Clipped Once Again

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There is no denying that the Los Angeles Clippers are one of the better teams in the NBA during this era. Each of the last six NBA seasons have seen the Clippers make the NBA Playoffs, and in the postseason they’ve been able to secure series wins over the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs who have won two of the last three NBA Titles. However the Clippers were unable to keep the momentum going after those series wins over the Warriors and Spurs as they have never advanced to the conference finals in their franchise history. Last season the Clippers won 53 games, but by the time that the playoffs rolled around, they had lost the services of point guard Chris Paul and Blake Griffin which made them easy pickings for the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. This season the Clippers went 51-31 in the regular season, and there was some optimism for them heading into the playoffs. But like any Hollywood production, that optimism for the Clippers has now faded to black.

The Clippers would drop their playoff opener at home to the Utah Jazz who were playing without the services of center Rudy Goubert. The Clippers would bounce back to win Games 2 and 3 as they appeared ready to take control of the series. However things changed during Game 3 when Griffin suffered what initially appeared to be an insignificant toe injury. But that was not the case as that toe injury will put Griffin on the sidelines for the remainder of the postseason, and with that any legitimate chances of Los Angeles winning the NBA Championship are now out of the window.

Blake Griffin

This serves as another blow to a Clippers team that continues to be good, but not great which has prevented them from winning an NBA Championship. The Clippers have the sizzle of having a billionaire owner in Steve Ballmer, a head coach in Doc Rivers who led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Championship in 2008, an All-Star point guard in Paul, and Griffin who along with center DeAndre Jordan helped to form “Lob City”. However dunks won’t win in the playoffs as the Clippers always seem to fall short when the chips are pushed to the middle of the table. And with the Clippers chances of winning a title here in 2017 diced, it’s time for them to look ahead to next season as far as what they’ll need to get over that hump.

Aside from staying healthy, the Clippers need a proven go-to-guy in the clutch as neither Paul, Griffin, or Jordan are that guy. And as the Clippers will need to improve for next season, the time could be right for Ballmer and Rivers to pick up the phone and make a call to the 212 area code.

Carmelo Anthony

On the other side of the United States, the New York Knicks continue to be a calamity of errors as their owner James Dolan, team president Phil Jackson, head coach Jeff Hornacek, and star player in small forward Carmelo Anthony are not on the same page. The Knicks just wrapped up their fourth consecutive losing season which was highlighted by Jackson attempting the old “bait and switch” in order to get Anthony to leave, along with Dolan having his security team throw team legend Charles Oakley out of Madison Square Garden as if he were Jazz on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And with Anthony and Jackson not on the same page, along with the fact he is now going through a separation from his wife La La, the time is now for him to get out of the Big Apple as the Clippers could be an attractive destination for him.

In 14 NBA seasons Anthony has averaged 24.8 points per game and he’ll be remembered as one of the best scorers of this era. But the fact that Anthony has been unable to win an NBA Championship is something that still lingers over him.

The Clippers attempted to acquire Anthony this past season as along with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they were the only team that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for. But the deal fell through as the Clippers needed at least one more team to come into the fold in order for the deal to work. However now as the Clippers and Knicks don’t have to worry themselves with the shackles of the trade deadline, the time is now for them to hammer this out.

Jackson doesn’t want Anthony and the 10-time All-Star isn’t too fond of the public criticism that has been directed towards him by the Knicks team president, and if these two continue to work together it is only going to make New York’s so called rebuild that much longer to come to fruition.

But if Anthony were to go the Clippers, he would finally be a part of an organization that wants him. There would still be pressure on Anthony as he’d be in Los Angeles, but he would playing alongside his good friend in Paul, while he’d be in one of the best front courts in the NBA. Anthony wouldn’t have to worry about carrying the team as the Clippers do possess balance as the only thing that they’ve been missing is a proven scorer who can consistently create his own shot.

Getting to the playoffs for six consecutive years is cool for the Clippers as it is something that has never been done in their franchise history. But with an owner like Ballmer who put down $2 billion to purchase the Clippers in 2014, and a head coach in Rivers who knows what it takes to win a championship, it’s time for Los Angeles to stop relying on their core of Griffin, Paul and Jordan to get it done. Making the playoffs is one thing, but for the Clippers to be remembered and respected, it is high time for them to take that next step.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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From The Hardwood To The Diamond

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As the 2017 Major League Baseball season is less than a month old, Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Amir Garrett is an early candidate to be the National League’s Rookie of the Year. In three starts for the Reds, Garrett is 2-1 with an earned run average of 1.83, while he has also recorded 21 strikeouts. Garrett is 24-years old and even though that his journey to MLB isn’t unique, it still is quite different.

