Monthly Archives: March 2023

Monday Morning Coffee

March 27, 2023

It happened again. For the 2nd time in 3 seasons, Gonzaga is sending UCLA home from the NCAA Tournament. I know we all want to say that UCLA fought hard with injuries, and was right there with an opportunity to win at the end. That’s all true. However, the reality is that the Bruins went 11 minutes without a field goal in the 2nd half, and got crushed on the boards. If they cold make just a couple of baskets in that stretch, they win this game, and probably should have won in a blow out if we’re being honest. Injuries or not they should have won that game. Plus, when I look at teams remaining in the tournament, boy was this a missed opportunity. Heck, the last three seasons, this has been an immensely talented Bruins team that should have more to show for it than two Sweet 16 appearances, and a Final Four Appearance. I get that this is the nature of the NCAA Tournament, but still. The Bruins were right there. Unfortunately, it appears as though next year, UCLA probably won’t be that good because they could lose just about everybody. Adem Bona, Amari Bailey, Jaime Jacques, Tyger Campbell, Jaylen Clark, David Singleton, and Kenneth Nwuba, are all likely to leave. Yes, they all have remaining eligibility left, but they would all need some serious NIL money to stay in school and come back for another run. In all likelihood, UCLA is at least another season away from truly contending again. My only criticism of Mick Cronin is his inability to develop a deeper rotation. Then again, not many in College Ball have one. It’s just a reminder that even in college sports, as a player or a fan, the experience is 99% kicks to the balls and 1% glory.

Elsewhere around the Final Four, who are the 37 of you lunatics that correctly picked Miami, UCONN, San Diego, and FAU in your Final Four? I don’t know if you were all drinking when you made your picks, but whatever you were drinking, I’d like you to be part of your next round. These 4 teams were obviously much better than most of the “experts” thought, but that’s probably because they didn’t actually watch them throughout the season. Which is their job by the way. However, it does make you ask the question of whether or not you’d rather see all these crazy upsets at the beginning of the tournament if you’re left without the “blue bloods” and true number 1 seeds we’ve seen all year long? For the casual fan I think the answer is yes. For the degenerate gambler and the real college basketball fan, I think the answer is probably no. For the casual fan though, you probably won’t even remember who won the tournament in any given year. But you will remember the upsets and magical moments!

In the NBA, it’s a roller coaster ride for the Lakers every game. The Lakers win and their fans think they are going to win the Championship. The Lakers lose and their fans think this team is garbage and should be blown up. There is apparently no in between. The Lakers got a huge victory on Friday against OKC, and lost to the Bulls yesterday. That’s exactly the rhetoric that ensued over the last few days. With all that being said, I think the Lakers will make the play-in, although it may be the 9th or 10th seed, meaning they’ll have to win two games to get in the postseason. However, we’ve reached the point where if this team is going to go on a run, they need to have Lebron, AD, and DLo in the lineup every game. If not, the run we’ve all talked about won’t happen. Getting Lebron back was nice, but it’s an adjustment for the whole team. They need to go back to leaning on AD and having him be aggressive. 8 shots for AD yesterday is not acceptable. I have to say I’m also a little nervous about Lebron’s foot even though he’s back, after hearing him talk about it yesterday. He said he went to “the Lebron James of feet” to get treated. Does that mean the previous two doctors he went to were “the Smush Parker of feet”? There’s 7 games left, and they need to win just about every one of them. The good news though is that every other team around them seems to be going through their crap as well.

As for the Clippers, they got their own bad news last week. Paul George is going to miss the rest of the regular season with a knee injury. That one could have been a lot worse, but fortunately, he’ll be ok in a few weeks. Still, the Clips situation is fragile. They could easily slip back into the play-in tournament, which for them would be dicey because you never know in one game who could be available for them. So the next couple of weeks will be crucial for them as well. There’s also the rumors that Ty Lue may be stepping down at the end of the season, which of course the Clippers and Lue’s camp squashed. However, you can see why this could be true. It’s hard to coach a team where every single night you have no idea who is available to you and who isn’t. Only time will tell if this is true, and the next few weeks will probably have a lot to say about that. The best news for the Clippers though is that Kawhi is playing amazing despite the fact he got his face smashed Saturday. As long as he’s on the floor, the Clippers have a chance.

