Sunday, January 31, 2021

Devils sliced by Sabres in Shootout

       Jack Eichel scored the only goal of the shootout and it was all the Buffalo Sabres needed to slide by the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in Buffalo.

Devils goals to Ty Smith (2 Power Play), Andreas Johnsson (1), and Janne Kuokkanen (1).

New Jersey earns one point but takes their third loss in a row.

The Devils will rematch Buffalo Sunday at 1:00.


Hell Raisers

1) Before the game, the Devils placed Travis Zajac into Covid-19 protocol.
Zajac will miss both of the contests in Buffalo until his diagnosis is decided.

2) The Devils again lose a shootout without a score and one thing that many of the Devils have been doing in the shootout- they skate up very slowly and wait to shoot until they are almost on top of the goalie.

This gives the goalie time to read and commit to the shot but leaves the shooter with no other avenue for the shot.

3) Myles Wood on the power play continues to use himself on the man advantage as a parking cone and quite effectively.
On Ty Smith's goal, it was Wood directly in front of Linus Ullmark, screening him and allowing Smith's shot to go through.

4) Smith may have been the victim of a bad call in the third period and it cost the Devils a goal.
Smith was called for hooking and I didn't see a hook AT ALL.
The resulting penalty kill saw the Sabres score on Victor Olofsson's shot and take a 3-2 lead.

5) Those faceoff woes continue as the Devils won only 25 of 64 against the Sabres.

6) Janne Kuokkanen scored his first goal in the league and Andreas Johnsson scored his first in a Devils sweater in the defeat.


Boxing Challenge: Plant shuts out Truax

   In a fight that almost everything that was predicted happened (other than if you predicted a late-round stoppage like I did), Caleb Plant defended his IBF Super Middleweight title via a unanimous decision over Caleb Plant.

I thought Plant won every round (120-108) and although he never seriously hurt Truax, Plant busted Truax up around both eyes and had he not injured his left hand as he claimed after the fight, may have scored the stoppage.

I've made my points several times about the lousy quality of Plant's opponents in the past and the shopworn Truax didn't boost that very much, but let's look at the good things about Plant.

Plant is very skilled, has quick hands, isn't easy to hit, and may be a difficult opponent for the best of the division (Canelo Alvarez, David Benavidez, Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders) to handle.

The problem for me and it's the most difficult part for me to get past with Caleb Plant is the competition level and it's for two reasons.

The first is that it makes me wonder about what his team and promoters know about him and are they protecting him for one big cash-in?

I don't claim to know the answer to that question, we will find that out in a possible fall fight against Canelo Alvarez, as Plant would be silly to face a strong opponent now with the Canelo payday on the horizon, but there are legitimate questions to answer for the Tennessee native.

How will Plant react in such a fight when it becomes needed to vary his attack, battle through getting hurt or fight a hard twelve rounds against someone capable of defeating him?

Part of developing a fighter is testing them against opponents that may not defeat them, but can challenge them and force them to answer various questions that all fighters must answer.

Caleb Plant's team has developed a talented world champion that is going to make a lot of money and if that is the success that you are looking for- then they have done their job well.

However, if your goal is to best prepare your fighter to win that big fight once that opportunity comes along, they may have come up far short.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica earned two points to my one from the Plant-Truax fight and cut my early season lead to 6-5.

Looking forward to two weeks from tonight to really get the boxing season out of the blocks with two very good cards from DAZN/Golden Boy and ESPN/Top Rank!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Boxing Challenge

  The boxing weekend is light with only a less than thrilling card from PBC on Fox.

Why Fox is paying for the mediocre offerings that PBC has been giving them and why PBC isn't taking advantage of the network television stage that Fox offers are questions that need to be answered and Saturday's card is yet another card of mismatches and dull pairings that will be hard to keep hardcore boxing fans, let alone casual watchers.

The main event pits the latest in IBF Super Middleweight champion Caleb Plant's soft-touch tour as Plant defends former IBF champion Caleb Truax in a fight that may be noted best for being the first title fight between two fighters named Caleb- that's the best I have.

Don't be deceived by Truax's former champion status as he won the title against a badly faded James DeGale, lost a rematch to the same DeGale in 2018, and since then has only two wins over non-entities and a no-contest against Peter Quillin.

Combine with those facts that Truax's win over DeGale is the only one over top ten competition in his career, he's thirty-seven to boot, and that gives you another undeserving title challenger and another undistinguished name to face Plant.

I've been critical of Plant, mainly because of the awful competition that he's faced in his career, not for his talent.

Plant has quick hands, is technically skilled with a solid amateur background, and while he isn't a huge puncher, his power is solid enough to be a legitimate contender, but we don't really know that for sure.

Why should a champion entering his third title defense have so many questions?

Well, it's because he has only one victory over a top ten level fighter (his title win over Jose Uzcategui) and only two if you consider anyone that once was at that level (Uzcategui and a washed-up Porky Medina) and he didn't stop either fighter.

Then consider in his title victory against Uzcategui, Plant was blatantly stalling down the stretch (I thought Phil Ford tossing the ball and forth to John Kuester for five minutes was more exciting than the final five rounds) in losing the final five rounds on my scorecard and despite his win (I scored it 115-111 as Plant did score two knockdowns), questions remain about Plant's ability to go twelve rounds against strong competition.

With all of that involved and another likely virtual walkover against Truax, Caleb Plant will likely face Canelo Alvarez in the fall with all four super-middleweight titles at stake after Canelo (WBA and WBC champion) unifies the WBO title with a scheduled May fight against current champion Billy Joe Saunders.

Plant will be paid millions of dollars for a pay-per-view against Canelo Alvarez and he's going to have one win over a top-ten opponent that was in their prime.

I'll have no fewer answers about Caleb Plant after the battle of the Caleb's than I do now, but Plant certainly isn't challenging himself and he certainly isn't preparing himself for facing the arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

IBF Super Middleweight Title. 12 Rds
Caleb Plant vs Caleb Truax
R.L: Plant Unanimous Decision  
TRS: Plant KO 10

Sloppy Cavaliers beaten in Big Apple

    The Cleveland Cavaliers played their worst basketball game of the season in a 102-81 loss at Madison Square Garden to the New York Knicks.

The Cavaliers shot an awful 34 percent from the floor and only thirty percent from behind the three-point lead the loss.

 Cleveland trailed by fourteen at the half, but as the third quarter progressed, the Cavaliers got as close as three points before the Knicks pushed the lead back to sixteen by the end of the third quarter with the game never getting close after that.

Darius Garland led the Cavaliers with 24 points.

Cleveland will next play Minnesota in a home and home that see the Cavaliers travel to Minnesota on Sunday with the Timberwolves playing a rematch on Monday.

Swashbucklings

1) Nights like this are going to happen with a team like the Cavaliers.

They simply aren't going to be able to win very often without their best game and this certainly was with perhaps the exception of the Boston loss their worst game of the season.

2) Thirty-four percent shooting isn't going to win many games, even against other mediocre teams such as the Knicks.

3) This was one of the sloppiest games that I have watched in a while as well.

One third-quarter sequence saw both teams go up and down the floor three times with layups and point-blank shots that both teams missed.

It was one of those times that you were glad that fans weren't in the building!

4)  Cleveland did have a good night from Darius Garland, hitting nine of seventeen shots, four of which were launched from beyond the three-point line.

Garland did take a shot to the shoulder that he had injured earlier in the season and cost Garland multiple games on the sideline.

