“Another cash grab for Danny Ainge”

            Over the past weekend, the Celtics and Danny Ainge traded the top overall pick in the upcoming draft to the 76ers for the 3rd overall pick and at least one future first round pick that the 76ers received from the Suns through the Lakers if that pick falls between pick number two and pick number five. If the pick is either the top pick or sixth or later than the Celtics will instead receive a pick that the 76ers received from Sacramento. With the pick that the 76ers will receive, they are predicted to pick fultzthe scoring threat out of the University of Washington in Markelle Fultz, a freshman point guard. The freshman scored 23.2 points this year to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists for the huskies. Per an article on New England Sports Net, it talks about how reports coming out saying that one of the reasons that the Celtics traded the pick was that they had serious concerns that Fultz is not a true winner since his team only won 9 games this past year.

                I believe that the Celtics made a good move with trading the pick away. This team is trying to acquire the services of a star in the league rather than drafting an unproven player. With them completing this trade with Philly, the Celtics have a bundle of first round picks that they can use to trade for a big-name star in the bosphillyleague. Following this trade, the Celtics now have seven first round picks for the next three years. Only time will tell if this trade works out for both teams, or will be another trade like the one the Celtics had with Brooklyn, when they sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to the Nets.

                In the history of the modern era of the NBA Draft, the top pick has only been traded seven times, before the pick has ever played for that team, including this trade between Boston and Philly, with the last time coming in 2014 when the Cleveland Cavaliers sent Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to the Timberwolves in exchange for Kevin Love. The other times it happened were in 1950 when the Celtics traded Chuck Share to the Pistons for Bill Sharman, the next time was in 1957 when the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) sent Hot Rod Hundley to the Lakers for Clyde Lovelette, in 1980 Boston sent Joe Carrol to the Warriors for Robert Parish and a draft pick that would land them Kevin Mchale, Brad Daugherty was sent from Philly to Cleveland in 1986 and Chris Webber was sent to the Warriors from the Magic in exchange for Penny Hardaway in 1993.  I guess you could say that the Celtics are not new to trading the top pick.

       The only trade that backfired would be the 1986 trade that had the 76ers sending the top pick to the Cavaliers in exchange for Roy Hinson. This trade backed fired since with the Cavaliers, Daugherty would be a 5 time all star in his 8 year career and daughertywould never average lower than the 15.7 points he averaged his rookie year. For his career, Daugherty averaged 19 points 9 rebounds and 3 assists. On the other end of the trade, the 76ers received Roy Hinson, this trade is one sided due to the fact that Hinson was out of Philly after 1.5 years with the team.

              This trade is a win-win for both teams, because for the 76ers, they get another young player to help with “The Process”, and for the Celtics, they get more assets to try to acquire talent to overthrow the Cavaliers and Warriors as the top teams in the league.

 

The Trilogy is Completed

                 As we all know, Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA Finals for the third straight year. So, it’s now three straight years of Steph vs Kyrie, three years of Lebron vs Klay and three years of Love vs Green. The big difference is Kevin Durant who left Oklahoma City for Golden State in hopes of winning his first title. Golden State showed the sports world they were not playing around with the addition of Durant. So, this budding rivalry could become a mainstay in the Championship series the same way that the Celtics and Lakers were throughout the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

        cavsvswar2        This rivalry has already managed to do something that no other rivalry or match up in NBA Finals has done, and that is appear in three straight Finals against each other. Teams have met in back-to-back finals 13 times including the first two match ups of Cleveland and Golden State. In every back to back Finals match up, the team that lost the previous match-up is 7-6 in the next match up. If you take that serious then, history is more on Golden State’s side than it is Cleveland.

                After the 113-91 thrashing that the Warriors gave the Cavs in game 1 on Thursday night, it looks as if history is truly on the Warriors side and they may be cavsvswar4able to pull out a championship by the end of this. I know that its only one game, it’s too early to tell and anything could happen, but if you look at how the Cavs played, that was their worst game this postseason and their worst game since they lost to the Clippers 108-78 back on March 18th.

             canvsdet   From an article by USA Today, this is the fourth time in all major US sports leagues that a trilogy has happened and the first in more than sixty years. The last trilogy was in the NHL where the Canadiens and Red wings matched up in the Stanley Cup Finals in ’54, ’55, and ’56. Looking through the eras in basketball, it is really surprising that there nflhas never been a trilogy before today with how many dynasties and rivalries there were, from all of the legendary Celtics and Lakers match ups, to the Lakers and Pistons in the ‘80s, to every other star-studded match up.