After being drafted by the Reds in the 22nd round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2011, Garrett played two years of college basketball for the St. John’s Red Storm. And after Garrett announced that he was initially transferring from St. John’s to attend Cal-State Northridge in 2013, he would ultimately quit school and focus on playing baseball. That would turn out to be a good move for Garrett who would spend the next three years working his way up through the Reds minor-league system which was highlighted by him appearing the Futures Game in 2016.

At 6’5″, Garrett has an imposing presence on the mound and he is a guy that is playing like he has nothing to lose as there weren’t high expectations for the Reds heading into this season. But with the potential of Garrett, the Reds could be set to overachieve which is reflected in their 9-8 mark that currently has them in the mix for the top spot in the National League Central.

Garrett isn’t the first multi-sport athlete to give Major League Baseball a shot, and he also isn’t the only player to participate in both baseball and basketball. Current Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge enjoyed a 14-year playing career that saw him win a pair of NBA Titles. But before joining the Celtics, Ainge was a second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays as he had a career batting average of .220. Pitcher Mark Hendrickson was a second round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 as he played four years in the NBA. Hendrickson would then return to baseball as from 2002-2011, he played for the Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, and Baltimore Orioles. Current Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Pat Connaughton was a standout athlete during his collegiate days for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Like Garrett, Connaughton was a pitching prospect and in 2014, he was a fourth-round selection of the Orioles. Connaughton decided to keep his hoop dreams alive as he was a second-round choice of the Brooklyn Nets during the 2015 NBA Draft which led to him being traded to the Trail Blazers. Connaughton has participated in the O’s minor-league system and there is still a possibility that he could return to the baseball diamond.

But for Garrett he is making the most of his athletic prowess which has allowed him to pitch in Major League Baseball. The jury is still out on him as far as 2017 goes, however it is still a unique journey that he has taken, and it also doesn’t hurt that he has plenty of potential in his left arm.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Adding To His Cooperstown Resume

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As the 2017 Major League Baseball season is in its infant stage, it is clear that Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols is no longer the player that he once was. Pujols is 37-years of age and through 14 games he is batting .204 with a pair of home runs and 11 runs batted in. And as Pujols is in the twilight of his career being that he is no longer an MVP candidate, or in the running to hit .300, it is not stopping him from closing in on making some history.

With 593 career home runs, Pujols is closing in on becoming just the ninth player in Major League Baseball history to hit 600 career home runs and only the second Dominican-born player to do so. Pujols has 603 career doubles and by season’s end he could be in the top ten of that category. Pujols is currently 19th all-time in runs batted in with 1,928 as he is 4 away from surpassing Manny Ramirez for 18th place. And just like it is in regards to doubles, Pujols could be in the top ten of runs batted in by the end of the season. With 2,836 career hits, Pujols could flirt with reaching that magical milestone of 3,000 hits. But if and when Pujols is able reach 3,000 hits and 600 home runs, he would join Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, and Willie Mays as the only players in MLB history to do so.

When you think of Pujols one of the first words that comes to mind is fear. Ever since Pujols made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, he has done nothing but strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Pujols won the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2001 as he batted .329 with 37 homers and 130 runs batted in. Pujols followed that up by winning three NL MVP Awards while donning a Cardinals uniform, along with leading the league in homers twice, taking home a batting title, and we cannot overlook him helping St. Louis win a pair of World Series Championships. In each of Pujols’ first ten Major League Baseball seasons he hit at least 32 home runs runs and driving 103 home runs as when he reaches the 600-homer mark later this season, he’ll join Aaron as the only two men to reach the mark, but never hit 50 home runs in a season which has made him the model of consistency in the modern game.

Pujols has not hit too many home runs of the cheap variety as they are typically of the tape measure variety. Some of Pujols classic moments at the plate include his massive shot off of Houston Astros relief pitcher Brad Lidge during the 2005 National League Championship Series, and his three homer performance in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series as he became the first player since Reggie Jackson in 1977 to do so. However Pujols has not been your prototypical power hitter being that he has never struck out 100 times or more in a season, while he is also a career .309 hitter.

Pujols’ time with the Angels have seen his production dip which includes him no longer being an everyday first baseman as injuries to his feet have slowed him down. But that hasn’t prevented Pujols from passing his professionalism and knowledge of the game to Angels outfielder Mike Trout who himself is already a two-time American League MVP and at the age of 25 is already being compared to baseball greats such as Mickey Mantle.

