to build around Patrick Mahomes — and fix their defense. The Chiefs are going all-in for 2019 after acquiring Frank Clark from the Seahawks in exchange for this year’s first-round pick, a 2020 second-round pick, and a swap of 2019 third-round picks. In addition, the Chiefs signed Clark to a massive extension, reportedly worth $105.5 million, which is more than the one the Cowboys recently gave pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence. That’s a hefty price to pay but it’s 100 percent worth it for the Chiefs. Let me tell you why. The Chiefs are taking one of three approaches to winning in the NFL There are three models of winning: Be the Patriots, pony up for free agents to build around your young star players (like the Broncos in 2015), or add talent around a young quarterback still on his rookie contract. The 2013 Seahawks, 2017 Eagles, and the 2017-18 Rams are examples of the last one. The Chiefs are following their lead. The Chiefs have their franchise quarterback, reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes. He’s cheap right now compared to the value he’s providing his team. If Mahomes were to hit the open market right now, he’d get a contract worth more than $40 million per season. The Chiefs don’t need to give him an extension for three more seasons, although his fifth-year option would be expensive and it would be cheaper to sign him earlier. So they are building around him. They have Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and a few running backs as offensive weapons. They have three highly paid offensive linemen. Their offense, which was good enough to win a Super Bowl last season, is set. Their defense, though, is not good enough. The Chiefs have taken steps to fix their defense this offseason Since Kansas City’s AFC Championship loss to the Patriots, the defense has undergone several changes. Out goes Bob Sutton and in comes Steve Spagnuolo to run the defense. Spags runs a 4-3 defense that relies on its defensive linemen, including the defensive ends, to be well-rounded players. The Chiefs thought Dee Ford didn’t fit that mold, so they traded him to the 49ers. The Chiefs also signed Alex Okafor on the cheap, but they still lacked another pass rusher. Enter Clark. I spoke with multiple people I trust — including a few in Seattle, plus some guys who’ve played against Clark — and they all agree that Clark is an upgrade over Ford. Clark is firmly in that second tier of pass rushers, among the likes of Lawrence, Melvin Ingram, and Myles Garrett. Yes, the Chiefs paid a large price for Clark, but that’s the cost of doing business. Had the Chiefs gone with a pass rusher with the No. 29 pick in the draft, they wouldn’t have found anyone close to Clark’s ability. A second-rounder in 2020 is important, but they’d rather see the production now. The Chiefs’ defensive line now has Clark, Okafor, and Breeland Speaks to rush on the outside and Chris Jones to wreck shop inside. Add in the signing of safety Tyrann Mathieu, who can make plays in the back end, and I think the Chiefs are on their way to building a defense that can win a Super Bowl. For more on my thoughts about this trade, tune in to my Periscope down below: Chiefs trade for Frank Clark. They are ALL IN on this season. I love it. Also, Odell fires back at Gettleman. https://t.co/7Wve94LOWA— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) April 23, 2019
9 h
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Hakeem Butler can be a No. 1 WR, even if he doesn’t end Iowa State’s NFL Draft curse
The versatile deep threat could be Iowa State’s first first-round pick since 1973. Hakeem Butler is a great wide receiver prospect. The question is whether he can be Iowa State’s streak breaker. The Cyclones deep threat has the chance to be his university’s first first-round selection since 1973 when the immortal George Amundson (74 carries, 194 yards as an NFL tailback) went 14th overall to the Houston Oilers. He will almost certainly be the first ISU wide receiver to hear his name called at the draft since Tracy Henderson in 1985. At 6’5, Butler has the length to be an elite red zone threat — the prototypical “go up and get it” threat in the corner of the end zone. With 4.48-second 40-yard dash speed, he’s also a proven burner who can tear up opposing defenses down the sideline. While questions remain about his hands, he’s a physical presence who feasted in the offense-happy realm of the Big 12. A spot in the first round on April 25 would be a major honor for a player who helped push his program back to relevance. The former two-star recruit — the high school standout whose only other FBS offers were from Houston and New Mexico State — will be one of the 2019 NFL Draft’s greatest success stories. And his trajectory suggests he’ll only get better as a pro. Butler was an invaluable piece of Matt Campbell’s renaissance in Ames Iowa State has typically been a blind spot for college football excellence. The Big 12 member has occasionally been the source of exciting upsets if you were willing to dig through the rubble of three- and four-win seasons, but was more often a sigil of disappointment. When Campbell began his second year as the Cyclones’ head coach, the program was working through an 11-year streak of failing to crack the AP Top 25. That changed that season, when the Cyclones’ eight-win 2017 gave way to an eight-win 2018 — the first time Iowa State had recorded 16 wins in a two-year span since 1978. And a major part of the offense that grew strong enough to fight for a top spot in the scoring-heavy Big 12 was the occasionally uncoverable Butler. Butler’s career started slowly — a redshirt year under former coach Paul Rhoads, then a nine-catch, two-touchdown campaign in Campbell’s debut season in 2016. He went from bit player to supporting role in 2017, offering a counterpunch to reliable (and massive) All-Big 12 target Allen Lazard. While Lazard was the team’s receiving stud (941 yards, 10 TDs) and David Montgomery was the engine that kept the Cyclones moving on the ground (1,146 yards, 11 touchdowns), Butler made his case as one of the top deep threats in a conference full of them, averaging 17 yards per catch. His 2018 was even better, despite the added defensive attention created by Lazard’s graduation. He had six 100+ receiving yard games, including a 174-yard day against Oklahoma and a whopping 192 (on nine catches) in Iowa State’s bowl loss to Washington State. His yards per catch exploded to 22.0 — the most in the Big 12 by more than four yards and third-best in the FBS. Part of that was thanks to his deep-ball speed. Another factor was the burgeoning strength that made him difficult to topple downfield: Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler will. not. be. denied. YAC monster on this play! pic.twitter.com/1AxpRbAkaj— The Draft Network (@DraftNetworkLLC) September 15, 2018 What makes Butler special enough to break Iowa State ignominious first-round streak? We talked about the size/speed thing, right? Butler has cornerback-discouraging measureables that give him major advantages both downfield and on out routes. He’s also got great body control with the ball in the air, twisting and jumping to make adjustments on imperfectly thrown passes. If you need a place to throw the ball on third-and-long, just look toward Butler’s back shoulder: He also showed up when his Cyclones needed him the most. In two bowl games he had a total of 14 catches and 303 yards. In showdowns against Big 12 power Oklahoma, he averaged 35 yards per catch (seven for 245). In his first CyHawk game against Iowa as a starter, he torched the Hawkeyes for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns, albeit in a loss. Of his eight career 100+ yard receiving games, five came against teams with winning records. His size makes him an above-average blocker for teams looking to bounce runs outside. Plus, he’s been working out with Calvin Johnson, who knows a thing or two about being an NFL downfield burner at 6’5. Why might Butler languish on draft boards? As previously noted, past drafts haven’t exactly been kind to ISU talent. Lazard looked like a possible Day 2 pickup heading into last year’s event, then lasted seven rounds without hearing his name called. Another all-conference talent with big size (6’5) and good speed (4.55-second 40), he bounced from the Jaguars’ practice squad to the Packers’ roster and is no lock to see the field on Sundays in 2019. Butler is more athletic than Lazard and is coming off a more productive season than his former teammate had ever had, but it’s possible teams aren’t convinced by his big numbers in a conference that wasn’t exactly known for its defense. The other big issue with Butler — one that can’t really be measured with timers and route trees — is his propensity to drop the ball. He had 19 drops his last two seasons on Iowa State, a giant red flag that suggests his concentration isn’t quite ready for the dialed-up pressure NFL defensive backs will bring. His catch rate was just 57.3 percent — a below-average mark for his cohort of draftable receiving prospects (though his deep threat bonafides are so strong he was still a top performer in yards per catch and yards per target regardless). Butler could be a touchdown threat every time he runs a fly route, but there’s also a significant chance he’ll frustrate fans by losing sight of catchable balls. Butler’s status in mock drafts has been more volatile than most potential first-round picks. Dan Kadar’s two-round mock back in March left him on the board until the Texans and the 55th selection — four spots behind his slot on Kadar’s big board. ESPN’s Todd McShay has him waiting until the Lions grab him at pick No. 88. Music City Miracles believes he’d be a worthy investment of the Titans’ first-round pick at No. 19. Arrowhead Pride wants to make Patrick Mahomes even tougher to plan against by bringing him to Kansas City with the 29th pick. Muddying up his projection is a group of talented, but flawed, wideouts campaigning for the honor of being the top receiver selected at the draft. D.K. Metcalf’s absurd combine performance could make him the first WR off the board. Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown — who outdueled Butler with a nine-catch, 191-yard performance when the Sooners and Cyclones met last fall — is also a valid top option. Others like A.J. Brown, N’Keal Harry, and Deebo Samuels could be the first target to hear their names called in Nashville as well. But unlike Lazard, Butler appears to be a lock to be drafted. Whoever acquires him will get a game-breaking talent who could be a constant Pro Bowl presence as long as he can overcome the brief lapses that served as potholes in his run from overlooked recruit to NFL wideout. That’s a big issue for teams to consider when making their draft boards, but it’s the only thing keeping him from being a third down and deep threat cheat code for the right team.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The 76ers’ self-imposed moment of truth has arrived
Who will the 76ers be in the future? That’s a question these playoffs must answer, which is why they matter more than they do with any other team. Almost every favored seed in the 2019 NBA Playoffs is under pressure that extends beyond the simple need to win. To invoke a popular TV show: “Summer is coming.” Living in the moment is easier said than done. The doomsday scenarios are scary for each. The Golden State Warriors may lose Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The Boston Celtics may lose Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. The Toronto Raptors may lose Kawhi Leonard. The Milwaukee Bucks low-key need to give half their team a new contract in preparation for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free agency next summer. All these front offices must have a Plan A, B, C, D, and E for July, and hope they’ve built an infrastructure to keep franchise-altering talent or weather their departures. The Philadelphia 76ers are in this group, too, but they have even more on the line. Their future is both more certain and nebulous at the same time. After a regular season defined by impatience and opportunity, there’s an unsaid “conference finals or bust” cloud hovering overhead. Despite the ages of Joel Embiid (25) and Ben Simmons (22), the front office accelerated the team’s timeline in a risky way, emptying its asset cupboard for a pair of free-agent-to-be All-Star-caliber wings. That qualifies as tightrope walking on a windy day, though any team would be happy to fall back on the Embiid-Simmons combination as a safety net. Unlike the Warriors, Celtics, Raptors, or Bucks, the 76ers put the cart before the horse. Bringing back Jimmy Butler and/or Tobias Harris, the two players acquired via midseason blockbuster trades, is anything but an obvious decision. Assuming it’ll take a max contract to sign each one, a case can be made for the Sixers being better in the future with one, both, or neither. That’s why scrutinizing every Philadelphia possession, personnel move, and rotational tweak is mandatory. The sky falls when they lose, and they’re ready to go the distance when they win. Chaos and constant turnover has become their identity, and with the Process now in the rear view, there’s little infrastructure to lean on when adversity strikes. The closest thing the 76ers have to a cultural tone-setter is Brett Brown, and he may be coaching for his job. To that end, the Sixers are built like Frankenstein’s monster. They’re terrifying, misunderstood, and may not know their own strength. Their starting five is a brash collection of uniquely combustible talent that’s been forced to co-exist. This new era still begins and ends with Embiid, whose knee soreness ultimately dictates how high they soar and how long they fight. He’s the only player in the league whose team was at least five points per 100 possessions better on both ends when he played during the regular season. In the playoffs, Philadelphia’s defense allows 18.9 more points per 100 possessions when he’s off the floor versus on. On the other end, Embiid’s dominance, combined with fit issues born from Simmons’ non-existent jump shot, turns Philadelphia into two different teams. “The ecosystem of, ‘you’ve got Joel, Joe’s getting the ball, you’re probably more of an interior type team, versus, he’s not playing, you’re more of a free-flowing spread team, an up-and-down team,” Brown said before Game 4 against the Nets. “This is that challenge. How do you take the best of both worlds when he is playing? And although we haven’t played a ton of basketball together as a starting group, that is my and our challenge: to combine the best of both things that I just said.” During the regular season, the percentage of possessions that saw Philly attack in transition actually increased with Embiid on the court. But in the playoffs, a small sample size has given us a wide disparity. In the three games Embiid has played, Philly’s transition frequency (the percentage of their possessions that start in transition) has been 13.3, 12.5, and 9.6 percent, respectively. In Game 3, when Embiid sat, that number leapt to 18.4 percent. “It is a different team. I think they obviously played with more pace [in Game 3]. They were a little faster,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after Game 4. “The flip side of that is they’ve got a guy to go down to at the end of the game.” Embiid’s usage rate – the percentage of 76ers possessions he ends with a shot, turnover, or drawn foul while on the court – is second only to James Harden in the playoffs. You feel when he takes over a game. There are stretches where he looks dominant enough to change the rules, especially when help comes off Simmons only one pass away. When Embiid curbs his tendency to shoot too many three-point shots, no basketball player alive, Giannis Antetokounmpo included, is more physically imposing. “In the first game we settled a lot, with threes and stuff, and then the last three games we tried to be aggressive,” Embiid said after Game 4. “I think I’ve only taken two threes? Three? I took three today I guess, so I just try to live in the paint. They’re gonna have to double team me. I figured that out. They’re gonna have to send two or three guys. If they’re gonna guard me in single coverage, I’m gonna dominate.” But Embiid doesn’t have the durability of Giannis, James Harden, Leonard, or Irving. He needs rest, both in games and between them. He only played 32 minutes in Philadelphia’s 112-108 Game 4 victory, despite the 76ers outscoring Brooklyn by 18 points when he was on the floor. If Embiid isn’t physically able to play more minutes, how can the Sixers possibly defeat the Raptors, Bucks or Celtics, and (likely) Warriors or Rockets, all in a row. If they can’t, will they ever make a deep playoff run? In addition to Embiid’s health, the answer may come from their starting lineup. The good news is the 76ers start their five best players, and their top four are all good enough to play in an All-Star game. The bad news is that unit only appeared in 10 regular season games together, and the combination of their occasionally awkward fit and the team’s limited bench has compelled the Sixers to stagger lineups in a way that may not be conducive to the postseason. With the Toronto Raptors likely waiting for them in Round 2, it’s time for a shift towards normality. Embiid’s health issues makes this easier said than done, but the Sixers should have their starting five on the floor as often as they can. The perks of doing so are clear as an on-court strategy—playoffs included, the Embiid-Simmons-Butler-Harris-J.J. Redick unit has outscored its opposition by 113 points in 193 minutes, sixth-highest in the league have —but it’d also give Philadelphia more data points as it approaches an offseason filled with difficult questions. Since the beginning of last season, all iterations of Philly’s starting lineup have outscored opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions. No other team’s starters have been better. But these groups only filled up 24 percent of their total minutes, which ranked 23rd among the 30 starting lineups. They spent more time with three starters on the floor than any other team, and nearly as much with two. The strategy of mixing starters with reserves made sense with rosters that depended on Simmons and Embiid to churn them through half-court possessions. But now, it’s time the Sixers flex their biggest muscle as often as they can. Embrace life as a top-heavy headache that intentionally replaced depth with star power. They haven’t so far. We’re working with small sample sizes, blowouts, Embiid missing Game 3, and Butler’s ejection in Game 4, but Philadelphia’s starters have only accounted for 26.6 percent of all their minutes, which won’t cut it. The Raptors, by contrast, played their starters for a higher percentage of minutes than any other team, and those groups also had the best net rating in the league. In the playoffs, Toronto’s starting five of Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol has played 40 percent of the minutes and is obliterating the Orlando Magic. Stretching the starters is essential because Philly’s supplementary pieces aren’t good enough. Game 4 hero Mike Scott makes threes, but is limited defensively and not a threat to defenses like, say, Milwaukee’s Nikola Mirotic is. Boban Marjanovic has held his own for meaningful stretches against a tiny Nets frontcourt, but will be exposed against better, quicker teams. James Ennis was let go by the Rockets this season because he couldn’t stay healthy or in front of his man. Jonathon Simmons is the wrong wing Elton Brand should’ve pried from Orlando in the Markelle Fultz trade. Overall, there simply isn’t enough shooting or perimeter defense to be stable when it matters most. The 76ers need to do everything possible to meet their goals, because the long-term path is murky if they don’t. There’s an argument for locking up Harris, Butler, and Redick, then using a full training camp and regular season to see the best way to fill out the margins with more sensible role players. On the other hand, doing so could be a disaster if Embiid’s body prevents him from having a Hall of Fame career, or Simmons never learns to shoot, or Butler ages poorly, or the locker room’s hierarchy disintegrates. The alternative is to let some or all of those three players go and maintain cap flexibility, but there’s risk tied to that strategy as well, with Embiid also a max player and Simmons eligible for a max extension of his own. For all these reasons and more, nothing should be off the table this summer, including an exploration of Simmons’ trade value. Then again, unloading a third-year player with transcendent, unteachable skills is likely to backfire. There are no obvious answers right now. In a way, that’s fine. The Process might be over, but whatever comes next will need time to grow. Patience matters as much now as it did before.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
MLB is not the authority on a black player’s ownership of the N-word
The league had two potential motives for suspending Anderson, and neither are a good look. On April 19th, Major League Baseball suspended Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson for one game, following his emphatic bat flip against Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller two days earlier. Keller had retaliated by hitting Anderson with a pitch in his next at bat and both benches cleared, and although Anderson was not involved in any pushing or shoving, he was ejected. At first it seemed that MLB had suspended Anderson for violating silly, unwritten rules of the game with his bat flip. But in reality, the subsequent reasoning was even more ludicrous. Anderson, who is black, was suspended for using the N-word towards a white player: During the benches-clearing incident, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson called Royals pitcher Brad Keller a "weak-ass f---ing n-word," sources tell ESPN. Anderson, who was hit by a Keller pitch one at-bat after he hit a home run and flipped his bat, was suspended for one game.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 19, 2019 White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson has been suspended for one game because of language used during the benches-clearing incident with Kansas City, sources familiar with situation tell ESPN. Brad Keller, who hit Anderson with a pitch, has been suspended for five games, per sources.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 19, 2019 When asked about the situation, Anderson took the high road — which black folks are asked to do at a ridiculous clip — and kept things moving. Ultimately, there were two potential motives for MLB to apply a suspension, and neither are good for the league as a whole. The first is the possibility that MLB used Anderson’s words to suspend him because they felt using his bat flip would be a bad look. The league has made a specific push to #LetTheKidsPlay and “rewrite the rules” in an effort to make the game more fun. Major League Baseball ran this ad last October, which was a breath of fresh air at the time: Baseball isn’t some respectable, Please-Remain-Quiet-While-The-Game-Is-In-Play event like tennis or golf. Yet for whatever reason, many years ago it was decided that everybody’s feelings in baseball were so fragile that one couldn’t celebrate success without expecting a fastball on the body in return. If Gordon Hayward can get dunked on in his hometown on Easter Sunday while Myles Turner yells in his face and not swing on him, these pitchers don’t need to be pegging hitters for sending their shit into outer space and celebrating it. The second motive for a suspension is simply that MLB — a league that has a dark history in its treatment of black players, and a glaring lack of current ones — believed for some reason they could be the authority on a black person’s ownership of the N-word. MLB isn’t the first league to punish black players using the word. NFL officials can hand out 15-yard penalties if they hear it in games, with the two most notable cases being Colin Kaepernick and Louis Murphy in 2014. In 2013, the NBA fined Matt Barnes for an in-game tweet that read, “I love my teammates like family, but I’m DONE standing up for these n---as! All this s--- does is cost me money.” The league also cited “inappropriate language” in its reasoning for the fine. Andre Iguodala was also fined for using the word with the media in 2017. The rules of who can and cannot say the N-word are a pretty cut-and-dry thing. Many try to reduce the argument into the simplest terms of “if it’s a bad word, nobody should be able to say it.” And that sounds great — it really does. If the world were a simple place, then yeah, nobody would use bad words, especially ones that are “racially charged.” However, there are hundreds of years of black history to take into account that create levels in how the word can be used today. It’s been turned into a term of endearment when used by black folks; repurposed to create affection where there once was pain. (Though not everybody within the black community agrees with that particular usage.) But for white people, their relationship with the word should be clear: It’s not for them to say, and it’s not for them to dictate how black people use it, even if they feel left out because they can’t say it too. The great Ta-Nehisi Coates has one of the easiest ways for even the most stubborn to understand this concept. In November of 2017 he explained it as a basic law of how human beings interact while speaking at an event at Evanston Township High School in Illinois. Coates explained how his wife calls him “honey” because of their relationship. But if a random woman on the street walked by and called him that, it would be a problem. In another example, mirroring the N-word more closely, Coates says, “My wife, with her girl friend, will use the word ‘bitch’. I do not join in. You know what I’m saying? I don’t do that. I don’t do that. And perhaps more importantly, I don’t have a desire to do it.” Professional sports leagues shouldn’t be the arbiters on how black athletes use the word. Leagues are made up of mostly white owners, front offices, and coaching staffs, and they aren’t representative of the black players who play the game. In Anderson’s situation, MLB could have left him alone and moved on from the incident entirely. Instead they suspended Anderson, who just so happened to deliver one of the most defiant bat flips ever (in April, too). They incorrectly chose to be an authority on a black player’s language. No matter what you believe to be the ultimate motive for the suspension, Major League Baseball needs to do better. That’s especially the case if they want to improve their longstanding strained relations with black players in the league. The issues brought to light by Tim Anderson’s suspension can and should be fixed. On the issue of “letting the kids play,” it’s clear that the concept is still not truly accepted and embraced. It will be an issue that will take multiple generations to tackle, and will require work from the league itself on down to the coaches and players. But how the MLB chooses to handle use of the N-word can be fixed immediately, by understanding that they can’t tell a black player how and when to use a word that has been yielded as a weapon against his race for centuries. In a league that’s still mostly white, in the same week as Jackie Robinson Day, Major League Baseball played themselves.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