The baseball season has really snuck up on us and the Dodgers open the season on Thursday against the D’Backs. I’m still really shocked about the rhetoric around the Dodgers going into the season. Everyone seems to think this team is going to suck, and that they can’t hang with the Padres. If those are your expectations, I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. Sorry you’re used to have a $300 million payroll and instead it’s only $232 million now. It’s like you people are disappointed that you’re downgrading from a Ferrari to a BMW. The BMW might actually be more reliable in the long run. The Dodgers won’t win the World Series until they change their over analytical approach, so the postseason will always have it’s troubles until then, but this team is no less formidable than last year.

Then there’s the Angels. Arte Moreno messed up again. This time after Japan won the World Baseball Classic on the back of Ohtani’s brilliant performance, Moreno called him a “top 5-10 player”. He means “Top 5-10 player” all time right? This is downright idiotic. I wonder if Arte told his wife when he was courting her that she’s in the top 5-10 women that she’s dated all-time? That’s exactly what Moreno did in this instance, with Ohtani on the verge of free agency, and nobody of the opinion that he’s going to re-sign with the Angels. Those comments probably didn’t help. Nevertheless, there seems to be some optimism around the Angels with the season starting this week, but I need to see it before I believe it. I’ve been hearing about this for years, and supposedly the team has more depth, but I personally think the division is still too tough.

Monday Morning Coffee

March 20, 2023

It wasn’t always pretty but UCLA survived the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. They are in the Sweet 16 for the 3rd consecutive year. I’m sure some of you may be thinking this team is nice, but they don’t necessarily look like they could be a National Champion. However, historically, the 2nd round has always been a dog fight for many teams that end up going all the way. Plus, had the Bruins not been beat up on the boards, they probably would have won this game much more decisively. That had a lot to do with Adem Bona’s injury and Kenneth Nwuba’s foul trouble. Plus, you need a good test along the way to get you ready for the later rounds. In completely unsurprising developments, here we are again, with Gonzaga standing in the way of UCLA getting past the Sweet 16. It’s going to be tough. The Zags are good and will probably be favored by a little, but you can never count out this Bruin team with their elite defense and mental toughness.

Elsewhere around March Madness, The Trojans were eliminated in round 1 by Michigan State. USC was talented, but you can’t beat a team as well coached as MSU with undisciplined play. The Trojans had a lot of turnovers and took a lot of bad shots, which is a sure fire recipe for going home. Here’s an update on your March Madness bracket: the girl who picked everyone based on the cutest mascot is in 1st place. 2nd place is a guy who had family at Furman, Princeton, and FDU. Third is the 9th bracket of a girl who made 19. Oh, and you’re in last place. Jay Bilas does this for a living and he had Arizona winning it all. Instead they got punked in the first round by a bunch of nerds from Princeton. That’s how hard this is. Purdue lost to a team that only got in the NCAA Tournament because another team declined the invite. We should have known though this would be the case when Joe Biden picked Arizona to win it all.

To the NBA, where despite last night’s win against the Magic, the Lakers continue to blow opportunity after opportunity to secure a playoff spot. Had they just shown up against the Rockets and made a couple of free throws against the Mavs, they would be sitting in 6th place in the West right now. Instead, they are fighting for their lives just to get in the play-in tournament. I realize Utah is basically trying to lose and the Pelicans are sinking like the Titanic, but the Lakers schedule in the last 10 games isn’t exactly easy. They have to play Phoenix twice, Chicago twice, and the Clippers. Those are all teams that will be coming at the Lakers hard as they fight for playoff positioning, and it seems unlikely the team will get Lebron back until the final couple of games at best. I realize you all want to crucify Anthony Davis for everything he’s done the past week, but the reality of it is, the Lakers aren’t even in this position without him, and everything is magnified because they left themselves no margin for error. Frankly, the best news that I’ve heard on the Lakers is that they are pivoting away from trying to sign Kyrie Irving this offseason, which is a smart move. Relying on Kyrie to show up to work everyday is like relying on Silicon Valley Bank to lend you money right now. D’Angelo Russell may not be as talented, but he sure will be a much more reliable player over the course of the next five years than Kyrie will.