However for Pujols, he is capping off stellar resume that will see him one day enshrined in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Currently Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez are the only Dominican-born players that are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that will be changing in the coming years with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz on the cusp of it, and Mr. Pujols isn’t that far behind them.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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A Golden Opportunity

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After the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2009 National Football League season, they suffered a pair of heartbreaking postseason losses in 2010 and 2011 respectfully. Since then the Saints have only had one playoff appearance which can be traced back to the organization’s punishment for “Bountygate” which saw the NFL strip them of several draft picks, and the five-year, $100 million extension that quarterback Drew Brees signed in 2012. These two moves saw the Saints have a huge dip in their depth and overall talent pool as they were now fighting an uphill battle. Each of the last three years have seen the Saints finish with a record of 7-9 as they were a couple of breaks away from getting back to the postseason. But for the first time in a long time the Saints have a chance to put their inconsistencies behind them and get back to the playoffs if they continue to take care of business this off-season.

Brandin Cooks

In a surprising move this off-season the Saints traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots. Cooks was a first-round selection of the Saints in 2014 and he led the club in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. Cooks was rapidly emerging as one of the best receivers in the National Football League; however he was falling out of favor in New Orleans after he began to publicly criticize the routes that he was sometimes asked to run. In exchange for sending Cooks to the Patriots, the Saints received a first and third-round pick, while they are also sending a fourth-round selection to New England. And with this additional arsenal of picks, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis could be ready to knock one out of the park.

Sean Payton

Saints head coach Sean Payton is one of the sharpest offensive minds in the National Football League, while Brees is a future Hall of Famer. And thus New Orleans has been one of the top offenses in the NFL in recent years. But Brees’ golden right arm alone can’t carry the Saints. The Saints issues have been on the defensive side of the football where they have not finished higher than 27th in total defense in each of the last three years which could be finally remedied later this month in the National Football League Draft.

The Saints are scheduled to pick three times within the first 42 selections and they could rack up on some defensive talent. After New Orleans was only able to tally 30 sacks last season with defensive end Cameron Jordan leading the team with 7.5, they have a chance to beef up their pass rush. Quality defensive ends such as Taco Charlton, Derek Barnett, and Charles Harris are all expected to be available when the Saints pick 11th. And as the Saints secondary has been barbecued in recent years, players such as cornerback Marlon Humphrey and strong safety Obi Melifonwu could be in play for them early as well. At some point the Saints are going to have to attempt to replace Cooks and his production. But being that most wide receivers in New Orleans are a product of having Brees throw them the football, I don’t see replacing Cooks as a top priority when the draft begins as their defense must find a way to neutralize Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback if they want to win the NFC South.

Mickey Loomis

In 2015, Loomis took some heat when he traded All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks. In exchange for Graham, New Orelans received center Max Unger and Seattle’s first-round pick. The Saints would use that selection on outside linebacker Stephone Anthony who in a short period of time has become a leader on the defensive side of the football. And if Loomis can find some game changing play makers on the defensive side of the football later this month in the draft, he could make the folks on the bayou forget about Cooks; especially if the Saints can get back to the playoffs.

This is the first time in a long time that the Saints will have a chance to get back on track. And if Loomis and Payton are able to it right, New Orleans could still be playing football when January rolls around.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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2017 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

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1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-Defensive End-Texas A&M

The Cleveland Browns could mess this up, but at some point common sense has to kick in.

2. San Francisco 49ers-Solomon Thomas-Defensive End-Stanford

There are several directions in which the 49ers could go here, but they need more play makers on their defensive line

3. Chicago Bears-Jamal Adams-Strong Safety-LSU

If the Chicago Bears are hopeful for a quick turnaround in 2017, they are going to have to go through the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers which means that they are going to have to beef up the secondary.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Fournette-Running Back-LSU

The Jaguars are in the business of improving the team around quarterback Blake Bortles which means that the running game is a top priority.

5. Tennessee Titans-Malik Hooker-Free Safety-Ohio State

The Titans are just one or two play makers away from being the team to beat in the AFC South. And the addition of Malik Hooker will get Tennessee closer to that goal.

Mitch Trubisky

6. New York Jets-Mitch Trubisky-Quarterback-North Carolina

The Jets could go quarterback here which would mean that they are giving up on quarterbacks Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenburg.

7. Los Angeles Chargers-Jabril Peppers-Strong Safety-Michigan

Jabril Peppers could be the ultimate wild card in the National Football League Draft as he could be selected anywhere from 5-25 in the first round.

8. Carolina Panthers-Dalvin Cook-Running Back-Florida State

When the Panthers were one of the top teams in the NFL in 2015, their bread and butter was the running game which they need to get back to.

9. Cincinnati Bengals-Derek Barnett-Defensive End-Tennessee

Under head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have always had a litany of athletes on their defensive line which continues here with the addition of Derek Barnett.

