Monday, April 30, 2018

Cavaliers put away Indiana-Win game and series

LeBron James battled through leg cramps and exhaustion to score 45 points and carry his Cleveland Cavaliers past the Indiana Pacers 105-101 in game seven of their Eastern Conference series and take a victory in the series four games to three.
The victory lifts the Cavaliers to the Eastern semi-finals against the top seed in the East-the Toronto Raptors.
Game one is in Toronto on Tuesday.
No promises on coverage as I will be away during the game.

Swashbucklings

1) LeBron James not only accumulated his stats against Indiana, he fought through the above problems that sent him to the locker room for a tenure.
James also had nine boards and seven assists and certainly would have had a triple-double had he not been forced to leave the game.
James has literally tossed this team on his back, the bigger question is how far can he carry them?

2) I may be thinking of a hopeful bias here, but I think yesterday might give the Cavaliers a hint of hope that LeBron James might return.
LeBron had every chance to pack it in yesterday (like he arguably did in Boston before he left for Miami) and yet he continued to push through the pain.
I'm not saying that I KNOW he's is staying, but he had a chance to spit out the bit and he didn't.
I just have a feeling he's going to stay.

3) Tristan Thompson has had a bad year and rarely saw the court in this series, but Tyronn Lue took a chance and not only started Thompson, but played him 35 minutes.
Thompson rewarded Lue with 15 points and 10 boards in an inspired performance.
Thompson is always going to be overpaid and he may be a player that's time has passed with the evolution of the game, but on occasion might pop out and give some value as an energy player.

4) Kevin Love's shooting woes continued to a degree with a 5 for 13 shooting afternoon.
However, Love was 4 of 8 from three-point range, so that is a positive to take away from this game.
The answer to Love's problems might be as simple as letting him be aggressive and try to shoot his way out of them- as risky as that could be.

5) Kyle Korver scored just three points, but his biggest play came late in the game when Korver passed up a reasonably open three to run a give and go with LeBron James for the basket that essentially broke the back of the Pacers.
Korver's never been known as an ace passer, but he has a high level of trust with James and saw that was an open option.

6) Glad this series is over. The uniforms are just too similar to see on television and it's easy to become confused.

7) SO... Onto Toronto and after a series that was tougher than expected against a Pacers team that isn't anything special, it is the top-seeded Raptors that await.
The stats show DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as the keys, but keep an eye on Jonas Valanciunas in this season.
Valanciunas averaged around 13 points and 9 boards and down low is going to be a force against the Cavaliers lighter post players- Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr, and Kevin Love.
Is it possible that we see some very limited action from Kendrick Perkins to pound on Valanciunas a bit in an attempt to slow him and help the Cavaliers quicker, but smaller defenders?

8) LeBron James is tired and it's asking him a lot to carry this team out of the East, let alone to a title.
If that has a slim chance of happening, Cleveland is going to have to end a series in fewer games at least once in order to save some mileage on the legs.
Toronto's the top seed, but again just a hunch- but this might be the chance for the Cavaliers to do that.
Call it an upset special- Cleveland in 6





Sunday, April 29, 2018

Boxing Challenge-Dogboe dethrones Magdaleno, Jacobs squeaks by Sulecki

The boxing challenge finished the weekend with some fights that were interesting on paper and entertaining in the ring.

Top Rank put a strong card on ESPN with two challenge fights and a third that I should have had in the challenge, but I just missed it on the schedule.

The main event was the fight of the weekend and unveiled a new star in boxing as Ghana's Issac Dogboe stopped Jessie Magdaleno in the eleventh round in Philadelphia to take away Magdaleno's WBO junior bantamweight title.
Magdaleno started fast with a knockdown in round one and won the first four rounds on my card before Dogboe dropped the champion in the fifth,
The knockdown turned the tide for the challenge, who would not lose another round on my card and put Magdaleno down in the eleventh before the fight was stopped. I had Dogboe ahead entering the eleventh 95-93 and he looks to have a bright future after such an exciting fight.
Magdaleno loses little status in defeat and is expected to move to a loaded featherweight division in his next fight.

Bryant Jennings won a unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko in an all-Philadelphia heavyweight fight that had a few bits of action but generally was nothing special.
I had Jennings winning 97-93 and Jennings needs to step up his competition as he has faced second and third-tier opponents since being stopped by Luis Ortiz in December 2015.

In a notable bout that was on the telecast and should have been in the challenge, Jesse Hart knocked out Demond Nicholson in the seventh round in a super middleweight fight.
Hart is still the WBO's number one contender to Gilberto Ramirez for a rematch of their terrific fight last year in which Ramirez won a unanimous decision.

On HBO, Daniel Jacobs knocked down Macjej Sulecki in the twelfth round on his way to a unanimous decision victory in Brooklyn.
I had Jacobs winning due to the knockdown 114-113, but the scorecards were predictably wider in favor of the hometown fighter.
Jacobs didn't look great against Sulecki, a natural 154 pounder, but he did enough to earn the victory and become a mandatory for Gennady Golovkin, who now has 4 (The WBA has two thanks to their bringing back their ridiculous "regular" title back when they could have been finished with it when Golovkin defeated Jacobs) mandatory contenders with a combined 2 wins over top ten opponents at the weight- Jacobs WBA ( 1 Peter Quillin), Ryota Murata WBA "Regular Champ: ( 0 although he does own a win over Hassan N'Dam, who was one at one time, but well faded when Murata faced him), Sergey Dereyvanchenko IBF (Arguably one over Tureano Johnson, who could be argued to be around the bottom of the top ten) and Jermall Charlo WBC (0).
All would make an intriguing opponent for Golovkin, but we just don't know for sure what they will bring to such a bout because of such weak opposition and with all guaranteed a future bout with Triple G, none will risk their title shot (and I can understand why they wouldn't) against a legitimate threat.
Still, just wishing here- wouldn't you love a four fighter mini-tournament among those four?
Jacobs-Charlo for this made-up "King of Brooklyn" thing that seems more important to Jacobs than fighting solid natural middleweights and Dereyvanchenko-Murata in what would be a straight-ahead war with the winners facing off with two excellent wins for their Golovkin shot.
Ah, boxing...
As for Sulecki, I'd like to see more from him after a strong effort and see him back at junior middleweight against Jarrett Hurd or Jermell Charlo for their titles.

Jarrell Miller defeated trialhorse Johan Duhaupas in the opener with a lopsided unanimous decision in a heavyweight fight,
The 300 plus pound Miller won 119-109 on my card and only the strong chin of the Frenchman Duhaupas allowed him to go the distance.
Miller is rumored to be the likely opponent for the American debut of Anthony Joshua for his three titles this summer.

In the boxing challenge, I earned five points to Ramon Malpica's four to extend my lead in the boxing challenge to 75-61.

I gained points from Daniel Jacobs (2), Jarrell Miller (2) and Bryant Jennings (1) while Ramon added points from Jennings (2), Jacobs (1) and Miller (1).
Both Ramon and I selected Jessie Magdaleno to defeat Issac Dogboe.



Browns finish up draft

The Cleveland Browns finished up their draft day early with three picks, one in round five and the final two in the sixth round.

I absolutely love the Browns selection in round five of Memphis linebacker Genard Avery.
I watched more American Athletic Conference football than any conference this year other than the Big Ten (Maybe the Pac 12 was close) and Avery ranked behind Houston's Ed Oliver (No Kidding, right?) as the defensive player in the league that just seemed to be all over the place running down ballcarriers as the proverbial man among boys.
Avery is physical, likes to hit, can play inside or outside linebacker (although I think he is better suited to the inside), can rush the passer and isn't awful in coverage in addition to being a strong special teams player.
So why was he available in the fifth round?
Frankly, I don't know because I had him pegged as more of a 3rd-4th round player and sometimes players fall through the cracks.
Had you told me Friday that the Browns had taken Genard Avery in the 3rd round where they took Chad Thomas, I would have likely had a better reaction than I did for Thomas
I watched a lot of Boise State games and saw a lot of Dallas first rounder Leighton Vander Esch and from the more limited games that I saw Avery in (I see almost all Boise games, I watched maybe four or five Memphis games), I didn't see much difference in the two except Vander Esch is four inches taller and a handful of pounds heavier with Avery being a little faster.
I'm really happy with this pick and I might even go as far to say that Avery might be a starter as early as 2019.


