October 31st, 2016
Welcome to the Halloween edition of Monday Morning Coffee. Although this edition is more like Monday Afternoon Coffee. We start with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are off to a so-so start after 3 games. The opener was amazing. The Lake Show played with energy, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram all gave us hope for the future. Then they began a road trip on Friday that is the equivalent of trying to walk through a mine field. Nobody shot well in Utah, but the Lakers played hard, and played cohesively. They just didn’t take the game away from the Jazz when it was presented to them. Against Oklahoma City, they just had a bad matchup. D’Angelo Russell may have taken a beating from Russell Westbrook yesterday, but so does everybody. For him, there’s value in that, and it will make him a better player in the long run. Russell and Randle still were effective, but it’s the superstars like Westbrook that take over in the 4th quarter. If somehow the Lakers can come back 2-2 on this trip, that would be a nice accomplishment for this young team. You can see the potential. You can see the effort and the engagement level. However, it just needs time and patience.
As for the Clippers, as much as I criticize them for not getting it done, they have looked great so far against two pretty good teams. CP3 still looks like he has quite a bit of game left in the tank, and Blake Griffin is back to putting up big numbers. As I noticed in training camp a few weeks ago, Blake isn’t necessarily trying to dunk on everybody like he used to, which may be a product of age and the mileage on his body. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a great or even better player than he’s ever been. However, there really is no reason for him to be settling for three-pointers. He’s too big and strong for most of the people that guard him, so he should focus on dominating people in the paint. The addition of Mo Speights also seems to be giving the Clipps a different offensive look in their front court and off the bench, which should help neutralize DeAndre’s free throw issues when the game is on the line. DeAndre may not have role offensively that he wanted, but if he’s dominant on the defensive end, that’s all you need from him.
As for what we’ve seen early on in the Association, Anthony Davis is putting up video game numbers in New Orleans, but he can’t get any help. It’s going to be a looooooong season for the Pelicans. Russell Westbrook is a machine. Who cares if Russell Westbrook took 44 shots against the Suns? He had a triple double. Are you going to call him selfish? Less than a week into the season, the 76ers have already been eliminated from the playoffs. However, Joel Embiib is actually good for more than just drinking Shirley Temples, because he’s been impressive on the court so far. After getting blown out by the Spurs, the Warrior fans are ready to trade Kevin Durant to Dallas for Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. I love the prison of the moment panic we’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure the Warriors are still going to be dominant this season. Just give them time to get their chemistry right. I love Russell Westbrook’s reaction to this loser fan in Philly……
Let’s to week 8 of the NFL, where Philip Rivers took a beating I haven’t seen since watching last week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Rivers was hit 17 times, sacked four times, and picked off three times in the Chargers loss to Denver. I guess the Eagles thought leaving nobody in the end zone to cover Jason Witten was a good strategy, but unfortunately for them, the Cowboys beat Philly in OT. If the league really wanted to stop domestic abuse, they wouldn’t give us the Titans and Jaguars on Thursday night Football. If you thought that was bad, the Browns vs Jets was the dumpster fire game of the week. They really wonder why ratings are dropping? Too much football means over saturation. What’s gotten into Matt Ryan? He’s usually great in September and early October. Apparently he’s a lot better than that, as he’s still dominating the league, and dominated the Packers yesterday in the Falcons close win. The Redskins and the Bengals ending in a tie couldn’t be any more fitting. The game was played on a soccer field. The Cardinals were doing a great re-enactment of last years NFC Championship game by getting blown out by the Panthers. Gronk and the Patriots steam rolled the Bills, and the Pats tight end had his 69th career touchdown. Knowing Gronk, he’ll probably find it cool to not score for the rest of the year to stay at that number. The Raiders vs Bucs was the game of teams with pirate logos that nobody wanted to win, until Derek Carr threw his 5th TD pass in OT. The Chiefs took down the Colts, but not before Alex Smith’s wife began ripping KC weather men on Twitter, after they took shots at her husband. Russell Wilson got married and see what happens? He never scores anymore. The Saints shocked the Seahawks at home. Playing the Lions was the perfect cure for Brock Osweiler to not suck for a week, as the Texans defeated Detroit.
Ok, how good is Sam Darnold? The statistics say he’s doing better as a freshman than Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Matt Barkley. In fact, he’s suddenly the best quarterback in Los Angeles, surpassing the injured and cocky Josh Rosen. After beating Cal, the Trojans still have a shot to win the Pac 12 South, and potentially have a chance to play for the Rose Bowl. The Trojans could easily go 8-4 before losing in the Pac 12 Championship game. With a suddenly elite quarterback, a couple of victories over rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, Clay Helton is going to be smiling and thinking he’s done enough to keep his job. But has he? I think most Trojan fans would say no, but until I see what USC looks like against Washington, and potentially in the Pac 12 Title game, I’m reserving judgement. Even if the Trojans look good, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t go out and get themselves and elite head coach, given how much more attractive the program is going to look.
