January 4, 2020
The Lakers are off to smooth 5-2 start and are looking good. They are also load managing games, without actually load managing players by sitting them out. That’s pretty important for a team that just finished playing last season about 5 minutes ago. If there’s one thing I’m also keeping an eye on it’s just how good the Lakers are defensively compared to last season. Their defense in the paint seems somewhat selective at times, but they have shown they know how to tighten the screws in the 4th quarter, and lock their opponents up. Keep in mind this is also coming while missing one of their best perimeter defenders, Alex Caruso, for about the last week. The best part about it is that Frank Vogel can mess around with lineups all he wants for the next few weeks because the Lakers have a very soft schedule until the end of January. At this point, if you’re a Laker fan, the only thing you should be complaining about is that you can’t go watch the team in Staples Center for a while.
The other team that still looks elite despite enduring relentless mocking from Jock Talk LA is the Clippers. The Clips took down the Suns yesterday, although we’ve reached the point where if the Clippers jump out to a 20-point lead, the opponent has to feel confident they can erase it pretty quickly. I guess Paul George was done celebrating Christmas since the team actually played to it’s potential yesterday. The Clippers need to watch out for those holidays, since PG uses them as an excuse when his team gets destroyed anywhere near them. In all seriousness though, even though it feels like the Clippers either win by 30+ points every game or lose by 30+ points every game, you can see the talent is still there from last year, and they are a dangerous team when they want to be.
To the NFL, where the Rams overcame some big injuries and clinched a playoff spot yesterday. It sure helps that Cliff Kingsbury’s playbook is just one giant Denny’s menu, or at least feels that way given some of his decisions yesterday. Nevertheless, the Rams took care of the Cardinals with backup quarterback, John Wolford, running the show. Wolford didn’t do much through the air, and his LinkedIn profile is a lot more polished than his skills as an NFL Quarterback, but his rushing ability was impressive. Then again, heading to Seattle next week to play the Hawks doesn’t sound very appealing given how banged up the Rams are. Even if Jared Goff is healthy, I’m not sure he’s mentally in the right place to win a playoff game on the road. The last time we saw him on the field was at Seattle, where he looked like he was only playing football because his parents were making him. The Rams always play the Hawks tough, but right now it doesn’t feel like much is going their way headed into this game, so I’d be surprised if they can pull it out.
Meanwhile, the Chargers got themselves nothing more than a morale boosting win over the Chiefs yesterday. Neither team had anything to play for, and the Chiefs had a a bunch of Door Dash drivers in their lineup since their starters were resting after clinching. Watching Anthony Lynn getting aggressive and making analytics-friendly decisions in Week 17 is like eating that one celery stick after finishing off 12 wings…..it’s too late! According to Jay Glazer, Lynn is going to be fired today, and likely by the time you are reading this article. When it comes to these situations though, I always ask the larger question: if you’re firing him then who are you replacing him with? I don’t suspect the Chargers are going to make some splashy hire like Urban Meyer or even Robert Saleh, who is the hottest name right now. These guys aren’t going to spend $10 million on a head coach. It’s simply not the style of Dean Spanos. Whoever it is though, they better be able to take Justin Herbert to the next level as a QB, or else the Bolts are just wasting away the golden opportunity they have with Justin Herbert.
Elsewhere around Week 17 of the NFL, I think most of America didn’t care who won the NFC East as long as it wasn’t the Cowboys. The Colts beat the Jags and good thing because if they didn’t make the playoffs, Philip Rivers wife would been angry that Philip would have retired and been around the house all the time. The Browns clinched by beating the Steelers, and Pittsburgh should be nervous that Big Ben looks worse than Mason Rudolph. The Bills hammered the Dolphins, sending Miami to their living room to watch the playoffs. The Ravens suddenly look a lot scarier heading into the playoffs after throttling the Bengals. The Jets lost to the Patriots, then fired Adam Gase for winning too many games this season. That Tom Brady guy isn’t too bad at football, as the Bucs beat the Falcons. It turns out only 3 women at a club can shutdown Alvin Kamara, rather than anyone on the football field, but the Saints beat the Panthers anyway. The Titans got a miracle from AJ Brown and a goal post to win the AFC South as they got by the Texans. The Raiders beat the Broncos but they are social distancing from the playoffs. The Seahawks beat the 49ers, who have so many injuries and a training staff that couldn’t heal a paper cut in a week. The Packers beat the Bears, but Chicago is going to the playoffs which is more impressive than anyone that can eat an entire Chicago Deep Dish Pizza by themselves.