From 62 wins to zero, breaking down the Lightning’s stunning playoff exit
Everything went right for Tampa in the regular season. In the playoffs, nothing did. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2018-19 regular season was one for the history books — they tied the NHL record for wins with 62, led the NHL in power-play and penalty kill percentage, had three 40-goal scorers in Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point, Kucherov amassed the highest point total since 1996, and Kucherov, Stamkos, and Point each scored more than 90 points. Even in the most conservative analytical models available, the Lightning were favored to beat the eighth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets to open the postseason. Columbus’ upset of Tampa Bay isn’t a monumental surprise, the Blue Jackets had strong underlying numbers entering the playoffs, but the way it happened most certainly was. This season’s Tampa Bay Lightning are the only Presidents’ Trophy winner in NHL history to be swept in the first round. The Lightning didn’t falter due to a “lack of heart” or not having enough “character”, as some narratives would like to imply. The Lightning lost this series due to a variety of factors — most importantly: an inability to carry play consistently at five-on-five, a failure to adapt to the forecheck of Columbus, their special teams failing to live up to expectations, and their Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltender struggling at the worst time. Five-on-five play and forechecking Below are offensive shot rate charts that showcase the volume of shot attempts a team generates in the offensive zone and where these shots come from. The more red a specific area is, the more often a team shoots from there, and vise versa for blue. These are the charts for the Lightning during the regular season (left) and playoffs (right). Micah Blake McCurdy, @ineffectivemath, www.hockeyviz.com Tampa Bay’s bread and butter, offensively, was dominating the area between the faceoff circles, known as the slot, but against Columbus, they didn’t pose a threat there. This is largely due to the defensive structure the Blue Jackets employed against the Lightning. Columbus’ aim was to keep Tampa Bay on the perimeter and force the Lightning to take low-danger shots from the boards or the top of the offensive zone, also known as the point. A lot was made about Sergei Bobrovsky’s playoff struggles, but he’s always been an elite goaltender, he was going to put it together eventually and did so in this series. Now, the Blue Jackets did make his life easier overall, but that doesn’t diminish Bobrovsky’s .932 save percentage performance. He had to make plenty of difficult saves to keep momentum in Columbus’ favor in all series, especially in Game 4. As Alison Lukan wrote in The Athletic, another facet of Tampa Bay’s struggles at five-on-five was Columbus’ forecheck, or the pressure a team applies on an opposing puck carrier in their respective zone. The Blue Jackets employed a 1-2-2 strategy that disrupted Tampa Bay’s breakout and neutral zone strategy. The 1-2-2 is a forechecking formation that uses layers of defense to stifle an opposing team’s ability to effectively breakout of their defensive zone. The “1” signifies the lead forechecker, or F1, who initiates the forecheck and forces the puck into a specific direction. The first “2” identifies the other forwards on the ice, F2 and F3, their job is to read what the puck carrier is doing and attempt to cut off a passing lane to another forward. The last “2” signifies the two defensemen, D1 and D2, who are deeper in the neutral zone as the last layer of defense. Columbus understood that if Tampa Bay was allowed to use their speed and skill during breakouts, then they would be at a disadvantage. Columbus compensated by making Tampa Bay go through layers of defenders who would aggressively attack and cut off passing lanes. Defensively, Tampa Bay didn’t give Columbus much. Below are the shot charts for the Blue Jackets during the regular season (left) and playoffs (right). Micah Blake McCurdy, @ineffectivemath, www.hockeyviz.com From the charts, you can tell that Tampa Bay did an effective job limiting the chances Columbus had at five-on-five, however, the Blue Jackets still outscored Tampa Bay, 9-6 (removing empty net goals), during five-on-five play. This mostly stems from defensive breakdowns from the Lightning, but odd-man rushes also caused issues. Here, during the opening minutes of Game 2, you can see Columbus’ forecheck caused a minor breakdown in the Lightning’s defense. Cam Atkinson pinned Erik Cernak against the boards, which forced Cernak to pass sooner than he wanted. Now, watch Matt Duchene after the faceoff; he hovered near J.T. Miller and the moment Atkinson tied up Cernak he immediately went to cut off the passing lane. Atkinson then glided into the lower slot as Duchene won the puck battle against Miller. Cernak is in no man’s land and never looked at Atkinson once the board battle was over, he’s focused on Duchene. Duchene realized this and took advantage of Cernak scrambling to recover by firing a hard pass that bounced off Atkinson’s stick and through Andrei Vasilevksiy. First, this is great puck recovery and movement by the Blue Jackets. Second, with Cernak committed to higher coverage in the defensive zone, it’s Mathieu Joseph’s responsibility to cover low. His failure to position himself correctly enabled Adam Clendening to feed a cross zone pass for an Oliver Bjorkstrand one-timer. The shot went wide, but Pierre-Luc Dubois was there for the rebound since Ryan McDonagh didn’t position himself properly. This goal is mainly on Joseph for missing his assignment, Clendening’s pass wouldn’t have happened if Joseph covered Bjorkstrand correctly. These are just excerpts of what Tampa Bay failed to do correctly during the series. There are other examples that didn’t result in goals, but stem from the same issues. Special teams and goaltending Coming into the series, the Lightning boasted the NHL’s top power-play (28.2 percent) and was in a three way tie for the top penalty kill (85 percent with Columbus and the Arizona Coyotes), while the Blue Jackets had the fourth worst power-play in the NHL this season (15.4 percent). During the series, the Lightning went 1-for-6 on the man advantage while the Blue Jackets went an absurd 5-for-10. Additionally, both teams only scored a single shorthanded goal, both in Game 1. Of Columbus’ five power-play goals, four were scored from either the point or the top of the faceoff circles. Only Duchene’s power-play goal from Game 2 was in-close. The common theme of those four goals? A dogged determination to obscure goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s vision. Vasilevskiy has struggled with long-range shots all season, but the Lightning’s inability to move traffic out of his sight lines hurt him in the series. Injuries to defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman didn’t help, but Hedman played in the first two games and wasn’t good in either showing. This leads to the final point; Vasilevskiy wasn’t Vasilevskiy. During the season, he was one of the best goaltenders in the league, especially on the penalty kill. His play did dip during the month of March, but goaltending is an ebb-and-flow position. To start the series, Vasilevskiy looked solid, but as the series continued he began to struggle. As mentioned earlier, his propensity for allowing long-range shots was victimized by the Blue Jackets in the series, especially on the power play. It also doesn’t help when a starting goaltender allows a goal like this to happen. As bad as Hedman was on this play, Vasilevskiy didn’t even move on the shot. Another example comes from Game 4 where Seth Jones made it 3-1 at 6:28 of the second period. Mikhail Sergachev went to block the shot, but Jones shot around him. Vasilevskiy was able to see the shot, but whiffed on the location. The goaltender wasn’t solely to blame here, but this was a shot that he should’ve been able to track. Vasilevskiy’s save percentage in the postseason of .856 ended up being a far cry from his .925 during the regular season. What next? If any one of the aforementioned issues are isolated, then the rest of Tampa Bay’s strengths would have carried them. Unfortunately, for the Lightning, all of these factors arose at the same time and ultimately sank a promising season. As gut-wrenching and embarrassing as this loss was, general manager Julien BriseBois is still confident in his roster. During exit interviews on Thursday, he had this to say in regards to the team moving forward. We have a very good team. We have very good players and very good coaches. I’m not going to overreact and blow up all the good things we have here because we had a very bad four-game slump at the most inopportune time of the year. The story of this nucleus of players and this coaching staff, it’s not over. It’s still being written. The best and most memorable chapters lie ahead. I have great faith eventually ... we’re going to bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches. The message from BriseBois is clear. The mission moving forward shifts to learning from this humbling lesson. The players, and especially the coaching staff, have to be able to adapt effectively in the future. Columbus adapted after the opening period of Game 1 and controlled the series from there. Tampa Bay failed to adapt until their backs were up against the wall during the final period of Game 4. In the end, Tampa Bay’s failure to make adjustments to Columbus’ gameplan ultimately sank one of the most dominant regular seasons hockey fans have ever seen. Such a shame it went to waste.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Devin Booker is 22 and has already had more NBA coaches than all of these players
This is wild. The only thing the Phoenix Suns love more than winning basketball games is firing head coaches. On Monday night the team continued to feed their unconventional desires by firing Igor Kokoškov, their fourth coach in four years. While the Suns continue to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, there’s one astounding statistic to come from this: Devin Booker is about to have his 5th new head coach in the NBA. He's 22.— sreekar (@sreekyshooter) April 23, 2019 Devin Booker, a 26-point-per-game guard, is now moving on to his fifth new coach since entering the NBA in 2015. Coming in on the tail-end of Jeff Hornacek’s tenure, Booker has also been coached by Earl Watson, Jay Triano and the aforementioned Kokoškov. You might think this is fairly common, but you’d be wrong. It takes a special blend of player skill and organizational dysfunction to ensure someone is stuck in a spot for a considerable time while coaches change around them. I randomly selected some NBA greats to see how many coaches they had in their careers, compared to Booker who will be on coach five by the time the 2019-20 season starts. Dirk Nowitzki: 21 seasons, 3 coaches. Tim Duncan: 19 seasons, 1 coach. John Stockton: 19 seasons, 2 coaches. Dwyane Wade: 16 seasons, 3 coaches. Michael Jordan: 15 seasons, 4 coaches. Bill Russell: 13 seasons, 2 coaches (including himself). Devin Booker: 4 seasons, 4 coaches. This is the extreme, to be sure — but it still highlights just how disastrous Booker’s time with the Suns has been. LeBron James is on his seventh coach since entering the league in 2003, but the leader in the clubhouse by a mile is Jamal Crawford, who is on his 19th head coach in 20 seasons, though to be fair he’s also played on eight different teams. Here’s hoping that Booker finally gets some stability, but as long as he’s on the Suns it seems that simply won’t happen.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
How can the Detroit Pistons give Blake Griffin more help? It won’t be easy
Detroit is in NBA purgatory and will need some creative thinking to escape. The Detroit Pistons were the second team eliminated from the NBA Playoffs when the Milwaukee Bucks swept them off their own home floor. In truth, the Pistons never stood a chance. They were outmatched at every position, and their best player didn’t even play the first two games of the series. Now, Detroit’s focus must shift to a summer where their hands may be tied behind their back. The Pistons have almost zero cap flexibility to add to the roster this summer. Barring a shake-up via trade, they will bring back mostly the same roster that finished a flat .500 this season. That 41-41 record came with Blake Griffin averaging 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting a career-best 36.2 percent on seven three-point attempts per game. His incredible, bounce-back season deserved a better ending. But this 41-41 finish also came in just the second season of his five-year, $171 million contract. Griffin isn’t getting any younger. He wants to win now, and the Pistons need to do everything in their power to make that happen. A dream scenario this season would have been to pull off a deal before February’s trade deadline. They tried to acquire Mike Conley from the Grizzlies via trade, and adding him to the two-big tandem of Griffin and Andre Drummond would have made Detroit a legitimate elite East team. But the Grizzlies declined Detroit’s advances and kept Conley, believing Detroit didn’t have enough pieces to entice them to make a deal. The Pistons won’t have those pieces next season, either, with $112 million in guaranteed contracts already for the 2019-20 season. That means aside from their own draft pick (No. 15 overall in a top-heavy draft class), their mid-level exception, and the smaller bi-annual exception, the Pistons’ only mechanism of signing free agents is to offer a minimum contract. Can the Pistons upgrade via trade? Detroit has explored trading center Andre Drummond in the past, and could do so again. Are there any takers for Drummond, given his contract and production? Detroit’s 25-year-old big man averaged a career-best 17.3 points, 15.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks this season, his first under new coach Dwane Casey. He has one year left on his contract for $27 million, with a $28.7 million player option he is likely to exercise for the 2020-21 season. Drummond is a great rebounder, athletic pick-and-roll finisher, and an underrated passer out of the low post, but he does not stretch the floor and he does not guard multiple positions. He protects the rim and dominates the glass, but he is not the modern-day five who can check smaller guards and stretch the floor. He’s also prone to listless performances in key games; some Pistons fans booed him during a particularly bad Game 3 against the Bucks. But if there’s no way to trade Drummond and upgrade the existing team, it isn’t the end of the world. The Pistons outscored opponents by 5.1 points per 100 possessions in the 1,979 regular-season minutes Drummond and Griffin played together. Griffin and Drummond also outscored the Bucks in the first round by 11.4 points per 100 possessions in the 37 minutes they shared the court. If Detroit opts against a trade, it will need to get very creative with how it spends its money. This is what Detroit’s payroll will look like next season before any signings Year 1 salary included, with payout over the life of the contract in parentheses: Blake Griffin: $34.4 million (3 years, $110 million) Andre Drummond: $27 million (player option worth $28.7 million in 2020) Reggie Jackson: $18 million Jon Leuer: $9.5 million Langston Galloway: $7.3 million Josh Smith: $5.3 million (yes, the Pistons are still paying Josh Smith) Glenn Robinson III: team option for $4.3 million Luke Kennard: $3.8 million (highly likely team option worth $5.2 million in 2020) Thon Maker: $3.6 million (restricted free agency in 2020) Svi Mykhailiuk: non-guaranteed for $1.4 million (team option for $1.6 million in 2020) Bruce Brown: $1.4 million (non-guaranteed for $1.6 million in 2020) Khyri Thomas: $1.4 million (non-guaranteed for $1.6 million in 2020) That’s about $117.7 million if Detroit opts to keep Robinson and Mykhailiuk next season, plus whatever the slotted salary will be to sign their first-round draft pick. The list doesn’t include solid backup point guard Ish Smith, who is a free agent and appears to be out of Detroit’s price range. Detroit’s magic number: 138 That’s the projected tax “apron” for the 2019-20 NBA season, or about $6 million above the luxury tax level of $132 million. The Pistons need to make sure they are below $138 million if they want to use their full mid-level exception. So long as the Pistons are below that $138 million level, they’ll be able to use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception that pays $9.2 million per season, with a max of a four-year deal worth $39.7 million. The taxpayer mid-level exception, on the other hand, only pays $5.7 million, or a three-year, $17.9 million deal. Big difference. However, using the full non-taxpayers MLE means the Pistons will have a hard cap of $138 million next season. They won’t be able to exceed that number under any circumstances, whereas they could — albeit with escalating financial penalties — if they use the smaller taxpayer mid-level exception. How could Detroit spend that money? The Pistons could take a flyer on Isaiah Thomas Thomas never cracked the rotation in Denver. He only appeared in 12 games and averaged eight points on subpar shooting percentages in his time on the floor. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and both Thomas and the Pistons can be filed under “desperate.” Thomas signed a minimum contract with the Nuggets and would likely sign another for a chance at legitimate playing time. The Pistons need some help in the backcourt, so he’d have a chance to earn minutes. If Thomas can revert to anything near his old self — the All-Star guard who averaged 28.9 points in the 2016-17 season — this could be a low-risk, high-reward experiment for both parties. Detroit could use some (or all) of its mid-level exception on Rodney Hood The market for Hood is uncertain. He averaged 16.8 points in Utah in his final season before being traded to Cleveland at last year’s deadline, but numbers never reached those heights again and his efficiency has tapered along with it. This season, Hood was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he’s become a useful bench player. Hood can get hot, though, and has something to prove: that he is that near-17 point per game scorer who can thrive in the right situation. A wise bet would be against Portland re-signing him long-term. He might be the right kind of fit for Detroit. The Pistons could also use its mid-level exception to replace Ish Smith The Pistons need a backup point guard in the event they cannot retain Smith. Detroit outscored opponents by 5.5 points per 100 possessions while Smith was on the floor. He was the aggressive facilitator who helped balance Detroit’s attack during his time with the team. Detroit more than likely won’t be able to retain him if they want to stay under the apron. Two strong options that’ll become free agents this summer: Derrick Rose and Darren Collison. Rose resurrected his career in Minnesota, averaging 18 points and 4.3 assists while shooting a career-best 37 percent from three. Collison is a speedster who consistently shoots 40 percent from three-point range. Last season, he averaged 11.2 points, six assists and 1.4 steals per game as the starter in Indy. Both could be good backups to Reggie Jackson, or serviceable starters in the event the Pistons deal Jackson. The books look much cleaner next season The Pistons cap sheet is ugly this summer, but the only players with guaranteed contracts in 2020 will be Griffin, Drummond, and likely Luke Kennard. They’ll have at least $30 million in cap space, if not more with cap expected to balloon to $119 million. In 2020, Detroit will have more flexibility to find difference maker they won’t been able to afford this summer. That’s why the Pistons should try their hardest to limit the length of any new contracts to just one-year deals this summer. However, the 2020 free agency pool isn’t nearly as strong as the level of talent available this summer. Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Jeff Teague will be the best unrestricted point guards available, and the majority of restricted free agents will be retained by their current teams. It might be slim pickings by the time the Pistons finally have cap space. This is the hand Detroit dealt itself when it signed Jackson to a five-year, $80 million extension in 2015 (defensible at the time), then Jon Leuer to a four-year, $42 million deal the summer after (highly questionable even at the time). This is the consequence of waiving and stretching Josh Smith’s four-year, $54 million contract in 2014 — now, they’re paying $5.4 million in dead money every season until 2020. And this is what happens when you sign Drummond to a five-year, $127 million deal, then trade for Griffin in the first year of a five-year, $171 million deal. The Pistons are in NBA purgatory, and it’ll be hard for them to get out.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Get your 100% accurate NFL draft scouting report
Give us your name and we’ll give you your NFL draft scouting report! The NFL Draft is here again, and once more we pore over scouting reports, salivating and recoiling in fear when our favorite teams make a pick. With a firm belief that turnabout is fair play, we want to give you the ability to make your own scouting report too — full of the same dumb terminology and inane justifications for players that we’ll hear all weekend long. We used powerful computer technology to build just such a tool. It’s a state-of-the-art algorithm which replicates actual NFL Draft scouting reports, with a fun twist. SB Nation’s 100% accurate Draft Scouting Report Generator features thousands of potential combinations that form together to make your perfect scouting report. Some will relate to football, others won’t — and the result might even make you mad. This is the essence of being a college football player on draft day, watching as your character is picked apart. Try it out! Then send it to your friends to make your own big board of character concerns and quirks that will make you utterly undraftable.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
