General Sports: February 18

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-Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell won the Slam Dunk contest in what was a decent event compared to years’ past. Far from being the worst but not nearly as good as the one in Toronto two years ago. There were two dunks where my eyes popped out of my head, that being from Dennis Smith Jr and Larry Nance Jr. Here’s Smith’s.

That one was my personal favorite, followed closely by this one from Larry Nance Jr, which gets bonus points for creativity for me.

Nance’s father, Larry Sr, was the first ever winner of the Slam Dunk contest and paid homage to his old man with his first dunk. Fun fact, the people who helped dress him were some clothes magicians I actually saw perform during the halftime show of Indiana vs Michigan State a couple weeks ago. They’re extremely talented. Another fun fact, Donovan Mitchell went to my high school’s arch rival, Brewster Academy. I actually got to watch him play in high school but I was somehow more focused on one of his teammates than I was him and I’m kicking myself for it. I was focusing more on Isaac Copeland, who ended up committing to Georgetown without realizing the future Slam Dunk Contest winner was playing on the same team. Copeland is currently at Nebraska after transferring from the Hoyas. Here’s my favorite dunk from Mitchell on the night:

And here was my favorite dunk from the guy I thought would win but ended up finishing last, Victor Oladipo.

What ended up hurting him in the competition was the fact that he couldn’t land his first dunk and once that happened you knew he was done. But it was nice seeing him pay homage to the Black Panther movie that came out on Friday. Plus he received the mask from the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, who also played Jackie Robinson in the movie “42.” From what I’ve been able to gather, not only is Black Panther allegedly really freaking good, but it’s supposedly supposed to be really important to the black community. Plus that’s a fucking awesome mask. Probably the best superhero mask there is in my humblest of opinions.

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-I royally messed up in my All Star Weekend picks blog. For the Skills Challenge, I forgot to list two participants: Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Well I got my comeuppance because guess who were the final two. If you guessed Joel Embiid and Lou Williams like I did, you’d be wrong. It was Markannen and Dinwiddie. Though Embiid didn’t make the finals not from a lack of trying.

CHEATER! Oh well, it didn’t end up mattering, Markkanen ended up burying the final 3-pointer ahead of Embiid to advance to the finals. He eventually lost to Dinwiddie, who basically just won the “who the Hell are you?” award. I mean I feel like I’ve heard his name in passing, but nothing really of substance. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what team he played for had he not been in the competition in a Nets jersey. But nonetheless, congrats to Dinwiddie.

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-I damn near freaking nailed my 3-point contest prediction. Devin Booker not only won it, but in the final round he broke the record for points in a single round with 28, defeating Klay Thompson (who I accurately predicted would be a finalist) and Tobias Harris (who I did not expect to make it this far). I had Paul George ahead of Harris, but George went and had arguably the worst 3-point contest round I’ve ever seen, scoring just 9 points. And people say that the Lakers are going to go after him hard, he can’t even shoot in their building! That probably will make very little difference, but it’s still fun to bitch about. But congratulations to Booker, who continues to be one of the more underrated players in the league.

-Poor Bob Huggins. Note to anybody who puts on dress clothes: your belt is extremely important, no matter if it’s going to be covered or not.

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-One of the most confusing moves I’ve ever seen occurred while the 3-point shootout was happening. The Tampa Bay Rays acquired first baseman CJ Cron from the Angels (which I expected to happen, not necessarily Cron winding up on the Rays, but Cron being on the move after the arrival of Shoehei Ohtani) for a player to be named later. The confusing part is that the Rays then promptly DFA’d Corey Dickerson, who was their DH and leadoff hitter last season. Uhhh, wtf Rays? Dickerson was arguably your best hitter last season. Dickerson was the starting DH for the AL in last year’s All Star game. He was hitting over .320 at the time, however he hit .240 after the break to bring his line to a more than respectable .282 with 27 home runs and 62 RBI. Plus he’s 28 years old, in the athletic prime of his career, and he’s only owed about $5M. I guarantee you he won’t be in limbo for long as teams will be rushing to claim him off waivers. But a really bizarre situation. CJ Cron is talented, believe me, I know. I was there when the Angels beat the Red Sox 21-2 and Cron went 6-6 with 2 home runs and was a triple away from the cycle. But you’re trying to tell me he’s a better option at DH than Dickerson? Sure Cron is only going to cost about $2.3M after his arbitration hearing with the Angels in January, but his numbers last year were not nearly good enough to warrant DFA’ing Dickerson over. He hit .248 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI. The DFA’ing of Dickerson in response to adding Cron continues to make less and less sense to me the more I think about it. Not only is Cron the same age as Dickerson with significantly less overall production and at half the cost, but there was definitely room on the roster for both guys. Right now the Rays first baseman is slated to be Brad Miller, who can play pretty much any position so you have some flexibility with him. You could very easily have plugged in Cron at first then put Miller at second and had Daniel Robertson come off the bench like where I think his talent merits while still having Dickerson as your DH. There has to be something going on with Dickerson that we don’t know about to warrant this move.

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-Shortly after acquiring CJ Cron, the Rays continued to make moves, this time trading pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a package that includes shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. Originally it was believed that Dickerson would be a part of this deal, but it doesn’t appear that he is. But Odorizzi is a good acquisition for the Twins, who badly need starting pitchers. He’s been battling injuries over the last few seasons, but when healthy I think he’s a quality #3 option, maybe even a #2. Last season, in 28 starts, Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA but he’s capable of better, as he went 9-9 with a 3.35 ERA in 2015. Right now the only quality starter on the Twins is Ervin Santana, who is 35 years old right now. Jose Berrios is extremely talented, but he hasn’t been able to put it altogether yet. Odorizzi’s a solid guy to have around as you try and build your pitching staff.

