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In the end...the Blue Bloods...
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
Jim Nantz could be talking about more than basketball on Saturday, and Monday.
Tiger Woods and his team arrived early Tuesday morning at Augusta Regional Airport on his private jet, and then Tiger, son Charlie, and Justin Thomas played all 18 holes at Augusta National.
A source told anyone who would listen, no doubt Thomas, “He played every one of them. He looked good to me.”
Now this would be one helluva story, but remember, as Tiger himself has said recently, it’s not just walking hilly Augusta on a shattered leg…four straight days. It’s his back issue. If the weather didn’t cooperate…like nice and warm…that’s a huge hindrance.
But we’ll see. What will Nantz be adding when during the Final Four, he’s mentioning The Masters, a tradition unlike any other…on CBS?
1 Kansas vs. 2 Villanova – 6:09 p.m.
2 Duke vs. 8 North Carolina – 8:49 p.m.
In the final AP poll before the tournament started, Kansas was No. 3, Villanova 6, Duke 9, and North Carolina? Try No. 32, if you carried out the votes.
But now Coach K is in his 13th Final Four, passing John Wooden for most all-time.
And Duke’s opponent is UNC, in what is a truly delicious matchup for the ages.
Since losing to Pitt at home on Feb. 16, the Tar Heels have won 10 of 11, including a 94-81 regular-season finale at Duke to spoil Coach K’s Cameron Indoor Stadium farewell.
But Duke has also caught fire at the right time, offense clicking on all cylinders. I expect AJ Griffin to take control as the Blue Devils give Krzyzewski a fairy-tale ending.
As for Kansas-Villanova, the story here is how the Wildcats replace starting guard Justin Moore, who tore his Achilles at the end of Nova’s win over Houston Saturday. Jay Wright has literally been using just six guys in his rotation.
Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels need to have monster games for Nova to have a shot.
--The Women’s Final Four is set for Minneapolis, Friday, with the championship Sunday.
1 South Carolina (80-50 winners over 10 Creighton) vs. 1 Louisville (62-50 over 3 Michigan)
1 Stanford (59-50 over 2 Texas) vs. 2 UConn (91-87 over 1 N.C. State in double overtime)
In UConn’s stirring win on Monday night against the Wolfpack, sensational sophomore Paige Bueckers scored 15 of her 27 points after regulation. In winning the Lady Huskies reached their 14th straight Final Four, which is rather remarkable.
Bueckers, who missed 19 games with a knee injury, finally is rounding back into form.
--We had the NIT semifinals last night and St. Bonaventure’s disappointing season is over, falling to Xavier, 84-77. Having watched the Bonnies closely all season, this is inside basketball for fans of the school from Olean, NY, but Osun Ossuniyi inexplicably failed to box out one time after another. The guy can be a terror on defense with his shot-blocking ability, but he doesn’t play the basics and that was the game last night.
Texas A&M whipped Washington State in the other semi at Madison Square Garden, 72-56, and boy am I glad I didn’t stay up for this one as the two teams combined to shoot 9 for 43 from downtown.
As an aside, it is highly disappointing the NIT is moving next season, to either Las Vegas or Hinkle Fieldhouse, it seems. But it’s possible a change in venue could provide more juice. This is still a good tourney.
--The surging Celtics lost up in Toronto Monday night, 115-112 in overtime, as Boston (47-29) was severely shorthanded, forwards Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum out with sore knees (though they will be back for Wednesday’s biggie against Miami), while Al Horford was out for personal reasons and center Robert Williams is out until well into the playoffs after suffering a meniscus tea in his left knee on Sunday.
Huge blow for Boston, as Williams was averaging 10 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, plus 2.2 blocks.
--In Los Angeles, it’s all about the Lakers, who entering play Tuesday were in the last playoff spot, tenth.
9. New Orleans 32-43
10. Lakers 31-43
11. San Antonio 31-44
But L.A. was going to be without LeBron Tuesday against Dallas due to an ankle injury.
And the Lakers lost, 128-110, so they fall to 31-44 and eleventh, the Spurs owning the tiebreaker. We have us a tension convention down the stretch. The NBA, and the networks, need at least a few Lakers playoff games.
