Monthly Archives: February 2023

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.

Monday Morning Coffee

February 20, 2023

I’m usually a fan of the NBA All-Star game, but yesterday was an embarrassment. There was absolutely no effort and no defense played. I can understand that guys don’t want to get hurt, but even James Harden thinks the defense was pretty soft yesterday. In the last handful of years, we’ve at least seen the games get very competitive in the 4th quarter, and wildly entertaining in the first 3 quarters with lots of alley-oops and highlight plays. This was just a layup line and half court shots, that were nearly unwatchable. Maybe it was because Lebron and Giannis sat out the majority of the game, and other big stars like Kevin Durant and others were not participating. I don’t know what the answer is, but the league needs the players to understand that there is a level of pride and professionalism that needs to be on the display here. Otherwise, just kill the event. Although, somebody should have told Lebron that you aren’t supposed to play defense in an All-Star game because he injured his hand blocking a shot. Hopefully it’s not very serious, and it doesn’t appear that way. Props to Mac McClung for winning the dunk contest, which was the best part of the weekend. Of course a white guy won the dunk contest in Utah though!

As for the Lakers, Lebron says he’s going to try to play in every game the rest of the way. Nice to see that he finally realizes there is no margin for error left if they plan on even making the play-in game. Look, I like what this team has done for sure and on paper, I think the pieces fit together much better. However, they are going to need to win 16 or 17 of their final 22 games to assure themselves of being in the postseason, and I can’t say I’m totally confident that Lebron and especially AD will be available every night. The schedule is hell, but then again, there’s a lot of teams like the Warriors, Mavericks, and Clippers in front of them who are going to have to deal with their own set of chemistry building challenges. If Lebron James gets the team to the playoffs after all this, and somehow gets them to make a run, that may be one of the most impressive parts of his amazing legacy.

Then there’s the Clippers, who have agreed to sign Russell Westbrook this morning. I know there are a lot of Russ supporters out there, so let me address you all first. I get it…..Russ is a great guy, great teammate, great father, great husband, great parallel parker, and great tipper. That’s all true and he’s even had a great NBA career. That all has nothing to do with the fact that at this point in his career, he’s a massive liability for any team, including the Clippers. It doesn’t matter if the Clips have better spacing and shooting than Russ had with the Lakers. If you’re playing Russ, he’s taking away minutes from Norman Powell or Terrance Mann, who at this point, are more productive and better fitting players for the Clippers. Some people actually thought he was a 6th man of the year candidate, but 6th man of the year winners don’t shoot 41% from the field, 65% from the line, and under 30% from 3. He’s not only a poor shooter, but he has more turnovers than Betty Crocker, and his decision making at the end of games is often a detriment to his team. I know some of you are thinking it’s low risk and they can cut him if it doesn’t work out, but there’s 22 games left in the season. This is valuable time that could be wasted for a team that is already struggling to build chemistry. But hey, at least Paul George thinks it’s a good move, so what could go wrong?

In baseball, Spring Training is upon us which brings us to the Dodgers. The Boys in Blue come into the season with some doubts publicly about how good they are going to be. They are +750 to win the World Series behind the Astros and Yankees, and in front of the Braves and Padres, who are +1400, and who everyone seems to love. The Dodgers may not win the division (although I think they will), but they are still an excellent team. Just because their lineup doesn’t seem as stacked as last year, it actually is. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, and Max Muncy are a pretty good lineup, and for some reason many of you forgot that Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux, and Trayce Thompson are pretty good players as well. Their pitching staff is also excellent. This won’t be a regular season issue. As always with the Dodgers, it’s going to be how they approach the postseason. Maybe this year there will be less heat on them since they didn’t spend wildly in the offseason. Meanwhile, I can’t say I’m too upset Clayton Kershaw won’t pitch in the WBC. The guys arm and back could use the extra rest. I also don’t want to hear anything about this alleged cheating the Dodgers did in 2017 or maybe 2018. We all know the lengths their opponents went to in order to cheat were far more offensive than the tactics the Dodgers employed, which are far more common across baseball.

As for the Angels, you can’t help but feel disappointed coming into Spring Training. We would have thought there would be new ownership by now, but we know that’s not happening for a while. The distraction that is going to hang over this teams head all year is going to be Shohei Ohtani. I don’t think there’s a circumstance where the Halos will trade him, because Arte Moreno will convince himself he has a chance to keep him. In reality, Ohtani is already out the door. Unless the Angels make some crazy run to the playoffs, or even the World Series this year, Ohtani will be on another team in 2024. He’s made that as clear as possible, without actually saying it. With that being the case, it’s the same story with the Halos this year. On paper, they look like they could be good. In reality, they aren’t better than the Astros or Mariners, their offense has been wildly inconsistent for what it should be, and their pitching may only be marginally improved.