To the College Ranks where Alabama beat up on Notre Dame over the weekend to advance to the National Championship game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes also took down Clemson. I’m tired of this stupid narrative that Notre Dame doesn’t belong in the playoff because they get blown out every time. In what sport does your performance from previous seasons actually prevent you making the postseason? The reality of it is Alabama, Clemson, and even Ohio State are just that much better than anybody else. I don’t think Cincinnati or Northwestern would do much better in the CFP, but I’m all for expanding the playoff. It’s also performance in previous seasons that adversely impact those other schools, which is wrong as well. It’s always been a flawed system, but don’t act like the Irish are some scrub team like the Twitter mob seems to think. As for Clemson’s loss to Ohio State, this was good practice for Trevor Lawrence, because he’s going to be trailing a lot next year with the Jaguars.
Speaking of College Football, I’ve got bad news UCLA fans. Martin Jarmon isn’t planning on getting rid of Chip Kelly right now. Jarmon came out and said he supports Kelly, but also said he wants to win more, and looks forward to seeing that. Jarmond also complimented the effort put forth in every game they played this season. These are exactly the type of words that are spoken by an AD who is mostly concerned about a $9 million buyout, which is the main reason why he has to be so supportive of his football coach. I don’t suspect that will be an impediment after one more mediocre year with Kelly, which is as sure to happen as the sun is to rise tomorrow.
As for UCLA Basketball, they received some devastating news over the weekend, learning that Chris Smith is done for the year with a torn ACL. Smith was arguably UCLA’s best player, and one of their top scorers. The ceiling for the team isn’t quite as high without him, although they did pick up a victory over Colorado on Saturday to improve to 3-0 in Pac-12 play. UCLA is going to have to share the ball and turn up the intensity on the defensive end to overcome this. Up next are the Arizona schools next week for a couple of duels in the desert.
This baseball off-season has been unbelievable so far. NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. I wonder what GM’s are doing? Their bosses must have given them a 6-month vacation since none seem to be allowed to spend money. I know everybody wants to talk about the Padres being the only team that made moves by acquiring Chris Snell and Yu Darvish. However, don’t buy the hype because the Dodgers still own the NL West until further notice. With that being said though, the Dodgers still have moves up their sleeves and decisions to make. There’s a lot of talk around DJ LeMahieu, which would be great if the price is right. Still, I would rather see the Dodgers bring back Justin Turner on a reasonable deal and sign Liam Hendriks or Brad Hand to strengthen their bullpen. However, since everyone in baseball apparently doesn’t seem to care about being competitive other than the Padres, I think the Dodgers will be pretty good no matter what they do.
Then there’s the Angels, who’s absolutely blow my mind. This team has never needed pitching more, but they don’t seem to be making any effort to get any. I bring this up because two of the best pitchers in baseball last season were just traded to the Padres for a bottle of hand sanitizer, and some rolled tacos from Roberto’s Mexican Cantina. I realize that the Halos didn’t have the prospects to get Chris Snell, but they sure as hell could have tried for Yu Darvish. Instead, it appears as though Arte Moreno had no desire to add to the payroll to help his team win, which is contrary to what he’s trying to tell us publicly. Apparently nobody has told him that he currently has one of the greatest players of all-time, in his prime, on his team. Arte must want to win, but on his own terms. Otherwise, he must hate pitching.