                In the trilogy for the Canadiens and Red wings, the Red wings wound up winning two out of three against the Canadiens. In the MLB, it hasn’t happened since the babethe 1920’s when Babe Ruth was playing on the Yankees when they faced The New York Giants and Frankie Frisch from 1921-1923 with the Giants winning two out of three against the Yankees. In the NFL, it has not happened since the 50’s, before there was the Super Bowl, when the Cleveland Browns, led by Hall of Fame QB Otto Graham and Head Coach Paul Brown, faced off against the Detroit Lions, led by Hall of Famers Bobby Layne and Doak Walker, from 1952-54 with the Lions winning the first two match ups and becoming only the third team in league history at that point to repeat as champions.

 

 

A Bright Future for this Celtics Team

                As we all figured, the final two teams standing are the Cavaliers and Warriors for the third straight year. On Thursday night, Cleveland beat Boston to advance winning the series 4-1. Boston was the only team that the Lebron James led team did not sweep in the playoffs this year, while Golden State eased through each of their series to be the first team to go 12-0 in the playoffs. Even though this match up could be seen coming since after Cleveland won the title last year and especially after Kevin Durant signed with Golden State, I believe that some of the teams in both conferencesecf2 will step up to the challenge and get closer to the level that the Warriors and Cavs are playing on and be closer to ending this streak of Finals appearances for both teams. For the Boston Celtics, the future is so very bright in terms of what they can accomplish.

                This is just the beginning for the young Celtics team; they will be towards the top of the East again next year. This team seems primed to make another run at the Eastern Conference Finals next year with all the talent that they currently have and the opportunity to acquire more whether it is from the draft and using the top pick or by trading that pick for someone like Jimmy Butler or Paul George. They also have the advantage of having one of the best young coaches in the NBA in Brad Stevens.

                This franchise has come far from where it was just 4 years ago at the start of the Stevens era. This team had just come off a 41-40 year, the franchise sent their greatschampionship winning head coach to the Clippers, they had traded two of the greatest players of this generation to the Nets for a bunch of bench players and a few draft picks and were beginning the process to rebuild. No one expected Coach Stevens to succeed in the NBA since most college coaches struggle in the pros unless you have a team built to win now. In his first year, he led the team to a 25-57 record, the worse since 06’-07’, and would draft a scrappy guard from OK State in Marcus Smart with their first-round pick.

                   Going into the trade deadline in his second season, Coach Stevens had the team at 20-31 and in need of a boost somehow. Towards the final moments of the coach stevensdeadline, Danny Ainge would pull off one of the most one sided trades this decade, two years after he pulled of another one that did not seem like it at first; he would swap Marcus Thornton and a first rounder for the undersized guard in Isaiah Thomas. That season they would end with a record of 40-42 and get into the playoffs with the 7th seed.

     IT4     Since the acquisition of Thomas, the Celtics are 121-74. This team has been able to improve every year under Stevens. They have increased their win total each year from his first year and going 25-57 to this past year and winning 53 games and appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals. It also helped that they could lure one of the best big men in the league in Al Horford from Atlanta. With the amount of young talent and the stash of draft picks, I would certainly say that the future of the Celtics is very bright and that they are ahead of schedule in terms of finishing their rebuilding phase of the franchise last year and are able to win now.

Has this rivalry reached level of one of the greats or is it getting old?

                As of right now, it looks as if it would be the Golden State Warriors vs the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-peat in the NBA Finals. Some would love to see this happen since there has never been three straight NBA Finals with the same two teams.  The majority of people though, do not want to see this happen; they want to see new teams fighting for the lebronstephchampionship. Sure, it would be entertaining to see Lebron repeat with the Cavs, but the level that both the Warriors and the Cavalier are playing on is a level where it doesn’t have drama in it to the point where you know that they will win their games most nights. Both teams could have gone through the playoffs undefeated until the Celtics beat the Cavs in Game 3. Most people do not want to see Lebron in the Finals again, since he has been in it six straight years going back to his time with Miami. People want to see someone new get into the Finals, especially from the East.

               According to the CBS station in Cleveland, Tyronn Lue, Cavaliers Head Coach, stated that a third straight year of Cavs vs Warriortyronns in the finals would be a good thing for the league, by comparing this “rivalry” with the likes of the Celtics and Lakers, considering those teams met in the Finals twelve times. The difference between these two rivalries is that the Celtics and Lakers never met in three consecutive Finals. During the span of 51 years, between their first match and their last match up, the Celtics and Lakers have never met in three straight NBA Finals.  In NBA history, there has never been three straight NBA Finals with the same two teams. I can understand where he is coming from though, since he was on both sides of the Celtics Lakers rivalry, as a player with the Lakers and winning two titles with them and as a coach with the Celtics, but it will be a while before this rivalry that is forming with the Cavs and Warriors gets to that level.

