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September 2012 - Ketel One Vodka Major Championship Challenge Trip to Pebble Beach
By Trenton Jocz, Sports Radio KJR
Winner: Nick Gilbert
Loser: Nerlens Noel
Assuming Cleveland keeps the pick, Noel is the likely choice. How could being the number one pick and going to play with Kyrie Irving be a bad thing? Because he has to play in Cleveland instead of Orlando, that’s why.
Loser: NBA lottery conspiracy theorists
People convinced that David Stern and crew had a couple scenarios to hitch their wagon to this year:
Scenario 1: After Cleveland won the lottery in Year 1 AL (After LeBron) and New Orleans won it the year after losing Chris Paul, Orlando, who had the best odds, wins the lottery as the league pays the franchise back for losing Dwight Howard. They ended up with the second pick.
Scenario 2: The league worked hard, even ran the team controversially, to keep the Hornets/Pelicans in New Orleans and sweetened the deal for new owner Tom Benson by promising him a chance at Anthony Davis last year. It only made sense for Stern and Co. to sign off on delivering a huge marketing boon to the Sacramento fan base right? They finished with the seventh pick, one below their projected pick thanks to Washington leapfrogging into the top 3.
(The most logical retort though: Why rig this year’s lottery? This weak of a draft is the perfect time to throw people off the scent and come back strong next year with Andrew Wiggins, the best prospect since LeBron.)
Winners Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo
Both are shooting guards and with Dion Waiters already in Cleveland, neither of these draftees were in the cards for the Cavs. With Noel the likely top pick regardless of how the ping pong balls bounced, the Kansas and Indiana products wouldn’t have gone #1 anyway and now a team that wouldn’t have selected either in the first place won’t be in a position to bypass them.
Winner LeBron James
This is a win-win scenario for LeBron.
If the much ballyhooed idea of the prodigal son (even though he’s from Akron) returning in the summer of 2014 really does come to fruition, Cleveland winning the lottery just provides more talent to surround him with.
If he stays in South Beach or goes to Los Angeles like so many of the transformational players that have come before him? Well, at least the Cavs got two number one picks (the Irving pick came via the Baron Davis deal, but still) out of him leaving.
Loser: Mock draft prognosticators
2013 is a bad year for mock drafts. Last month’s NFL draft lacked star power and saw its most talented players clustered at the same positions, leading to mocks with the authors essentially admitting they were throwing darts. Next month’s baseball draft, after Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray in some order at the top, is anyone’s guess. Now the first NBA draft without a no-brainer number one since the 2006 draft which saw Toronto take Andrea Bargnani at the top gets even more uncertain with the rumors Cleveland is interested in shopping the pick to accelerate their return to contention.
Winner: Washington Wizards
The Wizards have decided they’re done rebuilding, and while their personnel moves have at times been questionable to say the least, they’re not crazy in that assessment. This was a team that was above .500 when they were healthy and in the East, a team with a winning record is a lock to make the playoffs. They jumped up to third via the lottery process (the top three picks are the only ones pulled in the lottery, while picks 4-14 then go by record) and that’s perfect for a team whose timetable wouldn’t align with the time needed for Noel’s torn ACL to heal.
Loser: The rebuilding teams
Missing out on Noel isn’t a death blow for teams like Phoenix and Charlotte but being able to draft and stash him had a secondary benefit: tanking for 2014. The fabled draft class will presumably include Wiggins, Jabari Parker (the Duke recruit from Derrick Rose’s old stomping grounds, Simeon High School, who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16) and a cadre of other young prospects and the contributions of any rookie from this draft class will just push the team that drafted them further away from the real prize.
Winner: Chicago Bulls
This might seem like an odd choice but for a couple years now, the Bulls had a trump card in their back pocket in the form of a future Charlotte first-rounder. Thanks to a deal involving Tyrus Thomas from when the Bulls were trying to clear cap space for the hallowed free agent class of 2010 they acquired a pick that sees its protection loosen year by year. In 2016 the pick becomes unprotected, meaning the Bulls get the pick even if Charlotte wins the lottery. The key to the value of this pick is Charlotte missing out on Wiggins and this year’s lottery aided in that process, if even a bit. Also, Washington makes sense as a potential suitor for a Luol Deng trade, making their leap up to the third pick beneficial to Chicago as well.
Winner: The Jay Bilas Drinking Game
Not that this changed with who won the lottery, but with Noel at the top, get ready to hear a lot about wingspan.
By Miles Liatos Sports Radio KJR
Chris Williams is the player of the year in college golf after winning the Ben Hogan Award Monday. He is slated to be a PGA Tour player next year as well.
Here’s the kicker: he plays for the UW.
The Hogan Award is considered the Heisman of college golf by the golf community.