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-And finally we have the biggest bit of baseball news of all. I had already scheduled this article when he was signed so I had to hop right back in and make some edits. But Eric Hosmer has finally signed with the San Diego Padres on an 8-year deal worth $144M. He signed the deal at around midnight, or 9:00 west coast time. The deal is pretty front-heavy, as Hosmer will average $20M a season for the first five years of the deal, after which he’ll be able to opt out. After those 5 years, he’ll be making $13M a year plus a $5M signing bonus. I actually like this layout because it better protects the team from those nasty back-loaded contracts that end up biting them in the ass down the line. Plus for Hosmer he’ll be making his money the first five years of the deal, then if he decides to remain in San Diego, he’d be taking a paycut at a time when his skills will likely have deteriorated, as he will be 33 when the opt-out option kicks in and likely headed towards a decline. Hosmer had an excellent season in 2017, hitting .318 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI for the Royals, though I did mention buyer beware, as I rated him as the luckiest hitter in the majors last season. Hosmer and the Padres have been linked for a while now and I think Hosmer was just trying to wait out the Padres for a larger deal for as long as he could before deciding to sign with Spring Training starting up. Here’s what the Padres lineup looks like with their new first baseman, though it is worth noting that their best hitter Wil Myers currently occupies that spot. I’m willing to bet that Myers returns to the outfield, though, where he began his career.

1. Manuel Margot-CF

2. Freddy Galvis-SS

3. Eric Hosmer-1B

4. Wil Myers-LF

5. Chase Headley-3B

6. Cory Spangenberg-2B

7. Austin Hedges-C

8. Hunter Renfroe-RF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s probably not going to be enough to keep the Padres out of the cellar in the NL West this season, but if the younger guys, particularly Margot and Hedges, develop the way the organization hopes, this could be an exciting team in the near future. As for the Royals, the team Hosmer’s leaving, they had to have expected this to happen, though they reportedly did try and bring him back while the market wasn’t biting. Hosmer was a big part of their championship run in 2015 including his famous mad dash that tied up Game 5 and sent it to extra innings, a game that the Royals ultimately won, leading to their first World Series title since 1985. Here’s the play in question.

That play will forever live on in Royals lore. But with Hosmer signing with the Padres, that pretty much just leaves JD Martinez, Jake Arrieta, and Mike Moustakas as the biggest free agents still without a team. Spring Training games start on Thursday, fellas, let’s get a move on.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you thought of NBA All Star Weekend and the Rays’ roster moves in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA All Star Weekend Preview

We’re at that magical time of year where it’s NBA All Star Weekend, which aside from the Super Bowl is really the only sporting thing of note in February. It’s in Los Angeles this year and I typically find that the challenges they do to be more interesting than the actual game itself. I’m writing this around 6 pm on Friday night, so I’m just going to give a couple of quick picks on the Celebrity Game and Rising Stars Challenge. I think that team Lakers, coached by ESPN NBA Analyst Rachel Nichols, is going to win mainly because they’ll have Candace Parker on their team, who is really the only person on either roster that I know for a fact is good at basketball. For the Rising Stars Challenge, I think Team World is going to defeat Team USA. I know, that’s very unpatriotic of me, but Team World has both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The best Team USA has to offer is Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown, two good players but not up to par with what Team World can offer. I’ll be rooting for Team USA, though, not just for nationalism purposes, but because they have 2 Celtics players (Brown and Jayson Tatum) whereas Team World has none. We’ll see how my picks did on Saturday morning when this blog is published. Let’s get into the festivities.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Are they not doing that Shooting Stars challenge this year? Damn shame, I actually really enjoyed that event, especially once everybody got to shooting half-court shots to try and beat the best time. Well as we get into the third year of the Skills Challenge obstacle course/gauntlet/whatever you want to call it, the new twist implemented has been pretty riveting. The 6 participants are not only just guards now, but big men as well and in fact, both years that this has been in effect a big man has won (Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porznigis). Granted both winners were genetic freaks of nature, which makes it surprising to me that Giannis Antetokounmpo is not taking part in this, as I feel he could totally keep the streak going for big men. But as it stands right now, the participants this year are guards Buddy Hield of the Kings, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets, and Lou Williams of the Clippers to go along with big men Andre Drummond of the Pistons, Al Horford of the Celtics, and Joel Embiid of the 76ers. Drummond’s involvement in this has to be a joke, right? The guy’s a terrific defender and post player, but handling a basketball? Come on now, the guy has a family. Of course, as soon as I say that he’s probably going to go and win the damn thing. I’ve got to imagine the favorite to actually win this thing is Clippers guard Lou Williams, but the way this competition has been going, it’s going to be an athletic big man. Al Horford is probably the most athletically gifted of the bunch but he gives off such a vanilla air that it’s probably going to be a colorful personality like Joel Embiid, who had a pretty great comment over the weekend. Paying homage to Dikembe Mutombo, Embiid was asked what his favorite pickup line is, to which he responded “who wants to sex The Process?” Legend. Embiid’s probably going to win.

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Projected Winner: Embiid defeats Williams in the final.

JBL Three-Point Contest

Wrestling fans will probably do a double-take at the sponsor, but no, it’s not that JBL, but a speakers company. Shame that there won’t be anyone yelling “ballgame” or emotionally (and in some cases, physically) abusing coworkers. But all tangents aside, the contest this year will feature reigning champ and former Indiana Hoosier Eric Gordon of the Rockets, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, Devin Booker of the Suns, Wayne Ellington of the Heat, Paul George of the Thunder, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, and Tobias Harris of the Clippers. Klay Thompson’s got to be the odds-on favorite to win this event as he’s arguably an even more prolific 3-point shooter than his teammate Stephen Curry is, but that’s probably because shooting 3’s is all Thompson is really known for while Curry has insane handles to go with his 3-point shooting prowess. But I actually think that Thompson won’t win. He did win it when the event was in Toronto two years ago, but I think the fact that he has won it before will kind of take the sense of urgency out of him. I’m actually going to go with a guy who’s star is on the rise…a star…rising to the sun? Okay, I’m saying I’m picking Phoenix Suns’ guard Devin Booker to win. He’s a very capable shooter and I think he’s going to be on a mission to make an impression on the rest of the league, considering he doesn’t get much respect being the best player on one of the worst teams.

