Friday’s Den: Happy Canada Day!!!

To our neighbors to the north, Happy Canada Day.

Unusually busy day for a summer Thursday…….
13) USC/UCLA are jumping from the Pac-12 to the Big 14 (Big 16 now?), crippling the Pac-12 Conference. College sports are off the rails with greed; looks like the Big 16/SEC are going to be two super conferences, with other schools scrambling to climb aboard, or find the next best thing.

This catches me completely by surprise; had no idea it was in the works. Changes the landscape of college sports, in a big way. 

12) Where does the Pac-10 go from here? Add San Diego State/UNLV to replace the LA schools? Or Fresno State? Gonzaga (doesn’t have football)? Boise State?

Or does the rest of the Pac-10 jump ship and hook up with the Big X? Crazy stuff. 

11) NBA free agency started Thursday night; ridiculous sums of money are being tossed around.

Kyrie Irving opted in for his $36.9M deal for next year. Three days later, Kevin Durant asks for a trade; go figure. Ben Simmons is supposed to make $33M, but he never plays. Nets must’ve been a fun group to hang out with this past season. 

Durant makes $44.1M this year, $47.7M next year, $51.2M in 2024-25. Going to take quite a haul of players to trade Durant and keep the payrolls balanced within the salary cap.

By the way, in an 82-game season, $51.2M works out to $624,390.24 per game; Durant will be 36 when that season starts. 

10) Zion Williamson is supposed to make $13,534,817 this season; so far in his three-year NBA career, he’s missed 63.4% of the Pelicans’ games with injuries.

9) Portland Trailblazers signed Anfernee Simons to a 4-year extension worth $100M; last year was the first time in his 4-year career he scored more than 8.3 ppg. He scored 17.3 ppg in 57 games (30 starts), shooting 40.5% on the arc. 

8) Bradley Beal re-upped with Washington for five years, $251M. Lot of cabbage for a team that, over the last four years, is 126-182. 

7) Phoenix Suns are going to sign Devin Booker to a 4-year, $214M contract, which works out to $53.5M a year, $652,439 a game.

Denver Nuggets signed Nikola Jokic to a 5-year, $264M supermax extension, the biggest contract in NBA history

Pretty sure I’m going to cancel my NBA package on DirecTV; they obviously don’t need my $300 anymore. Guys making $652,439 a game is a bit much; what would Kareem or Wilt be making if they played today? What would Jordan be making?

6) There was a weird play in the Pirates-Nationals game the other day; because Washington didn’t know a rule, they cost themselves a run, in a game they wound up losing 8-7.

Top of the 5th, Pirates had guys on 2nd and 3rd, one out. Batter hits a soft line drive that the first baseman catches; both runners took off on contact, the 1B throws to third, where they tag the runner coming down from second. Inning over.

Problem is, because Washington never appealed that the runner on third left early, his run counted. Had they appealed his leaving early, the “4th out” would’ve prevented the run from scoring. 

5) Giancarlo Stanton went 2-4 with two singles Thursday; they were his first singles since June 12 (72 AB’s ago). In his last 17 games, Stanton is 8-51 with six home runs. He also hit a line shot right at the shortstop for an out- it went 116 mph— he looked way better last night. 

4) Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is the only baseball commissioner who played Little League baseball; he grew up in Rome, NY, wound up playing tennis in high school.

3) Miami Marlins fired VP of player development Gary Dembo Thursday; Dembo was the first person Derek Jeter hired when he was running the Miami franchise. Now with Jeter gone, Dembo was also told to take a hike. 

2) Auburn-Memphis are playing a non-conference basketball game in Atlanta December 10.

By the time that game is played, who knows what league Memphis will be in.

1) USFL championship game, at Canton, OH:
Philadelphia Stars (7-4)
— Stars won six of last eight games.
— Last eight weeks, they’re +11 in turnovers.
— Gave up 23+ points in nine of 11 games (over 6-2 last eight).
— Were outgained in every game but their three games vs New Jersey.
— 2-3 ATS as an underdog.
— 6-1 if they score more than 17 points. 

Birmingham Stallions (10-1)
— Led 21-14 at half last week, most first half points they scored this year.
— Trailed at halftime in five of their 11 games
— Outscored opponents 143-79 in second half.
— 1-4 vs spread the last five weeks (6-0 first six weeks)
— Four of their last six games went over the total.
— Stallions are favored for 11th time in 12 games (6-4 ATS as a favorite)

First meeting:
— Stallions (-6) beat Philly 30-17 in Week 5.
— Stars led 17-14 at the half; Birmingham outscored them 16-0 in second half.
— Birmingham outgained Philly 377-253; both teams had two turnovers. 

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) Milwaukee CF Jonathan Davis made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen Wednesday, as he took a double/triple away from a Rays’ hitter, on a ball hit over his head to straight-away center field. As he hit the ground, his neck/shoulder also hit the CF fence— it looked scary for a minute, but he finished the inning, though he would up leaving the game early. 

12) Read an article today that said these things:
— Automated strike zone is likely to become a thing in 2024.
— MLB wants to add two teams, a way to make up some of the money they didn’t make during the shortened 2020 season.
— Pitch clock will likely become a thing next year. I’ve seen minor league games with the pitch clock; you won’t notice the difference.

As for expansion, A’s/Rays have to settle their stadium issues first—both of those teams could move, but Montreal, Nashville, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Portland OR are potential expansion cities. 

11) Pirates 8, Nationals 7— Bryan Reynolds hit three home runs for Pittsburgh. 

10) Best records in one-run games:
17-6— Bronx
13-6— Houston
18-11— Toronto
15-9— Milwaukee
14-9— San Diego

9) Worst records in one-run games:
4-13– Texas
5-13— Oakland
8-15— Cubs
4-8— Dodgers
6-12— Angels

8) Kansas City Royals are 0-22 this season when they trail after the first inning; they’re 27-25 when they don’t trail after the first inning.

7) Astros 2, Mets 0— Verlander tossed eight shutout innings; there was a scary collision in left field— Yordan Alvarez/Jeremy Pena both left the game. Alvarez left on a golf cart. 

6) LIU fired basketball coach Derek Kellogg after five years; the guy had a 49-41 record in NEC games, never finishing under .500. June 29 is an odd time to be firing people.

LIU apparently wants G League Ignite director Rod Strickland to be its new coach.

Interesting twist on this is that John Calipari’s son Brad joined the LIU staff as an assistant this off-season. Kellogg played college ball for Calipari at UMass. 

5) NBA salary cap is expected to jump $11.6M next season, up to $123.6m per team. 

4) Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal turned down his $36.4M option for next season and is a free agent— he figures to make more than $36.4M, obviously or else he would’ve opted in, like Kyrie Irving did this week.

3) Denver-Washington made a trade, with veteran PG Ish Smith heading to Denver;; when he takes the floor for the Nuggets in October, they’ll be his 13th NBA team, an all-time record. 

2) Spurs traded Dejounte Murray to Atlanta, for Danilo Gallinari and three first round picks. 

Murray and Trae Young will be the first pair of teammates in NBA history who each averaged 20 points and 8 assists per game in the previous season.

1) Utah Jazz named Will Hardy as its new head coach; he was most recently an assistant with the Celtics, but also spent 11 years with the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach. He played college ball at Division III Williams College.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) Was surprised to learn that when he was pitching coach of the Minnesota Twins, Wes Johnson was making only $350,000 a year; seeing how each team has 13 pitchers, and the roster is 26 players, you’d think basically being the defensive coordinator would earn a guy more than $350,000.

The worst player on the roster earns the minimum salary of $700,000; who is more important, the 26th guy in the team or the pitching coach?

Johnson bolted to LSU for a $750,000 salary; MLB needs to invest more in paying coaches, to keep their product at a high quality. 

12) Bryce Harper is out at least six weeks; he had his injured thumb operated on this week. 

11) Since start of last year, Harper’s teammate Kyle Schwarber has 27 home runs in 52 June games, eight more than any other player in June. 

