Will the presence of Adrian Peterson at running back be able to help get the New Orleans Saints back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013?
Since 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks have been the gold standard in the National Hockey League as their three Stanley Cup Championships over that period are more than any other team in the league. And even in those years where the Blackhawks have been unable to win, they’ve still been one of the top teams in the NHL. This season was no different for Chicago as they would finish with the best record in the Western Conference which ensured them of having home-ice advantage throughout the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But that home-ice advantage wouldn’t do the Blackhawks any good as they were swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators which is hands down the biggest shocker so far of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the Blackhawks playoff series versus the Predators, they were outscored 13-3 which included being shutout in both games at the United Center in Chicago. The combination of center Jonathan Toews and right winger Patrick Kane who’ve been at the forefront of Chicago’s success since 2010 were limited to a pair of goals during the series against Nashville. And aside from a brief lead during Game 3, Chicago was always trailing for the rest of the series.
After the Blackhawks secured the top spot in the Western Conference, head coach Joel Quenneville decided to rest his key players which backfired as this team lost its continuity, and more importantly its edge. The Blackhawks would lose their last four regular season games and once you factor in how things went down in the playoffs, they finished the season an eight-game losing streak. Blackhawks vice president/general manager Stan Bowman has vowed to make changes, but that doesn’t mean that this team needs to be totally dissected. The Blackhawks have already parted ways with assistant coach Mike Kitchen and you have to wonder what else that Bowman has in store?
The Blackhawks core players such as Toews, Kane, defenseman Duncan Keith and goalie Corey Crawford are all locked up for the next few years and Chicago might have a little bit of wiggle room under the National Hockey League’s salary cap in order to keep this team together. But the biggest thing for the Blackhawks is that they played their worst hockey of the season at the wrong time. During the regular season Chicago was ninth in the NHL in goals scored per game at 2.93, while they were 11th in goals allowed at 2.59. Kane has contributed to a very potent offense as he has combined to score 80 goals over the last two seasons which included him winning the Hart Memorial Trophy last year as the league’s MVP. However Chicago’s power play was 19th in the NHL this season, while their penalty kill was 24th. The Blackhawks penalty kill was solid during the postseason as it was 87.5%, but they only managed to score a pair of power play goals which helped to lead to their demise.
It has already been made public knowledge that Quenneville will be returning for his 10th season as the Blackhawks head coach. However after the Blackhawks second consecutive first-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this will be a very interesting summer in Chicago, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Cubs.
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.
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.
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.
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.