             Having the same two teams in the championship for three straight years for any sport is not good for their league. Seeing the same teams can get boring for all but the fans of those teams.  They might not watch the game or series which would ultimately hurt the ratings for a league. I know that to make sure that the same teams do not face each other three straight times for the championship then the other teams must get better, the problem is that the two teams aiming for the title 3peathave a much higher level of talent and are more powerful than other teams in that league. There is an obvious disadvantage to the other teams when those two teams can get any top player they want in free agency and breeze through the season for the most part and the playoffs like Golden State did, going undefeated through the West playoffs. In the NFL, for example, their cap is set up where no one can spend big bucks every time and load up on big name talent like how it happens in the NBA, like how Golden State was able to sign Kevin Durant in free agency even though that team is already a powerhouse. The NBA should somehow make it so powerhouse teams cannot get even powerful and let the other teams get close to their level of playing.

History Denied! Cavs brought back to earth.

                As many people saw in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs showed no mercy to the Celtics and handed them their worst loss in the postseason in franchise history, 130-86, and lead by 41 points at the half, 71-30, which is an NBA playoff record. This postseason seemed like it would be a breeze for the Cavs after sweeping the firsbost 2 rounds and winning the first two games of the series against the Celtics. Coming into game 3, the Cavs were on a 13-game playoff winning streak going back to the Finals last year against the Warriors. That winning streak tied the 88-89 Lakers as the longest in playoff history. What made it worse, was that the leader for the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, was ruled out of the rest of the playoffs with a hip injury.

                After the 1st quarter in game 3 between the Cavs and Celtics, the Cavs took an 11-point lead and seemed like it was about to be another blowout and would give the Lebron led Cavs the playoff record for 14 games won in a row in the postseason. At half, it seemed like it was going to get bad as the lead ballooned to 16 points. Even as the lead grew to 21 in the 3rd quarter, something clicked inlebron the Celtics and they would go on an improbable run to get within 5 points at the end of the 3rd, they were lead by Marcus Smart who would make 7 3’s and score 27 points overall. Their passion/drive would continue into the 4th quarter and would win the game on an Avery Bradley last second 3 point shot to win the game 111-108! According to ESPN, before game 3, Lebron was 49-0 in the postseason when his team was leading by 20+ points. Now its 49-1! That goes to show that the Celtics were not going to lie down and take it like in game 2. ESPN also stated that Boston is the first team to win a playoff game following a 40+ point loss in the last 35 years.

                With this win, the Celtics pulled off the biggest upset in the playoffs in the last 20 years. They were 16.5 point underdogs coming into this game. In everyone’s mind, including mine, did not think that Boston could pull off this win, especially after the way game 2 played out and losing the heart and soul of their team in Isaiah Thomas. After how game 3 played out, you could say that even though their leader wasn’t playing anymore, everyone on that team would not give up and played with heart. The same way Isaiah did after his sister passed away right before the playoffs started. The biggest mystery of the game would be, where did Lebron James go. In this game he shot 4-13 for 11 points 6 rebounds 6 assists and the biggest shocker is he had 6 turnovers in this game. Coming into this game, he was averaging over 30 points in the playoffs. That could be a bad thing for the Celtics for the next game. He could go off on them, but we have to wait and see.

                Throughout the playoffs, the Celtics have been out there to prove that they deserved the #1 seed in the East, even though people thought they were the most overrated top seed ever. At points during the postseason, there were times that they did, but at others they looked like a team deserving of the top seed. This team will keep fighting until there is nothing else to fight for, whether they win the championshipecf2 or they lose against whomever. This team won’t stop believing that they deserve to be there. Even though this series will end with Cavs moving on, I truly believe that the Celtics are moving in the right direction to challenge Lebron’s team for the throne of the East. This franchise has come a long way in a short period of time since trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and thanks to the Nets in return, Boston gets the top pick in this years draft, which can help them get closer to Cleveland.

The importance of this next season

           This upcoming NFL season is a big one for the Washington Redskins’ organization.  Why, you might ask. Well, looking back in the history of this crazy franchise, the last time they had back to back winning years was ’96 and ’97 where the team also went cousinsa combined 17-14-1. Which is just cuckoo to think that it has been 20 years since they last had back to back winning years, but you have to look even farther back to see when they had 3 straight winning years. The last time they had 3 straight winning years was back from the ’90 to ’92 season where they went a combined 33-15 with one Super Bowl win.