Williams joined Mitch today, and said he was excited to go the UW as a freshman in 2010. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion he ever would. Mitch wondered how the UW, where the weather isn’t as golf-friendly as warmer-climate regions, could field the top player in college golf.
He also asked Williams where he would have played hadn’t he come to the UW.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” Williams said. “It was down to some places where I didn’t even really want to go.”
Williams said WSU was an option in where he might play. But that all changed after he met the UW golf head coach Matt Thurmond. Thurmond was the last coach Williams met with in his recruiting process.
“It was just an instant friendship,” Williams said.
Williams said he didn’t get a spot on the team initially. But Thurmond would eventually call the Moscow, Idaho native to tell him there was an opening for him, if he wanted it.
“I didn’t even hesitate. I took it right away,” Williams said.
The senior said it took awhile for him to get on the team because he didn’t believe in himself. But then-senior golfer and now-PGA Tour player Nick Taylor told Williams the UW needed him to win.
But Williams helped the UW do a lot more than win. He gave them the best player in college golf.
By Miles Liatos Sports Radio KJR
Antoine Winfield had a chance to return to the Minnesota Vikings for more money than he may have received anywhere else, but Seattle was still the most appealing option.
Winfield joined Mitch today to talk about his role on the Seahawks. He signed a contract with the Seahawks after the Vikings had released the cornerback and wanted to bring him back at a lower price. Winfield’s salary called for the highest amount he would have ever received with the Vikings, so the team opted out. But Winfield said signing with Seattle was not about money at all.
“I just want to compete for a championship, and I thought my best opportunity was here with the Seahawks,” he said.
The Seahawks will provide Winfield an opportunity to do what he does best: defend the run. He posted a grade of 14.6 in run defense last year, 6.9 points better than the next-best run defender at Winfield’s position, according to Pro Football Focus.
Winfield agreed defending the run is his biggest strength.
“I’m going to leave the big guys (Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner) on the outside where they can run with the Calvin Johnsons and the Brandon Marshalls,” he said. “I’ll man the slot.”
At 36, Winfield is the oldest player on the Seahawks roster. The distinction has helped him to earn the nickname “O.G.” (Original Gangster) from his teammates.
But Winfield isn’t ready to concede to his critics he’s lost a step, he said.
“I’ve been very successful in this league for 14 years and I don’t see it stopping in my fifteenth.”
Check out the whole interview here:
By Trenton Jocz, Sports Radio KJR
March 15, 2012 was rock bottom for the Portland Trail Blazers. They were fresh off a 42 point drubbing at the hands of the New York Knicks, who weren’t yet the fringe contender they are now, the night before. One might have thought the Madison Square Garden roof was leaking as the Knicks rained down 19 three-pointers on the Blazers, and when it rains, it pours. The next day, head coach Nate McMillan was fired.
Sitting at 20-23, the Blazers were going through another disappointing season. Brandon Roy’s all-time great Game 4 performance against the eventual champion Mavericks from the 2011 playoffs became his last stand rather than a reestablishment of a once great career and Greg Oden had long been reduced to a mythical creature who our grandchildren will be convinced was a figment of our imagination, leaving LaMarcus Aldridge as the only remnant of a trio once thought to be the core of a future Western Conference powerhouse. Taking their places were guys like Jamal Crawford, whose game appeared to be in decline, and Raymond Felton, whose waistline looked to be anything but.
Too long, didn’t read? Portland was going nowhere fast.
Rapidly approaching the perilous asymptote that is NBA mediocrity, the Blazers shifted their focus to the future. Looking to unload veterans, they found a more than willing partner for a Gerald Wallace deal in the Nets, a team eager to add established veteran talent in order to secure the return of impending free agent Deron Williams and to make a splash in preparation for its move to Brooklyn. The Nets offered up their 2012 first round pick to Portland for the former All-Star, also a free agent to be. Often teams will put protection on picks to mitigate its upside but the Nets only required top-3 protection for the pick, meaning Portland received the pick so long as it ended up being fourth or lower, a surprising development considering they could have just pursued Wallace in free agency just months later.
Despite the quality of the asset they had just acquired, not even the Portland brain trust could have known how much of the groundwork for their turnaround was laid that day.
Some 700 miles away in Ogden, Utah, Weber State senior Damian Lillard was likely preparing for what would end up being the final game of an illustrious career, a loss in the CIT to Loyola Marymount three days later. He too couldn’t have known how much his future changed that day.
Fast forward over three months and to, ironically, Newark, New Jersey, and Lillard was holding a Portland Trail Blazers jersey taking pictures with David Stern on the stage at the NBA Draft, having just been chosen with the pick from the Wallace deal, the 6th overall selection.