It must have looked worse than it was as Garland remained in the game, but when I first watched the replay, I figured Garland was going to lose more playing time.

5) Andre Drummond grabbed his usual rebounds but finished with only four points on two for seven shooting.

Drummond played twenty-four minutes to Jarrett Allen's twenty-six and I wonder if this is moving forward in trade talks.

6) Cleveland seems to struggle against physical teams and in both games against the Knicks, New York has ground the Cavaliers down and have succeeded in making them settle for lesser shots and around the boards.

7) Isaac Okoro's game wasn't great, but the picture was cool and showed off the Knicks alternate uniforms.

I didn't care for them as they reminded me of the black Cavaliers uniforms of the nineties.

No thanks.    

Friday, January 29, 2021

Devils dropped by Flyers 3-1

   The New Jersey Devils dominated the first two periods against the Philadelphia Flyers, but could only come away with a one-one tie.

Philadelphia took command in the third period, scored both goals of the period, and waltzed off with a 3-1 win.

Philadelphia won both of the two-game set in Newark and leave the Devils losers in three of their last four.

Damon Severson scored the first goal (1) of the game and the Devils' only goal in the first period.

New Jersey's next game is Saturday afternoon in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils did have some good news in this loss as Jesper Bratt made his season debut.

Bratt had two scoring chances in the first period and his skating was strong but understandably tired as the game progressed.

2) I've liked most of what Tom Fitzgerald has done as general manager, but the absence of Bratt from the lineup was due to poor handling of the situation by Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald mishandled negotiations and then between visa issues with Sweden and having to clear quarantine, the Devils lost out on Bratt's services needlessly.

3) The Devils really did play well for two periods and they held the Flyers at bay with few scoring chances.

But that third period...

You had the feeling that the Devils felt they had taken their best shot and had only a draw to show for it.

It felt inevitable that the tide would turn and if I knew it- the Flyers knew it as well.

4) The Devils didn't allow a goal on the penalty kill tonight, which was refreshing,but another problem has come to the forefront- faceoffs.

The Devils won only 14 of 53 faceoffs and for people that are bad at math such as myself- that is a terrible 26 percent.

Perhaps the days are past when teams carry a Yanic Perrault type as a faceoff specialist, but other that I don't know who steps up and starts raising that number to something respectable.

5) I've tried to be quiet and I've tried to give every benefit of the doubt, but P.K. Subban isn't very good.

And what looked to be a steal in the 2019-20 offseason for the Devils has turned out to be a theft for the Predators.

Subban's slowed in speed and for a player that was once so effective on the power play has now become a one-dimensional bomber with a power shot that he prays goes in.

It's been a while since I've seen a player decline this quickly and at nine million both this year and next year, Subban would have to make a remarkable turnaround for this to be anything other than a sunk cost.

Houston Texans- The Power of the Pulpit

   The schedule for the Cavaliers and Devils thus far have rarely intersected with the good news for that being that I have been able to watch both teams often.

The bad news is that I haven't had as much time to write other pieces or clean the inbox, so I'm trying to make time today with the situation in Houston.

These two articles from Sports Illustrated, Here and Here, are about the almost-cult-like conditions surrounding the franchise and how they have placed themselves on the verge of losing the greatest offensive player in franchise history.

My nephew, Jeff Heimberger has been a Houston Texans fan since the franchise was created, but the craziness down in Houston that seems to revolve around a fellow named Jack Easterby has Jeff questioning his fandom and considering a move to another team.

Easterby is a former team chaplain and relationship coach that has maneuvered his way all the way into personnel involvement and the only person that the Texans owner, Cal McNair, will listen to on almost any team issue.

Jeff has been telling me about Easterby for months, but I only knew a little about the situation until recently when Easterby has seemingly been heavily involved (when the Texans insisted that he would not) in the Texans hiring their general manager (Nick Caserio, an Easterby pal from his New England days) and coach ( Ravens passing game coordinator David Culley) with Easterby reported to be key in the hiring process.

Caserio is regarded well in the league, but so many of the Patriot gang has struggled after leaving Foxboro and as for Culley, I've never heard his name even rumored for a head coaching job, his last job was passing game coordinator for a team that finished last in passing, will be 66 years old when the season starts and missed a game last season due to illness.

While Culley appears to be one of the strangest coaching hires in quite a while, the lack of personnel currently on the Texans and the decision-making under Bill O'Brien is astoundingly awful which has left the Texans talent-light except for a few stars and having traded multiple high picks.

The O'Brien/Easterby crew has created a franchise that has little ability to add talent around DeShaun Watson if he could be convinced to stay and might have to trade one of the top quarterbacks in the game in his prime to add talent that the team needs.

In other words, the Texans are cornered- keep Watson, and other than offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and an aging J.J. Watt, Houston has no top-level players and look to be at the bottom of the league for quite a while.

Trade Watson and you've lost a player that rarely comes along at quarterback, plus considering how the personnel department has operated with Jack Easterby around, can you feel confident that the team will get the incoming picks right?

After all, Easterby is the person that was behind the trading of Deandre Hopkins and a fourth-rounder to the Cardinals for a past his prime, David Johnson, a second and fourth-rounder with the second-rounder going to the Rams for Brandon Cooks, a lesser receiver, so if he's involved in personnel there are plenty of doubts.

This seems like one of those sports stories that we will find out the complete story of this down the road in what may make a very interesting book, but from what I've read Jack Easterby sure seems like a televangelist that preaches one thing and behaves differently once a back is turned.

One thing is for sure- the Houston Texans have a mess on their hands that might the worst that the NFL has seen in a while.

It's one thing to have little talent, and even lacking high draft picks, but to have both problems with a Jack Easterby in charge?

Pro sports may not have seen a mess this bad since Ted Stepien ran the Cleveland Cavaliers into the ground in the 1980s...



Thursday, January 28, 2021

Cavaliers power past Pistons 122-107

    Collin Sexton scored 29 points and Andre Drummond notched his usual double/double of 23 points and 16 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers broke a two-game losing streak with a 122-107 win over the Detroit Pistons in Cleveland.

Cleveland returns to the .500 mark at 9-9 and will be back Friday in New York at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

Sorry, I missed the Cavaliers' close loss to the Lakers and the Devils' loss to the Flyers on Tuesday.

Just had too much to do in an attempt to get back to normal living again!

Swashbucklings

1) Collin Sexton's 29 points was a bit of a return to normalcy after scoring 17 against the Lakers and 13 in that awful loss to Boston.

2) Sexton hit 10 of 14 shots and when you can have your shooting guard shoot that high in percentage, you'll win your share of games.

3) The difference between this team and the most recent editions of the Cavaliers, they have managed to do the first thing that rebuilding programs show that things are heading in the right direction- beating teams equal or worse than you at home regularly.

When you can begin to do that, that is the first step in creating the culture of winning.

4) The Cavaliers actually trailed in this game at the half, but outscored Detroit by seventeen in the second half.

The Pistons are a bad club, especially so when Blake Griffin isn't playing, but they are like the graveyard of draft busts- Jahil Okafor, Josh Jackson, Isaiah Stewart to name just a few.

When your best player is whatever's left of Derrick Rose, Jerami Grant (who is playing well, averaging close to 25 points a night) and Wayne Ellington, you have problems.

5) Taurean Prince continues to be a pleasant surprise as part of the trade with the Nets, Prince looks relaxed and more like the player that put up good numbers in Atlanta and not the disappointing free agent signing that played in Brooklyn.