New Jersey sportsbook fined for allowing degenerates to bet on Rutgers, Monmouth men’s basketball
If you’re looking for some true degenerates, may I present 217 sports bettors in New Jersey! The state’s Department of Gaming fined sports betting operator The Stars Group (TSG) $10,000 after they violated the state’s prohibition of betting on colleges and universities that reside in New Jersey. And who did these bettors wager on? Rutgers and Monmouth men’s basketball — arguably the most embarrassing major program in history, and a program that finished the 2018-19 season ranked 295th out of 353 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. When you have a host of other college basketball games on which to wager, you’re either alumni or desperate for a fix to want to keep an eye on those two teams. Ten months ago, New Jersey became the third state in the country to legalize sports betting following Nevada and Delaware. Since then, five more states have legalized and implemented sports betting, and four more states have passed legislation. New Jersey differs from the other 11 states in that it has explicitly prohibited sports betting on universities that reside in the state. You can wager on virtually any sporting event out there, but if you bet on it in New Jersey, you cannot bet on Rutgers, Seton Hall, Farleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, or Princeton. The Stars Group was fined after taking 216 bets on a November 19th matchup between Rutgers and Eastern Michigan and a single bet on a December 31st matchup between Monmouth and Penn. The company claims it was a “manual gating error.” In case you’re wondering, Rutgers beat Eastern Michigan 63-36 to cover a seven-point spread and Monmouth won 76-74 to win outright as a 13-point underdog. Prohibiting betting on in-state colleges ignores the realities of bookies and the Internet, and will cost the state money Sports betting has existed in the black market for over 100 years. Nevada formally legalized it in 1949, but otherwise it remained illegal in the rest of the country until the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. PASPA prohibited states from legalizing sports betting (Nevada was fully grandfathered in), and the Court ruled that it violated the anti-commandeering doctrine in the 10th Amendment. States have begun legalizing sports betting, with as many as 30 states considering legislation this year. This has started to bring sports betting into the light of regulation and taxation. When sports betting is illegal, people will find ways to wager on it. If it is illegal all around them, they will find a bookie or an offshore online sportsbook. For New Jersey residents, they can easily go to Pennsylvania or Delaware — and in the near future, into New York — to place their wagers. That takes taxable revenue off the table for New Jersey and either gives it to neighboring states, or removes it entirely since nobody is paying taxes on bets placed offshore or with bookies. More importantly, it does nothing to protect the integrity of their student-athletes. College basketball has had its share of point-shaving scandals and they have involved illegal bookies — not legal casinos. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie told me that he thinks it sends a message to student-athletes about staying away from gambling. “I think it sends the right message to the students in your state, too — the student-athletes in your state, that you’re not allowing that betting, that reinforces the idea that they shouldn’t be in any way involved with the gambling business while they’re student-athletes.” This might influence a few student-athletes, but it’s monumentally naive to think that is the outcome of this kind of prohibition. Maybe it keeps a few kids out of casinos, but legislators can only stick their head in the sand for so long. Chris Christie thinks few people will want to bet on New Jersey schools — he’s wrong New Jersey college sports has had some success over the years. In men’s basketball, Seton Hall has been to four straight NCAA tournaments and was a force in the late 80s and early 90s, Princeton is regularly competitive in the Ivy League, and Farleigh Dickinson is competitive in the Northeast Conference. And yet, this recent discipline proves that it doesn’t matter if a team is any good — people are going to bet on them regardless. Rutgers-Eastern Michigan is almost never going to be a marque matchup, and it still got 216 people willing to bet on it. That’s one game that most of the basketball world has little interest in. People in New Jersey may realize many of their college stink at sports, but that won’t stop them from wagering on them if allowed. Some will choose to profit off their poor play, while others will get sucked in by the emotion of a school they’ve followed for years. Either way, New Jersey would profit. In other states, this could prove to be a bigger problem Sports betting legalization is still in the early stages, and New Jersey is currently the only state that prohibits betting on in-state college sports. However, Kentucky is considering legislation with a similar prohibition against betting on colleges within the Commonwealth. That would mean you could bet on contests involving neighboring schools like Ohio State or Indiana or Tennessee, but you could not bet on Kentucky or Louisville. Rutgers and Monmouth may be bad sports schools, but Kentucky and Louisville are decidedly not. Prohibiting wagering on Kentucky and Louisville does little to protect student-athletes. If you can go to one of a host of other states to bet, or you can find a bookie or offshore sportsbook, the betting is still going to happen. The answer is full scale legalization Seven of the eight states with legal sports betting allow for betting on colleges within their borders. It will decrease the black market and provide states with additional tax revenue. Furthermore, it will bring them into the light of regulation. If there is shady betting on a Rutgers basketball game, the casinos and the gaming board will be able to track it. Customers will be able to bet with confidence knowing everything is on the up-and-up. It might take time, but eventually New Jersey needs to adopt this approach. Chris Christie talked about wanting the state to be a leader in sports betting, and this is one way to do it. Acknowledge the folly of a college sports betting prohibition and bring it fully into the light. 30 states are considering legislation to legalize sports betting, and there are likely more to come. Iowa is closing in on legalization, with legislation headed to the governor for a signature, and it will allow betting on Iowa and Iowa State. It’s only logical, and hopefully more states will follow their lead.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Jay Norvell is building something exciting at Nevada
The Wolf Pack probably won’t see another huge surge in 2019, but Norvell’s building a hell of a foundation. Bill C’s annual preview series of every FBS team in college football continues. Catch up here! Your performance as an assistant coach doesn’t tell us much about your eventual performance as a head coach. Our reflex reactions to head coaching hires almost always have to do with our impressions of the guy as an assistant. That was certainly the case for me when Nevada hired Norvell, anyway. His last few years as an assistant were not his best. After a run of success as Oklahoma’s offensive co-coordinator (which followed an intensely mediocre few years as OC at Nebraska and UCLA), his Sooners slipped to 30th in Off. S&P+ in 2013, and, despite a 2014 rebound, Norvell was allowed to leave for Charlie Strong’s shuffled staff at Texas in 2015. The Longhorns ranked 59th. He went to Arizona State in 2016, and they ranked 48th. As a result, I didn’t feel all that great about Nevada hiring him in 2017. At least, I didn’t until I saw the hires he was making. Having middling success over his last few years didn’t prevent Norvell from putting together a strong staff or raising Nevada’s recruiting profile. And it didn’t prevent him from a second-year breakthrough in Reno. The program had slipped since the 13-1 breakthrough of 2010. The Wolf Pack went 7-6 in Hall of Famer Chris Ault’s final two seasons as head coach, then went from the 60s and 70s in S&P+ to the 90s and 100s in four years under Brian Polian. Norvell’s first season was a Year Zero — the Pack went 3-9 (their worst record since the start of the century) with a young offense and a hellscape of a defense. In 2018, Nevada treaded water early on, beating Oregon State and Air Force before showing potential against Fresno State and Boise State. And when the schedule eased up, the Pack went on a tear. They won four games in a row before a strange upset loss to rival UNLV, then pulled off one of the least likely bowl wins you’ll ever see, a 16-13 victory over Arkansas State in which the Red Wolves created more than twice as many scoring opportunities. Unlikely or not, their eight wins was their most since Kaepernick. I would say recruits noticed, but they were already buying what Norvell was selling. Per the 247Sports Composite, he signed the No. 3 class in the Mountain West following the 3-9 debut, then the No. 5 class in 2019 (No. 4 if you go by each prospect’s average ranking). These were their two best classes since 2014. With a new quarterback, a rebuilt secondary, and a schedule that features five projected top-60 opponents, odds are good that Nevada solidifies its gains — making a bowl again at 6-6 or 7-5, signing another awesome class, then igniting in 2020. But there’s potential for more. It’s been a while since I could say that. Offense Want to make an old blogger happy? Hire a Mumme. One of the first moves Norvell made was to hire Matt Mumme, son of Hal and former LaGrange head coach, as his offensive coordinator. After his Wolf Pack offense showed improvement late in 2017, it appeared to turn a corner last fall. They ranked as high as 44th in Off. S&P+ and were still at 62nd before a late-year fade — they scored under 30 points against bad SJSU and UNLV offenses, then needed overtime to eke out 16 in the bowl. By the end, the offense faded back to 83rd. But the promise was encouraging, considering this was a really young unit. Freshman Toa Taua was the starting running back, and of the top four receivers, only one had caught more than four passes the year before. The line featured a freshman and three sophomores in the rotation. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Toa Taua I’d predict a major breakthrough in 2019 if the quarterback were also returning, but Ty Gangi ran out of eligibility after throwing for 3,331 yards. The job will be senior Cristian Solano’s if he can fend off a crowd. The previous time Solano was a starting quarterback at any level was at high school in 2013, Polian’s first year at Nevada. He started for an injured Gangi against Fresno State, and it went predictably bad (Fresno’s defense was really, really good last year). Still, his mobility and seniority made him the favorite heading into the spring. Norvell’s going to make it competitive, though. He’s signed two three-star freshmen in the last two years (Carson Strong in 2018, Austin Kirksey in 2019), and he also inked Florida State-via-Last Chance U quarterback Malik Henry in this class. Henry’s JUCO head coach said, ‘He’s most talented quarterback I’ve ever had, but i just think he’s damaged goods,” about him last year. You don’t want to count on him experiencing a lasting breakthrough, but he’s still got time to figure things out. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Elijah Cooks If Solano, Henry, or one of the other QBs can play at a certain level, the offense’s potential is quite high. Taua had some huge moments (170 yards against Toledo, 126 against Hawaii) before hitting a wall like the rest of the offense, and another sophomore, Devonte Lee, had an off-the-charts 58 percent success rate (albeit with no explosiveness). Three starters depart on the line, but five others return with starting experience, including two-year left tackle Jake Nelson, the key to a pass protection unit that ranked 10th in sack rate. (Leaks in run blocking were a bit of an issue.) The receiving corps returns almost everyone, too. The only loss is big — McLane Mannix, an extraordinary slot who transferred for family reasons — but there’s still a lot. For starters, slot man, and former Washington State Cougar Kaleb Fossum is one of the most efficient possession receivers in the country. Among players targeted at least 90 times last year, he was 10th in marginal efficiency. Basically everybody ahead of him was either a 2019 NFL draft prospect (Oklahoma’s Hollywood Brown, NC State’s Kelvin Harmon, Texas’ Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, Baylor’s Jalen Hurd) or won the Biletnikoff Award (Jerry Jeudy). It doesn’t stop with Fossum. Sophomore Romeo Doubs caught fire late (last three regular season games: 17 catches, 297 yards), and both junior Elijah Cooks and senior Brendan O’Leary-Orange are all-or-nothing threats who have time to find more consistency. Plus, two of Norvell’s most touted 2019 signees — receiver Jamaal Bell and tight end Henry Ikahihifo — could play roles sooner than later. This could be one of the best receiving corps in the Group of Five, if it has a QB. Defense As it turned out, Jeff Casteel still had some tricks up his sleeve. A longtime coordinator for Rich Rodriguez, Casteel and his tricky 3-3-5 defense were jettisoned from Arizona after a couple of bad years. (Things got even worse for the Wildcats after his ouster.) After a rocky transition in 2017, we got a sustained look at what Casteel could accomplish with the right pieces. Linebacker/edge rusher Malik Reed exploded for 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks, and the safety trio of Asauni Rufus, Dameon Baber, and Nephi Sewell combined for 13 TFLs, five interceptions, and five pass breakups. Tackle Korey Rush provided a jolt up front, too, with 12.5 TFLs and six sacks, and Nevada surged from 127th to 63rd in Def. S&P+. They were decent against the pass and great near the line of scrimmage, and they teed off when you were leveraged into blitz downs. That was the good news. The bad news: everybody in the above paragraph (Casteel aside) is gone. Nevada ranks 98th in returning defensive production and is projected to fall back to 84th in Def. S&P+. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Dom Peterson (51) and Sam Hammond (98) Mind you, there are still exciting pieces returning. Daniel Brown is one of the best DBs in the MWC, and fellow CB EJ Muhammad started the first two games of 2018 before a season-ending injury. End Dom Peterson recorded 10.5 TFLs as a freshman, senior LBs Lucas Weber and Maliek Broady have solid blitz potential, and Gabriel Sewell is excellent in run support. If Nevada overachieves its defensive projection this fall, though, it’ll probably be due to some recent star recruits. Sophomore safety Tyson Williams was a mid-three-star and is, by default, the most experienced safety after recording 18 tackles last year. Three-star sophomores Lamin Touray (LB) and Kaymen Cureton (DB) could assuage some worries by living up to their recruiting hype. Norvell and Casteel redshirted a few of the brightest lights from the 2018 class, including mid-three-star linebacker Josiah Bradley and mid-three DB Teyjohn Herrington. Understanding needs, Norvell signed six freshman DBs, along with two three-star ends and two three-star linebackers. There are roles for anybody who figures things out quickly in fall camp, especially in the secondary. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Daniel Brown Perhaps it’s encouraging that, while Norvell signed a lot of DBs, he didn’t panic and load up on JUCOs. Maybe that’s a sign of confidence in the returning personnel — Brown, Muhammad, Williams, juniors Berdale Robins, Mar’Quette Jackson, and Austin Arnold, converted quarterback Kaymen Cureton (who had P5 offers to play defense), etc. — but depth could be a major issue, and with any run of injuries, recent recruits might get thrown into the deep end. Special Teams The defense wasn’t the only unit that took a leap forward: Nevada improved from 97th to 66th in Special Teams S&P+. The Wolf Pack had one of the nation’s best kick coverage units, and punter Quinton Conaway was strong, too. Returns were nonexistent except for a single Romeo Doubs punt return, but this was a decent unit. Conaway’s back, but kicker Ramiz Ahmed is not. We’ll see if that means a step backward, though if Doubs emerges as a steady return man, that’ll be a plus. 2019 outlook 2019 Schedule & Projection Factors Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability 30-Aug Purdue 58 -3.7 42% 7-Sep at Oregon 20 -18.3 15% 14-Sep Weber State NR 20.2 88% 21-Sep at UTEP 130 24.1 92% 28-Sep Hawaii 94 6.0 64% 12-Oct San Jose State 117 16.8 83% 19-Oct at Utah State 42 -12.0 24% 26-Oct at Wyoming 92 0.2 50% 2-Nov New Mexico 115 15.8 82% 9-Nov at San Diego State 54 -9.3 29% 23-Nov at Fresno State 51 -10.0 28% 30-Nov UNLV 100 8.0 68% Projected S&P+ Rk 83 Proj. Off. / Def. Rk 77 / 84 Projected wins 6.7 Five-Year S&P+ Rk -8.9 (101) 2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 92 2018 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -6 / -3.8 2018 TO Luck/Game -0.9 Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 63% (71%, 54%) 2018 Second-order wins (difference) 6.5 (1.5) Life in the improving MWC West is a lot trickier than it was a couple of years ago, but Nevada’s schedule is a strange mix of high floor and low ceiling. On one hand, a cushy home slate should give Nevada margin for error when it comes to reaching a bowl. Five of six home opponents are projected 94th or worse in S&P+, plus one of the road games is against worst-in-FBS UTEP. Despite only a No. 83 overall projection, the Pack have at least 82 percent win probability in four games. On the other hand, trips to Oregon, Utah State, Fresno State, and SDSU could put a hard cap on the win total. The Pack have a win probability of 29 percent or lower in four games. Really, there are only a few potential tossups here. A home upset of Purdue in Week 1 could trigger a run at nine wins or so, but this will probably be a six- to seven-win year, maybe eight with some breaks. With the foundation Norvell appears to be building, that’s fine. Solidify gains, sign another excellent class, and keep building a potential West Division powerhouse. Team preview stats All 2019 preview data to date.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Why Daniel Jones’ NFL Draft hype doesn’t quite make sense
Even alongside other QBs who’ve posted bad college numbers and then been drafted highly, Jones is especially hard to understand. Duke QB Daniel Jones is now the closest thing to a consensus pick for the Giants at No. 17. He has a strong chance to be the third QB taken and could even pass Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins to be the second. A year after Wyoming QB and Bills pick Josh Allen exposed the widest gap in opinion yet between NFL execs and most of the rest of us, Jones has emerged as 2019’s most disagreed-upon guy. But unlike with Allen and other similar QBs, I have to squint to see why the NFL is even intrigued with Jones. Start with Jones’ consistently underwhelming numbers at Duke. He started for three years, and he never put up a passer rating better than 131.7, ranking 66th among FBS qualifiers in 2018. The average NFL starting QB these days ranked around 25th in the country in passer rating in his last college year. The only regular starter in 2018 who ranked lowerin his last college year was Allen, 73rd as a Wyoming junior. Jones gained 6.8 yards per throw in 2018 — the best of his career, but eighth in the ACC and 81st in the country. Of the 22 most talked-about QB prospects from FBS, Jones’ Success Rate (how often his passes kept Duke on schedule) was third-worst in 2018. He was dead last in Marginal Efficiency, a measure that takes extra account of a play’s down and distance. Research by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly shows that QBs almost never become more efficient in the pros than they were in college. According to pass-charting by Derrik Klassen (in a spreadsheet here), Jones compares poorly to other top QB prospects on passes of all ranges from zero yards to 20-plus, and got to throw more short passes than most of his peers. He also did poorly when under pressure and on third and fourth downs. Pro Football Focus, which charts every game and has its own float of advanced stats, ranks Jones 70th overall and fifth among QBs. Jones didn’t have a single standout college game against a great defense. His 10 best games by passer rating were against FCS North Carolina Central, Army, Northwestern, Temple, Notre Dame (the 2016 version that went 4-8), Pitt, FCS NC Central again, Georgia Tech, and Georgia Tech again. None finished better than 30th in Defensive S&P+. Most did far worse. Yet enough NFL teams are enamored with Jones that he’s apparently going to be a first-rounder. Some media, too, have found things to love. Mel Kiper’s ESPN writeup on him illustrates the disconnect well: There’s a lot to like about Jones, my fourth-ranked quarterback and No. 23 overall on my board. He has experience (36 starts). He’s athletic (4.81 40 with a 33 ½-inch vertical). He’s a leader (two-year captain). He’s tough (he missed only two games after breaking his collarbone). He can be a starter in the NFL. Now, you’d like to see him be more accurate -- he completed just 59.9 percent of his passes in his career -- but he improved every year under Duke coach David Cutcliffe. Just turn on the film from last season, and you’ll see a quarterback who can play. The vast majority of college starting QBs are captains. Maybe Jones did improve every year, but if he did, it’s hard to explain his rough sophomore numbers. (Also, that year, Duke was 25th of 130 teams in returning production on offense, meaning he had one of the country’s most experienced teams.) You know the usual reasons why NFL teams pick QBs who didn’t light it up in college. But other QBs, who actually had productive college careers, fit those molds better than Jones does. Maybe you’re like Allen was in 2018: really tall, strong-armed, and in need of better accuracy. Jones is 6’5, but why not just take 6’7 Buffalo flamethrower Tyree Jackson, who’s like Allen with one-fifth the hype? Maybe you only had a year or so as a college starter — usually a strike against a QB, but, through another lens, a mark of untapped upside. That doesn’t fit Jones, but it could fit Haskins or Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu. Maybe you played in a conservative offense, which could both translate to the pros and suggest opportunity for bigger numbers. That could work for Jones, but if a team wanted a QB like that, why not just try NC State’s Ryan Finley, who’s an inch shorter but had a better college career? Maybe you’re a unique scheme fit. Missouri’s Drew Lock adapted to three offensive coordinators in four years and played well all along. West Virginia’s Will Grier produced in an NFL-ish version of the air raid. So maybe this is the most important thing: the notion that he has a pedigreebecause of his college coach. Cutcliffe was Tennessee’s coordinator when Peyton Manning played there. He was Ole Miss’ head coach when Eli Manning played there. He mentored top-three pick Heath Shuler and a few others who have gotten cups of coffee in the NFL. Cutcliffe is currently one of Duke’s best football coaches ever. But the first line on his resume might as well be “coached Peyton Manning.” It jumpstarted Cutcliffe’s reputation as a QB whisperer, even though 15 years have passed since a QB of his became a regular NFL starter. The 64-year-old Duke coach told Sports Illustrated of Jones: I can’t imagine there’s someone out there more equipped, top to bottom, in this draft or in the next draft if he had stayed, than he is to be an NFL quarterback. A starter. A star. There’s no one football men trust more than other football men, and here’s the football man who coached the Mannings saying Jones is a budding star. Gil Brandt, a Hall of Fame front-office man, spelled out the Manning comparison: I. Love. Dan Jones. I have to say this carefully: When you watch him and you go back (20) years and watch Peyton Manning, you are watching the same guy. He’s athletic. He doesn’t have a rocket for an arm, but neither did Peyton. Very smart. Look, they even have vaguely similar postures and senses of QB fashion: Getty Images, USA TODAY Sports Maybe Jones will be good. But he’s a bizarre part of the first round, unless some NFL team has seen something extraordinary. That would have to be something that didn’t translate into above-average play in any of his three years starting at Duke.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Brown was better than Metcalf in college. How about NFL?
