Monthly Archives: April 2023

Monday Morning Coffee

April 24, 2023

The Lakers have a choice.  They can either make life easy for themselves and handle business tonight and Wednesday against Memphis, then get their rest before round 2.  Or they can make life difficult, screw around and make this is a six or seven game series before struggling to send Memphis home.  The choice seems pretty easy to me.  The Lakers are more disciplined when they want to be, deeper, and more experienced than the Grizzlies.  Memphis talks trash better than they do anything else, but  as long AD and Lebron set the tone, the Grizzlies will be in Cancun before the week is over. Dillon Brooks can run his mouth all he wants from there.

As for the Clippers, this is the most Clipper thing ever.  There is a superstar weird enough to want to play for them, yet he’s mysteriously hurt in the biggest moments nearly ever year he’s been with the team.  I don’t get it.  Kawhi was fine after game 1 and 2, and completely dominated.  Now suddenly he can’t play? The Clippers only needed one of their stars in Kawhi or Paul George to win this series against an underwhelming Suns team.  They unfortunately had neither available.  Steve Ballmer must be smashing his Microsoft Surface into pieces out of frustration.   Kawhi practically held this team hostage over his free agency demands, they meet all of them, yet he’s not reliable when they need him most.   He told the Clippers when the playoffs come he’ll be ready and available, despite the load managing.  Well the playoffs are here and he’s not.  What’s the point of load managing if you can’t build any chemistry or durability during the season?  Unfortunately for the Clips, they are stuck with Kawhi for two more years.

To the ice, where the Kings and Oilers are in a classic NHL playoff battle.  That series is tied 2-2 going headed back to Edmonton, and it’s anybody’s series.  However, what a missed opportunity for the Kings last night to take a commanding series lead. Still, this series is probably going 7, and we forget that these teams are actually very evenly matched.  They’ve each won 7 of the last 14 meetings. I’m not terribly worried about a let down emotionally after giving away a 3-0 lead last night, because the Kings still took a 4-3 lead after that. However, when I listen to Coach Todd McClellan speak, he sounds like a guy who really thinks the odds of winning the series are a coin flip, and knows the odds are against the Kings given that he’s going up against the two best players in the world. That’s not the attitude we saw in previous Kings team that were contenders. The Kings got Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi back too, who both gave them offense, but it wasn’t offense that’s been their problem. They need to stay out of the penalty box or it’s instant death against Edmonton. Joonas Korpisalo has to be sharper in goal than last night, and the defense can’t make careless mistakes. On Friday in game 3 when the Kings won it OT, I love how Oilers Coach Jay Woodcroft said the Kings game-winning goal should be wiped out because Connor McDavid saw the puck knocked out of the air with a high stick.  He said “I believe the best player in the world”. Solid reasoning Jay.  Why don’t we just let McDavid be an independent arbitrator in all reviews during this series?  In any case,  most people didn’t expect the Kings to win this series, but they still have a chance to, despite the catastrophe of last night.

In baseball, for all the Dodger ups and downs, they are tied for 1st place in the NL West with the D’Backs.  The scary part is that the the pitching and hitting never seem to be clicking at the same time.  There’s also quite a few dudes like Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson, and Miguel Vargas who aren’t giving them much production at all.  The bullpen has also been wildly inconsistent too.  I do wonder though if they will really try to make any significant improvements at the deadline if they are contending, seemingly content to just compete in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes next winter.   Either that or Andrew Friedman’s computer needs a software refresh this offseason.  Props to Clayton Kershaw though on his 200th win last week, as well as another great start yesterday.  He doesn’t get enough credit for still being great.

Then there’s the Angels who won yesterday, but have lost 3 of their last 5 games.  The shine on this team is wearing off quickly, already 4 games back of the Rangers and under .500.  To make matters worse, Logan O’Hoppe is likely done for the year with a torn labrum.  Phil Nevin said there was nothing the Halos could have done to manage it better, except if you believe him you have probably been drinking.  I heard 17 teams interviewed and passed on Nevin before the Halos hired him.  I’m sure he would have just nailed it on the 18th.  Arte might as well go ahead and trade Shohei now.