In the sixth round, the Browns added another receiver in Texas A&M's Damion Ratley.
Ratley is big (6'2) and fast (Faster than his teammate Christian Kirk, who was taken off the board in round two), so he is very toolsy.
The problem is that as an Aggie, he was pretty much a one trick pony as in- "go deep and if we throw it to you- catch it", so route running will be something that Ratley will need to work on.
The rap on Ratley apparently was that Ratley doesn't block well, doesn't like physical corners and doesn't always hustle on special teams.
Considering that most backup wideouts have to help make special teams work part of their profession, Ratley will have to change that in a hurry to make the Browns final roster.
I had two players that I preferred to Ratley in the super-productive Cedric Wilson of Boise State (Picked by Dallas in the sixth round) and Steven Dunbar of Houston (Free agent-49ers), but I could have a bias because I watched so many of their games over their career.
Still, Ratley will have a rough time making this roster.


The Browns final pick is a player that I know very little about in Simeon Thomas, a cornerback from
Louisiana-Lafayette.
Thomas looks like what you would think a player from the smallest of the group of five conferences would be if you took a chance on him- he's big for a corner at 6'2 and 197 and he's athletic with strong leaping ability.
However, Thomas played just one full season in his four years at ULL, had academic issues and was involved in a theft with 13 other football players, so there are questions with Thomas.
I've never seen him play and there is next to nothing on Thomas as far as tape goes, so he's an unknown quantity.
I will say this though if the Browns were going to take a cornerback with off the field questions and with plenty of physical ability, I really liked the tape of Holton Hill of Texas, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent.
Hill's problems clearly scared teams off, but if the Browns weren't bothered by those issues of Thomas (or Antonio Callaway's for that matter), I'm not sure why they would be concerned by those of Hill.


I'll have a Browns draft recap sometime soon, but we still have today's Cavaliers game, a bloated inbox and road trip stories to write, so a Browns recap may wait a little bit...



Saturday, April 28, 2018

Browns roll the dice with Antonio Callaway-Day Three

I was trying to sleep (not all that successfully) and woke up having missed the fourth round of the NFL Draft.

I was surprised to see the Cleveland Browns make a move up into the fourth round to gamble on the off-field issue plagued wide receiver Antonio Callaway of Florida.
The cost was reasonable, shipping the sixth-rounder obtained from Indianapolis last night to New England to move up in the fourth round,

Antonio Callaway on pure football talent ranks with the two receivers (D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley) chosen in the first round.
Callaway has no questions about his hands, his speed or route running and he scored touchdowns for the Gators via the rush, pass, reception and kick and punt returns- with the ball in his hands, Callaway is dynamic.
If his head is on straight, Callaway could be an impact player for the Browns.

However, this is where he becomes a question mark- Callaway missed all of 2017 in Gainesville for using stolen credit card information to buy things at the student bookstore and that comes after previous issues with sexual assault (cleared when the victim did not show at a hearing) and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Not exactly a resume' of a solid citizen and not one that you would think would be part of a "culture change" either for a Cleveland team that gave the definition of a 'safe' draft during the first two days.
John Dorsey took a chance in Kansas City with a similarly talented and troubled player in Tyreek Hill and was rewarded with a tremendous career so far from Hill, so Dorsey is not adverse to trying to give a player with a past record an opportunity provided that he has the talent that is to make giving him that opportunity a high reward for the team.

I'm normally a person that doesn't want players with off the field issues on the team.
I still believe that we should want players to represent the city etc without these issues and looking at the other three teams in the division, each of those teams have players that I wouldn't want for those reasons alone.
You know what else those three teams do that the Browns usually don't- win football games.
We may have reached the point in the league where in order to win occasionally you need to take some risks as far as attitude and issues and as sad as it is, might be almost mandatory to do these things on occasion.

As long as Antonio Callaway can keep on the right path, his talent makes this worth the risk, but I would make sure that Callaway knows that there is a short leash in Cleveland and any problems would mean dismissal.
Assuming all of that is the case, I reluctantly approve of taking the chance.

I'll be back tonight with the other picks and tonight's boxing challenge.


Browns draft Nick Chubb and Chad Thomas

The Cleveland Browns completed their day two picks with a second rounder and a trade down that added an extra third-day choice.

Two picks after the Browns selected Austin Corbett, Cleveland was on the clock again with the pick acquired from Houston last year on draft day in return for eating the cash on the contract of Brock Osweiler.
Entering the round, I noted earlier that the offensive lineman that I wanted was Connor Williams of Texas, but with the selection of Austin Corbett, I figured the need for an offensive lineman had disappeared.
I had hoped for Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, but if the team tabbed a running back, my top choices were LSU's Derrius Guice and USC's Ronald Jones.

The Browns would take a runner and even one that I liked in Georgia's Nick Chubb.
Chubb was one of the best backs in the game, but despite rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2016 and 2017, Chubb still doesn't seem to be the same back since a devastating knee injury suffered in 2015 when he ranked with Penn State's Saquon Barkley as the best freshman running back.
Chubb has been healthy the last two years and that tells me either A) he is pretty much what he is or B) he still might have some room to gain back some of what he has lost.
Either way the Browns have themselves a pretty solid back.
My issue with Chubb compared to Jones or Guice ( who fell drastically down the board after some off the field questions) is that he is pretty similar in style to Carlos Hyde.
Now to the Browns, that might be a good thing as they could rotate Hyde and Chubb and not have any variations in the type of back that they have in the lineup.
I would rather have gone in a different direction and rather had a back that did some different things to join a bruising runner in Hyde and the pass-catching multi-dimensional back in Duke Johnson to add another option to the offense.
None of that is meant to disparage Chubb's ability at all, he's an excellent back that runs very well between the tackles, doesn't go down at first contact and runs with toughness.
Chubb isn't going to round the corner often and he doesn't have the agility that he did before the injury, but he still is going to be a solid back and likely a fan favorite with his hard-nosed manner of running.


The Browns had the final pick of the second round that was the final piece in the Carson Wentz trade from the Eagles to wrap the final tally for the Browns from that trade.
That will have to wait until today as the Browns traded the pick to the Colts (the Colts picked Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis) for the Colts third rounder and a sixth rounder.
In laymen's terms, the Browns added a sixth for dropping three spots.

I was hoping here that Cleveland would take another Buckeye in the high motor defensive end Sam Hubbard (Hubbard would go later in the third round to the Bengals), who some had projected to possibly be a late first-round pick.
Yet again, the Browns addressed the position, but not the player as Cleveland selected Miami defensive end, Chad Thomas.
Thomas is 6'5 and 275 and has an impressive wingspan that you would think would be a pass rusher.
Instead, Thomas is a better run defender than a pass rusher and can occasionally be spotted against guards as a defensive tackle.
His versatility to move along the line is his major calling card and looks to be more of a jack of all trades and a rotational lineman more than an eventual starter.
For the first time (even more than Baker Mayfield), I think the Browns dropped the ball here with the selection of Thomas over Hubbard.
Hubbard would have added a hustle pass rush, added more of the "attitude" that the Browns claim to want so badly and Hubbard wound up inside the division with the Bengals, which makes it even worse.
I think this was an overdraft and the first one that I really wonder about what they were thinking.
Baker Mayfield was an overdraft in my opinion too, but I understood their thinking even though I disagree with the evaluation, but Thomas over Hubbard is a head-scratcher to me.

I'll be back later with the day three recap.
Depending on if I am out of bed early, I may do a single post on the fourth round selection (Packers) and another one with the remaining selections from the fifth round (Packers) and three sixth-rounders (Their own, Colts and Redskins).



Browns draft Austin Corbett-Round 2

I decided to watch day two of the draft with the Cavaliers and used the picture in picture feature, so I wasn't watching game six of their series vs Indiana as closely as usual.
Indiana pounded the Cavaliers by 34 points to force game seven on Sunday in Cleveland.
So, that's why no Cavalier coverage tonight and instead will write about the three newest Browns.

With the first pick in the second round, I was hoping that the Browns would go offensive line with one of their two picks (33 and 35) and the player that I was hoping was the choice was Connor Williams of Texas.
I believe that had Williams not been injured early in the season, Williams would have been in the top 15 and might have been the first tackle taken off the board.

John Dorsey and the Browns didn't go my way as far as player, but they did address the offensive line with Nevada's Austin Corbett.
I was dismayed at first about not taking Williams (Williams would go later in the round to the Dallas Cowboys),but the more I think about Corbett (who I figured would be a late second to third rounder), I don't think it's a bad pick, although I still prefer drafting Williams.

The 6'4 306 pound Corbett was announced as a guard, although he played tackle for Nevada and I think that the Browns have to be thinking about Corbett challenging Shon Coleman to be the replacement for Joe Thomas at left tackle.
Considering the Browns have Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler at guard at a considerable amount of money, I can't believe the Browns used a pick of this value to provide depth at guard- I would highly suspect that he was drafted to be a tackle.
Corbett replaced current Browns starter Joel Bitonio at Nevada and if Corbett is able to be on the level of Bitonio, then the Browns have a winner.
Corbett looks to be light enough on his feet to play tackle and looks pretty similar to Bitonio, who
has been one of the few draft picks to become a standout over the last few years
.