Prince finished with a line of 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks in thirty minutes of action and looks to be cemented as the top option on the wing off the bench.

6) Speaking of Brooklyn, the Nets are rumored to be in talks for both or one of Andre Drummond and Javale McGee.

I'm not sure what of value that can be obtained from the Nets, since their end of the three team trade involved first round picks or swaps for the next hundred years it seems, but they do seem interested in adding a big man since they had to lose Jarrett Allen to land James Harden. 

Hammerin' Hank

    Yet another baseball Hall of Famer passed away as part of what seems to be a sad trend as the "Real" home run king has passed on as Hank Aaron passed away at the age of 86.

Aaron is the tenth member of the Hall of Fame to pass away since last April.

Besides being regarded by many fans as the actual home run leader due to the PED use of Barry Bonds, Aaron has always seemed to be a class act and ambassador of the game that moves beyond only his on-field performance.

Aaron led the National League in homers four times and despite never hitting more than forty-seven in a season, it was the consistency of Aaron's power that helped him to set the record previously held by Babe Ruth.

Aaron hit forty or more homers seven times, seven more times Aaron hit between thirty and thirty-nine (Thirty-nine twice in 1959 and 1967), and on five occasions Aaron hit between twenty and twenty-nine longballs.

Add it up and you have nineteen times that Hank Aaron hit more than twenty homers in a season.
Hank Aaron hit twenty or more homers every season after his rookie season in 1954 (13) until his final two seasons in 1975 and 76 in his return to Milwaukee with the then-AL Brewers (12 and 10), Aaron hit 20 or more homers.

When you are consistently putting those numbers on the board, you must be in the lineup every day as well.
Aaron didn't play fewer than the 122 games that he played as a rookie in 1954, until his 120 games at age 39 in 1973.

All-Star appearances come with the territory for great players and during much of his career, it was the players that decided who played in the All-Star game and Aaron was named to the All-Star game twenty-one times and only the final three appear to be charity elections to the game.

Aaron also led the National League in RBI on four occasions (1957, 60, 63, and 66) and won two batting championships as well hitting .328 in 1956 and .355 in 1959.

Aaron was more than a slugger for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves.
From 1955, Aaron's second season through 1971 when he hit .327 at the age of 37, Aaron hit under .300 only four times with the down seasons being nothing to be ashamed of ( .298, .292, .287, and .279).

Surprisingly, Aaron would win only one MVP award, winning it for the only World Championship that he ever won as well- the 1957 Milwauke Braves.
You could make arguments that Aaron should have won more than one award.

Aaron finished third in the voting on SIX occasions and one stands out as a glaring omission- 1959 when Aaron hit .355 with 39 homers, 123 RBI and an OPS over 1,0000 would have likely won him the MVP had Eddie Mathews and Aaron split the Braves vote.

Aaron tolerated a lot of ridiculous garbage as he approached Babe Ruth's record and he didn't fire back, but he has been reported to have kept much of the hate mail from that time.
That's sad, both that it happened and that Aaron was bothered to the point of keeping those letters.
I don't blame him for being upset, but I would have considered the source and tossed them in the wastebasket.

Aaron was traded before the 1975 season as he wished to finish his career where it began-Milwaukee where he would serve as the team's designated hitter for two seasons before retiring after the 1976 season.

Aaron would return to Atlanta and work in the Ted Turner-organization until his retirement working for the Braves and for the Turner media side in which Aaron would have a crossover role with pro wrestling when then-WCW boss Bill Watts saw an older interview of his sent to Aaron by Pittsburgh media member Mark Madden and asking Aaron if this is what he believes as part of the Turner organization.

Aaron reportedly took the interview to Ted Turner and shortly after Watts was relieved of his duties with the company.
Aaron also was a long-time fan of the Cleveland Browns, attending games in both luxury boxes and occasionally even in the Dawg Pound incognito. 

A movement has begun to request that the Atlanta Braves use this time to change their name to the Hammers to honor Aaron.
I'm generally not in favor of such things, but this may make some sense.
A hammer logo resembles a tomahawk and perhaps fans could live with a name change considering it would be honoring the greatest player in the history of the franchise.
Perhaps the time is right in Atlanta.

The all-time home run king, over 3,000 hits, and extremely well-liked, Hank Aaron will be missed by all and hopefully, his name will be the last baseball great that passes away for quite a while.



 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Blown out in Boston-Cavaliers lose 141-103

  The Cleveland Cavaliers bounced into Boston on a three-game winning streak and after beating the Brooklyn Nets twice, seemed to be on a roll.

The Cavaliers were bounced out of Boston with a humiliating 141-103 loss that showed how far this team still has to go and with the defending world champion Lakers waiting for them in Cleveland tonight- things may not get any better.

Seven Cavaliers scored at least eleven points, but none more than Collin Sexton's 13.

Cleveland dropped back to the .500 mark at 8-8.

Swashbucklings

1) The less said about this the better, but the signs were there from the start and J.B. Bickerstaff knew it as minutes into the game and Boston already scoring at will, Bickerstaff called a time-out and brought five fresh players for his starters.

Not that it helped much, but Bickerstaff constantly tinkered with the personnel on the floor and did his best to try to stem the tide- it just wasn't happening on this evening.

2) While there have been plenty of positives from the Cavaliers' surprising start, this game showed how long there is to go in the building process.

Good teams may have off nights, but they don't have them that are so awful that the game is essentially over eight minutes into the game.

What has helped the improvement is the ball movement, hustle, and help on defense this season and against Boston, none of the three were in evidence.

3) The Cavaliers weren't just a step behind, they seemed almost indifferent to staying in the game.

I don't know what changed, but I do know this- this team cannot afford nights this bad and they definitely cannot afford to think that they are better than they are.

4) Cleveland shot only forty percent from the floor with only two players hitting half their shots (Javale McGee and Dylan Windler), Cleveland also turned the ball over 17 times and while the box score shows Boston with 15, I'm willing to bet a closer combing of the possessions that at least half of those came in the garbage tine of fourth-quarter play.

5) The Celtics did shoot well, hitting almost fifty-six percent, but much of that was open shots due to lackadaisical defense.

Cleveland entered the game second in the league in total defense, but this game appeared to be the return of last season's defensive nightmare.

6) I like J.B. Bickerstaff's move to play the bench more often in a game well-decided.

None of the Cleveland starters other than Isaac Okoro's 29 minutes, played more than 18 minutes with five players off the bench playing 21 minutes or more.

In each of those cases, those players needed the playing time- Okoro (rookie), Dylan Windler (essentially a rookie), Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince (New to the team), Damyean Dotson (role player), and Darius Garland (still working his way back from injury) and it made sense for them to play rather than add wear to the starting five.

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer Getty Images

Wedgewood blanks Islanders, Devils win 2-0!

  Scott Wedgewood made 28 saves to allow the New Jersey Devils to avenge their previous game's loss to the New York Islanders and win 2-0 at the Rock in Newark.

Wedgewood's flawless night was supported offensively by second-period goals by Jack Hughes (3 Power Play) and Pavel Zacha (1) in the New Jersey victory.

The Devils will host (my most hated) rival Philadelphia at the Rock Tuesday night.

Hell Raisers

1) I know that many have questions ( you may rank me amongst them) about Scott Wedgewood as the backup to Mackenzie Blackwood and the Devils look at the situation in the same manner or they wouldn't have claimed Aaron Dell, but on this night there would be no worries as Wedgewood was excellent.