The Clippers seem to be ok in the standings with 10 games left, but is Kawhi really going to sit out every remaining back-to-back? I mean you would think the guy would want to have at least some rhythm and chemistry with his teammates going into the playoffs. Something tells me he doesn’t care and will do things his own way, no matter what the Clippers truly want from him. The problem with that however, is that Russell Westbrook will be relied upon more on those nights, and you saw on Saturday night against the Magic, how that can cost you.. I mean I hate to be honest because Russ is a good guy, but the reality of it is if you lean on him too much at this point in his career, he will actually cost you games.

I have not watched a second of The World Baseball Classic. I get that the players are into it, but it’s hard for me to get around to thinking I’m watching meaningful baseball games in March. I also think this is a perfect example of how baseball just can’t get out of it’s own way to provide more coverage around it. MLB’s website for coverage looks like it was put together by some amateur web developers, who moonlight as Door Dash drivers. You also can’t find the games very easily because they are buried on Fox Sports One. If I knew how to find the games though, I might actually watch some of it. On another note, it does feel cruel to send Mike Trout back to the Angels after experiencing all this with Team USA, who is now headed to the finals

In Spring Training, the Dodgers overall look like you thought they would, but it’s Spring Training so I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in it. I also wouldn’t put a lot of stock into the Spring Training performance of Clayton Kershaw. He wasn’t sharp in his first start, only marginally better in his 2nd start and still not great. However, the most important thing is for him to be healthy. With Kershaw, I look forward to seeing him pitching in April, part of May, late July, and then again in early September, and through the postseason. An injury, most likely to his back, is going to be inevitable, but it can be managed and doesn’t have to prevent him from being able to be effective. Just get him healthy and effective in October.

Arte Moreno just needs to stop talking. It’s become aggravating, as his latest interview with the media came with The Athletic. Apparently, he and Shohei Ohtani haven’t even spoken about a contract extension yet. Considering he’s basically the biggest priority moving forward, and also the biggest storyline that is a distraction around the club, don’t you think it would be a good idea to broach the subject with him and his agent? If your wife suggests that she’s going to divorce you to somebody else and you find out, then maybe you should have a conversation about it, no? That’s what this feels like. I know there’s a lot of people still banking on this idea that the Angels might actually be good this year. I don’t see it. Their division is too good, the pitching is just ok, and their hitting is non-existent for long stretches around Trout and Ohtani. Unless those two and Anthony Rendon are in the lineup regularly and crush it on a nightly basis, I don’t see this team getting in the playoffs again, which will raise questions around Ohtani all season.

Isn’t it possible for some of you Kings fans to just be happy for Jonathan Quick when he does well with Vegas, instead of rooting for him to fail? It doesn’t have to come at the expense of the Kings either. Jonathan Quick brought two Stanley Cups to LA, was the Conn Smyth Winner in 2012, and one of the most important players in franchise history. He’s arguably a hall of famer too. Yes he’s now with a division rival, but I see a lot of Kings fan out here openly rooting and taking pleasure in Quick failing with the Golden Knights. He’s actually been pretty good overall since the trade, and frankly, good for him. He’s a competitive guy, and a proud hockey player. Had he not been traded, he would not be this motivated to do what he’s doing so good for him, and as a result, the Kings are also better off as well. If and when these two division rivals meet in the playoffs it will get interesting, but if you’re a Kings fan, you don’t have to act like Jonathan Quick is suddenly Patrick Roy.

Finally, the NFL off-season has been wild. Aaron Rodgers is having his usual drama and appears to be headed to the Jets. Glad he figured that out after his darkness retreat, where he was probably snorting marijuana off a tree branch. Does anybody want Lamar Jackson? He is an MVP who is in his prime. I’m not sure what exactly the Raiders are doing. Jimmy Garoppolo is definitely a downgrade from Derek Carr. He might be cheaper, but he’s also going to miss games like he’s Kawhi Leonard. I know he’s a running back that’s a position that isn’t valued much, but the Chargers should try and find a way to keep Austin Ekeler. He’s a solid dude, a good football player, and gives excellent Fantasy Football advice!

Monday Morning Coffee

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, right, drives past Arizona guard Kylan Boswell.