One of the frustrating things about being a Browns fan and writing about the team around the draft period is looking at the team when they draft at a position and take a player that you had lower than an available player.
What's even more frustrating is that I have a better hit rating than the Browns in this situation.
In four of the Browns first five picks in this draft, (Denzel Ward was the exception), this occurred as follows- the team's pick is listed first and mine second.
Baker Mayfield vs Sam Darnold
Connor Williams vs Austin Corbett
Nick Chubb vs Ronald Jones/Derrius Guice
Chad Thomas vs Sam Hubbard.
It'll be interesting to check back in two or three years and see who is correct more often.
If it is me (especially with Baker Mayfield) the Browns aren't going to be better off than they are now/

Friday, April 27, 2018

Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge features four fights with two networks going head to head on the evening.

ESPN has the better fight going in, although they don't have the biggest name on the weekend as Jessie Magdaleno defends his WBO junior featherweight title against Issac Dogboe of Ghana.
Magdaleno won his title in November 2016 by a hair over Nonito Donaire in a great fight but has fought just once since
Magdaleno faces a stern test in his mandatory challenger in Dogboe, who earned the title shot with a very impressive fifth-round knockout of Cesar Juarez
This bout is a toss up fight to me and style-wise should result in a good battle
The co-feature pits heavyweights Bryant Jennings and Joey Dawejko against each other in an all-Philadelphia battle.
Jennings is the more proven fighter and the better known, but these fights between fighters from the same area often are like college football rivalries and the old cliche' "throw the records out the door" applies.
Dawejko doesn't have a signature win, but he does have the only blemish on Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller's record with a draw early in their career.

In New York, HBO has a disappointing two-fight card led by the biggest name of the weekend in middleweight Daniel Jacobs, who will attempt to be a mandatory contender for Gennady Golovkin with a win over Macjej Sulecki.
I didn't think Jacobs looked great in his win over Luis Arias in his first fight post-Golovkin, but much of that was the less than combative Arias.
Sulecki is undefeated, holds wins over fringe contenders Hugo Centeno and Jack Culcay, but is a true junior middleweight and will likely have to deal with Jacobs weight advantage during the bout as Jacobs loves to balloon up far more than most fighters do after the weigh-in.

The aforementioned Jarrell Miller opens the card against Johan Duhaupas of France.
Duhaupas is a trialhorse and is essentially a showcase opponent for Miller, who is rumored to possibly be the next opponent for Anthony Joshua.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 70-57.

WBO Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Jessie Magdaleno vs Issac Dogboe
Both: Magdaleno Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights.10 Rds
Bryant Jennings vs Joey Dawejko
R.L: Jennings Unanimous Decision
TRS: Jennings KO 8

Middleweights 12 Rds
Daniel Jacobs vs Macjej Sulecki
R.L:Jacobs KO 6
TRS: Jacobs Unanimous Decision

Heavyweights. 12 Rds
Jarrell Miller vs Johan Duhaupas
R.L: Miller KO 4
TRS: Miller Unanimous Decision

Browns draft Denzel Ward

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns may have disappointed me a little (Much like you would be disappointed when your car falls on top of you) at one with the selection of Baker Mayfield, but I was reasonably happy at the fourth slot when the Browns selected a Buckeye in cornerback Denzel Ward.
The drafting of Ward at 4 is the highest for a cornerback since Charles Woodson in 1998.


I would say reasonably happy because even though I had Ward rated as my top cornerback and top player period among players in the secondary, I still would have taken Bradley Chubb of N.C.State and let Chubb and Myles Garrett rampage through offensive lines that couldn't afford to double-team both players.
I would have selected Chubb, but that's not a bad reflection on Ward at all.
I just would have rather had the best pass rusher than the best cornerback, but let's look at Ward and being a Buckeye, you know I've seen every game that he has played.

Ward is fast and athletic with the ability to play either man to man or zone so Ward won't be a cornerback that is wedded to a particular defensive scheme.
What I really like about Denzel Ward is his ball skills and has excellent hands for a corner, which is not very often written.
After all, one of the old standard statements is that cornerbacks are often wide receivers with bad hands.
The only knocks on Ward are that he's not the biggest corner at 5'10 185 and can be pushed off the ball by the bigger wide receivers.
Some of that can be helped with just growing and getting stronger, but those are minor issues.

Ohio State continues to pump out NFL caliber players in the secondary and you can look back to just last year when Marshon Lattimore won defensive rookie of the year for the Saints.
I rated Lattimore a little higher last year than I had Ward this year, but Ward is projected to be an elite cornerback.

The second round is today and the Browns have two of the top three picks.
There are some excellent players available for them.
My top rated offensive tackle is still on the board in Connor Williams of Texas and my second rated runner slid a bit in Derrius Guice of LSU.
If that is the pair that the Browns land with those picks, I'll feel a little better about the draft so far.
Nothing is going to make me feel great about Baker Mayfield, but hitting on the day two picks will make me feel a bit less sick about things.
I like Josh Jackson, a corner from Iowa a lot, but are the Browns willing to take another cornerback that high after taking Denzel Ward?
Mike Gesicki of Penn State could be an impact player at tight end and even though the Browns took David Njoku in the first round last year, Gesicki is a first round talent and I think he could be a super player.
I noted yesterday that I liked Courtland Sutton, the wideout from SMU and he is still available as is Anthony Miller of Memphis.

I would go Williams/Gesicki if both are available at 33/35 and as much as I like Guice, there are several solid backs on the board (Most notably Ronald Jones.Kerryon Johnson and Nick Chubb) that one of those could be available with the Eagles pick at the end of the round.

I still have so much to do here with the review of the last trip and the bursting at the seams inbox, but hang in there, we'll get caught up soon!



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Browns tab Baker Mayfield, why I'm just sick and why I may be moving on.

I'm in the five stages right now.
I just cannot believe I've put so much hope, excitement, research work and yes even faith in John Dorsey and came up with Baker Mayfield.

I watched 31 losses in 32 games and I received Baker Mayfield.
It feels like those old gimmicky t-shirts "Mom and Dad went to X and All I got was this lousy t-shirt".

I paid numerous dollars over the last 13 years for Sunday Ticket and I received Baker Mayfield.

I read so many things like Baker Mayfield's a "winner", wants the "Challenge" of Cleveland, arm strength, and competitiveness and wonder some things.
As I ponder this, some things come to mind and I come up with a comparison with a Browns quarterback of the past and it's not the one that you will expect.

Baker's a winner: Baker won a lot of games, but he didn't win 45 of them.
Every year, there is a player coming into the draft that won a lot of games in college, was fun to watch and some had compelling personalities.
And with one exception (Tim Tebow), those guys slide into late day two and day three and find themselves as clipboard carriers and career backups.
Fans fail to realize that even the best college defenses might have 4 guys that play in the NFL and the speed of the NFL game soon overwhelms these "gutty winners" and puts them where they should be
"Great college players that just weren't NFL starters".
No shame in that, but Baker Mayfield and his crew have risen above that as they have crafted a narrative that has lifted a day two talent into the first pick in the draft.
I was always a big fan of Kellen Moore, who fit that mold as a "winner" etc and as a backup, Moore was a great guy to have on the team, but when forced into action, the speed of the game was beyond what he could do athletically and he was unsuccessful.

Baker's teammates loved playing for him.
That very well could be, but this leadership magnetism only goes as far as your won/loss record, which at Oklahoma is easy to roll up with superior talent and won't be the case in the NFL.

Arm strength- Mayfield is an average armed passer, I wouldn't rate him as a noodle arm like some Browns QB's, but not the type of power arm that you hope to have in a guaranteed eleven games in a cold weather climate based division.
Mayfield seems to be the opposite of what you would want in Cleveland as far arm strength and getting the ball downfield to guys like Josh Gordon, who will have some of the best qualities of his game nullified.

The off the field issues weren't a problem with the comparison I'll make shortly, but Mayfield's swagger and attitude extend off the field as well with various problems and brings drama to a franchise that was supposedly trying to avoid it.

Baker Mayfield isn't Johnny Manziel.
He's Colt McCoy with off-field baggage.
College winner in a defensively challenged conference with all the trimmings for college success.
Lacking the size, stature and arm strength to succeed in a division that plays in cold and wind, Colt McCoy became a backup and that's where I see Baker Mayfield over the long haul.
Unable to move around the better athletes in the NFL and unable to throw the long ball through the wind, McCoy/Mayfield became a dink and dunker with defenses daring him to throw long.
Combine that both players have fathers that certainly aren't afraid to comment and stick their opinions into the team and I believe that Colt McCoy (on the field) is the better comparison to Baker Mayfield.
The difference is the Browns wasted the top overall pick on Mayfield, McCoy was a third rounder.