The Rams are continuing to trim the fat.  They traded Allen Robinson to the Steelers, and even ate part of his contract in the process.   I think the Rams might be slightly better than people think next year because the NFC is softer than Charmin, but look out for the year after.  They’ll have over $70 mill in cap space and 11 draft picks.  That’s why the NFL really stands for “Not For Long.

Lastly, UCLA B-Ball got some tough news last week, which is that now Adem Bona and Amari Bailey are headed for the NBA Draft.  Bona reserves the right to return to school, but he’s likely a 1st rounder with Bailey.  So if you’re keeping score at home (and who does these days?) The Bruins have lost 6 players from their 8-man rotation this year.  Think it’s safe to say next year could be a down year.

Monday Morning Coffee

April 16, 2023

That was quite a statement win for the Lakers yesterday against Memphis. They look rested, focused, and disciplined, while the Grizzlies looked like a very inexperienced squad, despite their talent. Think about this: Anthony Davis and Lebron James were the Lakers 3rd and 4th best players yesterday. The Lakers are so deep, the Grizzlies could adjust, and next game it could be the likes of Malik Beasley or Dennis Schroeder that beat them, let alone Lebron and AD dominating. Having an extra day of rest is also working in the Lakers favor too. Never thought I’d see the day Austin Reaves ran down the court with Lebron as his teammate yelling “I’m him!” Call me weird, but I’d much rather see Ja Morant healthy, because I don’t want to see any excuses from people as to why the Lakers won the series. The only thing that should make you nervous if you’re a Laker fan is that Charles Barkley thinks they are going to the conference finals. If Barkley thinks the sun is going to rise tomorrow, I’d be nervous the world is going to end.

As for the Clippers, don’t act like Russell Westbrook didn’t make you nervous as hell yesterday in that game. Most of you people were probably wondering why he wasn’t sitting on the bench in the 4th, but Ty Lue gambled and it worked out. Russ’s shooting percentage was sinking faster than Joe Biden’s approval rating yesterday, but he did manage to make a great defensive play at the end, and sank two clutch free throws to win it. Of course in typical Russ fashion, he couldn’t control his emotions, and at halftime went at it with a fan, breaking NBA protocol, and potentially getting suspended for game 2. The Suns are good, but they’ve only played 8 games with their full complement of players. I’ve seen dudes in 24 Hour Fitness pick up games with more chemistry than that. Kawhi has been playing at an elite level for a while now, and if he continues to do so, the Clips might just get out of this series with a win, without Paul George.

To baseball, where the Dodgers are having their problems. They lost two of three to the Cubs over the weekend, falling to 8-8. In 5 their wins this season, they scored 8 runs ore more. In 5 of their losses, they scored 2 runs or less. The lineup is just wildly inconsistent, and even Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman have been struggling of late. Their starting pitching and bullpen also isn’t as deep and as dominant as the last couple of years, so you just never know what you’re going to get from these guys. Despite Chris Taylor’s homers this weekend, he’s only hitting .135, and has been bad for over a year now. The best news for the Dodgers is the fact that they are only one game out of 1st place, and it’s the Diamondbacks they are currently chasing.

Then there’s the Angels, who lost three in a row over the weekend in Boston, against the Red Sox. The Halos are now 7-8 with some very frustrating losses. They’ve had the lead in 7 of those 8 losses, and all of them came by one or two runs. I feel like we’re trying to convince ourselves that this team is much better than they are, but when you watch them they are flawed, in the bullpen especially. When losses get tough like this, leadership in the clubhouse is also critical, and I’m just not sure they have it. Ohtani and Trout are great players, but are they leaders? This is probably about the time we’ll find out.