The season has been a total mess, Anthony Davis missing long stretches, including since Feb. 16, when L.A. was 27-31. [They were 16-13 Dec. 15.] Davis is expected to return soon…but Russell Westbrook, who has played in 74 games, has basically sucked.
--Baseball is going to experiment in the second half of the minor league season by moving second base inward – so it will be closer to first base and third, by about 13.5 inches. Other minor-league rule change experiments will include pitch clocks, shift limits and robot umps – which could find their way into the big-league game in the next year or two. Emphasis on could.
Regarding the base change, the goal is to create a shorter distance between the bases to encourage more base stealing and first-to-third base-running action.
--Los Angeles sports fans are not only worried that the Lakers may not make the playoffs, but there is the ongoing mystery of Cody Bellinger.
Rookie of the Year in 2017
Classic sophomore slump 2018
NL MVP 2019…47-115, .305, 1.035 OPS
2020…12-30, .239, Covid season, but some big hits in the playoffs
2021…10-36, .165, .542 OPS
Through Monday, Bellinger was 3 of 22 in spring training, with 15 strikeouts.
He’s bring paid $17 million this season and is a free agent in 2024.
Bellinger turns 27 in July. What do you do with this guy?
--After I last posted, Albert Pujols announced he was going home for his final season (no doubt) as a Cardinal, one year, $2.5 million.
Why not, especially with the DH now in the N.L. He has 679 home runs, fifth behind Barry Bonds (Booo Boooo), Aaron, Ruth and A-Rod (Booo Boooo).
--College Baseball Rankings
[Coaches Poll, records a/o 3/27]
1. Tennessee 23-1
2. Arkansas 18-4
3. Oregon State 17-5
4. Virginia 22-2
5. Florida State 16-7
6. Oklahoma State 18-6
7. Texas Tech 20-5
8. Texas 19-7
9. Vanderbilt 19-4
10. Ole Miss 16-7
11. Louisville 19-5
12. TCU 18-5
13. LSU 17-7
14. Florida 17-7
15. Arizona 17-7
16. Notre Dame 12-5
17. Miami 17-6
18. North Carolina 18-6
22. Georgia Tech 16-9
ACC! ACC! ACC!
Baseball America Rankings
2. Oregon State…time to get the Beaverwear out as a hedge…
5. Florida State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Texas Tech
9. Ole Miss
14. Notre Dame
15. North Carolina
Wake Forest lost 2 of 3 this past weekend to Virginia, so three ACC opponents thus far, all top ten at the time, and the Deacs went 4-5. Not bad.
--As a result of the league’s ongoing diversity efforts, all 32 NFL teams will hire a minority offensive assistant coach for the 2022 season.
The coach can be “a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority,” according to the policy adopted by NFL owners during their annual meeting, and will be paid from a league-wide fund. The coach must work closely with the head coach and the offensive staff, with the goal of increasing minority participation in the pool of offensive coaches that eventually produces the most sought-after candidates for head-coaching positions.
“It’s a recognition that at the moment, when you look at stepping-stones for a head coach, they are the coordinator positions,” said Steelers owner Art Rooney II, the chairman of the NFL diversity, equity and inclusion committee. “We clearly have a trend where coaches are coming from the offensive side of the ball in recent years, and we clearly do not have as many minorities in the offensive coordinator [job].”
--The owners also approved new overtime rules for the playoffs, only, to avoid a situation like last season, where the Bills were never afforded an opportunity during its instant-classic playoff game against the Chiefs.
The last two minutes of regulation had been epic, Kansas City managing to tie it with 13 seconds left, and then the overtime was a downer. The Chiefs won the coin toss, Patrick Mahomes led a touchdown drive and Josh Allen and the Bills never got a chance to touch the ball.
So now both teams will be guaranteed a possession in overtime, again, in postseason games only.
--The Buffalo Bills reached an agreement with New York State and Erie County for a new, $1.4 billion stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. The stadium is expected to be completed by 2026.
Highmark Stadium has been the team’s home since 1973 and is the fourth-oldest stadium in the NFL, but it has not undergone a major renovation like Soldier Field, Lambeau Field and Arrowhead Stadium – the three stadiums older than the Bills’ home.
--The Detroit Lions and head coach Dan Campbell are this summer’s feature team on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the first of five episodes airing Tuesday, Aug. 9. I always forget to watch this. I won’t this time.