In the end, this might be it.
I relied on John Dorsey to do the right thing and he gave me Baker Mayfield in the most elaborate con game that has ever been played in the NFL draft.
From the cocky act to the reality show to the comments of being the best player in the draft, Team Mayfield chiseled a narrative to get Mayfield as high in the draft as they could (nothing wrong with that, mind you) because they know.
What they know that the Browns and some observers don't is that much of this is an act.
More sizzle than steak and what they really know is this- it's made for the short-term in order to get as large of a contract as possible (Slot money) before he becomes exposed as what he is- an undersized average armed backup that has used charisma to charm a certain demographic.
John Dorsey might have been conned. I'm not.

I relied on football people to do the right thing.
They didn't and maybe I've had enough...


Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest-Part Two

The defensive persons of interest have to start with N.C State defensive end Bradley Chubb.
Chubb plays with a high motor and is clearly the top pass rusher in the draft.
If the Browns draft Chubb, they should be able to put some serious heat on opposing quarterbacks with Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah and raises their pass rush to the elite level.
If the Browns would miss out on Chubb either by someone else taking him or passing on him, Sam Hubbard of Ohio State could be a consideration either as a first-round trade-in or with one of the second rounders.
I love the talent and speed of Marcus Davenport of UTSA and he might turn out to be as good as Chubb, but the lesser competition is a small concern.
A year or two of strong coaching might make Davenport and eventual all-pro level player.
I'm not sure if the Browns will take a defensive tackle, but I'm a big fan of two players.
I really like Du'Ron Payne of Alabama, who I think will be that defensive tackle rarity- the three-down defensive tackle that is able to generate an inside pass rush.
USC's Rasheem Green isn't as wide as you would hope from an interior lineman, but his speed and pass rushing skills make him a player that you could rotate in and out at both tackle and end.
I like the potential of Virginia Tech's Tim Settle and Georgia's Trenton Thompson reminds me of one of those linemen that are a little undersized and yet all they do is hustle all over the field and play in the league for ten years.

The Browns might use a day three pick on a linebacker,so I'm going to focus there.
For the record, I'm really a big fan of Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State because I've seen him play so much but he'll go before the Browns are likely to pick one.
My favorite third-day hopeful? Josey Jewell of Iowa, who reminds me of Christian Kirksey and might develop into that type of player.
Jewell should at least be a special teams demon.

In the secondary, I have Ohio State's Denzel Ward as my top corner and should the Browns trade down from four, I think Ward is a consideration.
I think Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama might wind up as a tweener, not a true cornerback or a safety.
Fitzpatrick is more of a 15-20 player on my board rather than the top five player that he was graded as many entering the draft.
I loved Desmond King of Iowa as a corner/ballhawk last year and he produced a huge rookie year for the Chargers-I think Josh Jackson of the same school brings similar skills and is faster.
Jackson will go earlier than King did so he could be a second-round consideration.
A corner with the talent to be a second-day pick that shouldn't go before the final day is Texas Longhorn Holton Hill, who will fall due to off-field issues.
Hill might be worth a flier in the sixth or seventh round.
My highest rated safety is Florida State's Derwin James, who I think will enter the league as my favorite to win defensive rookie of the year.
James will go in the latter part of the top ten and some team is going to be quite fortunate.

This is an important draft for the Browns and I cannot believe that they will throw away all the goodwill that the new front office has earned on Baker Mayfield.
Here is hoping that the people in Berea are smart enough to not to suckered in by a con man.
See you tonight with lots of thoughts on the Browns selections.

Cleveland Browns-Persons of Interest

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
The Persons of Interest series won't be as detailed as usual, mainly because of the number of items to write about (the inbox keeps getting larger and larger every day), but I did want to make a list of a few players so I can look back in a few years and see how much that I was right and wrong about.

This is the year that the Cleveland Browns will finally go quarterback and there are a few that I like a lot.
Of course, this really boils down to this-I would be happy ( in various degrees) with any of four quarterbacks and only have a distaste for one of them.
Being a Browns fan means that you worry that one guy will be the choice and this year Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma is in the rumor mill as a possible choice.
I'm not crazy about a six foot, not great athletically, slightly above average armed spread option quarterback as my choice as my first rounder at first overall in the draft!
My passer of choice would be USC's, Sam Darnold, who I've liked since I saw him as a freshman.
I think he's the most rounded of the quarterbacks and I'm not dissuaded by the turnover rap from last season with the Trojans.
I watched a lot of his games and his line was atrocious, so I'm convinced that Darnold was not to blame.
I like UCLA's Josh Rosen and he throws the best ball, but I am concerned about a concussion history.
Wyoming's Josh Allen has all the tools and might be John Elway if all goes well.
I can also see him being Derek Anderson, so Allen is the definition of High-Risk High Reward.
I like Louisville's Lamar Jackson more than some observers do, but I'd wonder about him with the Browns two first rounders.
Browns fans would go nuts with picks at 1 and 4 and not picking a QB, but I wouldn't be completely against picks there and a trade back into round one-if I knew I could land Jackson. 

At running back, I like Saquon Barkley of Penn State a lot, but I don't have him rated higher than Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley when they came out.
Barkley's the best back in this draft, but I'm not sure I buy that he's a once in a generation back.
I also like several other backs in the day two range- Derrius Guice of LSU, the Georgia pair of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb bring different skills with Michel being more of a pass catcher with good running skills and Chubb more of a piledriving back.
I like Ronald Jones of USC a lot, but he needs to get stronger to break tackles in the NFL. 
I wouldn't be against a day three shot at Alabama's Bo Scarborough, who didn't play as well in 2017 as he did in 2016.

The wide receivers aren't as strong this draft with Calvin Ridley of Alabama being the best on my board, but even Ridley isn't quite top ten caliber.
I like D.J. Moore of Maryland and Anthony Miller of Memphis, but they are more slot receivers on a team that just traded for Jarvis Landry.
D.J. Clark of LSU has all the tools to be a huge vertical threat and could be a huge star if he develops his route running.
I've always been a fan of SMU's Courtland Sutton, who might not be a number one receiver, but could be a very productive number two opposite a good number one.
My deep sleeper is Houston's Steven Dunbar, who I've always thought reminded me a little of Marques Colston.

Three tight ends stand out over the rest and I'd love to have one, but will the Browns draft a tight end high after David Njoku's first round selection last season?
Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State has all the physical tools, but has the small school rap, Mike Gesecki of Penn State is going to be a red zone nightmare for defenses and South Carolina's Hayden Hurst is still learning after spending a few years in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

Most people have Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey as their top tackle and I'm high on him, but my top tackle is Texas lineman Connor Williams, who entered last season as a potential top five pick before injuries ruined his 2017.
Williams would be the replacement for Joe Thomas and I'd consider moving back into the first round for him, should the price be reasonable. McGlinchey would also be a option in the same scenario.
UCLA's Kolton Miller and Oregon's Tyrell Crosby are talented tackles that need refinement and might be nice day two considerations in the event that the Browns cannot move up.

Notre Dame's Quentin Nelson is clearly the top overall lineman in the draft and only the rule of not picking a guard in the top five keeps Nelson from going in those slots.
Nelson's that good.
I don't see the Browns going guard or center as the only need on the line is at tackle.

I'm going to try to return later with a persons of interest on the defensive side,if I have the time..

LeBron steps up! Cavs pop Pacers at the buzzer!

The Cleveland Cavaliers had frittered away another lead to the Indiana Pacers by not making a shot from the floor since the 7:19 mark and a turnover with 26 seconds to go gave Indiana the ball and the opportunity to lead with mere ticks of the clock remaining in the game.

However, Indiana didn't have the best player in the world on their side and he decided to take over and make sure that his side was taking game five home.
LeBron James raced by to block the reserve layup of Victor Oladipo and called timeout with three seconds remaining to set up the movie-like ending as James took the ball on the inbounds pass and drained the long three-pointer for the game-winner by a 98-95 score at the Quicken Loans Arena.
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists with Kyle Korver adding 19 points as the second highest scorer.
Cleveland can polish off the Pacers Friday in Indianapolis with a win on the road.

Swashbucklings

1) You want to know why LeBron James is the best player in the world?
It's because he plays the total game.
Stephen Curry is a better pure shooter, Kevin Durant is likely a superior scorer and there are a few players that are slightly better defenders, but none of those gentlemen are elite at all facets of the game and do what LeBron James does every night and perform like he does logging 40+ minutes every night.

