Monday Morning Coffee

February 27, 2023

What a fantastic win by the Lakers yesterday against the Mavs. Assuming that Lebron’s foot will be ok, there’s suddenly a lot of optimism, despite the fact there’s no margin for error or injury with just 20 games left. How on earth did Rob Pelinka manage to get Jarrod Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and D’Angelo Russell for Russell Westbrook and one protected first round pick? That trade feels like highway robbery every time I see those guys play. Also props to AD and Lebron for playing much better in that 2nd half yesterday. AD looked like nothing more than Chris Mihm with an urban barber in the 1st half, but he looked like an MVP in the 2nd. It’s the games coming up against the Thunder, Timberwolves, Pelicans, and Warriors that are absolutely vital for the Lakers to win if they plan on playing in the postseason.

As for the Clippers, they suffered another tough loss yesterday against the Nuggets. The Clips are so cursed that their plane even got struck by lightning on the way to Denver. This coming on the heels of a tough loss against the Sacramento Kings. The focus though is on Russell Westbrook and how things are looking. So far, he hasn’t completely wrecked the Clippers chemistry, but he’s still missing point blank layups at the rim, making some questionable decisions at times, and ultimately, taking playing time away from more efficient bench players. A reasonable box score number from him is masking these issues for the time being. The good news for the Clippers though is that the the next two games are against the struggling Timberwolves, and the injured Warriors.

Congratulations to the UCLA Bruins on winning the PAC-12 regular season title. What has impressed me a great deal about UCLA is that no matter what kind of offensive struggles they go through, at any given stretch they can shut down a team with their elite defense, and force them into long stretches without a basket. That’s a great enough weapon that can propel them deep into the NCAA Tournament. In addition to that they are now in good position to get a number 1 seed for the tournament. Defeating the Arizona schools this week will go a long way towards that.

Let me get this straight: UCLA basketball players Jalen Hill, Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball stole sunglasses in China and were suspended for a season while Alabama star Brandon Miller supplied the gun used in a murder and he won’t miss a game. It makes no sense. Would he have been suspended if Alabama was in last place or if Miller was a walk-on? Embarrassing and illogical.

Spring Training is under way for the Dodgers and there’s one thing that nobody is really talking about: they don’t have a closer. They actually didn’t have one going into the playoffs last year, but that’s not what actually cost them, so nobody noticed. However, they need to find one, and Dave Roberts says that will sort itself out over time. Alex Reyes seems like a potential choice on a one-year “prove it deal”, Evan Phillips is also a potential candidate, as is Daniel Hudson. However, I still stand by what I said over a year ago: Dustin May would be an outstanding closer. He has the stuff, he throws hard, and would be tremendous in that role. Unfortunately, I don’t think he wants to do that because he knows he can make more money as a starter.

Are the Rams really shopping Jalen Ramsey? Although I do think that he can replenish draft capital for the franchise, by trading him you are changing the style of your defense altogether, especially with the departure of Bobby Wagner. In my mind if the Rams still have Sean McVay, Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Matt Stafford, and Cooper Kupp, they are going for it. Building through the draft takes some time, which isn’t on the side of this group.

Finally, the LA Kings are well position for another playoff appearance, and potentially even winning the Pacific Division. However, as much as they’ve improved, they are probably still another year or so away from true Stanley Cup contention. The trade deadline is this coming Friday, and if the Kings are planning on making any real noise in the playoffs, they need to make a move, but they will probably overpay than if they make that move in the offseason. They need a left handed shot defenseman, and let’s be honest, they need a goalie too. Phoenix Copley has been a nice stop gap, but even his advanced metrics suggest he’s not that elite, and there’s unfortunately no sticking up for Jonathan Quick anymore. He’s just not making saves when they are needed. I’m not really sure however, that these two holes can be filled in a matter of days. This feels like an offseason problem that needs to be fixed. With that being said, at least the Kings are improving and slowly getting themselves back to contending status.

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