Finally, it was so good to see Tiger Woods back on the course at the Genesis Open this past weekend. Tiger is really what keeps the sport alive in a way that no other pro golfer can these days. His presence is huge, and hopefully he can stay healthy enough for four majors and another couple of tournaments this year. The only problem with this approach is we may not see Tiger win another tournament again, as his health will need to be managed for the rest of his career, which he admitted over the weekend. Still, when he’s out there, enjoy him while you can. Legends won’t always be around forever.

Monday Morning Coffee

February 13, 2023

Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on winning Super Bowl LVII yesterday against the Eagles. Let’s start with this: you may not have wanted the game to be decided by a penalty, but that was a holding penalty. Everybody is so focused on James Bradberry putting his hand on JuJu’s back, but the penalty wasn’t that. It was him tugging on the jersey moments before that. It’s a bad way to end the game, but it was the correct call. Bradberry even owned it afterward. The Eagles felt like they were dominating this game for such a long stretch, but they never put the Chiefs away, and you can’t do that when Patrick Mahomes is on the other side. Sure enough, it cost them the Super Bowl. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense was pretty good too, but it wasn’t enough. I also don’t know what they gave Mahomes at halftime, but whatever it was, I want some. I thought his ankle was going to fall off, but he somehow managed to keep going and play at an elite level. I don’t know if he will get to 7 Super Bowls, but he’s got a chance to be one of the best ever by the time he’s done playing. Nice to see Andy Reid win a Super Bowl that the Eagles were actually playing in. The Super Bowl also re-confirmed something I’ve thought for a long time: cleaning up confetti must be one of the worst jobs in America.

As for the rest of the broadcast, I thought Rhianna had a great halftime show. If you didn’t like it, you either don’t like her music, or you’re just one of those Twitter heads that are looking for something to criticize. She’s a superstar with so many hits, and she played all of them. The fact she did it while pregnant is even more impressive, even if it did take away from her ability to do more choreography like she has in the past. For the commercials, I thought they were just ok overall. Tubi was great, and really made us all think that we accidentally pushed some buttons on our remote. The Budweiser Commercial with the dog and the horse had all the feels to it. Plus anything with “Breaking Bad” in it is always going to be a fan favorite. Other than that though, for $7 million, these brands should do a better job of making me realize what it is they are actually advertising.

To the NBA, where the Lakers are suddenly a completely different roster after the trade deadline. Russell Westbrook, Damon Jones, Juan Tuscano-Anderson, and Thomas Bryant are all gone. D’Angelo Russell is back, and also new to the team are Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba, and Malik Beasley. That’s actually a pretty nice trade by Rob Pelinka, that should dramatically improve the shooting, defense, rebounding, and balance of the roster. The problem is, the Lakers are running out of time and they don’t have any margin for error left. The Lakers probably need to go 20-7 just to get in the playoffs, and that may only be good enough to get them to the play-in game. 20-7 is a tall task for a team where the durability of Lebron and AD are always in question. The Lakers got a nice win on Saturday, which is a nice start, but the fact Darwin Ham keeps playing these 3-guard lineups with all these new pieces makes me think he might just have the IQ of a Snapping Turtle.

I don’t want to sit here and trash Russell Westbrook. He’s a great teammate, and he did buy into his role. However, he was not a great fit with the Lakers. Now the Clippers are rumored to have interest in Russ if he’s bought out by the Jazz. Paul George claims he’s a better fit than he would be for the Lakers. If I’m being honest here, this probably won’t end well. The Clippers need a true point guard. Russ is a bit more of a scoring point guard. The Clips also don’t have any guards left after the trade deadline, despite the piece they added. That means Russ will have to play bigger minutes than they would want him too. If you have Russ for the minimum in a role off the bench, that’s not bad, but you have to play him with the right group. I think he would play too big of a role with the Clippers for him to be good, and not hurt them. I mean if Kawhi sees Russ pull up for a three pointer with 20 seconds left, he might actually show some emotion for the first time.