The Ole Miss teammates are among the two top WRs in the draft, and the guy without the numbers has gotten most of the hype. Somewhere during the run-up to the draft, D.K. Metcalf’s 6’3, 225-pound frame and massive potential overtook his former teammate, A.J. Brown. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you show up to the NFL Combine looking like this (Metcalf’s on the left and Brown’s on the right): Oh and he's also standing next to AJ Brown, who is not a small human either HT @rebelHart2 pic.twitter.com/VpjcreE66a— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) February 11, 2019 That was the first time many had seen Metcalf since a neck injury cut his final season in Oxford short. Now Metcalf is near the top of plenty of mock draft boards despite the fact Brown’s been one of the most productive receivers in college football for the last two seasons. Brown is Ole Miss’ all-time leading receiver in yards and 100-yard games and the only Rebs WR ever with at least 60 receptions in back-to-back seasons. Both are considered to be among the five best receivers in the class. They’ll probably be compared to each other for a long time. But a closer look shows why direct comparison is tricky. In Metcalf, a team is getting a raw prospect and hoping they can turn him into a complete receiver. When Metcalf is at his best, he’s using physicality in press situations and blowing right by DBs with straight-line speed. On vertical routes, if you let him get your hands on you, things get dangerous. He gets DBs flipped way out of position, and no DB is able to turn around to chase 4.3 speed. He uses his strong hands to limit DBs as they transition through contact. And if you can’t turn quickly enough to run with him, it’s over. In the play above (bottom of the screen), he swats Saivion Smith’s arm away and runs a 75-yard dash to the end zone on the first play of the game. Metcalf pushes Smith’s body where it’s already going (hips to the sideline, perpendicular to Metcalf’s). You can see that a little bit here too. Here against Texas Tech, he jab steps with his left foot, gets the DB’s hips to the sidelines, uses his hands, and buh-bye. What’s proved effective against him is showing press and then not actually pressing. Keep your hands off, make him declare, and just run with him. He’s fast, but he’s not that much faster than a talented DB. Like this play here (bottom of the screen). The DB waits for Metcalf, and the QB has to look elsewhere. Top of the screen here against Texas Tech shows the same thing: Metcalf doesn’t release effectively enough to get natural separation without manhandling DBs. Having a head of steam is great, but he’s gotta actually get it first. LSU’s Greedy Williams wrote the book on shutting Metcalf down (bottom of the screen). Matched up against the future NFL corner, Metcalf was targeted 10 times. Five were on short curl routes. He caught three of those and dropped the other two. On Metcalf’s vertical routes, there was a lot of this (bottom of the screen) ... ... and this (also bottom of the screen). But what about his non-vertical routes? Fine, let’s talk about that combine performance. The 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drill are the clearest combine measures of agility. And they may explain Metcalf’s poor releases and why he struggles to run routes that ask him to change direction. There are some productive NFL players who had similar agility drills, but his performance in those drills was still flat-out bad. DK Metcalf’s percentile rankings from the combine are hilarious. He’s the greatest athletic freak on earth….as long as he doesn’t have to change direction. pic.twitter.com/oIw7Upd7o1— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) March 3, 2019 If your team wants a more polished wideout, just look at the other side of Ole Miss’ formation. There is no question Brown was the far more efficient WR in college. From SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly’s statistical breakdown of the whole 2019 WR class: Metcalf was absolutely, positively awful on blitz downs. Let me rephrase that: on the downs in which the offense needed its playmakers to most step up, Metcalf was not only mediocre — he was horrid. He caught one of four blitz-down passes and generally went nowhere with them. His battery mate DaMarkus Lodge didn’t do much either. No, when Ole Miss quarterbacks needed a completion, they knew to go to A.J. Brown. He not only provided pretty easy pitch-and-catch opportunities out of the slot, he also actually did something with those catches. One of our resident former NFL players, Stephen White, broke down Brown’s capabilities. One thing I really liked about Brown’s film is that I was able to see him working from both out wide and in the slot. I don’t have to guess whether or not he could fit at either spot because I have seen him do it now, and thus I have no doubt that he has the ability line up and play well wherever a team wants to put him. Oh, what Brown can do for you. Ole Miss calls that route “storm,” and his QB, Jordan Ta’amu, told SB Nation how Brown makes it work. “They’re [the outside receivers] taking the outside release to take away the safeties and take away the corners,” Ta’amu said as he drew up the play. “A.J. Brown has all this room to find space — we call that a Storm route. “He has all this room, so he can zig-zag however, but he needs to get out there fast because I only have a certain amount of time. He usually breaks out, breaks back in, and runs back over the top. He’s just so fast. A.J. is always going to be open.” Brown’s quick in and out of breaks, like you want from a slot receiver, and his route running is technically sound. You can see how that Auburn DB doesn’t have time to react. He is reliable and had a 72 percent catch rate (the national average is 62.6) and 80 catches in 2018. He’s also a yards-after-catch monster. On the list of SEC receivers who have forced the most missed tackles since 2014, three Brown seasons appear in the top 10. See here how he finds the hole in the zone, sits, catches the ball, and gets what he can: YAC is about more than just athletic ability. Smart receivers can create it: Brown is more complete now, but will he actually end up being better? That depends. Metcalf is faster, and he definitely looks better with his shirt off than almost anyone else. That overlooks Brown’s different kind of athleticism — he was an MLB draft pick out of high school and has demonstrated far superior agility on tape. Beyond physical ability, they’re just different wide receivers: Brown spent roughly half of his career playing from the slot. Metcalf never lines up there. Brown is a versatile threat, but not much of a home run threat like Metcalf. He’s more likely to nail shallow routes. If he takes it to the house, it’s due to his ability with the ball in his hands. Brown has the stats that speak for themselves, and Pro Football Focus graded him at 79.0 in 2018 while Metcalf was at 70.8. When they were both sophomores in 2017, Brown had an 80 percent catch rate on 94 targets, while Metcalf was at 52.7 percent on 74 targets. Brown nearly doubled Metcalf’s yardage, 1,252-646. But Metcalf did improve his overall catch rate as a junior to 63.4 percent, but it was still behind Brown’s (72 percent), even before the injury. Metcalf’s catch rate also gets worse in the red zone, where you’d think a big-bodied receiver like him could have an edge. His catch rate was 43.2 percent (29th out of the top 30 WRs in this class). Brown’s was fourth (69.1). A lower catch rate can be excusable given the nature of his game as a deep threats. Metcalf had 21.9 yards per catch before getting hurt (that’s a lot). But other receivers in that neighborhood (at least 17 yards per catch) with way more targets had higher catch rates: Oklahoma’s Hollywood Brown: 70.8 percent Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb: 73 percent West Virginia’s Gary Jennings Jr.: 74 percent Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy: 70.1 Was Metcalf’s limited route tree a product of an air raid offense that confined receivers to narrow roles, or did his coaches understand his capabilities? That’s the great unknown about his skills. He has so much potential, but needs work in order to unlock it. If you’re pro-Metcalf, you believe your coaches can do this. If you want a home run threat, go get Metcalf and hope you can round out his rough edges. If you need a WR who’s going to be more efficient and likely productive sooner, then Brown’s your guy.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Fire the Suns directly into the ... well, you know
We have that and more in Tuesday’s NBA newsletter. The Phoenix Suns, a model NBA franchise if your goal is to metaphorically burn with the heat and fragrance of a large tire fire, fired coach Igor Kokoskov on Monday after one season on the job. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Suns are chasing Monty Williams, also a candidate for the Lakers job. Devin Booker was drafted by the Suns four years ago. Whoever the Suns hire will be Booker’s fifth coach in the NBA. Can you name the first four? That’d be Jeff Hornacek, Earl Watson, Jay Triano, and Kokoskov. No better way to build a team from the ground up than to ... constantly change direction on the sidelines, creating instability unnatural even in the chaotic NBA. (Great reaction to the Kokoskov news from Watson, by the way.) Kokoskov will end up back on an NBA bench this summer if he doesn’t decide to get some more head coach reps in over in Europe (where he’s had success as the Slovenian national team coach). The Suns were never going to compete for wins this season -- they had a bizarre offseason punctuated by the general manager getting fired nine days before the start of the regular season -- and it seemed like Kokoskov patched together a rotation as best he could. James Jones is now fully in charge of the basketball team, with Jeff Bower handling the day-to-day operations. I guess they’ll get to hire their own coach now ... if Robert Sarver doesn’t force his way into the conversation. Who are we kidding? Of course he will. This is why the Suns are the Suns. Scores Bucks 127, Pistons 104Milwaukee wins series 4-0 Rockets 91, Jazz 107Houston leads 3-1 Schedule A good ol’ 4-game playoff Tuesday! Magic at Raptors, 7 ET, NBA TVToronto leads 3-1 Nets at Sixers, 8 ET, TNTPhiladelphia leads 3-1 Spurs at Nuggets, 9:30 ET, NBA TVSeries tied 2-2 Thunder at Blazers, 10:30 ET, TNTPortland leads 3-1 Links Congratulations to the Milwaukee Bucks for ruining yet another April for the basketball fans of Detroit. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game since May 26, 2008. Yikes. Meanwhile, Giannis is pulling out both Jordanesque hanging trick shots and volleyball spikes. He had 41 as he led Milwaukee to its first playoff series win since 2001. Giannis was six years old the last time the Bucks won a series! Blake Griffin had a really good season, and deserved better than this. Dan Devine looks ahead to a real test for the Bucks: an experienced Celtics team waiting in the second round. The Jazz avoided a sweep of their own as Jae Crowder had a great game and Donovan Mitchell was electric in the fourth. Will this be a gentlemen’s sweep or will Utah put a minor panic into the Rockets? Game 5 is Wednesday in Texas. This summer, the Jazz probably need to prioritize adding another scorer to the mix. How will the Pacers try to get Victor Oladipo over the hump? The Clippers are hanging tough with the Warriors. It should be a wake-up call for Golden State. How will they react? There are less than 10 people in the world I will trust to handle a “let’s talk about Russell Westbrook” column and Chris Herring is one of them, so go read this. Kevin Durant talks about media thirst and free agency speculation. It’s really kind of odd that this bothers Durant so much and he hasn’t followed the tried and true strategy of refusing to answer questions about it. Hasn’t he ever seen a Russell Westbrook press conference? There will be more WNBA games on TV this season thanks to a deal between the league and CBS Sports Network. In some serious news, Luke Walton has been sued and accused of sexual assault by a former sports reporter in Los Angeles. The incident in question is alleged to have happened when Walton was an assistant coach with the Warriors. The alleged victim interacted with Walton once he was hired by the Lakers until she left the business. The Warriors, Lakers, and Kings (who hired Walton last week) all made brief statements saying this is the first they’ve heard of the allegations. Walton has retained Derrick Rose’s attorney. The Minnesota Lynx are replacing THE LEGEND Lindsay Whalen with ... her nemesis, Odyssey Sims. The Process is alive and well in Brooklyn. And finally: shout out to the Nets for having their GM gets fined for rolling into the refs’ private locker room after Game 4 and for the next franchise owner of the team getting fined for tweeting support for his GM. The Nets, my friends, are great. Be excellent to each other.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Vegas, San Jose tight on Tuesday Game 7 NHL odds
With back-to-back wins, the San Jose Sharks have forced a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, with the sportsbooks setting it as a pick’em matchup. The San Jose Sharks are 2-0 over the last two games of this series, clawing back from a 3-1 series deficit with the Vegas Golden Knights to draw even at three games apiece. A trip to the next round is on the line Tuesday night as the Sharks host the Golden Knights in Game 7. This game is going off as a pick’em on the NHL odds with both teams at -110 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. San Jose closed as a slight -115 favorite in its Game 5 win over the Knights at home. Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks When: Tuesday, April 23, 10:00 p.m. ET Where: SAP Center, San Jose, California Betting Line: San Jose -110 / 5.5 Goals Knights at Sharks OddsShark Matchup Report San Jose Sharks Notes Across three losses in Games 3, 4, and 5, Sharks goaltender Martin Jones was pulled twice and posted an ugly 7.62 goals-against average and a .796 save percentage. Jones turned things around with 30 saves on 32 shots in San Jose’s 5-2 win over the Golden Knights at home. And then he outright stole Game 6 on the road with 58 saves on 59 shots, keeping the Sharks alive into double overtime where Tomas Hertl scored a short-handed goal to give San Jose a 2-1 victory and a trip back home for Game 7. San Jose is 27-12-5 at home this season including a 3-1 record in its last four home games against Vegas per the OddsShark NHL Database. Vegas Golden Knights Notes Vegas couldn’t have done a much better job of dominating the game in Game 6 as the Golden Knights outshot the Sharks 44-20 in regulation and 15-9 in overtime. But since going 7-2-1 in their previous 10 games against the Sharks, the Golden Knights are now 0-2 in their last two games against San Jose and on the brink of elimination with another loss on Tuesday. The Golden Knights are 1-6 in their last seven games on the road. Golden Knights at Sharks Betting Total Tuesday night’s total is set at 5.5 goals. The OVER is 6-2 in the last eight meetings between the Sharks and Golden Knights. Before Game 6’s low-scoring double overtime thriller, the winning team had scored at least five goals and won by at least two goals in each of the first five games of this series. This one could go either way and could easily be a nail-biter or a blowout, setting the stage for a compelling and unpredictable Game 7. For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Dodgers small favorites at Cubs on Tuesday MLB odds
The Los Angeles Dodgers look to stay hot in a road series against the Chicago Cubs this week, and they’re set as small road favorites on the MLB odds for Tuesday. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 7-1 over their last eight games and 15-9 on the season. The Dodgers will try to keep things rolling in a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs that starts on Tuesday night. Los Angeles is a slight -110 road favorite on the MLB odds in Chicago at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Kenta Maeda takes the hill for the Dodgers against Jose Quintana and the Cubs who are +100 underdogs at home. Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs When: Tuesday, April 23, 8:05 p.m. ET Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois Betting Line / Total: Los Angeles -110 / 9.5 Runs Dodgers at Cubs OddsShark Matchup Report Los Angeles Dodgers Notes Through their first 24 games, the Dodgers have the third best offense in baseball averaging 5.67 runs per game and rank eighth in the majors with a starting pitcher ERA of 3.61. The only thing holding Los Angeles back from an even better record is its struggling bullpen which has an ERA of 4.81. Cody Bellinger has had a remarkable season at the plate thus far ranking best in the MLB in batting average (.424) and second only to Christian Yelich in home runs (11) and RBI (28). The Dodgers are 3-1 both straight up and against the spread in Kenta Maeda’s four starts this season. Los Angeles has given Maeda an average run support of nine runs per game. Chicago Cubs Notes Chicago kicked off the regular season with an ugly 1-6 start and surrendered a staggering 8.4 runs per game over its first eight games. Since then, the team is allowing only 2.17 runs per game and is 9-4 over its last 13 games. Jose Quintana has been a big part of that turnaround; since giving up eight earned runs in three innings against the Milwaukee Brewers back on April 5, Quintana has pitched seven innings with no earned runs in each of his last two starts and struck out 18 batters over that stretch. Dodgers at Cubs Betting Total Tuesday night’s total is set at 9.5 runs. The UNDER is 5-0 in Chicago’s last five games per the OddsShark MLB Database This should be an exciting series between two of the National League’s top contenders. The series continues on Wednesday with a projected pitching matchup of Walker Buehler vs. Cole Hamels and then wraps up on Thursday with Ross Stripling going up against Jon Lester. For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Dwayne Haskins isn’t a perfect QB prospect, but he doesn’t need to be
The positives of Haskins’ game far outweigh the negatives. A quarterback don’t have to be perfect to be selected high in the NFL Draft. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins falls into that “not perfect, but very good” tier of quarterbacks and checks a lot of boxes for what an NFL team wants in a prospect. But opinions are all over the place on Haskins. Some people, like ESPN’s Louis Riddick and SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, think Haskins is the best quarterback in the draft. Others think Haskins might be the fourth quarterback off the board. Haskins only started one year at Ohio State, but he made the most of it. He demolished passing records at the school, won a Rose Bowl, and finished as a Heisman finalist before declaring for the draft. To get a better idea of why he’s a promising prospect, let’s run through some of Haskins’ strengths, as well as where his game can improve. Statistically, Haskins is one of the best prospects in the class From a strictly numbers perspective, Haskins is as clean a prospect as they come. He had the fifth-highest adjusted yards per attempt mark in college football last year. He threw an incredible 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, and diced up just about every opponent Ohio State faced with an FBS-leading 4,831 passing yards. According to SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly, Haskins finished second in the class in passing success rate, passer rating, and adjusted net yards per attempt. He also led the draft class in completion percentage. There isn’t really any debating Haskins’ success last season. He put up gaudy, efficient stats for one of the best passing offenses in the country. How he got those numbers wasn’t always difficult, though — Ohio State dominated on screens and short passing routes last season. Still, Haskins boasts an overwhelmingly positive statistical profile. His tape is damn good as well. When he’s kept clean, Haskins is an assassin in the pocket A clean pocket is a big advantage for any quarterback, but Haskins has shown the ability to be accurate and quick with his decisions. This play from Ohio State’s game against Nebraska is a good example. Although Haskins mishandles the snap, he regains control quickly. The offensive line blocks well and gives Haskins a chance to read the field. Once he sees the linebacker (No. 7) step down toward the line of scrimmage, Haskins throws the ball right behind him to the receiver breaking to the middle of the field. In a way, the fumbled snap helped open up the throwing window for him — but he was still able to quickly recognize where he needed to go with the football. Haskins can throw a pretty deep ball as well when he has a clean pocket. Watch this throw from the Buckeyes’ game against TCU last season. The receiver has two defensive backs breathing down his neck and Haskins threw a dime for a big gain down the field. Here’s one more example from the Rose Bowl against Washington. Haskins has time in the pocket, looks left to fool the defense, then comes back to the middle of the field with a laser for a touchdown. Those are the types of plays that show Haskins can win the matchups he’s supposed to win at the next level. The best quarterbacks in the NFL consistently take advantage of clean pockets. Patrick Mahomes led the NFL in passer rating from a clean pocket this season. pic.twitter.com/Cb9AsAZuSJ— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 19, 2019 While Haskins is a dynamite passer when he has a clean pocket, his play under pressure can be a bit shaky at times. Haskins’ play under pressure is up and down Playing quarterback in the NFL means you’re going to face a lot of pressure. Haskins has some work to do there. He didn’t face much pressure when he was playing at Ohio State, so it’s a bit of an underdeveloped skill right now. This play against Michigan State shows where Haskins needs to get better under pressure. The right tackle gets beaten by an inside move almost immediately. Instead of standing tall in the pocket, Haskins rushes through his process and throws and unbalanced pass. The pass ends up sailing way out of bounds, missing a receiver who was wide open on the play. It’s not all bad for Haskins when it comes to playing under duress, though, like you can see from this play against Purdue. Purdue ends up rushing six defenders on the play, with one looping around the formation to get the hit on Haskins. He avoids the first defender that the running back picks up, shuffles up in the pocket, and delivers a strike while getting crushed by the blitzer. The ball hits his receiver in stride for a first down. There’s something else working against him when it comes to dealing with pressure: Haskins isn’t the most athletic quarterback. His 5.04-second 40-yard dash puts him in the 12th percentile among quarterbacks. That doesn’t mean he won’t be able to improve in the NFL, however. There are veteran quarterbacks in the NFL — like Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan — who have managed to play well under pressure despite lacking top-flight athleticism. Even though there are some warts to his game, Haskins has the arm strength, accuracy, football IQ, and size that NFL teams love in their quarterback prospects. Outside of Kyler Murray, Haskins is likely the next best bet to be a long-term starter in the NFL. It’s unclear where Haskins will end up, but whichever team drafts him can feel good about his chances of being a franchise quarterback.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Duke’s recruiting class is No. 1 again. How good are they?