March 13, 2023

March Madness is upon us! UCLA is banged up but managed to make it to the finals of the Pac-12 Tournament, before losing to Arizona in the final moments on Saturday night.  It’s fine that the Bruins are a #2 seed in the West, which is probably less pressure than being a #1.  However, don’t try to tell me they shouldn’t be a #1 seed after barely losing to a Top 10 team down two starters, both big guys fouling out, and getting nothing from Lloyd McClendon, Dylan Andrews, and David Singleton.  This team is tough, and they just keep playing better when more adversity strikes.  Jaylen Clark is done for the season, but Adam Bona sounds like he’ll be ready next week.  The committee is clearly not very creative.  Once again if UCLA is going to the Final Four, looks like they’ll have to beat Gonzaga followed by Kansas in weekend 2.  I’m sure Mick Cronin would probably slap me and tell me “we gotta get there first.”

To the NBA, where the Lakers dropped one to the Knicks last night.  That one just had some terrible shooting, but the Lakers should actually be feeling better about things.  They’ve got a real shot to suddenly make the play-in tournament, and a possibility to even get the 5th or 6th seed and bypass it altogether.  They’ll have to play through Anthony Davis way more than they did yesterday, but if they stay afloat for another week or so, they might even get Lebron back to push even harder.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis tries to control the dribble on a drive against Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein.

Meanwhile the Clippers appear to be back on track, but that’s mostly due to the greatness of Kawhi Leonard.  Kawhi has been playing like the all-nba player we know him to be.  However, one can’t help but wonder if by himself he can help them overcome their chemistry issues.  This team at times looks like they just haven’t spent enough time on the court together, despite their flashes of brilliance.  On the bright side though, the new Intuit Dome will have thousands of toilets, which Steve Ballmer is pretty pumped about.  Cue the jokes about the Clippers being a toilet franchise.

Load management in the NBA makes no sense anymore.  The idea behind it is to give the players more rest to prevent them from getting injured, and prolonging their career.  Instead, players are not only missing high profile regular season games fans spend a lot of money on to attend, but players are still getting injured more.  I believe it’s because their bodies aren’t used to the rigors of playing and practicing regularly like they used to do.  If the players aren’t careful, they are going to screw themselves in the next CBA negotiation.

In the NFL, the Rams made a big move yesterday, trading Jalen Ramsey to the Dolphins, for the equivalent of a dirty sock and a can of coke.  This move goes to show you a few things.   First, the Rams may be giving up on 2023 with a mini rebuild.    Ramsey may be a bit in decline, but he’s still an effective corner and a big part of their defense.  Getting his money off the books allows them to get closer to signing all their upcoming draft picks, while opening up a ton of cap space the year after.  That also tells you that Sean McVay is here to stay for more than just this year.  He’s committed to building this thing back up.  Even Matt Stafford was being shopped at one point, which makes you think the Rams may do an extensive reboot, but if anything, it tells you they are already looking for their next franchise QB.  I would too knowing that Stafford’s health doesn’t seem all that stable.

In baseball, Arte Moreno finally spoke to the media, and gave an interesting puff piece to Sports Illustrated.  He claimed he had a few good offers, but even those prospective owners knew he wasn’t ready to sell the Angels.  Arte tried to make it seem like he was just a die hard fan that wanted to enjoy drinking beer at the ballpark.  However, this whole thing has to be related to any scrutiny on him from the failed sale of the stadium from the city.   There’s also the topic of Shohei Ohtani, which he addressed.  As you would expect, he said they will not trade him as long as they are in contention, and deflected on this question if they aren’t in contention.   I’m curious come July what Arte’e definition of “contention” is.

I finally got to watch the Chris Rock special on Netflix.  As usual, he was hilarious.  If you’re offended by anything he said, you probably shouldn’t be watching in the first place.  As for the Will Smith part though, that was just sad.  I personally, love Will Smith, and apparently so did Rock, until last years slapping incident at the Oscar’s.  That segment was more of a sad reminder of how Rock feels about him now, and how Jada Pinkett has ruined Smith, and changed him from the person many of us love.

I’m sure those of us that tuned into the Oscar’s last night were disappointed that nobody slapped Jimmy Kimmel.  In all seriousness though, it was a good show.  There is always that one movie that sweeps every award.  In this case it was “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.”  It won 7 awards.  Happy that Jamie Lee Curtis won after all these years.  Tom Cruise didn’t actually attend when “Top Gun” was nominated? They Academy was probably thrilled so they didn’t have to see him stand up on couches yelling things.