--After I posted Sunday, we had some big World Cup qualifiers and the United States did what it had to do, defeat Panama convincingly, 5-1, as Christian Pulisic, the nation’s top player, scored three goals.
So in Wednesday’s qualifying finale down in Costa Rica, as long as the U.S. doesn’t lose by five goals, they’re in.
Canada is heading to the WC for the first time since 1986, following a 4-0 win over Jamaica, which is just a huge deal for the sport overall in the country.
--The NASCAR Cup Series races have been ending as I go to post, or after, but I just have to note that Ross Chastain and his upstart Trackhouse Racing team continued on their early-season tear, Chastain picking up his first Cup win in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain is now 3, 2, 2, and 1 his last four races.
Trackhouse, co-owned by Pitbull, is in its second season of competition. Good story.
Your editor won again with his DraftKings lineup. Now if only I could do the same with my golf bets.
--I actually watched every minute of the Oscars coverage, even though I haven’t seen a movie in a theater in like 20 years. I got a kick out of Kevin Costner talking about his first movie experience being “How the West Was Won,” which may have been my very first movie…a great one, and one you had to see it in a theater for the famous buffalo stampede scene.
Then we had the slap heard ‘round the world after comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will stormed the stage and smacked Rock in the face.
Smith was then allowed to stay in the theater and 40 minutes later was handed the Oscar for best actor.
Howard Stern, who nails such matters, said, “What happened afterwards was disturbing to me. Will Smith sits back down in his chair. He clearly has an emotional problem.”
Stern called Rock “a gentle soul,” and said Smith “is clearly insane” and marveled over the fact Rock was able to maintain his composure and that Smith remained in the building. He said Smith got away with what he did because he’s a big celebrity.
Stern also said that if someone sitting courtside at a basketball game assaulted a player, they’d be hauled off immediately by law enforcement. That, he believes, should have happened Sunday night.
“Here’s Hollywood that’s so outraged by every little thing – not one person got up and said, ‘Hold on, we’ve got an out of control situation here,’” Stern said. “How this guy was allowed to sit there for the rest of the awards, and he’s laughing it up and having a good time with his wife…he just assaulted Chris Rock.”
What Will Smith did was also incredibly disrespectful to all the winners that night. The show will long be remembered for his act, first and foremost. The Academy Board is meeting today to decide what to do with the dirtball. Guess who will be receiving lots of yearend hardware from my own executive board?
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted Sun. p.m., right after UNC-Saint Peter’s]
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
College Basketball Quiz: I know some of you older folks know the answers, but some basics every good college hoops fan should know. Name the coaches of the following NCAA Championship teams…1955, 1956 San Francisco (2-time champs); 1961, 1962 Cincinnati (2-time champs); 1963 Loyola Chicago; 1979 Michigan State; 1980 Louisville; 1995 UCLA. Answers below.
Villanova vs. Kansas…North Carolina vs. Duke
[The following was written Saturday morning after a magical Friday night for Saint Peter’s.]
--Steve Politi / NJ.com
“The roar felt like it started someplace under the Pulaski Skyway and rattled all the way down the Jersey Turnpike. It was the kind of din that a tiny Jesuit university with just 2,600 students couldn’t make on its own, but when the buzzer sounded, the delirious Saint Peter’s fans in the Wells Fargo Center had plenty of help.
“UNC fans in the arena for the Sweet 16 stood and cheered, too, and so did the UCLA fans. But let’s be real: If you peeked into a sports bar in any college basketball town across the country on Friday at 9:23 p.m., you probably would have heard that same roar there as well.
“This was the kind of result that anyone who loves the NCAA Tournament had to stand and celebrate – something special, something forever, the kind of sports moment that will be replayed long after everyone here is dead and buried.
“Saint Peter’s 67, Purdue 64.
“Yeah, that’s one that needs repeating.
“Saint Peter’s 67, Purdue 64!!!
“The game didn’t end until one final 3-point attempt from future NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey hit the rim, and when it did, this arena 90 miles from the Saint Peter’s campus went nuts….
“You want history? Try this: Of the 148 teams seeded 15th since the tournament expanded in 1985, none had ever advanced to the Elite Eight – until this one. The Peacocks were 13-point underdogs to the Boilermakers, and like most Cinderellas that arrive on this stage, they were supposed to fade away and let the bluebloods finish the rest of the tournament.