2) I've always said that I hate to define the best basketball player ever because the positions are so different- playing the low post, running the point, the athleticism playing the 3 or 4 and the shooting of the off guard that it's very difficult to weigh players that do such different things on the floor.
However, I think a real case can be made that of the elite players of all-time that would be in the conversation of the best player ever, LeBron James might have the best case as the most versatile of those players and therefore maybe the best/

3) LeBron James blocking Victor Oladipo might mean nothing in the big scheme depending on if and when the Cavaliers leave the postseason and if James leaves via free agency after the season, but that is the type of hustle play that great players make.
The Pacers and Oladipo may want to claim the play was a goaltend (arguable), but watch the replay closely Oladipo doesn't go up strong with the ball and the short time that it took for Oladipo to go the reverse route gave James a split second to catch up and make the block.
Oladipo might have more to blame himself with than a close call.

4) And we move to the three, which was on the same end of the same floor that James defeated the Orlando Magic in the playoffs years ago.
Straight out of the films, James drilled his only three-pointer of the night and it looked good from the moment it rolled off his fingers.
Thaddeus Young played decent enough defense, it was not a wide open look, but it was enough of a look to send the Pacers home with a loss.

5) George Hill missed the game with a back injury, so Jose Calderon ran the point.
Calderon hit two three-pointers, but what he brings is different from what Hill or any other Cavalier at the point this season.
Calderon brings what observers always call the "little things" or the "intangibles" and plays under control with a calmness that only floor burnt veterans possess.
Calderon may not have the quickness to defend young and quicker guards on the point anymore as he did in his salad days in Toronto with the Raptors, but in limited playing time, I like seeing him on the floor.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

TRS Boxing Ratings-Part Two

Part two of the TRS boxing ratings features the lightweight division and under along with the top 10 pound for pound as well.
Thanks as always to Ramon Malpica and Vincent Samano for their help.

Please keep in mind that Mikey Garcia has vacated his IBF junior welterweight title in order to keep his WBC lightweight title.
Garcia will be rated in both divisions in this cycle, but will not be rated at 140 pounds in the next ratings in July.
Garcia had announced his intention to stay at 140 before Vince Samano sent in his votes, so Vince didn't have Garcia rated at 135, so that is the reason Garcia dropped, at least I would imagine.
Three other vacancies have occurred since the last ratings.
Luis Nery missed weight before his rematch vs Shinsuke Yamanaka and lost his WBC bantamweight belt on the scales, Naoya Inoue vacated his WBO title at junior bantamweight and Donnie Nietes relinquished his IBF flyweight title.
They will be rated in their old division this period and removed from those divisions in July.

Lightweights
1) Jorge Linares WBA Champ 13 Pts (Up One)
2) Mikey Garcia WBC Champ 10 Pts (Down One)
    Robert Easter IBF Champ (Up One)
4) Richard Commey 5 Pts (Unranked)
5) Ray Beltran WBO Champ 2 Pts
Also Received Votes: Dejan Zlatcanin

Junior Lightweights
1) Vasyl Lomachenko WBO Champ 15 Pts
2) Miguel Berchelt WBC Champ 12 Pts
3) Gervonta Davis 8 Pts
4) Alberto Machado WBA Champ 7 Pts (Down One)
5) Jezreel Corrales 2 Pts
Also Received Votes: Francisco Vargas

Featherweights
1) Leo Santa Cruz WBA Champ 15 Pts
2) Oscar Valdez WBO Champ 12 Pts (Up One)
3) Carl Frampton 9 Pts (Down One)
4) Gary Russell WBC Champ 5 Pts
5) Abner Mares 4 Pts

Junior Featherweights
1) Guillermo Rigondeaux 14 Pts
2) Rey Vargas WBC Champ 13 Pts (Up One)
3) Jesse Magdaleno WBO Champ 9 Pts (Down One)
4) Danny Roman WBA Champ 4 Pts
5) Moises Flores 3 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes: Issac Dogboe

Bantamweights
1) Luis Nery 15 Pts
2) Ryan Burnett WBA Champ 10 Pts
3) Jamie McDonnell 7 Pts
    Zolani Tete WBO Champ (Up One)
5) Juan Carlos Payano 6 Pts (Unranked)

Junior Bantamweights
1) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai WBC Champ 14 Pts (Up One)
2) Naoya Inoue 13 Pts (Down One)
3) Juan Francisco Estrada 8 Pts
4) Jerwin Ancajas IBF Champ 4 Pts
5) Roman Gonzalez 3 PTS
    Khalid Yafai WBA Champ

Flyweights
1) Donnie Nietes 14 Pts (Up One)
2) Artem Dalakian WBA Champ 9 Pts (Unranked)
3) Cristofer Rosales WBC Champ 7 Pts (Unranked)
4) Sho Kimura WBO Champ 6 Pts (Down One)
5) Daigo Higa 5 Pts (Down Four)
Also Received Votes: Moruti Mthalane, Andrew Selby.

Pound for Pound
1) Vasyl Lomachenko 29 Pts
2) Gennady Golovkin 27 Pts
3) Errol Spence 23 Pts (Up One)
4) Terence Crawford 16 Pts (Down One)
5) Mikey Garcia 12 Pts (Up Five)
6) Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 9 Pts (Up Three)
     Naoya Inoue (Up One)
8) Canelo Alvarez 8 Pts (Down Three)
     Sergey Kovalev (Down One)
10) Jarrett Hurd 6 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Anthony Joshua, FP Freshmart, Deontay Wilder, Murat Gassiev, Luis Nery

TRS Boxing Ratings-Part One

It's a shorter time period in between the TRS boxing ratings this time, but I wanted to get back on a regular rotation-January, April, July, September and then early December.
Thanks to Ramon Malpica and Vince Samano for their votes.
Mikey Garcia vacated his newly won IBF Junior Welterweight title after the votes were cast.
Garcia will be rated at 135 and 140 for this rating period and will be rated only at lightweight in July.

Heavyweights
1) Anthony Joshua WBA/IBF/WBO Champ 14 Pts
2) Deontay Wilder WBC Champ 13 Pts
3) Luis Ortiz 8 Pts
4) Alexander Povetkin 7 Pts (Up One)
5) Joseph Parker 3 Pts (Down One)

Cruiserweights
1) Murat Gassiev WBA/IBF Champ 15 Pts
2) Oleksandr Usyk WBC/WBO Champ 12 Pts
3) Mairis Breidis 6 Pts
4) Yunier Dorticos 5 Pts
5) Kryzstof Glowacki 4 Pts
Also Received Votes: Denis Lebedev

Light Heavyweights
1) Sergei Kovalev WBO Champ 15 Pts
2) Dmitri Bivol WBA Champ 11 Pts
3) Adonis Stevenson WBC Champ 10 Pts (Down One)
4) Artur Beterbiev IBF Champ 5 Pts
5) Oleksandr Gvozdyk 4 Pts

Super Middleweights
1) Gilberto Ramirez WBO Champ 15 Pts
2) George Groves WBA Champ 10 Pts
3) David Benavidez WBC Champ 7 Pts (Up Two)
     James DeGale IBF Champ (Unranked)
5) Callum Smith 3 Pts
Also Received Votes: Caleb Truax

Middleweights
1) Gennady Golovkin WBA/WBC/IBF Champ 15 Pts
2) Canelo Alvarez 11 Pts
3) Billy Joe Saunders WBO Champ 10 Pts
4) Daniel Jacobs 4 Pts
5) Jermall Charlo 3 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes; Sergei Derevyanchenko

Junior Middleweights
1) Jarrett Hurd WBA/IBF Champ 14 Pts (Up Two)
2) Jermell Charlo WBC Champ 13 Pts
3) Erislandy Lara 9 Pts (Down Two)
4) Sadam Ali WBO Champ 5 Pts
5) Austin Trout 2 Pts
Also Received Votes; Maciej Sulecki, Julian Williams

Welterweights
1) Errol Spence IBF Champ 15 Pts
2) Keith Thurman WBA/WBC Champ 12 Pts
3) Terence Crawford 9 Pts (Unranked)
4) Shawn Porter 5 Pts (Down One)
5) Manny Pacquiao  3 Pts (Down One)
Also Received Votes: Jeff Horn WBO Champ

Junior Welterweights
1) Regis Prograis 11 Pts (Unranked)
2) Mikey Garcia 10 Pts   (Unranked)
    Jose Ramirez WBC Champ (Unranked)
4) Antonio Orozco 5 Pts
5) Amir Imam 3 Pts (Unranked)
Also Received Votes: Kiril Relikh WBA Champ, Terry Flanagan, Eduard Troyanovsky, Sergei Lipinets
 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Short snippets

I missed much of the Cleveland Cavaliers game four victory in Indiana by a 104-100 nod.
Traveling (posts to come later this week) can do that to you sometimes.
LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 32 points and Kyle Korver added 18 with several three-pointers in a win that tied the series at two and swung homer court back to Cleveland.