Monday Morning Coffee

March 6, 2023

Sometimes we need to be reminded that sports is a business, no matter what our emotions tell us. That happened for many of us last week when the Kings traded Jonathan Quick to Columbus, for defenseman Vladislav Gabrykov, and  goalie Joonas Korpisalo.  Quick is the best goalie in franchise history, and arguably a Hall of Famer.  However, you can no longer defend his play.  He hasn’t been good this year, and he makes a lot of money.  On paper, the Kings made a trade that made them much better, but most fans will be wrapped up in the emotion of dealing Quick.  I felt the same way when the Kings traded Wayne Gretzky, my childhood hero.  It always hurts when your favorite players get traded, even if in the long run, you’re better for it.  Props to Rob Blake for having the guts to do this, because nobody thought he did.  I’m not sure if I feel bad for Quick because he got traded, or because he got traded to Ohio.  At least for him it didn’t last long and he got traded to Vegas shortly thereafter.

To the NBA where let’s be honest, the Lakers won yesterday thanks to Anthony Davis, but they may still be screwed without Lebron.  A week ago, when we thought everyone was healthy, it looked like the team could not only make the playoffs, but make a run.  With him gone for at least two more weeks, I doubt they can even make the play in tournament, especially without D’Angelo Russell in the lineup either.  I don’t know what’s up with the Lakers medical staff.  These guys couldn’t heal a paper cut in a week.  Plus, they completely mismanage the information they give out about a players injury, thereby making the fans angry at the player and calling him “soft” for not getting back sooner.  One thing is for sure: the Lakers will have every opportunity to get in the play in tournament, even without Lebron.  They have the third easiest schedule remaining.  That also tells you how little faith I have in them being able to stay healthy.

As for the Clippers, they won last night against the Grizzlies, but still have their own set of issues. I sat here a week ago and told you there could be more chemistry issues to work out once they brought in Russ.  So did everybody else.  Sure enough, there are chemistry issues and they are just 1-4 since Russ started playing for them. I’m not sitting here telling you it’s Russ’s fault, but don’t act like it’s not a big adjustments with him in the lineup.  Does Ty Lue actually enjoy going to work everyday? He has no idea who is going to be available every time he comes to the arena.  I mean even in some of the most important games of the season, PG and Kawhi are like “nah it’s a back-to-back I can’t play”.  Don’t worry boys.  You’ll have plenty of time to rest in the off-season if you don’t make the playoffs because you load managed your way through the last 20 games.

Kawhi Leonard makes a dunk during a game.

UCLA wrapped up their regular season on Saturday against Arizona with another big win.  They are headed into the PAC-12 Tournament as the #1 seed and have a great chance to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Does it matter though? I mean all we should really care about is if the Bruins are in the West, and that they have a reasonable path to The Final Four.  They should get that no matter what happens in next weeks conference tournament.  We should be more worried though about the injury to Jaylen Clark, which may very well end his season. It isn’t Clark’s scoring that is the issue, it’s the intangibles he brings at the defensive ends like steals, deflections, and other plays that don’t show up in the box score.  I saw Clark in a walking boot after the game Saturday, but was baffled by the fact he was standing on a street corner waiting for someone to pick him up.  Someone get this man off his feet immediately! Only at UCLA I tell you.

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr., left, shoots over Arizona center Oumar Ballo during the second half.

Speaking of UCLA, Chip Kelly got an extension.  The visor is here to stay for a few more years.  I don’t love this move, but he had a decent (not great) season in 2022, and a couple of nice recruits coming in.  The problem I have with it is that when Chip came in, UCLA didn’t pay him to have one good season in five years.  And by “good” we mean respectable finish in the conference, not even winning it.  This isn’t great, but par for the course for what is really a basketball school.

Finally, the Dodgers are feeling the pain of not bringing in another shortstop this offseason, after Gavin Lux went down with an ACL injury.  Lux is out for the season.  Oh so you think Miguel Rojas can replace him? This dude is a less productive hitter than Cody Bellinger was last year, according to advanced metrics.  And in case you forgot, Bellinger couldn’t hit Little League pitching last year.  The Dodgers will definitely have to get creative because there isn’t a trade out there that can suddenly give them an all-star middle infielder.  Even Andrew Friedman’s computer will tell you that!

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