From the get go, Lillard made his mark. On a national stage against the ballyhooed Lakers, Lillard had, well, he can tell the story. Speaking with Mitch, he said, “Even when I played Kobe, because it was the first game of the season I wasn’t in awe. I was just more like, in my head, [thinking] ‘I’m about to really play against Kobe right now.’ First of all, we beat them, and I played a good game. I had 23 points and 11 assists […] It was my first game. I had a lot of family up here to watch and we won it […] How could I forget it?”
He proved to not be a flash in the pan either, maintaining a high level of production all season and avoiding the dreaded “rookie wall.” Of that production, Lillard said, “I surprised myself a little bit. Just as far as the numbers I surprised myself because I expected to come in and have an impact on my team and help us do better than people thought we would but I didn’t think I would get 19 and almost 7 assists.”
Lillard may not have expected to delivered numbers of that caliber, but he answered the call for a Blazers team that shouldn’t have been as close to contention as it was. Portland treated the 2012-2013 season as Year 1 of a rebuild. General Manager Neil Olshey essentially said as much when he noted wanting to get a core in place before building the rest of the roster. Along with fellow 2012 lottery pick Meyers Leonard, the Blazers let players like Victor Claver and Joel Freeland, both former first round picks who had been stashed over in Europe, soak up minutes to determine if they could be meaningful NBA rotation players.
That led to valuable experience for a lot of young players and an extended sample size for the front office to see who fits in the long-term plan, but it also put a large burden on Lillard, who responded by leading the league in total minutes (he finished behind Kobe Bryant and Tom Thibodeau’s personal security blanket, Luol Deng in minutes per game by a razor-thin margin). Portland remained on the edges of playoff contention until late in the season when injuries and a brutal schedule finally dashed their slim hopes.
Lillard, reflecting on the season, said, “I’m a scorer, so I knew that I would score some points but I didn’t set out any goals or anything because I didn’t know what to expect but the opportunities I was presented, how much time I got, how much of an impact I was able to have it really came from my role or the team and much trust they had in me.”
His standout campaign earned him the Rookie of the Year award, and to boot, he became just the fourth player to win it unanimously. How did a kid who played four years at mid-major Weber State accomplish such a feat though?
“The first thing that people get twisted is the fact that I wasn’t the player I am when I got to Weber State. When I got there I got a lot better each year. I improved and I think that was important to me to grow and I think being at Weber State I had a chance to do that because I had the opportunity to play. I had a lot of freedom and at the same time they challenged me to get better and I got better and better and eventually I was ahead of everybody in our conference and the game got a lot easier and then I was able to make the NBA so it seemed like, why is this guy at Weber State? Coming out of high school that’s probably the level I should have been at,” Lillard said.
Lillard may be well on his way towards being one of the biggest names in the league, but that doesn’t mean the Oakland product plans on ditching what got him here.
“I keep my closest friends and family around me because they’re not afraid to stand up to me and tell me when I’m doing something wrong, so I don’t plan on that ever changing,” he said.
That might be the only thing that won’t though, because March 15, 2012 changed the future of the Blazers, and if Lillard’s star keeps rising, it might just change the course of the entire league.
Hear the interview with Lillard in its entirety here:
Geoff Baker joined Mitch in the Morning today to talk about the first three games of the Cleveland Indian series. To give you a picture of how well we have done so far, the Mariners have struck out 28 times, the team has struck out more than they have hits (23)., this according to Mitch.
In the first two games, the Mariners lost at the end of the games. The first one in the 10th inning and the next in the bottom of the 9th, the reason is they cannot hit with runners in scoring position. It seems like that is the theme for the M’s struggles this year is being able to capitalize when they have players on base.
“There getting the guys on base, they really are, they have been for a solid month now and I would be really worried if they weren’t. The problems we’ve had in the past three years have been the constant inability to get guys on base. They were some of the lowest on base totals in the history of the game. They are getting the guys on they’re just not driving them in,” said Baker.
Baker explains that it could be tightening up in key situations, some can be due to luck, but if they’re getting on base he believes they will start bringing the runners in. Don’t expect them to be the best offense in the league, but they will compete.
During this series, the Mariners have struck in the double digits twice, but Baker doesn’t believe it should be looked into as bad as it sounds.
“I don’t mind the stuck outs so much, and if you look around baseball now a days there tends to be less emphasis on the negativity on strike outs as long as you get on base,” Baker told Mitch.
Now we move onto Jesus Montero’s plays on Saturday. The play they talk about happened during the bottom of the 9th with a force out at home. Brendan Ryan makes a great diving effort and throws it home for the out and Montero leaves his foot off of the plate and the Indians win.
When asked what Geoff Baker thought of Montero’s efforts, he simply answered with, “It was no good, it was bad.”
With every negative there are always some positives. One positive and surprise is how well Raul Ibanez has hit during this road trip so far. He has hit five homeruns in five days at age 40.
The Mariners have their last game today and have Iwakuma pitching. They are trying to avoid the sweep and hopefully get back on track and playing like how they were before this road series.