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Projected Winner: Booker defeats Thompson and George in the final.

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest

Didn’t it always use to be Sprite sponsoring this? I wonder how Verizon is going to make their little scorecards look. But that’s neither here nor there. We’re at the Slam Dunk contest and here’s another event where I think the NBA is totally whiffing on an opportunity to have Antetokounmpo participate. A guy of his freakish athleticism would certainly shine. But we do have a pretty solid list of participants. We have rookies Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks, Larry Nance of the Lakers, and former Indiana Hoosier Victor Oladipo of the Pacers. No real household names (though the way Mitchell and Oladipo are improving, that may change), but some real hop from all of these guys. Oladipo lost in the final round of this contest in 2015 to Zach LaVine, which pretty much spells disaster if you have to face that guy. The fact that he still won in 2016 even though Aaron Gordon’s dunks were way better still doesn’t sit well with me. The reigning champ, Glenn Robinson III, is not participating this year in a dunk contest that was ultimately a letdown from the absolutely incredible 2016 affair. But I think Oladipo is going to come out on top this year. I don’t know if the contest is going to be great, as 3 of the 4 competitors will be making their first appearance in this contest so we don’t know how creative of dunkers they really are. But I do know that Oladipo is capable of some impressive dunks in games, plus he was pretty good when he lost to LaVine in ’16. I think he takes home the hardware this year.

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Projected Winner: Oladipo defeats Mitchell in the final.

NBA All Star Game

This one has an interesting component to it because the top two vote getters, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, picked their teams. On Team LeBron, we’ve got of course, LeBron James of the Cavaliers, Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, Kyrie Irving of the Celtics, Kevin Durant of the Warriors, LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Goran Dragic of the Heat, Andre Drummond of the Pistons, Paul George of the Thunder, Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Kemba Walker of the Hornets, and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. On Team Curry, we’ve got of course, Stephen Curry of the Warriors, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, James Harden of the Rockets, Joel Embiid of the 76ers, Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves, Draymond Green of the Warriors, Al Horford of the Celtics, Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves. I’m not nearly as interested in the winner of this game as I am to seeing if a team reaches 200 points. They’ve come close each of the last two years, as the West hit 196 and 192 in 2016 and ’17, respectively. But I guess I have to pick a winner in this game and I think I’m going to go with Team Curry here, as I think they’re a little deeper than Team LeBron. Poor LeBron, can’t seem to shake that Curry kid.

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Projected Score: Team Curry: 187 Team LeBron: 181

That’s going to do it for my NBA All Star Weekend preview, let me know what you think is going to happen in each event in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 13

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-Esteban Loaiza, the second winningest Mexican-born pitcher in Major League history, was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine and possibly heroin (the substances are still being tested), 20 kilos to be more precise, worth approximately $500K. The substances were found in a rental home of his in southern California.  Bail was set at $200K. Not great. Loaiza, who was the starter for the American League in the 2003 All Star Game with the White Sox, had a pretty successful career over his 14 seasons but pretty much all of that is going to be erased in our memory of him even if he’s found innocent. Being linked to an incident such as this is pretty destructive towards one’s image. With that many drugs in one place, it’s pretty apparent that there was intent to distribute and that carries a much stiffer penalty than if he had it all to snort for himself. I’m not sure what the exact penalty is going to be if he’s found guilty, but it’s safe to say it’d be several years before he saw the outside world again. Especially when you take into account this whole thing started because he was stopped crossing the border under suspicion he was transferring drugs over the border, leading to the search warrant for his rental home. You know for a sports blog, I really do talk about cocaine quite a bit it seems…

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-It seems that every time that former closer Goose Gossage has appeared in the media since being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, he’s dropping f-bomb after f-bomb. It was reported that after several years of being present to assist in Spring Training practices with the Yankees, GM Brian Cashman informed Gossage that he was not going to be coaching this year. Gossage said to the New York Daily News in reference to Cashman that “with that kind of power, that’s what happens to you, you turn into a fucking asshole.” He then went on to say that Cashman “would have been fired 10 years ago if George (Steinbrenner) was still around. He’d have been gone when he jumped out of that fucking airplane. Do you think he’s a good fucking baseball guy, really? He doesn’t believe in fucking coaching.” This isn’t the first time that Gossage has gone on these kinds of tirades. Most guys would be honored to be compared to Mariano Rivera, however Gossage took it as an insult, saying that he would pitch several innings for his saves while Rivera would only pitch 1. He also called Jose Bautista a “fucking disgrace” for his infamous bat flip in the 2015 ALDS against the Rangers. He then went after stat-favoring executives calling them a “bunch of fucking nerds running the game.” Normally I’d be rolling my eyes at this guy who is trying to stay relevant as nobody would know who he was if he weren’t being outlandish in the media. However I actually find it kind of endearing to see him go on his tirades. He’s a miserable asshole and there really aren’t enough of these guys in the world of sports right now. Or if there are, they’re keeping quiet. Too many guys nowadays are afraid to show any kind of emotion so that the media can’t use it against them, but Gossage clearly doesn’t fucking care, as he would put it. And I kind of respect that. Keep doing you, Goose.

