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This past week, much has been made of an All-Star Race that was more of an All-Star Snooze for what few fans stuck around to watch the entire event. For the sixth straight year, there wasn’t a single pass for the lead in the final “no guts, no glory” 10-lap segment. Denny Hamlin used clean air to cruise to a $1 million dollar victory that looked less enticing than the fireworks display following the event.
This week, NASCAR talked about “starting the All-Star Race at an earlier time” seeing as the green flag didn’t happen until 9:42 ET on a Saturday. But as a member of the 18-to-34 male generation the sport is so desperately trying to attract, its problems run deeper than a start time. I can’t speak for everyone, but here’s how you send this age group running for the hills…
*You have a race that happens on a Saturday night. With the variety of entertainment options these days, how many people in that generation are going to stay in, gather around a television and watch an event that starts at 9:30? It’s no surprise all of NASCAR’s lowest-rated Nielsen numbers, this year and in years past, have happened on Saturday nights. There’s a reason weekly NFL games happen on a Sunday…
*You have an analyst in the broadcast booth that starts a race by going, “Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!” And, as much as I love the trio of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds, they are increasingly disconnected from the “next generation” of stock car racing fans every passing year. Talking about racing from “back in the day” is increasingly difficult when newer fans don’t know the combatants you’re talking about. The good old days of the All-Star Race, like the 1992 event was when many 20-somethings weren’t born or too young to understand. We need to hype up the present competition instead of trying to get new people to love the past. It’s gone.
*Driver introductions, almost as long as the All-Star Race itself contained all the personality of a local library. For those who didn’t see it, Sprint set up a stage (as it always does) with fans set up all around in a mosh pit environment. One by one, the drivers would come out with their crews as the announcers would loudly introduce their arrival to the sport’s biggest event. Here’s the problem: each one responded like they were walking down the street, hurrying to get to their financial analyst instead of connecting to the fan base in front of them. A limp handshake and a small wave doesn’t do it, guys in this age of six-second Vines going viral. Give the kids something to talk about; for those who watched, do you even remember anything from those intros?
*I’m a firm believer competition, not crashes, put fans in the seats. But there wasn’t a single wreck in the All-Star Race, barely a minor glitch in an event where everyone was supposed to be giving 110 percent. After the race, Hamlin was talking about how he’d invest his money, talking like a CNBC anchor instead of an athlete fans should be jumping up and supporting. Where’s the intensity? Where’s the rivalries? People gave each other more room than I do driving down the highway. If this All-Star Race doesn’t give drivers a sense of urgency, an exhibition where there’s no championship points on the line, it’s a serious problem.
*New fans need new faces to hold onto. What new face was in the All-Star Race? There was a celebration of Jeff Gordon’s career, as there should have been since the four-time champ is retiring this season at the age of 44. Instead, we had the same old teams and drivers running up front, tired stories in an age where the rules and entrenched organizations make it near-impossible for new ones to appear. NASCAR needs a name to catch fire just like golf once had Tiger Woods enthrall a generation. But who will it be? Chase Elliott? Kyle Larson? Austin Dillon? Can any of them catch on when they’re put in politically correct teams and plugged into top-tier rides like a factory? Will fans believe they had to fight for everything they’ve got? It’s the “Jimmie Johnson” problem for a new generation.
Note we haven’t even talked about the competition side of this equation, “clean air” that’s dirtying the waters of quality racing. But that’s what going Through The Gears is for.
FIRST GEAR: NASCAR’s Aerodynamics Gone Awry
In just a few months, the sport has backtracked from testing its 2016 rules package in the All-Star Race to perhaps nixing any changes altogether. Owners are complaining about the cost to redo cars, engines, and chassis designs in such a short period of time. But there’s also a different cost to be weighed, as both the audience for the sport and television ratings plummet to all-time lows.
The bottom line is single-file competition, the type we saw at Charlotte isn’t doing the world of racing any favors. Double-file restarts have even lost their flavor as fans know after a minute or two of side-by-side action their driver will be “stuck” in whatever place they end up. Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com has a great piece on what part of the problem is, corner speeds up significantly to the point drivers can go close to wide open on intermediate tracks like Charlotte. That takes driver skill out of the equation, makes passing more difficult and induces fear in a group of athletes raised on “safety, safety, safety” and scared of the type of serious injury Kyle Busch suffered back in February.
What’s the fix? Well, you can’t have an answer if you don’t try experimenting. This area is where NASCAR really needs to step up with the large amount of TV funding they’re pouring in each season. Give the teams who have attempted every race this season money to supplement the costs of a new package. Hold several NASCAR-sanctioned tests where people smarter than writers (i.e. – engineers) work on creating better racing. Right now, the value cost for the owners isn’t there to do it. You’re asking them to spend money on changing a package where new rules could make the top teams fall further behind. Long-term, that would cost them financially and potentially allow new people to enter the sport and challenge them. So why do it?
NASCAR has to give them a reason. Paying for fixing their own sport is a good start.
SECOND GEAR: How to Beat Hendrick and Stewart-Haas Racing
Hamlin, in his All-Star Race win, lived up to comments he made a month ago about the current state of Toyota drivers on intermediate tracks. To beat the top teams of Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch, all of whom are running Hendrick chassis and engines, Hamlin said every little thing has to go their way.
Saturday night, all the stars aligned. Hamlin, through a unique NASCAR qualifying procedure applied in the All-Star Race, used the speed of his pit crew to snatch the pole. He then kept track position through most of the evening, capping it off with a 10.4-second pit stop that put him up front for the final segment. Earning clean air through strategy and pit road gave Hamlin enough of a cushion in a short stint to hold off Harvick.
In the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend, I’d expect that trio, not Hamlin to charge to the front. But at least JGR now has a blueprint on how to “steal one” if they’re still this far behind Hendrick equipment in this fall’s postseason Chase.
THIRD GEAR: Kasey at the Bat
While Kasey Kahne didn’t win the All-Star Race Saturday night he made his presence felt in the first segment, making a rare pass for the lead under green. Fighting by Hamlin, Kahne eventually fell back in the pack through pit stops but the muscle he flexed should be there in next week’s 600.
Kahne, who is often overshadowed by teammates Johnson, Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., now has a chance to make a statement this weekend. After a few years of tough luck driving the No. 5 car, he’s quietly collected a handful of consistent finishes while gelling with new crew chief Keith Rodden. Charlotte is one of his best tracks and a win would seal the deal on a Chase bid, producing a sigh of postseason relief he hasn’t often had. Keep in mind five of 10 Chase races are the type of 1.5-mile tracks Kahne eats for breakfast when running on all eight cylinders. One of these years, he’s going to peak at the right time and use that strength to his advantage… is 2015 the year?
FOURTH GEAR: Tough Break for All-Star Hopefuls
Martin Truex Jr. has had an outstanding season. While not winning a race, he’s been second in points for the majority of the year’s first 11 races. But after failing to advance through the preliminary events, along with losing this year’s “Fan Vote” he failed to make the All-Star field. In comparison, Aric Almirola, a driver who has finished no better than 11th in 2015, earned a spot through his victory at Daytona last July.
It’s rare the sport has such a blatant example of an All-Star “slight,” but it might be time for NASCAR to take a look at its policy. Currently, the stance of “2014 and 2015” victories putting a driver in the field is like rewarding a MLB player for what he did last August and September. Certainly, that won’t put him into the sport’s All-Star Game in mid-July of the following year and you wonder if NASCAR should be the same way. Should you be an All-Star for what you’ve done lately or what you’ve done over the course of a longer period of time (i.e. – the rule to let past All-Star winners in the field)? It’s open to debate.
Kahne, driving in the Camping World Truck Series for JR Motorsports, edged out Erik Jones for a victory only for his No. 00 Chevrolet to fail post-race inspection. It was a great opportunity for the sport to make a serious statement, punishing a part-time team for violating the rules that could have earned them that slight edge. Instead? They got a slap on the wrist this week. Disappointing… This year, no NASCAR driver is attempting the 1,100-mile double of both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, held on the same day. I thought both sports benefitted from Kurt Busch’s attempt last year and remain baffled why they won’t work together to make sure someone keeps doing it. Both series are struggling to keep their fan bases; why not work together toward a common goal?
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
The SEC has only itself to blame. You too, ACC.
Coaches (and fans) from both leagues have some serious diaper rash when it comes to "satellite camps."
But the SEC and ACC power brokers are directing their anger in the wrong direction. They have no right to get angry at the Big Ten or Urban Meyer or James Franklin.
Penn State's Franklin immediately began the Big Ten's hottest new recruiting philosophy as soon as he arrived in Happy Valley and it's totally legal. In the Big Ten, at least.
It has quickly caught on in the population-challenged Big Ten footprint as a way to get their brands in front of the best players from the South.
It's perfectly within the rules to "host" a football camp for elite prospects at small colleges throughout the rich fertile recruiting territory that is the Southeast for teams from the B1G. Just because the SEC doesn't allow it or, more importantly, doesn't need it has nothing to do with Franklin.
The SEC won't ever have the desire to run a satellite camp in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota or Indiana. It doesn't need those players to survive. The Big Ten needs Southern talent to survive.
The NCAA currently has no issue with the innovative recruiting practice and it shouldn't ever change the rule — especially not for the Big Ten. The SEC and ACC have voted on their own not to allow such practices. If your coaches don't like it, take it up with Mike Slive (or Greg Sankey after July 31) and John Swofford.
Because if there is one league that needs any advantage it can get when it comes to recruiting, it's the Big Ten.
Four- and five-star recruits aren't coming from the Big Ten footprint like they used to and, frankly, there are many natural disadvantages the Big Ten must overcome in order to compete with the Southern leagues.
For example, the SEC and ACC will never vote to allow official visits in the summer months because that would allow the Big Ten to showcase the gorgeous campuses that reside in places like Madison, Ann Arbor, Happy Valley or Columbus during the best time of the year.
No, the powers that be down South will always vote against moving official visits because visiting Gainesville in December is much more pleasant than visiting Minneapolis. But in July or August, I'd rather be in Madison.
What's hilarious about the SEC/ACC outrage over satellite camps is the hypocrisy. The SEC has been bending recruiting rules for decades in an effort to win big — and it's worked — more than any other conference. The Big Ten or Pac-12 have rarely resorted to the ruthless tactics of the deep South.
That all changed with Meyer and Franklin, two former SEC coaching alums, who came home to roost in the Midwest. Be it recruiting committed athletes (which is commonplace in the SEC but ruffled Big Ten feathers at the time) or satellite camps, the duo has forced the rest of the Big Ten to elevate itself to a certain level on the recruiting trail.
The result will be better athletes creating more competitive football teams for the entire conference.
Hate satellite camps all you want, Southern Man, but the fact of the matter is the SEC and ACC voted against their own best interests when each conference decided not to allow them. Not the Big Ten. Not the NCAA. Not Urban Meyer.
Don't blame James Franklin for simply doing what's in the best interests of his program.
Steph Curry is the most-well received player in the NBA. The one time he brings his daughter to the post game press conference, that all seems to change.
Riley Curry was undoubtedly the star of the show after the game. Players from Chris Paul to Derrick Rose have brought their children to have them sit on their laps after the game. No big deal.
Brian Windhorst went on ESPN's "First Take" to talk about why bringing Riley was wrong. Windhorst claims he can't ask the questions he wants to if a child is there. What questions those are, he never mentions. Skip Bayless, of course, agrees.
The Warriors tweeted out the perfect response.
Like father, like daughter. pic.twitter.com/AecdYLzU7D— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) May 20, 2015
Some media members could benefit from lightening up a little. Especially when the conference is full of the media asking the same questions all the time. The ground-breaking stories from these "special questions" aren't made in the quotes that everyone in the room gets.
Steph's father Dell Curry told FTW that press will learn get over it, and his son was still able to do his job.
"They'll get over it," Curry said. "He was still able to do his interview. She didn't stop that at all."
The 2015 college football season doesn’t begin until September, but there’s no shortage of news to keep the conversation moving until kickoff.
With Everett Golson transferring to Florida State, oddsmakers have shifted the outlook for the Heisman race.
Bovada updated its Heisman odds on Wednesday morning to reflect Golson’s transfer, and the former Notre Dame passer is listed at 14/1.
Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott tops the list at 6/1, while LSU’s Leonard Fournette checks in at 15/2.
Below are the complete list of odds by Bovada (updated after Golson’s transfer), and three names we like that are good buy-low options:
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Talented sophomore takes control of Clemson’s high-powered offense.
Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Auburn is a dark-horse national title contender in 2015.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Should be an All-American in 2015 after an impressive freshman campaign last year.
Post-Spring Heisman Odds from Bovada (updated May 20)
|Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State||6/1|
|Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU||15/2|
|Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State||8/1|
|Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia||8/1|
|Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU||8/1|
|Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State||12/1|
|Cody Kessler, QB, USC||12/1|
|Everett Golson, QB, Florida State||14/1|
|Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama||16/1|
|Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA||18/1|
|Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State||20/1|
|Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson||20/1|
|Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn||20/1|
|Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma||20/1|
|Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State||25/1|
|J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State||28/1|
|Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin||33/1|
|Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech||33/1|
|Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon||33/1|
|Seth Russell, QB, Baylor||33/1|
|Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami||40/1|
|D.J. Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State||40/1|
|Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State||40/1|
|James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh||40/1|
|Malik Zaire, QB, Notre Dame||40/1|
|Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State||40/1|
|Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona||40/1|
|Taysom Hill, QB, BYU||40/1|
|Jared Goff, QB, California||50/1|
|Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State||66/1|
|Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee||66/1|
|Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss||66/1|
|Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina||66/1|
|Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona||66/1|
Pro tip No. 1: Never play "Sweet Home Alabama" at Tennessee.
During a Vols practice, the iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd song was heard blasting from possibly the baseball field. Tennessee heach coach Butch Jones was having none of that.
"We're at Tennessee, that don't play here," Jones said.
I wonder how he feels about "Georgia on My Mind"?
Nebraska and Michigan are two of the Big Ten’s most intriguing teams to watch in 2015. Both programs have new coaches guiding the program, as former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh has returned to Ann Arbor, while Mike Riley was hired to replace Bo Pelini in Lincoln.
With the coaching changes at both programs, combined with an intriguing core of talent, the Cornhuskers and Wolverines have potential to finish among the nation’s top 25 teams this season.
But which program is more likely to do so? Athlon Sports continues its look at some of the top preseason storylines with a look at Nebraska or Michigan and which is more likely to finish in the top 25.
Nebraska or Michigan: Which Team has a Better Chance to Finish in the Top 25 in 2015?
Nebraska is my pick. Actually, I’m not sure either will find itself in the top 25 by season’s end, but, if forced to pick one, the Cornhuskers are the safer pick. Being ranked at the bottom of the poll is all about getting to the eight-, nine-win mark, and Nebraska has the talent and schedule to get there. Personnel-wise, I trust Tommy Armstrong, De’Mornay Pierson-El (breakout player alert!), Jordan Westerkamp and the running back committee far more than what Michigan is rolling out there. Also, its Big Ten road games (Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue & Rutgers) are beyond manageable. The home games (Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State & Iowa) are far more challenging, but Nebraska is 12-4 in Big Ten home games since joining the conference.
I think it all depends on who can get the quarterbacks performing up to snuff the fastest. Both have new offensive schemes with new head coaches. Michigan needs to find an answer at quarterback, wide receiver and running back while Nebraska has Tommy Armstrong but needs a replacement for Ameer Abdullah's absence.
I think schedule alone gives the nod to Nebraska, it appears, on paper at least, to be easier. Michigan will need to finish with a strong finish to the season in order to achieve any type of Top 25 standing. Is it possible? Sure, but Michigan has a long way to go. I will have to give the nod to Nebraska right now, Michigan has too many questions that need immediate answers.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This is a tough one, as I think both teams have a good shot to finish in the top 25. But if I have to pick one, I would take Nebraska over Michigan. The Wolverines have a tougher path in the East Division with two top-10 teams in Ohio State and Michigan State, along with an improving Penn State squad. Jim Harbaugh is the nation’s top coaching hire for 2015, and Jake Rudock should provide stability at quarterback. But Nebraska’s path to a spot in the final top 25 poll is much easier. The Cornhuskers catch the Spartans in crossover play, but the other game (at Rutgers) in play against the East Division is very manageable. And Nebraska hosts Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa this year – three potential swing games in the West. Sure, there will be a transition period for Nebraska in coach Mike Riley’s first year. However, there’s also a lot to like about this team. If quarterback Tommy Armstrong settles into the new offensive attack, and the defense fills a few voids in the front seven, challenging for the West Division title isn’t out of reach. There’s no doubt Harbaugh is going to have Michigan playing better in 2015. But I like Nebraska to edge the Wolverines in the final rankings and push for a top-25 finish.
Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Coaches for 2015
The Michigan Wolverines and the Nebraska Cornhuskers are two big-time names in the Big Ten who are facing similar circumstances. Both teams will have new head coaches (Jim Harbaugh and Mike Riley) and will have to replace big-time pieces on their offense, for Michigan it is Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess, while Nebraska has to fill the shoes of Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell. So who has the better chance at finishing the 2015 season in the Top 25? Well, that would have to be the Cornhuskers. Let me tell you why. I figure it would take either team at least nine wins to crack the Top-25 based on the records of the teams in last year’s final poll. First, let’s look at the schedules. Michigan plays a much tougher non-conference schedule and is in the much harder Big Ten East and plays Ohio State and Michigan State, while Nebraska gets to play both Purdue and Illinois. Michigan will be hard pressed to break the seven win mark as they try and break in a new quarterback Jake Ruddock - assuming he is the starter - and will have to replace a ton of talent on an already struggling offense. It could be difficult for the Huskers to sneak into the top-25 as well, but they do have the better opportunity for that to happen.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Can I say both? I'd definitely lean Nebraska over Michigan if I had to pick one, but I think both are really good picks to overachieve their preseason rankings. Both rosters have talent, in particular, on defense. The two biggest differences on the field are the edge Nebraska gets in the scheduling department and in the offensive backfield. Mike Riley should be excellent on the ground with a two-headed rushing attack while Michigan may have not find its rushing identity right away. The Huskers play a significantly easier schedule within the Big Ten. Both play a tough road non-conference game and BYU at home outside of the Big Ten, but the Wolverines league slate is significantly more difficult. That alone gives Nebraska a really good shot at landing in the Big Ten title game while even a great year for Jim Harbaugh likely leads to a second- or third-place finish in the Big Ten East.
Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2015
Michigan fans have every right to be excited about the future of the program with Jim Harbaugh taking control of the Wolverines, but expectations should be slightly scaled back in 2015. A schedule that opens on the road against Utah and includes BYU in non-conference play and later sees a late-season road game at Penn State followed by big, bad Ohio State the following week is not easy, and I did not even mention Michigan State visiting Ann Arbor. The Spartans have owned Michigan in the in-state rivalry lately, and they still seem to have the more well-rounded team heading into the new season.
Nebraska must play the Spartans as well, but Nebraska skips Ohio State this year. New head coach Mike Riley also has challenging non-conference match-ups against BYU and at Miami to deal with, but the schedule seems to be more favorable to the Huskers. Nebraska also has a solidified quarterback situation and a returning cast of receivers to keep the offense going while the defense brings back eight starters. Nebraska can afford a slow start more than Harbaugh and the Wolverines can this year.
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott), Athlon Sports Contributor Network
There isn’t much on Michigan's roster that would keep me up at night as an opposing coordinator. They simply don't have the horses to hang with Michigan State or Ohio State and will open as underdogs at Utah.
Iowa transfer Jake Rudock provides senior leadership at quarterback, but it’ll be a rebuilding effort for Jim Harbaugh during his first season.
On the other hand, Mike Riley inherits the core of a Nebraska team that was two plays from winning 11 games last year. His staff is talented enough to mold the Huskers into his vision quickly. Having arguably the best group of receivers in the Big Ten won’t hurt.
The Huskers are good enough to beat every team on their schedule and they’ll likely reach double-digit wins.
I’ll take Nebraska.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Jim Harbaugh was a home-run hire for Michigan, make no mistake about it, but I actually think first-year Nebraska coach Mike Riley is positioned for more success in Year 1 at his new school. Riley inherits a team that won nine games last season and returns its starting quarterback, along with several other key pieces on both side of the ball. Harbaugh, on the other hand, is in many ways starting over, not only instilling his philosophies and his way of doing things into the program, but also in terms of personnel, especially on offense.
Both fanbases should be pretty happy with the new direction their respective programs are heading, but in my opinion the Cornhuskers have the look of a potential top-25 team, while the Wolverines still seem a year away. Don’t forget that defending national champion Ohio State and an extremely talented and well-coached Michigan State team also reside in Michigan’s division, making Harbaugh’s job this season that much tougher.
It wasn’t a terrific night for the New York Knicks. The NBA’s saddest big-market franchise lost 65 games last season, and the light at the end of their tunnel of failure was always the chance at a No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The Knicks, instead, landed at fourth overall during last night’s lottery. In a draft class that’s better than okay, this is still a strong position. Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns are likely to go first and second, so New York will have—at the very least—a choice between two elite point guard prospects in D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, or March Madness standout Justise Winslow, a skilled and powerful wingman.
But what the Knicks fanbase wanted is what many fanbases yearn for on lottery night: A pick so good that even their questionable front office can’t mess it up. That’s what the Minnesota Timberwolves got, with the ping pong balls taking them to the top selection, where it would shock the league if they didn’t choose between Okafor and Towns. The Los Angeles Lakers, at No. 2, will probably take whichever of the two fantastic young big men Minnesota passes on.
In the third slot are the Philadelphia 76ers. For all the moralizing soreness over Philly’s tanking ways, their war chest of assets and young talent is starting to look incredibly impressive, and the dawn of a winning day is starting to seem more imminent for the Sixers.
Behind the top four is a collections of teams who are either, like the Knicks, in need of nothing short of a Godsend with their shaky decision-makers up top (the Sacramento Kings at No. 6, the Denver Nuggets at No. 7, the Charlotte Hornets at No. 9) or who are on the verge of contending again, in need of nothing more than more internal improvement and extra piece of talent (the Orlando Magic at No. 5, the Detroit Pistons at No. 8, the Miami Heat at No. 10).
Here’s the full lottery board:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New York Knicks
5. Orlando Magic
6. Sacramento Kings
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Detroit Pistons
9. Charlotte Hornets
10. Miami Heat
11. Indiana Pacers
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Oklahoma City Thunder
— John Wilmes
Jamie Foxx is a man of many talents.
While on the "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," the comedian participated in the "Wheel of Musical Impressions." The best part comes around the 5:40 mark when Foxx breaks into his Doc Rivers impression for no reason. He's got the raspy-voiced coach down to a tee.
Also worth noting, Foxx's John Legend impression is pretty good too.
LeBron James is still the king of the NBA. Right?
His Cleveland Cavaliers took down the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in their last playoff series, despite Kevin Love being out for the season and Kyrie Irving’s injuries turning him into a hobbled, almost ineffectual version of himself. Derrick Rose and Co. were meant to be the biggest threat to James’ throne, but he ultimately looked fairly comfortable pushing them off of it.
Up next in LeBron’s challenge to prove he’s still the world’s alpha baller is the Atlanta Hawks, a team who made mutton of the Cavs all season and lit up the league with 60 wins and four All-Star appearances. Atlanta needed six games to thwart the malaise-struck Brooklyn Nets in the first round, however, and six more to beat the Washington Wizards despite a serious injury to John Wall.
While the Hawks are not facing any injury issues as damning as losing Love for the year, they have been slowed by body hurts and fatigue. None of their starters have operated with close to the same kind of efficiency as they did in the regular season, with point guard Jeff Teague having some especially noticeable struggles. There’s a lengthy debate to be had about whether the Hawks expelled too much of their batteries in the regular season, and don’t have enough left to prove themselves when it really matters.
Atlanta also comes into the series without Thabo Sefolosha, who’s out for the year with a broken fibula. Sefolosha is a seldom noticed reserve, but he happens to have guarded LeBron on the biggest stage possible before—in the NBA Finals, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012—and to have done it fairly well. That task will fall largely on DeMarre Carroll’s shoulders with Thabo out.
In order to beat the Cavs, who should be riding a formidable emotional train after their surprisingly authoritative putdown of the Bulls, Atlanta has to be a team they haven’t been in several weeks. Maybe they can be, but it’ll come as a surprise that you might not want to put your money on.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 6
— John Wilmes
The ACC is losing some offensive star power with the departure of Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Miami’s Duke Johnson to the NFL. But there’s a talented group of young players ready to step up this season, starting with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. The sophomore takes control of the Tigers’ high-powered attack and should keep coach Dabo Swinney’s team in the mix to win the ACC. Pittsburgh running back James Conner and receiver Tyler Boyd are two of the best in the nation and will continue to carry the Panthers’ offense in 2015.
To help pick the top offensive triplets in each of the Power 5 leagues, we devised a simple formula. We ranked the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers and assigned a 14 to the No. 1 player, with the point total decreasing to just one point to the No. 14 ranked player at each position. Only one player from each team was ranked per position.
Ranking the ACC’s Offensive Triplets for 2015
Total Points: 36
QB: Deshaun Watson (1)
RB: Wayne Gallman (6)
WR: Artavis Scott (2)
Chad Morris will be missed as Clemson’s play-caller, but the Tigers should still have one of the ACC’s top offenses. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the nation’s rising stars and will be at full strength from a torn ACL by this fall. Scott and Gallman showed promise as freshmen last season and depth is plentiful at running back and receiver.
Related: No. 14 Clemson Tigers 2015 Preview and Prediction
Total Points: 36
QB: Chad Voytik (7)
RB: James Conner (1)
WR: Tyler Boyd (1)
Pat Narduzzi is known for his defensive acumen, but the first-year coach inherits some of the ACC’s top offensive talent. James Conner (RB) and Tyler Boyd (WR) are two of the nation’s top playmakers at their respective positions. Quarterback Chad Voytik played better in the second half of 2014 by tossing only one interception in his final six games.
Related: Pittsburgh's James Conner Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 RB
Total Points: 34
QB: Everett Golson (6)
RB: Dalvin Cook (2)
WR: Travis Rudolph (3)
Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the nation’s best quarterback coaches. Sean Maguire started one game last season (Clemson) and finished 2014 with 339 passing yards on 25 completions. However, Everett Golson is transferring to Florida State and is considered by many to be the favorite to take the first snap of 2015. Cook averaged 141.3 rushing yards over the final three games of 2014, while Rudolph caught 38 passes as a true freshman.
Related: Florida State's Jimbo Fisher Ranks as the ACC's No. 1 Coach
Total Points: 30
QB: Brad Kaaya (2)
RB: Joseph Yearby (4)
WR: Stacy Coley (9)
After an impressive freshman season, Kaaya returns as one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks in 2015. Kaaya led the ACC with a 145.9 quarterback rating last year and tossed 26 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. With Duke Johnson off to the NFL, the Hurricanes need a few skill players to emerge to help Kaaya. Joseph Yearby will share time with Gus Edwards at running back, but Yearby is likely to be the starter after averaging 5.9 yards per carry last year. Miami needs Stacy Coley to regain his freshman form after averaging only eight yards per catch in 2014.
Related: Miami Hurricanes 2015 Schedule and Analysis
Total Points: 27
QB: Marquise Williams (4)
RB: T.J. Logan (10)
WR: Ryan Switzer (4)
Under Larry Fedora’s watch, scoring points hasn’t been a problem for North Carolina. The Tar Heels have averaged at least 30 points per game in three consecutive seasons and should easily hit that mark in 2015. Marquise Williams ranked second in the ACC last year by averaging 296.6 total yards per game. Logan averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2014, while Switzer led the team with 61 receptions.
Related: Can Gene Chizik Save the North Carolina Defense?
6. NC State
Total Points: 23
QB: Jacoby Brissett (5)
RB: Shadrach Thornton (5)
WR: Bra’Lon Cherry (12)
Jacoby Brissett shined in his first season at NC State, throwing for 2,606 yards and 23 scores. The senior should be better in his second year and will push for All-ACC honors. The Wolfpack has to develop a few targets at receiver after Bo Hines decided to transfer after the 2014 season. Shadrach Thornton headlines one of the ACC’s deepest backfields.
Total Points: 23
QB: Reggie Bonnafon (8)
RB: Brandon Radcliff (8)
WR: James Quick (6)
If Bonnafon settles into the starting job, Louisville’s offense could improve off last year’s scoring average (31.2). Bonnafon finished spring ahead of Kyle Bolin, Will Gardner and Tyler Ferguson, and the sophomore’s mobility is a huge asset with uncertainty on the offensive line. Radcliff will share carries with Jeremy Smith and L.J. Scott, and Quick is slated to move into the No. 1 receiver role after the departure of DeVante Parker.
Total Points: 22
QB: Michael Brewer (9)
RB: J.C. Coleman (9)
WR: Isaiah Ford (5)
It’s no secret the strength of Virginia Tech is its defense. But the Hokies should show some improvement on this side of the ball after averaging only 19.4 points per game in ACC contests in 2014. Michael Brewer tossed 15 interceptions last season and cutting that number in half would help the offense take a step forward. Isaiah Ford is primed for a breakout season after catching 56 passes in 2014, while J.C. Coleman headlines the ground attack after recording at least 95 yards in each of his final four games.
Total Points: 20
QB: Darius Wade (14)
RB: Jon Hilliman (3)
WR: Sherman Alston (8)
The Eagles could climb this list by a few spots if Darius Wade quickly settles in at quarterback. Wade completed 3 of 8 passes for 23 yards and rushed for 12 yards as a freshman last year. The receiving corps doesn’t have a plethora of proven options, but Alston is an all-purpose threat. Hilliman rushed for 860 yards as a true freshman last season.
Total Points: 19
QB: Matt Johns (12)
RB: Taquan Mizzell (7)
WR: Caanan Severin (7)
With Greyson Lambert transferring out of Charlottesville, Johns has a firm grip on the starting quarterback job. Getting more production out of the quarterback spot is a priority for coach Mike London this season, and Johns won’t have to look over his shoulder with Lambert out of the mix. Mizzell is a breakout candidate, and Severin returns after leading the team with 42 catches in 2014.
11. Georgia Tech
Total Points: 16
QB: Justin Thomas (3)
RB: Broderick Snoddy (12)
WR: Ricky Jeune (14)
Uncertainty remains for the Yellow Jackets’ offense at running back and receiver. Quarterback Justin Thomas should be among the ACC’s top playmakers this season, but the junior needs help from the supporting cast. Snoddy averaged 10.1 yards per carry in 2014 and is expected to be at full strength after missing the final four games of last year with a leg injury. Jeune is a promising 6-foot-3 target looking for his first career catch in 2015.
Related: No. 18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2015 Preview and Prediction
Total Points: 14
QB: Thomas Sirk (10)
RB: Shaquille Powell (11)
WR: Max McCaffrey (10)
Knowing coach David Cutcliffe’s track record at Duke, ranking the Blue Devils at No. 12 here is probably too low. Thomas Sirk showed promise in limited action last season, rushing for 238 yards and eight scores and completing 10 of 14 passes for 67 yards. Powell is expected to lead the team in rushing yardage, but he will have help from Shaun Wilson and Jela Duncan. McCaffrey should see more catches with the departure of Jamison Crowder to the NFL.
Related: Duke's David Cutcliffe Ranks No. 3 Among ACC Coaches for 2015
Total Points: 10
QB: Terrel Hunt (11)
RB: Devante McFarlane (13)
WR: Steve Ishmael (11)
Having a healthy (and full) year from Terrel Hunt should help Syracuse’s offense find a spark after scoring only 17.1 points per game in 2014. McFarlane slides into the No. 1 role in the backfield after averaging six yards per carry on 28 attempts last season. Ishmael is a promising receiver for coordinator Tim Lester after he grabbed 27 receptions for 415 yards and three touchdowns in 2014.
14. Wake Forest
Total Points: 5
QB: John Wolford (13)
RB: Dezmond Wortham (14)
WR: Jared Crump (13)
The biggest question mark on Wake Forest’s roster isn’t any of the three positions listed above. Rather, it’s an offensive line that allowed 48 sacks in 2014 and enters 2015 with plenty of question marks. If that group improves, so should the production from Wolford, Wortham and Crump. Wolford completed 214 of 367 passes for 2,037 yards and 12 scores as a true freshman last year.
Stephen Colbert is everyone's favorite funny man so when it was time for him to deliver a graduation speech, he stayed true to himself.
Colbert gave a speech to Wake Forest's class of 2015. During the speech, he said what every student there wanted to hear... "Duke sucks."
Catch the full video below.
Everyone loves when an NBA player brings his child to the press conference. It always makes for an interesting sound bite.
Steph Curry brought his daughter, Riley, to the post game conference following the Warriors win over the Rockets. Of course little Riley stole the show. She even told Curry to be quiet because he was too loud. Cute.
It should be a requirement that kids must attend press conferences, it makes for good television.
Shawn Oakman is a very scary football player. This video only further proves that theory.
School: "Get plenty of sleep for finals this week" Shawn Oakman: "What finals." School: "You're right" pic.twitter.com/3lWcNb6JHD— ▪️Quis For Pres.▪️ (@MarquisVPenny) May 19, 2015
Well now he's doing weighted box jumps. Yes, you read that right. Forty-inch box jumps with 70-pound weights. The scariest college football player just got scarier.
Here's a look at the NBA teams that need the most out of this year's draft:
6. Detroit Pistons
In Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons have a promising man to build their future. But wise as their head coach and team president is, their circumstance is still thorny. Detroit already has a number of young pieces they’ll need to pay big money this summer or next, with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Reggie Jackson at the top of the list. They’ve also been a poor destination for quality free agents for the better part of this century, and have a glaring hole at the wing spot. If they find the right small forward in this draft, the Pistons will have every bit of the core they want for the coming years, with youth across the lineup, so long as they can secure what they’ve already got.
Best fits: Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson
5. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have the one major piece that most other stalled teams would kill for: A bonafide superstar, in the mercurial character of DeMarcus Cousins. A slew of poor decisions aside from drafting and re-signing the hyper-talented big man, however, has left Sacramento in a bad way. The team is saddled with culture problems after giving Cousins as many coaches as he’s had seasons—and even more point guards—plus a number of weighty salaries owed to middling players. The only way that an organization as dysfunctional and clueless as this one can find their way out of so deep a hole is by getting lucky with the ping pong balls.
Best fits: Emmanuel Mudiay, D’Angelo Russell
4. Charlotte Hornets
The schadenfreude parade has long waltzed all over Michael Jordan’s post-Chicago Bulls career. The Hornets’ owner has made a number of questionable draft selections, including high picks spent on Adam Morrison and Sean May. Jordan’s greatness on the court was so staggering that you just knew the audience would turn around and satirize him for any failures he had off of it. But the hard truth, more recently, is that Charlotte has simply had rotten luck in the draft. Missing out on Anthony Davis after a historically bad season especially stands out as an instance of the basketball Gods seeming not to favor M.J.’s franchise. Jordan and Co. have had a better record in free agency in recent years, but what they really need to turn things around is a superman.
Best fits: Mario Hezonja, Kristaps Porzingis
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Who ever thought it could get this bad for the Lakers? It would often seem that Kobe Bryant’s squad exists just as a reason for him to keep his celebrity alive, these days, and that the organization’s front office has all but given up on the now, and staked their claim in a post-Kobe future made up of fertile draft prospects and big-name pickups in free agency. The former part of that equation involves the further development of Jordan Clarkson, and a hopefully resilient recovery from Julius Randle, who had a season-ending injury early on in his rookie season. Things can always turn around quickly when you’re the most storied team in the sport, but more steps toward a brighter tomorrow must start occurring today.
Best fits: Karl-Anthony Towns, Justise Winslow
2. New York Knicks
Tire fire, rubbish yard, pity party… choose your bit of negative hyperbole. The Knicks have been a mockery of themselves for the past two seasons, and Phil Jackson has a lot of work to do in repairing their creaky state. New York City will always be a draw for certain free agents, because it’s New York City, but the Knicks haven’t actually been able to land any top birds for some time. Jackson may be able to change that (he was able to convince Carmelo Anthony to stay, after all) but what he does in the draft is arguably more important. The team’s new, aging president needs to prove he has the vision everyone talks so much about by seeing something special in someone.
Best fits: D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns
1. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets weren’t even a bottom-five team last season, in terms of wins and losses. When measured with a longer view in mind, though, it’s not hard to say that they’re in a perhaps worse position than anyone. A mismatched roster full of questionable contracts and personalities plus no superstar-level talent, Denver is as unanchored as they come. A new head coach may be able to complete the incredibly complex equation that is shaping this crew into one that could fight for the final playoff spot in the staggering Western Conference, but that’s the absolute ceiling here. A team this lacking in direction needs a godsend to change course for the better.
Best fits: Willie Cauley-Stein, Justise Winslow
— John Wilmes
Russell Wilson is testing out his acting abilities.
The Seahawks quarterback has a part in Entourage, and he plays it well. Wilson has fun in a scene sitting next to Mark Cuban, well as much fun as someone could have sitting next to the Mavericks owner. He even throws a couple passes to Turtle, and that's something not many NFL players can say they've done.
Football, baseball, acting ... is there anything Wilson can't do?
Steph Curry may play for the Warriors, but he's still a product of Davidson.
His former school sent the point guard a good luck tweet ahead of their series against the Rockets. It features a cool video of Curry hitting a 3/4 court shot, as he's become so accustomed to doing, one from Davidson and the other during his series against the Grizzlies.
Let's hope #StephBeingSteph will never change.
The battle to replace Jameis Winston at Florida State has extra competition. Former Notre Dame starter Everett Golson announced his intention to transfer to Tallahassee on Tuesday, and the senior will be eligible immediately as a graduate student. Sean Maguire finished spring as the Seminoles' No. 1 quarterback, but Golson will provide depth at the position and push for the starting job in the fall.
Golson completed 443 of 745 passes during his two years at Notre Dame and threw for 5,850 yards and 41 scores. Golson also tossed 20 interceptions in two seasons as the starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish.
What Everett Golson’s Transfer Means for Florida State
1. Taking Everett Golson is the Right Move for Florida State
Winston’s production, leadership and on-field performance simply won’t be replaced by Florida State in 2015. And regardless of whether it’s Sean Maguire or Golson taking the first snap, the Seminoles were in a transition season. But taking Golson is really a low-risk, high-reward move for Florida State. After Maguire, the Seminoles have talented freshmen in J.J. Cosentino, De’Andre Johnson and Deondre Francois and sophomore John Franklin III competing for snaps. That’s a lot of youth. Even if Golson doesn’t win the starting job, he’s a proven backup and a good insurance plan.
Considering Maguire’s small sample size of snaps, it’s hard to compare the two quarterbacks before fall practice. However, Golson is talented and has experience at a major college program. That’s an upgrade over Maguire’s resume so far in his Florida State career.
2. Golson is Not Guaranteed the Starting Job
Coach Jimbo Fisher has already made this clear. Maguire finished spring as the top quarterback in Tallahassee, and the junior has one career start (Clemson, 2014) under his belt. Maguire was a three-star prospect in the 2012 signing class and the No. 564 prospect by 247Sports. The New Jersey native clearly lacks the experience that Golson has from two years at Notre Dame. However, Maguire has a clear edge in learning the playbook – but Golson isn’t transferring to sit on the bench.
3. How Quickly Can Golson Learn Florida State’s Offense?
That’s the big question. Not every graduate transfer at quarterback has succeeded at his new destination. For every Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), there’s a handful of quarterbacks that couldn’t pick up the offense in time or acclimate to their new surroundings. Florida State’s offense is not easy to learn in a short amount of time. Fisher is one of the best in the nation at tutoring quarterbacks and developing offenses, and it’s not easy for a player with a couple of months to pick up the offense. If – and it’s a big if – Golson masters the offense by the end of August, he could start the full season at Florida State.
4. Golson’s Mobility Could be an Asset
In two years of snaps at Notre Dame, Golson rushed for 581 yards and 14 scores. Here’s why that could be important in 2015: Florida State’s offensive line returns only one starter. If the line struggles early, having a quarterback that can create plays outside of the pocket would be an asset for Fisher.
5. Does this Change Florida State’s Outlook in the ACC?
Not much. Florida State or Clemson was the favorite in the ACC this season, and Golson’s decision to transfer might tip the scales slightly in favor of the Seminoles just a bit more. As we mentioned above, Florida State is in transition this year. The Seminoles return only 10 starters and have holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Golson probably won't have a season-defining impact but he is likely worth at least one win for Florida State.
6. Does this Push Florida State into National Title Contention?
As a team, Florida State is better with Golson in the mix. But Golson’s decision to play for the Seminoles doesn’t move this team into Playoff contention. Florida State has enough talent and a favorable schedule to win 10 or 11 games this year. However, becoming a Playoff team will depend heavily on how much the offensive line develops and if the defense improves after ranking ninth or worse in the ACC in the four major categories. Golson certainly helps, but there are bigger question marks for Fisher than the quarterback.
7. Who Takes the First Snap for Florida State in 2015?
This battle will be close. Maguire started his only game against the nation’s top defense (Clemson) last year and had an up-and-down spring game (which doesn’t mean a whole lot). After spending three years in Fisher’s system, Maguire has a clear edge when it comes to knowledge of the playbook. But the guess here is Golson outperforms Maguire and takes the first snap for Florida State versus Texas State on Sept. 5.
The only guy who likes the Ryan Tannehill contract extension more than Tannehill should be Andrew Luck.
The Miami Dolphins locked up their starting quarterback with a massive $96 million deal that runs through 2020 — with $45 million guaranteed.
Tannehill had his best season a year ago under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, throwing for 4,045 yards and 27 touchdowns. The former Texas A&M wide receiver has started all 48 games under center since being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
He's a great athlete, a quality member of the locker room and hasn't had a ton of support in South Florida by way of talent. A first-guy-in, last-guy-out player is exactly what any team wants under center. So he's clearly a good player.
But is he the fifth-best quarterback in the world like his new contract indicates?
It's a lot of money for a guy with a losing record and two more years of team control left on the table. Only Drew Brees ($20.0), Peyton Manning ($19.2), Aaron Rodgers ($18.7) and Tony Romo ($17.1) are averaging more money per year than Tannehill now ($16.0).
The Dolphins' quarterback is just 23-25 overall in his three-year career and has 42 interceptions and 28 fumbles in those 48 games. His long-term value is still mostly unknown compared to the future of a guy like Luck.
Luck has already seen his option picked up by the Colts (duh!), keeping the No. 1 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft under contract for two more full seasons.
Indianapolis would have to be the dumbest franchise in the history of sports to allow Mr. Luck to walk, so an extension is all but assured for No. 12 in blue and white.
The same goes for Seattle's Russell Wilson, but it's Luck who appears to be the surefire Hall of Famer. If Tannehill is worth $96 million, how much is Luck going to cost? $120 million? $150?
And he'd be worth every penny. Is Tannehill worth the fifth-largest contract for an NFL quarterback?
The answer today is no chance.
How many franchises would trade their starter for Tannehill right now? Half a dozen? Buffalo, Cleveland, St. Louis and the Jets for sure and probably Chicago and Houston. But who else? Would the Vikings give up Teddy Bridgewater? Would Jacksonville swap Blake Bortles? Oakland and Derek Carr?
Colin Kaepernick? Sam Bradford? Robert Griffin? Alex Smith?
No, Tannehill is a solid quarterback but has much left to prove. He simply hasn't done anything to prove he belongs in the same conversation as Brees, Manning and Rodgers.
If Marcus Mariota's NFL career is half as good as his commercials, he'll do just fine.
The Titans rookie starred in an awesome Beats by Dre ad, and now in a First Hawaiian Bank commercial. It shows the letter the quarterback wrote in the fourth grade and it seems his dream is finally coming true.
Cal’s blue and gold traditional uniforms could have some extra company in 2015. Pictures of a new white helmet have started to circulate recently, which features the school’s new logo instead of the “Cal” script.
Even if California unveils these for just a game or two, it’s an awesome new look for coach Sonny Dykes’ team.
Needless to say, these helmets have our stamp of approval:
Oh my. pic.twitter.com/QcRZg0kgpY— Terrell Bynum (@TDBynum) May 17, 2015
When healthy, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is one of baseball’s most complete and exciting players. The problem is Tulowitzki is hardly healthy. When Tulo is on the diamond, he is one of the elite, five-tool players in the game and potentially one of the faces of baseball.
There is no question that the four-time All-Star is likely on his way out of Denver, as the last-place Rockies have win just two games in May to this point. The trade chatter surrounding Tulowitzki, 30, has been growing increasingly louder over the past season and a half and could soon come to fruition as the Rockies are falling closer and closer toward a complete rebuild.
Having only played in 140-plus games in a season just three times in his 10-year career, the returns for Tulowitzki’s services are diminishing rapidly — especially after his latest injury leg injury suffered over the weekend and his diminished numbers early in the 2015 season (33 games: .283/.290/.442 .732 OPS, 2 HR, 11 RBI).
The risk-reward factor with Tulo is fluid, but when he’s at his best, it’s hard to find a better player in the game today. Here are four teams that could serve as possible landing spots for the slugging shortstop.
New York Mets
To much surprise, the Mets are currently a game up over the heavily favored Washington Nationals in the NL East. But injuries to franchise player/third baseman David Wright and catcher Travis d’Arnaud have landed the Mets in the bottom third of almost every major offensive category. The Mets are absolutely going to need offense to keep pace with the Nats throughout the summer. Tulowitzki could be the best option for New York, but the current financial shackles on the Mets will limit the amount of Tulowitzki’s contract they are willing to pay.
The $109 million remaining on Tulo’s deal after 2015 will no doubt scare teams due to his injury history. With the Mets owing the oft-injured Wright $107 million over the next six seasons, it’s easy to see why they would be hesitant to sign another high priced 30-year old infielder with health issues and most-assuredly will have to give up at least one of their coveted pitching prospects the Rockies desperately need.
New York Yankees
Currently, the Yanks hold a one game advantage over the Tampa Bay Rays in the very mundane AL East. Tulo could be the piece that puts the Yankee offense over the top, especially with the short Yankee Stadium porch in left field. The Yankees have never been known to build their big league club through their farm system and could be quick to trade their top pitching prospects, Luis Severino and Ian Clarkin, for Tulo’s services.
Tulowitzki would make a great designated hitter, but with A-Rod currently hitting well and being 38 years old, he won’t be moving back to shortstop ever again — Tulo would have to play the field. But the question is where? Would he be willing to slide over to second base and allow for Didi Gregorious or Stephen Drew (assuming one of them isn't part of the trade for Tulo) to play shortstop?
It is unlikely that Yankee GM Brian Cashman will be willing to pay the remaining $109 million left on Tulo’s contract to play shortstop full-time on a roster full of players past their prime. The Rockies are going to have to eat part of that contract, no matter what. Cashman might be willing to take the risk and bring in Tulowitzki as the heir-apparent to the retired Derek Jeter.
Los Angeles Angels
After playing under .500 for the first month of the season, the Angels have found their stride, winning six of their last 10 games. Despite their recent success, LA has been struggling to keep pace offensively with the rest of the AL. With the improvement of Erick Aybar's offensive output (last 11 games: .405/.419/.476 .895 OPS) it is unlikely that GM Jerry Dipoto is going to make a move at shortstop. But with the trade of Josh Hamilton, the Angels need help at DH — Tulo could be the perfect fit.
The Angels, who have a history of giving massive contracts to players in their 30s (See: Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Hamilton), could be willing to bear Tulowitzki’s contract and use him primarily at DH, giving his body the much-needed rest from the stresses of playing shortstop every day.
The M’s are another underperforming AL West team that is desperately in need of offense. Free agent signee Nelson Cruz (.340/.395/.694 1.089 OPS, 15 HR, 30 RBI) has been fantastic, but no other Mariner is hitting above .265, including $100-plus million dollar infielders Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.
One thing the Mariners do have is pitching, and plenty of it. The conundrum is complex for GM Jack Zduriencik. Does he hold on to his young pitching prospects, like Taijuan Walker, and hope that the rest of the bats catch up to Cruz, or does he make the move to bring in Tulowitzki, a two-time Sliver Slugger honoree, to give his stumbling club the kick-start it needs?
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. He can be reached on Twitter @JakeRose24.
The Houston Rockets are riding one of the craziest emotional highs you’ll see in the NBA. Looking dead and done in their series against the Los Angeles Clippers last Thursday night, down three games to two on the road and losing big in the second half, they began a nutty comeback that the league is still wrapping their heads around.
How did we get here? This is the most appropriate question after a whirlwind finish to a series that was about as predictable as divine intervention. The Golden State Warriors, Houston’s new opponent in the Western Conference Finals, are undoubtedly the favorites in the series. But, just as the Clippers’ surge of adrenaline after slaying the San Antonio Spurs turned them into a combustible element, capable of unusual things, the Rockets’ shocking conquest brings more than a dose of volatility into this series.
The Warriors killed the Rockets in the regular season, winning each of their four games by an average of 14.8 points. A 131-106 victory at Houston in January seemed especially damning at the time. But Houston is, in many ways, a new team now. Their historic comeback is the kind of experience that can galvanize a franchise for multiple seasons, and it came with emboldened performances from relatively new pieces like Josh Smith, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer and Pablo Prigioni.
The Rockets’ best weapon against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Co. is not James Harden or Dwight Howard, the pivotal superstar duo whose faces always appear next to the headlines. It’s their depth, particularly with their bevy of lengthy wingmen, who catalyzed their revival against L.A. and who may be asked to take turns guarding Golden State’s world-class backcourt.
The Warriors, however, looked mighty impressive in their closeout of the Memphis Grizzlies, operating as close as they have to their 67-win excellence as they have in the whole playoffs. If they’re hitting top gear at just the right time, it’s likely that no amount of Houston momentum will be enough. Barring the improbable—a busy force these days—Golden State takes this series.
Prediction: Warriors in 6
— John Wilmes
The Pac-12 is one of college football’s top conferences for offense, and the league is loaded with talent headed into 2015. Even with Marcus Mariota leaving Oregon, there’s no shortage of proven options at quarterback, and the skill talent is deep at running back and receiver.
To help pick the top offensive triplets in each of the Power 5 leagues, we devised a simple formula. We ranked the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers and assigned a 12 to the No. 1 player, with the point total decreasing to just one point to the No. 12 ranked player at each position. Only one player from each team was ranked per position.
Ranking the Pac-12’s Offensive Triplets for 2015
Total Points: 29
QB: Anu Solomon (3)
RB: Nick Wilson (4)
WR: Cayleb Jones (3)
Arizona averaged 33.4 points per game in Pac-12 contests last season, and coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense could be even better in 2015. Quarterback Anu Solomon is returning to full strength after suffering from an ankle injury late in 2014. Wilson and Jones are among the Pac-12’s top playmakers.
Total Points: 27
QB: Vernon Adams (4)
RB: Royce Freeman (3)
WR: Byron Marshall (5)
Marcus Mariota will be missed, but the Ducks offense should still remain among the Pac-12’s best. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams replaces Mariota at quarterback, and Oregon’s running back and wide receiving corps are among the best in college football.
Related: Oregon Football Turns the Page from "Emotional" Ending
Total Points: 27
QB: Cody Kessler (1)
RB: Justin Davis (10)
WR: JuJu Smith (1)
The only thing holding USC back from ranking No. 1 on this list is the committee approach at running back. Will someone step up as the go-to back in 2015? Cody Kessler ranks as the Pac-12’s best quarterback, and JuJu Smith should have a huge year as the Trojans’ top receiver.
Related: USC's Cody Kessler is the Pac-12's No. 1 QB for 2015
Total Points: 26
QB: Jared Goff (2)
RB: Daniel Lasco (5)
WR: Kenny Lawler (6)
The Golden Bears ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 (conference-only games) by averaging 37.6 points per contest last year. Don’t be surprised if that number climbs even higher in 2015, as coach Sonny Dykes has a loaded receiver corps, one of the nation’s rising stars at quarterback in Jared Goff, along with an underrated running back in Daniel Lasco.
Total Points: 24
QB: Josh Rosen (9)
RB: Paul Perkins (2)
WR: Jordan Payton (4)
Uncertainty remains at quarterback with the departure of Brett Hundley, but true freshman Josh Rosen is one of the top recruits in the 2015 signing class. Running back Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 with 1,575 rushing yards last season, and receiver Jordan Payton averaged 14.3 yards per reception in conference games.
Total Points: 21
QB: Mike Bercovici (5)
RB: Demario Richard (6)
WR: D.J. Foster (7)
The Sun Devils have a balanced trio and could easily climb this list by the end of 2015. Bercovici has played well in limited action, and Richard is set to have a breakout year as Arizona State’s No. 1 running back. D.J. Foster will slide from running back to receiver to replace the production lost by Jaelen Strong.
Related: Arizona State's Todd Graham Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 Coach for 2015
Total Points: 19
QB: Sefo Liufau (7)
RB: Christian Powell (11)
WR: Nelson Spruce (2)
Expect to see plenty of Liufau to Spruce connections in Boulder this spring, as the Buffaloes ranked third in the Pac-12 with 545 pass attempts in 2014. Liufau is one of the conference’s rising stars, while Spruce tied for the Pac-12 lead with 12 touchdown catches last year. Christian Powell leads the way in the backfield after leading the team in rushing in each of the last three seasons.
Total Points: 18
QB: Travis Wilson (8)
RB: Devontae Booker (1)
WR: Kenneth Scott (12)
If the passing game takes a step forward, there’s potential for the Utes to rank higher on the list by the end of 2015. Devontae Booker is coming off a standout 2014 campaign and ranks as Athlon’s top running back in the Pac-12. Wilson cut his interceptions from 16 in 2013 to just five in 313 attempts last year.
Related: Utah's Devontae Booker Ranks as the Pac-12's No. 1 RB for 2015
Total Points: 17
QB: Kevin Hogan (6)
RB: Christian McCaffrey (8)
WR: Devon Cajuste (8)
The Pac-12’s overall offensive depth pushes Stanford down this list a bit, but the Cardinal has a balanced and effective trio. Quarterback Kevin Hogan finished the year on a high note, and the offense should benefit from a full year of Christian McCaffrey as the go-to running back. Devon Cajuste averaged 16.4 yards per catch in 2014.
10. Oregon State
Total Points: 10
QB: Seth Collins (12)
RB: Storm Woods (7)
WR: Victor Bolden (10)
Solving the quarterback position is new coach Gary Andersen’s biggest task this offseason. Collins enrolled in time to compete this spring and has an edge to start over redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell. Storm Woods should reach 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career, while Bolden is back after leading the team with 72 receptions in 2014.
Related: Oregon State Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake is a Coach on the Rise
11. Washington State
Total Points: 8
QB: Luke Falk (10)
RB: Jamal Morrow (12)
WR: River Cracraft (9)
This is another team poised to climb the rankings if the pieces fall into place. Luke Falk and Peyton Bender are locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback spot, and the receiving corps is loaded with playmakers. Washington State won’t run the ball a ton, but Morrow caught 61 passes last year.
Total Points: 8
QB: K.J. Carta-Samuels (11)
RB: Dwayne Washington (9)
WR: Jaydon Mickens (11)
Second-year coach Chris Petersen has a busy offseason ahead. Washington returns only nine starters, has uncertainty at quarterback and must replace three standout defensive players from 2014. K.J. Carta-Samuels gets a slight edge at quarterback, but Jeff Lindquist and Jake Browning aren’t far behind. Washington rushed for at least 100 yards in three out of his last four games and should see an increased workload in 2015.
Eddie Lacy is pretty good on the field, off of it is a different story.
The Packers running back was at a Next Door Milwaukee charity event and decided to take on the kids in a tricycle race. Big mistake.
Having to be pushed by a little girl is nothing to be ashamed of.
Nobody wants to fight Ronda Rousey, but what would it take for her to ever take on Floyd Mayweather?
The UFC bantamweight champion sat down with Access Hollywood to talk about her role in the Entourage movie, and things got interesting from there. Rousey was asked if she could beat Mayweather, and she kept it brutally honest.
"Well, I will never say that I can't beat anyone," Rousey said. "But I don't think me and him would ever fight, unless we end up dating."
It'll be difficult, but let's make that happen.