As the NBA season finishes its first full month there are a few things that have become obvious. First, the Warriors are really, really good. Second, The 76ers and Lakers are really, really bad. Lastly, Kobe Bryant stayed too long. While many were hoping that Kobe would return to the form that we are used to seeing, we were all disappointed. Instead we have gotten a version of Kobe that is just plain painful to watch. My whole life, up until a couple of years ago when injuries started to take over, Bryant has been a star in the league but now when I see him play it is shocking to think that this is the same person that I grew up watching dominate teams night in and night out.
After last year ended prematurely with a fractured left knee cap I figured he would retire because it would have been best for the team. I am sure he did not want to go out with an injury, but he should have called it a career at that point. However he decided to come back for the final year of his contract. So far this year Kobe has been awful in every aspect of the game. He is shooting .311 so far this year which is way down from his .450 career average. His whole career has been built around his ability to shoot, only 4.4 assists per game, so with him only producing 15 points a game this season he has lost his usefulness to the Lakers.
For Kobe and the Lakers the best option would be for him to request for less minutes so that the young players have a chance to get real game experience. He should stick around to help mentor the young Laker stars like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. His experience might just be all that the great Kobe Bryant has left to give to the Lakers.
In the NFL QB battle that really should not be a battle, there has been yet another change. The Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine announced middle of the day yesterday that Josh McCown will be the starter on Monday Night Football against the Ravens. In even more shocking news it was announced that Austin Davis, who has been the third string QB all season, will be the backup on Monday.
This announcement comes in the wake of a video surfacing of Johnny Manziel at a party with a bottle of Champagne. If this was someone like a Ryan Tannehill, I chose him because he is not a superstar but still a starter and while he also just happens to be Manziel’s predecessor at Texas A&M, we would hardly hear about this. There was no police involved, or at least at the time I wrote this there has been nothing about police, or any real harm coming from this incident. The only real thing is that a 22 year old was drinking! Last time I checked there is nothing illegal about that. Not to mention that this occurred over the Browns bye week. It is not like he missed a practice or meetings, he had the week to himself. Not to mention the point that when he was asked about the incident, Manziel claimed that the video was old and not actually from last week.
While a few weeks ago I was calling for McCown to remain the starter if he was healthy enough to play, I now think that Manziel is the one who should be starting. He has been playing well and finally looked like he had some confidence in his abilities for the first time in his NFL career. Now because of a video that for all we know could actually be old, Pettine is going to crush the confidence of his young QB yet again. There is only so many times that you can rebuild someone’s confidence before it becomes irreparable.
Is it time to bench Peyton? The Denver Broncos have a decision that will shape the next few years of the franchise. Peyton Manning, who is 39 years old now, has struggled this season to perform how everyone is use to seeing. On top of that he has a partially torn plantar fascia that will keep him out for at least two more weeks. In place of Manning the Broncos started 4th year QB Brock Osweiler and he led them to a 17-15 victory over the Bears. During the game Osweiler was 20/27 250 yards and 2 TD’s with 0 INTs. With his performance Osweiler showed that he has spent his time behind Manning gaining skills that will help him moving forward.
I think that that the Broncos have a better chance of winning going forward if they start Osweiler. While it is fantastic that Manning knows the best throw to make, the fact that more often than not he has been unable to actually make the throw this season is not good. Especially as this is the time of season when the weather makes it more difficult to throw. This is the point where the head coach ultimately has to decide who gives him a better chance to win.
In late February If you had told me that Kyle Busch was going to end up winning the Chase for the NASCAR Championship I would have thought you were crazy. That is because the night before the Daytona 500 during the Xfinity Series opener he was involved in a nasty crash that left him with a broken right leg and left foot. Many people figured that he had no hope of coming back to be competitive during the season. After missing the first eleven races of the season, three months after his nasty wreck, Kyle Busch made his return to the 18 car. After receiving a medical waiver to attempt to compete in the Chase, the playoff system that determines the Champion, at the end of the season Busch had another very long battle to even qualify.
After getting his first win of the season, the focus for the 18 team shifted to getting within the top 30 in points. This is because in order to qualify for the Chase on wins you have to be inside the top 30 in drivers points. Drivers points are earned based on finishing position. The winner of the race receives 43 points, scoring goes down by 1 point all the way down to last place getting 1 point, just for positioning. Then points get get doled out for a few other events in the race, 5 points for the actual win, 1 point for anyone leading a lap and one more point for leading the most laps.
Kyle Busch was able to get within the top 30 in points with a couple of races left to spare before the Chase. Then he was able to advance through the Chase all the way to the Champions 4 Round. This is a one week, highest finisher out of the four drivers still eligible for the Chase wins the Championship. Last year Kevin Harvick had to win the race in order to secure his Championship, and late in this year’s race it appeared that it was going to take the same result for this years Champion.
In the end, a late restart and pit stop would decide the race. With 7 laps left Kyle Busch entered the pits 3rd and would have started on the second row with Kevin Harvick. The 18 pit crew did what they had to do to get Busch out of the pits in 2nd and on the first row for the restart. Busch had a great restart and ended up in front of the pack. From there on it was all over as Busch drove away from the rest of the field to win his first NASCAR Championship.
Also occurring in this race was the grande finale to the career of NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon. Gordon was unable to win his fifth championship, finished 6th in the race, and go out on top.
After winning the league title many pegged the Golden State Warriors to have a relatively slow start to the new NBA season. The Warriors however have had a different idea so far this year. After their comeback win last night against the Los Angeles Clippers 124-117 the Clippers have improved to 13-0 for the first time in franchise history. What has been even more impressive so far this season has been the play of reigning MVP Steph Curry. So far this season Curry has averaged an impressive 34 points per game (ppg) which tops his career average, 21 ppg, by a large amount. In the past year and a half Curry has done so much more than become such a dominate player, he has also become the leader and spark-plug for his entire team.
There has been one major player for the Warriors who has suffered a little bit of a championship hangover. Last year Klay Thompson, who was like the Robin to Curry’s Batman, enjoyed the best year of his career. So far this year he has not been bad, Thompson has just not been playing up to the level that got him the attention last year. He is shooting .445% from the field so far this year, which only stands .018% lower than last year’s .463% however since he is not taking as many shots per game, about 17 per game last year to less than 14 per game this year, he has not score as much this year. Another thing that has fallen has been his accuracy from 3 point range. Last year he was at a career high .439% while this year he has regressed to .380% on three pointers. One area that Thompson has improved on so far this year has been his rebounding. He is above his career averages so far this year in rebounds and defensive rebounds. However I believe that as the season progresses, Klay Thompson will find his shooting rhythm again and be just as productive as he was last year.
When one key player struggles it is usually difficult for a team to win games. However, in a great team someone else will step up and produce in the place of the contributor. This year through Klay Thompson’s early season struggles that player had been 4th year pro Draymond Green. The Small Forward has been having a career year thus far. He is taking about the same amount of shots from inside the arc as last year and making the same as last year. Where the offensive production has come from has been from behind the arc. So far this year Green has taken less shot from three point range than last year, 4.2 to 3.8 per game, the difference is that he is making more of his threes than last season. Green has shot .440% from behind the arc this year as opposed to .337% last season. That is the big way that Green has stepped up for the Warrior s so far this season.
What might be the most surprising thing about this run to start the season is that the Warriors are doing all of this with coach Steve Kerr not on the bench. Luke Walton was given coaching duties at the beginning of October as Kerr was recovering from offseason back surgery slower than was expected. While in the past few days Kerr has been seen in the facilities he is still out indefinitely and Luke Walton will continue to gain valuable experience as a head coach in the NBA.
On Thursday the MLB continued its slow release of award winners. Today was the announcement that many in the Washington Nationals organization were hoping for. This was because their star right fielder Bryce Harper was in line for the Most Valuable Player award for the National League (NL). Harper ended up rewriting the history books by becoming the youngest player in MLB history to win the MVP award by unanimous decision. On top of that he became the fourth youngest player to ever win the award. The only three people to win the award at a younger age than Harper’s 22 years and 353 days are Stan Musial in 1943, 22 years and 316 days, Johnny Bench in 1970, 22 years and 298 days, and Vida Blue in 1971, 22 years and 64 days. That is great company for such a young player to be in, especially when he is already starting to be looked at as one of the faces of the league.
In his first four years with the Nationals, Harper has been no stranger to personal success. His rookie year in 2012 included an appearance in the All-Star game, a 30th place finish in the MVP voting, and winning the Rookie of the Year. The next year he missed parts of due to injury and was only an All-Star in his second year. Harper’s third year featured more injuries and ended with no awards to his name for the first time in his career. This year Harper recovered the form he showed during his rookie year and then some. He had career highs in games played (153), runs (118), hits (172), doubles (38), homeruns (42), RBIs (99), walks (124), batting average (.330), on base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649). Most of these categories Harper was in the top 5 of for the NL.
As Harper moves into his fifth season next year the eyes of the entire league will be on him even more than they have ever been. Harper is going to have to prove that, despite his young age, he is mature enough not to cause trouble off the field. While he is doing that hopefully he does not lose his goofball nature that makes him an exciting player to watch.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has had many legends throughout the years. The most well known throughout the generations was the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. One of the drivers who many of the newest generation of NASCAR fans have supported is about to drive in his final race. Before the season began, Jeff Gordon announced his plans to retire after the final race of the 2015 NASCAR season. When Gordon’s final journey began in late February, few could have imagined the final race of his career would have the the importance that this Sunday’s race at Homestead Miami Speedway would have.
With a win this weekend would add a 94th win to his resume, which is the third most all time behind NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). A win Sunday would also guarantee Gordon would win his fifth NASCAR Championship which would keep him alone with the fourth most in NASCAR history. The only drivers with more are in the Hall of Fame, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven wins, and one active driver and a lock to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, Jimmy Johnson with six.
Another reason this championship would be significant to Gordon is because he has not won a title since the end of the 2001 season when he won his fourth title in seven years. The main significance relates more to his family life because that last championship was six years before he had kids. Winning would special for him as he would be able to share this experience with his eight year old daughter and five year old son.
For the Millennials who have grown up watching the “Rainbow Warrior” race week in and week out this will be a sad moment as Jeff Gordon drives off into the sunset assured that he will finish in the final four in his final year. Gordon was able to bring in a whole new region of fans when he proved that a California kid could compete with the best the Southern racing tradition had to offer. Without his breakthrough it is easy to think that we may not have been graced with other drivers from so called nontraditional racing areas, one being six-time Champion Jimmy Johnson who also hails from California.
Looking forward to the next chapter in NASCAR, the 24 car will once again be graced with yet another phenom of the sport in the form of the young Chase Elliott. Already the young Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, has won a Championship in the Xfinity Series, the second tier in NASCAR, and at only 19, turns 20 in a few weeks, there is still a lot of room for him to grow into the sport. Elliott plans to race in the final Sprint Cup race of the year this Sunday which will be his sixth appearance in the series this season. Through the first five he has three top 20 finishes and will be looking to improve on that number heading into next year.
As this NFL season has progressed, the biggest story out of Cleveland has not been one of a starter. The main media focus has been on the backup quarterback and for some reason not many people have noticed. Browns coach Mike Pettine changed that for the media earlier today by naming Johnny Manziel as the starter for the rest of the season. This is a decision that I actually agree with, but if you had asked me at this time last week my answer would have been completely different. What has changed my mind? A certain young QB coming out against Pittsburgh ready to play. Johnny played well enough in the game that we really could have been in the game if the defense could stop the Steelers offense.
When you look at the scoreline many would think that 30-9 says that the quarterback was unable to find a way to get points on the board. However when your team is unable to establish a running game it makes it more difficult for a young quarterback to succeed. When the quarterback of your team is the leading rusher with only 17 yards that is a problem. If Isaiah Crowell is unable to hit positive numbers in the running game then maybe the Browns need to look for a solution. The first place that needs to looked at is the offensive line. Their performance this season has been nothing short of offensive both in the running and in the passing game. What makes this even worse is that this is the exact same line that dominated for the majority of last season.
Manziel managed to be 33/45 for 372 and 1 TD. That included being a perfect 12/12 from inside of the pocket. This from someone who has been criticized for being “too short” to be a pocket QB. The only real blemish on Manziel’s record from Sunday was in the form of an interception. That being said, having 5 TD’s and only 2 INT’s this season is a great accomplishment. The only way that the die hard fans of the Browns are going to accept him as the future of the franchise is if he keeps improving like he has been.
Another positive around Manziel today was handed down by the league office. He was cleared of wrong-doing in the incident that occurred while he was driving his car with his girlfriend. Hopefully this is the last time he is in the news for something of this nature, because if not he will lose more and more of the support of the fans.