“They had other plans. The team that stunned Kentucky and Murray State didn’t care that the Boilermakers were bigger, stronger, faster. It didn’t care that the team had better facilities, better resources, a longer tradition. It came out for warm-ups with T-shirts that read ‘MORE IS POSSIBLE,’ and over the next two hours, proved it.”
J. Brady McCollough / Los Angeles Times
“Saint Peter’s is many things at this very moment after having pulled off another monstrous upset in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off No. 3 seed Purdue to advance to the Elite Eight.
“It is arguably the greatest March Madness underdog of all time, becoming the first No. 15 seed (or 13-16) to play for a spot in the Final Four.
“It is arguably the best underdog story in team sports history [Ed. Leicester City in the Premier League has them beat] – and we’ll be able to make that claim more firmly if the Peacocks take down a second blue blood in this tournament in No. 8 seed North Carolina, which edged past UCLA 73-66 Friday night.
“Depending on what happens Saturday night in the Duke-Arkansas West regional final in San Francisco, Saint Peter’s very well could be the only thing standing in the way of an historic Duke-North Carolina matchup in the Final Four that should have felt preordained from the moment Coach K announced his retirement last summer (the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have somehow never played in the tournament).
“Of course, as tantalizing as Tobacco Road planting itself in New Orleans next week may be to some, it would be nauseating to just as many.
“But Saint Peter’s…will have a say….
“In one tournament, they’ve won more games against top-three seeds (two) than Gonzaga has in two decades (one).”
--After Thursday and Friday’s Sweet 16 action, including 4 Arkansas taking out 1 Gonzaga 74-68; 5 Houston dispatching of 1 Arizona, 72-60; 8 UNC eliminating 4 UCLA, 73-66; and 2 Duke over 3 Texas Tech, 78-73, we had….
3 teams from the ACC, and zero from the Big Ten (out of its nine bids) in the Elite Eight.
As Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons would say of the Big Ten’s effort (the last two seasons for that matter), “Ha Ha!”
Yes, the much-maligned ACC was the only conference with multiple teams heading into Saturday and Sunday’s action.
So to determine the Final Four, yesterday, 2 Villanova held off 5 Houston 50-44 in an atrocious display of shooting by both teams. The Wildcats hit just 15 of 52 from the field, 28.8%, and Houston was 17 of 57, 29.8%, but even worse, 1 of 20 from three, though Nova was perfect at the line, 15 of 15.
Jay Wright is taking the Wildcats to its fourth Final Four in his tenure (seventh overall for the school), but they could be without starting guard Justin Moore next weekend as he suffered an apparently serious leg injury near the end that many thought was a ruptured Achilles.
However, while there were stories he was on crutches after, and indeed he was, as TBS cut out of its coverage, you could see Moore walking, haltingly, without the crutches. He was to have an MRI. Moore is a critical cog, averaging 14.8 points per game and 4.8 rebounds.
And then, this late word as I go to post, Moore does have a torn Achilles. Sucks.
2 Duke’s magical run in Coach K’s final season continued, 78-69 winners over 4 Arkansas Saturday night, AJ Griffin with 18, Mark Williams with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and the Blue Devils 16 of 18 on their free throws.
But I hated the end of the game. Arkansas scored its last bucket to make it 78-69 with 0:46 to play and I immediately thought, foul ‘em, see if they choke, plenty of time left. And the Razorbacks didn’t! There seems to be this trend in the last few years to just give up early and it makes zero sense. I thought the point was to do everything you could to win the game!
Well, I said end of January that Duke was going to win it all and I’ve stuck with that, even when they were slumping.
Then today, 10 Miami got off to a solid start and led 1 Kansas at the half, 35-29, KU 0 for 5 from three, 3 for 9 from the foul line, and the Hurricanes were feeling good.
And then the second half happened…as in, s--- happens. Miami was blitzed 47-15 after the intermission, Bill Self and Co. 76-50 winners despite going 13 for 26 from the free throw line…as in, something to watch come next weekend.
And in the nightcap, North Carolina raced off to a 38-19 lead at the half, Saint Peter’s shooting just 7 of 31 from the field, 1 of 11 from three. The Peacocks only committed four turnovers, but, in turn, their vaunted defense only turned over Carolina one time. The Tar Heels’ Armando Bacot had 8 point and 15 rebounds…in the first half! Good lord!