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-Here’s a cool story. So Giancarlo Stanton and AJ Ramos were friends and teammates on the Miami Marlins before each departed this offseason. Ramos was traded to the New York Mets during last season’s trade deadline and Stanton was traded to the New York Yankees during the offseason. Taking advantage of this opportunity to remain close, both men will be rooming together in an apartment in New York despite the fact they’ll be playing for different teams. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are only 7 miles apart so if their games got out at roughly the same time then they’d both make it home in time to talk to each other about their day. Then Ramos could have breakfast waiting for Stanton in the morning as they peck each other on the cheek before going off to work. It’s really quite beautiful. I also feel like this could be interesting to make into a reality show or some other interesting segment when the Yankees and Mets play each other from June 8-10 and July 20-22. I just gave you a freebie, sports TV networks, run with it.

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-The Boston Police Department chose a very interesting way to honor Black History Month. In a tweet that has since been deleted, they honored legendary Celtics head coach Red Auerbach for being the first coach to draft a black man and starting the first all-black starting 5 in NBA history. Celebrating a white guy for Black History Month seems a bit controversial, no? This seems like an easy call to make but I guess the BPD didn’t see it that way. I get what they were going for, as Auerbach’s contributions to integrating the NBA were crucial particularly in a city that historically hasn’t had a great run with the black community, but why not just celebrate Earl Lloyd for being the first black man ever drafted into the NBA? That seems like a no-brainer.

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-Johnny Manziel opened up not only on Good Morning America, but on Pardon My Take about the lifestyle changes he’s made since he last appeared in the NFL. I won’t go through every bit of each, as you can probably find this stuff anywhere on the web, but a quick summary is that Manziel is now sober and I got the sense that he really regrets a lot of the decisions he made in the past and desperately misses football and is willing to do what it takes to get that opportunity again. He seemed to be very self-aware and I’m really hoping that he’s able to get another opportunity somewhere, whether that be in the NFL, the CFL, or even the XFL (though if Vince McMahon’s no criminal record policy is strictly enforced, that won’t be possible since Manziel has a DUI on his record).

That’s going to do it for this edition of general sports. Sorry for doing one of these on back-to-back days, but there hasn’t been any stories worthy of dedicating an entire blog to of late but a bunch of little ones. This may be a common theme over the summer, though. Goddamn, it’s only been a week and I already miss the Hell out of football. Let me know what you think of these stories in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

I should probably rephrase that title. It should read more on the lines of “Cavaliers completely overhaul their roster.” But let’s take a look at what specifically happened during the Trade Deadline because there were some juicy moves.

Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance.

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What a rough go of it IT had in Cleveland. Injured for the first half of the season, then when he came back everybody hated him after he started butting heads with some of his teammates and the media. It’s hard to watch, being a Celtics fan because IT meant so much to the Celtics’ rebuild despite the fact he was only in green for about 3 and a half years. He went from one of the most beloved athletes in Boston to one of the most hated in Cleveland. But I think this trade is good for both sides. It became a pretty toxic situation in Cleveland so now one of the problems is out of the way and Thomas can get a fresh start with a Lakers team that could genuinely use him. Plus, IT was at his best when the Celtics were his show. Now he’s in a place in LA where he can be “the guy” while Lonzo Ball develops. I definitely think things will go better for him in LA than it did in Cleveland. Plus, IT is a free agent at the end of the season, which could open up a ton of cap space for the Lakers to make a run at another Cavaliers player… In return, the Cavs get some high-quality role players in Clarkson and Nance, who I think can really provide a huge spark off the bench, depending on who the Cavs decide to go with at point.

Cavaliers trade Dwyane Wade to the Heat for a Protected Second Round Pick

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This was pretty surprising to me since Wade and LeBron are as close as they are. But Wade goes to a place that probably never should have let him go in Miami. Sure his skills have deteriorated, but he is and always will be the face of Miami basketball after what he did with the Heat. It’s good to see him return. That’s all I really have to say on the matter, it’s more of a feel-good thing for me than a legitimate impact trade at this stage in Wade’s career.

Three-Way Trade Between the Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz. Cavaliers Receive Rodney Hood and George Hill, Kings Receive Joe Johnson and Iman Shumpert, Jazz Receive Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder

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A lot to unpack with this one. Let’s start with what the Cavs are getting. Rodney Hood has gotten better and better with each season he’s been in the league and I think he’s going to replace Wade as the starting 2 guard. Hill could wind up getting the majority of minutes running point when LeBron doesn’t have the ball and I think he could wind up being a valuable asset, as he’s much more of a traditional point guard than IT is. He won’t be taking shots away from LeBron like IT has been, rather he may create even more shots. The Kings getting Joe Johnson kind of falls under the Dwyane Wade thing, Johnson is past his real usefulness and I don’t really understand the deal, except as I typed that sentence it was announced the Kings would be buying out Johnson’s deal, making him a free agent. Early reports are that the Celtics, Warriors, and Rockets are all interested. Shumpert will likely be a major part of their rotation as he immediately becomes arguably their best player, considering the overall lack of talent on the Kings’ roster. The Jazz receiving Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder is interesting to me. The Jazz are in the thick of a playoff race, currently sitting at 2.5 games out of the 8 seed in the West. This appears to me to be them more tanking a little bit and rebuilding around Donovan Mitchell than anything, as even if the Jazz make the playoffs, you can guarantee they won’t get far. They’d probably end up with the 8 seed and face the Warriors in the first round, which guarantees they won’t win a playoff game, let alone reach the second round. So it’s better to tank so you can get a higher draft pick than get a mid-first rounder and not have any chance of going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

Three Team Trade. Knicks Receive Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets Receive Devin Harris and a 2nd Round Pick, Mavericks Receive Doug McDermott

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This is a lower-profile trade but I still believe in Mudiay’s potential when put in the right circumstances that I feel like this could be a steal for the Knicks. I think once Kristaps Porzingis returns from his unfortunate ACL injury, he could elevate Mudiay’s play and vice versa. Harris and McDermott are more of depth for the Nuggets and Mavericks. The Mavericks are playing for the #1 pick at this point in the season while the Nuggets are surprisingly the 6 seed in the West. But I don’t think Harris is an upgrade over Mudiay so the move doesn’t really make sense for me unless the Nuggets are trying to lose their way out of a playoff position to try and land a top prospect in this year’s NBA Draft, which right now looks pretty stacked with talent.