2) Scott Wedgewood isn't going to be that good every night.

Hey, I don't even expect him to be that good on Tuesday against the Flyers, but what he has to do is be good enough that he doesn't lose games right away by allowing soft goals for a Devils team to fall behind early that cannot afford to do so.

3) Jack Hughes with his third goal of the year as part of a power-play unit that thus far has been much improved over last season.

4) That unit has been improved for two different reasons.

The first is the addition of Myles Wood, who has been a plus due to his aggressiveness around the net.
On the goal by Jack Hughes, it was Wood working around the net and parking himself in front of Islander goalie Ilya Sorokin to allow Hughes to fire the puck by the netminder.
If Wood can harness that aggressiveness and not take stupid penalties, which he has been known to do,
he could be a key part of an improvement on the man advantage.

5) And Ty Smith, who entered the season with questions about whether he was ready for the NHL, has been key offensively.
On the Hughes goal, it was Smith playing the point and it was Smith picking up his fifth point in five games as he hit Hughes with the pass setting up his goal.
For now, Smith seems more comfortable offensively than defensively, but the Devils power play is much more effective with the rookie on point than veteran P.K. Subban.
Smith moves the puck far more than Subban does and that has made the difference.

6) The Islanders may have a good one in net with Ilya Sorokin, who was blocked by Myles Wood on one goal and the Pavel Zacha goal was a rebound that no one could be expected to stop.
Sorokin kept the Islanders' hopes alive by stopping several Devil chances and played very well.





Sunday, January 24, 2021

Boxing Challenge: Fulton dethrones Leo

    Showtime and the PBC's three-fight card to kick off the premium cable network's 2021 schedule didn't possess large names, but the evening did unveil two potential stars and if it can be arranged for the two of them to fight- Showtime just might have a breakout fighter for 2021.

In the main event, Stephen Fulton outslugged and outboxed a courageous Angelo Leo to take away Leo's WBO junior featherweight title by a unanimous decision that the judges thought was wider than I did.

The duo was initially scheduled to face off last August, but Fulton was diagnosed with Covid-19 and Leo won the vacant title over Fulton's replacement, Tramaine Williams.

Fulton fought Leo's fight on the inside for the first half of the fight and surprisingly threw more punches than the volume puncher over the entire match.

Fulton boxed a bit more in the second half, using his jab very well to keep Leo on the outside, but still didn't refrain from engaging Leo on the inside where he won most of the exchanges.

I scored Fulton a 117-111 winner, which was a little closer than the official scorecards but despite the margin of victory, the fight was always competitive and entertaining with Fulton perhaps showing the potential to be a star.

Fulton's willingness to slug and make an interesting contest makes me think that he may be more than a talented boxer and in a suddenly very interesting junior featherweight division, Fulton can be part of several intriguing battles.

While I'd like to see Fulton against WBA and IBF champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Fulton has the good fortune to hold a title in a division other than Akhmadaliev that is filled with PBC fighters such as WBC champion Luis Nery, WBC "champion in recess" (Due to injury) Rey Vargas, former WBA/IBF champion Danny Roman, and minor beltholder Brandon Figueroa.

Any of those fights would be one that I would be looking forward but I might like another fight for Fulton even better with the winner staking a claim with the best the division has to offer- And it's easy to make as well!

Raeese Aleem battered Vic Pasillas in the co-feature to win yet another of those minor WBA titles, but that's not important.

What is important is how Aleem took apart an undefeated fighter that entered the fight off his biggest win and impressively ended the fight.

Aleem knocked Pasillas down in the second, sixth, ninth, and eleventh rounds and forced the referee to end the fight shortly after Pasillas hit the mat in the eleventh round.

Pasillas tried to walk forward and grind Aleem down, but even though he was game and landed his share, it appeared that Aleem was a different level of fighter and when Aleem landed squarely, Pasillas didn't take the punishment.

Aleem's victory was one that you would hope moves him forward against a better fighter, but these silly WBA minor titles can often get in the way of a fighter's development and bigger fights.

When a fighter wins one of these minor titles, it removes that fighter, since he's now considered a "champion", from the other organization's ratings and often makes it even more difficult to find top fighters to face them.

Why these guys want any of the WBA (the other organizations do this as well, but the WBA is the worst offender) titles other than the main title is beyond me.

Paying the sanctioning fees for a title that is considered worthless other than the handsome belt itself (I like the WBA belts the best of the four) and can hinder your career seems like a bad career move to me in most cases.

As for Aleem, I'd be all in for an Aleem challenge of Stephen Fulton for his WBO title, but I'd bet knowing PBC that we'll see a few defenses against overmatched competition instead of the several strong opponents that he could face- at 30 years of age ( not young for a lower weight fighter), Aleem needs to be moved quickly and into the top ten competition- I think he's ready for it.

In the boxing challenge, I scored three points to Ramon Malpica's one on the evening to move the season total to five to three in my favor.



Saturday, January 23, 2021

Boxing Challenge

 The boxing challenge resumes for 2021 after a three-week absence from the sport.

Showtime's three bout card may not be filled with huge names but has a world title on the card and two interesting undercard matches that make this card well worth watching.

The main event from the Showtime "Bubble" in Uncasville, Connecticut features the WBO junior featherweight title defended by Angelo Leo against Stephen Fulton.

This matchup was scheduled for last August with the winner gaining the title that was vacated by Shakur Stevenson, but Fulton tested positive for Covid-19 and was unable to fight.

Leo would fight Fulton's replacement, Tramaine Williams, for the vacant title and was very impressive in winning a unanimous decision and the championship as he wore down Williams in the second half of the fight. 
Fulton, like Williams, is a smooth boxer and will have to fend off the pressure of Leo.
I'd be surprised if this fight ended in a stoppage (unless cut related) as neither fighter has shown more than average power at best, but this could be a solid action fight and that depends on how much Fulton decides to move around the ring. 
This one could go either way.

The other two fights have those toss-away WBA minor titles on the line but still are interesting pairings.

Another junior featherweight fight pairs undefeated Raeese Aleem and Vic Pasillas.

Pasillas looked very strong in his previous win as he knocked out undefeated Ranfis Encarnacion in the sixth round in September, while Aleem dominated Marcus Bates in stopping him in ten rounds.
Those fights are the best wins for either fighter, so this will be the biggest test for each man.

The opener is a lightweight as touted Rolando Romero takes on late replacement Avery Sparrow.
Romero's original opponent, Justin Pauldo, missed weight by over three pounds and was replaced by Sparrow.
Romero "won' his "title" by unanimous decision over Jackson Marinez in August in what may have been the worst decision of 2021.
Sparrow's not going to be a threat to hurt Romero (3 KO's in 10 wins), so this appears to be a perfect opportunity for Romero to shine up a tarnished reputation from the Marinez fight.

The boxing challenge is currently tied at two.

WBO Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Angelo Leo vs Stephen Fulton
R.L: Leo Unanimous Decisions
TRS: Fulton Unanimous Decision

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Raeese Aleem vs Vic Pasillas
Both: Aleem Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 12 Rds- * Due to the late replacement, I didn't get Ramon's pick for this fight, No points on this, Buzzer Disconnected.
Rolando Romero vs Avery Sparrow
R.L: 
TRS: Romero KO 8
 



Cavaliers cut down Nets again!

  Collin Sexton scored 25 points, Jarrett Allen scored 19 points in 19 minutes. and Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. each posted double-doubles as the Cleveland Cavaliers moved above .500 with a 125-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Rocket Fieldhouse.

