Gregg Popovich is by far the best coach in the NBA and should win a record-breaking fourth Coach of the Year award.
Five Things We Learned From April:
1.) Eric Thames is a beast
Even though he got injured for a few days, Thames still has 11 HR’s (home runs), tied for the league lead, 19 RBI (runs batted in) , and would be in the running for NL triple crown if it was the end of the season. He already has more home runs in less than half of the at bats then the last time he played in the majors (2012). No wonder they think he is a god in Korea.
Over the last few years there has been a sharp increase in players missing games due to “rest.” In 2013, there were eight such games, while in 2015 there were 37 such games. So far this season, there have been 70 such games. “Rest” has become an accepted excuse for an NBA player to miss his team’s game.
The issue of players “resting” famously came to the national spotlight back in 2012, when former NBA Commissioner David Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 after head coach Gregg Popovich sat Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green during a nationally televised game against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The issue prominently resurfaced last week when LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving sat out against the Los Angeles Clippers in a much-hyped nationally televised game. Right before tipoff, after learning the superstars would be “resting,” analyst Mark Jackson remaarked, “This is an absolute joke.”
Considering March Madness is in full swing, I knew I had to write something about college basketball. Instead of recapping games, I want to write about a subject which resurfaces every couple of years and that is whether or not college athletes should be compensated. While this issue certainly isn’t new, it gained traction when college athletes began appearing on video games a year or two ago. At the time, students from several schools threatened to unionize and demanded they be paid royalties from these types of programs which benefited from using their profiles. In 2016, college athletics generated nearly $1 trillion in revenue for the National Collegiate Athletic Association and affiliated parties, yet the stars running the show did not receive a penny. Does this make any sense?
Josh Zeid stared at the world-class batter 60 feet across from him. He was just one strike away from retiring Dae-Ho Lee and recording the final out to preserve Team Israel’s victory. Lee, the cleanup hitter for Team Korea had hit 31 home runs and knocked 98 RBI’s for the Fukuoka Hawks in 2015. Still, Zeid had no fear. His next pitch got Lee to swing and miss and Team Israel shocked the world.
Heading into the game, Team Korea was the clear favorite. Korea has been one of the more successful teams in World Baseball Classic history, including an appearance in the WBC final in 2009. Currently, there are nine players from Korea in the MLB.
American League East
Perennially one of the best divisions in the league, the East sent half of the AL playoff teams to the playoffs last year. With the Red Sox’s offseason acquisitions, the Yankees’ prospects, and the Blue Jays’ free agent losses, it will be interesting to see how the division plays out this year.
1) Boston Red Sox: Starters - 1, Bullpen - 2, Lineup - 1
Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the Red Sox the “(Golden State) Warriors of baseball” for good reason. After winning the division last year, they added key pieces in the offseason to improve their team. Not only did they make a high-profile trade for top pitcher Chris Sale, which gave them arguably the best top three starting pitchers (SPs) in baseball (Porcello, Sale and Price), but they also made another key trade. They traded for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who had a 2.15 ERA and 90 strikeouts (SOs) in 65 innings last year. This move shored up their bullpen, which already has a very good closer (Craig Kimbrel), and some other nice players.
The youngest team in the NBA, with an average age of 24.5, the Milwaukee Bucks have probably the best prospects among NBA teams right now, besides for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team is among the top 10 in allowed points per game because every player in the starting lineup has a 6’10” wingspan or longer. The Bucks are led by one-time All-Star and small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is 22 years old. Antetokounmpo had his best season of his career this year, and I think it will translate into next year when he is a major contender for MVP.
On March 27, the Oklahoma City Thunder were down by 13 points against the Dallas Mavericks, with just above three minutes left in the game. It was over, right?
Russell Westbrook didn’t think so. In the final three minutes, Westbrook scored 12 out of his team’s final 14 points, icing the comeback with a game-winning jumper. Westbrook finished with an impressive stat line: 37 points, 10 assists, and 13 rebounds.
Number denotes team’s rank at that position group within the division.
National League East
In a division that only had two teams with winning percentages over .500 last year, this division promises to be top heavy again, with a clear split between the two best teams (Nationals and Mets) and the bottom three teams (Braves, Marlins, and Phillies).
A couple of weeks ago I glanced at the box score of an Oklahoma City Thunder game. “Wow,” I said to myself. “Westbrook already has a triple double and it’s still only the third quarter.” Then I looked at the score. The Thunder was down by 16 points and we were just past halftime.
I don’t understand why fans encourage and are so interested in Russell Westbrook’s deliberate pursuit of averaging a triple double for the entire season. How come in the past stat-padders were ridiculed but somehow Westbrook is admired this year? When Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points 25 rebounds per game he was criticized for playing for stats. Why isn’t Westbrook held to the same standard? Is it because as fans we just want to see the record broken/tied? Besides, this triple double nonsense is not even helping the Thunder win games anyway. How does a triple double help your team win games? Sure the gaudy numbers look good on paper but these empty stats do not produce wins. Over the past 20 seasons, every league MVP has come from a team seeded one or two in their respective conference. The Thunder are currently tied for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Not MVP material.
Most knowledgeable basketball junkies would tell you the most talented center in the NBA is DeMarcus Cousins, formerly of the Sacramento Kings. That makes it all the more puzzling that Cousins was just recently traded for “projects,” which is code in NBA circles for being traded for essentially nothing. These “projects” included rookie Buddy Hield, injury-prone Tyreke Evans, no-namer Langston Galloway, and a couple future draft picks. Cousins is averaging 28 points per game, good enough for fourth in the league, as well as 10 rebounds per game. The last player to average 28 points and 10 rebounds per game over the course of an NBA season was Shaq, way back in 2001. This begs the obvious question, why was DeMarcus Cousins traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in a seemingly totally lopsided trade?
A good place to start would be with the Sacramento Kings General Manager Vlade Divac, who orchestrated the trade himself. “We made a clear decision to go and make a culture change,” said Divac in an interview with reporters following the trade. “It was difficult, but I am responsible for making decisions in basketball operations and I did it. We want to make a different culture in the future and try to win games.”