A look at what’s next for Duke after putting the finishing touches on another No. 1 recruiting class. Deep down, Mike Krzyzewski knew he wouldn’t be able to totally replace all the talent he was losing whenever Duke’s season came to an end. This is the only downside of locking in the greatest recruiting class of the modern era, one led by a 285-pound wrecking ball who just registered a historically dominant season, a sidekick who averaged 23-7-4 and might get drafted No. 2 overall, and a third option who was a consensus top-five national recruit. Duke’s season would end in heartbreak one step before the Final Four, but the weeks that have followed since showed the Blue Devils are still going to be a problem next year. First, Tre Jones announced he was returning for his sophomore season despite widely being projected as a first-round draft pick. Then Coach K put the finishing touches on another top-ranked recruiting class. Matthew Hurt, a 6’8 power forward out of Minnesota, committed to Duke late last week, giving the Blue Devils a versatile offensive weapon in the front court who enters college as a consensus top-10 recruit. Cassius Stanley pledged next as an uber-athletic 6’5 guard who is on the fringe of five-star territory. This gives Duke five incoming freshmen currently ranked in the top-40 of their class by ESPN. Duke's recruiting class after Cassius Stanley's commitment pic.twitter.com/6TTduRH8fZ— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 22, 2019 Coach K’s fifth and most recent national championship came in 2015, when four freshmen combined to score 60 of the team’s 68 points in the title game against Wisconsin. Duke has landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in every season since. The streak now stands at four years in a row. Duke’s run of dominance on the recruiting trail stretches from Brandon Ingram to Jayson Tatum to Marvin Bagley III to Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Each of those teams were ranked in the top five of the preseason polls. All of them fell short before the Final Four. Just how super is Duke’s next superteam? This is what you need to know about the Blue Devils’ incoming class. Not all No. 1 recruiting classes are created equal Here are the rankings for Duke’s incoming recruiting class from ESPN, Rivals, and 247 Sports. Pulling in five top-40 prospects is undeniably impressive, but it’s worth noting this haul still isn’t as good as Duke’s last four classes. Seriously. 2018: Duke pulled in ESPN’s No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 recruits. It also signed No. 17 (Jones) and No. 41 (Joey Baker, a redshirt forward who could play a big role next year). 2017: Duke had four recruits in ESPN’s top eight, with Bagley (No. 1), Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 5), Trevon Duval (No. 6), and Gary Trent Jr. (No. 8). It also landed the No. 42 recruit (Jordan Tucker, who transferred to Butler). 2016: Duke landed the No. 1 (Harry Giles), No. 3 (Jayson Tatum), and No. 10 (Frank Jackson) recruits, plus No. 16 (Marques Bolden) and No. 44 (Javin DeLaurier). 2015: Duke had four top 25 recruits, led by Ingram, who was ranked third. Duke’s previous three classes have all been unarguably more impressive. The 2015 class seems like the best comparison, especially when you factor in that both teams will have had sophomore stars in Grayson Allen and now Tre Jones. But the gap in talent might look even wider when you factor in NBA stock. Duke might not have a lottery pick in the 2020 draft ESPN released a new 2020 NBA mock draft on Monday. It didn’t have a Duke player going in the top-10. Hurt was the first Duke player off the board at No. 12. Jones came in at No. 15, Moore was No. 17, and Carey was No. 22. This would be a noticeable step down from how Duke has stacked up in the last five drafts. In 2018, Bagley went No. 2 and Carter went No. 7 In 2017, Tatum went No. 3 and Kennard also went in the lottery (No. 12 ... one pick ahead of Donovan Mitchell) In 2016, Ingram went No. 2 In 2015, Okafor went No. 3 and Justise Winslow went No. 10 In 2014, Jabari Parker went No. 2. Zion Williamson is definitely going No. 1 overall in this June. Barrett feels like a lock for the top three. Cam Reddish has the most variance to his draft stock, but he’s still almost certainly a lottery pick and possibly a top-10 pick. There are no guarantees Duke will have anyone selected in the lottery off next year’s draft. Hurt is far from an elite athlete and projects more as a really good college player (possibly for more than one year) than an NBA stud. Jones is going to need to improve significantly as a shooter and is going against a deeper point guard class next year. Carey doesn’t have the lateral quickness the NBA demands out of its big men. Obviously, there is still a lot of time before the 2020 draft, but it feels likely Duke will break a six-year streak of having a top-three pick. Duke has more shooting, but less defense A lack of shooting was a major reason when Duke couldn’t make it past the Elite Eight this past season. The good news for the Blue Devils is next year’s team should be way more proficient from the three-point line. Here are shooting stats albeit in a small sample size for Duke’s incoming recruits, via Real GM. Carey profiles as a center who can score in the post or shoot from three. He made 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) attempts in eight games on Nike’s EYBL circuit last season. Hurt is majorly skilled in the front court. He hit 12-of-20 (60 percent) threes in the FIBA U18 Americas Championship last summer. Moore hit 3-of-18 threes in the EYBL last year, and wasn’t any better with USA Basketball. Ellis hit nearly 43 percent of his threes on high volume. Stanley was 8-of-38 (21 percent) from three on the EYBL. Having two potential stretch bigs in Carey and Hurt should be huge for the offense with an elite shot creator like Jones at point guard. Alex O’Connell will be expected to be the team’s best shooter as a junior next season. Baker and Jack White are also veterans that hit from behind the arc. The problem is that Duke is likely sacrificing defense as it gains shooting. The reason Carey isn’t projected to be a top NBA pick despite being a top recruit is because he’s going to have trouble defending the pick-and-roll and moving his feet in space. Hurt wins with skill, not physicality. Moore and especially Jones (truly one of the best defenders in the country) should be excellent on the perimeter defensively. Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden — should they return to school after entering the draft — will also be valuable pieces in the front court. Duke had to play zone with Bagley and Carter two seasons ago because that team routinely got roasted early in the year playing man defense. Williamson and Barrett led an elite defense that finished No. 6 in America last season, but the lack of shooting was noticeable. Coach K will have so many different lineup options next season We don’t know Duke’s final roster just yet. Bolden and DeLaurier are testing the draft waters and could turn pro. It’s possible elite 2020 guard R.J. Hampton reclassifies and takes Duke’s offer, but Jones’ return to school would seem to make that less likely. Assuming DeLaurier and Bolden both come back (neither is projected to be drafted), this is what Duke’s lineup should look like next year. PG Tre Jones // Boogie Ellis // Jordan Goldwire SG Wendell Moore // Alex O’Connell SF Joey Baker // Cassius Stanley PF Matthew Hurt // Javin DeLaurier // Jack White C Vernon Carey Jr. // Marques Bolden Coach K is going to have a lot of different options. Perhaps Ellis will be impossible to keep off the floor, giving Duke a potential two point guard look. It’s possible O’Connell and DeLaurier win starting spots. Baker feels like the biggest wildcard of all. Having lineup flexibility is a good thing, but it will also make for some tough choices for Krzyzewski. A freshman-laden team hasn’t won it all since Duke in 2015 The four champions since then — Villanova, North Carolina, Villanova, and Virginia — were all led by upperclassmen. Duke will be formidable next year. They will likely start in the year in the top five of the preseason polls. But for as impressive as this recruiting class is, it still feels like the Blue Devils are due for a step back next year.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The 200 best players in the 2019 NFL Draft
Defense reigns supreme this year, but Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray could go first overall. If you like defense, the 2019 NFL Draft is for you. This class is overloaded with top players on defense, especially along the defensive line. It all starts with Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. They stand alone in the draft’s top tier. Bosa has been a top-five lock since he stepped on the field at college. Williams, meanwhile, burst onto the scene at the start of last season by consistently creating pressure up the middle. Drafts are too often judged by the quality of the quarterbacks. By that measure, this year is average. Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray is an electric athlete who makes big plays, but some are concerned about his size and commitment to football if things go awry. Chances are, though, that he is the first player drafted. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is coming off an excellent 2018 season, but he’s inexperienced. Then you have Drew Lock of Missouri and Daniel Jones of Duke. Both are exceedingly frustrating to watch. This is also a good year for tight ends, beginning with the Iowa pair of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Both will be first-rounders, and should make an impact early in their careers. Irv Smith Jr. of Alabama and Jace Sternberger of Texas A&M both project as quality starters at the position. Unlike some previous years, this draft is light on elite wide receiver and cornerback. We may have to wait until picks in the 20s for those positions to be taken. The depth at both is decent, though. Below is my final top 200 for the 2019 NFL Draft. Nineteen of the top 32 are players on defense, including the first five. In the 11 drafts I’ve covered for SB Nation, that’s never been the case. 1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State Biggest strength: Technically sound and powerful, Bosa epitomizes the modern NFL pass rusher — he can beat blockers with speed and agility around the edge or straight ahead with power. Biggest weakness: The only things holding him back are injuries and some inexperience. 2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama Biggest strength: An explosive, quick mover in the middle, Williams is a tough-to-block interior pressure player who can chew up multiple blockers and still makes plays. Biggest weakness: He started just one season at Alabama and will sometimes get sloppy with his pass-rush moves. 3. Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky Biggest strength: Allen is a do-everything type of edge player: comfortable getting after the quarterback or dropping in coverage, with good speed off the edge and a nice first step. Biggest weakness: With only average take-on strength, Allen can be a liability at times against the run. 4. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston Biggest strength: The Aaron Donald comparisons are unfair but natural because of Oliver’s quick-twitch movement off the snap and ability to split through a gap. Biggest weakness: Oliver could stand to bulk up while refining his pass-rush skills. At times, blockers will drive him into the ground. 5. Devin White, LB, LSU Biggest strength: White, who ran LSU’s defensive play calls, is a complete linebacker with good size, athleticism, and football smarts. Biggest weakness: He’ll get overaggressive sometimes and take himself out of a play. 6. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State Biggest strength: A classic pocket passer, Haskins has good size, a strong frame to absorb hits, and a nice arm. He can place the ball wherever he wants with ease. Biggest weakness: He’s a little inexperienced, starting just 14 games, and it can show with his footwork. 7. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa Biggest strength: Hockenson can do it all: He’s a capable blocker, an excellent pass catcher, and athletic enough after the catch to get extra yards. Biggest weakness: Sometimes Hockenson will fall too in love with his aggressive blocking and get off balance. Really, that’s it. 8. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State Biggest strength: Simmons is a powerful interior lineman who is hard to move around, but still quick enough to get through gaps. He seemingly sheds blockers with ease. Biggest weakness: If injury and off-field questions weren’t there, he’d be regarded as a top-five player. A torn ACL could keep him off the field in 2019 entirely. 9. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma Biggest strength: He’s a super athlete at quarterback. Whether it’s with his arm or legs, Murray knows how to routinely make big plays. Biggest weakness: He’ll be the smallest quarterback in the NFL, and doesn’t have a thicker frame like Russell Wilson or Baker Mayfield. 10. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson Biggest strength: Wilkins is a strong run defender with the skills to get after the quarterback in the passing game, and is the kind of teammate that every coaching staff loves. Biggest weakness: At Clemson, Wilkins disappeared at times, and stronger blockers can knock him around some. 11. Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State Biggest strength:There is no pass rusher in this draft who can bend around the edge quite like the speedy Burns. He’s so fast he can run right past a blocker. Biggest weakness: Burns might want to bulk up a little, though he’s already added nearly 20 pounds since the end of the college football season. 12. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan Biggest strength: Gary’s high rating is based largely on potential. The former blue-chip recruit has all the pieces — size, athleticism, speed, and versatility ... Biggest weakness: ... He just hasn’t put it all together on a consistent basis. 13. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama Biggest strength: The only running back worth a first-round pick this year, Jacobs has the skills of a three-down back with his solid agility and ability to catch the ball. Biggest weakness: At some point you have to wonder why it took so long for him to break out and how many carries a game he can handle. 14. Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State Biggest strength: Like a 6’6 condor rushing the passer, Sweat is a long-limbed pass rusher who knows how to use his length to beat blockers and cover a lot of space quickly. Biggest weakness: Sweat will have to bulk up and get stronger without sacrificing his athleticism. 15. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan Biggest strength: He’s a smart player with the quick recognition to diagnose and make a play on the ball. Biggest weakness: Bush isn’t the biggest linebacker (5’11 and 234 pounds) and can get neutralized by blockers. 16. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa Biggest strength: An excellent downfield receiving threat, Fant can be a weapon with his large frame and athleticism. Biggest weakness: Fant too frequently lets the ball into his frame, and he’s only average as a blocker. 17. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington Biggest strength: Murphy excels in space — where he relies on his football smarts to read and make a play — and shows a lot of toughness. Biggest weakness: Only played in 20 games at Washington and is on the smaller side. 18. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama Biggest strength: Williams is a technician, with natural movement skills, quick feet, football intelligence, and durability. Biggest weakness: He’s not the biggest tackle, and his arm length makes some think he is better as an interior blocker. 19. Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma Biggest strength: A right tackle with some experience at guard, Ford is a physically dominant blocker who is hard to push backward. Biggest weakness: He’s better as a run blocker than pass blocker because he doesn’t have the quickest footwork to match speed on the corner. 20. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson Biggest strength: Ferrell has good handwork and knows how to use his power to drive blockers backward to disrupt the pocket. Biggest weakness: With average athleticism and burst, he may be suited to only play as a 4-3 end. 21. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State Biggest strength: Dillard has quick feet and quicker hands. He’s the most gifted pass-blocking left tackle in this draft. Biggest weakness: He’s still coming along as a run blocker and needs to get stronger as a pro. 22. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida Biggest strength: A three-year starter, Taylor is a pro-ready right tackle who uses his size and power to beat defenders. Biggest weakness: He needs to work on his technique, especially with his hands. 23. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson Biggest strength: A massive player at 6’4 and 342 pounds, Lawrence is at his best when plugging up the middle and stopping the run. Biggest weakness: He’s never going to be a great pass rusher and could come off the field on third downs. 24. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss Biggest strength: Metcalf has an impressive physique to make tough catches, along with explosive movement skills, deep speed, and jump-ball ability ... Biggest weakness: ... but not much else. Metcalf is an unrefined route runner, and his injury history is concerning. 25. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU Biggest strength: With long arms, a tall frame, and athleticism, Williams is loaded with physical gifts and has an eye for the ball. Biggest weakness: He just doesn’t like to get physical. Like ever. His tackling leaves a lot to be desired. 26. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma Biggest strength: On one hand, Brown is an Antonio Brown clone with speed, hands, and the ability to take the top off a defense. Biggest weakness: On the other, he’ll be one of the smaller receivers in the NFL, and he struggles when knocked around and won’t break many tackles. 27. Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State Biggest strength: Risner honed his craft every year at Kansas State, becoming one of the most versatile blockers in this class with experience all over the line. Biggest weakness: Because of a lack of foot quickness to kick slide on the outside, it’s more likely Risner is an interior player in the NFL. 28. Garrett Bradbury, G, North Carolina State Biggest strength: Bradbury’s quick first step allows him to get under defensive tackles and win the leverage battle, then he targets linebackers and can drive them out of the play. Biggest weakness: Bull-rushing defensive linemen will knock him backward and open a hole in the line. 29. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia Biggest strength: Baker plays with a lot of instincts and toughness, and should excel playing zone. He has the ability to stick on the hip of a receiver. Biggest weakness: Not the biggest or fastest. Gets called for a fair amount of penalties because of his aggressive style. 30. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware Biggest strength: The draft’s best “small-school” prospect, Adderley is an excellent single-high coverage safety because of his ability to read a play and rapidly close on the ball in the air. Biggest weakness: Although he’s willing, Adderley is not an overly physical tackler and will miss at times. 31. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State Biggest strength: He’s a big target at 6’5 and knows how to take advantage of his physical gifts, either outrunning or outjumping most cornerbacks. Biggest weakness: For all the big plays he can make, Butler too frequently drops easy catches. 32. Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College Biggest strength: Lindstrom’s pro spot is inside, where he stands out for his pass blocking and powerful stance to handle bull rushers. Biggest weakness: Only average on the move, Lindstrom needs to pull quicker and do a better job when he’s out on the second level. 33. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State Biggest strength: Harry has good hands and isn’t afraid to get physical, consistently winning jump balls. After the catch, he’s hard to take down. Biggest weakness: Sometimes slow off the line of scrimmage, Harry can be a plodding receiver who lacks burst and deep speed. 34. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame Biggest strength: One of the more versatile defensive linemen in this draft, Tillery can fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, and knows how to use his 6’6 frame to his advantage. Biggest weakness: A torn labrum slowed him some last season, but his inconsistency game-to-game is more concerning. 35. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama Biggest strength: Smith can be a matchup mismatch, with natural hands and athleticism to get a lot of yards after the catch. Biggest weakness: He only has ordinary size for a tight end, and he’s not the craftiest route runner. 36. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina Biggest strength: Samuel is dynamic with the ball in his hands and tough to bring down in the open field. He’ll be an asset on special teams. Biggest weakness: He’s not the tallest at 5’11 and injuries have held him back. 37. Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State Biggest strength: Something of a throwback safety, Abram lays devastating hits and has the strength to get rid of blockers and the speed to chase down the ball. Biggest weakness: Sometimes he’ll whiff on a tackle, and he’s not much as a man-coverage safety. 38. Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State Biggest strength: When his first step hits, he can get into the backfield in a hurry. He also has a nice array of pass-rush moves for an inside player. Biggest weakness: Jones is relatively small for a defensive tackle at 281 pounds, and he’ll get pushed around at times. 39. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama Biggest strength: Thompson burst onto the scene thanks to his deep coverage skills and his ability to play in the slot where he can stay on the hip of receivers. Biggest weakness: He’s not very experienced coming down and playing in the box to stop the run or blitz the quarterback. 40. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss Biggest strength: Brown has solid size and good strength to make a play after the catch. He could be an even better pro than college player. Biggest weakness: Not the crispest route runner, corners can stick with Brown because he doesn’t have a lot of sudden movement to his game. 41. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple Biggest strength: A long-armed press-man cornerback, Ya-Sin is a fundamentally sound player with quick feet to turn and run with receivers. Biggest weakness: Ya-Sin doesn’t have great deep speed, and his lack of experience shows with his tendency to grab receivers. 42. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S/CB, Florida Biggest strength: Gardner-Johnson is arguably the draft’s best slot player; he is aggressive and has speed to catch up if he’s beaten on a route. Biggest weakness: He’ll often bite on fakes and play-action, which lets receivers get behind him. 43. Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State Biggest strength: Harmon is a bigger receiver who knows how to use his size to get himself open and create catch windows. Biggest weakness: He’s not a quick or shifty wide receiver, and after the catch he doesn’t pull away from tacklers. 44. Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M Biggest strength: McCoy snaps the ball and gets into his stance in a hurry, getting below defensive tackles and pushing them back. He should start right away in the NFL. Biggest weakness: He’s not a great athlete, and getting out on the second level isn’t a specialty for McCoy. 45. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss Biggest strength: Little is athletic for a left tackle, with quick feet to mirror pass rushers and long arms to keep them outside his frame. Biggest weakness: He never really became the whole of his parts at Ole Miss and struggles with inconsistency, especially as a run blocker. 46. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia Biggest strength: Thornhill, who started at both cornerback and safety at Virginia, covers a lot of range and isn’t afraid to jump a route. Biggest weakness: His cornerback background shows in his average tackling skill and play against the run. 47. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama Biggest strength: Wilson isn’t on the level of Devin Bush and Devin White, but he’s a good athlete and solid linebacker who will collect a lot of tackles in the NFL. Biggest weakness: He can get overaggressive and run himself out of a play. 48. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri Biggest strength: Lock is a naturally gifted quarterback. He can move around the pocket pretty well and throws one of the better balls in this draft. Biggest weakness: Throughout much of his career, Lock was inaccurate and inconsistent — he had just a 56.9 career completion percentage. 49. Jachai Polite, OLB/DE, Florida Biggest strength: On the field he’s an aggressive edge rusher who could find a home on a team that lets him stand up and rush. Biggest weakness: Polite was considered a potential top-12 pick in the draft — until he bombed the combine workouts and interviews, and his draft stock went in free-fall. 50. Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech Biggest strength: A productive end who had 45 career sacks, Ferguson isn’t the fastest but he knows how to get off blocks. Biggest weakness: Ferguson doesn’t have the type of agility preferred in an edge player, and he’ll need to learn how to change up his pass-rush moves. 51. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College Biggest strength: He’s good at setting the edge against the run and can even play inside as a three-technique tackle. Allen gets by with excellent snap anticipation and effort. Biggest weakness: He’s too small to play full-time on the inside and not athletic enough to be an effective pass rusher at end. 52. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State Biggest strength: Defenders regularly bounced off Montgomery, who runs with a lot of power and gets a lot of yards after contact. Biggest weakness: He’s not the fastest back or one who makes tacklers miss in the open field. 53. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State Biggest strength: There may be no faster wide receiver in this draft than Campbell, who has a bright future as a field-stretching receiver and return man. Biggest weakness: His hands were inconsistent in college and he’s been knocked for his route running. 54. Amani Hooker, S, Iowa Biggest strength: Hooker has good hands, is aggressive versus the run, and a sound tackler. He’s comfortable dropping deep in zone or working in the slot. Biggest weakness: He isn’t the biggest or the fastest safety, and can get beaten over the top by speed. 55. Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan Biggest strength: Winovich is a high-effort player who teammates rally around, and his active and sound hands allow him to shed blockers fairly well. Biggest weakness: He’s not super athletic end and has trouble against quicker blockers. 56. Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia Biggest strength: Athletic for a left tackle, Cajuste is an advanced pass blocker with good footwork and the ability to get out on the move. Biggest weakness: Cajuste will have to learn how to play with a hand down and block better in the run game. 57. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic Biggest strength: Singletary proved he’s a true workhorse back, as well as shifty one, who is good at sliding off tackles and gaining extra yards. Biggest weakness: Singletary may never be a between-the-tackles runner because he doesn’t run with a lot of power. 58. Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan Biggest strength: Bunting specializes at getting physical with receivers, with good hands and an ability to compete for the ball in the air. Biggest weakness: His jam needs to improve, because he doesn’t have the playing speed to catch some receivers from behind. 59. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama Biggest strength: A capable running back who can run and catch the ball, Harris is the type of back who could take over a starting job in the NFL. Biggest weakness: Harris has to speed up his game and hit the hole faster. 60. Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M Biggest strength: In the red zone, Sternberger is going to be a weapon with his ability to shield off defenders and make tough catches. Biggest weakness: Sternberger isn’t going to offer a lot as a blocking tight end. 61. Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State Biggest strength: A long and strong center, Jenkins will be effective as a rookie thanks to his ability to hold his position and help block when needed. Biggest weakness: Jenkins drops his hands too much, allowing blockers to get inside his frame. 62. Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State Biggest strength: Howard, arguably the best small-school blocker in the nation, is a powerfully built player and can neutralize bull rushers. Biggest weakness: Howard’s foot and hand work is still coming along. He may need a season of NFL coaching to fully take advantage of his physical gifts. 63. L.J. Collier, Edge, TCU Biggest strength: Collier uses his power, long arms, and a nonstop motor to drive blockers backward and disrupt the pocket. Biggest weakness: He doesn’t have the quickest first step, and his pass-rush moves come and go. 64. Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State Biggest strength: Regarded as a special teams ace, McLaurin is a better wide receiver than he’s given credit. He can get deep and uses speed to win on vertical routes. Biggest weakness: McLaurin shouldn’t be asked to run complex routes early in his career, and his hands are only average. 65. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington Biggest strength: Rapp is quick to read the play and is a sound tackler, especially when he can come up and play in the box. Biggest weakness: With average-at-best workout numbers, you have to wonder how Rapp will fare against a higher level of athleticism in the NFL. 66. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington Biggest strength: McGary is a mountain of a right tackle at 6’7 and a muscular 317 pounds, playing with a lot of strength and powerful hands to push defenders around. Biggest weakness: He can struggle with speed rushers, causing him to reach and get off balance. 67. Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State Biggest strength: Layne has impressive size and the instincts to make a play on the ball (as shown by his 27 passes defended at Michigan State). Biggest weakness: A converted wide receiver, Layne has some of the technique issues you’d expect. 68. Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame Biggest strength: Love has a knack for breaking up passes, thanks to his ability to track the ball, route reading, and quick footwork. Biggest weakness: Love’s speed for the position is only ordinary and receivers can get past him. 69. Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss Biggest strength: A quarterback turned tight end, Knox is somewhat similar in style to Jordan Reed of Washington with his athleticism and speed to get yards after the catch. Biggest weakness: Knox only had 39 receptions in college, partially because his hands can be all over the place. 70. Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois Biggest strength: A good athlete who can backflip at 324 pounds, Saunders plays with good leverage and quickness, and was used all over the line at Western Illinois. Biggest weakness: In the NFL, Saunders has to play stronger and more consistent or he won’t be a factor. 71. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis Biggest strength: A bouncing bowling ball of a running back, Henderson averaged 8.2 yards per carry at Memphis due to his impressive agility and balance. Biggest weakness: Henderson isn’t a power runner who will knock tacklers over. 72. D’Andre Walker, Edge, Georgia Biggest strength: Walker is at his best when he can stand up on the edge and use his fast first step to beat tackles to the edge. Biggest weakness: Walker may only be useful early in his career as a pass-rush specialist — he needs to get stronger to take on blocks. 73. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke Biggest strength: He’s a 6’5 quarterback and when he’s on point, his passes lead the receiver properly to maximize yards after the catch. Biggest weakness: Too often, Jones’ deep-ball accuracy is off and he stares down his target. 74. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State Biggest strength: Taller and more physical than the average corner at 6’2 and 205 pounds, Oruwariye knows how to use his length to break up passes and disrupt receivers. Biggest weakness: Like some bigger cornerbacks, Oruwariye is intriguing because of his size but gets unbalanced while he’s backpedaling. 75. Gerald Willis, DT, Miami Biggest strength: Willis was dominant at times last season thanks to his combination of power and athleticism. Biggest weakness: Sometimes he’ll overrun a play and will need good coaching in the NFL to maximize his talent. 76. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson Biggest strength: Coming out of Clemson, Mullen has experience playing zone and press man coverage to go along with excellent athleticism and good size. Biggest weakness: His footwork needs improving in his backpedal, and he doesn’t create a lot of turnovers. 77. Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State Biggest strength: After backing up Saquon Barkley, Sanders broke out in 2018 with more than 1,200 yards rushing and nine touchdowns thanks to his patient running style. Biggest weakness: He too often shies away from contact, and will run out of bounds instead of powering through tackles. 78. Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford Biggest strength: Smith has good size at 6’5 and 255 pounds and often wins the fight for the ball when it’s in the air. Biggest weakness: Smith isn’t a top athlete and doesn’t create a lot yards after the catch. He only had two touchdowns in 2018. 79. Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois Biggest strength: A 53-game starter, Scharping is a proficient pass blocker who has good footwork and gave up just a single sack the past three seasons. Biggest weakness: He’s not much of an athlete, so NFL speed rushers could give him problems at the edge. 80. Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt Biggest strength: He has incredible size for the position (6’4, 211 pounds) and is a physical tackler, making him a nice matchup player against bigger receivers. Biggest weakness: Williams has a relative lack of speed and he could eventually move to safety. 81. David Long, CB, Michigan Biggest strength: Long likes to press and won’t hesitate to get physical with receivers to disrupt route timing. Biggest weakness: Although he played mostly on the outside, Long isn’t the biggest and could move to the slot. 82. Isaiah Buggs, DL, Alabama Biggest strength: Buggs is a solid all-around player who can set the edge versus the run and do just enough against the pass. Biggest weakness: Has short arms and lets blockers into his frame too often, neutralizing his power. 83. Oshane Ximines, Edge, Old Dominion Biggest strength: Impressive agility and burst to hit the edge, Ximines closes quickly on the ball carrier and had 32.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles in his college career. Biggest weakness: Ximines may be limited as a pass-rush specialist in the NFL and might not factor often in the run game early in his career. 84. Connor McGovern, G, Penn State Biggest strength: A versatile lineman who can play guard or center, McGovern has good handwork to keep defensive linemen in front of him. Biggest weakness: Has to get stronger in the NFL to handle bull-rushing players, and he’ll sometimes bend at the waist. 85. Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts Biggest strength: One of the fastest wide receivers in the draft, Isabella will excel playing outside or in the slot because he knows how to get himself open and use his speed after the catch. Biggest weakness: He’s not the biggest at just under 5’9 and 188 pounds, and struggles in contested catch situations. 86. Christian Miller, Edge, Alabama Biggest strength: Miller is a long-levered pass rusher who knows how to get off blocks and finish a play as a pass rusher. Biggest weakness: Needs to develop a more complex pass-rush repertoire and stay healthy after missing 10 games in 2017 with a torn bicep. 87. Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin Biggest strength: As a Wisconsin player, the versatile Deiter enters the NFL as a solid technician with his hands, which makes him a good run blocker. Biggest weakness: Doesn’t have nimble footwork and will get off-balance trying to compensate, which makes it easier for defensive linemen to push him around. 88. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia Biggest strength: Coming from an air raid system at West Virginia, Grier is at his best when he can work quickly and sling the ball all over the place. Biggest weakness: Grier struggles to pick up pressure and will force the ball too frequently. 89. Riley Ridley WR, Georgia Biggest strength: He’s similar to his brother, Calvin Ridley of the Falcons, in his precise route running, good footwork, and natural hands. Biggest weakness: Ridley is only ordinary as an athlete for the position and won’t run away from many defenders. 90. Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa Biggest strength: A big-bodied defensive end, Nelson fits best as an end for a 3-4 team where he can use power to get after the quarterback. Biggest weakness: Nelson isn’t the most athletic end, and rarely beats blockers with speed around the corner. 91. Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State Biggest strength: Williams is bursting with the natural talent to make athletic catches, and can potentially be a team’s lead receiver. Biggest weakness: Serious off-field issues will keep Williams off the draft board of many teams, and it’s something that will need to be monitored. 92. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M Biggest strength: Williams plays with a lot of speed and has good vision, making him an intriguing option for zone-blocking teams. Biggest weakness: He’s not the biggest back at 5’8 and around 205 pounds, and he won’t overpower many tacklers. 93. Darnell Savage, S, Maryland Biggest strength: Teams looking for a coverage safety will like Savage because of his athleticism and ability to play the ball. Biggest weakness: On the smaller side, and because of it is at times only ordinary as a tackler. 94. Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii Biggest strength: If there’s a Fred Warner type of linebacker in this draft, it’s Tavai, with his plus size and athleticism, and ability to get into the backfield. Biggest weakness: Gets overaggressive at times and will overrun a play in the backfield. 95. Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn Biggest strength: A bigger cornerback with speed and a lot of traits, Dean can stick with fast receivers and has the size to play big receivers. Biggest weakness: Dean is unrefined technically, which hurts his press skills at the line of scrimmage. 96. Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida Biggest strength: Hill is a talented and athletic defensive tackle who is comfortable playing the nose, where his quickness neutralizes blockers. Biggest weakness: Hill’s 2018 was wasted when he didn’t mesh with the new coaching staff at Central Florida and he became a backup, limiting his reps. 97. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford Biggest strength: A touchdown vulture in the red zone, Arcega-Whiteside will high-point the football consistently and is like a basketball player pulling down a rebound. Biggest weakness: He doesn’t create separation that well vertically or have great short-area burst. 98. Te’von Coney, LB, Notre Dame Biggest strength: Coney is a tackling machine who is at his best working between the tackles where he can use his power. Biggest weakness: Coney isn’t the loosest-moving linebacker, and he doesn’t have the type of change-of-direction skill most prefer. 99. Renell Wren, DT, Arizona State Biggest strength: Teams will love Wren’s first-step quickness off the snap, which allows him to get the advantage on blockers when he maintains a low pad level. Biggest weakness: Tends to get upright and loses power. That’s especially troublesome if he stays inside at tackle. 100. Jamal Davis, Edge, Akron Biggest strength: Davis played end at Akron and showed the ability to get up the field in a hurry with a combination of quickness and athleticism. Biggest weakness: Not the biggest player and lacks a true position because of it. 101. Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma 102. Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida 103. Saivion Smith, CB, Alabama 104. Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame 105. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State 106. Germaine Pratt, LB, NC State 107. Malik Gant, S, Marshall 108. Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor 109. Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia 110. Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky 111. Lonnie Johnson, CB, Kentucky 112. Blake Cashman, LB, Minnesota 113. Daniel Wise, DT, Kansas 114. Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State 115. Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma 116. Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston 117. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington 118. Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson 119. Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M 120. David Sills, WR, West Virginia 121. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma 122. Maxx Crosby, Edge, Eastern Michigan 123. Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn 124. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford 125. Evan Worthington, S, Colorado 126. DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss 127. Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia 128. Dennis Daley, OT, South Carolina 129. Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas 130. Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State 131. Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State 132. Gary Jennings Jr., WR, West Virginia 133. Lamont Gaillard, C, Georgia 134. Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas 135. David Long Jr., LB, West Virginia 136. Keelan Doss, WR, Cal-Davis 137. Cody Barton, LB, Utah 138. Dontavius Russell, DT, Auburn 139. Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas 140. Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame 141. Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State 142. Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State 143. Mike Bell, S, Fresno State 144. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford 145. Foster Moreau, TE, LSU 146. Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia 147. Chuma Edoga, OT, USC 148. Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson 149. Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington 150. Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami 151. Johnnie Dixon, WR, Ohio State 152. Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland 153. Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska 154. Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU 155. Mike Edwards, S, Kentucky 156. Albert Huggins, DT, Clemson 157. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin 158. Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas 159. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami 160. Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State 161. Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska 162. John Cominsky, DE, Charleston 163. Isaiah Prince, OT, Ohio State 164. Ben Powers, G, Oklahoma 165. Marquise Blair, S, Utah 166. Karan Higdon, RB, Michigan 167. Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri 168. Ben Banogu, DE, TCU 169. Nate Davis, G, Charlotte 170. Will Harris, S, Boston College 171. Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls 172. Michael Jackson, CB, Miami 173. Nate Herbig, G, Stanford 174. Jalen Jelks, Edge, Oregon 175. T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin 176. Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State 177. Ross Pierschbacher, C, Alabama 178. Tyler Jones, G, NC State 179. Marvell Tell III, CB, USC 180. Kris Boyd, CB, Texas 181. Carl Granderson, DE, Wyoming 182. Porter Gustin, Edge, USC 183. Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo 184. Drew Sample, TE, Washington 185. Wyatt Ray, DE, Boston College 186. Ed Alexander, DT, LSU 187. Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern 188. Sutton Smith, LB, Northern Illinois 189. Jalen Dalton, DT, North Carolina 190. Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis 191. Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke 192. Donald Parham, TE, Stetson 193. Tyler Roemer, OT, San Diego State 194. Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame 195. Beau Benzschawel, G, Wisconsin 196. Khari Willis, S, Michigan State 197. Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo 198. Ulysees Gilbert, LB, Akron 199. Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn 200. Phil Haynes, G, Wake Forest
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Lynx are replacing retired legend Lindsay Whalen with her nemesis
The Sparks agreed to trade guard Odyssey Sims, one of Minnesota’s most polarizing rivals, to the Lynx on Monday. L.A. received guard Alexis Jones in return. The Minnesota Lynx are putting rivalry aside in the name of success. The Lynx have agreed to trade third-year guard Alexis Jones to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for Odyssey Sims, the teams announced on Monday. Sims will, in part, take the place of Lynx point guard legend Lindsay Whalen, who retired last season. The two had a history of beef in one of the WNBA’s biggest rivalries over the past three years, and it’ll take some adjusting for fans in Minnesota to cheer her on. The Lynx are still in win-now mode despite losing Whalen to retirement and superstar Maya Moore for the season for personal reasons. Sims, the 2014 No. 2 overall pick, will assume a big scoring and play-making role in Minnesota in their absence, and it appears she’ll be a part of the team’s long-term vision. Sims, a restricted free agent in February, signed a three-year max contract with the Phoenix Mercury which the Sparks matched, according to WNBA Insidr’s Rachel Galligan. Lindsay Whalen’s and Odyssey Sims’ beef runs deep The Minnesota Lynx reigned over the WNBA for most of the decade, winning four of the last eight WNBA championships. In 2016 and 2017, the Los Angeles Sparks were far and away the team’s best competition. It resulted in the sides trading titles in decisive Game 5 wins. Naturally, the intensity between the two best teams and their point guards escalated as time went on, but Sims and Whalen took it ten steps further. Scraps between the point guards eventually amounted to Whalen tossing Sims to the ground in the opening minutes Game 4 of the 2017 Finals. She was called for a flagrant 1 foul. That was it for the buzzer-beaters, but the beef...THIS IS WHERE THE BEEF TRULY REHEATS.Lindsay Whalen is gonna be a HOFer. She's known for being tough as hell. That's why she had no trouble flagrant fouling Odyssey Sims, her nemesis-to be. pic.twitter.com/J4IF5sb2Tr— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) August 21, 2018 If you thought it was unintentional, you’d be mistaken. After the game, Whalen said, “I was sending a message to the whole team — and to everyone — that we’re here tonight. “We will not go down without a fight.” Whalen was hit with a $200 fine from the league for the foul, but she took it as a badge of honor. Head coach Cheryl Reeve later told the New York Times, “[Whalen] said it was the best $200 she ever spent.” That beef was met again in the 2018 regular season opener between the Lynx and Sparks. After a timeout was called, the two went face-to-face and shoved each other out of the way, proving they still weren’t over it. GUESS WHO BEEFED when these teams met earlier this season?Yup, Sims and Whalen. pic.twitter.com/oAzn0Xak5S— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) August 21, 2018 After the Sparks won on a buzzer-beater from Chelsea Gray, Sims took a shot at Whalen, telling The Athletic, “[Whalen] was on the bench for a little while, honestly, didn’t even know if she was still on the team at one point.” And now, she’ll become Whalen’s successor next to at least two starters from her rival Lynx team — Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus. Why this trade makes sense for the Lynx anyway Beef aside, the Lynx moved a backup point guard for a starter, which makes a lot of sense given the team’s construction. Without Moore, the team’s leading scorer, Minnesota needs shot-makers to replace what she gave them. Sims could be a big piece of that puzzle. The Lynx bought low on Sims, whose value dropped this season after she fell further in L.A.’s depth chart behind All-Star Chelsea Gray. In 24 minutes per game, she scored a career-low eight points per game on 39 percent shooting with three assists. In two playoff games, she only saw 29 minutes total. Stacked behind Gray and two former MVPs, Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, Sims wasn’t in the best position to succeed. There’s reason to believe in a Lynx system that’ll see the ball in her hands more, she’ll have a much bigger impact on the game. In her rookie season in 2014, she averaged 17 points on 41 percent shooting with four assists per game. Why this trade makes sense for the Sparks Moving a former No. 2 pick for a backup in Jones makes more sense that it appears for L.A. Just like the Lynx, the Sparks believe they can win it all this season. Parker and Ogwumike are back, as are Jantel Lavender and defensive stalwart Alana Beard. Gray is expected to re-sign before the season starts next month, and L.A. will also add No. 7 pick Kalani Brown. What the Sparks are still missing is outside shooting, though, and that’s something Jones can do better than Sims. In two seasons, Jones is shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc in the WNBA. It’s on a small sample size, as she’s taken just 79 attempts, but she was an elite shooter in college. She shot 41 percent from deep in each of her last two seasons at Baylor. Jones is only likely to play a small role for the Sparks, but she’ll provide the three-point shooting they need from a backup guard — and save some salary cap space in the long-term (Jones is still on a rookie-scale contract.) If Minnesota fans can find a way to cheer on their rival, this trade looks to be a win-win on both sides.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Here’s how Kyler Murray could fall out of the top 10
Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz isn’t saying Murray WILL drop. But if he does, this is how things could play out. It’s NFL Draft WEEEEEEEK! Let’s go! All the speculation, the rumors, the scouting reports, mock drafts, and hype is about to pay off with the first round on Thursday, followed by rounds two and three on Friday, and finishing with the final four rounds on Saturday. As usual with the draft nearing, people start to doubt what they’ve known for a while. I was one of the first in the media to firmly say the Cardinals would draft Kyler Murray. I tweeted about it and wrote about it as well. Murray just makes too much sense for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, and if you hire the coach, you get him the quarterback he wants. While Murray is still the huge odds-on favorite to be taken first overall, there are more mock drafts and rumors this week that DON’T have the Cardinals taking Murray. If the Cardinals shock everyone and skip on Murray, there’s a strong chance Murray drops out of the top 10 and maybe isn’t even the first quarterback taken! Let’s explore how that happens: 1. The Arizona Cardinals could draft Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams. The Cardinals pass on Murray and draft one of the top two defensive players on the board. Bosa is the most polished defensive end prospect in the draft and Williams, IMO, is the best defensive player on the board. It’s rare to find a defensive tackle with polished pass-rush moves like Williams has. 2. The San Francisco 49ers could draft Bosa or Williams. The Niners clearly don’t need a quarterback and will gladly take whoever the Cardinals pass on. Whichever player they add will take away double-teams from either Dee Ford or DeForest Buckner. You can’t double all three pass rushers. 3. The New York Jets will target a defensive player or trade down. Ditto on the “no quarterback need” for the Jets. Over the last week, more mock drafts have the Jets taking defensive tackle Ed Oliver, even ahead of Williams (if Murray goes No. 1 and Bosa goes No. 2). No matter what the Jets do, a trade down is possible. 4. The Oakland Raiders PROBABLY won’t draft a quarterback. This is where things get interesting. It’s been hard to judge, despite the praise from Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden, if the Raiders are all-in on Derek Carr. He didn’t play well last season and Gruden didn’t draft him. However, with his high salary and the additions of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, the weapons are there for Carr to improve. Gruden doesn’t seem like the patient type, nor does Brown, so drafting Murray doesn’t feel right for the Raiders. Lastly, they’d need to find a trade partner for Carr — otherwise you’re paying too much for a backup quarterback. 5. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will stick with Jameis Winston for at least another year. Bruce Arians loves “pocket” quarterbacks and Murray isn’t like any of the quarterbacks Arians has worked with before. The guy on the roster now, Winston, is the type of quarterback Arians has worked well with, and they will ride with Winston for at least this season. 6. The New York Giants might draft a quarterback, but Murray doesn’t fit their style. The Giants are an old-school organization and stick to their scouting principles and molds for players. Murray doesn’t fit the mold. He’s not being drafted by the Giants. If the Giants do take a quarterback, it seems as though it might be Duke’s Daniel Jones, who reminds some of the Manning brothers. 7. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ priority is to find protection for Nick Foles. They just signed Foles to a big contract, plus they desperately need help at offensive line. They will have their choice of linemen at this spot. I’d expect Florida’s Jawaan Taylor or Washington State’s Andre Dillard here. 8. The Detroit Lions need weapons for their quarterback, not a new quarterback. It’s not happening with the Lions either. They are firmly committed to Matthew Stafford and QB isn’t a need. They need a tight end and could draft the top player at that position at No. 8. 9. The Buffalo Bills need to surround their young quarterback with talent. Josh Allen is entering his second season so yeah, that’s a no for Murray going to Buffalo. The Bills will be drafting help for Allen, most likely a young offensive tackle. 10. The Denver Broncos only draft tall QBs (sorry, Kyler). John Elway has professed his love for tall quarterbacks who can hand the ball off and well, Murray isn’t tall. I can’t see this match being made. I have to think that if the Broncos go quarterback, it’s Drew Lock. 11. The Cincinnati Bengals make sense for Murray if they aren’t committed to Andy Dalton. This could be the first spot for Murray. The Bengals have a brand new staff, and I’m not sure anyone knows what they are thinking. If they aren’t sold on Andy Dalton, they could start over with Murray. 12. The Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers. See above. 13. The Miami Dolphins are a possibility for Murray — unless they wait for next year. This seems like a match. The Dolphins have Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Fitzmagic isn’t a long-term solution at quarterback. Could Murray be the fit? Possibly. Or the Dolphins are going to attempt to stink it up this season for their shot at one of the quarterbacks in the next draft class. 14. The Atlanta Falcons are a no. Not gonna happen. 15. Washington is another likely spot for Murray, if he’s still available. Just like the Dolphins, this could be a fit for Murray. Washington doesn’t have an answer at quarterback, with Alex Smith’s awful injury last season. Just wild, right? The quarterback most consider to be the best in this class could fall out of the top 10, simply because of fit. This would turn a draft that feels “blah” into an exciting journey!