Elsewhere around College Football, Notre Dame finally got back in the win column by beating Miami. The Irish still managed to blow a 20 point lead though, which is nothing new for them this season. Amazingly, the Notre Dame defense even managed to get a few sacks. Brian Kelly said after the game that “we actually sack the quarterback here at Notre Dame.” Really? Because, it’s felt like your defense hasn’t even been able to tackle anybody all season, let alone sack anybody. Clemson got by Florida State, in game that featured Jimbo Fisher coaching against Dabo Sweeney. Might as well have called it the Red Neck Bowl brought you by ‘Natti Light. Washington got by Utah, in what was probably their last big test on their schedule. The Huskies better win out, because they are unlikely to make the College Football Playoff with their soft schedule down the stretch. This is definitely the point where Nebraska comes crashing back to earth and becomes the team we thought they were. They lost to Wisconsin, and are probably going to take a beating from Ohio State next week. Michigan is now in the driver seat in the Big 10, and as long as they keep winning, it doesn’t matter how many people Jim Harbaugh pisses off.
I thought the city of Chicago was going to burn down last night if the Cubs had lost game 5 to the Indians. It might still happen on Tuesday night anyway. See what happens when you have more than 1 quality starting pitcher, and more than 1 quality reliever? You can actually shut down a pretty good lineup like the Cubs. Are you listening Andrew Friedman? On paper, the Cubs have a great team, but the Indians pitching is just a little bit better right now, and that’s going to be the difference in this series. Besides, the Cubs losing the World Series is still a better story than them winning. They are “the loveable losers” , and the fact that they keep losing in these big moments keeps them an intriguing story. It’s not like the Indians have been reeling off World Series Championships annually for the last half-century either, so they will at least get to end their years of futility in the next few days. That’s a pretty nice story for the city of Cleveland, which has had to deal with the Browns for all these years.
Speaking of the Cubs, after they defeated the Dodgers, I couldn’t be any more irritated with the comments from Andrew Friedman and Stan Kasten. Instead of acknowledging that they are going to go out and get the one or two pieces needed to put them over the top, they chalked October up to nothing more than luck. They simply think that by going to the playoffs 10-12 times, they are bound to break through. Funny, because Friedman never won anything in Tampa, and Kasten failed to get his teams over the top year after year of having solid teams in Atlanta in the 1990’s. I’m pretty sure the Indians and Cubs got to the World Series because they spent a little extra money on quality starting pitching, and in the bullpen. Neither one of those teams has to ask themselves what injury prone stiff they forced to start in a long playoff series. The Dodgers better be smart enough to bring back Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner if they are serious about contending. Sounds to me like it’s the fans that are the unlucky ones, since they are stuck with a front office that has no idea how to get it done.
On the ice, it’s been a tough road trip for the Kings. The last time LA scored a goal, Donald Trump had real hair. Ok, so it wasn’t that long ago, but the Kings offense has been shutdown badly on this trip. The Kings really miss the speed and skill of Marian Gaborik. They also miss the elite goaltending of Jonathan Quick. I admit that Peter Budaj has surpassed my expectations so far, but I can’t imagine the Kings going another three months with him and Jack Campbell as their goaltenders. Then there’s the Ducks who took a beating from the Blue Jackets last week. A 4-0 loss to Columbus at home has to make you question how well the Randy Carlye coaching change is going. We’ve seen a lot of players on this team not respond to Caryle before, so that’s something to keep an eye on. The Ducks are also the latest good team to be facing salary cap issues after re-signing Hampus Lindholm. The production of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are going to be under a microscope for a while with their massive salaries on the books.
Ok people, it’s time to let go of the emotional distress the Walking Dead caused you last week, and move on to the next episode. With that being said, spoiler alert for those of you who have yet to see last night’s episode, so read no further if you plan on watching it later. This episode was a much less stressful one, and one that reminded us of one of the shows best qualities: world building. Rick always seems to run into blood thirsty, power-hungry maniacs, disrupting these plans. Carol and Morgan have stumbled upon The Kingdom, which seems to be an inspiring place of hope, led by King Ezekial. Seeing Ezekial’s medieval themed kingdom with his tiger made me feel like I was watching some weird combination of Game of Thrones and Sigfried and Roy. Ezekial becomes a pretty likable character immediately when he calls Carol out for being a bullshitter, and seeing through her phony sweet act. Even with his ability to keep his people safe from The Saviors by providing them with weekly goods, we’ve seen these idealistic leaders get crushed in the world of savages around them. However, for the time being, this guy seems to have given Carol and Morgan some inspiration to continue fighting. We need Carol to go back to that ruthless assassin that she was, and we need Morgan to begin to realize that sometimes he has to fight ruthlessly to survive. The Kingdom has probably given those two reason to do that for the time being, and I suspect that somehow they will team up with the Kingdom to help fight back against Negan. A pretty good episode, and special thanks to the writers of the show for giving us one that was stress free.