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton to the Suns for a 2nd Round Pick

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This trade makes no sense to me from the Magic’s perspective. Payton is, in my opinion, an underrated point guard who I think could really excel if he’s got teammates to work with. He’s certainly worth more than a 2nd rounder. I actually think that Payton is an upgrade over Tyler Ulis and once Devin Booker is fully healthy again, I think he and Payton could form a formidable duo.

Trail Blazers Trade Noah Vonleh to the Bulls for the Draft Rights to Milovan Rakovic

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This trade is mainly just something that gets the Trail Blazers under the luxury tax as Vonleh is no more than a decent bench player. I’m mostly including this because not only did Vonleh play at Indiana, but he actually played against my high school a few times. I got to see him play twice as a high schooler. First time he absolutely whipped us, the second time we put on a full court press and totally frustrated him into a bunch of turnovers.

That’s going to do it for my trade deadline recap. The Cavaliers look totally different and this may be what they need to get themselves back on track. Also, in football news, congratulations to Jimmy Garoppolo on his 5-year $137M deal with the 49ers, the largest annual contract in NFL history. That’s what 5 starts can do for you. As a Patriots fan, watching Garoppolo succeed is like watching my son succeed. Let me know what you think of the NBA Trade Deadline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Your move, MLB.

General Sports: January 24

NBA All Star Teams Announced

<> at Pepsi Center on January 22, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

So the NBA announced who will be playing in the all star game in Los Angeles. The players that will compete are LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis, Klay Thompson, Karl Anthony-Towns, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. I found it interesting how Oladipo made the team but Paul George didn’t, which is making Pacers’ GM Kevin Pritchard look pretty smart right now. I’m also very happy for Damian Lillard for making the team for the first time, though I could’ve done without his annual bitching about his getting snubbed. All in all I’d say they did a pretty good job with the rosters. Interesting how the game’s in LA but there aren’t any Lakers or Clippers being featured. Often times you’ll see them try and shoehorn a player to ignite some excitement in the home crowd, but the league will probably save that for the skills competition. Though I wouldn’t have objected to them sneaking DeAndre Jordan onto the team over someone like Al Horford or Kevin Love, which pains me to say because Horford’s on my Celtics and I still believe in Love.

Milwaukee Brewers Are a Team to Keep an Eye on for the Next Few Days

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I say this mainly because there are a boatload of rumors surrounding the Brewers and what kinds of moves they’re open to, yet there is one player that has been linked to these discussions that I’m particularly interested in, that being free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. The Brewers have reportedly made a 5-year offer to the former Rangers and Dodgers pitcher who would immediately become the ace of their staff (Jimmy Nelson has earned that nod after his stellar 2017, but come on, it’s Yu Darvish. You’re not going to shell out the kind of money he’s going to command to have him be the #2). I also heard rumblings that the Brewers were looking to trade an outfielder for an impact bat. Immediately when that was said I thought of 2011 MVP Ryan Braun because I’ve seen several articles suggesting Milwaukee should trade him. There is some young talent in the Brewers outfield so it could also be one of them in order to acquire a bigger impact bat. Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips could also be on the move as Milwaukee looks to build on an 86-76 season where they missed out on the Wild Card Game by 1 game. I’ve also seen that they’ve made an offer to the Marlins for disgruntled outfielder Christian Yelich. So perhaps some of these outfielders will be involved in that potential trade.

Josh Allen is Saying Things

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So last time I did this type of blog I ripped Mel Kiper Jr for making Josh Allen his #1 pick in his first mock draft. Well just a few days later, Allen conducted a few interviews at the Senior Bowl where he stated that he “sleeps with a football” and devotes all his free time to playing football, which includes playing Madden. He has also said that it would be “special” to “be the guy” for the Browns, making his case for number 1 pick. As you may have read, Sam Darnold allegedly made a statement that he would return to school if the Browns had the top pick, a statement he has since denied and further enforced his denial by entering the Draft despite the Browns owning the first and fourth picks. Josh Rosen, on the other hand, has blatantly stated he does not want to play for the Browns, saying he’d rather fall in the Draft than go to the wrong team. So I guess some pros for the Browns considering Allen: he actually wants to be there. It’d be super risky for the Browns to take a Wyoming quarterback, where the competition is pretty low and didn’t even put up that great of numbers. And as for the “sleeping with a football” line, I’m sure it’s an exaggeration. If not, then damn dude, don’t know how that helps your game but whatever floats your boat. Also, that photoshoot that I included a picture from above. Uncle Rico must be salivating.

Patriots Will Wear Their White Uniforms In Super Bowl LII

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The AFC and NFC alternate on who is the “home team” in the game and therefore gets to choose their jerseys. This year, it’s the AFC’s turn and the Patriots are going to go with their white uniforms. Now before you say “Jim, you’ve lost your goddamn mind blogging about this, in what way is this important,” I present to you this stat: Since 2004, every Super Bowl winner with the exception of the Packers in Super Bowl XLV wore their white uniforms. Literally all of them (except the Packers). Plus the Patriots are undefeated in their whites in the Brady-Belichick era at 3-0 and are 2-2 in their blues. You may resume telling me that it doesn’t matter what uniforms the teams wear.

LeBron James Becomes Youngest Player to 30,000 Career Points

I would congratulate LeBron on his achieving this milestone, except for one thing. He already did that. For himself. Before the game in which he’d reach the milestone even happened. To clarify for those who don’t know, LeBron posted this on Instagram.

Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it! The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King 🤴🏾! 1 Love! #striveforgreatness🚀 #thekidfromakron👑

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Now granted, LeBron getting the 7 points he’d need was pretty much a foregone conclusion, especially since his opponent, the Spurs, are without defensive stud Kawhi Leonard, who undoubtedly would’ve drawn the assignment. 30K points is a fantastic achievement and LeBron has earned every bit of praise. But come on dude. Congratulating your past self on the accomplishment is pretty cheesy, even for LeBron. But making the post before the game even happens is downright disrespectful to Danny Green, who had to guard him. If it were anybody else, I would love this cocky move. But it’s LeBron, who is the poster child for the stereotypical primadonna NBA player that we get today, so he’s not getting a pass.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the topics I discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

General Sports: January 20

So I really have nothing to write about here. Like, actually nothing. No big moves, no big stories, no personal stories that come to mind. Nothing. So I’m going to try out a new kind of segment where I briefly talk about things that catch my eye in the sporting world, things that probably aren’t worthy of their own blog by themselves but something that I have some short thoughts on. So with that, let’s try this out.

I mentioned when Marcell Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals that St. Louis suddenly had a VERY overstocked outfield. Shortly after Ozuna was traded, the Cardinals sent Stephen Piscotty to the A’s. Well the outfield just got a lot cleaner as they traded Randall Grichuk to the Blue Jays for reliever Dominic Leone and minor leaguer Connor Greene. Grichuk has shown some flashes for the Cardinals but he hasn’t been able to take that next step to becoming the stud I think he can be. A trade to the Blue Jays could be the change of scenery he needs, especially considering he’s basically a lock to start in that outfield, as outside of Kevin Pillar there is basically no depth. Hell, they just signed Curtis Granderson off the streets, whom the Dodgers had traded for midseason then didn’t even bother putting him on the World Series roster. As for the Cardinals’ return for him, Dominic Leone is a solid reliever who I think has the potential to be an 8th inning guy for them. He has shown in the past that he is a very capable right-handed arm out of the ‘pen and I think this was a good exchange for a Cardinals team that sorely lacks bullpen strength. And I have no idea who Connor Greene is.

Mel Kiper Jr. released his first Mock Draft and there’s one major gripe I have with it, which if you read it, you know exactly what it is. He put Josh Allen as his number 1 overall pick to the Browns. It’s such a bad decision that I honestly think the Browns could end up doing it. I noted when I scouted the quarterbacks that I wouldn’t take Allen in the first round unless I had a support system around him that would allow him to develop in the time that he might require. The Browns are the exact opposite of that. They are about as dysfunctional an organization as you’ll find in all of sports and Allen will probably be thrown into the fire from day one, which given his need for growth as a quarterback is the worst possible situation for him. But I’ve seen stranger things happen and I’ve been wrong about this type of thing before. I figured Carson Wentz would need a couple years before he’d be ready to be the Eagles’ starter. Turns out he was the starter from Day 1 and an MVP candidate by Year 2. But still, at surface value, this looks like a really bad decision for the #1 overall pick.

Joel Embiid was named an All Star starter, which if you’ve heard the story by now, you know that means Rhianna has to date him. Well Embiid shut that down the only way he knows how, by being himself.

Good for you, man. Aim higher. You could probably land Beyonce if you wanted to. What’s Jay-Z going to do about it? I mean Embiid is the one guy on the planet who can not only get away with wearing his own jersey to the club, but have a video of him saying “Fuck LaVar Ball” go viral and nobody cares. He’s simply the best and I only want good things to happen to him.

The rest of the NBA All Star starters didn’t surprise me so I’m not going to go into too much detail about it. Except that I kind of feel bad for Damian Lillard. Here’s a guy who is amongst the best point guards in the game and he clearly wants to be an All Star so badly, he’s made that abundantly clear, but it’s kind of a logjam right now and everyone seemingly has their guys locked in from the very start of the season. He’ll get his nod someday.

I’m doing my best to be interested in college basketball right now, I really am. This Trae Young kid from Oklahoma looks like one of the biggest beasts I’ve ever seen at that level. But I’m so out of touch with it now that I feel like I wouldn’t be able to write anything that would do justice to anyone involved and I’d be rambling in ways that make me come off as some uninformed asshole trying to sound smart. Plus Purdue is really good this year and I hate that, especially considering Indiana’s rebuild is going a little slower than I had hoped. There have been some sparks, sure, like when they beat Notre Dame and Minnesota. But there have also been the duds like losing to both Indiana State and IPFW at home by at least 20 points each. There’s quite a ways to go.

JD Martinez has said he’s willing to wait until Spring Training to get the deal that he wants. Reportedly the Red Sox have the best offer at 5 years $100M. Allegedly the holdup is Martinez wants a 6th year. I get that Dave Dombrowski doesn’t want to bend to a player’s will, but the Red Sox were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball last season after being one of the best in 2016. They need Martinez and he knows it. I’d be fine with giving him that extra year. Besides, $20M a year for a guy that hit over .300 with 45 home runs seems like a major bargain. Plus, I feel that once Martinez signs, the rest of baseball will be getting their act together, as I feel the ex-Royals and the stud pitchers will start filing in once they see what he gets. So finally the offseason will have a pulse because we’re more than halfway through January and pretty much everybody is still available.

Those underdog masks Eagles players are wearing are terrifying.

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It’s like looking into the eyes of Satan. Apparently Amazon can’t keep enough of them in stock because Eagles fans keep buying them out. Lincoln Financial Field is going to look pretty weird on Sunday night.

Last but not least, I saw that the Mets have invited Tim Tebow to their Major League Spring Training Camp. That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard from a personnel standpoint, but a genius financial move. Tebow has about as big a drawing power as any person in sports at any level so you know that more fans are going to pile in to see what Tebow can do. Which on a baseball diamond really isn’t much, but regardless, the Mets are going to make a little more profit out of Spring Training.