I haven't been active because I've been on the road, but I'll have some road stories over the next week from Winston-Salem, Kannapolis, Tennessee and a very rainy Asheville, but I'm not sure if I get to them right away with the Cavaliers series and the Browns draft where the Browns are rumored to be interested in Sam Darnold ( All In!), Josh Allen (Concerned, but could be a huge star or bust) or Baker Mayfield (I cancel Sunday Ticket and decide to reduce my interest in NFL football).

In addition to those newsworthy events and stories, the inbox is as filled as it as it has ever been with tons of interesting things and several passings ranging from former WFL star James McAllister to wrestling managers Johnny Valiant and Number One Paul Jones.

Hopefully, lots of good stuff coming soon-WHEN I have time to write them!
See you soon!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Boxing Challenge- Broner and Vargas draw, Frampton tops Donaire

A big boxing weekend saw several top fighters in action and a few that were once considered future superstars that disappointed returned to the ring as well..

Showtime televised a three-bout card that had the never boring on the mic, yet often less than scintillating in the ring Adrien Broner in a welterweight fight against Jessie Vargas.
Broner had won titles in three divisions and Vargas in two entering the fight,(which says a lot on there being too many organizations and they have way too many titles)  so on the surface, this looked like a bigger fight than it actually was, but the two gave a better fight than expected and saved an evening with two fights that were basically squashes.
Vargas dominated the first half of the fight with great bodywork and overwhelming Broner with the sheer number of punches but slowed in the middle of the bout and Broner took over in the second half of the fight before I thought Vargas won the last two rounds.
I had Vargas a 115-113 winner but had no issues with the majority draw from the judges.
One judge had Broner ahead 115-113 with other two judges scoring the fight even.

The other two fights were blowouts against overmatched opponents.
The second fight saw Jermall Charlo win an "interim" title in a division with an active champion by blowing away Hugo Centeno with a crushing left hook in the second round.
Charlo looked great and despite winning just two fights at the weight against fighters that had never beaten a top 15 fighter, is now a "champion: and an eventual mandatory challenger to Gennady Golovkin.
Both Charlo brothers are talented and revel in playing the "heel" role, but I still think they are hanging their hat on spectacular wins against untested prospects making their first leap against top fighters (Jermall over Julian Williams, Jermell over Erickson Lubin) and want to see what happens when they fight top five level fighters and what happens when they get hit on the chin.
PBC is weak at 160 pounds so we may have to wait until Charlo actually fights Golovkin to finally see him tested.

Gervonta Davis may have won the WBA title (or may not ) in his steamrolling Jesus Cuellar in three rounds.
Davis was clearly the bigger and stronger man and Cuellar, who hadn't fought in well over a year, simply wasn't able to hold Davis off.
The more interesting part for me was the WBA making Davis their "Super" champion over Alberto Machado, who had beaten their former "super" champion Jezreel Corrales, which to my way of thinking would make Machado their top champ.
Instead, it appears to be Davis, who may not have to fight Machado, who is promoted by Golden Boy that is looking for unification against the Tevin Farmer-Billy Dib winner for the vacant IBF title at the weight.
In the end, Machado's belt appears to be demoted for nothing more than someone felt like it.
Davis is the more talented fighter and would be my pick if Davis was to fight Machado, but that still doesn't make this decision the correct one from the most corrupt organization in boxing.
I now have a headache.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, Carl Frampton won a unanimous decision over Nonito Donaire in a less than exciting bout that saw Frampton perhaps a bit too respectful towards the slowing Donaire.
This was Frampton's second fight since losing to Leo Santa Cruz and Frampton seems like he may have lost a step himself after two physical fights with Santa Cruz.
We will see if that is the case as Frampton is now the mandatory contender for WBO champion Oscar Valdez.
I had the same score as all three judges 117-111 for Frampton

The co-feature from Belfast saw Zolani Tete keep his WBO bantamweight title over Omar Narvaez by unanimous decision, winning all 12 rounds on every card.
I wouldn't know because this fight was so awful that I fell asleep.

Amir Khan returned to the ring and blew out Canada's Phil LoGreco in under a minute, scoring two knockdowns before the fight was stopped.
The fight was the first on the new and heralded ESPN+ app and I'm sure the 37 seconds was worth the five dollars for the month.
Kell Brook entered the ring post-fight to challenge Khan for a long overdue fight that might happen before the end of the year.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored nine points on the weekend.
We both added two points each for the wins by Jermall Charlo, Gervonta Davis and Carl Frampton.
Ramon picked up two for Zolani Tete's win and one for Amir Khan's victory,
I added two for Khan and one for Tete.
The challenge is currently at 70-57

Devils season ends in Tampa

A disjointed offense and five second period penalties wasted an excellent performance in net by Cory Schneider as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-1 in game five of their Eastern Conference series and ended the season for the Devils.
The Devils were held scoreless throughout the game before a Kyle Palmieri goal with Cory Schneider pulled from the game for an extra skater moved the Devils to within a goal with three minutes remaining before an empty net goal ended the contest.
The Devils are back in action in October.

Hell Raisers

1) Cory Schneider singlehandedly kept the Devils in a game that they had no business being in.
Schneider made some incredible saves and in the second period alone was amazing against five Tampa power plays.
The best part of the series was the return of Cory Schneider to form and that could go a long way to the Devils making the next step in 2018-19.

2) Give the penalty killers some credit as well for standing tall in that second period.
It took a ton out of the legs of those killers and likely had something to do with the lack of offensive chances as the game moved on.

3) The Devils would have only one power play and it was unsuccessful.
I'm not going to say there was a disparity in penalties, but it did turn out that way.

4) Let's move on to the end of the season.
I didn't expect to see playoff hockey, I didn't watch much hockey at all really.
I didn't think that the trade of Adam Henrique to Anaheim to affect me that much and even though that trade is part of the game, I didn't expect that I wouldn't watch as much without Rachel.
Rachel seemed to watch the playoffs, so I have hopes of watching more next season.

5) The Devils made a huge leap in simply making the postseason, but they have some ways to go before being true contenders.
They still need to improve scoring on the second and third lines, which I think will improve with Nico Hischier moving into his second year alone, the defense still needs to add scoring and more speed.
The big issue will be whether the Devils want to reward Keith Kinkaid for his play during the season or return Cory Schneider to the starting job.
Could the team decide to have an open competition between the two?
All of these need to be answered in training camp.

6) Wrapping up, the Devils are a year ahead of schedule in making the playoffs.
Most thought that it would be next year that the Devils challenged for the playoffs and many times in sports when a team makes a huge leap forward, they settle back a bit the following season.
This could happen to the Devils so I would assume Ray Shero has some ideas on how to shore things up to avoid that problem.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Cold Cavaliers lose game three in Indiana

The Cleveland Cavaliers looked like a world beater for a half in Indianapolis in game three of their series with the Pacers.
The sad part came after the intermission when Indiana rallied from a 17 point deficit to shock the Cavaliers 92-90 and give the Pacers a 2-1 lead in the series.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 28 points with Kevin Love adding 19 more in the loss.
Game four in Indianapolis is Sunday night.
I'll try to have coverage, but as I am on the road, I'm not sure when I'll be able to watch the game or not...

Swashbucklings

1) Just mind-numbingly awful in the second half.
I cannot even really wrap my mind around how bad- 12 points in the third quarter?
Really? Are you bleeping kidding me?
12 lousy points when even an average quarter would have put their foot on the Pacers throat and finished them off?
Geez.

2) I was talking to my buddy, Fred Landucci, on my way to Frederick last night and was talking about the then-upcoming game and we talked about Kevin Love.
I made the statement that Love might be better suited to be the best player on an average to bad team because he needs to be the focus of the offense, in Cleveland he is not and without being that focus, his game can be almost passive.

3) Kevin Love did finish with 19 points, but took only two shots in the second half, one of them being a desperation three-pointer that he nailed in the final seconds of the game.
Now, who do you blame for the team's second-leading scorer going AWOL to that degree?
Love can be given his share of the blame, but some of this has to go on Tyronn Lue for not doing something (anything) to integrate Love into the offense.

