Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Five things that caught my eye in the world of sports

For sports fans, the month of May ushers in a wave of excitement: NBA and NHL teams will play out their conference finals in the coming days, the MLB and the MLS seasons are in full swing and NFL teams have started preparing for the start of training camp. Here are five things that caught my eye this week in the world of sports.

  1. The NBA Western Conference Finals are going to be a lot of fun.

After watching Game 1 on Tuesday night, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series will play out. The top-seeded Golden State Warriors are the better team on paper— ranking second in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency— but the Houston Rockets should not be overlooked. The Rockets cruised through the first round of playoffs, defeating the Dallas Mavericks in five games, and then defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the next round, despite an early 3-1 series deficit. The Rockets and Warriors match up well, and their game plans rely on an up-tempo style that depends heavily on smaller, quicker line-ups and three-point shots. Stephen Curry, this year’s NBA MVP, leads the Warriors, averaging 28.7 points so far in the playoffs. The Rockets, on the other hand, are led by James Harden, who finished runner-up to Curry in the MVP voting and averages 26.8 points and 8.1 assists per game this postseason. The Warriors took Game 1 in a back-and-forth, offensive-oriented affair. With Dwight Howard going down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter, the series will be a lot more interesting.

2. The Cleveland Cavaliers look like a championship team, and Lebron James is still really, really good at basketball.

Some things in life are inevitable: death, taxes and Lebron James playing at a high level in the Eastern Conference Finals. James and the Cavaliers defeated the Atlanta Hawks 97-89 on Wednesday night to take the first game of the series. As usual, Lebron dominated all aspects of the game, totaling 31 points, eight boards and six assists. However, the true value of a player like Lebron James can be seen through the performance of his teammates. Enter J.R. Smith, who looked like a shell of himself with the New York Knicks earlier this season. After a trade sent him to the Cavaliers, Smith has gone on a tear. Last night, Smith scored 28 points, setting a Cavaliers’ playoff record with eight three-pointers. His success can be credited to two things— Smith’s brilliant shooting and the greatness of Lebron James. James makes everybody around him better— a trademark of a great athlete and another reason why he is the best player in the league right now.

3. Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the New England Patriots, will accept the punishments handed down by the NFL for their role in “Deflategate”

The New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady received hefty punishments for their roles in the conspiracy known as “Deflategate.” During last year’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, Bob Kravitz reported that 11 of the 12 footballs brought to the game by the New England Patriots were underinflated, allegedly giving the Patriots a competitive advantage. Attorney Ted Wells conducted an investigation after the accusation, and after nearly three months, he found that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots and Brady were “generally aware” that they violated NFL rules. The Patriots received a $1 million fine and lost their first round draft pick next year along with their fourth round pick in the 2017 draft. Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015-16 season. The punishments levied on the Patriots polarized the nation— some people thought the punishments were fair, while others thought the punishments were completely blown out of proportion because of the weak wording and lack of evidence shown in the Wells report. It comes as a surprise to many that Kraft has not appealed these harsh penalties, since most of the blame in the report is shifted towards Brady, who is appealing his suspension.

4. Miami Marlins fire their manager and hire who?

The Miami Marlins fired former manager Mike Redmond after starting the season with a 16-22 record. In one of the most bizarre moves that I have ever seen in MLB, the Marlins hired Dan Jennings— their general manager— to replace Redmond. Jennings has no managerial experience in the major leagues. In fact, the last time Jennings managed a baseball team was 30 years ago, when he was in charge of a high school team. The Marlins have lost their first four games with Jennings at the helm and were outscored 20 to 11 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jennings will manage a Marlins team loaded with big names and former All-Stars, such as Giancarlo Stanton, who just this offseason signed a 13-year, $325 million contract, Ichiro Suzuki, Dee Gordon, Mat Latos and Dan Haren. The Marlins have also projected the return of 2013 Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez in late June, after a year of recovering from Tommy John surgery.

5. The Chicago Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw scored one of the coolest goals. . .  that didn’t count.

In the second overtime of Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference Finals, Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen deflected Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane’s shot. As the puck hung in the air, Andrew Shaw lept and headed—yes, headed— the puck past the goalie. Although it definitely would have counted on the soccer pitch, heading the puck into the net is apparently against the rules in the NHL.

Check back next week to see what happened in the world of sports!

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