           This coming season will be a big one for the coaching staff and the players, because they have to prove grudenthat they can compete consistently. In this century, the Redskins have made the playoffs only 4 times with only one win coming back in ’05 under Joe
Gibbs. No coach has lasted long in D.C. under Snyder. The longest tenured coaches under this ownership are Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan, both coached 4 years with the team. Now Coach Gruden is about to start his 4th year at the helm joining those two. This coaching staff needs to prove that they can lead this team deep into the playoffs or they will be shown the door like so many coaches before them.gibbs

            Not only is this season important for the coaches, but it is also important to Kirk Cousins. As many know, the Redskins franchise tagged him for a second straight year.  The starting QB must prove that he is worth a big payday with smart football next year and help lead the team to the playoffs again but also must lead them deep. He also has to be careful with the ball especially in big time moments. Kirk has the talent to lead this team, but can he harness it and be the elite QB after showing a few flashes of brilliance.

           The biggest part of the team that needs a good year would be the defense as a whole. This year the team is on their 3rd defensive coordinator in the last 8 years. The best year this defense had in that time period would be 2011 when they ranked 13th in the league at 339.8 ypg.  Every other year since 2010 the teams defense has been toward the bottom of the league.

Year       Defensive            Avg ypg

                         Rank                       Allowed

2016       28th                         357

2015       28th                         381

2014       19th                         357

2013       17th                         354

2012       28th                         378

2011       13th                         340

2010       31st                         389

 

          The offense has had to keep the team in the game the last few years, thanks to the defense’s poor performance. The last two years for the offense they have been ranked 3rd this past year at 403.4 ypg and in 2015 they were ranked 17th with 353.8 ypg.

          No matter what, this team faces one of the biggest years that they will ever face. If this team has another losing season, many people will be out of a job, and then the team will be rebuilding once again and fans will not come to the game.  In the game against the Chiefs a few years ago under Shanahan less than half of the stadium was filled. They must find the formula to winning consistently, or they will lose more fans and lose support and the most important thing, money.

What a March for the Gamecocks Men’s basketball team.

                 Just like most March’s, there is always that one surprise team who comes out of nowhere and makes a fantastic run throughout the tournament by beating some of the best teams in the field. This March was no different. Coming into the tournament, the Gamecocks of South Carolina were not given much of a chance to get very far through the tournament, especially with Duke most likely waiting in the second round if they did pass an offensive power in Marquette. Out of nowhere this basketball team, who basically limped into the tournament by going 3-6 in the final 9 games of the season including the conference tournament, and was believed to be over seeded, won and won impressively. The way this team played showed that they deserve to be there this year and possibly for years to come. gamecocks

                Throughout the tournament, this team embodied what their fierce coach, Frank Martin, preached, and that is defense. This team was one of the best defensive teams in the country during the regular season, but as the season went on, there were signs that the defense was starting to fade. This team’s defense was a major reason they could win at least 20 games for the second straight year, but when the defense was fading, this team couldn’t win much. The offense for the Gamecocks was mostly built through the defense, but the team took a hit when the defense slipped. So of course, no one would think a team like this would make a run like they did.

                This team got something to click coming into the tournament, where not only did their defense came back vigorously, but also their offense found life. Not only was the team lead by Frank Martin, they were also led by senior point guard, Sindarius Thornwell, who won the SEC player of the year. Through the first four games, Sindarius averaged more than 24 points a game and was big on the defense by disrupting plays and helped turn defense into offense. Thornwell fed off his coach’s fire throughout the tournament, and his teammates fed off him. Even though this team will lose Thornwell, as well as Duane Notice and Justin McKie, who are also seniors, it’s still loaded with talented players who could also lead this team after learning from the seniors.

                 thornwell This team was trying to become the first 7 seed to win a title since UCONN won it all back in the 2014 tournament. To put into perspective how impressive this run was for the team, this was only the 8th time that a team seeded 7th or lower has reached the Final Four since 2000, and out of the previous 7 times, only one team has managed to get back to the Final Four. All but one of the previous teams managed to get into some sort of postseason tournament, and out of the ten total teams who managed to get to the Final Four as a low seed, only half improved their record. The question is, can the Gamecocks beat the odds and get back to the Final Four or will history repeat and the Gamecocks either get knocked out early or miss it entirely.

                Sadly, as most runs end, so did the Gamecocks amazing run when they met up with the Bulldogs of Gonzaga in the Final Four. Even though they would not get passed Gonzaga, these tough and gritty Gamecocks did not give up and were so close to upsetting one of the best teams in the brackets. Although they would lose by 4 to the Bulldogs, they had a furious comeback when they were down by 14 at one point during the second half.

                This run through the tournament tells me that this team is moving in the right direction and will be back next year trying to recreate the magic that they had this time. The big question is, how close are they to really competing for a National Championship and being a big-time basketball program. The signs are there that show that they are moving in the right direction and that Coach Martin is the type of coach that will lead them there. Even if there is no championship for the men’s team, this is a successful season and a big step forward for the program in the eyes of many of the Gamecock faithful, who stayed during the losing and heartache in most of the decade.