UCLA Basketball picked up another pair of wins last week, this time over the Oregon schools on the road. The victory over Oregon on Saturday was especially impressive, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. scoring 25 points and looking more and more like an NBA player with each game that he plays. His play was much needed at a time when the offense was struggling, the big men were in foul trouble, and Amari Bailey was ailing. The #7 Bruins have now opened up a 1.5 game lead in the Pac-12 standings over 2nd place Arizona. UCLA still has a shot at a #1 seed in the tournament, but they will have to not only have a strong finish to the regular season, they will likely have to win the Conference Tournament to make that a reality. I’m not sure that really matters though as long as they are healthy, the offense is clicking, and they peak at the right time.

Congratulations to Dustin Brown, on having his own statue unveiled Saturday Night at Arena. Brown is an American born, two-time Stanley Cup winner on the LA Kings, and the franchise leader in games played. More importantly, thanks to Brown, I am able to make fun of every NHL fanbase that has never won a Stanley Cup, and I will never forget him for that. The Kings just had about 10 days off, but they looked great on Saturday night against the Penguins, winning 6-0. There’s also some big trade rumors around this team, so we might see a splashy trade from them in the coming days.

Monday Morning Coffee

February 6, 2023

Now we can hopefully move on from this Kyrie nonsense. Kyrie Irving was traded to the Mavericks yesterday after demanding a trade last week, and of course Joe Tsai had no intention of doing a deal with the Lakers. Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss have their faults, but you can’t blame them for not getting this done, assuming that’s what you wanted. The Nets were never going to trade Kyrie to the Lakers and give him what he wanted, as Marc Stein reported. So those of you on your soap box on Twitter that wanted Pelinka fired and Jeanie to sell the team for this, you probably owe them an apology. Nevertheless, they do have their faults for having Russell Westbrook on the roster. I sure hope that they aggressively try to trade him and a draft pick or two for the likes of a Bojan Bogdanvich, Buddy Hield, Malik Beasley, or a Gary Trent type of player. Those are the type of players that will move the needle for the Lakers at this point. They never needed a player of Kyrie’s skillset, and certainly not one that is as much of a headcase as he is. However, since the Lakers are so focused on these types of star players, my fear is they will still try to open cap space this summer to try and sign Kyrie instead of trying to improve the team now.

Meanwhile, Lebron is chasing the NBA’s scoring record. I really don’t think Lebron is getting the proper credit he deserves for breaking this record. Longevity is a skill, and it’s a huge part of LBJ’s legacy. Some of you are die hard Kobe fans and just can’t accept Lebron. Some of you are die hard Michael Jordan fans and don’t want give Lebron the credit he’s due. However, he has an incredible story. This man has a case as the greatest player of all-time and scoring isn’t even his greatest skill, yet he’s going to be the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Not to mention he’s won championships with every team he’s ever been on. Give the man his due!

Somebody keep Dave Roberts away from the microphone. Roberts basically did what he did last year over the weekend, which was guarantee a championship. Maybe not as emphatically as last year, but he probably shouldn’t have said anything at all. He also said that he plans to make Julio Urias a workhorse this year in terms of number of innings pitched. I can’t tell if that means they will run him into the ground because they know Scott Boras will get him to the highest bidder next year, or because they just don’t want to pay him. Either way, the Dodgers are capable of paying both Shohei Ohtani and Urias next year.

I don’t know what happened to UCLA for the past week, but it was nice to see them getting a “get-well” game against Washington State. For a few games they looked like a lazy, turnover prone, limited offensive group. That suddenly changed against Washington State on Saturday. The return of Amari Bailey has also allowed UCLA to get themselves another playmaker and somebody who can improve their offense significantly as well. If only he can learn to shoot that would make them even better. Still, the Bruins returned to looking like a team that can make another deep postseason run and at +1200, not a bad value to win the title this year. That’s for all you gambling degenerates out there.

UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. reaches for a rebound in front of Washington State's Mouhamed Gueye.

I still have no idea why they are playing the Pro Bowl. It’s a total disaster and an embarrassment. I was in Vegas over the weekend and I ran into a guy who’s brother was playing in the Pro Bowl. He did not want to tell me who his brother was mind you, which I respected. However, he did indicate that the entire event was ridiculous and that the players want no part of it (other than to just be named a Pro Bowler). Flag football? Why are we even playing football at all at this point. Just take this thing out back and shoot it.

Finally, it’s here for real this time. Tom Brady is retiring. What the hell took you so long? This man loves football so much that he actually sacrificed his family for an 8-9 season. There is absolutely nothing left for this man to prove. He is indisputably the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time, and no matter what else happened, it would changed that. Also, I realize that he is still playing well at at 45, and looks like he has a few years left that he could play. However, what people fail to realize is that it’s ok to retire with something left in the tank. You don’t have to keep playing until you just can’t play anymore. In fact, it’s almost better when don’t.