That’s it for this blog. Let me know what you think of these types of segments in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NBA Midseason Awards

So it’s roughly the halfway point in the NBA season and I’ve barely blogged about basketball since the preseason, so I feel it’s high time I said something. I have been following basketball, I just haven’t found anything blog-worthy of late. Except that whole exchange between the Rockets and Clippers, but I had already written my McCutchen blog by that point. I guess what I will say about that is I’ve never seen anything like it. For those who missed it, apparently the Rockets and Clippers were jawing at eachother during the game. Then after it was over, a few Rockets players, namely James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green, made their way to the Clippers’ locker room in an attempt to “confront” Clippers guard Austin Rivers. Security did escort them out before anything violent could break out. How did the Rockets get to the Clippers locker room you might ask? Well new Rocket Chris Paul was a Clipper last year…nothing has been confirmed outside of the fact that the three aforementioned Rockets players tried to confront Rivers in the Clippers locker room. The NBA is currently investigating. Once we have all the details I’ll try and get something complete out there. Now with that, on to my midseason NBA awards.

NBA MVP: LeBron James-F-Cleveland Cavaliers

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Believe it or not it’s actually been a while since LeBron won an MVP. He’s won it 4 times but last time was 2013. There hasn’t been anything wrong but he’s been so consistently great that people have come to expect it of him and it would take an otherworldly performance for him to actually win the award nowadays. I wouldn’t say his numbers are otherworldly this year in particular, but I do think he’s most deserving of the MVP out of all the other candidates. He’s 4th in the NBA with 27.3 PPG while playing the third most minutes, 26th with 8 RPG, and 5th in APG with 8.8, which is 1.2 per game more than the next closest non-point guard, Draymond Green. LeBron continues to do it all and while I do think that the Cavaliers are overall having a disappointing year, you can’t put that on him.

Others Receiving Consideration: Giannis Antetokounmpo-F-Milwaukee Bucks, James Harden-G-Houston Rockets, Kyrie Irving-G-Boston Celtics

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Drummond-C-Detroit Pistons

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Andre Drummond is the best rebounder in the league and the only other guy you can make an argument for is DeAndre Jordan, who also could’ve won this. But I’m going with Drummond for a couple reasons. One, he’s the number 1-rated defender in the NBA. He’s the only guy with a rating under 100 (the lower the better) at 98.5. Two, he’s tops in the NBA in rebounding at 14.9 per game. Three, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the game at 1.3 per game. I gotta go with Drummond. He may be statistically the worst free throw shooter of all time, but that doesn’t matter for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Kyle Anderson-F-San Antonio Spurs, Clint Capela-C-Houston Rockets

Rookie of the Year: Jayson Tatum-F-Boston Celtics

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As I highlighted in my preseason awards, I don’t count Ben Simmons for this award even though he qualifies as a rookie. He had his chance and missed last season due to injury. But I do think he’s going to win the actual rookie of the year award because NBA writers don’t think the way I do. I’m going with Jayson Tatum because he’s blended into the league seamlessly and is a well-deserving starter on arguably the best team in the NBA in the Boston Celtics. In fact, he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.9%, better than even notorious sharpshooters like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. He’s also shooting 49.9% from the field on top of that so if there’s a more efficient offensive rookie, I’d like to see him. Donovan Mitchell was also heavily considered as he has basically already become the face of the Utah Jazz. I’d make him a close second.

Others Receiving Consideration: Donovan Mitchell-G-Utah Jazz, Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Spoiler Warning, this is the only award that has remained the same from my preseason awards. The 76ers have done what I anticipated them doing, which is playing significantly better than in year’s past but not quite where they could end up. They currently sit on the brink of a playoff berth at 20-20 and are 1 game behind the Pistons for the 8 seed. If the 76ers manage to get in, consider Brown a lock for this award.

Others Receiving Consideration: Brad Stevens-Boston Celtics, Erik Spoelstra-Miami Heat

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo-G-Indiana Pacers

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I’ve always been a fan of Victor Oladipo even before I declared my intentions to attend Indiana University, Oladipo’s alma mater. He was just oozing with talent and we saw occasional flashes of it when he was with the Orlando Magic and as Russell Westbrook’s sidekick in his brief pitstop in Oklahoma City last year. Well the Thunder traded him to the Pacers for Paul George and every Pacers fan I knew was HEATED by that trade because they felt it wasn’t a fair swap. Since then, Oladipo has the Pacers in the thick of the playoff race, as they’re currently the 6 seed at 24-20. Oladipo is 11th in the league in scoring at 24.3 PPG on 49% shooting with 5.2 RPG and 4 APG. He’s really come into his own this season.

Others Receiving Consideration: Dennis Schroder-G-Atlanta Hawks, Jaylen Brown-G-Boston Celtics

Comeback Player of the Year: Tyreke Evans-G-Memphis Grizzlies

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After missing half of last season due to injury, it seemed that the former Rookie of the Year Evans was at a crossroads. He had yet to realize his full potential since a stellar rookie season in Sacramento. Well he’s pretty much returned to that form this season, as his 19.6 PPG is the best rate he’s had since his rookie year when he averaged 20.1. Evans is back to being an offensive threat and despite the fact that the Grizzlies have had a terrible season, Evans at least has been a bright spot.

Others Receiving Consideration: Michael Beasley-F-New York Knicks

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams-G-Los Angeles Clippers

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Williams is averaging 23.3 PPG coming off the bench, which is just absurd. Out of all the players in the top 25, Williams is the only player that hasn’t started every game. In fact, he’s only started 12 out of 42, yet he still plays just as many minutes as a lot of the others on that list. That just goes to show how much the Clippers value him. One could argue that Williams should start at point guard over Patrick Beverley, but he has played so well in this role for so long that it appears that Williams is becoming this generation’s version of Jamal Crawford.