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Utah Jazz need another alpha
Donovan Mitchell needs offensive help in the worst way for Utah to take the next step. The Houston Rockets were an absolute mess on the road in Game 3 against the Utah Jazz and it didn’t matter. James Harden played one of the worst games of his career, starting 0-of-15 from the field before dunking his first field goal halfway through the fourth quarter. The team shot a putrid 38 percent from the field, and even left Donovan Mitchell wide open in the final seconds for a potential game-tying three. It didn’t matter. Houston took a 3-0 lead, and can finish off the series for good on Monday. When the Rockets do, it’ll force the Jazz to address some tough questions about its roster. The Jazz’s three-point Game 3 loss despite virtually everything going in their favor underscores the reality of what we already knew, but thought could change: their offense isn’t good enough. The Jazz did well to land the No. 5 seed and win 50 games, but will suffer a second straight lopsided series defeat to the Rockets due to their inability to score against a locked-in playoff defense. Until the 22-year-old Mitchell is paired with another alpha, they’ll remain in this purgatory. Had Gordon Hayward made a different decision in July of 2017, we might look at the Jazz differently. His production has been honorably filled by Utah’s long-armed youth, but the sad irony is that Hayward’s exactly the kind of player Mitchell needs as a running mate. But that’s in the past. The Jazz need to find Hayward’s successor to compete among the West’s elite. There’s a lot to love about the Jazz, but their flaw is fatal Utah has an excellent foundation. Rudy Gobert is a defensive stud who’s earned every penny of the max contract the Jazz are paying him. The seven-foot center is just 26 years old, and will be in Utah until at least 2020. Joe Ingles is a quality long-term piece as well, as a solid forward on a team-friendly deal. The Jazz have also made some under-the-radar moves, such as finding undrafted second-year wing Royce O’Neale and trading for Jae Crowder. There are no problems defensively: the Jazz posted the league’s stingiest unit in back-to-back years, allowing just 105.94 points per 100 possessions this year. But sheesh, their offense is light years behind. Utah’s offense ranked No. 16 in the league, behind five teams that missed the playoffs: Timberwolves, Hornets, Pelicans, Wizards and Kings. The Jazz rely too heavily on Mitchell to play hero-ball, an unhealthy tactic for any team without James Harden or Stephen Curry. Mitchell took an average of 19.9 shots a game this year, nearly twice as many as the next-most prolific shooter, Ricky Rubio. The Jazz are missing another wing player that can create offense, and it’s shown in this opening round series against Houston, much like it did in the same matchup last season. What can Utah do? The Jazz have decisions to make in the offseason. Derrick Favors, Kyle Korver, and Raul Neto all have non-guaranteed contracts that could provide Utah flexibility if it thinks it can land another talent. The team could have another void to fill if Ricky Rubio, an unrestricted free agent, chooses to sign elsewhere, too. The Jazz can and should take home run swings in free agency. Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson are three of the top names who’d make sense with the roster in its current construction, and all three would give Utah a legitimate chance at a deeper postseason run. If and when those fail, Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, and Bojan Bogdanovic are on the market as well. But this playoff disappointment should underscore that the status quo isn’t good enough. Utah needs offensive talent to take the next step in today’s sharp-shooting, hyper-efficient scoring world, and can’t opt to let Mitchell shoot his way into oblivion for another playoff series. The talent is there, the coach is in place, and their best scorer hasn’t come close to his ceiling yet. The Jazz are just just missing one final link to restore their playoff relevancy.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Meet the 5’8 running back ready to be the 2019 NFL Draft’s biggest bargain
The Utah State one-year wonder could be an NFL Draft steal thanks to his strength and explosiveness. Don’t call Darwin Thompson a small running back. A 5’8, he’s not one of the taller offensive prospects who will hear their names called at the 2019 NFL Draft, but lumping him in with situational backs like Tarik Cohen and Darren Sproles sells him, well, short. “I’m not gonna grow anymore,” Thompson told me over the phone one week before the draft. “I’m 23 years old. 5’8 is what you’re gonna get out of me, but when I come to your team, I will carve out my role to be a one-, two-, three-down back. I’ll initially start off as a three-down back — that’s what a lot of people see me as — but Ray Rice stood 5’8, 199 [pounds] coming out of college. Jerick McKinnon is 5’8, 5’9. “There’s a lot of great backs who stand 5’8 who can play all three downs.” Thompson, who garnered zero Division I scholarship offers out of high school, took some winding backroads to the NFL’s doorstep, but he knows he can be the next one on that list. He spent two years building his game at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before earning a scholarship offer to Utah State. He made the most of his lone year in the FBS, helping power the Aggies to an 11-win campaign last fall — only the second in school history. Thompson turned in a 1,044-yard, 14-touchdown season on just 153 carries, crashing through unprepared defenses with a blend of speed and power that erased any presumptions that came with his stature. His advanced stats profile was even better, painting him as one of the most successful draft-eligible backs out there. And now, despite a limited college football resume, he’s ready to be one team’s mid-round steal at the 2019 NFL Draft. Thompson shined in his Division I debut thanks to a mountain of hard work Thompson doesn’t look like a third-down specialist on tape, and the Aggies didn’t treat him like one. At 200 pounds and with the weight room bonafides that approach (and maybe exceed) Saquon Barkley’s, he’s got the power to blast his own tunnels through the line of scrimmage. Unbelievable lift by @DTRAINN5 today...dude is 195 lbs. and handled 500 lbs. with ease on the Front Squat today...no belt or support of any kind and a FULL SQUAT #frontsquat #fullsquat #depth #freak pic.twitter.com/4FPDUzL3NN— David Scholz (@coachscholz) July 20, 2018 (That tweet is from 10 months ago, and he’s only gotten stronger since.) While it’s easy to typecast him as a Cohen or Dave Meggett-style situational weapon, Thompson’s aggressive style and power at the line of scrimmage showcase a player who can turn a sliver of opportunity into a tsunami of big gains. Thompson’s approach with the ball is simple. He’s here to look for holes and create the angles that push would-be tacklers slightly off his line. Then once he’s unbalanced a linebacker or defensive lineman’s center mass, he runs right the hell through them. That made Thompson Utah State’s top option on both outside and inside zone runs. When Utah State faced goal-line situations in its biggest non-conference game of the year against Michigan State, it was Thompson, playing in his first FBS game, who got the call in two of the team’s plays from inside the two-yard line. He scored on both carries. While he was useful in short-yardage situations, he absolutely thrived when his Utah State blockers cleared enough room for him to roast linebackers at the second level. “It’s two things: vision and weight room,” Thompson said about his ability to turn three-yard gains into first downs. “The foundation really starts in the weight room for me. I’m not tall, so I have to make up for the height somewhere. That’s in the weight room. “Once I hit the second level I know it’s go time. I should be able to beat any safety’s angles if I’m running fast enough. They’re going to throw an arm out there and I’m gonna run right through that arm.” “My pops always taught me ‘never let an arm tackle bring you down, never let the first guy bring you down.’ That’s my intention when I run the ball.” Thompson’s receiving chops add to his draft credentials Thompson gashed defenses for 6.8 yards per carry in his lone season in the Mountain West, but he was even more dangerous as a screen pass safety valve who ran through opposing secondaries, especially as he added to his FBS resume. Over the final half of the season, he averaged more than 22 yards per catch. As SB Nation’s Bill Connelly wrote while breaking down this year’s crop of running backs, Thompson’s receiving prowess was the cherry on top of a stacked sundae of NFL-caliber skills. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in barely 150 carries. He rushed more than 20 times per game just once but had seven games with 90-plus yards all the same. His 50.3 percent success rate was fifth among the prospects we’re tracking here. His explosiveness was better than that of everyone but the two most explosive college backs in this batch (Memphis’ Darrell Henderson and Stanford’s Bryce Love), too. ... his receiving numbers were also among the class’s best, too. After a slow start (9 yards per catch through seven games), he caught 11 balls for 243 yards and two scores over the second half of the season. “That goes with me being more comfortable as the season went on. When I got the ball in space, I knew exactly what I was gonna do just due to preparation throughout the week and practice,” said Thompson. “I’m not sure if [Utah State] gameplanned around me ... maybe they knew what plays to call when I was out there. I just like to make people miss in open space. That’s where my bread and butter is, open space.“ Thompson is both overlooked and a stat nerd’s darling Thompson’s year in Logan pushed the Aggies to one of the best seasons in program history, but it failed to put him on the NFL’s radar. He was one of the biggest snubs from this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, depriving the event of one the nation’s top athletes. Instead, he was left to show out at Utah State’s pro day, where he put together a 4.50- second 40-yard dash, ripped off a 39-inch vertical leap (which would have been third-best among tailbacks at the combine), a 10’6 broad jump (fifth-best), and put his blocking potential on display by cranking out 28 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds (second-best). This was, objectively, an impressive showing. Just not for Thompson. “Throughout my training I put up better numbers as far as my vertical, my broad jump, and my bench,” Thompson opined. “Those are the three main workouts where I put up better numbers in training. I would say the RB drills in general were my best workout of the day. My footwork and being able to show how quick I am in and out of cuts, catching the ball, running routes — that was probably the best [exercise] at my pro day. “If I could go back and do it all over again, I would go eat my heart out. I don’t know what it was about being back in Logan, Utah, but everything was a little off. It was a good day, but not my best day.” Those numbers, even if Thompson wasn’t thrilled with them, back up the advanced stats profile that has made the Utah State back’s name synonymous with “late-round steal” leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft. Pro Football Focus rates him as a top-10 draft-eligible tailback and paints him as the most dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield to come out of college football this spring. Connelly’s profile is even more glowing, suggesting the Aggie “might be the most valuable back here” and dubbing him a Rudi Johnson All-Star, invoking the former Bengals back who also played only one year of FBS football after a star-building turn in junior college. With his blend of explosive running and the ability to carve defenses up as a receiving threat, Thompson looks like a perfect fit for an NFL that trends harder and harder toward college-style spread offenses each year. That’s an assessment with which the All-Mountain West honoree agrees. “On the couple of visits I’ve gone on, that’s my main question. What separates rookie from rookie,” Thompson told me. “And they always say the playbook. My biggest thing is growth. I want to grow my mind as a student-athlete and a student of life. Growing from JUCO to Utah State, there really wasn’t much change. I always carried my business in junior college. I wasn’t your average JUCO kid ... I was always about my business as far as learning plays. “When I got to Utah State, it was the same offense that the league is really transitioning into — the spread. I think you’ll see a lot more value in the running back position as that gives running backs more running lanes; even more in the NFL with the hashes being so close. Just imagine Barry Sanders in today’s offense. He would kill the game. “That’s what I plan on doing.”
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Blake Griffin’s season deserves a better ending than this
Detroit is about to get embarrassed out of the playoffs, with its star hobbling. That’s not the ending either deserves. Blake Griffin’s 2018-19 season is going to end in anti-climactic fashion, as the Pistons are almost certain to fall to the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. So ends a fantastic year for Griffin that revitalized his reputation, but still left him battered due to injury and his team falling meekly. Griffin is likely to earn an All-NBA spot on a career-best 24.5 points per game, along with eight rebounds and five assists. He also shot 36 percent from deep on a career-high seven tries per night. He reinvented his game and played all-out, even if he didn’t choose to play for Detroit after being traded from the Clippers 16 months ago. The way he reinvented his game should’ve led to a more glorious ending. Instead, this embarrassing end result is a huge letdown, for him and Detroit. The Pistons never came close in this series, and Griffin wasn’t even able to play at full health, missing the first two games with a knee injury before playing through the pain in Game 3. The fans missed out, too. Griffin’s first one-man show season has been a marvel to watch. Unfortunately, his team stunk. Griffin deserved a better ending Griffin certainly didn’t choose to play in Detroit. He was traded there by the Clippers, six months after they promised him five years, long-lasting superstardom, and an eventual jersey retirement. He obviously felt betrayed, and still has a frosty relationship with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. That trade pushed the once-prominent player out of the limelight. Question focused on his soap-opera breakup with L.A. rather than his game. Features written on him were less about his work and more so on his transition from L.A. somebody to Detroit nobody. He battled through it all with little repercussion and forced the attention back onto his game. He scored 50 points in an October win over the 76ers and continued to showcase his all-around game, adding new wrinkles to fend off the aging process and reminding fans of his skill. That’s why this season’s ending sucks for him. It sucks for Detroit, too The Pistons, long struggling in NBA mediocrity, attempted to launch themselves in the right direction by moving for Griffin. A year-and-a-half into the experiment, the Griffin trade gifted gift them a playoff berth, just their second since 2009. Unfortunately, Griffin missed Games 1 and 2 to a knee injury, and Detroit was blown out in both. Worse, in the long term, all this season showed was that the Pistons are on their way to a more expensive level of similar mediocrity with Griffin than they were without. Detroit barely nabbed the 8-seed, after all, and won’t make a dent in the postseason. The Pistons must hope this middle space is healthy, even if they only have Griffin’s superstar numbers to hang their hat on. Detroit’s move for Griffin was at least partially vindicated by the 2018-19 season, but that doesn’t mean this ending won’t leave a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths. It’s unfortunate this could overshadow Griffin’s revival.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
CM Punk returned to wrestling in a mask and nobody knows what’s going on
Is the Best in the World coming back? The wrestling world is buzzing on Monday after CM Punk made an appearance at a tiny independent wrestling show in Wisconsin over the weekend. Who was this masked man who put @StHolmesEsq to sleep??? @DavePrazak @acesofsteel pic.twitter.com/o5Mcak3uIE— MKE Wrestling (@MKE_Wrestling) April 20, 2019 Wearing a mask and entering without fanfare, Punk hit his finishing move on Daryck St. Holmes before leaving the ring and getting in a waiting car. The move has wrestling fans questioning whether Punk is contemplating a full-time return to wrestling, especially in light of AEW signing talent to their roster — but that seems unlikely. Punk has repeatedly said he’s not interested in returning to wrestling, at least not in the capacity that made him a superstar with WWE. Punk was asked whether he would contemplate returning to wrestling by ESPN in 2015, while training to fight in UFC. His response came perfectly true. “But you never know, I could pop up here and there. Let me explain that to you even better: it’s not going to even be televised, it’s going to be me in a ninja f***ing outfit wrestling one of my buddies and nobody’s ever going to know. It’s going to be very ‘Monty Python,’ so to speak.” Punk is still training mixed martial arts in Milwaukee, and MKE — the show he appeared at over the weekend is owned by Punk’s long-time friend and former Ring of Honor coworker Silas Young. Young used the opportunity to promote MKE. Here is some PUNK running in a match last night @MKE_Wrestling you never know who’s in gonna show up at our shows. Former world champions have been stopping in at the last couple shows!!! Don’t miss out on May 17 at our new home Buenavista Banquets 76&oklahoma next to AMF lanes https://t.co/rr8xVH8UJ0— silas young (@lastrealmanROH) April 20, 2019 Was this a one-off appearance or part of a larger scheme to return to the ring? Punk has been vocal in his dislike of WWE in the past and the manner in which he left the company, but it still feels like a long shot that this marks a grand return with someone like AEW. Time will tell, but this certainly has people talking — and that’s what it was all about in the long run.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
How do the Pacers get Victor Oladipo over the hump?