10. Buffalo Bills-Marshon Lattimore-Cornerback-Ohio State

For the Buffalo Bills to assert themselves as a playoff team in 2017, they are going to have to go through the New England Patriots in the AFC East which means having as many athletes as possible in their secondary.

11. New Orleans Saints-Haason Reddick-Outside Linebacker-Temple

The Saints already have one of the top offenses in the National Football League, and now it is time to develop a complimentary defense.

Deshaun Watson

12. Cleveland Browns-Deshaun Watson-Quarterback-Clemson

Just like if the Browns avoid taking Myles Garrett, they will regret not taking Deshaun Watson here because he is a winner.

13. Arizona Cardinals-Corey Davis-Wide Receiver-Western Michigan

After wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had 1,023 receiving yards, J.J. Nelson was the next closest wide receiver on the Cardinals with just 568 yards which means that they need to get more players that can stretch the field.

14. Philadelphia Eagles-Christian McCaffrey-Running Back-Stanford

With running back Darren Sproles being 33-years of age, the Philadelphia Eagles need another versatile running back who can fill that void.

15. Indianapolis Colts-O.J. Howard-Tight End-Alabama

The Colts need to get more play makers around quarterback Andrew Luck and a tight end such as O.J. Howard who is theoretically a big wide receiver could help that process.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Jonathan Allen-Defensive Tackle-Alabama

If Jonathan Allen falls this far, he would come into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder, and he would join an organization that knows how to win.

17. Washington Redskins-Mike Williams-Wide Receiver-Clemson

After allowing wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to leave in the free agency, the Washington Redskins must do everything possible to keep quarterback Kirk Cousins happy.

18. Tennessee Titans-John Ross-Wide Receiver-Washington

As the Titans have one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL, they need a burner at the wide receiver position that can stretch the field on play action.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Reuben Foster-Inside Linebacker-Alabama

If the Buccaneers are going to be a legitimate playoff contender in 2017, they are going to need more leaders on the defensive side of the football.

20. Denver Broncos-David Njoku-Tight End-Miami

As the Denver Broncos hardly got any production out of the tight end position in 2016, they need to improve there regardless of whether it will be Trevor Semian or Paxton Lynch under center this year.

Taco Charlton

21. Detroit Lions-Taco Charlton-Defensive End-Michigan

After the Detroit Lions only registered 26 sacks last season, they need all of the help that they can get on their defensive line.

22. Miami Dolphins-Charles Harris-Defensive End-Missouri

If the Miami Dolphins are serious about pushing the Patriots for supremacy in the AFC East, they need as many pass rushers as possible in order to slow down quarterback Tom Brady.

23. New York Giants-Malik McDowell-Defensive Tackle

After the Giants recently lost defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins in free agency to the Colts, this is a no-brainer selection here for general manager Jerry Reese.

24. Oakland Raiders-Marlon Humphrey-Cornerback-Alabama

After watching the Raiders secondary once quarterback Derek Carr got injured last year, they need all the help that they can get.

Patrick Mahomes II

25. Houston Texans-Patrick Mahomes II-Quarterback-Texas Tech

The Texans thought that they were going to get quarterback Tony Romo which led them to trading quarterback Brock Osweiler to the Browns. But when Romo decided on retirement, it changed the thought process in Houston.

26. Seattle Seahawks-Ryan Ramczyk-Offensive Tackle-Wisconsin

As quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 41 times last year, it is not a recipe for good things if the Seahawks want to be a legit title contender once again.

27. Kansas City Chiefs-Forrest Lamp-Guard-Western Kentucky

The Chiefs have several needs as they enter the NFL Draft, but Forrest Lamp is simply too good for them to pass up on.

Carl Lawson

28. Dallas Cowboys-Carl Lawson-Defensive End-Auburn

Ever since the Cowboys released defensive end DeMarcus Ware in 2014, they have lacked a quality edge rusher which has prevented them from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

29. Green Bay Packers-Tre’Davious White-Cornerback-LSU

After the Packers were lit up in the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons, the secondary will be a top priority for them in the draft.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers-Zach Cunningham-Outside Linebacker-Vanderbilt

If you watched Zach Cunningham play in college, he is prototypical Steeler linebacker.

31. Atlanta Falcons-Garrett Bolles-Offensive Tackle-Utah

Whereas quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked 37 times last year, the Falcons are going to have to give him more protection if they want to get back to the Super Bowl.

32. New Orleans Saints-Kevin King-Cornerback-Washington

If the Saints fix their defense in this draft, they could be a playoff team this season.

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