4) Bogan Bogdanovic? 30 points? Seven three-pointers?
Ordinarily, I'd say that it isn't your night when that happens, but some of those three's were so wide open, if seemingly out of his range that they could have been considered uncontested.
Bogdanovic's four-point play was essentially hitting a wide-open jumper and being fouled after releasing the ball by a desperate Kyle Korver.
In a seven-game series, occasionally you'll have a player play over his head for an evening or two. but when a player averages 14 points a night, you cannot afford to have him double his average and add a little more to it as well.

5) I know most coaches shorten their bench in the playoffs, but I'm not sure why the Cavaliers are living with Jordan Clarkson's struggles thus far off the bench and not using Cedi Osman, who I would think would bring some athleticism on defense and open up the floor a little more rather than clogging to offense by waiting for a jumper.
You cannot play everyone, but Osman's strengths would play well in changing some tempo in a series that has been mostly played at the Pacers speed.

6) I've written that I like what Kyle Korver brings to the offense as a pure shooter, but on some nights when you can see that either the shots aren't falling or even there at all, I can see sitting Korver down.
Last night Korver scored zero points in twenty minutes, missing all three shots and being a minus defender (and I think I'm being kind there), Korver didn't bring much to the court.

7) I'm just not sure what to think right now.
The Cavaliers are down 2-1, but can make a great case to be up 2-1 and if they win on Sunday night, Cleveland regains home court.
That part I feel not too bad about.

8) However, blowing two huge leads (going 1-1) cannot make you feel great about things and Indiana can make an argument that they could be up 3-0.
There are a few tweaks that Tyronn Lue could make and maybe they would help, but will they make a big enough difference to turn the tide?
I mentioned more time for Cedi Osman, maybe less for Jordan Clarkson and I might try Jose Calderon to move the ball and open up shots for Kyle Korver,Kevin Love etc, but as I mentioned, is that enough?
I just don't know...

Friday, April 20, 2018

Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend adds six fights to the boxing challenge with three from across the pond and all of those available on live stream if you have the right streams.

The best fight of the weekend is live Saturday afternoon from Belfast, Northern Ireland as two former champions in multiple divisions face off as Carl Frampton battles Nonito Donaire in what should be an action fight.
The winner will be the mandatory contender for WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez and I expect that to be Frampton, who is not only the younger and fresher fighter of the two, he is also the one with the more impressive performances at 126 pounds.
The co-feature will pit talented WBO bantamweight champ Zolani Tete against former flyweight and junior bantamweight champ Omar Narvaez.
These fights are available on Showtime's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Amir Khan returns to action after a long layoff in Liverpool England against Canadian journeyman Phil LoGreco.
This is a squash match, but an understandable one considering Khan hasn't fought since his devastating knockout loss almost two years to Canelo Alvarez.
This fight is available on the new ESPN+ App.

Showtime televises a three-bout card of interesting, yet not necessarily evenly matched fights.
The main event has the most difficult fight to pick as the mercurial Adrien Broner battles Jessie Vargas in a welterweight fight.
Broner tends to disappoint constantly, but due to his outrageous behavior continues to receive opportunity after opportunity on strong platforms.
I would hate to see just how much we would see of Broner if he actually won one of these fights in an impressive manner.
Vargas did knock out current junior middleweight champion Sadam Ali a few years back and almost did the same to Timothy Bradley, but has fought just once in the last 18 months against journeyman Aaron Herrera.
I can see this going either way in a decent fight to watch and I can see it being dull as well with the inconsistent careers of both fighters.
I don't think it is up to snuff as a Showtime level main event, but they can't all be winners, can they?

Jermall Charlo continues his rise up the middleweight ladder and among some observers pound for pound lists against yet another overmatched opponent in the co-feature for another one of those wonderful interim titles when the champion is still active-AKA cash grab for a sanctioning fee.
At least, Hugo Centeno has two functional legs unlike Charlo's other middleweight opponent in Jorge Heiland, but Centeno like Heiland lacks a win against a top 15 level fighter and seems to be a level or two below Charlo.
Centeno is coming off an entertaining third-round knockout of talented Immanuel Aleem, but that is Centeno's best win and Aleem still had quite a way to go before reaching even fringe contender status.
Charlo may turn out to be what some think that he is or could be, but it's going to more than a close decision over Austin Trout and an impressive KO of Julian Williams to prove it to me and he is not going to prove anything to me with wins over the likes of Jorge Heiland and Hugo Centeno.

The curtain-jerker has former IBF junior lightweight champ Gervonta Davis against Jesus Cuellar.
Davis lost his title on the scales before his last fight an unimpressive stoppage of unknown Francisco Fonseca, while Cuellar was on a strong run at featherweight before a split decision loss to Abner Mares in December of 2016.
The fight for a minor title might be entertaining, but I think the bigger and stronger Davis should physically wear down the naturally smaller Cuellar.

I lead Ramon Malpica in the boxing challenge 61-48..

Featherweights. 12 Rds
Carl Frampton vs Nonito Donaire
Both: Frampton Unanimous Decision

WBO Bantamweight Title 12 Rds
Zolani Tete vs Omar Narvaez
R.L: Tete Unanimous Decision
TRS: Tete KO 8

Welterweights 12 Rds
Amir Khan vs Phil LoGreco
R.L: Khan Unanimous Decision
TRS: Khan KO 7

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Adrien Broner vs Jessie Vargas
R.L: Vargas Unanimous Decision
TRS: Broner Unanimous Decision

Middleweights.12 Rds
Jermall Charlo vs Hugo Centeno
R.L: Charlo KO 7
TRS; Charlo KO 5

Junior Lightweights 12 Rds
Gervonta Davis vs Jesus Cuellar
R.L: Davis KO 8
TRS: Davis KO 10


Bruno,Bruno,Bruno!

It never seems to stop in April here.
Playoffs for the Cavaliers and Devils, baseball for myself, boxing and the ratings, road trips and of course, the road office and the inbox, which is bursting to a size that I've never seen before keep things hopping.

And with all of that to do, I had to make time for this post.
The passing of Bruno Sammartino at the age of 82 marks the end of an era for pro wrestling fans of a certain age and that age is even older than mine.
Bruno Sammartino was the name in pro wrestling locally among people of my parents' age and even a little older than me.
I'd even go farther and make this statement- Ask someone 60 or older in the Northeast and ask them to name one pro wrestler and for all the fame of Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and The Rock, I'd wager among that demographic that the name mentioned would be Bruno Sammartino.

Bruno Sammartino was much more than Hulk Hogan to people of that age and even though pro wrestling was as pre-determined as it is today, Bruno Sammartino's name was still said with reverence.
In Pittsburgh, Bruno Sammartino was just as big of a star as Roberto Clemente or any member of the Steelers during that time and that's not wrestling hyperbole from my part either.
I remember when I first became a fan in the fall of 1979 and talking about wrestling with people my dad's age and Bruno Sammartino's name even then held respect as even as they had a twinkle in their eye about "rasslin" not being "real" or as more commonly said "fake".
To those people, Bruno Sammartino was respected as more than a pro wrestler, he was a tough guy that was legitimately among the stronger men in the world at that time and many ranked him with the heavyweight boxing champion of the world as "the baddest man in the world".
Sammartino's two title reigns were so legendary that when his first reign ended at just short of eight years in 1971 in a loss to the "Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff, that Sammartino thought Koloff's title-winning kneedrop off the top rope had busted his eardrum as the crowd went dead silent when the referee counted the third slap of the mat.
Of course, there was the match series that shined the legend more than any against Stan Hansen.
Hansen was a run of the mill bad guy of the month, no different than many to be fed to Sammartino-until Hansen screwed up a bodyslam (in the storyline, it was credited to Hansen's feared forearm "The Lariat" and broke Bruno's neck legitimately.
Sammartino fought through the pain (just imagine that) and finished the match before having to take time to heal.
The mistake made Hansen a star and it made Sammartino a sports god as two months later and a neck that wasn't entirely ready for action, saw Sammartino return at Shea Stadium with limited offense and send Hansen scurrying from the ring (Hansen later noted that was again a finish modified to avoid a riot from a Bruno match).

The man that ruled the WWWF from Baltimore and all spots north wasn't the guy that I remember though.
You see, the guy I remember wore one of those horrible canary yellow jackets shown in the photo above as "the living legend" commentating on the squash match laden WWF (name had changed by then) television show alongside Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself.
Bruno tended to mumble and spoke more often than not in a monotone, but when he said a challenger to then-champion Bob Backlund was 'a tough competitor" you took it seriously because of who was saying that not in how it was said.
Still, Bruno had the same abundantly curly hair that looked like a mushroom cap was morphing into an afro like Andre the Giant's and when I started to be a fan, he was "just the commentator" and though he used to be the champ, I didn't look at him as a star.