UCLA Basketball got some tough news last week. Amari Bailey will be entering the NBA Draft. For a hot second I thought with Adem Bona, Bailey, and a couple of solid transfers, this team might be able to be a contender again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like the case, especially with Tyger Campbell, also declaring for the draft as well.

The LA Kings are back in the playoffs, and they will open up a 7 game series against the Oilers tonight in Edmonton. The Kings are much better than they were last year, but unfortunately, so are the Oilers. The worst part about this for the Kings is that two of their most important offensive players, Gabe Vilardi and Kevin Fiala, will probably not be ready to play tonight due to injury. I like the fact that Coach Todd McClellan said that he would either start Joonas Korpisalo or Phoenix Copley tonight in goal. Thanks for the info Todd, otherwise I would have thought there was a chance you could start Patrick Roy.

Monday Morning Coffee

April 10, 2023

The Lakers did it. They went 17-7 down the stretch to finish the regular season as the 7th seed, and qualify for the play-in tournament. Had they played those last 24 games with more of Lebron James and Anthony Davis, they might have finished as high as 4th. They only played 10 games together after the All-Star break. Prior to yesterday, I was beginning to think that these guys worked for “Chick Fil A” since they never seemed to be available on Sunday. Finishing 7th is impressive and goes to show you how much better of roster they have after the trade deadline. However, one can’t help but question just how much gas this team has in the tank, and how durable they are to get through the West. It’s imperative that they win on Tuesday against the Wolves, which won’t be easy. They badly need the 5 days of rest leading up to a first round series with Memphis. Must be a tough situation for the Wolves. They obviously want to win, but the longer they play, the longer they have to be around Rudy Gobert, who is punching his teammates publicly now. The other thing the Lakers must do moving forward, is to make sure that Anthony Davis is involved more consistently on offense. He is un-guardable, and when he touches the ball he has to be doubled, which ultimately, makes the Lakers more dangerous than anyone. That’s on Darwin Ham and Lebron James to initiate that.

Meanwhile, the Clippers picked up a win against the Suns yesterday, clinching the 5th seed for the Clips. That means they will play Phoenix, beginning in the desert next week. When I listen to Kawhi talk, and you know he never talks, he doesn’t sound very confident that Paul George is going to be back anytime soon. For that reason, it makes me think that Clips aren’t feeling all that great about this matchup, and the Suns are. It probably also explains why Phoenix sat their starters yesterday. I’m not sure how the Clips will guard both Durant and Booker without George. Kawhi can only guard so many people. As for all the Russell Westbrook talk, people will say anything. Some anonymous NBA GM was quoted saying the Lakers didn’t use Russ the right way, trying to make him a wing, which is why it failed. That GM clearly didn’t watch the games, because he missed nearly two full seasons of Russ having the ball in his hands, blowing layups, hitting the side of the backboard repeatedly, and shooting the ball with the accuracy of Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Along Came Polly”. He also failed to realize that the Clippers record with Russ is actually worse since he got there. Still, a sensible person can realize that multiple things can be true at the same time. Russ is a better fit with the Clippers than with the Lakers, because he isn’t making $47 million anymore, and doesn’t compromise the Clippers depth. He’s fine as a minimum salary role player. However, the fact Ty Lue keeps him on the bench in the 4th speaks volumes about how much he trusts him in crunch time. That will continue to be interesting in the 1st round of the playoffs.

To baseball where it was a rough weekend for the Dodgers. They lost 3 of 4 to the Diamondbacks, and are suddenly looking like a very mediocre team. The most surprising part of their 5-5 start is that their pitching was especially bad. Austin Barnes probably wanted to get ejected yesterday, just so he could watch the Lakers and the Masters in the clubhouse. Usually it’s reliable, but both the starters and the bullpen were pitching like they were throwing batting practice all weekend. It’s also time to start moving the likes of Miguel Vargas and James Outman higher in the lineup, and drop Max Muncy. I realize that Muncy has done a lot for this team over the years, but he’s been bad for most of the past year plus. Move him down in the lineup until he can start swinging the bat like he we’ve seen him to before. I realize it’s early, and while I think the starting pitching will turn itself around, I don’t know what to make about the bullpen , or the inconsistency in the lineup. At some point they will need a real closer too. In the meantime, all we can do is overreact, because it’s what we do.