In all the other months, Schwarber has 27 homers in 134 games. 

10) Braves 5, Phillies 3— Matt Olson homered twice for Atlanta.

9) The man Olson replaced in Atlanta, Freddie Freeman. fired his agent recently; apparently he isn’t thrilled with his leaving the Braves right after they won the World Series.

Now Freeman is making $27M a year for the next six years and he lives in Los Angeles, so it is tough to feel too bad for him, but when you fire your agent, you ain’t happy. 

8) Houston Astros are in a stretch where they’re playing nine straight games against the two New York City teams; it is the first time since 1957 that a team is playing nine games in a row against teams from the Big Apple, back when the Dodgers/Giants called New York City home.

7) I turned on Law and Order re-runs Tuesday afternoon, and the judge in one episode is the guy who played Morty in the classic movie Meatballs.

It turns out that Harvey Atkin appeared in 22 different Law and Order episodes, quite a jump from sleeping on a raft in the middle of the lake, like he did in Meatballs.

6) Lakers’ summer league team in Las Vegas next week will have Shareef O’Neal (Shaq’s son) and Scottie Pippen Jr.

If you go to summer league games, you’ll see lot of famous people and most everyone, except the players/coaches, go in/out of the same doors at the Thomas and Mack Center.

One day I was walking down the hall and Jerry West was in a group of people walking the other way; Mark Cuban is most always there. Like I said, lot of famous people. 

5) WR Terry McLaurin signed a 3-year, $71M extension with the Washington Commanders, with $53M of that money guaranteed. Last two years, McLaurin caught 164 passes for 2,171 yards and nine touchdowns. 

4) College football teams with highest %age of their production returning this year:
85%— BYU, South Florida
84%— Bowling Green, Kansas, Southern Miss, TCU
83%— Stanford
82%— North Carolina State

3) Since 2000-01, the most regular season wins in the NBA:
1,181— San Antonio
1,065— Dallas
986— Boston
983— Miami
975— Houston

2) There are 30 teams in the NBA; Gregg Popovich obviously coaches the Spurs, but 8 of the other 29 head coaches have either played for or coached under Popovich.

1) Happy birthday to one of the funniest people in the history of the world, Mel Brooks, who turned 96 years old this week.

Get Smart. Blazing Saddles. Spaceballs. High Anxiety, just to name a few. He is a comic genius; hope Mr Brooks enjoys his birthday. 

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but……..

13) Orioles 9, Seattle 2:
— Baltimore is 14-10 in June; this is their first winning month in five years.
— Tyler Wells allowed one hit, one run in five IP.
— Orioles hit back/back homers twice in this game. 

12) Speaking of the Orioles, CF Cedric Mullins is struggling this year, hitting only .258 with a .312 one-base %age, not ideal for a leadoff man.

Last year, Mullins had a break-thru year; he was a 30-30 guy, hitting 30 homers, stealing 30 bases, with .761 OPS. The expanded ballpark in Baltimore shouldn’t be hurting Mullins, who is lefty— the ballpark is bigger now in left field, but not right or center.

Mullins made a couple great catches in this game; his defense is still solid, but the Orioles need his offense to revert back to last year, if they’re going to keep improving. 

11) Kansas City Royals traded 1B Carlos Santana to Seattle for a couple of minor leaguers; he will replace injured 1B Ty France, who hurt his elbow last week.

36-year old Santana is hitting only .216 this year, but is 8-19 in his last five games. 

10) Next season there will be a Wrigley Field sportsbook, located at the former Captain Morgan Club in the right-field corner of the ballpark. The addition of a year-round sportsbook is part of a strategy to turn Wrigleyville into a year-round destination- the sports book isn’t expected to open until Christmas/New Year’s.

9) Minnesota Twins’ pitching coach Wes Johnson quit his job to become the pitching coach at LSU, where his salary will twice what it was in Minnesota. Johnson leaves the Twins after this week’s series against Cleveland.

I’ll repeat myself: the pitching coach at LSU will be making twice as much money as the pitching coach of a team that is in first place in the AL Central. Go figure.

The new analytics era has lessened the value of assistant coaches; I’m thinking this isn’t a good thing for major league baseball. 

8) Players are getting to the major leagues faster these days; 7 of the top 20 players taken in the 2019 draft are already in the big leagues. They get to the major leagues faster, they need more coaching once they get there, but you have to pay the coaches to keep them. 

7) Weird part of the Mariners-Angels brawl Sunday; one of the people who was suspended is an interpreter for the Angels. You don’t see that every day. 

6) Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 2— Boston is 2-6 against the Blue Jays, 7-15 against the AL East, 35-17 against everyone else. 

5) UAB-football coach Bill Clark resigned for health reasons; he went 49-26 in six years with the Blazers, winning two conference titles. Blazers have played in five straight bowl games.

Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will assume interim coaching duties. UAB is set to join the AAC for the 2023 season.

4) Last week in Chicago, umpire Doug Eddings’ work behind the plate enraged the Blue Jays so much that the next day, their hitting coach got tossed BEFORE the game, and wound up getting suspended for five games. Here is why.

In that game, Eddings called 158 pitches balls; only one of them was a strike. That’s the good part.

Eddings called 70 pitches strikes; only 45 of them were actually in the strike zone. 64% accuracy isn’t professional-level umpiring. 

One of the pitches he missed was a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the top the 8th inning. Somehow, even with Eddings calling 25 pitches strikes that weren’t strike, the game still ended up 7-6, but Toronto got hosed.

3) When I was a kid, my dad used to bring the New York Daily News home every day; I grew up reading a columnist named Dick Young, a great writer best known for his direct/blunt style.

One of the things Young advocated for was a “team error” in baseball; guy hits a pop-up in the outfield, two fielders look at each other, the ball drops, the batter gets a hit, the pitchers get screwed.

Young thought it should be scored a “team error”, no hit for the batter, which I agree with. Guy on TV last night was advocating for it too. Maybe someday it’ll happen.

2) The transfer portal has becoming a huge part of college basketball, but not all the players are benefitting from it. 

1,626 players entered the portal after last season; as of last week, only 800 players have found a new team, which means that 50.8% of kids who wanted to transfer haven’t found a new home yet.
— 370 of 698 sophomores are available (53%)
— 217 of 435 juniors are available (49.9%)
— 239 of 493 seniors are available (48.5%)

Maybe kids who weren’t happy with their playing time weren’t getting that time because they aren’t as good as they think they are. No one else wants them either.

1) John Wall will sacrifice $6.5M of the $47.4M that is owed to him in order to join the Los Angeles Clippers instead of playing for Houston. Wall has played just 72 games over the last four years due to a combination of injuries and Houston’s disinterest in using him. Yikes. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend…….

13) Tuesday-Saturday, Seattle Mariners started out 5-0 on their road trip, with Jesse Winker going 9-18 in those games, by far his best stretch in a very disappointing season. We’re not halfway thru the season; there is still time to Seattle to get into the Wild Card race, but July starts this week, so it isn’t that early.

Saturday night, Seattle relievers dusted Mike Trout a couple times, so Sunday, Angels threw a pitch behind the neck of Mariners’ star Julio Rodriguez. Words were exchanged between the two dugouts.

Then in the top of the 2nd, Angels drilled Winker on the hip, and tensions overflowed; when order was restored, 20 minutes later, six players and both managers were ejected, including Seattle’s best three players (Ty France was also out hurt).

Winker needed to take one for the team, shut his mouth and go to first base. The team was on a roll, but instead, chaos ensued and Seattle lost 2-1. It isn’t late in the season but it ain’t early anymore either- they’re seven games out of the last Wild Card slot. 

They need wins, not chaos.

12) Mark Appel pitched for Stanford for three years (2011-13); Astros drafted him with the first pick in the 2013 draft. Big things were expected.

2013— went 3-1, 3.79 in ten starts in Class A ball.
2014— went 3-7, 6.91 in 18 starts in Class A/AA ball.
2015— went 10-3, 4.37 in 25 starts in Class AA/AAA ball
2016— went 3-3, 4.46 in eight AAA starts.
2017— went 5-4, 5.27 in 17 AAA starts.

After the 2017 season, he announced that he was quitting baseball, saying he was at peace with the decision, but he made a comeback last year.

2021— went 3-6, 6.06 in 23 AA/AAA games (15 starts)
2022— he has allowed six runs in 28 IP, in 19 relief stints.

Now he’s in the major leagues for the first time, as the Phillies scramble to fortify their bullpen. Would be quite a story if Appel helped the Phillies make the playoffs this year. 

11) Bryce Harper’s broken thumb is very bad news for the Phillies; he couldn’t play the field this year because he can’t throw (elbow), but he’s hitting .318 with 49 RBI. His injury leaves a huge gap in their lineup.

JT Realmuto can DH when he isn’t catching, but he’s hitting only .237; they need more from him, more from Hoskins/Castellanos to remain a contender. 

10) Astros threw a combined no-hitter in the Bronx Saturday, beating New York 3-0. Cristian Javier tossed seven no-hit innings with 13 strikeouts, throwing 115 pitches.

Sunday, Jose Urquidy threw six more no-hit innings in the Bronx, but then Stanton/Lemahieu tied the game with homers and Judge walked it off with a 3-run blast in the 10th.

Astros split four games in the Big Apple, despite never trailing in any of the four games— both losses were on walkoffs.

9) Over the last two weeks, Giancarlo Stanton is 4-41; all four hits were home runs, as Stanton morphs into a modern day version of Dave Kingman, which isn’t what you expect for #2M a year.

8) Tampa Bay Rays are 10-1 against National League teams this season. 

7) San Francisco Giants are 39-33, half-game out of the Wild Card race; they’ve already used nine different leadoff hitters in 72 games. Giants lost six of their last eight games; will they make any moves over the next month to enhance their roster? Trade deadline is August 2. 

6) San Diego Padres are 45-30, only two games out of first place in NL West, but they’re 0-7 in Blake Snell’s starts, which isn’t good for a guy making $13M a year.

In 2018, Snell went 21-5, 1.89 in 31 starts; since then, he is 17-21, 4.40 in 68 starts. Pitching is a scare commodity these days; the Padres need more out of Snell. 

USFL semi-finals:
Philadelphia 19, New Jersey 14
— Both teams scored punt return TD’s in the 4th quarter.
— Stars outgained New Jersey 286-285; they outgained them in all three meetings, but this is the only meeting they won.
— Generals had their nine-game win streak snapped. 

Birmingham 31, New Orleans 17:
— With game tied 14-all, Stallions ran a kick back 90 yards for aa TD.
— Breakers outgained Birmingham 389-289, but were minus-2 in turnovers.
— Stallions have outscored opponents 143-79 in 2nd half this year.

Stallions-Stars play for the USFL title Sunday night in Canton.

3) Washington Wizards are expected to re-sign Bradley Beal to a 5-year deal worth a projected $248M that would take him through age 33. Wizards have had four losing seasons in a row; since 1984, they’re 4-11 in first round playoff series. 

2) Ole Miss 4, Oklahoma 2— Rebels sweep the finals 2-0, win the college baseball national title, not bad for a team that was the last one to get in the tournament- on May 1, they were 7-14 in SEC games.

Since 2009, 8 of 13 national champs have been SEC teams.

1) Colorado 2, Tampa Bay 1:
— Avalanche win Stanley Cup for first time since 2001.
— Colorado outshot the Lightning, 30-23.
— Big year for Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Super Bowl champion Rams.

Sunday’s Den: College football knowledge

13) Six quarterbacks who transferred to new schools:
— Caleb  Williams, Oklahoma to USC
— Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma to South Carolina
— Dillon Gabriel, Central Florida to Oklahoma
— JT Daniels, Georgia to West Virginia
— Bo Nix, Auburn to Oregon
— Kedon Slovis, USC to Pittsburgh

12) Clemson went 10-3 LY, which is a bad year for them; QB DT Uiagalelei completed only 55.6% of his passes LY, with nine TD passes, 10 INT’s. If Clemson is going to continue to dominate the ACC, their passing game has to be better than that. Having a new offensive coordinator complicates things some. 

11) Baylor went 12-2 last year; they went for it on 4th down 33 times, which seems like a lot for such a good team- it was the 6th-most of any team in country. Bears converted 19 of those 33 fourth down plays.

This season, Baylor opens with I-AA Albany, where I went to school. My work study job back then was doing stats for football/basketball games. We didn’t have any good road trips like Baylor— the Great Danes were Division III in those days. 

10) Houston Cougars’ defense allowed opponents to convert only 29.7% of third down plays last year, the best %age in the country.

9) Indiana went 2-10 last year; they fired five assistant coaches, added 12 transfers. Hoosiers ranked 107th in red zone offense, 116th in red zone defense. Obviously, their #1 priority is being better in the red zone. 

8) Stanford was an unusually-bad 3-9 last year, losing their last seven games while scoring only 14.3 ppg. Cardinal was 0-8 last year when they scored fewer than 31 points- they bring back 10 starters on offense this season. 

7) Last year, Charlotte’s defense was 129th in pass defense; there are 131 I-A teams. In their last three games, 49ers gave up 42-49-56 points. Charlotte gave up 73 plays of 20+ yards. 

6) Florida State went 5-7 last year; six of their 12 games were decided by exactly 3 points, with Seminoles splitting those six games. 

5) Iowa State was a disappointing 7-6 last year, 2-5 in games decided by 7 or less points, and one of the wins was 16-10 over I-AA Northern Iowa. 

4) Temple lost its last seven games last year, outscored by an average of 43-8; they hired a new coach, Stan Drayton, a long-time assistant who was a great running back in his playing days.

3) Boise State was a disappointing 7-5 last year; they ranked 110th in country running the ball. Broncos have 15 of 22 starters back this season, have a QB with 25 career starts— improvement is expected. 

2) Bowling Green QB Matt McDonald is in his sixth year of college football; he was at Boston College for two years, then transferred to Bowling Green, where he has started 17 games. 

1) Michigan has only three starters back on defense; they’re on their third defensive coordinator in three seasons. LY’s DC jumped to the Baltimore Ravens, going from Jim Harbaugh’s team to John Harbaugh’s team. Wolverines don’t have any road games in September. 

Saturday’s Den: USFL playoff previews and other random stuff…….

13) When I was in 10th grade, had a biology teacher, Mr Broland. He had a crew cut and wore thin glasses; he looked just like Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down. Very unusual for the 70’s. He had five outfits; one for each day of the week. Still remember that his Friday outfit was a gold tie with a gold button down sweater; he was a quirky guy.

This was 1974-75; we still had chalkboards back then. If someone in the class was talking, Mr Broland would throw one of the erasers at the person. Seriously, he would.

One day this kid Nick is chatting away with the girl next to him; we sat two to a cafeteria table in the classroom, not individual desks. Mr Broland glares at Nick, throws his eraser at him and……. he misses, drilling the girl next to him. Laughter ensues, the girl cried a little bit. That was the last of the eraser throwing.

My point is this; Why the BLEEP would we want teachers in schools to all carry a gun? In what way would this be a good idea? Would I want Mr Broland packing heat if someone invaded our classroom? He couldn’t even hit a kid with a freakin’ eraser!!!

Our politicians are largely corrupt morons. Seriously. 

12) Jalen Duran had an interesting Thursday night; he was the 13th pick by Charlotte, but the Hornets traded him to the Knicks, who then traded him to Detroit. Lot of activity for an 18-year old kid. Getting traded twice within a half-hour doesn’t happen a lot.

In his one season of college ball at Memphis, Duren averaged 12 ppg, 1.3 assists/game, and 2.1 blocks/game and shot 60% from the floor. 

11) I’ll be curious to see Duren play in the Las Vegas Summer League, which starts in a couple of weeks out in the desert. All the games are TV, but if you like the NBA, I highly recommend going out to Las Vegas and watching it in person.

For $30 or so, you can sit there all day and watch 4-5 high-quality games, in air-conditioning in an arena with excellent concessions and there are lot of famous people there.

I’ve gone 4-5 times, enjoyed it every time. Plus, even if you don’t enjoy it, you’re still in Las Vegas, which is never a bad thing. 

10) Charlotte Hornets hired Steve Clifford as their new coach; Clifford is 292-345 in eight years as a head coach, 196-214 in a previous stop in Charlotte, 96-131 in Orlando. He made playoffs in four of those eight years, going 5-16 in playoff games.

Last season, Hornets went 43-39 but missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year, so they told the previous coach to take a hike.

9) San Diego 1, Philadelphia 0— Only run of game scored on a 6th inning single by Austin Nola; the pitcher was his brother, Aaron Nola. 

8) Minnesota Twins’ last three games:
— Lost 11-10 at home to the Guardians Wednesday
— Beat Cleveland 1-0 at home Thursday.
— Lost 1-0 at home to Colorado Friday. 

USFL playoff games:
Philadelphia vs New Jersey (-4.5, 47.5), in Canton, OH
Philadelphia Stars (6-4)
— Stars are 0-2 vs New Jersey, 6-2 vs everyone else.
— Won five of last seven games.
— Last seven weeks, they’re +10 in turnovers.
— Gave up 23+ points in nine of ten games (over 6-1 last seven).
— Have been outgained in eight of ten games (3-6-1 ATS).
— 1-3 ATS as an underdog.
— 5-1 if they score more than 17 points.

New Jersey Generals (9-1)
— Won last nine games (6-3 ATS), scoring 24.8 ppg in last eight.
— Last four games, Generals are +6 in turnovers (8-2)
— Outscored last four foes 70-34 in first half.
— 4-3 ATS as a favorite
— Six of their last seven games went over the total.

First meeting:
— Generals (+1) won 24-16 back in Week 3.
— New Jersey outrushed the Stars, 269-31.
— Philadelphia led 10-3 at halftime, was outgained 458-259.

Second meeting:
— Generals (-2.5) won 26-23 last week.
— New Jersey ran ball for 178 yards, outgained Stars 410-328.
— Philly ran ball only 17 times for 84 yards. 

New Orleans vs Birmingham (-5.5, 44.5) @ Canton, OH
New Orleans Breakers (6-4)
— 5-0 when they score more than 17 points.
— Scored 9-17-3 points in last three games.
— Last three games stayed under the total
— Have nine takeaways in last three games (+2)
— 2-0 ATS this season as an underdog.

Birmingham Stallions (9-1)
— First game this season without home fans.
— Trailed at halftime in half of their ten games
— Outscored opponents 133-76 in second half.
— 0-4 vs spread the last three weeks (6-0 first six weeks)
— Scored 10-15-21 points last three games (26.9 ppg first seven)
— Stallions are favored for 10th time in 11 games (5-4 ATS as a favorite)

First meeting:
— Stallions (+3.5) won 22-13 in Week 3.
— Breakers outgained Birmingham, 316-313.
— Stallions were +2 in turnovers; they led 10-6 at the half.

Second meeting:
— Stallions (-3.5) won 10-9 two weeks ago.
— Breakers outgained Birmingham, 313-301
— Stallions led 7-3 at half; both team had three turnovers. 

5) Xander Schauffele leads the PGA Tour event in Hartford by five strokes. Over the last 15 years, guys who led a PGA Tour event by 5+ strokes after the second round won that tournament 15 of 23 times. 

4) White Sox are 0-3 in Johnny Cueto’s home starts, scoring 1-1-0 runs in those games.

3) Baseball injuries:
— Royals put C Salvador Perez (thumb) on the IL
— Rays put OF Manuel Margot (knee) on the IL
— White Sox put OF Adam Engel (hamstring) and Adam Mednick (knee) on the IL

2) Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Guillermo Martínez was suspended five games after a confrontation with an umpire this week; he was suspended for making contact with umpire Doug Eddings during the exchange of lineup cards before Wednesday’s game in Chicago.

Apparently the Blue Jays had a beef with Eddings Tuesday night and it carried over. 

1) I have the spreads for all the NFL games this season; somehow, the Cleveland Browns are favored in three of their first four games, even though no one, not even the Browns, know who their quarterback will be in those games. 

Friday’s Den: Random thoughts with the weekend here…….

13) NBA commissioner Adam Silver is my favorite commissioner; a tall, bald man with glasses- he must be VERY smart!!! 🙂

Glad to see him back on TV at the draft Thursday; he missed the last two games of the NBA Finals with COVID.

12) Commissioner Silver sounded like he is in favor of kids going straight from high school to the NBA, which I think is a good idea. Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant; none of them played college ball. In the long run, it would help college ball, because the kids who play college ball would stay there longer- the game might have more continuity.

11) ABC’s coverage of the draft is unwatchable; four people on the main panel, only one of them played in the NBA and he (Jalen Rose) speaks the least of the four. You need a host, two guys who played in the league, and an ex-coach. Thats it.

Having Stephen A Smith on the draft coverage is just plain stupid.

Turns out ESPN had far better coverage; Jay Bilas is their Mel Kiper-type person and they actually talk about basketball. 

10) I am baffled why people wager on any draft; teams purposely lie/mislead people on who they are interested in taking, yet people still wager on who will get drafted where.

9) John Wall opted in on his $47M deal for next season, pretty good bank for a guy who played zero minutes in two of the last three seasons.

Wall played 40 of 72 games in 2020-21; he hasn’t played more than 41 games in any season since 2017. But by all means, pay the guy $47M.  

8) In major league history, there has been only walk-off home run that was an inside-the-park grand slam; Roberto Clemente hit it for the Pirates in 1956, as a 20-year old rookie. 

7) Minnesota Twins are 4-12 in games where the game-winning run scored from the 7th inning on; despite that, Twins are 39-32 and tied for first in the AL Central. 

6) Pirates 8, Cubs 7 (10)— Cubs lost their replay challenge in the top of the first inning, after the seventh pitch of the game. Replay wasn’t conclusive enough for them to risk their challenge on that play. 

5) Archie Manning’s grandson Arch Manning (Cooper Manning’s son) committed to play college football at Texas- he still has one year of high school ball left. He is the #1 QB prospect in the 2023 class. 

4) Angels sent P Reid Detmers down to AAA; with Tyler Gilbert also in AAA, that means the last two pitchers who threw no-hitters in the major leagues are now both in the minor leagues.

3) Mariners 2, A’s 1— Oakland led 1-0 in ninth inning; Seattle scored twice in ninth inning, both on wild pitches. A’s are 9-31 in their last 40 games; they’re 1-9 in game after their last 10 wins.

2) Sean McVay is the third alumnus of Miami OH to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, joining Weeb Ewbank, John Harbaugh on the list.

1) Right now, Deshaun Watson/Baker Mayfield are going to be paid a combined $65M by the Cleveland Browns this season; there is a pretty good chance that neither one will play for Cleveland this year.

Oy. 

Thursday’s Den: Our first look at the 2022 college football season

13) Before I post my first college football notes for the 2022 season, I added a piece to the daily baseball page: bullpen usage for the last three days, for every team.

With rosters now restricted to 13 pitchers, bullpens are going to be more taxed; we might see more position players pitching now. Teams can only use a position player as a pitcher if they trail by 6+ runs. 

12) There are 42 bowl games this season, plus the national championship game, which is in Los Angeles, at SoFi Stadium. 

11) College coaching can be lucrative; the offensive coordinator at Auburn makes $800,000 a year, the defensive coordinator $1M a year. The head coach makes $5.1M a year.

10) Clemson lost both its coordinators from last year; Brent Venables was the DC for the last ten years, Tony Elliott the OC for the last seven years. Big shoes to fill for a team that went 10-3 LY; at Clemson these days, 10-3 is a disappointment.

9) How will the Pac-12 do this season? Over the last eight years, only 2 of the 32 teams in the college football playoff have been from the Pac-12.

With Lincoln Riley jumping from Oklahoma to USC, big things are expected from the Trojans, but they were 4-8 last year, giving up 38 ppg during their season-ending 4-game losing skid. 

8) Texas went 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first year in Austin, giving up 36.1 ppg over their last seven games. Longhorns lost three games that they led by double digits in the third quarter. Bringing in former TCU coach Gary Patterson as an assistant should help things some. 

7) Brian Kelly jumped from Notre Dame to LSU; he is 284-97-2 as a head coach. LSU is 11-12 the last two seasons, after their 15-0 season when Joe Burrow led them to a national title. Burrow is in Cincinnati now; LSU had only 39 scholarship players when they lost 42-20 to Kansas State
in their bowl game last January.

LSU had a lot of roster turnover; even their kicker left early for the pros. 

6) Kelly is one of 29 new head coaches in college football this season; there were 18 last year. 

5) After a 1-4 start, Western Kentucky won seven of its last eight games, scoring 41+ points seven times. WKU led the country last year, with 85 plays of 20+ yards, but the QB is gone and the offensive coordinator also left. Hilltoppers have a new defensive coordinator for the third year in a row. 

4) Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders is entering his fourth season as the Cowboys’ starter; OSU went 12-2 last year, with their losses by 24-21/21-16 scores. Cowboys gave up 509 passing yards in their 37-35 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

3) Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker threw for 31 TD’s, only 3 INTs last year, but the Vols were only 7-6 in Josh Heupel’s first season as coach, giving up 31+ points in all six losses. Tennessee gave up 500+ yards in five games last year. 

Opponents converted 42.1% of their third down plays last year; for Tennessee’s defense to make a leap and for the Vols to be better than 7-6 this year, that number has to go way down. 

2) Nebraska went 1-8 in the Big 14 LY, but all eight losses were by single digit margins; they scored as many points (239) as they gave up in conference games. 

Nebraska has had four consecutive losing seasons, yet Scott Frost is still the coach, despite his 15-29 record; he hit the transfer portal hard, bringing in former Texas QB Casey Thompson to work with his new OC, Mark Whipple.

Nebraska opens the season in Ireland, against Northwestern; they also play Oklahoma before conference play starts. 

1) Former NFL lineman and TV analyst Tony Siragusa died on Wednesday, at age 55; he helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl in 2000, after playing seven years for the Colts. He played 12 years in the NFL, despite being undrafted out of college at Pittsburgh.

He was very good as a TV analyst, often working from field level; he even tried his hand at acting— he was on The Sopranos. RIP, sir. 

Wednesday’s Den: Turning points to think about…….

There are turning points in all walks of life; if this hadn’t have happened, then that wouldn’t have followed. The flowchart of life takes some interesting turns. Here are some memorable turning points that I remember:

13) In 1965, Richard Nixon was offered a $100,000 salary and an unlimited expense account to become commissioner of baseball. He turned it down: “Don’t tell Pat. She’d kill me for turning you down.” Pat was Mrs Nixon. 

The history of our country would be vastly different had he accepted the job. 

12) 1984 NBA Draft; Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon with the first pick; that turned out very well. Houston won a couple of NBA titles.

Portland then took Sam Bowie with the #2 pick; he played 10 years in the NBA, but started only 349 games, scoring 10.9 ppg.

History of the NBA would be a little different if Portland had chosen the guy the Bulls took with the #3 pick that year— Michael Jordan. 

11) In 2006, Nick Saban was coaching the Miami Dolphins; they went 9-7 in his first season, but were looking for a QB to upgrade from Gus Frerotte. There was a free agent QB who had played for the Chargers, going 30-28 as San Diego’s starter. QB was well-regarded, but he tore his labrum in his shoulder in 2005, and the Chargers had a young Philip Rivers, so they moved on to the younger QB.

Miami’s team physician recommended passing on the free agent QB, so they signed Daunte Culpepper instead. Culpepper played four games for the Dolphins.

Imagine how football would be different had the Dolphins signed Drew Brees:
a) Saints might’ve never won a Super Bowl.
b) Saban would probably still be coaching the Dolphins and never would’ve gone to Alabama, where he became, arguably, the best coach in college football history. 

10) Robert Irsay bought the Los Angeles Rams on July 13, 1972; he then immediately traded the franchise to Carroll Rosenbloom, who was the owner of the Baltimore Colts. Rosenbloom made the deal in part because he saved $4.4M in taxes.

— 11 years later, Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis, right after he drafted John Elway and traded him to Denver.
— Irsay’s son Jim now owns the Colts; he is a much better owner than his dad was.
— In 1979, Rosenbloom died in a swimming accident; his wife Georgia inherited the team, and in 1995, moved the Rams to her hometown of St Louis.
— After Georgia Frontiere died (Rosenbloom was her 6th husband, Dominic Frontiere her 7th) Stan Kroenke bought her 70% of the team and moved the team back to Los Angeles.
— As of 2019, according to Forbes Magazine, the Rams were worth $3.8B, the Colts #2.65B. After last season, Rams might be worth more now.

9) Dell Curry played 16 years in the NBA, scoring 12,670 points; he played his college ball at Virginia Tech,  not a traditional hoop power.

Curry’s two sons were pretty good high school players, but Virginia Tech didn’t recruit either one of them. Bad move. 

Seth Curry started at Liberty, then transferred to Duke; he’s scored 11.3 ppg in his eight years in the NBA.

Steph Curry played college ball at Davidson; they made the Elite 8 in 2008, while Virginia Tech made the NCAA Tournament once in Seth Greenberg’s nine years as the Hokies’ coach.

Greenberg does a very good job as ESPN’s studio analyst, but had he recruited Steph Curry, he might still be coaching Virginia Tech.

Steph Curry, obviously, is an all-time great in the NBA, one of only seven players ever to win 4+ championships and 2+ MVP awards. 

8) Speaking of Steph Curry, he was the 7th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Smart move. Golden State has won four championships in the Curry/Klay Thompson era. Warriors are 101-54 in playoff games, since they drafted Curry.

Minnesota Timberwolves had the 5th and 6th picks that season; they needed guards but took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn instead of Curry. Bad move.

In 13 years since then, Minnesota has made the playoffs twice, going 3-8 in playoff games. 

7) In the fall of 1979, Jack McKinney was coach of the Los Angeles Lakers; they had a rookie point guard named Earvin Johnson, and were off to a 10-4 start. On an off day, McKinney went out for a bike ride but had an accident and had a brain injury. He never coached the Lakers again, though he did coach the Pacers/Kings down the road.

Paul Westhead took over from McKinney; Lakers won the NBA title that year, but two years later, he had a falling out with Earvin Johnson and the Lakers fired him, after a 7-4 start.

The new coach was Pat Riley, who prior to McKinney’s bike accident, was the color analyst on Lakers’ radio broadcasts. Riley turned out to be one of the best coaches in NBA history (he won five NBA titles) and is still running the Miami Heat franchise, but the fact is, had McKinney’s bike accident never happened, Riley may have never gotten his chance to be a coach. 

6) August 12, 1987, the Detroit Tigers acquired P Doyle Alexander from the Atlanta Braves, trading away a minor league pitcher. Guy named Smoltz.

Detroit went 98-64 in 1987, winning the AL East; they lost the ALCS to Minnesota, but this was only the second time Detroit had made the playoffs in 15 years. They didn’t make the playoffs again until 2006.

Meanwhile, John Smoltz went on to a Hall of Fame career, winning 213 games and saving 154 others; dealing Alexander in 1987, when Atlanta went 69-92, helped the Braves make the playoffs 14 times in 15 years, starting in 1991.

5) Dodgers bolted Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season; they needed a second team to move to the west coast, to make travel feasible for the other six teams in the National League. Move has obviously turned out to be a great one for the Dodgers.

At the time Dodgers/Giants/Bronx were all in New York City; the Giants were doing the worst of the three on the field, and attendance at the Polo Grounds wasn’t good, so they agreed to move, figuring a move to the Bay Area would be more lucrative then splitting the financial pie with a more successful team in the Bronx.  

Problem is, Candlestick Park wasn’t such a great ballpark; very windy, had to share it with the 49ers. Giants didn’t do their due diligence on Candlestick Point, and wound up, for 40 or so years, with a sub-standard stadium.

Their new stadium is way better and now the Giants have a good deal, but think about it; would you rather own the Giants or the Mets, who came into being in 1962, filling the void left by the two teams bolting to California?

4) When Brett Favre was Green Bay’s quarterback in 1994, his backup was Mark Brunell, who wound getting traded to Jacksonville the next year, the Jaguars’ first season.

Green Bay had another QB in camp in 1994, but they cut him. Guy wound up playing in the Arena League for three years, then in NFL Europe, before signing with the Rams in 1998. Now he is in the Hall of Fame— Kurt Warner.

Had Green Bay kept Warner instead of Brunell, they might mot have made a movie about him.

3) Baseball’s 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati went 12 innings; National League won 5-4 when Pete Rose bowled over catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run, even though Fosse didn’t have the ball yet.

Fosse suffered a separated shoulder and wasn’t the same player after that. Cleveland traded him to the A’s two years later. Fosse helped the A’s win two World Series and wound up being a TV analyst for Oakland for 35 years after he retired. 

2) In 2017, Chicago Bears traded up (gave up a 3rd and 4th round pick) to the #2 spot in the NFL Draft, in order to take QB Mitchell Trubisky, who went 29-23 as Chicago’s starter in his four years there. Not a bad record, but the Bears lost both playoff games in the Trubisky era. 

Problem is, Chicago could’ve kept those 3rd/4th round picks and taken Patrick Mahomes, who was the 10th pick that year. NFL would look a lot different had that happened.

Of course, Chicago could’ve also taken Deshaun Watson that year; then they would have a much different kind of mess on their hands. Watson was the 12th pick in that draft. 

1) Tom Brady was the 199th player picked in the 2000 Draft, a 6th-round pick. He became the starter in New England because Drew Bledsoe got hurt in a 2001 game.

Since then, Brady has won seven Super Bowls and is one of the best QB’s ever. Every team in the NFL passed on him multiple times, including the Patriots.

Brady’s record in New England: 249-75
Bill Belichick’s record as a head coach: 321-156
With Brady: 249-75
Without Brady: 72-81

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but…….

I wavered on whether I wanted to do this or not, but here are my top 20 NBA players of all-time. This is obviously open to debate; make your own list, see what you come up with.  

First team:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar— the best player ever
Michael Jordan
Lebron James— 2nd/3rd best players, or 3rd/2nd best players
Bill Russell— won 11 titles in 13 seasons as a player
Earvin Johnson— the best point guard ever.

Next five guys:
Wilt Chamberlain— Averaged 22.9 rebounds/game in his career
Tim Duncan— only 7 guys have won 4+ rings, 2+ MVP’s.
Kobe Bryant
Oscar Robertson
Steph Curry— the best shooter ever. 

Third team:
Larry Bird
Karl Malone
Shaquille O’Neal
David Robinson
Dwyane Wade

Players 16-20:
Hakeem Olajuwon
Jerry West
Kevin Durant
John Stockton
Rick Barry— maybe the most underrated player ever

Again, these are all GREAT players. Also, sometime in the next few days, I’ll realize that I left someone off this list and I’m going to update it, but this is my list, for now. Again, make your own list; lot of great players to choose from. 

— Seattle Mariners have already been shut out ten times this season, not good for a team that was supposed to contend for a playoff spot. Mariners are 29-39, the most disappointing team in the major leagues so far this year. 

— Why do teams shift against the Mets’ Jeff McNeil? He is a slap hitter, and pretty skilled at locking his hips and poking the ball thru the vacant shortstop hole. 

Shifts are way overdone in baseball, part of the reason it’ll be good to see them go next year.

— Brewers 2, Cardinals 0— St Louis is 13-2 against the Reds/Pirates, 25-29 against everyone else. Milwaukee leads NL Central by a game over the Redbirds.

— Four of the eight teams in the College World Series are from the SEC.

Over/unders in the last game of a series:
Arizona under 14-7
Atlanta over 10-9-2
Cubs over 12-8-1
Cincinnati 10-10-1
Colorado over 11-10
Dodgers under 10-9-2
Miami over 13-8
Milwaukee over 12-9
Mets over 11-8-2
Philadelphia over 11-10
Pittsburgh under 13-7-1
St Louis over 13-9
San Diego under 12-9
San Francisco 10-10-1
Washington under 11-8-2

Baltimore 10-10-1
Boston under 11-7-3
White Sox over 12-9
Cleveland under 12-9
Detroit under 11-9-1
Houston under 13-8
Kansas City over 13-8-1
Angels under 13-6-2
Minnesota under 11-10
New York under 12-9
Oakland under 10-9-2
Seattle under 11-10
Tampa Bay under 13-8
Texas 10-10-1
Toronto over 11-10

— Arizona rookie IF Buddy Kennedy hit a grand slam Sunday, for his first major league homer; he hit a 3-0 pitch over the fence. Turns out Kennedy had the take sign but didn’t know it- he thought the count was 2-0. These things get excused when you hit a home run.

— Pirates 12, Cubs 1— Rookie Oneil Cruz, a 6-7 shortstop, knocked in four runs in his major league debut. Pirates have brought up several rookies the last few weeks.

— Royals 6, Angels 2— Halos lost 20 of their last 26 games, are fading fast.

— Lightning 6, Avalanche 2— Home team has won all three games in Stanley Cup finals; Colorado leads 2 game to 1.

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend…….

13) Monday kicks in a new baseball rule; teams will limited to 13 pitchers, instead of 14, which means that 18 teams have to send a pitcher down Monday, and add a position player. 

12) Braves 6, Cubs 0— Kyle Hendricks’ last three starts vs Atlanta: He allowed 20 earned runs in 12 IP. 

11) Pirates 4, Giants 3— Rookie Jack Suwinski hit three home runs, including a walk-off tater in the ninth inning. 

10) Astros 4, White Sox 3— Rookie TJ Matijevic hit his first major league home run (also his first MLB hit) into the Crawford Boxes in left field. The 16-year old fan who got the ball negotiated with a team employee, so that Matijevic could get that baseball. Here is what the fan got:

— Six tickets to a future game.
— Six tickets to a batting batting experience
— A baseball signed by Jose Altuve

The young man also wanted a jersey signed by Justin Verlander; the team spokesman declined that request, but few innings later, the fan got a bag with the signed jersey in it.

It was Matijevic’s first MLB hit; the fan had the Astros over a barrel- he did pretty well, but he could’ve done a lot better had he wanted to.

9) Marlins 6, Mets 2— Rookie RF Jerar Encarnacion is the first player EVER to hit a grand slam and steal a base in his first major league game. He also threw out a runner at 2B from the right field fence— he can really throw.

Sandy Alcantara threw eight strong innings and finally got some run support. 

8) Arizona 7, Minnesota 1— Just like Encarnacion, Buddy Kennedy’s first MLB home run was a grand slam. Kennedy is the grandson of former big leaguer Don Money, who played 16 years in the major leagues, for the Phillies/Brewers. 

Week 10 USFL games:
7) New Jersey 26, Philadelphia 23:
 — These teams meet in USFL playoffs next week.
— New Jersey lost its opener, then won its last nine games.
— Generals ran for 178 yards, threw for 232 more. 

6) Birmingham 21, Tampa Bay 18
— Stallions led 14-0 at halftime, survived four turnovers (minus-3)
— Birmingham outgained Tampa Bay 379-285
— Stallions play New Orleans in playoffs next week, in Ohio. 

5) Michigan 33, Pittsburgh 21
— Michigan’s only two wins this season were against Pittsburgh.
— Panthers scored 27 ppg in their last four games.
— Pittsburgh was outscored 145-58 in first half this season

4) Houston 20, New Orleans 3
— Breakers ran 53 plays for 116 yards; it is possible they mailed this one in.
— New Orleans plays Birmingham in playoffs next week.
— Houston went 3-7; they led nine of ten games at halftime.

3) The last time a golfer lost a major tournament in a playoff, then won the next major? Way back in 1962…….Arnold Palmer. 

2) Colorado 8, San Diego 3— Padres have now lost 10 straight games in Denver; they also lost 3B Manny Machado to a sprained ankle, when he slipped on first base. X-rays were negative; at some point, MLB is going to change the bases (make them flatter?)

1) MLB began enforcing a rule on hand attachments this week; Cincinnati pitcher Graham Ashcraft wasn’t happy when umpires told him to remove his wedding ring from under his glove by umpires during Saturday’s game against Milwaukee. Ashcraft wound up moving his wedding ring to his necklace chain for the rest of the game. 

Sunday’s Den: Clearing out a cluttered mind…….

13) Unusual situation in the NBA, where Golden State assistant coach Kenny Atkinson was expected to be hired as the new head coach in Charlotte; he even called the assistant coaches in Charlotte to set up interviews, but apparently Atkinson changed his mind and is going to stay as an assistant coach with the Warriors.

Atkinson’s last three years:
2019-20— Head coach, Brooklyn
2020-21— assistant with Clippers
2021-22— assistant with Warriors

Apparently Atkinson now believes that both professionally and personally it would be best to stay with the Warriors; winning is also a lot of fun. Golden State probably gave him a nice raise, too. Money never hurts, and moving every year gets old. 

12) Atkinson has a track record of developing point guards, and guards in general; developing young players is what the NBA is all about now, since kids come out of college way too soon these days.

Warriors have a sub, Gary Payton II who averaged 17.6 minutes/game this year, the first time in his six NBA seasons that he became a regular in a team’s rotation. Payton has played for five teams in the G-League for a total of 128 games; under Atkinson’s tutelage, he’s a contributor on a championship team. He also has pretty good genes; his dad was a great player. 

11) By the way, Steve Kerr is just about due to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame; the guy has nine championship rings, five as a role player, four as the Warriors’ coach. In 14 years as an NBA player, Kerr was on five title teams. It is good to know Michael Jordan.

For his career, Kerr made 45.4% of his 3-point shots. He also led Arizona to the 1988 Final Four. 

10) One of the more interesting players in next week’s NBA Draft will be Shaedon Sharpe, who went to Kentucky last year, practiced with the team but never played in a game.

A 6-6 guard, Sharpe talks a good game: “I see myself being one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, just getting after it and competing” but here’s the thing; no one in the NBA knows how good he is, if he can fit in with a team.

By the time next season starts, he will not have played in a game for 18 or 19 months. Will he even want to play in the NBA Summer League, which is next month in Las Vegas?

Anyway, his story will be interesting to follow Thursday night.

9) Baseball injuries:
— Mets’ P Tyler Megill (shoulder) is shut down for a month
— Angels’ 3B Anthony Rendon (wrist) is done for the season.
— Dodgers’ RF Mookie Betts (cracked ribs) goes on the IL

8) Dodgers, by the way, are 0-5 in extra innings this season; they’re 40-24 and will likely make the playoffs, but they’ve been struggling lately (7-10 in last 17 games). 

7) When baseball has its amateur draft during the All-Stsr break next month, keep in mind that in 1999, the 402nd pick was a pretty good player— Albert Pujols. Not often a 13th round pick is a Hall of Famer, but you never know.

6) Jesse Winker signed a 2-year, $14.5M deal with Seattle this week; he’ll be a free agent after next season. Winker is off to dreadful start with the Mariners, hitting .212. Angels started two lefties in their twin bill Saturday, and Winker didn’t start either game. Not good.

Last year, Winker hit .305 with a .949 OPS for the Reds; moving to a bigger home ballpark has screwed up his approach this year. 

5) My favorite baseball movies:
Moneyball, For Love of the Game, Major League, Bull Durham

4) NFL training camps start next month; there is a very narrow margin between winning and losing for most NFL teams. Think about this: the team that won last year’s Super Bowl went 0-3 in November with a bye week mixed in between. Lot of things have to go your way to win a championship.

3) I signed on with Amazon Prime this week, so I have access to old movies/TV shows and get free shipping on anything I buy from them. Bought a book Thursday and it got delivered in less than 48 hours. They send you an e-mail when it is delivered, with a picture of where they put the envelope. Pretty impressive customer service.

2) Harry the Handicapper checked in this week with a good story; back in 1970, long time ago but not that long ago, Marquette turned down a bid to the NCAA Tournament and decided to play in the NIT instead, which they won.

Al McGuire was Marquette’s coach; he was unique, a total character who later became a great analyst on TV. McGuire wasn’t happy with Marquette’s seeding/placement in the NCAA field, so he said the hell with it and turned the bid down. Seven years later, he won the national title and then retired as coach.

Stuff like that would never, ever happen today; way too much $$$ involved, but the NIT, once upon a time, was a pretty big deal. 

1) Few years ago, I’m driving from Albany to Philadelphia and I stop for gas in New Jersey; I had absolutely no idea that in New Jersey (and Oregon) you’re not allowed to pump your own gas.

So I get out of the car and walk up to the pump and some Asian guy comes running out of the mini-mart and starts yelling at me, before I can start pumping the gas. You learn something every day; I was fine with someone else pumping my gas for me. 

Saturday’s Den: NFL rosters by round drafted, baseball records in close games, and other thoughts

— Davidson basketball coach Bob McKillop retired Friday, after 33 years coaching the Wildcats. McKillop had a career record of 634-380; he led Davidson to the Elite 8 in 2008, with a pretty good guard named Curry playing for him.

Davidson was in the Southern Conference back then; they’re in the Atlantic 14 now. Since that run to the Elite 8 in ’08, SoCon teams are 1-13 SU in the NCAA Tournament.

McKillop’s son Matt is taking over the Davidson job; he’s been an assistant for his dad the last 14 seasons, after playing at Davidson.

— Steph Curry was the 7th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft; Minnesota had the 5th and 6th picks- they took a pair of guards, Ricky Rubio/Jonny Flynn. Whoops.

— From 1957-1986, the Boston Celtics won 16 NBA titles; since 1987, they’ve won one, back in 2008. Celtics/Lakers are tied with 17 NBA championships, with Golden State third with seven. 

— Cubs 1, Braves 0:
Braves came into this weekend on a 14-game win streak, Cubs on a 10-game losing skid; the last time a team on a double-digit losing streak beat a team on a double-digit win streak? Back in September, 1999 when the Phillies beat Houston.

— San Diego Padres entered this weekend in first place, the first time they’ve been in first place in June since 2010.

— Boston College’s football team lost G Christian Mahogany for this season; he tore his right ACL. Mel Kiper had Mahogany listed as the #2 guard prospect in next April’s draft.

— Former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam is going to buy the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Haslam is worth $2.3B; his brother and sister-in-law, Jimmy/Susan Haslam, are the owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

— Bruno Mioto posted this information on Twitter this week, breaking down NFL rosters by which round of the draft each team’s players were taken in, and how many undrafted free agents each team had.

— Most first round draft picks on NFL rosters last year:
13— NJ Giants
12— Pittsburgh/San Francisco
11— Atlanta/Baltimore
10— Cleveland, Denver, Las Vegas

— Fewest first round draft picks on NFL rosters last year:
4— Indianapolis, Kansas City
5— LA Rams
6— New England, Seattle, Tennessee
7— Houston, Jacksonville, Minnesota

— Most second round draft picks on NFL rosters last year:
11— Tampa Bay
10— Jacksonville, Miami, NJ Giants, Seattle
9— Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City, LA Rams

— Fewest second round draft picks on NFL rosters last year:
3— Baltimore, Detroit
4— LA Chargers, NJ Jets, New Orleans, Washington
5— Buffalo, Carolina, Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Francisco

— Most undrafted free agents on NFL rosters last year:
23— Tennessee
21— Detroit
18— LA Chargers
16— Carolina, Denver, Miami

— Fewest undrafted free agents on NFL rosters last year:
6— NJ Giants
7— Pittsburgh
9— Minnesota, Seattle
10— Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, NJ Jets

Major league records in games where winning run scored from 7th inning on:
These are thru Thursday’s games
Home/Away….Total
Arizona 5-6/5-2….10-8
Atlanta 6-5/3-1….9-6
Cubs 4-6/4-2….8-8
Cincinnati 1-4/5-5….6-9
Colorado 5-6/5-4….10-10
Dodgers 2-2/2-4….4-6
Miami 2-4/4-5….6-9
Milwaukee 1-1/8-5….9-6
Mets 4-4/2-2….6-6
Philadelphia 4-7/3-4….7-11
Pittsburgh 6-3/3-5….9-8
St Louis 4-4/4-2….8-6
San Diego 5-5/7-6….12-11
San Francisco 1-5/4-3….5-8
Washington 1-1/2-2

Baltimore 5-3/2-3….7-6
Boston 4-4/4-7….8-11
White Sox 6-5/6-2….12-7
Cleveland 3-4/8-3….11-7
Detroit 6-4/7-3….13-7
Houston 3-1/5-4….8-5
Kansas City 2-6/3-4….5-10
Angels 0-6/2-4….2-10
Minnesota 2-6/2-4….4-10
New York 6-3/4-4….10-7
Oakland 3-9/4-4….7-13
Seattle 3-7/4-2….7-9
Tampa Bay 6-2/5-4….11-6
Texas 4-4/9-4….13-8
Toronto 4-4/6-4….10-8

Friday’s Den: Week 10 USFL notes and other random stuff…….

Myles Copeland, a player for Toledo Glass City of The Basketball League, saved a referee’s life during a game this week. The referee started wobbling, passed out and became unresponsive on the court. Copeland, whose daytime job is being a firefighter, quickly administered CPR until paramedics arrived, ultimately saving the referee’s life.

Good to hear some good news now and then.

— Golden State 103, Boston 90
Warriors win their fourth NBA title in eight years.
Steph Curry scored 34 points.
Golden State had a 21-0 run.
None of the games in this series were decided by less than 10 points.

— Question to tackle in the near future; where does Curry rank among the all-time greats of the game?

— Pretty busy weekend going on in Boston:
a) Game 6 of the NBA Finals was in Boston Thursday.
b) US Open golf tournament is in Brookline, MA this weekend
c) Cardinals-Red Sox in Fenway Park this weekend.

— They were talking on the Texas Rangers’ TV broadcast last night how more and more major league coaches are taking college head coaching jobs, for two reasons:
a) money isn’t as good for big league coaches nowadays
b) because of analytics, coaches have less influence than they used to have.

— Washington Nationals are retiring number 11 this week, for Ryan Zimmerman, who played his entire 16-year career in Washington, helping the Nationals win the 2019 World Series.

I had Zimmerman on my fantasy team for 5-6 years; it was an annual event that he would go on the disabled list every April/May, like the swallows returning to Capistrano.

One night, I’m driving up the Thruway, coming home from Long Island late at night, listening to WFAN in New York City. Zimmerman had been on a roll; it dawned on me that he hadn’t been on the DL yet that season. Five freakin’ minutes later, the update says “Washington Nationals put Ryan Zimmerman on the Disab—-“ I clicked the radio off, pulled into a Thruway rest stop and got myself a Cherry Coke, shaking my head. Not good.

— Rangers 3, Tigers 1— Rookie Ezequiel Duran hit a bases loaded triple with two out in 9th inning, giving Texas an unlikely win. Detroit is now 1-6 on this home stand; they’ve scored a total of seven runs in their last five games.

— Padres 6, Cubs 4— Chicago has now lost 10 games in a row, outscored 90-28.

— Angels 4, Seattle 1— Trout hit two homers, Ohtani threw six shutout innings.

— New Orleans Saints are going to wear black helmets in at least one game this year, with the same logo they’ve always had. This will be the first time in their 55-year history that they will not be wearing a gold helmet.

— Cleveland 4, Colorado 2— Guardians have won 13 of their last 16 games; Terry Francona is a great manager. This is not a great roster, but Cleveland is currently holding the third/last Wild Card spot in the American League.

Week 10 USFL games……..
Philadelphia vs New Jersey (-2.5)
Philadelphia Stars (6-3)
— Won four row, five of last six games.
— Last six weeks, they’re +11 in turnovers.
— Gave up 23+ points eight of nine games (over 5-1 last six).
— Have been outgained in seven of nine games (3-5-1 ATS).
— 1-2 ATS as an underdog.
— 5-0 if they score more than 17 points.

New Jersey Generals (8-1)
— Won last eight games (5-3 ATS), scoring 24.6 ppg in last seven.
— Last three games, Generals are +5 in turnovers (7-2)
— Outscored last three foes 56-24 in first half.
— 3-3 ATS as a favorite
— Five of their last six games went over the total.

These teams play in USFL playoffs next week, in Ohio.

First meeting:
— Generals (+1) won 24-16 back in Week 3.
— New Jersey outrushed the Stars, 269-31.
— Philadelphia led 10-3 at halftime, was outgained 458-259.

Tampa Bay vs Birmingham (-3.5)
Tampa Bay Bandits (4-5)
— Bandits lost four of their last six games.
— Minus-13 in turnovers— have only six takeaways.
— 1-3 ATS as an underdog.
— Were shut out in second half in 4 of 9 games.
— Their last three games stayed under the total.

Birmingham Stallions (8-1)
— Both their quarterbacks have been banged recently.
— Trailed at halftime in five of their nine games
— Outscored opponents 126-58 in second half.
— 0-3 vs spread the last three weeks (6-0 first six weeks)
— Scored 10-15 points last two games (26.9 ppg first seven)
— Stallions have a playoff game in Ohio next week.

First meeting
— Week 4, Stallions (-2.5) beat Tampa Bay 16-10.
— Tampa Bay led 10-7 at half; they were outgained 228-158.
— Birmingham outgained Bandits 126-53.
— Stallions blanked Tampa Bay 9-0 in second half.

Michigan (-2.5) vs Pittsburgh
Michigan Panthers (1-8)
— Lost their last six games (2-4 ATS)
— 0-6 in games decided by 7 or fewer points.
— Last six games, they’re minus-9 in turnovers.
— Scored 27-24-23 points in last three games.
— Last six games went over the total.
— Michigan is 1-2 ATS as a favorite

Pittsburgh Maulers (1-8)
— Have been outscored 124-55 in first half of games. 
— Are 1-8 with a minus-2 turnover ratio.
— Completed less than half their passes in four games.
— Six of their last eight games went over total.
— Covered spread four of last six weeks (4-4-1 ATS for year).

First meeting:
— Michigan’s only win was 24-0 over Pittsburgh in Week 3.
— Panthers ran for 244 yards, Pittsburgh 103.
— Michigan completed only 11-25 passes for 65 yards.
— Game was 16-0 at halftime.

New Orleans (-3) vs Houston
New Orleans Breakers (6-3)
— 5-0 when they score more than 17 points.
— Scored 9-17 points in last two games.
— Four of last six games went over the total
— Have seven takeaways in last two games (+2)
— 4-3 ATS this season as a favorite.
— Breakers have a playoff game in Ohio next week.

Houston Gamblers (2-7)
— Lost seven of last eight games (3-5 ATS)
— Led eight of their nine games at halftime.
— Have a bad record, despite a +6 turnover ratio.
— Six of last eight games went over total
— Outscored 116-47 in second half.

First meeting:
— New Orleans (-6.5) Houston 23-16 in Week 4.
— Gamblers led 13-10 at halftime.
— Breakers outgained Houston 523-155, but were minus-4 in turnovers.