Bruno still had one run in him and it came as the first big feud that I remember as a fan as his longtime protege' Larry Zbyszko turned on him with a shot from wooden chair at a television taping in Allentown Pa. and in one of the first wrestling magazines that I ever saw proclaimed on the cover left Bruno 'drowning in a pool of blood!"
Well, I wouldn't say that it was all that much, but for television and a wrestling program that rarely showed such things, it was more than one would expect and more than I'd see on the show in the future.
The Bruno-Larry feud "popped the territory" and was selling out arenas throughout (and not the "we sold out arena's all over line that you hear from every retired grappler either) the region.
This match headlined the first ever sellout at Landover's Capital Centre for wrestling among many others and climaxed with Bruno's cage match victory before over 20,000 fans at Shea Stadium.
Hulk Hogan would later claim that it was his match with Andre the Giant drew the large crowd, but that match was 4th on the card and without the Bruno-Zbyszko match, Shea Stadium wouldn't have even been considered for a venue.

Zbyszko has stated (and Bruno is reported to have agreed) that the feud could have gone longer and drawn even more money, had he won that match and I'd agree.
Zbyszko could have been pounded all match, cut badly and have Bruno "pound him out of the cage", giving him the fluke victory, enraging the fans and drawing more fans to see Bruno get revenge.
Reportedly, the McMahon's were concerned that the crowd would riot if Bruno lost and that was a serious possibility.
Bruno returned to announcing for the next years and when McMahon expanded nationally, Bruno had small issues with both Randy Savage and Roddy Piper to draw crowds and drew well.
To show the respect that Bruno still had, he didn't lose any of those matches and even defeated Piper in a Boston cage match at a time that Piper was refusing to lose to Hulk Hogan.

Sammartino left the WWF over several issues in 1987 that included still underlying issues over being cheated of money by McMahon Sr in the past (there was a settlement a few years before that saw Bruno receive a lump sum and agree to commentate), the rampant use of drugs and steroids and some of the roads that wrestling was moving into.
Bruno was often the "go-to" person for 25 years when someone in the media wanted a comment on wrestling that wasn't associated with McMahon's company.
One night, this boiled over on the Larry King show during the company sex scandal in the 90's with McMahon in studio and Sammartino on satellite from his Pittsburgh home with Sammartino commenting on wrestlers getting undeserved "pushes" ( higher on the cards and more prestigious matches) and commented on this possibly being due to the "booking" (the person that makes the angles and card results) of Pat Patterson, an open homosexual.
McMahon retorted with "Well, is that how YOU won the title, Bruno"? in full McMahon bravado and the look from Pittsburgh made it very clear- had that comment been made with the two of them in the studio, McMahon would have gotten a rear-kicking well before the infamous Montreal brawl with Bret Hart.
The two would reconcile down the road enough for Sammartino to join their hall of fame and work together on marketing (such as adding Bruno to their video game and action figure line), but you still never had the feeling that they were chummy as McMahon and other wayward stars that had fallings out had when they returned back to the federation.

I have to admit, as an early wrestling fan, I didn't like Bruno Sammartino.
I liked the "bad guys", Bruno never was one of those fellows, he was kind of boring as a color commentator and he never lost!
However, you can make an argument that he was among the most influential wrestlers of all-time and certainly the most of his era and even if he wasn't the in-ring wrestler that his peers Dory Funk Jr, Jack Brisco, Lou Thesz etc were, he certainly was a far bigger star.

Bruno Sammartino seemed like a good and highly principled man in an industry that often attracts the opposite and his qualities as a person saw him rarely criticized other than the most fervent defender of the McMahon family.
Pro Wrestling has rarely seen the likes of him and likely won't again, a man for his time was Bruno Sammartino and that time and pro wrestling has changed.
He'll be missed and through his decency along with the person he was outside the ring, I wound up being a Bruno Sammartino fan.
Rest in peace,Champ.






Thursday, April 19, 2018

Streaky Cavs hold on for Game Two win over Pacers

Photo Credit: Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Cleveland Cavaliers blasted out of the gate in the first quarter that left the Indiana Pacers wobbling and feeling like Wednesday night was going to be a long night.

However as happens almost always in sports, such performance is extremely difficult to maintain over the course of a game and the Pacers chipped away and away and even more but could never get closer than the final deficit of three points as the Cavaliers took a 100-97 nod and tied their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at one apiece before the series returns to Indianapolis for games three and four.
LeBron James scored 46 points on a team that had just two other players in double digits ( Kevin Love 15 and Kyle Korver 12) and ripped down 12 boards in a game that should be remembered for a long time and if this game occurred later in the playoffs would certainly be remembered longer than this likely will be.

Game three is Friday night at seven o'clock from Indiana.

Swashbucklings

1) LeBron James not only scored 46 of his team's 100 points, he scored the first 13 points of the game period and the first 16 for Cleveland.
An angry LeBron James almost plays possessed and when the best player in the game is angry, it's not just look out- it's get out!

2) Kevin Love didn't shoot well for the second game in a row as he hit just five of sixteen from the floor, but the news gets worse as Love left the floor holding the hand that he broke earlier in the season.
The x-ray came back clean, but is it possible that the hand is bothering Love and therefore his shooting?

3) The Cavaliers will need to shore some issues inside the paint as they were outscored 62-30.
Cleveland has become more of an outside shooting team (11 to 6 from three-point range), but that difference is pretty vast and at least needs to be narrowed...

4) Kyle Korver drilled four three's and even though this is an easy take, it's still a true one-Kyle Korver more than anyone not named LeBron James is the Cavalier that helps make a machine run well.
Korver's shooting often can open up points for a player that may not be a scoring machine, although it didn't happen in this game.
Watch for that as the Cavaliers progress.

5) Just a note on three players brought in at the trade deadline- none of Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and George Hill played more than 20 minutes, none scored more than six points and only one finished with a plus rating (Hill at + 16 because he started and was on the floor with LeBron's hot start). No judgment. Just some numbers.

6) I really hate playing the Pacers.
The main reason?
They wear gold, the Cavaliers wore black for their first two games and from a distance, it's not easy to keep the teams apart.
Ugh...

7) Can the Cavaliers take two in Indianapolis?
I think so, but they at least need to win one of the past.
It would be nice to see someone (two would be even better) step up and help LeBron James a bit and would go a long way to save James physically.
We'll see.





Devils back against the wall-lose Game Four

Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
The New Jersey Devils struck early on a 5 on 3 power play when Kyle Palmieri gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead in the first period.
That strike would be all the Devils could muster as the next two goals belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning before a late empty-net goal for the 3-1 win for the visitors.
Game five is in Tampa Saturday afternoon when the Lightning can clinch the series with a win.

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils did score their only goal on the power play, but they finished 1 of 7 on the night.
The weakness of the power play and not turning more chances against an excellent team into scores isn't going to help the chances of pulling an upset

2) The hit on Sami Vatanen by Nikita Kucherov sent Vatanen from the game looked like it hit the head (and some of the shoulder) and should have been a penalty.
Vatanen would not return and the Devils paid the price with a weakened defensive squad.
Should have definitely been a penalty.

3) The game could have been socked away for Tampa earlier instead of playing so much time with a one goal lead.
Tampa scored on a goal by J.T. Miller, but a canny challenge by John Hynes showed that the Lightning were offsides before entering the zone.
That challenge allowed much more drama than the game deserved.

4) I thought Cory Schneider played well again in net with 34 saves and Schneider didn't allow a bad goal in either case.
Schneider should return in net for game five.

5) Tampa Bay has taken a ton of cheap shots in this series and as they progress through the playoffs, they will run into a team that is more physical than the Devils and thump them right back.
New Jersey is a scrappy team, but one that isn't overwhelmingly so and as a result, Tampa Bay has been taking liberties.
The game has passed by the one-dimensional enforcer type but on nights like these, I wish that the ghost of Troy Crowder or the "Polish Hammer" Kryzstof Oliwa could return for a shift or two to put some players in their place.

6) The Devils did manage to shut down the Tampa power play and didn't allow the Lightning to score a goal on the advantage for the first time in the series.
So as Bill Murray uttered in Caddyshack "So I (we) got that going for me (them).

7) Now. it's pretty clear what needs to happen and I'm not sure that it has ever happened in hockey history (I'm not looking it up,I have another wrap up to write!)- the 8th seed has to win three games in a row over the one seed with two of the three on the road.
Rough road to hoe.
How does it happen?
Hope that Cory Schneider can continue his level of play, the Devils can hang around physically (without being really stupid about it) and the power play needs to improve.
All of those things need to happen and then we'll see...