Others Receiving Consideration: Eric Gordon-G-Houston Rockets, Rodney Hood-G-Utah Jazz

That’s going to do it for my NBA midseason Awards. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

College basketball is always one of the tougher sports to predict typically because it is ALWAYS experiencing turnover, with all the one-and-dones that enter and leave the league before we really get a chance to see what they can do. It’s hard to blame them, with how messy the NCAA can get it’s no wonder these players jump to the NBA first chance they get. So that being said, I’m anticipating a fun year of college basketball. In this preview, I will try and project who will win each of the Power 5 conferences as well as putting in my own Top 25 and my preseason All Americans. I will not be predicting who I think will be the champs, as March Madness is so insane every year that I feel like trying to predict how it’s going to go in November doesn’t give the tournament its full due. I will, however, give who I think will be the number 1 overall seed, if that helps. Let’s get to the conference champs.

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

The ACC is probably the best conference in college hoops right now. You’ve got the blue bloods such as Duke and reigning champs North Carolina, but the second tier of this conference is typically super competitive as well, such as Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Louisville (though with the whole Rick Pitino situation, Louisville may be removing themselves from this discussion). I’m going with Duke to win the ACC this year for two main reasons: Coach K and the recruiting class. Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best college basketball coach on the planet right now and he always turns out a plethora of NBA talent, whether that be from one-and-dones or guys who stay all four years. This year he has a particularly talented group to go with Grayson Allen. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr are all in the TOP EIGHT of ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for the class of 2021 (whether these guys are here that long is another story). Bagley is the highlight here as he is a big time recruit who was able to reclassify in order to be a part of this Duke roster. He’s 6’11 with all the tools you can look for in a player: athleticism, shooting, and post moves being major positives with this kid. The one thing that may hold this team back is Grayson Allen. Yes he is a supremely talented point guard, but his emotional outbursts are more renowned than his game is and that can become a distraction. He’s got to be the leader of this young team, being a senior this year, and if he’s having hissy fits on the bench then it could do a lot of damage to this team.

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

Was there really any other choice here? While the SEC may be a dominant conference in football, they are essentially a one-man race in basketball, with Kentucky having won the conference each of the last 3 years (feels like it should be more than that). John Calipari rivals Coach K as the best coach in the game but the main challenge Kentucky deals with every year is the one-and-done. Kentucky goes through these types of players more often than seemingly any team in the country, but Cal also encourages it. He feels that his guys should take the opportunity to go to the NBA as soon as they feel they’re ready, but has all his guys declare for the NBA Draft anyway so they can all get a sense of their draft stock before deciding whether they want to go forward or return to school. And with his coaching prowess and skills as a recruiter, he has no problem finding replacements for the guys he lost the year prior. This season, Kentucky’s top players are Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Nick Richardson, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt, joining a roster that returns very little from last year’s SEC champs. Kentucky’s only real competition this season will likely come from Florida, Texas A&M, or Alabama, but I think the gap between these schools are big enough that everyone else is playing for second place in the SEC.

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad has never been one that typically deals with the one-and-dones, as Deyonta Davis is the only player in recent memory to leave for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. That bodes well for Michigan State because they’ve got a lot of good returning talent, particularly Miles Bridges (who may be my favorite player in all of college basketball) and Lourawls “Tumtum” Nairn. Michigan State also landed Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #9 recruit, who looks to be a major contributor for this season. In the Big Ten, Michigan State’s main competition will likely come from Wisconsin, Purdue or even  quietly good Minnesota and Northwestern teams. Indiana’s potentially a wild card because it’ll be interesting to see how Archie Miller transitions to major college basketball after great success at the University of Dayton. But Michigan State is so loaded and have a Hall of Fame head coach, making it awfully difficult to pick against them.

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

Do I really even need to do this one? The Big 12 has been OWNED by Kansas of late, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 every year since 2005. That’s THIRTEEN STRAIGHT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS! Despite this, Kansas only has one national championship victory to show for it (2008) but they will be looking for another run this year. They lose Player of the Year Frank Mason to the NBA, but they do have Devonte Graham returning, which was huge for Bill Self’s squad, as Kansas’ recruiting class was a little light this season. Billy Preston was their only recruit in ESPN’s Top 50. But having another season of Devonte Graham will likely be good enough for the Jayhawks to hold off such competition as West Virginia, Baylor, and possibly Iowa State for a fourteenth straight conference title.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back for Arizona and they’ll be running this offense with one new toy to play with: DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot 250-pounder out of Phoenix. Ayton is the #3 overall recruit according to ESPN, trailing only Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr (both guys are in the discussion for number 1 pick in the NBA Draft). Ayton is arguably as good as either of these guys and will be key to replacing Lauri Markkanen. Head Coach Sean Miller (older brother of Indiana coach Archie Miller) has had Arizona playing some really good basketball these last few years and it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys unseat UCLA as best in a weak conference, as only the Bruins and USC are expected to be competitive in this conference.

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

Projected Player of the Year: Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

Bridges is one of the most exciting players in the game and as a freshman last year, he scored 16.9 points per game with 8.3 rebounds while shooting almost 50% from the field and 39% from 3. He’s got another year under his belt and I think given his abilities, we are in for a tremendous season from the sophomore forward from Flint, Michigan.

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just too stacked on paper for it to be anyone else at this point in the year. As I mentioned, in a sport typically dominated by freshman, Duke has 4 of the 8 best, including the number 1 overall player as well as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, we often see these super teams fall apart under the weight of media expectations, as teams with this much hype rarely ever live up to it, so while I am super high on Duke, it also wouldn’t shock me to see them underwhelm.

Those are my predictions for this college basketball season. Probably going to look WAY different when I do the postseason edition. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.