The win gives Cleveland a surprising two-game sweep of the two games against the Nets and pushed the Cavaliers into third place in the Central Division.

Cleveland improves to 8-7 on the season with their next game against the Celtics in Boston Sunday night.

Swashbucklings

1) The Brooklyn Nets entered these two games in Cleveland, with tons of hype about the new "Big Three" and they left town with questions, and watchers were impressed by the surprising Cavaliers with their effort and their team play.

2) Kevin Durant didn't play for the Nets and that likely was the difference between the double-overtime game in the first of the two games and the twelve-point loss in the latter game.

Brooklyn is holding Durant's playing time down as he rebounds from the Achilles injury that caused him to miss last season and with  Durant playing fifty minutes in the double-overtime game, it made sense for the Nets to give Durant the evening off.

3) The difference in this game was the third quarter when the Cavaliers moved a one-point halftime lead to a fourteen-point margin starting the fourth.

J.B. Bickerstaff's preaching of a team-first, move the ball and keep scrambling system of play simply rubbed Brooklyn into submission.

Imagine in a geological fashion- rocks change their shape due to two things, constant pressure and the never-ending passing of time.

That's how the Cavaliers are winning some of these games- pressure and time.

4) Dylan Windler returned to the lineup after breaking his hand in the Cavaliers opener.

Windler missed all of last season due to injury and broke his hand in game one.

Windler hit both of his shots, each from three-point distance to finish with six points in sixteen minutes of floor time.

5) Jarrett Allen scored nineteen points in nineteen minutes off the bench and had several impressive dunks.

The most impressive was when Allen took a pass from Collin Sexton, took a step toward the basketball, and with one hand slammed the ball into the hoop over former Cavalier Joe Harris.

I think Allen is going to get even better as his familiarity with the team grows and his team may look back at his acquisition as being one of the better trades in team history.





Friday, January 22, 2021

Cavaliers trade Kevin Porter to Houston

   The Cleveland Cavaliers experiment with the talented but problematic Kevin Porter Jr. ended as the Cavaliers sent Porter to the Houston Rockets for basically nothing but the right to write him off their cap.

Cleveland reportedly received a Top 55-protected second round pick from Houston, which basically means unless the Rockets would make the Western Conference finals, the Cavaliers will receive nothing except for the aforementioned cap space.

Porter hadn't played all season after an off-season mishap that saw various charges brought against him with all charges eventually dropped, but showed up for the Cavaliers home win over the New York Knicks and was very noticeable on the bench cheering for the team.

However, that didn't last as Porter threw a tantrum in the locker room after learning of his locker being moved to make room for the two players acquired from the Brooklyn Nets that resulted in Porter arguing with members of the front office including General Manager Koby Altman and throwing food around the locker room.

Porter's rookie year didn't see any of these problems after the Cavaliers traded four second-round picks to the Detroit Pistons for the final pick in the first round in 2019 to select Porter.

Porter averaged ten points, three rebounds, and two assists in fifty games in his rookie season and was thought to be part of the Cavaliers core for the future.

At 6'4 and with great quickness and leaping ablilty, Porter can play either shooting guard or small forward and is a better than average passer.

While I realize the problems in giving chances to troubled players over and over again, I'm not sure that I wouldn't have tried again with a player of Porter's talent.

Now, keep in mind that I don't know how many chances Porter has been given already and I don't know how keeping Porter around could be a difficult sell in an organization that seems to have a little bit of momentum rolling right now, but from what I've read Porter has not been unpopular in the locker room.

The one reason that does make sense is the arrival of Isaac Okoro that plays the same spots on the floor and it's not out of the question that it could have been difficult to find enough playing time for both Okoro and Porter to help both players develop properly.

Kevin Porter was a project worth trying for the Cavaliers and I won't criticize them for that.

However, any project worth starting is worth finishing- I'm not sure the Cavaliers completely finished the project.

Islanders dominate Devils 4-1

   The news started badly for the New Jersey Devils before their game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum when Mackenzie Blackwood was placed on the Covid-19 protocol list as a precaution.

The game was even worse as the Devils were not very good, to be kind, as the Islanders dominated the game in a 4-1 win that had the feel of a contest that was not that close.

Nathan Bastian scored (1) the only Devils goal in the second period sandwiched in between the four Islander goals.

The two teams will rematch Sunday on the Devils ice in Newark.

Hell Raisers

1) The word before the game that Mackenzie Blackwood had been placed on the Covid-19 list came at the worst possible time- before the Devils could activate Aaron Dell.

While being placed on the Covid list doesn't always mean that a person may have it,  the Devils and their fans are waiting with some trepidation until they know the status of Blackwood, who played so well in the first three games of the season.

2) While the Devils weren't exactly comfortable with Scott Wedgewood being the fallback option at goaltender, Wedgewood wasn't awful in this game, and although Wedgewood did allow four goals, one of those was a sharp angle shot that happened to hit the right angle with the other three not east saves either.

3) The Devils penalty killers are emerging as a problem with the Islanders scoring both of their third-period goals on the power play. 

I don't have a solution, but the situation is getting worse and worse every game.

4) For the third time in four games, New Jersey was called for too many men on the ice.

Can that be attributed to sloppiness, laziness, or players still adjusting to a new coach's system?

Could be any or all of those reasons, but that is an abnormally high number for only four games.

5) The Devils need more performance from Kyle Palmieri and Nikita Gusev have each struggled mightily in these four games.

Palmieri has only two assists, Gusev doesn't have a point at all, both appear lost at times and both have appeared badly out of sync.

Both are playing without their regular line partners currently and that likely is much of the problem, but for what the Devils need from the two offensively, they had better hope that can be rectified by the return of their usual linemates.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Super Sexton cuts the Nets- Cavaliers win in Double OT!

   It was advertised as the debut of the new "Big Three" for the Brooklyn Nets.

It ended with a stunning Cleveland Cavaliers win in double overtime behind Collin Sexton's 42 points as Sexton scored twenty consecutive points for Cleveland covering the first and second overtime in their 147-135 victory.

The Nets stars put their points up on the board, but the Cavaliers rallied in the first overtime from a three-point deficit with both eighteen and twenty-three seconds remaining and tied to the game on a three-pointer by Sexton with 1.2 seconds left to force a second version, where it was all Cleveland and all Collin Sexton.

Sexton's 42 led Cleveland with Cedi Osman contributing 25 more. 
J.B. Bickerstaff used only eight players for Cleveland in the game and seven of the eight reached double-figures in points with the eighth- Isaac Okoro finishing with eight points.

Cleveland has evened their record to a surprising 7-7 and will face this same Nets team on Friday at Rocket Field House.

Swashbucklings

1)  Just wow.
Collin Sexton put this team on his shoulders and drilled shot after shot to keep the Cavaliers in a game that could have easily gotten away.
I'm still not ready to say that Collin Sexton is a number one player for a rebuilding franchise, but his game has advanced this season and he's getting closer and closer to considering him for that status.

2) What is the advancement in Sexton's game?
The improvement in the outside shot for Sexton has added an extra dimension to his game.
Sexton has always been able to beat his man off the dribble, but his outside shot had been inconsistent.
Sexton still will have his evenings where nothing falls, but this season Sexton has established himself credible enough that opponents will have to step out and contest his shot- which makes his drives to the basket even more effective.