It was also a tough weekend for the Angels, who lost 2 of 3 to the Blue Jays. The Halos handed over a 6-0 lead yesterday, and then squandered some opportunities late to lose 12-11. The Jays are definitely a top tier team, so on one hand, you can’t be too upset, especially since the team seems to be swinging the bats. On the other hand, Phil Nevin’s pitching management probably could have been better, especially on a day like yesterday when Reid Detmers was struggling. How long is it going to be before Logan O’Hoppe becomes the teams cleanup hitter? How long is it going to be before Anthony Rendon starts earning his fat paycheck? The good news for the Halos is that they take on the Nationals next, who stink. Separately, I can’t believe the Halos asked Sam Blum to no longer appear on that Baseball Writer Roundtable show. Apparently when you tell it like it is, people don’t like it. Arte Moreno would rather sugar coat everything. We might as well be living in a communist regime.

Some mixed news for UCLA Basketball in the past week. Jaylen Clark and Jaime Jacquez have declared for the NBA draft. However, Clark did not hire an agent, and may come back to school. The Bruins now have to brace themselves for the decisions of Adem Bona and Amari Bailey. One would assume that Tyger Campbell isn’t coming back either. The Bruins did get some good news though in that they got a commitment from Utah transfer Wing Lazar Stefanovich. Hard to say yet whether he would start, but looks like a solid rotational piece. Given where most of these kids are projected to go in the draft, I’m surprised more NIL sponsors haven’t stepped up to come up with more money to keep those kids in school and keep UCLA as a championship contender.

Congratulations to Jon Rahm for winning the 2023 Masters over the weekend. I’m much more concerned about Tiger Woods though, and seeing him limp around on the course yesterday at Augusta. We knew that it was going to be tough for Tiger to just make the cut, which he did. However, when the weather got cold, it only got worse for him, and you knew his body was going to start working against him. At this point, it feels like he’s in a race against his body. Then again aren’t we all? I just had a bag of chips at 10:30 pm last night. I only hope that his issue is a simple case of plantar fasciitis, that won’t prevent him from competing in big tournaments later this year.

Finally, what the heck has happened to the LA Kings? They went from being one of the hottest teams in the league just a week ago, to struggling to score, and defend. Now, they will for sure not have home ice advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs starting next week. I mean the Kings played so badly against Vegas, I thought they were going to try to troll them by putting Jonathan Quick in goal late in the game. Heck, it might have given them a chance to actually win! If they play anything like they have in the past week, they will be booking trips to Cancun before the month is over.

Monday Morning Coffee

April 3, 2023

I don’t ever recall the NBA being like this. The level of play between the 12th best team in the Western Conference and the 1st place is tighter than a Kim Kardashian jump suit. At the moment, there’s probably 6-10 teams that could win an NBA championship this year. The Lakers are now one of them, assuming they can stay healthy, which is always a big question with them. After last night’s win against Houston, if the Lakers win their last 4 games, believe it or not they can get the 5th seed. What’s most impressive though is the fact that they can take control of a game with their defense over any given stretch. That’s exactly what they did on Friday against the Wolves, and yesterday against the Rockets. You guys can bitch and complain all you want about Anthony Davis, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best players in the league. Also, Dennis “The Menace” Schroeder has been and is going to continue to be a huge catalyst for this team. I’d prefer the Laker get the 6th seed and play the Kings in the 1st round, avoiding the Suns and Nuggets in the 1st round. However, I don’t think the Lakers care and feel they can beat anybody in the league right now.