In the end, Carolina rolled, 69-49, Bacot with 20 and 22. What a job by Hubert Davis in his first year.
For the first time in the tournament, Saint Peter’s played like a 15-seed from the MAAC. Which makes their run all the more remarkable. Their talent level was exposed today. But their coach, Shaheen Holloway, is headed to Seton Hall for good reason. [I’m expecting the announcement tomorrow.]
And in the end, for all the self-immolation, your editor has three of the Final Four. Fact. Beat that! Alas, the fourth was Seton Hall.
But what an awesome Final Four we have!
--We’ve learned, as we always knew, the importance of free throw shooting in the clutch.
Duke, in it’s two wins over Texas Tech and Arkansas, went 15 of 17, and then last night’s 16 of 18.
Saint Peter’s, in defeating Kentucky last weekend, was 18 of 21. They were a more pedestrian 23-31 against Murray State, and then 19 of 21 vs. Purdue! Saint Peter’s got to where they are at the line.
Villanova, No. 1 all season and on an historic pace as a team at the line, hit all 15 yesterday.
Wake Forest, on the other hand, didn’t make the NCAA field because they choked at the line in their killer-loss to Boston College in the ACC tournament…and in earlier games.
--Speaking of the Deacs, they flamed out in the NIT quarterfinals Wednesday night down in College Station, falling to Texas A&M 67-52. Just a horrendous effort. We generally played like crap down the stretch of the season, but still tremendous strides for the program.
St. Bonaventure, on the other hand, had a stirring win at Virginia, 52-51, to advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
St. Bonaventure (23-9) vs. Xavier (21-13)
Washington State (22-14) vs. Texas A&M (26-12)…the Cougars a surprise 77-58 winner at BYU last Wednesday, 77-58.
--I was talking to Wake Forest classmate Paul J. about the Purdue-Saint Peter’s game yesterday afternoon. Paul has a son who went to Indiana and he’s ended up following a lot of Big Ten games and couldn’t understand why Purdue coach Matt Painter didn’t play his two big men at the same time. Paul said he has watched a lot of Purdue and never saw Painter do that. And it’s a great point….why didn’t he? At least to mix it up.
But as Paul was saying this, I was thinking of the 1970 Jacksonville University Dolphins, who lost the NCAA title game to UCLA.
That team was led by 7-2 Artis Gilmore and guard Rex Morgan, but also started 7-footer Pembrook Burrows III. UCLA just had too much overall talent and prevailed 80-69. [That was the Sidney Wicks/Curtis Rowe Bruins edition.]
But Gilmore (19 points, 16 rebounds in the title game) and Burrows were a rather intimidating duo all season. As in, again, why didn’t Matt Painter try putting Zach Edey and Trevion Williams on the court together?
Then I wake up this morning and see that the coach of that 1970 Dolphins team, Joe Williams, died yesterday. He was 88. Kind of spooky. [You might want to send me a note to have me not think of you at all. Accompanying dollars would cement the deal.]
That Jacksonville team, Williams’ last at the school, beat Western Kentucky, Iowa, Kentucky and St. Bonaventure en route to the title game.
I recently told you how long-time friend Steve G., who was at Jacksonville at the time, told me how Mike Blevins, a surfer-boy looking reserve on the squad, got a lot of….oh, sorry, I can’t tell that one.
Back to Williams, he recruited Black players like Gilmore and Burrows, as well as Chip Dublin, at a time when many colleges in the South refrained from doing so.
“In that era, Joe Williams [Ed. who was only 36 that magical season], let players be who they wanted to be,” said school president Tim Cost, a JU graduate who attended the school nearly a decade later. “Look what he did with Black athletes, starting three Black players at a time when the SEC, I believe, had only one Black player. Joe was an absolute original, a straight shooter, innovative, aggressive and tenacious.”
The players loved him. RIP.
--Ken P. and I agree….the next announcer to say “The bank is open!” will have to serve 15-20 years of hard labor.
--In the Women’s Division I Basketball Championship, their Elite Eight will play out tonight and tomorrow.
1 South Carolina vs. 10 Creighton
1 Stanford vs. 2 Texas
1 Louisville vs. 3 Michigan
1 North Carolina State vs. 2 UConn
With UConn’s 75-58 win over 3 Indiana Saturday, the Lady Huskies advanced to their 16th straight regional final. Pretty, pretty good….
--Deshaun Watson maintained Friday he had committed no wrongdoing as the Browns presented him to the fan base as the new face of the franchise.
After two dozen women accused Watson of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage appointments, two grand juries in Texas decided March 11 and Thursday that Watson wouldn’t be criminally charged, though he still faces 22 active civil lawsuits and a likely suspension from the NFL.
“I understand the whole circumstances is very difficult, especially for the women’s side of the fans in this community. I’m not naïve to that. I know these allegations are very, very serious,” Watson said during his introductory news conference. “But I’ve never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised by a single parent mom who has two aunties, who’s a sister, and that’s who raised me.
“I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone and everything around me. So I’ve always defended that, and I will continue to stand on that. I just want the opportunity to be able to show who I really am in the community and be hands on and help people and serve other people.”
Watson said he understands “there’s going to be a stain that’s probably going to stick with me for a while,” but “I’ve never done these things that these people are alleging.”
Asked why he should be believed instead of more than 20 women, Watson said, “I can’t speak on what people’s opinions are because everyone has their own opinions, but what I can continue to do is tell the truth, and that is I’ve never assaulted or disrespected or harassed any woman in my life. Like I said before, I was raised differently. That’s not my DNA. That’s not my culture. That’s not me as a person. That’s not how I was raised. For me, that’s to continue to push forward and show people who I really am.”
Good luck, Browns fans. As for Browns ownership, you better be right.
--In a biggie, Kansas City traded six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami for five draft picks: a 2022 first-round pick (No. 29), second-round pick (No. 50) and fourth-round pick, plus fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2023 draft on Wednesday.
The Dolphins are giving Hill a four-year, $120 million extension, including $72.2 million guaranteed and also including $52.535 million at signing, agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN.
For Hill, who was already under contract for the 2022 season, the overall value of the deal is $141.685 million, better than Davante Adams’ recent deal with the Raiders.
The Jets had a trade in place for Hill, supposedly better than Miami’s offer, but the question became where Hill wanted to play. [The Jets were offering a pair of second-rounders this year, but not their two first-round selections.]
Hill finds a downgrade at quarterback in Miami in Tua Tagovailoa vs. Patrick Mahomes, for one, and Miami may be more committed to a running game than Andy Reid was. Hill’s arrival came a day after three-time Pro Bowl LT Terron Armstead, arguably the No. 1 free agent to reach the market this year, agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract with Miami.
Personally, I didn’t realize how involved my Jets were in the process and I’m glad we did not get Hill, and I’ll leave it at that. We instead need to nail our second, first-round pick (No. 10) in getting one of the many ‘potential’ star receivers in the mix. The first pick, at No. 4, needs to be either a defensive stud or offensive lineman.
--As the regular season winds down, New York City Mayor Eric Adams gave the Nets the gift they’ve long hoped for, exempting athletes and performers from Gotham’s vaccine mandate for private workers, so Kyrie Irving can play home games and unvaccinated baseball players can take the field when their season begins.
Adams, a Mets and Nets fan, made his announcement Thursday morning at Citi Field, where the Mets play.
It’s a huge deal for Brooklyn, 39-35 and in 8th place in the East after a 110-95 win at Miami last night. With eight games remaining, they are solidly in the play-in round, with an outside shot at catching Toronto (42-32) at No. 6.
On the other hand, the Nets’ Ben Simmons is still dealing with a back issue and his status for the playoffs is very questionable. First off, he has yet to take the court with his new teammates. It’s not like you can just throw him in there in, say, a Conference Finals down the road.
--Heading into today’s play, the Eastern Conference standings….
Philadelphia 46-27… --
Miami 47-28… -- …but losers of four straight
Boston 46-28… 0.5…freakin’ on fire…were 23-24 on Jan. 21.
Milwaukee 46-28… 0.5
Just waiting for the season to begin. Luckily, no major injuries thus far in camp that I’ve seen, though we had the Fernando Tatis Jr. injury news that sets him back three months, which was from a December incident in the D.R.
The Angels announced Shohei Ohtani will start Opening Day and DH, which is a great way to reboot baseball.
And here in the New York area, only two things matter. Mets fans are glad Jacob deGrom appears very healthy (ditto Max Scherzer), while Yankees fans have to be pleased that GM Brian Cashman said Aaron Judge will receive a contract extension offer before opening day.
Judge wants to stay a Yank, he’s a free agent after this season, while the Yanks are clearly hesitant to break the bank for a guy who’s played just two full seasons without injury and is about to turn 30.
But we’ll see what happens after an extension offer is made. If Judge declines it, that’s a dark cloud over the team this season.
--I ended up watching a ton of the golf action from the WGC-Dell Match Play Championships at Austin Country Club in Texas, Saturday, as the field was winnowed down from the Round of 16 to today’s semifinalists and in the end, we had a delicious matchup of former winner Dustin Johnson vs. the red-hot Scottie Scheffler in one semi, and match play wizard Kevin Kisner, another former winner (as well as runner-up) in the event vs. Canadian Corey Conners.
Kisner entered play today 21-6-1 in this championship, while with a win, Scheffler would become the world’s No. 1.
And Kisner then won another, 2up over Conners; while Scheffler gets his opportunity to attain No. 1 status, a 3&1 winner over DJ.
And Scheffler does it…capping off a run for the ages. Your new No. 1 after 3 wins in five events, 4&3 over Kisner. More next Chat. But this was the guy who we kept saying, ‘When will he win?’ Well try 3 in 5. F’n A! He rocks!
[Corey Conners beat an obviously ‘Who gives a damn at this point, I’m very rich’ DJ, 3&1, for third.]
--At this week’s alternate event, the Corales Puntacana Championship in the D.R. Chad Ramey picked up his first PGA Tour win. Never heard of the guy. But we’ve learned not to dismiss such types.
--The U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT) is taking on Panama tonight needing a win to essentially qualify for the World Cup later this year in Qatar, after getting bumped four years ago. The other day they picked up a critical point in a 0-0 draw with Mexico but there is a fear they left it all on the field in that one.
If the U.S. stumbles tonight, which is at home, then they have a tension convention in their qualifying finale down in Costa Rica on Wednesday, where they have never won in qualifying, should Costa Rica beat El Salvador today.
Importantly, the U.S. currently has a +9 goal differential to the Ticos’ +2, the first tiebreaker.
--Speaking of World Cup qualifying, Italy, the current European champions, shockingly failed to qualify for the Cup after being stunned by North Macedonia in their playoff in Palermo.
Aleksandar Trajkovski (who plays in Saudi Arabia for Al-Fayha) picked up a loose ball in the 92nd minute, drove forward and fired a sensational winner from outside the penalty area. Imagine what a folk hero in North Macedonia this guy is. No paying for brewskis ever again!
Italy thus failed to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup. When they failed to do so four years ago, it was the first time they missed out on soccer’s global showcase since 1958.
Imagine, just eight months earlier, Roberto Mancini’s side celebrated one of their greatest triumphs – beating England at Wembley Stadium to win Euro 2020 (postponed a year due to Covid).
--No Premier League action this weekend as we had a slew of international ‘friendlies.’
--Reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen shook off a poor first race last week in Bahrain to take the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix today in Jiddah. It was controversial they held the race in the first place after Friday, when a nearby oil depot was hit in a rocket attack by Houthi rebels stationed in Yemen. The attack, during the first practice, could be heard at the track but race officials convinced the drivers they were safe and the Houthis declared a 3-day ceasefire.
I caught the end of this one, very exciting finish, as Verstappen and last week’s opening winner of the 2022 season in Bahrain, Charles Leclerc, battled it out with Verstappen in non-stop action.
Lewis Hamilton, his team adjusting to the new cars being used, was tenth after a third last week.
May 8, the circuit is coming to Miami.
I have to admit, my brother was reminding me all week to watch the race and I was looking for it all Sunday morning (as in, “WTF is it?”), not realizing for a while it was a night race (local time). Doh!
Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher, was injured in a bad crash in practice, but was able to talk to his mother on the phone after. But no status on the extent of the injuries. He only posted on social media he was “OK.”
--Just like in World Cup skiing, the action isn’t over after the Olympics for figure skaters and gold medalist Nathan Chen was set to try to win the world championship this weekend in Montpellier, France, but he suffered an injury in practice that forced him to withdraw.
So remember American Vincent Zhou? Zhou was preparing for the men’s competition at the Olympics when he tested positive for Covid and was forced to spend nearly two weeks in quarantine, able only to compete in the closing exhibition gala. Earlier he had helped the Americans take the silver in the team event at the Games.
But this week at the worlds he rallied after a poor short program to take the bronze, behind Japanese teammates Shomo Uno and Yuma Kagiyam, who took gold and silver. Uno won the bronze in Beijing. Good for Zhou.
--Bob Baffert, time running out on his legal options, transferred three of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls to Tim Yakteen, and one to Rodolphe Brisset, so that the horses can gain points and qualify to run in the Derby.
Messier, Doppelganger and McLaren Vale will all move to the barn of Yakteen, Baffert’s former assistant. Blackadder will ship to Kentucky and run for Brisset.
“These are all good horses and they deserve to go,” Baffert told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. “It’s just such a great race, both the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. It’s great for the fans and the sport. The fans deserve to see these horses run.”
All of the horses need to finish first or second in their final prep race to gain enough points to make the starting gate in Louisville on May 7. This will be interesting.
--A Florida man died after his car collided with an 11-foot alligator the other day, according to authorities.
John H., 59, was heading eastbound on C.R. 672 in Lithia, about 59 miles northeast of Sarasota, at around 12:30 a.m. when he struck the animal, which was in the road, according to a release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim’s car “veered off the road,” before flipping over into a ditch, police said.
A passing driver contacted police after spotting the car in the ditch. Both the victim and the alligator were pronounced dead at the scene.
--The music world was stunned with the announcement that Taylor Hawkins, drummer for the rock group the Foo Fighters, died while on tour in South America. The band played in San Isidro, Argentina, last Sunday and were due to perform in Bogota, Colombia, on Friday night – the day we learned of his death.
No details were immediately available, but local media outlets reported that Hawkins had been suffering from chest pain and an ambulance had been called.
Sunday, we then learned from Colombian officials that Hawkins had 10 different substances in his system, following an initial preliminary forensic examination. The substances included marijuana, antidepressants and opioids.
Paramedics attempted to revive Hawkins but there was no response and he was declared dead at his hotel in northern Bogota, a statement from the nation’s Attorney General’s Office said.
Hawkins, 50, played in the Foos with former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl on vocal for more than two decades, alongside Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee.
The band said it was “devastated by the untimely loss” and asked for the privacy of his family to be respected.
Chris Richards / Washington Post
“There’s an inherent mystery to rock-and-roll drummers and the emotional fuel they burn. When they’re happy, they hit the drums hard. When they’re angry, they hit the drums hard. For listeners, this is a loud and generous riddle. When a drummer really knows how to whomp, we can hear whichever feeling we’re feeling, even if we’re feeling both. And that’s life, right? There’s a lot to be happy about and a lot to be angry about.
“Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters seemed like a happy drummer – or at least that’s how everyone interpreted the smile he perpetually flashed from behind his kit, a crescent of beaming dentition whiter than strobe lights. His playing was extraordinarily bright, too. Buoyant, brash and propulsive onstage, Hawkins hit hard, channeling all the angry-happiness in the room, where it was 9:30 Club or Wembley Stadium. The vitality of his drumming makes his death all the more difficult to compute.”
I always thought Hawkins was immensely cool. Very sad.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/27/71: #1 “Me And Bobby McGee” (Janis Joplin) #2 “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” (The Temptations) #3 “She’s A Lady” (Tom Jones)…and…#4 “Proud Mary” (Ike & Tina Turner…can’t stand this song…) #5 “For All We Know” (Carpenters) #6 “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” (The Partridge Family…us guys wanted Susan Dey…) #7 “What’s Going On” (Marvin Gaye…brilliant…) #8 “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (Sammi Smith) #9 “One Bad Apple” (The Osmonds) #10 “What Is Life” (George Harrison…all-time fave of mine…B+ week…)
College Basketball Quiz Answers: 1955-56 San Francisco: Phil Woolpert; 1961-62 Cincinnati: Ed Jucker; 1963 Loyola Chicago: George Ireland; 1979 Michigan State: Jud Heathcote; 1980 Louisville: Denny Crum; 1995 UCLA: Jim Harrick.
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.