3) The two newest Cavaliers each played over thirty and while Jarrett Allen played and gave the Cavaliers what they hoped for (12 points and 11 rebounds), the surprise was Taurean Prince, who scored 17 points and hit three three-pointers, one of those a key basket in overtime.
Prince had a lot of questions after being acquired by Cleveland, but if he's able to play closer to his time with the Hawks and less than his tenure in Brooklyn, Prince could help this team.

4) Cedi Osman played the most of anyone in the victory-fifty minutes and his twenty-five points came with nine of seventeen shooting, four of those from three-point range.
Osman can be inconsistent, but his effort is always there and I still have the feeling that there is some growth that still could come along.
Osman is only 25 and this season he's averaging fourteen points with four rebounds and assists each.
Even if this is the best that Osman ever plays, that's a pretty handy role player at least.

5) The future seems pretty clear from the first night with Jarrett Allen as a Cavalier.
Allen didn't supplant Andre Drummond at center as the starter, but Allen played more minutes (31 to 26)  and in crunch time, it was Allen on the floor, not Drummond.

6) JaVale McGee was a DNP and I would imagine trade offers will be heating up soon.
If the minutes aren't completely there for Allen and Drummond, they definitely aren't there for adding McGee to the mix.

7) I'm not a fan of the Cavaliers "City" uniforms anyway this season, but with their colors being black and white- it's not easy to keep things straight in games like tonight.
Brooklyn's colors are black and white and I had difficulties at times telling which team is which.
Hopefully, Cleveland will wear a different uniform for the rematch on Friday.

8) Kyrie Irving finished with 37 points in his return, Kevin Durant dropped 38 and James Harden popped in 21, but the Nets defense was awful and I still wonder if three guys that all seem to need the basketball can co-exist on the court.
Last night was only their first game together, but I'm not sure if this wins in the playoffs.
The Nets are going to have their nights where they just blow teams out of the arena but against good and better-rounded teams?
I'll say the jury is out.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Hughes hits Rangers, Devils win 4-3!

   Jack Hughes scored two goals (1 & 2) and added an assist to support Mackenzie Blackwood's 47 saves as the New Jersey Devils held off a strong third period rally of the New York Rangers and grab a 4-3 duke at Madison Square Garden.

Travis Zajac scored (1) seconds into the game for the Devils first goal and Miles Wood scored the Devils final goal (3 Power Play) in the second period for the New Jersey goals.

The Devils will travel to Long Island on Thursday in the first of two vs the New York Islanders before hosting the Islanders on Sunday.

Hell Raisers

1) Jack Bleeping Hughes!

Not only does Hughes have points in each of the Devils three games, and not that Hughes scored two goals in this one, and not even that he scored all of his points in the second period- it's like this young man just hit the power switch and stated- now it's time to show just what kind of player I am.

2) Watching this game was one of those games that you can see the player growth burst out of the cocoon as a different level of player than they were before.

You don't see that very often and sports and when you do, it's a special night. 
I'm aware that it is just one game and I'm aware that I could look like a jerk if Hughes just had a good night, but I really have the feeling that Jack Hughes moved to a new level and still has room to grow.

Photo: Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

3) SO, you thought I was finished with Jack Hughes- Hughes could have scored another point as his pass from around that net that resulted in a P.K. Subban goal was waved off after a Rangers challenge because Kyle Palmieri was offsides bringing the puck into the zone.

It was a close call, but a justified reversal.

4) The calls did even out because on the Myles Wood goal, the Devils may have gotten a break because it did appear that Myles Wood may have had kicked the puck into the net or at least his foot was moving forward in a "kicking motion".

5) I've so busy gushing over Jack Hughes that I haven't added just how good Mackenzie Blackwood was in the victory.
47 saves, 50 shots and likely twenty more that weren't officially counted as shots with Blackwood's play saving this game against a relentless Ranger attack in the third period.
Blackwood has been facing so many shots in these first three games that even though Lindy Ruff wouldn't prefer to rest Blackwood until Aaron Dell arrives/clears protocol, he may decide to play Scott Wedgewood in one of the games against the Islanders, likely the road game.

6) I still have major concerns about the penalty killers with the Rangers scoring two of their three goals against the Devils PK team.
The Devils have already allowed four goals in three games with a man disadvantage and although the sample size is small, I wonder just how long this will be tolerated before a defensive shakeup is in order.

Photo Credits: Bruce Bennett Getty Images  


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Devils claim Aaron Dell

   The New Jersey Devils goaltending situation was hamstrung by the late retirement of Corey Crawford and making the Devils very vulnerable to anything that would take Mackenzie Blackwood out of the lineup.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and their cap constraints came to the Devils rescue when an injury forced Toronto's hand that caused them to waive forward Jason Spezza and goaltender Aaron Dell to create cap space.

Spezza was an easy player to slide through waivers- he's 37 and he had told any team that should they claim him, he would immediately retire, but Toronto knew that as much as they hoped that Dell would return to them, Dell's return would be unlikely with the Devils and the Edmonton Oilers in dire straits with depth in their net.

The Devils pounced on Dell and will be bringing to Newark as the steady veteran hand behind Mackenzie Blackwood.

Dell signed with Toronto in the off-season after spending his entire NHL career with the San Jose Sharks and was the loser in the Maple Leafs roster shuffle,

Dell won twelve of thirty starts for the Sharks last season, finishing with a save percentage of .907 and a goals-against-average of 3.01.

Dell is an upgrade over Scott Wedgewood and might be better suited for the backup goaltender than Corey Crawford would have been.

Crawford was a player that was used to playing a lot and even though the plan would have been for the two players to split time fairly evenly, I'm not positive that Crawford (Like Cory Schneider before him) that Crawford would have been fine with that over the course of a season.

Aaron Dell will be fine with that role.

It's what he's always been, it's what he's best suited for, and for a New Jersey Devils team badly in need- Aaron Dell will shore up the roster.

It will be a bit before Dell will actually join the team as being with the Maple Leafs involves crossing the border and will have to go through Covid-19 protocol before being allowed to practice and play with the team.


Browns season ends in close shave with Chiefs 22-17

    The Cleveland Browns gave all that they had in a loss to the powerful Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Divisional Playoffs and in their 22-17 defeat, the Browns may have proven more about the direction of their franchise than in any of their victories (with the arguable exception of their first-round win over the Pittsburgh Steelers) and may have finally established the franchise as more than another mirage.

Baker Mayfield threw for 204 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

Nick Chubb led the ground attack with 69 yards, while Rashard Higgins was the top receiver with five catches for 88 yards to lead the pass catchers.

The season ends for the Browns with eleven regular season and a playoff victory on the road at Pittsburgh.

Brownie Bits

1)  I'm going to lead (Pun Intended) with the hit by Kansas City's Daniel Sorensen on Rashard Higgins that was clearly helmet to helmet and Sorensen's lowering of his helmet to deliver the blow. 
The no-call cost the Browns a likely touchdown and because the contact with the helmet isn't reviewable (as it is in college football), replay could not be brought into play.

2) I know Higgins reaching for the pylon is a risky play and I understand that, but why isn't anyone asking this- Does Higgins fumble if he's not being HIT IN THE HEAD by what is, by the rulebook, an illegal blow?

3) And I don't care about Sorensen's "intent".
How many times in college football do we see targeting called and we all talk about intent?
It doesn't matter (although I think it should matter)- There is nothing in the rules that says about whether a player 'meant' to hit the opponent in the head. 
It says you cannot.

4) If that penalty is called, the Browns have a first and goal from the half-yard line.
Four cracks at a touchdown and six/seven points in a game they lost by five to a team led by Chad Henne.
Think about that one...

5) I spent five points on one play for a few reasons.
It was pivotal and cost the Browns a likely touchdown, the officials missed the call, the NFL needs to make helmet contact reviewable for next season, and if player safety is as important to them as their lip service says (it's not) start having their officials do a better job looking for it.

6) Why didn't I mention the touchback?
Well, that is the rule and while I don't mind it as much as some do, that part of the play was called properly.
Evem if it is B.S. that the touchback could be reviewed while the guy nicknamed "Dirty Dan' by his own team didn't extend his arms to try to tackle could not be reviewed.

7) Kevin Stefanski might be the coach of the year, but he wouldn't win coach of this day.
Stefanski's constantly touted as an "analytics" believer, yet he punted on fourth and nine on the Browns final possession, gambling that he would get the ball back-they wouldn't.

8) Stefanski also botched a challenge that had zero chance of succeeded.
Still, remember just as players need experience in the postseason- Same goes for coaches.

9) Now for some good things.
Other than one bad throw, Baker Mayfield played pretty well in the loss.
Mayfield's receivers dropped some passes or his day could have been much better.
I wouldn't dog him for the loss.

10) The running game averaged five yards, but Kareem Hunt didn't touch the ball in the first half and while some of this is due to trailing for most of the game, Kevin Stefanski in the latter part of the season seemed forget this team was built on the run.
That will be interesting to follow next season.

11) The Chiefs decided to take away Jarvis Landry and they succeded even though Landry caught the Browns only passing touchdown.
Landry caught seven passes and only twenty yards.
Kansas City was able to keep Landry closer to the line of scrimmage by shadowing him and wrapped him up as soon as he caught the ball.

12) Another good game from the offensive line, who allowed only one sack of Baker Mayfield.
And that came without left tackle Jedrick Wills, who injured his ankle on the first offensive snap.
Give the Browns and offensive line coach Bill Callahan credit, they built an excellent offensive line that should be even better next season with a true training camp.

13) All of that said and it came down to a fourth and long scramble by Chad Henne.
The defense has to stop that with the season on the line and it shows just how close this team has come and how far there is to go.
For the Browns to be a true contender the defense needs to be addresses this offseason in the same manner that Andrew Berry and company worked on the offense during the last one.
The Browns have holes, they will need to fill them to take the next step-Lets see if it can be done.

14) The Browns will pick 26th in the first round.
It's been a long time since the Browns picked that low with their own draft pick.

15) Sorry that this took so long, 
It's been a long day.
I plan on a Browns season in review with the offense and defense over the next few weeks.

16) One more time-for the record.




Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sharangovich beats the buzzer! Devils beat Bruins in OT!

   Yegor Sharangovich (1) beat Jaroslav Halak with just under two seconds remaining in overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins Saturday afternoon at the Rock in Newark.

Kyle Palmieri grabbed the puck around the Devil net, passed it to Damon Severson across mid-ice and Severson hit Sharangovich with a no-look backhand to set up the one on one and the game-winning goal.

Myles Wood scored the other Devils goal (2) in the first period when Wood re-directed a Ty Smith shot past Jaroslav Halak.

The win gives the Devils a split of the two games against the best regular season in the league last season.

The Devils return Tuesday with their first road game of the season at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

Hell Raisers

1) Yegor Sharangovich's first career goal couldn't have come at a better time for the Devils.
With less than two seconds remaining, there would have been no time for a rebound and the rookie had to be perfect and it was almost so.
Jaroslav Halak caught a piece of the puck, but not enough to keep the puck from going into the net.

2) I know it's easy to get caught up in excitement over a win and there have been plenty of players to have fast starts and fizzle out, but something tells me that the Devils have found themselves a real player in Yegor Sharangovich.
In the two games, the guy seems constantly around the puck and has a smoothness about his game that yet doesn't suggest a player skating at half-speed.

3) The goaltending in this game was stellar by both Mackenzie Blackwood and Jaroslav Halak.
While Blackwood was playing for the second game in a row, Halak was almost his equal in his first game of the year.
As good as Blackwood was, Halak's game goes to show how much the late retirement of Corey Crawford is likely to hurt the Devils with the steep drop from Blackwood to backup Scott Wedgewood.
Boston can rely on a strong backup to give Tuukka Rask a break, right now the Devils cannot say the same.

4) Ty Smith now has a goal and an assist in his two games as it was his shot that Myles Wood redirected past Halak for the Devils' first goal.
Smith looked better on the defensive end than he did in the opener and gives me a little hope.

5) The Devils did give up a shorthanded goal when Boston's Patrice Bergeron scored in the second period.
The Bergeron goal saw Kyle Palmieri pushed off the puck by Brad Marchand and the Bruins took advantage.
It's the second game that Palmieri has been pushed around and that's unusual for him as he's never been a shrinking violet in the past.
Something to keep tabs on.

6) The Devils knew that Boston was likely to go after Myles Wood early after the altercation involving Wood in their previous game, but they may not have expected the game to begin with Wood scrapping with Kevan Miller.
Miller did what his team needed him to do, Wood gave and took what he expected was coming to him and when it was over, the game moved on- I wish more teams and referees would allow these things to play themselves out.

7)  Jack Hughes assisted on the first goal and it was Hughes that passed to Ty Smith on the first goal.
Hughes had two big chances in overtime and I have yet another feeling that Hughes is sitting on a breakout year.
Hughes still needs to get stronger and he can be pushed around, but I'm seeing flashes of what the Devils expected and he's getting closer and closer to busting out.
It's coming and maybe sooner than later.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

PPM

  The college season is now over and we move to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in the PPM.

Last Week: 4-3
Overall: 115-56

AFC
Chiefs over Browns 43-31
Bills over Ravens 24-21

NFC
Packers over Rams 28-13
Saints over Buccaneers 35-24

Editors Note- Title game picks

AFC 
Chiefs over Bills 31-21

NFC
Packers over Buccaneers 28-20


Drummond carries Cavaliers to win over Knicks

        Andre Drummond may have been motivated by the Cleveland Cavaliers acquisition of Jarrett Allen or he may have been auditioning for a potential suitor, but Drummond picked up the Cavaliers and carried them to a 106-103 victory over the New York Knicks in Cleveland.

Drummond finished with 33 points and 23 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers with Cedi Osman finishing with 25 points to lead the starting five that saw each starter finish with double-figure points.

Cleveland was scheduled for a doubleheader on Sunday and Monday against the Washington Non-Bullets, but the battered Cavaliers will have a long respite as Washington's Covid-19 outbreak has caused both games to be postponed.

Cleveland will host the Brooklyn Nets next Wednesday and hopefully will see the two newest Cavaliers, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince, face their old team in their Cleveland debut.


Swashbucklings

1)  The trade rumors started about six seconds after the announcement of the Cavaliers' involvement in the four-team trade, but Andre Drummond immediately showed what some team might be getting, should they decide to trade for a big man for their playoff run.
The best way to get out of a town is to play hard, perform well, and make teams want you.
More players in all sports need to take heed of Drummond's example.

2) Andre Drummond's 30/20 was the first for a Cavalier since Carlos Boozer in 2004 (Can it be 17 years since Carlos Boozer played in Cleveland?) and was only the sixth time for anyone in Cavalier history.

3) I'll never forget Carlos Boozer and the stunt that he pulled.
When players bemoan a franchise's lack of loyalty, remember Carlos Boozer and how players aren't always a shining beacon of honor either.

4) The Cavaliers won this game with only eight players, the starting five, Lamar Stevens, JaVale McGee, and two minutes from Dean Wade. 
The five starters all played forty minutes or more and hopefully after the extra days from the Washington postponements and getting Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince on the court will keep Cleveland from being this light on the bench for a while.

5) It wasn't Andre Drummond that took the most shots in this game.
Drummond took eighteen, but it was Cedi Osman that fired up the most shots with twenty,
Fortunately for Cleveland, Osman hit ten of them and five from three-point land.
I'm torn on Osman, who I think will be a solid player with occasional streaks of top-level play.
Those streaks will come and go with an unpredictable outside shot.

6) Kevin Porter Jr. arrived on the bench for the first time this season and he was very involved among the injured players on the bench rooting the team on.
I'm not sure of the status of Porter, but the Cavaliers have been far too secretive with why Porter isn't playing and when he may be expected to return.
I don't need specifics, but a date of when they hope to have Porter at practice would be fine to start.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Devils lose Opener to Bruins

   Brad Marchand scored the only goal of the shootout to give the visiting Boston Bruins a 3-2 victory at the Rock in Newark and send the New Jersey Devils down to an opening night defeat.

New Jersey trailed twice in the game, with Myles Wood scoring on a breakaway in the third period to tie the game at one and after Boston regained the lead at two to one, rookie defenseman Ty Smith scored his first NHL goal to force the shootout.

Jack Hughes assisted on both goals for the Devils, who did earn one point in the loss.

Mackenzie Blackwood was stellar in net with 35 saves for New Jersey, who will host the Bruins in a Saturday 1;00 matinee' after taking a day off.

Hell Raisers

1)  Give almost all the credit for the one point that the Devils earned to Mackenzie Blackwood. 
Blackwood literally willed the team to their hard-earned point with several spectacular saves with stops against about every offensive situation that you could think of and without a lot of help from the Devils defense.

2) Myles Wood's goal was a beautiful sight as he broke into open ice and beat Tuukka Rask for the Devil first goal of the season.
Wood can be such an exciting player with his free-wheeling aggressiveness and willingness to crash the net.

3) Myles Wood also showed the need to control some of that aggressiveness and how it can affect the team with two goaltender interference calls.
It's such a fine line between aggressiveness and recklessness and Wood doesn't always walk that line.
Until he does that better, Wood might not become the player that he is capable of becoming.

4) The pleasant surprise was Yegor Sharangovich, who seemed to be all over ice and spent time playing on the top two lines.
Some of this may have been due to the missing Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, but his play was very strong for the 22 year old from Belarus.
It's only one game, but I was impressed by his play.

5) Ty Smith scored his first NHL goal but his pairing with Matt Tennyson is going to be very weak, at least for a while.
Tennyson is playing because the recently re-acquired Sami Vatonen hasn't been able to get into the country due to signing late in camp and the Covid-19 crisis, so that pairing will not last long for that reason only.
Still, they were not good for most of the evening.

6) I've said before for all of my dislike for many of the gimmicks in sports, the best recent change in the game has been the NHL's installation of 3 on 3 overtime.
I love it- it creates scoring opportunities and excitement and it's much more like real hockey than the shootout.
I only wish the NHL would expand it to ten minutes so even more games would be decided and never make it to the shootout.

7) Due to a recent personal change (with work/Covid-19), I'm not sure how much I'll have time to write for the next 2-4 weeks.
It's very possible that I could be posting more content and just as likely that I may be writing less.
At this stage, I just don't know.
I am hoping to sometime next week do a Devils preview.
With all the hubbub right now, I just ran out of time...


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Cavaliers enter James Harden trade, land Jarrett Allen

      The Cleveland Cavaliers often have a way of working their way into trades that you wouldn't expect them to be involved with and once again, the Cavaliers managed to wiggle their way into a major deal as Cleveland traded away injured guard Dante Exum and the first round pick in 2022 that the Cavaliers acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks and the Cavaliers 2024 second rounder to the Brooklyn Nets.

Coming to Cleveland will be center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince, both coming from the Nets.

The 22 year old Allen is the prize of the deal as the 6'11 center is a consistent young big man that has averaged around eleven points and ten rebounds in the previous two seasons and thus far this season.

Allen shot 65 percent last season and is shooting 67 percent this season from the floor.
Allen also averages a block and a half a game and gives the Cavaliers a rim protector on defense that is different from what Andre Drummond brings.

Drummond is a physical banger that blocks shots with anticipation, while Allen is more of athletic center that gets off the floor higher and faster.
Allen doesn't quite have the offensive game that Drummond has but at 22 is still capable of growth as a player so don't rule that out.
So in a nutshell, Allen's not quite at the level of Drummond right now, but he could post similar numbers eventually.

The problem with Allen is that he is a restricted free agent and while the Cavaliers will be capable of matching any offer, Cleveland may have other franchises bidding up the cost of keeping Allen in the fold.

Allen seems to fit with the Cavaliers young core and his arrival makes it very likely that the team will try to move Andre Drummond by the trade deadline in order to get something back for the soon to be free agent big man.

Javale McGee could be the first to leave though as McGee's early-season play has boosted his trade value to a contender looking for a big man to play fifteen minutes a night. 
I would imagine that the Cavaliers are shopping McGee already because even as injury strapped as the Cavaliers are right now, the minutes for three centers (Drummond missed the loss to the Jazz with a sore Achilles) aren't there for all three to receive the playing time that they need.



Taurean Prince is a small forward  that was selected by the Jazz (and quickly traded to the Hawks) with the 12th overall pick in 2016 out of Baylor.

Prince is a 6'7 tweener that can play either forward, but is better offensively at the small forward position that he played in Atlanta.
The Nets tried to use him more at the four and his numbers dropped off in every category and only shot 37 percent from the floor with Brooklyn last season.

Brooklyn cut Prince's floortime further this season from 29 minutes last season to 18 in 2020-21 and some of this may be due to his less than average defense, so Prince will have to either improve or be covered for on the defensive end.
Second unit players are a little easier to help. so Prince will likely play more with the reserves rather than the starters.

Brooklyn signed Prince to a two-year contract for 12.2 million this year and 13 for next season, which seems to be a large overpay for a guy playing less than twenty minutes a night.
Prince will be given a chance to earn more playing time with the Cavaliers and could increase his value for a team looking to clear salary cap space for next season.

Prince isn't a bad player, but he's a player with raw skills that hasn't progressed as a player, but he's still only 26 and it's not too late for him to develop, but for now Prince is a player that is good in the open floor, has trouble dropping his shot and is below-average defensively at an above-average cost.

To make space for Allen and Prince, the Cavaliers released center Thon Maker and recently signed guard Yogi Ferrell.

Maker averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in eight games for Cleveland, and I liked what I saw from him in his limited chances.
Sadly, even at 23, Maker might be a player that isn't given the chance to develop his skills and is caught in limbo- too bad for the G-League, not refined enough to play a lot in the NBA.

Farrell signed over the weekend and played in the Cavaliers losses to Memphis and Utah, scoring ten points against the Jazz and nine against the Grizzlies.
I would not be surprised to see the former Sacramento King return to Cleveland in the event of future backcourt injuries.

The New Jersey Devils drop the puck for their opener tonight, if I have time later I may do a preview of a season that should not be to the Devils advantage.