Then there’s the Clippers. They suddenly find themselves struggling to not only stay in the top 5 of the West, but they could even slip back into the play-in tournament. In fact, that game against the Lakers on Wednesday, might even be for 6th place when we get there. Kawhi is playing phenomenal, and Russell Westbrook is putting up numbers, but there hasn’t been much of a reliable force on offense besides those two since Paul George went down. They are also struggling to defend consistently, which frankly, hasn’t exactly been one of Russ’s strengths the last few years. If you’re the Clippers or the Lakers though, would you rather be in the play-in or would you rather face the Suns in the first round? If I’m either of them, I’d rather be in the play-in and face the Suns later on.

Listen guys, when I say this, it’s no shade at San Diego but it’s true. That buzzer beating shot by Lamont Butler on Saturday is easily the greatest moment in San Diego sports history. It sent SDSU to the National Championship Game, where they will take on UCONN tonight. I have a soft spot for the Aztec Basketball program, as I used to host their pregame and post game radio shows in the early 2000s. If you know any FAU fans I can assure you that they probably won’t be speaking to you for at least the next 3-5 business days. Too bad the UCONN Miami game wasn’t all that competitive. The TV ratings and the ticket prices weren’t exactly what they’ve been in the past but rightfully so. It’s criminal to make people pay outrageous prices to see a basketball game in a football stadium.

To baseball, where it was a mixed bag for the Dodgers over the weekend, and a lot of frustration. They split their first four games with the Diamondbacks, despite dominating for stretches. The good news is that all four starting pitchers were sharp: Julio Urias, Dustin May, Clayton Kershaw, as well as Noah Syndergaard. That feels very on brand for this team. The bad news though is that the offense had its ups and downs. It was really good to see Trayce Thompson and JD Martinez swinging the bat well, despite having awful spring trainings. However, the situational hitting is still poor at times, with a total of 20 runners left on base in the two losses. Chris Taylor also continues to struggle, which has been a problem for over a year now. Ultimately, it’s the likes of Taylor, Max Muncy, and James Outman, and Miguel Vargas that are going to determine just how good the Dodgers really are this year, because we know Betts-Freeman-Smith are a trio that will produce at the top of the lineup.

Dodgers starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard delivers during the first inning.

As for the Angels, they handled business against the A’s, taking two out of three games. It seemed very odd that there was no game on Friday after starting the season on Thursday. However, you know there was some nerdy analytics guy in Oakland who convinced everybody that the data shows fans ,won’t come to games on Friday, or that the team might be paying too much in electricity on a Friday night in April, so better to not have the game. In any case, the offense looked good for most of the series, the lineup appears to have more depth, while Trout and Ohtani looked like the stars they are. As for Anthony Rendon’s altercation with a fan, both the fan and Rendon are wrong here. If you’re a fan, you can’t just say whatever you want because you buy a ticket. There’s a line and you can’t cross it. You can say a guy sucks, but you can’t get personal. That guy shouldn’t be allowed to come to an A’s game. For Rendon though, you can never put your hands on a fan, and he should know that by now. It’s a suspendable offense, even handed out by a guy like Rob Manfred, who has no idea what he’s doing. Then again Rendon would probably welcome a suspension since he seems to love his time off during the season to go along with his fat paycheck.

Angels' Shohei Ohtani throws against the Oakland Athletics in the second inning of an opening day game in Oakland.

Finally, the LA Kings are headed back to the playoffs which is great to see for their loyal fans. However, it once looked like they were going to finish 1st in the West, but now they’ll be lucky if they can get home ice advantage in the 1st round. That 1st round will likely be against the Edmonton Oilers, who were a thorn in the Kings side last year, and if you watched Kings hockey in the 80’s and 90’s, you know how much of a pain the Oilers have been historically in the early rounds for the Kings. The last few weeks the Kings have looked dominant offensively, but since this road trip started, they’ve been struggling to score. Some of that has to do with injuries, but there’s not much time to get health. It’s like they are giving you a taste of how they could suddenly disappoint in the playoffs. All I need to do is watch the game in colorful clothing, see the Kings lose, and I’m back in the 90’s all over again.

Kings forward Arthur Kaliyev, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring.