2019 GS Warriors – The Human Side of Our Beloved Sports Stars

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With 8 seconds left in Game 5 and the Warriors clinging to a 106-105 lead, Kawhi Leonard held the ball with the intent to score the winning basket and give Toronto its first NBA title in their history. Kawhi was guarded closely by Klay Thompson but when he made a move to the right, Andre Iguadala rushed up to double team Kawhi leaving him no option but to give up the ball. With time running out, Kyle Lowry had an open 3 point shot from the corner. But, Draymond Green ran hard at him with the proper angle and tipped the ball away. Game over, the Warriors stayed alive, and Game 6 will be played at Oracle in Oakland.

As an avid Warrior fan, I thought I would be jumping up and down when Klay drained those two 3’s and Steph also knocked down a 3 and the Warriors outscored the Raptors 9-2 in the final 3 minutes of the game. And I thought I would go wild when Draymond blocked Lowry’s shot at the buzzer. But, I just watched this thrilling ending with a strange calmness as my mind was on Kevin Durant and what he was going through after his leg injury. At the time, I didn’t know the severity of KD’s injury but I did know that we would not see him for the remainder of this 2019 Championship Final.

While watching the post-game interviews, my entire focus was on the status of KD. When Bob Myers broke down at the podium to announce that KD’s injury was to his Achilles, my heart sank. As Bob spoke of the greatness of KD as a player, as a great teammate, and as a wonderful “person” that he was lucky to know, I also broke down. It re-kindled what I always thought about sports celebrities… They are human and have the same emotional drives and feelings just like anyone else. We, as sports fans, focus only on what our sports stars do on the playing field and our idea of them is measured only on whether our teams win or lose. If they get hurt, we expect them to recover as quickly as possible and get back to playing so our teams have a better chance of putting up another W on the board.

I confess that I am as guilty as most other sports fans as I look to sports as a way to relax and get away from thinking about what’s going on in the real world. I wanted KD to come back as his greatness as a player gave the Warriors the best chance to win another title. When KD went down last night, the Raptor fans began cheering his injury which is perfectly understandable as the Warriors without KD gave the Raptors the best chance to win their first title. In the NBA, there is a brotherhood throughout the league. Kyle Lowry and Danny Green urged their crowd to show respect to KD. Only then did the fans began showing their respect.

Professional sports is a multi-billion dollar industry. Since the world revolves around money, our sports stars are under a lot of pressure to win as fans pay top dollars to watch them perform and TV advertisers overpay to get their products out in front of the fans watching their teams. Also, the sports media are paid to sensationalize every angle of every game with special attention given to championship games. As KD was recovering from his first injury in the Houston series, the headlines focused on:

  • If the Warriors win the title without KD, it’ll be his worst nightmare as he isn’t needed for the Warriors to win.
  • If the Warriors win, KD will leave… If they lose, he will stay…
  • KD will not return for this championship series as he doesn’t want to risk getting hurt which will affect his free agency and earn him top dollars in his next contract.
  • The Warriors are confused and pissed off that it is taking KD so long to recover from his initial injury.

Now that KD did suffer a devastating injury last night, the media coverage is all about:

  • The Warriors should never have allowed KD to come back.
  • KD’s injury will have a profound impact on the entire NBA in July when free agency begins. Teams like the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Lakers and others have already made big moves to trade players and clear their team salaries to entice KD to join their team. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent and hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent for KD’s new contract.
  • Which team will still offer KD a max contract knowing that he will not be playing next year and also not knowing if he can fully recover.

There is no media coverage on how KD is feeling as a person. How he feels does not generate interest thus does not generate revenue.

During Bob Myers’ report on the status of KD, he made a point that KD is the most misunderstood person that he knows. The reason that Bob said that is due to the sensationalistic reporting by the media about KD. Many media reporters make up stories about KD which are totally untrue simply to stir up controversy. This is the reason that KD and many other sports stars hate the media. Not all media reporters are bad. They also have a job to do and the better ones do thorough investigating and report on facts. But, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the entire barrel and because sports stars are real people too, many are very reluctant to reveal too much when being interviewed. DeMarcus Cousins said it best when he was interviewed last night about KD’s injury and his critics:

“F— them, f— them,” Cousins said at Scotiabank Arena following the Warriors’ 106-105 win.

Cousins made it clear that he didn’t like the crowd’s initial reaction. 

“Trash,” Cousins told reporters. “So trash. But like I said, we’re idolized as superstar athletes, not human beings. It’s always about what we can do between those lines [on the court]. That’s it. That’s all that ever matters. 

“And then once we lash out and do human-type things, then we’re considered bad guys.”

None of us really know our star athletes on the teams that we cheer for. But, we can get a pretty good idea of what kind of person they are by what they do for our communities, how loved they are for giving to charities, and how loved and respected they are by their teammates and the organization. By these measures, it appears to me that most if not all athletes who play for the Warriors are good people who care for one another and also their community.

Whether the Warriors win or lose this year’s championship, they will always hold a spot in my heart knowing that this is a team that plays exciting ball because they are not only talented but they also care for one another and care about the community that they serve.

2019 GS Warriors – Houston, We have a Problem

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Houston’s biggest problem is the Golden State Warriors!!! Houston’s other problem is that their entire game is based on isolation (ISO) play. Both James Harden and Chris Paul dominate the ball and everyone else stands at the 3 point line. That method of play works perfectly fine during the regular season but when they face the Warriors who have perfected the art of total team play, they are simply over matched.

First order of business is to congratulate the Warriors who played the 4th quarter of Game 5 and all of Game 6 without one of their key All-Stars, Kevin Durant (KD), and this entire series without another All-Star, DeMarcus Cousins (Boogie). With their Core Four (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguadala) and their Strength in Numbers bench, they kept the team in the game in the first half (57-57) even though Steph was scoreless and had committed three fouls. What transpired in the second half of Game 6 was beautiful basketball at both ends of the court by the entire Warriors team. They out-scored the Rockets 36-26 in the 4th quarter crunch time even though the Rockets were playing for their Playoff lives. We saw the 2 time MVP and 3 time World Champion Steph Curry come alive and score an astounding 33 points in the second half with 23 in the critical 4th quarter. Klay scored 27 with 21 in the first half, Andre scored 17 with 5-8 from the 3 point line, and Draymond scored 8 but had 7 assists, 10 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block.

The Strength in Numbers bench:

Kevon Looney had 14 points with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 huge block with the game on the line.

Shaun Livingston had 11 points on 4-6 including 1 monster dunk.

Jordan Bell, who hadn’t seen the court in the Playoffs, had 4 points on 2 huge dunks and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes.

Jonas Jerebko had 2 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists in 12 minutes.

Quinn Cook had 2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal in 15 huge minutes while Steph sat on the bench with 3 quick fouls in the 1st half.

The Strength in Numbers bench scored 33 points but more importantly played great at both ends of the court. In many ways, the bench was the MVP but in reality, the entire team including Steve Kerr was the MVP.

Steve Kerr is a genius when it comes to basketball (Hear that, Kyrie?). When KD went down, he knew he couldn’t rely solely on the Core Four to all play 40+ minutes so he went back to the basic principles that made the Warriors 3 time World Champions… Strength in Numbers team play!!! The so called expert analysts were saying that the Warriors simply can’t win without KD. Since KD joined the team, the Warriors have an astounding 35-4 record when KD doesn’t play. Simply put, this is the reason that they continue to be the Kings in the Game of Thrones.

I’m certainly not saying that the Warriors are better without KD. They are a much better team with him, period. With the promising news that KD’s calf strain is relatively minor, there is a good possibility that he’ll be able to play again within the next week or two. The same can be said about Boogie and Damien Jones. Damien has been out since the beginning of the year with a torn pectoral but is now cleared to play and practicing with the team in 3-on-3 drills. Boogie’s recovery from a torn quad has been amazingly swift and he may be available for the Western Conference Finals. This is especially good news as Denver’s Nikola Jokic has been a beast. But, Boogie has handled him superbly with his own big body. Portland’s big guy, Enes Kanter has also been playing well but Boogie has his number as well. This doesn’t bode well for either Denver or Portland.

Congratulations to the entire Warrior’s organization for keeping a great team together in a time where all other teams are shuffling their personnel and salary caps to try to de-throne them. The Rockets are openly obsessed with beating the Warriors and have made huge decisions in trying to reach their goal. Although they are a very good team, they have failed in their mission.

Follows are tweets by prominent NBA personnel congratulating the Warriors:

LeBron James: Never underestimate the heart of a Champion.

Magic Johnson: Steph Curry is not only one of the greatest shooters we’ve ever seen, he is one of the greatest clutch players the game has ever seen. 33 points in the second half to lead his Warriors over the Houston Rockets…Incredible! Golden State showed why they are one of the greatest and most entertaining teams of all time. The splash brothers were splendid and Draymond Green just showed the world again why he is one of the best all-around players in all of basketball.

Daryl Morey (GM of the Rockets): You come at the Kings, you best not miss. Congratulations.

Morey’s tweet pretty much sums up the Rocket’s futile chase of the Warriors…. “You best not miss”. The Rocket’s entire philosophy is to play ISO ball with two of the very best ISO players in the world, James Harden and Chris Paul. The other players simply camp out at the 3 point line. They best not miss!!! In their do-or-die Game 6, they chose to put the entire game plan on the shoulders of Harden and Paul. Both of these great players did have good games (Harden – 35 points and Paul – 27 points). But their other starters had only 34 points and their entire bench had only 17 points. It really boiled down to 2 Rockets playing against 11 Warriors. I’ll take Strength in Numbers any day of the week.

My opinion only, but I believe that the Rocket’s downfall began when they traded 8 players for Chris Paul, then a year later gave him a huge contract even though he is old and injury prone. The trade netted the Clippers Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and a 1st round pick which turned out to be a very good player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Rockets also gave an average player, Clint Capela a huge contract. Now, they are on the hook to pay a 34 year old Chris Paul $160,000, James Harden $153,000, and Clint Capela over $87,000. This leaves very little $$$ to attract star free agents to their team. They are stuck with the players they have who have proven that they can’t beat the Warriors. My belief only, but if they had kept Beverly, Williams, and Harrell, the Rockets would have been a much more dangerous team. Just as Steve Kerr is a genius coach, the Clippers special advisor, Jerry West, is also a genius who masterminded this monster trade and has put the Clippers in a position to challenge the Warriors going forward. They have great young players with a low overall salary so have the ammunition to attract the star free agents. Remember that West played a key role in putting the Warriors team together.

I’ll let Chris Paul’s and James Harden’s actions speak for themselves. Last year, they stated emphatically that they would have beaten the Warriors had Paul not gotten injured. They never mention that had Andre Iguadala not gotten injured, the Warriors would have beaten them in 5 games. This year, the Warriors beat them with both KD and Boogie injured. No injury excuses please… Injuries are part of the game and teams have to play with the next-man-up philosophy. Both, Harden and Paul have perfected the art of flopping and drawing fouls. Their tactics didn’t work in Game 6 as the Refs called the game as they saw it. Both Harden and Paul walked off the court immediately after the game without congratulating the Warriors… poor losers…. After the game, Harden stated that “They know exactly what they need to do to beat the Warriors”. How about playing team ball and making free throws to start with…. Later, we all found out that Steph Curry reserved the Toyota Center on Thursday night to get some practice in. Chris Paul found out about this, went to the Center and chased Steph off the court preventing him from practicing. Steph tried to compromise with Paul and asked if he can shoot on one end of the court while Paul practiced on the other. Paul would have none of that and chased Steph off the court. After the win, Steph was heard yelling “Chase me off the court again, boy!!!”. We now know a bit more about the character of both Harden and Paul. Now, they both have much more time to make more State Farm commercials… Or, just maybe, State Farm is looking for a new pair of stars for their commercials…

The state of the Warriors look as bright as ever while the state of the Rockets look as bleak as ever… Houston, we have a BIG problem!!!

2019 SF 49ers – Niners’ Monster Free Agency Catches

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At the end of the 2018 season, I wrote a blog asking, “Wouldn’t Dee Ford look good in a Niner Uni?” After their free agency signings and before the NFL draft, I am now asking, “Wouldn’t an NFC Western Division title look good on the Levi Stadium wall?”

My optimism for this “worst-to-first” scenario is attributed to the following:

  • Dee Ford in a Niner Uni has become a reality. The Niners now have a legitimate Edge Rusher. One will never know, but his bonehead play in the AFC Championship game where he lined up off-sides with the Chiefs in the lead with less than a minute left in the game may have played a part in the Chiefs agreeing to trade Ford for a 2020 2nd round pick.
  • Kwon Alexander, the heart and soul of the Buccaneer’s defense, became a Niner and is simply a heat seeking beast that the Niners haven’t had since Patrick Willis. Paired with Fred Warner, the Niners just may have the fastest LB’s in the league. He did tear his ACL last season after achieving All Pro status, but his rehab is reportedly going great. Additionally, the Niner medical team performed a thorough exam on Kwon to make sure that he’ll recover fully.
  • Tevin Coleman is another speedy Running Back who Shanahan knows well as he coached him at Atlanta during their Super Bowl year. Tevin has great hands which is a Shanahan requirement along with his tough and speedy running skills. The Niners now have four RB’s (Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman) who have all run the 40 in 4.1 seconds or faster.
  • Jordan Matthews is the big and strong Red Zone WR that the Niners haven’t had in recent memory. Wouldn’t it be great if he could be nearly as good as John Taylor? It turns out that Jordan is Jerry Rice’s cousin and has been a lifetime Niner fan. He is 6’ 3” and 215 lbs. and has caught most of his passes in the Red Zone, a glaring weakness in the Niner offense for years. Niner fans wanted Lynch and Shanahan to trade for either Antonio Brown or O’Dell Beckham. Rightfully so, they never showed interest in Brown due to his character, age and high salary demands. The Niners did come close to trading for Beckham but were unwilling to give up their #2 draft pick in this year’s draft. I am in total agreement with Lynch and Shanahan. The Niners still have many holes to fill and their 3-5 year plan is to get younger and build mostly from within. Additionally, they are not a team built to throw the ball deep on a regular basis. They are a run-first team with a passing game designed to create miss-matches with TE’s (George Kittle) and the speedy RB’s that I’ve already mentioned above.
  • Jason Verrett is a CB that Richard Sherman thinks highly of. He was a 1st round pick in 2014 but has had multiple injuries including to his shoulder, ACL and Achilles. In his only healthy year (2015), he earned All Pro status. He passed the Niners physical prior to signing and very well could be the starting CB opposite Sherman. Ahkello Witherspoon had a poor 2nd year and must come into this training camp with plenty to improve upon. Tarvarious Moore, on the other hand, came on strong at the end of last year and may be the Niners future at CB.

The Niners did look at available free agent safeties and pursued Earl Thomas. With his age, injury and salary, the Niners made the wise decision to stick with Jimmie Ward and play him at Free Safety. The Strong Safety position will be either Jaquiski Tartt or Marcell Harris who also came on strong at the end of last year.

Heading into this year’s NFL draft, the Niners have already made positive noise in Free Agency. This gives Lynch and Shanahan some options.

There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals may very well use their #1 pick on QB Kyler Murray. If they do, then the Niners in essence will have their #1 pick at their fingertips.

If they stay at #2 and if Arizona does pick Murray, they can pick either Nick Bosa, the consensus #1 Edge Rusher or Quinnen Williams, the consensus #1 defensive end in this year’s draft.

Since they already signed Dee Ford, another option is to trade down with potentially the Raiders (#4), the Buccaneers (#5), or the Jaguars (#7) to gain an additional draft pick in either round 1 or 2.

If they do trade down, a player that I like very much is Devin White, LB from LSU. He is another heat seeking LB. Or, they can possibly get Montez Sweat or Rashan Gary as their Edge Rusher. After all, there isn’t too much separating Bosa, Allen, Sweat and Gary. With their additional pick, they can draft a highly rated WR (N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon, Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell, Hakeem Butler, or Riley Ridley) and use their own #2 pick on a highly rated OL (Cody Ford, Garret Bradbury, Dalton Risner, Elgton Jenkins, Erik McCoy, or Kaleb McGary).

The first two rounds of this year’s draft seem to be filled with talent so whatever decisions Lynch and Shanahan make, I am firmly on board.

Worst to First is the Niner theme for 2019 !!!

2018 SF 49ers – Wouldn’t Dee Ford (KC Chiefs) Look Good in a Niner Uni in 2019 ?

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Dee Ford is an unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 and had a monster year in his contract year. He is the Edge Rusher that the Niners have been needing ever since Charles Haley left the Niners in 1991. Yes, it has been 27 long years since the Niners had an impact pass rusher.

How good was Ford’s 2018 season?

  • He had a league leading 11 QB pressures that directly resulted in turnovers. Putting it another way, the entire Niners defense totaled 7 turnovers and Dee had 11 by himself.
  • Ford’s strip sack of Andrew Luck in the 3rd quarter of yesterday’s playoff game took just 2.54 seconds, the fastest yet of this year’s playoff games.
  • When the Niners played the Chiefs this year, Ford had 7 QB pressures that resulted in 2 sacks and 5 hurries.
  • Dee finished the year with 13 sacks and 46 hurries along with his 11 forced turnovers.

That, my friends, is what is called a monster year in his contract year and he will be commanding a huge payday.

There is this thing called the “franchise tag” which the Chiefs will most likely use to prevent Ford from signing with any other team. So, although Dee Ford would look so good in a Niner uniform next year, the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.

There are other pass rushers who will become free agents this year:

  • Frank Clark (Seahawks)
  • Jadeveon Clowney (Texans)
  • Trey Flowers (Patriots)
  • DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)

These players are all great options for the Niners as well. But, they are also “franchise tag” candidates along with Dee Ford. But, a lot can happen between now and the NFL draft so if any of these great edge rushers are not ‘tagged”, the Niners should pounce on the opportunity to get one of these players.

There are potentially 2 impact pass rushers in this year’s NFL draft, Nick Bosa (Ohio State) and Josh Allen (Tennessee). The Niners are drafting 2nd overall so will be guaranteed a shot at one of these two edge rushers. Again, a lot can happen between now and the NFL draft in late April. If the Niners are able to sign one of the five premium pass rushers mentioned above who have already proven themselves, Lynch/Shanahan may opt for the “best available” player in the NFL draft instead of focusing solely on Bosa/Allen.

This leads me to what I feel would be the dream scenario for the Niners in 2019.

  • Sign one the of five established edge rushers who will be free agents this year with Dee Ford at the top of my list.
  • Instead of drafting Nick Bosa or Josh Allen, draft Quinnen Williams (DT from Alabama). He may be the next Aaron Donald (LA Rams). With Williams, Buckner, Armstead, Thomas and one of the five edge rushing free agents, the Niners may just become one of the best defenses in the league. Teams won’t be able to double team any one of these players so the QB pressures will increase dramatically. The other added benefit is to the Niners defensive backfield. With QB pressures, their coverage time will be reduced and the chance for turnovers will increase.

Other free agents that the Niners should strongly consider are Earl Thomas (Safety from the Seahawks), Landon Collins (Safety from the Giants), Tyrann Mathieu (Safety from the Texans), C.J. Mosely (LB from the Ravens), Anthony Barr (LB from the Vikings), and Chris Conley (WR from the Chiefs).

After picking Quinnen Williams in the first round, their next priority is to pick the best available Corner Back in the second round.  The 2019 draft class is deep at the CB position:

  • Greedy Williams (LSU)
  • Deandre Baker (Georgia)
  • Byron Murphy (Washington)
  • Amani Oruwariye (Penn St)
  • Julian Love (Notre Dame)
  • Kris Boyd (Texas)
  • Trayvon Mullen (Clemson) (Defensive MVP in CFP Championship game)
  • Travon Diggs (Alabama)

As for Wide Receivers, every year, an impact WR emerges who was picked in the middle-to-late rounds in the draft. Lynch/Shanahan have to find that diamond in the rough. I do not recommend that the Niners trade for either Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham as the asking prices will be too high.

Although their record doesn’t show it, the team roster has improved dramatically since they took over. I expect that this trend will continue and the W’s will follow.

SF 49ers – Week 16 Loss – On a Down Year, Shanahan looks Up to 2019

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The Niners closed a disappointing 2018 season at 4-12 with a 48-32 loss to the LA Rams. In spite of an injury ridden year, the Niners saw the emergence of many young players with some even becoming impact players. I view George Kittle (TE), DeForest Buckner (DE), Richard Sherman (CB) and Fred Warner (LB) as having a tremendous impact year. The players who made great strides going into next year are Matt Breida (RB), Raheem Mostert (RB), Nick Mullens (QB), Dante Pettis (WR), Kendrick Bourne (WR), Elijah Lee (LB), and Mike McGlinchy (OT). And of course, the old reliable Joe Staley (OT), had his usual outstanding year. The young defensive backs who were pressed into action due to injuries who may be difference makers next year are D.J. Reed, Marcell Harris, and Tarvarious Moore. Lastly, the Niners will have a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) and Jerrick McKinnon (RB), who missed the entire season with torn ACL’s, back in action next year.

George Kittle set an NFL record with 88 catches for 1,377 yards beating Travis Kelce who had set the record a few hours earlier with 1,336 and Rob Gronkowski with 1,327 in 2011.

The Offensive Line had a solid year. Joe Staley (LT), Laken Tomlinson (LG), Weston Richburg (C), Mike Person (RG), and Mike McGlinchey (RT) have become a stable group. Tomlinson may have suffered a torn ACL in yesterday’s game. This will be a blow to this group. Richburg played almost the entire year with a bad knee. With a year to strengthen his knee, he should come back strong next year.

The Defensive Line has also come together and the Niners now have a solid base. Arik Armstead (DE), Ronald Blair (DE), Earl Mitchell (NT), DeForest Buckner (DE), Soloman Thomas (DT), Sheldon Day (DT), D.J. Jones (DT), and Julian Taylor (DT) give the Niners a solid rotational group. Soloman Thomas, who was miss-used as a DE, started to shine when moved to his position of strength (DT). He is much more effective on the inside due to his quickness and ability to get into the backfield to disrupt runs or passes.

The greatest need for improvement for next year are to find a pass rusher and a true #1 wide receiver. I trust that Lynch and Shanahan will fill these holes either through the draft or via free agency. Their reputation as being player’s coaches/executives have grown. Thus, impact players at these positions may be attracted to joining the Niners.

In addition to player improvements, Shanahan and his coaches must focus on improving these two glaring minuses….

  • They were 0-8 on the road.
  • They created the fewest take-away turnovers in NFL history (7 on 2 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries). They lost the ball 32 times on 20 interceptions and 12 fumbles for a differential of minus 25. This is by far, the worst in the NFL.

The Niners coaching staff will coach the players in the Senior Bowl. Traditionally, the coaching staff with the worst NFL record are assigned to coach in the Senior Bowl. Arizona had the worst record, but, with the firing of coach Steve Wilkes, Kyle Shanahan is next in line. The last time the Niners coached in the Senior Bowl, coach Mike Singletary found a guy named Patrick Willis.

This-n-That:

  • At the conclusion of the season, there are 8 head coach vacancies. Green Bay, Cincinnati, NY Jets, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Miami, Denver, and Cleveland.
  • In the playoffs, watch out for the Indy Colts in the AFC. With Andrew Luck and perhaps the best Offensive Line in the NFL with the addition of Quentin Nelson, they are dominating and opening gaping holes for their RB’s. In the NFC, the Seahawks with the 4th quarter magician, Russell Wilson, will be a tough out.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers remained on the field after their narrow victory rooting for their arch enemy Cleveland Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens. This was their only hope for making the playoffs. Their balloon was burst when the Ravens intercepted Baker Mayfield to end the Steeler’s season. No tears were shed by this writer….

SF 49ers – Week 15 Loss – The Young Defense Holds Potent Bears to 14 Points

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I heaped praise on the young Niner defensive players in last week’s blog and they didn’t do anything to dispel my view of their play. They played great against a very good Chicago Bears team by holding them to 14 points. Yes, they got beat but only on great back-shoulder passes by Mitchell Trubisky. Not even the best corner backs in the leagues could have prevented those catches.

The offense was held in check only because they faced a Vic Fangio defense… one of the best in the NFL. Not only does Fangio have the best personnel in the league, he knows how to scheme his personnel. He has re-made the Monsters of the Midway with his crew. And, since Vic was not given the chance to coach the Niners by Baalke and York, he had a bit more incentive to unleash his Monsters.

The Niners finally won the turnover battle 2 to 1 and had a chance to drive down the field at the end of the game after they forced a fumble. But, on 4th and 4 near mid-field, Nick Mullens rolled out to the right and had clear sailings to pick up the first down, but he got caught up in the moment and flung a long desperation pass down the field which fell way out of bounds. These are the mistakes that he and the Niners will learn from as they head into the last game of the year vs the high powered LA Rams.

This-n-That:

  • Chuckie Gruden traded the best linebacker in football, Khalil Mack, and a young impact wide receiver, Amari Cooper, and got GM Reggie McKenzie fired. The Raiders are now being sued by the city of Oakland for leaving Oakland for Vegas. Mark Davis’ Dad forced the City of Oakland to spend millions building Mt. Davis, a monstrosity upper deck which was never used by neither the Raiders nor the A’s. Al Davis made the building of Mt. Davis a condition for the Raiders to return to Oakland from LA. Mark Davis wasn’t satisfied with Mt. Davis so he demanded a brand new stadium. Vegas was stupid enough to fall for his trap so he is leaving Oakland once again strapping them with unpaid bills and lost revenue. As a topper to the Oakland saga, this week, Gruden signed QB Nathan Peterman who was released by the Buffalo Bills. He was released because in 8 games, he threw for 3 touchdowns but 12 interceptions (5 int’s in one half of one game) with a QB rating of 32.5. He had a perfect QB rating for the opposing team. Fits perfectly with Gruden’s offense.
  • The Washington Redskins released All Pro safety D.J. Swearinger after he bashed his coaching staff in public, something he has done before. But, this is the same Redskin staff who hired Reuben Foster one day after he was arrested for domestic violence (third arrest) and cut by the Niners. It’s this kind of management decisions that keep on getting in the way of the Redskins being able to win.

2018-12-23 – Warriors Beat the LA Clippers in Renewed Rivalry

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The Warriors beat the LA Clippers in a thriller at Roarcle tonight (129-127) on a last second drive by this year’s MVP, Steph Curry. He totaled 42 points while Kevin Durant had 35 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocked shots. They won despite the Clippers pouring in 18 3’s on 23 shots for an NBA record 78.3%. Thanks to Jerry West, he has masterminded some great trades to make the Clippers a legitimate threat to the Warriors. The rivalry today is much better than in the past when the Clippers had Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.

So, how did West rebuild the Clippers? He made a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets by sending Chris Paul to the Rockets and in return got a bundle of great players plus draft picks. Back in July of 2017, I wrote a blog entitled “Free Agency Winners and Losers”. Follows is a recap of what I thought about that trade.

The Rockets got a boost by the Chris Paul signing. Having said that, they had to give up 7 players (Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations). This reminds me of the Hershel Walker trade between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys where the Cowboys got 5 players and 7 draft picks. As we all know, the Cowboys became a dynasty and the Vikings became the Vikings. It is fitting that two ball hogs (James Harden and CP3) are on the same team. They’ll have nobody to pass the ball to but that’ll be fine with them. The Rockets instantly became a worse team and will fall to the middle of the pack in the West.

Since that article, the Rockets got worse as they did not resign Trevor Ariza nor Luc Mbah a Moute, their two best defenders.

West also traded Blake Griffin, Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to the Pistons for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a 2018 first rounder and a 2019 second rounder.

And, he traded Paul Milsap to Denver and Jamal Crawford and a 1st Round pick (from the Houston trade) to Atlanta to acquired Danilo Gallinari from Denver.

Back to the Rockets, they re-signed Chris Paul to a horrible 4 year, $160 million contract. He is 33 years of age and has not been able to remain healthy for an entire year. The Rockets have no more room to attract any more impact players while the Clippers have plenty of salary cap room and may be the front runner in attracting Kawhi Leonard and possibly another super star in 2019.

Looking at the NBA standings as of December 23, 2018, the Clippers are in 6th place in the playoff rankings while the Rockets are in 8th place.

While giving all this praise to the Clippers, they and all other teams in the NBA do not play defense on a consistent basis like the Warriors. This is the ingredient that separates the Warriors from all other teams. NBA teams have done a decent job in emulating the Warriors offense as everyone is now shooting 3’s at an unprecedented rate. Every young player from grade school and up are trying to be the next Steph Curry. Steph has revolutionized the game like nobody else including Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and even LeBron James.

As long as Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green stay together, they will continue to dominate the NBA scene… PERIOD !!!

SF 49ers – Week 14 WIN – The Young and the Restless !!!

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Remember 1981 when the Niners drafted and started Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, and Carlton Williamson? All three were instant starters and along with a skinny legged 3rd stringer named Joe Montana, the Niners shocked the football world by beating the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game (Dwight Clark’s “The Catch” Game) and went on to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl Sweet 16!!!… and the beginning of the Niner dynasty !!!

Fast forward to the 2018 draft class… The Niners drafted Tarvarius Moore, D.J. Reed, and Marcell Harris to improve their defensive backfield. In an injury plagued season, these three DB’s are getting their chance to play and Oh Boy, they are playing and playing well. The defensive play was a key in upsetting Denver and Seattle (both in the playoff hunt) in consecutive weeks. While I’m not saying that these guys can lead the Niners to the “promised land”, I am very much looking forward to next year to see the defense gel and become an important cog in the Niners success.

While we are on the topic of this year’s draft, let’s take a late season look at how they are doing…

  • Mike McGlinchy – Instant starter at Right Tackle and showing that he is one the best rookies at the Tackle position.
  • Dante Pettis – After battling through a knee injury, he is starting to showcase his Wide Receiver skills. He had 5 receptions for 83 yards vs Seattle.
  • Fred Warner – Instant starter at Linebacker and is calling the defensive plays as a rookie. He had 9 tackles (4 solo) vs Seattle.
  • Tarvarious Moore – See above. He had 7 tackles (5 solo) with 2 passes defensed vs Seattle.
  • Kentavious Street – Highly touted Defensive Lineman who tore is ACL prior to the draft but Lynch and Shanahan were so impressed with his talents, they drafted him anyway.
  • D.J. Reed – See above. He had 5 tackles (3 solo) vs Seattle.
  • Marcell Harris – See above. He had 6 tackles (6 solo) vs Seattle.
  • Jullian Taylor – Has earned a rotational spot on the Defensive Line and is playing well. He had 1 tackle vs Seattle.
  • Richie James – Quick Slot Receiver who returned a Kickoff 97 yards for a TD vs the Seahawks.

I would have to give Lynch and Shanahan high grades for these picks as all of them have made the team and are already making contributions. We’ll have to see how they grade out at the end of next year to give a true evaluation of this 2018 draft class.

Once again, undrafted QB Nick Mullens had a great game throwing for 275 yards on 20-29 with 1 TD. He did overthrow Gronk Kittle twice which could have lead to 2 additional TD’s, but those were the only two bad throws he made. And, undrafted Jeff Wilson overcame a fumble that killed a promising drive and a petty  unsportsman-like penalty that took away another potential TD by running excellently for the game winning field goal drive in OT.

As I said last week, I don’t expect the Niners to win any of the remaining 2 games, against playoff teams (the Bears, and Rams). But, I do expect these games to be competitive as the defense has come together and playing their best ball of the year. DeForest Buckner has become a monster. Against the Seahawks, he had 11 total tackles, 7 solo, 2 sacks (11 for the year), 4 tackles for losses, and 3 QB hits. These are Reggie White like numbers.  The O-line has been playing great all year and Nick Mullens’ quick decision making skills will allow the Niners to stay in these games.

This-n-That:

  • The mighty Patriots and Rams have looked like Patsy’s and Lambs over the last two weeks as both are on 2 game losing streaks.The Playoffs will be very interesting this year as I believe that any team in the tournament are capable of advancing. Additionally, no playoff team wants to face either the Colts or Titans if they get into the Playoffs.
  • After beating the Steelers last week, the Raiders lost to the Bengals with a QB named Jeff Driskel? Chuckie Gruden’s winning streak was short lived.
  • Alex Smith was finally released from the hospital after 4 weeks after a horrendous leg injury and infection. Wishing him all the best for a full recovery and hoping to see him in a Redskin uniform again next year. Alex is still one of my favorite players of all time because he is the ultimate team player who spends time teaching the QB trade even if it means that his student will take over his job.
  • Those Niner fans who are calling in to complain about their tremendous win vs the Seahawks and losing out for the #1 overall draft pick next year are losers and not real Niner fans. Lynch and Shanahan are instilling a winning culture and don’t ever want to be associated with the #1 pick ever again.

SF 49ers – Week 13 WIN – George Kittle is the new Gronk !!!

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In their best game of the year, the Niners beat the hot Denver Broncos who had won 3 games in a row and was in the hunt for a playoff spot. Before the game started, the Broncos knew that the Baltimore Ravens had lost, thus opening an opportunity for them to sneak into the playoffs. The Broncos had plenty to play for and had to be confident playing the Niners who had only two wins this entire season. As I said in last week’s post, there is plenty to be optimistic about this Niner team going forward. The young studs on both sides of the ball showcased their talents against a playoff caliber team.These guys are playing for their future as Shanahan told them that the remaining games are important to find out who will be part of the Niners success going forward.

Nick Mullens had a solid game throwing for 305 yards on 20-33 and 2 TD’s. 210 of those yards went to George Kittle which included an exciting 85 yard catch-n-run TD, all in the first half. Kittle is now being mentioned as being in the same class as Gronkowski and Kelce. Mullens also threw a game clinching TD to Dante Pettis. Jeff Wilson had a career high 90 yards in his first NFL start.

Thus, an undrafted QB (Nick Mullens) and an undrafted RB (Jeff Wilson) took apart a very good Bronco defense. But, it was the unsung heroes who won the game for the Niners. The Offensive Line controlled the line of scrimmage against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, two of the best sack artists in the league. Also, the Defensive Line held Phillip Lindsey to 30 yards on 14 carries. Last week, Lindsey had 157 yards and 2 TD’s against the Bengals. Witherspoon and Sherman had good games at the Cornerback position but it was D.J. Reed and Marcell Harris, both Rookies, who had absolutely monster games playing the Safety positions.

With Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon and Raheem Mostert returning next year from injuries and the Niners committed to finding a Pass Rusher and an impact Wide Receiver, they are pointing in the right direction.

I don’t expect the Niners to win any of the remaining 3 games, all against playoff teams (the Seahawks, Bears, and Rams). But, I do expect these games to be competitive as the young players are now strutting their stuff.

This-n-That:

  • After the Raiders beat the high flying Steelers, they fired their GM, Reggie McKenzie. No doubt, there was a power struggle between Chuckie Gruden and McKenzie. With Chuckie beating the Steelers, this presented a perfect time to tell owner Mark Davis that he was in control. With Gruden trading the best LB in the league, Khalil Mack, and also trading an impact WR, Amari Cooper, he is being very Baalke-like in his determination to make this his own team. With only 3 wins this year, time will tell if Gruden can make this team a winner.
  • There is some truth to some team match-up dynamics that simply do not change regardless of whether one team is dominant and the other team just average. One of these cases is between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. No matter how good the Patriots are and how bad the Dolphins are, the Dolphins have the Patriots number. Yesterday was no different as the Dolphins pulled off a major upset with an implausible game winning 69 yard TD with a hook-n-ladder miracle on the last play of the game (34-33).
  • The Golden State Warriors were named Sport Illustrated Sportsperson of the year. They become only the 4th team ever to win this award. The 1980 US Men’s Olympic Hockey team, the 1999 US Women’s Olympic Soccer team, and the 2004 World Series Boston Red Sox team are the only other teams to win this otherwise individual performance award.
    “This is an incredible honor and one that certainly signifies our Strength in Numbers philosophy as a team and organization,” Warriors President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers told The Associated Press. “Our success is due to the contributions of every single player, coach and staff member in our organization; for Sports Illustrated to recognize this unique dynamic is truly special.”

SF 49ers – Week 12 Loss – Losing Streak Remains Intact

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The Niners lost to the Seattle Seahawks big (43-16) to extend their losing streak and remain with the worst won/loss record in the NFL. Having said that, their effort against a good Seahawk team was the best since beating the hapless Raiders back on November 1. Saying that this was their “best effort in a while” can be taken in one of two ways… either they are so bad, that a 43-16 whipping is as good as they can be… or, they are on the right path in becoming a respectable team for the remainder of this year and upcoming years. My view is that they will show effort for the remaining games this year but will continue to lose. But they will gain valuable experience in becoming a respectable team next year.

Following are my reasons for optimism for the Niners:

  • The offense is above average. The Offensive line is solid and consistent. Mike McGlinchy, the Niners 1st round draft pick has turned out to be a great pick. Although very injury ridden at running back (Jerick McKinnon out with an ACL, Raheem Mostert out with a broken arm, and Matt Breida playing through ankle issues all year), the Niners have the 4th best running game in the NFL. Undrafted rookie, Jeff Wilson had his best NFL game on Sunday (61 yards on 15 carries) and will be a valuable rotational back next year. Kyle Juszczyk is the best Fullback in the league. They are set at QB with Jimmy Garoppolo coming back next year and both Nick Mullins and C.J. Beathard getting valuable playing experience this year. Mullins threw for 414 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30/48 passes against a good Seahawk defense. The Wide Receiver position is lacking an impact pass catcher. Dante Pettis had his best game in his young career this week (5 catches for 129 yards with 2 touchdowns with one being a beautiful 75 yard catch-n-run). Kendrick Bourne, Marquis Goodwin, Richie James and Trent Taylor are good but not impact receivers. George Kittle has quickly developed into a Gronk-like Tight End and continues to shine every week.
  • The defense needs an overhaul. Their Front Four is solid with good rotational players (Earl Mitchell, Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, DeForest Buckner, Cassius Marsh, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Day, DJ Jones, and Julian Taylor.) The big missing piece is an impact pass rusher. This is key to their success as the back seven simply isn’t good enough to cover receivers for more than 3 seconds. At corner back, Ahkello Witherspoon is developing but very inconsistent. Richard Sherman is still good but at his age, he may have at most 1-2 more years left in his legs. Jaquiski Tartt is a good but not a great Safety. The younger “back seven” players are worth developing as we don’t yet have a gauge on how good they are or can be because of the lack of a pass rush. DJ Reed, Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris, and Tarvarious Moore are young and worth keeping. Guys like Jimmie Ward, K’Waun Williams, and Antone Exum have had their chances so their tenure with the Niners should end. As for Linebackers, Fred Warner is the only keeper going forward. The linebacking group needs revamping. They need an impact Safety like Derwin James of the LA Chargers and an impact linebacker like Leighton Vander Esch of the Dallas Cowboys. Lynch and Shanahan almost drafted James but decided to go with McGlinchey which was the right choice. Now that the Niners do have a solid Offense, their focus on improvement will be on Defense.

This-n-That:

  • Another revealing piece of news related to Kareem Hunt, the running back for the KC Chiefs released due to a domestic violence incident. Both the Chiefs and the NFL knew about the incident back in February. They were “unable” to get ahold of the video and they did NOT interview either Kareem or the abused woman. Yes, indeed, the NFL did everything possible to do a thorough investigation… NOT !!!
  • Urban Meyer, the Ohio State coach, who hid the fact that his assistant coach was abusing his wife for years, announced his retirement. Most likely because his Buckeyes weren’t selected to the Final 4 NCAA Football Championships.
  • On Friday, Nov 23, Tiger Woods and Phil Nicholson participated in a $9 million winner take all match in Las Vegas. It probably made sense 10 years ago, but not now… Heard it was a boring match which I call the Battle of the Cheaters. One cheats on the course while the other cheats off the course. Of course, the “on course cheater” won…