Many of the supporting Pacers that battled to the No. 5 seed in Oladipo’s absence are hitting free agency. What’s the right move to maximize a healthy Oladipo? The Indiana Pacers were the first team eliminated from the playoffs after the Celtics swept them out of the first round on Sunday. This result — an early exit at the hands of a mostly healthy Boston team — was expected. What’s also expected is Pacers management, led by team president Kevin Pritchard and general manager Chad Buchanan, scouring the free agent market to retool Victor Oladipo’s supporting cast. Oladipo, after all, has been phenomenal since his trade from Oklahoma City. Last season, he won Most Improved Player, receiving 99 of 101 first-place votes. This season, he was an All-Star, the leader of a scary Pacers team, until his season-ending ruptured quad in late January. The Pacers hung in there admirably to win 48 games, but the end of their season and early playoff exit revealed the team’s roster limitations without Oladipo. As resilient as they’ve proven to be, the Pacers need more to vault into championship contention. Many of those key players are free agents this summer. With just two years left on Oladipo contract, the clock is ticking for the Pacers to get their star more help, or risk losing him just like they lost Paul George. One issue: top free agents historically don’t sign in Indiana The Pacers have signed 37 meaningful free agents from other teams since 1988. None of those players went on to make All-Star appearances in Indiana. The best recent free agent to sign in Indiana is David West, who inked a two-year, $20 million deal with the Pacers the season after tearing his ACL in New Orleans. The second-best free agent to recently sign with the Pacers is a toss-up between Tyreke Evans, Wesley Matthews, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Darren Collison, each of whom are hitting the open market again this summer. Key veteran Thaddeus Young, acquired via trade, will be as well. Signing a Tier 1 superstar is out of the question. The Pacers aren’t landing Kevin Durant. They’re not signing Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, or Klay Thompson, either. Indiana has the money for a max player, but it doesn’t have the draw of a big city or top-five market. The unfortunate truth is the Pacers will have wait for the dust to settle with the top names first. It will be hard for the Pacers to trade for a big name as well. They won’t deal Oladipo, and they don’t appear to be interested in trading young big men Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis — though it’s unclear if they can be productive on the court together. So how does Indiana rebuild Oladipo’s roster? Plan A should be signing Kemba Walker Darren Collison is a decent NBA point guard, but championship contenders outclass him at the position. The Pacers already have Turner locked into a four-year, $72 million extension for the next four seasons, and Sabonis is extension-eligible this summer. Priority No. 1 is to upgrade at the one. Indiana’s best option is throwing the kitchen sink at Charlotte’s Kemba Walker: a four-year, $140.6 million max deal. Walker and Oladipo make a two-guard tandem that could become the best in the NBA, and the Pacers would only need to round out the roster with a backup playmaker and three-and-D forwards to space the floor. But Walker is able to get more money from the Hornets, and potentially a five-year, $205 million supermax extension if he makes an All-NBA team this year. If he turns that down, he’ll have his choice to sign in whichever market Irving doesn’t. Walker could leave the Hornets to play with LeBron James in Los Angeles, sign home and play for either New York team, re-join Steve Clifford on the tough-nosed Magic, or choose any other team with cap space. If Indiana strikes out on both Irving and Walker, the next-best point guard available is Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell, a restricted free agent coming off a career year. The Nets would be foolish not to match a competing offer sheet, unless they get Walker or Irving. After Russell, it’s Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, another restricted free agent likely to be retained. Indiana’s Plan B should be Terry Rozier The current Boston Celtic is a fiery point guard who had a breakout season in 2018 before being pushed to the back-burner when Irving returned from injury this year. Boston is trying to turn an Anthony Davis-Irving dream into reality during the same summer Irving could be plotting a move to New York or Los Angeles. The Pacers could throw a wrench in the Celtics’ plans by signing Rozier to a lucrative offer sheet the moment free agency begins, giving Boston just 48 hours to decide whether to match it. Indiana won’t be the only team to do so, either. Rozier makes a lot of sense for both Phoenix, Orlando, Dallas and, in a wild scenario, Philadelphia. He makes the most sense in Boston long-term, too, if Irving bolts town to team up with Durant in New York. But if the Pacers can’t get Walker, Rozier is the most attainable upgrade. If that fails, they have little choice but to re-tool and run it back Indiana’s notable free agents are Matthews, Collison, Bogdanovic, Evans, Young, Cory Joseph, and Kyle O’Quinn. In other words: its entire supporting cast. Indiana can exceed the salary cap to re-sign its own free agents (save for Matthews) but risks incurring the luxury tax to keep together a team that couldn’t break through the glass ceiling and will be a year older. A change at the point guard makes sense for Indiana, even if it’s not an obvious upgrade. Derrick Rose averaged 18 points per game and shot 37 percent from three, a career-best, this season in Minnesota. Other available point guards are Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverley, Ricky Rubio, Elfrid Payton, restricted Wizards free agent Tomas Satoransky, and former All-Star Isaiah Thomas. The Pacers could sign any one of those players, or bring Joseph back as the starting point guard instead of Collison. Indiana could also re-sign Collison and make a run with a healthy Oladipo, while re-signing as many players as they can from this season’s team. (They won’t be able to retain Matthews unless they sign him with cap space first.) It’s certainly understandable for the Pacers to run it back with the players they can re-sign and bank on a healthy Oladipo to carry them beyond the first round. Indiana surely would have secured home-court advantage this year if Oladipo didn’t get hurt, and nearly did so anyway with Oladipo watching from the sidelines. When he returns, the Pacers could be back to their best selves. But it remains to be seen if that will be enough, when push comes to shove. The 76ers could have four All-Stars for the foreseeable future. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks look like favorites to win the East. Kawhi Leonard could re-sign in Toronto. Boston will be tough, regardless of what Kyrie Irving does this summer. Then there’s the Pacers, who have a Coach of the Year candidate in Nate McMillan, two talented big men, and an All-Star guard. That core, combined with a veteran supporting cast full of free-agents-to-be, has been successful in the last two regular seasons, but we’re skeptical it will ultimately get them over the hump in the future. Oladipo will need more help, and the Pacers would be best-served getting that help now. They could also kick the can down the road and bring their current squad back next season. There’s only one issue with kicking the can down the road: you kick your problems right down the road with it.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Nashville is ready to show why it’s the perfect host for the NFL Draft
This year’s draft gives Nashville a big stage to shine — and gives the NFL the party it wants. It was a cool, blustery evening with the temperature in the 40s when the Tennessee Titans unveiled new uniforms in April 2018. One day earlier, the surprise of the redesign was ruined when a leaked photograph made social media rounds. Despite the weather, despite the jersey being spoiled, and despite the fact it was really just a football-themed fashion show, a crowd of about 20,000 fans packed Broadway in downtown Nashville anyway. To put in perspective how ludicrous the attendance was, consider the New York Jets’ uniform reveal earlier this month had a pretty solid showing of “over 400 fans” in the middle of Manhattan. That’s fine, because it’s just a uniform reveal. Titans fans showed up in a force 50 times larger even though they’d ALREADY SEEN THE LEAKED JERSEY ONLINE. To be fair, fans in Nashville got more than just a look at new uniforms. They also got to take in a concert from country band Florida Georgia Line. Titans general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel sipped on beers while they stood on stage. Everyone there was having a good time in a very Nashville fashion. More than that, the production was impressive enough that it convinced the NFL that Nashville was ready for something bigger. A month later, the city was awarded the 2019 NFL Draft — a three-day spectacle that will likely be the biggest sporting event in Tennessee history. Nashville is a city known for its country music and honky-tonks, but it also has a slept-on love for sports. The 2019 NFL Draft is the perfect opportunity for the city to show off exactly who it is — and give the NFL the party it wants. No one in Nashville was too surprised by the crowd at the uniform reveal In 2015, the NFL held its draft in Chicago — snapping a 50-year streak of the event being in New York City. Chicago hosted again in 2016, then it was Philadelphia in 2017, and Dallas in 2018. But those cities are the homes of the Bears, Eagles, and Cowboys — three of the most storied and popular franchises in the NFL in three of the most populous cities in the United States. Nashville and the Titans can’t say the same. In June 2018, sports analytics expert Mike Lewis of Emory University did his annual NFL Fan and Brand Report that ranks fan interest and brand recognizability. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Bears were all in the top six. The Titans were dead last. So a crowd of 20,000 people showing up to see new uniforms should’ve been a jaw-dropping amount, right? Not to the Titans and other Nashville officials it wasn’t. “It wasn’t just the number of people, it was how lively and excited everyone was to be downtown, and to be participating in something that had to do — not just with our club — but with the NFL, on a giant stage.” — Titans president Steve Underwood “We weren’t taken off guard by how many people showed up,” Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood told SB Nation. “We thought there would be a big crowd. Now granted, it was even bigger than we anticipated. We may not have quite the stature of some other NFL teams in large markets, but we’re very big here, and people are avid fans of the Titans here. “People that we know in the special events department at the league were so impressed by the uniform reveal. It wasn’t just the number of people, it was how lively and excited everyone was to be downtown, and to be participating in something that had to do — not just with our club — but with the NFL, on a giant stage. The league had never seen anything like that in terms of a uniform reveal. It really put a spotlight on Nashville and it convinced people in the league to bring the draft here.” But the stage was set a year earlier by the other major professional sports franchise in Nashville. The NHL’s Predators, for the first time in their history, advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017 and the city caught hockey fever. Even Titans players joined in the mania, with Marcus Mariota and some rowdy offensive linemen taking in Predators games. They took off their shirts, chugged beers for the crowd, and Taylor Lewan poured beer off a catfish. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports Quinton Spain, Taylor Lewan, catfish “The support of this city was unbelievable,” said Deana Ivey, vice president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. The organization produces special events for the city, and put on viewing parties for Predators games during their run to the Finals. “It just grew and grew and grew,” Ivey said. “They started out with like 10,000 people, then it was 20,000, and by the end we had like 50,000 people in the street watching on big video screens cheering on the team. Everybody came out in force and supported. It’s a great atmosphere for sports here.” The huge crowds that packed the streets in downtown Nashville several times per week during the Predators’ run proved, more than anything, that the city just really loves a party. So when Nashville had a chance for more festivities — even if it was just to see an already-revealed uniform — it was ready to go. “[The city] was coming off that Predators’ run when they were having thousands of people downtown every night,” Jimmy Morris, a Titans blogger for SB Nation’s Music City Miracles, said. “It just kind of became a cool thing to do.” “In some cities it might just be another thing happening, but here it’s a big deal and people get excited and on board. I think that really got the NFL’s attention.” — Jimmy Morris, Music City Miracles The city’s newfound love for gigantic sports parties on Broadway led to a one-of-a-kind unveiling. “[The NFL] saw that it was packed — basically people came out for a fashion show to see uniforms — and the league was like, ‘Wow! You can draw this kind of crowd and this kind of excitement for something like that? This is huge,’” Morris said. “The size of Nashville I think works to our advantage. When it’s something like that or the draft, it’s a big deal. In some cities it might just be another thing happening, but here it’s a big deal and people get excited and on board. I think that really got the NFL’s attention.” Nashville is still relatively new to the pro sports game Just over 20 years ago, the only professional sports team in Tennessee’s capital was the Nashville Sounds, a Minor League Baseball team that arrived in 1978. The Nashville Sports Council was founded in 1992 to bring major sports events to the city, but with so few facilities to work with, its hands were more or less tied. Then the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee in 1997, and the NHL awarded an expansion franchise to Nashville that began play in 1998. Just like that, the city had two world-class facilities: Nissan Stadium (originally Adelphia Coliseum) and Bridgestone Arena (originally Nashville Arena). In the first year after the Oilers changed their name to the Titans, the team went to Super Bowl 34. “They didn’t lose a home game that whole year, then they make that Super Bowl run,” Morris said. “So it was nuts immediately when they became the Titans. People didn’t care as much before, when they were the Tennessee Oilers. But once they became the Titans, that’s when they became really good. For a while there that was all anyone talked about in the city. Since then it’s probably dropped off a bit.” It hasn’t helped that the Titans have been to the playoffs once in the last 10 seasons. New facilities didn’t make getting events a breeze either. Locking down something anywhere near the scale of the NFL Draft took a long time. Nashville hosted the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 2014, the NHL All-Star Game in 2016, and it is set to hold the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament every year until 2035. The 2019 NFL Draft will trump them all, but it became a feasible event for Nashville to land because of what the NFL wants it to become. “They changed the format to more of a festival, and I think that really fits our city as well as anything,” Nashville Sports Council CEO Scott Ramsey said. “I think it’s really going to resonate the personality of the Music City. You’re going to see the fun factor of Downtown Nashville. I think that’s kind of what the NFL is looking for when they’re moving around is a showcase of the respective cities, and I think certainly think ours will be centered around music and entertainment, and the real downtown platform that we have.” “I think it’s really going to resonate the personality of the Music City. You’re going to see the fun factor of Downtown Nashville.” — Nashville Sports Council CEO Scott Ramsey The challenge will be handling its massive scale. “We think it’ll be the largest sporting event in the history of Tennessee,” Underwood said. “We’re estimating crowds on Thursday of 100,000 to 150,000, and we think we’ll see comparable crowds on Friday. It’ll be the biggest crowd in downtown Nashville history.” While Nashville doesn’t have a lengthy history of pro sports, it’s in the middle of SEC country. It also has a famously vibrant music scene. Concerts like the annual CMA Music Festival, and the city’s Fourth of July celebrations, have tested the Nashville’s ability to hold a huge event. Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Universal Music Group Nashville “Our police force, our public works department, our fire department — they’re all used to doing these big events and they cooperate, and everyone works together,” Ivey said. “I think [the NFL] saw that we have strong communication and work together on big events. When you’re going into a city that you haven’t worked with before, you want to make sure this all gels and everyone is on board. We were able to prove that.” On top of it all, the city is also preparing to host the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon — which is set to begin Saturday during the third day of the draft. . “It’ll be the largest opportunity and stage we’ve been able to play on,” Ramsey said. “The attendance along with our marathon that weekend is going to be astronomical.” Amy Adams Strunk “reinvigorated” Titans fans The size of the media market in Nashville may mean the Titans never create a brand with the kind of recognizability of the NFL’s most popular teams. But either way, the Titans are underachieving. “There’s a pretty passionate core here, but they don’t have the national following that a lot of other teams do,” Morris said. “One, they don’t have the history and, two, it’s a small market. I think the [national] perception is probably somewhat right. It’s a bit of a fair-weather fanbase. I think things are starting to swing back the other way.” Leading the push to get the Titans back into the spotlight is Amy Adams Strunk. Her father, Bud Adams, founded the Houston Oilers in 1960 and brought the franchise to Tennessee. After his death in 2013, his daughter Susie Adams Smith became the controlling owner and her husband, Tommy Smith, was the team president. “Everyone was kind of lukewarm on the Adams family after Bud died because it didn’t really seem like they were interested in running a football team,” Morris said. “[Smith’s] the one who hired Ken Whisenhunt, and it just didn’t feel like they cared what the fans thought.” Two years later, Strunk took over as controlling owner and won the hearts of Titans fans. “Amy Adams Strunk has been out in front and really seems to care,” Morris said. “She’s done a ton to invest in the community, invest in the facility, the fan experience. She’s really endeared herself to the fans here.” Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports Marcus Mariota, Amy Adams Strunk, Delanie Walker Underwood says it’s Strunk who deserves most of the credit for how well the uniform reveal went a year ago. “I think our owner reinvigorated our brand. Amy has meant so much to our fans here. Having her be part of our show and her wanting the new uniform and helping to design the new uniform, promoting the new uniform, helped set the stage for such an outpouring from Titans fans.” Strunk hired Jon Robinson as general manager in 2016, and Mike Vrabel as head coach in 2018. After three consecutive winning seasons, she may have the Titans on the verge of recapturing some of the fan excitement that dwindled over the last two decades. Nashville views the NFL Draft as an opportunity — and vice versa What the 2018 uniform reveal really provided was a glimpse at what the NFL wants the draft to become. ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe wrote that the league’s vision is a draft that looks an awful lot like the scene that was on stage in Nashville a year ago: The NFL doesn’t want a buttoned-up draft. Throughout the process, the league repeatedly said it wants the host city to “reinvent the wheel” -- to make it a fun event that takes on the personality of its host city. This year, Nashville plans to use the spotlight to do what it does best: throw a country-themed party. Viewers watching the 2019 NFL Draft will see picks announced from a 65-foot tall, 165-foot wide stage constructed over the Cumberland River. In the background, there will be Nissan Stadium and behind the crowd will be the neon lights of the honky-tonks of Broadway. “It looks fantastic and will look fantastic on TV,” Ivey said. “There’s a house band for the first time, so instead of there just being people making small talk and bantering between the picks we’ll have a band playing.” Country artists Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley headline a list of over 20 musical acts scheduled to perform at the NFL Draft. And just like the uniform reveal that helped springboard Nashville into hosting the big event, the city hopes draft weekend will mean more opportunities in the future. “People who don’t already understand the draw and power of Nashville will see it on display,” Underwood. “I think it’ll cement Nashville’s attractiveness as a place to come have a good time, and will convince everyone that you can’t throw a better party anywhere than right here in Nashville.”
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Tactically Naive: How to live in a world full of VAR
Manchester City’s VAR-decided loss to Tottenham made us question whether it’s safe to celebrate any goal ever. Also this week: Wayne Hennessey learns about World War II. Hello, and welcome back to Tactically Naive, SB Nation’s weekly soccer column. This week, Dulwich Hamlet are staying up, and isn’t that good? VARrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh So the Champions League happened, as it does. Happened loudly and insistently, and with the frenetic intensity that only comes when football is drenched in Gazprom. And this week, it mostly happened in Manchester, and it killed the Quadruple. There was enough in Manchester City’s win-over-yet-elimination-by Spurs to fill a thousand weekly columns. How the early flurry of away goals changed the game, and incidentally proved why away goals are brilliant. The glorious injustice of that middle hour or so, in which City were almost perfect, yet didn’t score the six goals or so their performance warranted. Fernando Llorente, proof that there will always be a place in football for a big lump. But it ended with VAR. Let’s talk about VAR. Let’s not speak about the rights and wrongs of the decision; that’s boring. Let’s instead think about the weirdness of the moment. First the goal, then the delirium, then the pause, and the check. And then: no goal. The situation is different to the old celebration-having-not-seen-the-flag, since that’s just a matter of obliviousness. Those were never goals. This was, and then it wasn’t. And then it never had been. In these circumstances, VAR creates mysterious pockets of non-time, of never-was time. Decisions aren’t just reversed, they are rewound, and all that joy and celebration and despair boils off into nothingness. Wasted heat, wasted energy. The world is rudely jerked from one timeline into another. No wonder it feels a little discombobulating. What will be interesting, as VAR unfolds to encompass more and more of the game, is how people — footballers, football fans — cope with its constant presence. Will its ever-watchful eye lead to a kind of automatic hedge in all celebrations — from “Hooray!” to “Hooray?”, limbs pending? Or will the power of the moment overwhelm the knowledge, and everybody just celebrate like buffoons anyway? Inasmuch as it’s possible to actively ignore something — don’t think about the polar VAR! — we would humbly suggest that this is the way to go. Perhaps there is even a certain nobility to it: You’re going to check. None of this might mean anything. But I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do anyway, and if I look silly in a few minutes’ time, that’s just something to live with. Better to be dragged from unalloyed joy to tremendous disappointment, than waste time being all sensible about things. Better to dance, and be stopped, than never dance at all. Wayne Kampf When caught making an offensive gesture in public, there are two possible ways out of the mess. The first is to ‘fess up: I’m an idiot; I’m sorry. This is probably the right thing to do, though it does of course involve admitting to the wrong thing you did, which is why it’s rather unpopular. The second is to claim that you weren’t doing anything wrong at all. Sometimes this manifests as a blanket denial of wrongness — what even is wrong with blackface? — but more generally it takes the form: oh, no, I wasn’t doing that. I was doing this. Where “that” is, say, a Nazi salute towards a German teammate, but “this” is a stiff-armed wave towards a waiter with one arm, while using the other hand to amplify the sound. This is the opening of The Hennessey Defence. Crystal Palace’s goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made this (or that) gesture some time ago, since when his case has been winding through the bowels of the Football Association’s disciplinary processes. This week the results slipped glisteningly into the world, and it turns out that stage two of the The Hennessey Defence is not just “I didn’t do it,” but “I don’t even know what ‘it’ is”. Hennessey informed the FA’s disciplinary panel that he didn’t even know what a Nazi salute was, and they just went with it: Improbable as that may seem to those of us of an older generation, we do not reject that assertion as untrue. In fact, when cross-examined about this, Mr Hennessey displayed a very considerable – one might even say lamentable – degree of ignorance about anything to do with Hitler, fascism and the Nazi regime. This defense has been met with various levels of incredulity across the game, and as Paul Merson notes below, has offered new hope to anybody contesting a disciplinary decision: Paul Merson on Troy Deeney’s red card appeal “why not? If someone got away with one by saying he didn’t know who Hitler was then they’ve got every chance” CBA pic.twitter.com/TRFOFKofql— Ryan 'RossiHD' Ross (@ROS5IHD) April 21, 2019 Meanwhile, stage three. Because … well, if you hadn’t heard about the Nazis, then that’s pretty big news. They made a sequel to World War One?! Why did nobody tell me?! And so the story reached an inevitable and frankly quite beautiful conclusion in this perfect headline: Two things, in conclusion. First, we may have inadvertently hit on a new fundamental principle of comedy: there is no sentence that cannot be made more amusing by adding “says Roy Hodgson”. I have in my hand a piece of paper, says Roy Hodgson. We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees, says Roy Hodgson. We will fight them on the beaches, says Roy Hodgson. Secondly, when somebody embarks on a journey of self-improvement, there is nothing anyone can do but wish them luck. So, best of luck with all the history, Wayne. There’s loads of it. And if it turns out we’ve been making light of the origin story of the Welsh Ken Burns, then we humbly apologise. Godspeed, says Roy Hodgson.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
These soccer fans had a celebration so wild it looked like the stadium was on fire
Wow! PAOK FC in Greece won its first Super League title in 34 years and the celebration in the stadium is unlike anything you’ve seen before. #PAOK have won the league title in Greece for the first time in 34 years Look how they’re celebrating pic.twitter.com/9ehZ1Vf6kD— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) April 21, 2019 It looks almost as if the entire stadium is on fire, as fans lit flares and chanted following the team’s 5-0 win on Sunday, which secured its title. It’s the first time since 1984 that PAOK won the title, and will mark the team’s best chance to make the group stage of the UEFA Champion’s League following an astounding 25 win, 4 draw season without a single loss. The partying went long into the night in Thessaloniki, and there’s something special about seeing fans celebrating on ancient buildings that just makes it all the more special. 34 years waiting but this fans never gave up! Congratulations Black and white brothers! No more waiting!!! PAOK OLE pic.twitter.com/LsztnlB3O9— Партизановци Исток (@grobarigr70) April 21, 2019
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The NFL has a rule that basically turns the commissioner into God
Because Goodell doesn’t have enough power. Believe it or not, NFL fans have at times felt like their favorite team got a raw deal. For instance, In 1982, the Miami Dolphins lost a cold, snowy game in New England by a score of 3-0 because the Patriots used a snowplow to clear off the part of the field where they were attempting a game-winning field goal. The NFL tried to prepare for such an occurrence by developing what is known as the palpably unfair act. That is, it’s a device to give officials the ability to rectify and situation as they see fit to account for something unforeseen happening that gives one team an unfair advantage. Manually altering the state of the playing surface would seem to be a tailor-made example of something palpably unfair occurring — but alas, the Dolphins efforts to evoke this rule were futile, and they had to head back to South Beach with nothing but an acknowledgment of the error and a big fat L on their record. And as for the extraordinarily unfair act rule? Well, that’s a thing that turns the commissioner into a literal deity, which Saints fans desperately wanted to take advantage of recently ... if only they could.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs