Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/key-injuries-have-dampened-western-conference-playoffs

The Western Conference could’ve been the most impressive pack of title contenders this side of James Naismith, had it not had been for the cruel interjection of fate.


Between the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, the conference now has four championship-worthy squads almost certainly due for premature exits, because of missing or compromised players.


Memphis is the only team in this bunch with all of its players technically active for the postseason, but in Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, Courtney Lee and Mike Conley they have four of five starters who haven’t been themselves for a while. The Grizzlies have stumbled as they approach the postseason, losing six of their last 10 at time of publication and no longer resembling the scary dark horse they were as recently as February.


Just as soon as Houston saw Dwight Howard return to the lineup to anchor their defense’s back line, they lost two crucial pieces of depth for the season: Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverley. Neither are go-to players, to be sure, but without the services of either, Houston has to rely all the more on the creaky Howard and James Harden, and it’s all but inevitable that they’ll end up losing a battle of inches in a seven-game series because they lack that extra boost.


Wesley Matthews had already suffered a season-ending injury for the Blazers when his replacement, Arron Afflalo, came into a shoulder injury last week that could see him miss action in the first round, and will keep him from playing his best ball in any event.


And the Thunder, of course, continue their course as the most talented team that never was. With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out for the playoffs, they run into debilitating springtime injury issues for the third consecutive time since their promising surge into the NBA Finals in 2012.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 11:17
Path: /nba/russell-westbrook-scores-54-points-gets-suspended-crucial-game

Russell Westbrook’s wildly entertaining marathon of MVP-level madness might have both peaked and ended last night.


The Oklahoma City Thunder’s star point guard went berserk, scoring 54 points on 21-for-43 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and eight assists in a crucial loss to the Indiana Pacers, 116-104. The Thunder remain out of the playoff picture after falling behind Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, with just two games to go in the season.


And if they want to beat the Portland Trail Blazers and stay close on New Orleans’ tail Monday night, they’ll likely have to do it without Russ. In addition to his monstrous stat line on the evening, he also gained his sixteenth technical foul of the season, earning him a suspension for the following game. Thunder coach Scott Brooks sounded confident that the penalty would be rescinded, but he may be doing a bit of wishful thinking.


When asked whether he took too many shots in the game, Westbrook said: “Every night I go out and compete harder than anybody else in this league. As long as my teammates don't have a problem with it, I'm good with it.”


With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out of the lineup, it’s hard to argue much with Westbrook’s usage rate. He’s the Thunder’s best option on most possessions, and his coach and teammate know their remaining superstar is the unicorn they have to ride or die with.


But in the end, the final result of Westbrook’s indelible streak (which has included eleven triple-doubles) may be a sort of TKO; a Thunder death caused by the no-fun police, enforcing a rule that favors decorum over competitive intrigue. 


While Westbrook’s demeanor on the court can be overzealous and downright rude at times…. who really cares? And who wins when one of the year’s most compelling players is pulled out of one of the league’s few remaining playoff races, in the season’s final days?


— John Wilmes


Post date: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 09:53
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /monthly/training-tips-keep-your-lower-back-healthy

Los Angeles Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDanielFor millions of Americans, lower back pain is a common occurrence. We asked Los Angeles Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his best advice on keeping the aches and pains at bay. 


Maximize gluteus 

“The stronger you make your glutes (butt), the better you’ll be at bending over to pick things up without hurting your back,” McDaniel says. “I’ll start a rookie with goblet squats or kettlebell deadlifts.” Once mastered, move up to barbells with heavier weight.


More Core 

Your core works as a support structure for your lower back. “Planks, side planks and glute bridges are all good for strengthening your core.” Warm up for your workouts with three rounds of one minute each of those exercises to get your core ready to work.


No Heavy Machinery

If your back is sore, don’t attempt to “strengthen” it by using the back extension machine at your gym. “That machine will likely just break it down more.”


Loosen Up  

If you’re sore from yesterday’s workout, go through a thorough warm-up. “Go through a dynamic movement, hit the foam roller, stretch and warm up thoroughly,” McDaniel says. 


Medicine Ball  

“Medicine ball chest passes and med ball slams” both force your core to tighten and adjust to the weight as you catch and throw it.


—By Billy Brown

Post date: Friday, April 10, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry, NBA
Path: /nba/steph-curry-probably-clinched-mvp-award-last-night

This year’s NBA MVP race has been as close as they come. Between Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, LeBron James, James Harden and Steph Curry, there are six candidates truly worthy of the award. Curry and Harden, however, have been more deserving than the rest, and the hardest part of calling the competition has been deciding between these two.


For most voters, that choice got a lot easier last night. In a 116-105 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Curry led his Golden State Warriors with 45 points and 10 assists, shooting an obscene 17-of-23 from the field (74 percent), including 8-of-13 from beyond arc. This, on the same night that he broke the previous record (his own) for most three-pointers by one player in a season.


Those numbers are baffling, but the sight of how Steph got to them was even more so; the ease of his virtuoso was especially startling last night. Against Portland, he was completing sequences that even other elite NBA players can only dream about executing on an empty floor, with nobody guarding them. Steph dribbled through defensive obstacles like they were tissue paper all night — and especially in the fourth quarter — pulling up to drop smooth mortar into the net from any spot on the court of his choosing.


It was the perfect cornerstone game to display what Curry’s done all year, and show why he’s even more impressive than the amazing Harden. Steph is not only an offense unto himself, but he’s one that you have to account for like it’s an atomic bomb, the second he crosses the half-court line. His immaculate handles mean he can quickly get to any spot, and his shooting range (perhaps better than anyone’s, ever) makes him a threat to score from virtually any of those locations.


Nothing like Curry — the indomitable engine to basketball’s best team — has ever been seen before.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 10, 2015 - 10:27
All taxonomy terms: poker, Life
Path: /monthly/phil-hellmuths-advice-how-win-poker

Getting together with your buddies (or strangers) for a night of poker can be a lot of fun. But it’s considerably more enjoyable when you’re staring down at a huge stack of chips at the end of the night. To elevate your game, we asked World Series of Poker (WSOP) Hall of Famer Phil Hellmuth — winner of 13 WSOP bracelets — to teach us how to dominate at his favorite parlor game, Texas Hold ’em.


Poker great Phil Hellmuth offers tips on winning at pokerFollow the Cardinal Rule

“Texas Hold ’em is patience, patience, patience. If you have to play every hand, don’t play Hold ’em, because you won’t win. The extreme example is to only play my top ten hands, which I introduce in my book Play Poker Like the Pros: sevens, eights, nines, tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings, Aces, Ace/King and Ace/Queen. It’s not the optimal strategy, but you can get into the swing of the game, and that’s great for beginners.”


Big Hands Don’t Guarantee Large Payouts

“I’ve seen a lot of money lost with a hand like a King/Queen because, once the big money starts going in, the opponent usually has a hand that dominates it. When I say, ‘dominate,’ I mean that someone might have an Ace/King or Ace/Queen; therefore, they have one of your cards and a card over your other one.”  


Get the Right Value From Your Hand

“There is no specific hand to go ‘all in’ on because, even if you have the most powerful hand possible, you may be more concerned about getting paid off. If you bet too much, you’ll make your opponents fold.” 

Review Game Tape

“Reading other people at the table is not easy, but every person out there can improve their reading abilities. I would advise someone to watch videos of players without the sound and try to guess what they have based on the way they are acting. To practice, pull up a YouTube video and do this for 10 minutes at your house.”


Employ Smoke and Mirrors

“If you bet 10 times over five hours of play and nobody calls you, then you have to start adding some bluffs. If you get called, they will see you bluffing, which will get you future action. And, if you can get away with a bluff, you’re winning money.”


Ditch the Hats, Shades and Headphones

“I don’t think that all that stuff helps. People want to go and have a nice social experience. But if people know when you are weak and when you are strong, then go ahead and put sunglasses on.”


Know When to Fold ’em

“Going for broke on every hand is a horrible strategy.  A lot of times you’ll have the second- or third-best hand and you’re going to get called by the best hand.” 


Skill Trumps Luck

“A bad player will never beat a good player if they play 10 hours, no matter how much luck is involved. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that poker players can pay taxes as a business because the game is a game of skill.”


Practice, Practice, Practice

“The more experience you have, the better. Some of the online poker players have played more hands in six months than I have in my lifetime. … You can pick up a lot of experience quickly if you’re playing online poker.”


—By Matt McCue

Post date: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Mavericks, NBA
Path: /nba/mark-cuban-thinks-ncaa-basketball-%E2%80%9Chorrible%E2%80%9D

NCAA’s March Madness is wildly popular — but apparently it’s a dance that’s not for everyone.


You can count Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among the curmudgeons of the annual tournament. "It's uglier than ugly,” he said Wednesday night, in reference to many low point totals in recent games. “…it’s evidenced by the scoring going down. When the NBA went through that, we changed things.


“If they want to keep kids in school and keep them from being pro players, they're doing it the exact right way by having the 35-second shot clock and having the game look and officiated the way it is.


"You've got three kids passing on the perimeter. With 10 seconds on the shot clock, they try to make something happen and two other kids stand around. They don't look for anything and then run back on defense, so there's no transition game because two out of five or three out of five or in some cases four out of five kids aren't involved in the play.


"It's horrible. It's ridiculous, it's worse than high school. You've got 20 to 25 seconds of passing on the perimeter and then somebody goes and tries to make a play and do something stupid, and scoring's gone down.”


While Cuban certainly has a point, he seems to be missing the larger one. NCAA hoops are not about the pursuit of an aesthetic basketball purity; they appeal to many, instead, for their raw, emotional qualities. Single-elimination games make for a frequently more exciting product, as does a game played by men too young to all have their feelings in order. 


College ball is not as advanced of a product as what the NBA offers. But to many, it is a more fun one.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 10:35
Path: /golf/golf-experts-poll-who-will-win-2015-masters
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:

Golf's greatest tournament is finally here. Picking a winner in golf is tricky business, but we wanted to know who the experts thought would be donning the Green Jacket come Sunday evening. 



Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander


Who will win the 2015 Masters?

Predicted WinnerVotes
Jason Day3
Dustin Johnson2
Jordan Spieth2
Rory McIlroy1
Jimmy Walker1
Bubba Watson1
No answer1


Comments from our panel"

• "Jason Day is due."


• "I always pick Rory these days."


• "Bubba Watson. It's his course."


• "This isn't Patriots vs. Seahawks. This is 90 people against each other and a course, but I'll give you several possibilities: Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed."


• "Jason Day. He's been close a bunch of times, he's won this year, and he appears healthy going in."

Post date: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 10:12
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /monthly/best-and-worst-sports-supplements-men

Men’s magazines are loaded with recommendations for supplements aimed at hard-core athletes. But are any of them actually effective? And what about the average guy who’s not competing at a high level? We asked Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a nutritional consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, among others. Here’s Bonci’s best advice on what to use, and what to avoid. 


The Best

Omega 3 Fat: “The antiinflammatory benefit and heart healthy benefits will have an impact,” Bonci says. “And it’s really hard to get that much in your daily diet.” If fish oil doesn’t work for you, algae-based Omega 3’s are a good alternative.
Protein Isolate: Bonci favors powdered protein isolates for their versatility. “A protein in powder form will be more versatile,” she says. “You can mix it into oatmeal or in a shake.” You can also choose from different types of protein — whey, casein, etc. “Also, premixed shakes can be loaded with unnecessary calories.”


The Recovery Trifecta: “Ginger, turmeric and boswellia all have really big anti-inflammatory effects,” Bonci says. She recommends ginger and turmeric for combatting delayed-onset muscle soreness after hard workouts, while boswellia is more effective for alleviating muscle tweaks, like a strained hamstring. “Take a mix of the three before bed,” she says, recommending 500mg of ginger, 400mg of boswellia and 1200mg of turmeric. “The effects are faster than glucosamine/chondroitin and it works on a larger population.”


What to Avoid

Energy Shooters:  “The name ‘5-hour Energy’ is really very misleading,” she says. “It’s not calories, it’s a stimulant, so you’ll get a boost for about half an hour and that’s it.” Also, the high concentration of caffeine can raise a heart rate that’s already elevated when you exercise. 

The Cleanses: “I’ve confiscated many of them from my athletes,” Bonci says. “It’s so counterproductive to performance.” Her aversion to the trendy cleanses is due to their diuretic (and diarrheal) properties. “It can totally dehydrate and lead to electrolyte imbalance.”

Growth Stacks: “Avoid anything you see like animal pack or growth or anabolic on the label,” she says. “It probably won’t do what it says, and it’ll be adding a hormone to the body,” which affects its ability to make its own hormones. “Protein isolate will do a lot more and it’ll cost you a lot less.”


—by Billy Brown

Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 20:00
All taxonomy terms: food, Life
Path: /monthly/eat-fan-bbq-bacon-wrapped-jumbo-shrimp-recipe

Everyone likes bacon, right? Well, here’s a new way to ingest it and make you look much fancier than you actually are. These can be served as hors d’oeuvres for a romantic dinner at home or on a paper plate to be devoured in sweatpants alone on the couch. (Probably the latter.) Add BBQ sauce and jalapeño peppers to taste and enjoy the fruits of your labor — which should take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Here’s the recipe for BBQ bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp:


Step One | Pregame Prep

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Place rack over large foil-lined baking sheet


Step Two | Makin’ Bacon

1. Arrange uncooked bacon on rack
2. Bake bacon about 8 minutes, until partially cooked but still pliable
3. Drain bacon on paper towel-lined plate


Step Three | BBQ Time

1. Combine barbecue sauce and olive oil in medium bowl
2. Add jumbo shrimp to bowl
3. Coat jumbo shrimp in barbecue sauce


Step Four | Wrapper’s Delight

1. Wrap each jumbo shrimp with a half-piece of bacon
2. Arrange bacon-wrapped shrimp on rack
3. Bake 10 minutes — until shrimp are cooked and bacon is crisp


Step Five | Overtime Options

1. Run toothpick through shrimp
2. Slather in barbecue sauce
3. Add fresh jalapeño 


    24    Jumbo shrimp — peeled and deveined, tails on
    12    Bacon slices — cut into halves crosswise
    6    Tablespoons barbecue sauce
    2    Tablespoons olive oil
    1    Jalapeño — sliced to garnish (optional)


Baking sheet, Baking rack, Medium bowl, Toothpicks

—Recipe by Laraine Perri 

Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 17:20
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/did-%E2%80%9Cback-future-part-ii%E2%80%9D-successfully-predict-anything-world-sports

Did “Back to the Future Part II” successfully predict anything in the world of sports?

—Biff T., Las Vegas, Nev.


Good question, Biff — if that is your real name. When Marty McFly and “Doc” Brown time travel in the 1989 cult classic "Back to the Future Part II," they go all the way to the year 2015. So, the future is now. In the movie, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series over a Florida team with an alligator mascot. Since the release of the film, the Sunshine State has landed two MLB teams — the Miami Marlins (1993) and Tampa Bay Rays (1998). But the Cubs have not won the World Series. Maybe this year? Nike will also sell the self-tying sci-fi shoes worn by Michael J. Fox in the film. And the infamous “Left Shark” from Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX halftime show looks suspiciously like the hologram billboard shark from the movie. But still no functional hover boards… even in 2015.


Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 16:02
All taxonomy terms: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Nick Young, NBA
Path: /nba/byron-scott-says-he-wouldn%E2%80%99t-want-be-foxhole-his-lakers-roster

The Los Angeles Lakers are facing a crucial offseason. After missing the playoffs — and not even whiffing them — for two straight seasons, they’ve got a lot of work to do if they’re going to come close to living up to their dazzling franchise legacy.


Head coach Byron Scott seems to already have a pretty good idea who he doesn’t want back in 2015-16. "I got a sense of a whole lot of them I wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with," Scott said about his roster, after Lakers practice on Monday. "I think they'd end up shooting me in the back. So I've got a pretty good sense of the guys that I think are going to be around, that we will build around, build together in this process and go through it.”


Statements like this one have been par for the course in contemporary Lakerland. The current Los Angeles squad is a comic disaster, with $24 million in salary committed to an icon who doesn’t play, Kobe Bryant, and a lot of media attention shifting to Nick Young, who’s better at being a celebrity than he is at playing basketball.


Rational Lakers optimists have two chief hopes heading into the summer:


1. That the team’s history and heraldry, in combination with the appeal of living in L.A., are going to be enough to lure big-name free agents to the Lakers.


2. That the front office is not buying what it’s selling the fanbase, and is in fact employing Scott and his roster in a covert tanking effort. No tanking team says they’re tanking, and Lakers fans are praying that they’re one of the league’s intentional losers, and haven’t actually compiled this army in an earnest attempt to win. Because if they have, then the future doesn’t look bright.

— John Wilmes
Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 15:15
All taxonomy terms: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
Path: /nba/anthony-davis-pelicans-beat-warriors-after-trash-talk

You shouldn’t give Anthony Davis any extra motivation. The 22-year-old is, by any measure, as good as any 22-year-old has ever been in the NBA, and he’s all but carried an awkward, poorly coached New Orleans Pelicans roster into a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference.


Last night, we got a preview of the potentially fierce first round matchup Davis and New Orleans would face, against the Golden State Warriors. Davis took words said by an unnamed Warriors player to heart. "They came out and said it was going to be a scrimmage game," Davis said in a TV interview after the game, a 103-100 Pelicans win. "We kind of took that personal.”


"I don't know who said it,” Davis said. “We don't want to be this pushover team, guys come in and do whatever they want. That's how we want to look at ourselves.”


Davis was his usual sensational self in the game, gathering 29 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in the cornerstone victory.


Warriors skeptics may look at the last few days and see some slippage. After getting trounced by the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, they lost to an inferior Pelicans squad Tuesday after what could be seen as a stroke a hubris.


More likely, Golden State is just finally displaying some signs of malaise after having their foot on the pedal all season and racing out to a historically dominant record. The Warriors have had the West’s top seed locked down for a while now, and they may be getting a bit bored by the spate of exhibition games standing between them and a title run.


But if they draw Davis in the first round — a scenario that looks more likely with every Oklahoma City Thunder loss — they’ll have a compelling initial challenge on their hands.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 10:52
All taxonomy terms: Phil Mickelson, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-experts-poll-will-phil-mickelson-ever-win-another-major
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:

After a winless 2014, Lefty's game seems to be rounding into shape just in time for The Masters, where he's at his most comfortable. But major championship wins are hard to come by for guys in their mid-40s who are also battling arthritis. The heart says yes, he can win another one, but what do smart observers of the game say? We asked some.



Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander


Will Phil Mickelson ever win another major?
Yes          6
No           4

Maybe     1


• Yes, the U.S. Open this year.


• Augusta National suits lefties, and if he has one magical putting week, he can win another green jacket.


• He has one more in him.


• Yes, Mickelson has given some back that he should’ve won.  Mickelson will for the next 3 to 5 years always have a chance at Augusta, but the other majors are close to out of his reach.


• He has a better chance to win one than Tiger, but he’s also older and history shows you don’t win majors at Phil’s age.


• His British Open performance at Muirfield tells me never to count him out, but it’s getting late early.


• Phil came close once more at the PGA last year, but couldn't hold on. That has happened more times than not when he was been in contention. He's at an age now where it seems unlikely he will be in contention many more times.


• No. He's 45.


• The window has closed greatly on Phil, but the view here is he's got one more in him.

Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 10:26
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/tiger-woods-injury-history-visual-break-down

Tiger Woods has suffered an alarming litany of injuries, to the point that we have to wonder whether he’ll ever be truly 100% healthy again. As he prepares for this year’s Masters, we look back on the “break down” of this iconic athlete. 


(Click image to enlarge)

Tiger Woods Injuries

Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 10:16
All taxonomy terms: Rory McIlroy, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-1-rory-mcilroy

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 1: Rory McIlroy


Born: May 4, 1989, Holywood, Northern Ireland | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 (10 on European Tour) | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 4 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,883,785 (1st) World Ranking: 1

2014 Key Stats:

      Strokes Gained, Total: 2.266 (1st)

      Driving Distance: 310.5 (3rd)

      Par-4 Performance: -39 (1st)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

McIlroy, should he win The Masters at age 25, will be the second-youngest player to complete the career grand slam. Of the five men who have won all four of golf’s major championships, Ben Hogan completed the slam when he was 40, Gene Sarazen was 33, Gary Player was 29 and Jack Nicklaus was 26. Only Tiger Woods, who completed the slam at 24, did so at a younger age then what Rory is now. Of those five, three players — Hogan Nicklaus and Woods — completed the slam by winning the Open Championship; Player did so at the U.S. Open in 1965; and only Sarazen completed the slam at The Masters when he won in 1935. Unlike the other majors venues, which rotate from year to year, Augusta National is the home of the Masters, so Rory has the rest of his career to conquer one course and join the most exclusive club in golf.

But there is a reason he has not won The Masters. Rory is a streaky putter but not a great one, and in particular he struggles on really fast greens, which are the distinguishing feature at Augusta National. In the last four years he has averaged more than 30 putts per round at Augusta, and his 125 putts en route to an eighth-place finish in 2014 equaled his worst performance on the greens all year, matched only at the U.S. Open. Nor is Rory great around the greens; he finished 88th and 145th in scrambling the last two years, respectively, and invariably even the best ball-strikers miss upwards of 20 greens through four rounds in vying for the Green Jacket.

But the primary reason why Rory is likely to struggle in getting the fourth leg of the career Grand Slam is his tendency to miss left, and there is a severe penalty for missing left at Augusta. An even greater penalty, though a less obvious one, comes with the timidity that plagues a player who is prone to left misses. At Augusta it’s not the hook that kills you — it’s the fear of hitting the hook. This fear shows up on the par 5s, where Rory made five bogeys last year and played them even par, eight shots worse than winner Bubba Watson, who finished eight shots ahead of Rory for the tournament. It is no coincidence that Ben Hogan didn’t win the Masters until he was 40 years old — a few years after he learned to play the game without the fear of hitting a hook.

The Masters aside, 2015 will be another great year for McIlroy, who has done what everyone is trying to do from a fitness standpoint. In increasing his flexibility and strength, his swing has gotten longer and faster. As a result, Rory has improved his clubbed speed every year he’s been on tour, making his driver one of the most lethal weapons in golf — which, combined with his mile high irons, makes him a threat to accumulate wins at a rate reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his prime.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 25
Wins: 4

2014 Performance:
Masters - T8
U.S. Open - T23
British Open - 1
PGA Championship - 1

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T8 (2014)
U.S. Open - 1 (2011)
British Open - 1 (2014)
PGA Championship - 1 (2012, '14)
Top-10 Finishes: 10
Top-25 Finishes: 15
Missed Cuts: 4


—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 10:12
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-best-kentucky-alumni

On the heels of Kentucky’s nearly perfect season, we rank the school's best alumni now in the NBA.


13. Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons

One of only two players on this list with a championship ring, Prince was once of the very best wing defenders in basketball. Now, he’s a 35-year-old journeyman with a bank of knowledge that any locker room would be lucky to have.


12. Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors

Patterson has found a home in Toronto after bouncing around with with the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League. This season, the big man has been an invaluable defense-stretcher with his 37 percent shooting from beyond the arc.


11. Jodie Meeks, Detroit Pistons

The Pistons’ sharp shooter earned himself a $19 million contract with Detroit over the summer—one that turned some heads—by having an excellent season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the Nashville native is a key piece of a Pistons squad with a promising future.


10. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder

Enes Kanter loves playing for the Thunder. After languishing in the thick of a log-jammed Utah Jazz front court, his trade to OKC has seen him develop uncanny chemistry with Russell Westbrook, and become one of the most productive down-low scorers in the league. Look for Kanter, an upcoming free agent, to lobby for a longer stay in Oklahoma.


9. Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets

The Rockets’ young power forward has struggled with some scary health issues, including a collapsed lung and some recurring nerve problems. But the former NCAA champion (with the 2012 iteration of the Wildcats) is a freewheeling terror when he’s healthy, and a big X-factor for this title-contending Houston squad.


8. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns

If Knight has indeed found a landing place in Arizona—after a mid-season trade from the Milwaukee Bucks—it’s a fitting one. Alongside fellow Wildcat of the past Eric Bledsoe, he could make up one half of one of the league’s most exciting young backcourt duos.


7. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks

Rajon Rondo certainly isn’t what he used to be. The only other NBA champion on this list (with the 2007-08 Boston Celtics), he’s seen a huge decline in his scoring ability, including a dip in free-throw percentage that’s frankly hard to believe. But Rajon still possesses an elite gamer gene, and could surprise some people anew in a Mavericks postseason run this May.


6. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets

One of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, Kidd-Gilchrist has failed to reach the proper level of attention from fans due to a mismatched Hornets roster that’s too short on shooting to do much winning at all. Perhaps one day, though, MKG’s tenacious efforts will find a better context.


5. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are widely criticized for eschewing functional talent in the name of future, asset-based goods, but in Noel they have themselves a blooming winner. As a rookie, he’s already one of the fiercest rim protectors in the NBA, with terrific hair to boot.


4. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

Bledsoe, like Kidd-Gilchrist, has seen his star fade some for reasons beyond his control. The off-court mayhem that has been the Suns’ season has robbed us of a playoff run from Phoenix and “Mini LeBron,” the full-court terror that is Bledsoe. Don’t be surprised to see him shutting down other elite point guards in the years to come, though.


3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins is the most compelling big man talent in the NBA. His mixture of bullying post moves, deft footwork and outside shooting makes him essentially unguardable when he’s on. If Sacramento can provide him with some coaching and roster consistency… watch out.


2. John Wall, Washington Wizards

Wall has developed into more than an All-Star in his fifth season. The Wizards’ superstar is one of the very best players in the game, matching his speed and instincts with a new court vision that takes Washington to another level at times. If his team decides to can his underachieving coach and replace him (maybe with John Calipari?), Wall will quickly invade even more living rooms.


1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

The Brow is the future of the NBA—but he’s the present, too. As a 22-year-old, Davis is already a bonafide MVP candidate, reaching the rare air of a 30.0 player efficiency rating in just his third season. There’s truly no precedent for how good this guy can get.


— John Wilmes

Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 15:34
Path: /nba/joakim-noah-wants-face-lebron-cavaliers-playoffs

Things haven’t gone exactly as planned for the Chicago Bulls this season. With the return of Derrick Rose, the additions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic and the continuity between reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and hard-charging coach Tom Thibodeau, many slotted them in as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.


Rose, of course, is injured again — though believed to be close to a return — Thibodeau’s job is in question, and Noah hasn’t been himself for much of the season after knee surgery over the summer. The Bulls can still surge into the NBA Finals, but in the eyes of most analysts they’ve taken a distinct backseat to the Atlanta Hawks, and the team who beat them Sunday afternoon 99-94 — the Cleveland Cavaliers.


But outside perception (and even scoreboard results) don’t seem to change the Bulls’ swagger. “I think we're a confident group," Noah said after the game. "And it would be great to play [the Cavs] in the playoffs. It would be very, very exciting, something that I really hope happens.”


This, of course, after Noah called LeBron James some nasty words amidst the heated contest. Feast on this, lip-readers:


Noah also stoked an old fire, by clowning on the city of Cleveland — a place he finds very boring. "This is a great place to play basketball," he said. "Other than that, there's not much else to do. But when you get onto that court, it's a great place to play basketball. That's as much love as I'll give to Cleveland.”



If the Bulls and Cavs do indeed meet in the playoffs, there will be one clear winner: us. This is a fun, old-school rivalry, with major characters who have genuinely negative feelings for each other, and a ton of personality on both sides of the court. This is not to mention the potentially terrific level of play, if Rose comes back in effective form.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 10:39
All taxonomy terms: Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/clone-golf-experts-poll-game-trouble-if-tiger-never-regains-his-form
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:
Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental? - See more at:

The media frenzy surrounding the decision to play The Masters of a player who hasn't won a major in seven years is a clear indication that Tiger is still the game's dominant figure. But what if he never finds his game again? Can golf survive on a crowded sports landscape? Athlon asked the experts for their opinions.



Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander


Is the game in trouble if Tiger never regains his form?
Yes    6
No     5



• It (the game’s popularity) will never again be what it was at Tiger's peak.


• Whenever he is in contention, TV ratings soar. America either needs a great rivalry ... Rickie Fowler vs. Rory McIlroy? ... or great individual - Jordan Spieth? - to emerge.


• He was the ONLY needle. The PGA Tour can tells us it won’t hurt, that the Tour will be just fine, but you can’t say a drop in TV ratings, hits on websites for stories won’t suffer. Outside of the majors, Tiger is the only one that got on the front pages of major newspapers.


• No. The spectacle of the circus coming to town, and the importance of the majors, will always be of more value than any individual.

The game was fine before Tiger and will be fine after Tiger. He gave the game a huge spike, because he transcended the sport and bring in casual observers. Some of them have stuck around and golf is better for it. But the game remains a niche sport and will also appeal to those who are avid about it.

• The game's popularity is stable. Whether it continues to reach a broad audience without Tiger is questionable.


• No, the professional game is strong with or without Tiger. It’s the other game, the one where you go out and play with your friends, that is in trouble with or without Woods.


• Certainly it won’t help without Tiger, but the game isn’t going anywhere. There are plenty of young stars who have shown potential to do great things over the next two decades. There may never be another Tiger Woods, but that doesn’t mean that four or five men doing great things can’t help sustain interest.


• The game's popularity already is in trouble. Tiger impacts audience, but the game has been losing popularity for years.


• Yes, because be brought in the non-golfers.


• Yes, it is in trouble with the general sports fan.

Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 10:09
All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-2-adam-scott

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 2: Adam Scott


Born: July 16, 1980, Adelaide, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 11 (9 on European Tour) | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,098,588 (13th) World Ranking: 6

2014 Key Stats:

      Par Breakers: 24.18% (2nd)

      Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders: 55.88% (1st)

      Approaches from 100-125 Yards: 15’8” (2nd)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Scott will be the object of a lot of scrutiny this year, the last in which he’ll be able to use an anchored putter, as he will inevitably have to begin testing alternative methods for 2016. He has said, however, that he will use the long putter until he has to change. If that is the case, then I don’t expect much to change in Adam’s game this year from the previous four. Since 2011, when Adam first went to the anchored putter in majors, he has six top fives in the game’s biggest events, and in two of those years, 2012 and 2014, he did not finish worse than 15th in a major, something Tiger Woods has managed to do only three times in his career (2000, 2005 and 2007).

Scott is the game’s most consistent performer as evidenced by his Tour leadership in consecutive cuts made and the All-Around category at the end of the 2014 season. He simply does not have a weakness. In an age where players seek high launch-low spin numbers to maximize distance and suffer with accuracy off of the tee, Adam does not give into this trend. He has the power to have much more control with low launch-high spin tee shots and then the ability to adjust and hit green-grabbing, towering irons. At 35 of years of age, turning 36 in July, Adam is in the prime of his career, when experience, talent and ability are at their peak, and nobody in golf is better equipped to do more this year than he is.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 55
Wins: 1

2014 Performance:
Masters - T14
U.S. Open - T9
British Open - T5
PGA Championship - T15

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2013)
U.S. Open - T9 (2014)
British Open - 2 (2012)
PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 13
Top-25 Finishes: 26
Missed Cuts: 15


—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 09:59
Path: /nba/spurs-spank-warriors-late-season-statement-game

Last week, we told you the San Antonio Spurs were back in championship form. Over the weekend, they confirmed this theory emphatically.


Their 107-92 thrashing of the league-leading Golden State Warriors was never close. Kawhi Leonard made the Warriors’ usually impeccable offense look helpless against the veritable giant quid he creates with his long, relentless arms — Leonard had seven steals in the game. And the Spurs’ passing has rarely been as gorgeous as it was yesterday; with their thrilling chain reactions of ball movement they find open men that even the most expert of viewers have a hard time noticing.


The Warriors have enjoyed a 63-win season largely by being smarter than anyone they face. From their terrific coaching staff — including Steve Kerr and major luxury assistants Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry — to their role players, Golden State has a very impressive brain trust. But San Antonio showed us yesterday that theirs is probably better. They had the Warriors’ moves figured out before they were made, on both sides of the ball.


They were also able to thwart the Warriors’ scintillating perimeter shooting perhaps better than anyone has all year. Golden State shot just 9-for-28 from beyond the arc in the contest, with Steph Curry ultimately getting his (5-of-10 from deep for 24 points overall) but with Klay Thompson being held to just six points, and Harrison Barnes a mere four.


The loss is a reality check for the Warriors. As excellent as they’ve been all season, they need to be even better to take down a dialed-in version of the 2014 champions. Golden State might be making history this season, but the title is still the Spurs’ to lose.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Justin Rose, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2015-majors-no-3-justin-rose

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2015 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.


No. 3: Justin Rose


Born: July 30, 1980, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 6 (7 on European Tour) | 2014 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2014 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,926,768 (15th) World Ranking: 11

2014 Key Stats:

      Strokes Gained (Tee to Green): 1.505 (4th)

      Bounce Back: 25.14% (4th)

      Approaches from 175-200 yards: 29’1” (3rd)


Brandel Chamblee's Take

Rose has won in each of the last five seasons on tour, and it seems he plays his best golf on the best courses, winning at revered venues such as Muirfield Village, Aronomink, Congressional and Merion Golf Club. His great ball-striking is most rewarded where tee-to-green mistakes are hard to overcome. If his putting were anywhere close to his ball-striking — he hasn't finished better than 108th in Strokes Gained on the greens in the last three years — he would be higher placed on this list. Also of some concern is his inability to play links golf courses well, evidenced by only one top 10 in The Open Championship in his career, and that came when he was a 17-year-old amateur. Given the links nature of three of this year’s four majors — and one could argue that Augusta National falls into this category as well — Justin will need to find a more imaginative game in the inevitably windy conditions if he is to add to his one career major championship. Majors aside, Justin’s win streak will not come to an end any time soon; his swing and attitude are simply too good not to serve him well for many more years.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 43
Wins: 1

2014 Performance:
Masters - T14
U.S. Open - T12
British Open - T23
PGA Championship - T24

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T5 (2007)
U.S. Open - 1 (2013)
British Open - T4 (1998)
PGA Championship - T3 (2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 8
Top-25 Finishes: 22
Missed Cuts: 14


—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2015 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Billy Horschel, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 10:02
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-predictions-2015-national-league

Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season is here with the San Francisco Giants in place as defending World Series champions for the third time in the last five seasons. There is no lack of National League teams aiming to knock the Giants from their perch, starting in their own division. The NL West was transformed during this offseason thanks to a flurry of trades.


The team to beat in the Senior Circuit could come from the NL East, thanks in part to the addition of Cy Young winner to an already formidable starting rotation. And the NL Central could end up being the toughest division in all of baseball, depending on the healthy return of some key players and how one new manager fares with his young charges.


Related: 2015 American League Predictions


Here is how Athlon Sports sees the NL shaking out in 2015, including a look at the leading candidates for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.


2015 National League Predictions



NL East

NL Central

NL West






Wild cards: Pittsburgh, San Francisco





World Series




NL East Breakdown

The Nationals made the biggest splash in free agency this offseason, signing Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner gives them a starting rotation built for October. However, postseason success has eluded Washington to this point, and a rash of injuries during spring training has only added pressure to the team many are expecting to not just get to the World Series, but win it. Elsewhere, the Marlins and Mets bear watching as both teams hope the return of their aces from Tommy John surgery can propel them into playoff contention. The Braves began their rebuilding project in earnest this offseason while everyone is still waiting for the Phillies to do the same.


NL Central Breakdown

This could end up being the most competitive division in the majors, as it’s not out of the realm of possibility that both wild card teams come from the NL Central. While the Cardinals and Pirates remain the class of the division, the Cubs, Brewers and Reds are each capable of defying expectations and emerging as a playoff contender. Chicago’s extensive rebuilding project overseen by Theo Epstein and company could finally bear fruit with manager Joe Maddon and ace Jon Lester among the new faces for an organization that has a wave of talented prospects waiting in the wings.  Milwaukee’s fate is largely tied to the health of Ryan Braun’s right thumb, while Cincinnati is hoping for bounce-back years from the likes of Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey.


NL West Breakdown

The Giants are the reigning champs, but the Dodgers revamped their infield in their continued pursuit of getting back to the World Series. No team was busier this offseason, however, than the Padres, as first-year general manager A.J. Preller overhauled his roster through a series of trades, landing Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers (and Craig Kimbrel on Sunday), as well as signing free agent workhorse starter James Shields. The Diamondbacks just want to get off to a better start this season, while the much of the focus on the Rockies will be on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Will either or both All-Stars finish their season on the DL and/or with another team?



1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

The runner-up last season, Stanton is the reigning NL home run champion and could get the extra benefit of playing for a team in playoff contention. As long as he stays healthy, Stanton’s numbers should be MVP-worthy with better lineup protection (Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Mike Morse added in offseason) around him.

2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

4. Buster Posey, Giants

5. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

6. Bryce Harper, Nationals

7. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

8. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

9. Anthony Rendon, Nationals

10. Carlos Gomez, Brewers


NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

The winner three of the past four years and the reigning NL MVP to boot, the Cy Young probably belongs to Kershaw as long as he stays healthy. Don’t forget he missed more than a month last year and still placed the majors in wins (21), ERA (1.77) and complete games (six).

2. Max Scherzer, Nationals

3. Madison Bumgarner, Giants

4. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

5. Johnny Cueto, Reds


NL Rookie of the Year

1. Kris Bryant, Cubs

The best prospect in baseball will start in the minors, but it shouldn’t be long before he takes his place in the heart of the Cubs’ lineup. Bryant should still get more than enough at-bats and hit enough tape-measure home runs to get the votes at season’s end.

2. Joc Pederson, Dodgers

3. Jorge Soler, Cubs

MLB 2015 National League Predictions
Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/mlb-2015-american-league-predictions

The American League champion has won just one of the past five World Series. Will the 2015 MLB season produce a different result for the Junior Circuit? Last season, the Kansas City Royals put an end to their 29-year playoff drought in dramatic fashion, venturing on a magical postseason run that came just one game shy of winning it all. This season, the Royals figure to have a tough road just to get back to the playoffs, as they must navigate a crowded AL Central.


The AL East features a little bit of everything – a team that spent big in free agency this offseason, one that’s pinning their hopes on several young players, another that’s hoping their aging superstars can turn back the clock, and a franchise that’s going through a makeover both on the field and in its front office.


The AL West has seen plenty of change too, as one team that’s made it to the playoffs three straight years could take a few steps backward in 2015, while the team that strung together three consecutive 100-loss campaigns from 2011-13 is slowly making its way back towards respectability.


Related: 2015 National League Predictions


Here is how Athlon Sports sees the AL shaking out in 2015, including a look at the leading candidates for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.


2015 American League Predictions



AL East

AL Central

AL West






Wild cards: Cleveland, Seattle





World Series




AL East Breakdown

From last place in 2012 to World Series champs in ’13 and back to the basement last season, Boston is looking to go from worst to first yet again. The additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval along with the emergence this spring of dynamic leadoff hitter Mookie Betts gives the Red Sox the deepest lineup in the majors. Now it’s up to the pitching to hold up their end of the bargain. Elsewhere, defending division champion Baltimore stood relatively pat, while Toronto is banking on several young, unproven players and the addition of third baseman Josh Donaldson to end its 21-year playoff drought. Derek Jeter has retired, but the Yankees don’t lack for veteran leadership, while Tampa Bay is under new management both on and off the field, and could struggle to score runs in support of the Rays’ underrated starting rotation.


AL Central Breakdown

Detroit has won the last four division crowns, but don’t be surprised if this ends up being a four-team race. The Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but neither are getting any younger and underwent surgery in the offseason. Justin Verlander will start the season on the DL, putting even more pressure on David Price, and the bullpen is suspect at best. Cleveland looks to have the pitching, fronted by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and finished off by closer Cody Allen, so it will be up to the offense to take care of the rest. Chicago was the most aggressive team in the offseason, adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera to its one-two punch of Cy Young contender Chris Sale and MVP candidate Jose Abreu. Kansas City was the story last season, but the Royals lost more than they added and will rely on their pitching, defense and team speed even more in 2015. Minnesota should be a better team, but this may not be reflected in the win column due to the depth of this division.


AL West Breakdown

Los Angeles is still smarting from last year’s brief playoff stay, but the Angels have a pair of MVPs in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to lead their offense and appear to have enough pitching and depth to defend their division crown. Seattle has its own award contenders in Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, and has added enough pieces that should make the Mariners a thorn in the Angels’ side all season long. Texas is healthier, but has already suffered a big blow in the loss of ace Yu Darvish (Tommy John surgery). If Prince Fielder and Shin Soo-Choo bounce back and Adrian Beltre stays productive, the Rangers should at least surpass last year’s win total (67). Houston may not be able to match it’s 19-win improvement from last season, but the Astros have plenty of budding superstars that bear watching, starting with Jose Altuve and George Springer. Oakland won the division in 2012 and ’13, but this is a completely different A’s team, as GM Billy Beane cashed in on most of his valuable assets this offseason in hopes of building a team that can contend for many years in the future. In other words, don’t be surprised if the A’s take their lumps in 2015.



1. Mike Trout, Angels

Trout won his first MVP award after two runner-up finishes his first two seasons, and he did so with arguably his worst numbers (.287-36-111, 115 R, 16 SB). Just 23 years old, the sky is seemingly the limit for the best player in the game.

2. Robinson Cano, Mariners

3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

4. Jose Abreu, White Sox

5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

6. Michael Brantley, Indians

7. Victor Martinez, Tigers

8. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox

9. Adam Jones, Baltimore

10. Adrian Beltre, Rangers


AL Cy Young

1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

The 2010 recipient finished a close second to Corey Kluber last season despite posting career-bests in ERA (2.14), strikeouts (248) and WHIP (0.915). As long as he stays healthy, Hernandez should receive enough offensive support to challenge his high-water mark for wins (19 in 2009).

2. David Price, Tigers

3. Chris Sale, White Sox

4. Corey Kluber, Indians

5. Alex Cobb, Rays


AL Rookie of the Year

1. Rusney Castillo, Red Sox

Similar to NL Rookie of the Year favorite Kris Bryant, Castillo will start the season in AAA. However, the only thing that stands between the Cuban import and the necessary at-bats to flash his power/speed potential is 34-year-old Shane Victorino, who underwent back surgery in August.

2. Steven Souza, Rays

3. Dalton Pompey, Blue Jays

MLB 2015 American League Predictions
Post date: Monday, April 6, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-power-rankings-april-edition

1. Golden State Warriors (62-13)

The Warriors are winning at a rate that puts them up there with the best squads in league history, and the question of whether they’re title favorites need to be answered with a clear “yes” by now. The real ask is whether you’d take them or the field to win the Finals.


2. Atlanta Hawks (56-19)

The Hawks have been laggard for weeks, but that all seems to be part of coach Mike Budenholzer’s plan. They’re a napping giant, resting their bones, and they’re still the team to beat in the East.


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (49-27)

LeBron James and Co. look better with every day, and only Atlanta appears good enough to beat them in the East. A seven-game series between the two might see Cleveland take the super-talented pieces of their game to an unbeatable stratosphere, though.


4. Houston Rockets (52-24)

James Harden’s MVP campaign is the spearhead at the center of the Rockets’ surprising season. And with Dwight Howard back as the defense’s final line, they seem like the team to meet Golden State in the conference finals.


5. San Antonio Spurs (49-26)

A rejuvenated San Antonio squad is the biggest remaining threat to the Warriors’ throne. The defending champs have regained form behind the amazing play of Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, and it should surprise no one if they shock the world in the playoffs.


6. Los Angeles Clippers (50-26)

Chris Paul is having one of the least noticed MVP-worthy seasons within recent memory, and the Clippers’ starting five remains one of basketball’s very best units. They’ve still got glaring holes all over their bench, though.


7. Memphis Grizzlies (51-24)

After looking the part of a championship fighter for much of the season, the Grizzlies have underwhelmed since the All-Star break — they essentially been a .500 team. Memphis hopefuls are praying that the postseason will ratchet their intensity back up.


8. Portland Trail Blazers (48-26)

The Blazers have won a surprising amount of games with Wesley Matthews out for the year. But the numbers (and the eye test) have turned out terrible results for their defense without Wes, and their Western Conference peers will know just how to attack them in the postseason — on the perimeter.


9. Chicago Bulls (45-30)

The Bulls continue to struggle through identity issues and fall short of the ideal dream their hyper-talented roster offers. But if they reach their ceiling in the playoffs, watch out.


10. Toronto Raptors (45-30)

The Raptors might be on the verge of an overhaul, if they experience another first-round exit this spring. General manager Masai Ujiri isn’t one to sit on his hands with a middling collection of talent.


11. Dallas Mavericks (46-30)

Rajon Rondo is starting to look like his scrappy, creative old self as the postseason approaches, and that’s great news for the Mavericks. Now if only they could get Monta Ellis in the right mood…


12. Washington Wizards (42-33)

John Wall is one of the best point guards in the game, but it’s hard to see him overcoming his coach’s strange, nostalgic court vision and a mediocre, aging supporting cast to push Washington deep into the second season.


13. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-33)

How far can Russell Westbrook’s insanity take the Thunder? Without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka… probably not very far, especially seeing as they’re likely to draw the Warriors in the first round. But it’s still impossible not to get drunk on Westbrook’s inspired play.


14. New Orleans Pelicans (40-34)

Anthony Davis has had as good of a season as any 22-year-old ever has. Maybe next year, he’ll have the coach and supporting cast to help him take New Orleans Pelicans to the postseason.


15. Utah Jazz (34-41)

The Jazz have had arguably the NBA’s best defense since the All-Star break, and things are looking way, way up for them as soon as next season.


16. Milwaukee Bucks (37-38)

Time will tell whether the Bucks made the right moves at the trade deadline, reshuffling the deck of their youth. For now, though, they’ve lowered their ceiling demonstrably.


17. Miami Heat (34-41)

Goran Dragic hasn’t been the shot in the arm to the Heat’s offense that they were hoping for, but they’ve still got enough firepower to make things interesting in a likely first round matchup with LeBron and the Cavs.


18. Phoenix Suns (38-38)

The future is dubious for the Suns, who’ve had a tragic, tough-to-stomach season by losing Dragic and an unheard-of number of games decided in the waning seconds.


19. Brooklyn Nets (34-40)

The Nets are a team about nothing, with management more concerned with saving lost money than making playoff noise, and no visible plan for team-building success in place.


20. Boston Celtics (34-41)

The Celtics are the friskiest, most fun candidate for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot. Of all the cores fighting to get blown out by the Hawks, the one with a progressing Marcus Smart is the most compelling.


21. Charlotte Hornets (32-42)

The Hornets, like the Nets, are stuck with a bunch of questionable investments, and look to have no way out of them anytime soon. Optimism isn’t easy, here.


22. Indiana Pacers (32-43)

Paul George’s return looks less and less likely every day, and there’s really no reason for it as Indiana falls further and further away from postseason contention.


23. Orlando Magic (22-53)

Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo have established themselves as perhaps the most exciting young backcourt in the NBA. Now the Magic need to solidify the future with the right coaching hire this summer.


24. Sacramento Kings (26-48)

DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most intriguing talents in the game, and he deserves a consistent culture to grow in. Hopefully George Karl can finally provide that for him next season.


25. Detroit Pistons (29-46)

Stan Van Gundy has tinkered with his roster a ton this season, which has resulted in a lot of inconsistent play. But he’s shown an encouraging knack for player development.


26. Denver Nuggets (28-47)

The Nuggets, like the Magic, need to nail their coaching hire to get fans excited again. A lot is resting on what they do during this offseason.


27. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-59)

The Timberwolves are right where any young team should be: at the bottom of the standings, ready to add another potent piece to their already terrific farm of talent through the draft. The future looks real fun up north.


28. Philadelphia 76ers (18-58)

Nerlens Noel isn’t getting enough attention in the Rookie of the Year race. He’s been on a tear that puts him among the very best rim protectors of the game, but the constant moral outrage over the Sixers’ tanking endeavor has covered it up.


29. Los Angeles Lakers (20-54)

What’s new, here? Nothing. The Lakers are terrible, and the only way out seems to be another big-name signing in free agency. Does L.A. still have enough glamorous appeal to pull one off?


30. New York Knicks (14-61)

The Knicks are awful, and Phil Jackson has his work cut out for him to prove he’s the man to shift their sorry trend. If New York still sucks in 2015-16, will his legend start to diminish?


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 15:09
All taxonomy terms: Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/golf-experts-poll-are-tigers-problems-mental-or-physical

Tiger's decision regarding The Masters dragged on into the 11th hour, much like waiting through a boring Oscars telecast for the Best Picture announcement. We finally know that he will, in fact, be on hand for the season's first major.


Although he's decided to tee it up at Augusta National on Thursday, he's clearly not the steely-eyed golf machine he once was, having displayed an all-too-human vulnerability to an aging body and decaying confidence. We never thought we'd say this, but we hope he doesn't embarass himself come Thursday.


Athlon polled a number of golf insiders on a variety of topics, but we start with this question: Are Tiger's problems primarily physical or mental?



Jay Coffin, Editorial Director, Golf Channel, @JayCoffinGC

Jason Deegan, Senior Staff Writer and Golf Advisor with The Golf Channel online, @WorldGolfer

Steve DiMeglio, USA Today, @Steve_DiMeglio

Bob Harig, ESPN, @BobHarig

Dan Jenkins, Author, Golf Digest Contributor, @danjenkinsgd

Garrett Johnston, Golf journalist, @JohnstonGarrett

Dave Kindred, Golf Digest, Sports on Earth Contributor, @DaveKindred

Alex Miceli, Senior Writer, Golfweek, @alexmiceli

Dan O’Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Dave Shedloski, Golf World, @DaveShedloski

Art Spander, Global Golf Post, @artspander


Are Tiger's problems mental or physical?
Mental       4
Physical    1
Both          6


• Started mental as the scandals ended his aura of invincibility and led to a loss of confidence in every aspect of his life, even the swing.


• He's worn out between the ears after nearly two decades of carrying the game on his shoulders.


• Mental. Everybody but him seems to know it.


• It's 90 percent in his head and 50 percent physical. Yeah, the math doesn't add up, but that's how I see it.


• He will never be 100% healthy physically, but his mental game pulled him through. Now with his mental game in flux his game in general is substandard.


• He’s in a vicious circle right now. He needs to play a lot of golf to get out of his funk, but his body isn't healthy enough to do that.  


• Based on his play this year, he obviously has some confidence issues. He admits to being less focused than he was in the past and his physical problems hinder his ability to practice, much less play frequently. Not a good combination.

Both, I believe. If you have back or knee troubles, in golf or baseball (or tennis), well, they are games of swinging. And once doubts creep into the mind, you have what you had in Phoenix, the former greatest golfer in the world  chili-dipping and blasting long. That's a man untrusting of his game at the current time.


• Both. His back problems might be better, but he was still away from the game for long period of time and he needs to practice. In the meantime, he changed coaches, altered his swing and saw those problems creep into his short game. For one of the best ever around the greens, it is surely more than physical. There are issues of confidence and doubt that have come along with all the other changes.


• Tiger's struggles are more physical than mental. His inability to perform physically is hurting the mental part, however.

Post date: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 10:51