1/31/21: Wizards won a thriller vs. Brooklyn after wild comeback in the final 10 seconds
The Nets appeared to be on their way to a fifth consecutive win when Kyrie Irving converted both free throws to put his team up 146-141 with 12.3 seconds remaining. However, Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook had other plans. Washington’s backcourt duo hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a wild 3.8-second span in the final seconds to take a 147-146 lead. Beal’s free throws with under a second left sealed the stunning 149-146 win over the Nets.
Westbrook (41 PTS, 10 REB, 8 AST) played his best game as a Wizard by far, while Beal, the NBA’s leading scorer, dropped 37 points to improve to 34.9 PPG on the season. The two combined for over half of Washington’s points as the 4-12 Wizards will need this level of play from their two stars on a nightly basis to climb out of the basement of the Eastern Conference. DC got their first win in three weeks with half of their wins this season coming against the Eastern Conference favorite Brooklyn Nets in two epic shootouts.
A career game from Joe Harris (30 PTS, 8-13 3PT), who’s costly turnover led directly to Westbrook’s game-winning 3-pointer, wasn’t enough for Brooklyn (13-9), playing without James Harden due to a thigh contusion. Kevin Durant, the clear Comeback Player of the Year, had another brilliant performance with 37 points while Irving finished with 26. The loss further highlights the Nets deficiencies on defense, as Brooklyn must improve in that department either through effort or more acquisitions if it wants to make a serious run at a title.
1/30/21: Rams & Lions swap former No.1 picks Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford
A day after the St. Louis Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado trade rocked the baseball world, the former St. Louis Rams and Lions announced a blockbuster deal involving their franchise QBs that sent ripple affects throughout the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams sent Jared Goff, their 2022 and 2023 first round picks, along with a third round pick in the upcoming draft to Detroit in exchange for Matthew Stafford. With the dust settled, here’s a look at how each team made out.
For the Rams, just two seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance, it is a clear upgrade at quarterback, even though they got older at the position by swapping Goff, 26, for Stafford, who turns 33 in February. It was a high price to pay, as LA is now on track to make it seven straight years without a first round pick (2017-2023). By trading Goff, LA will also take on a dead cap hit of $22.2M in 2021, but will wind up saving $12.75M. Stafford will bring 2y/$43M left on his deal, a reasonable price to pay. The 2009 former No. 1 overall pick could be the missing piece that elevates this talented Rams squad into a true championship contender.
It was inevitable that Stafford would be traded this offseason, as his frustration after another losing season was publicly known. In return for trading their franchise QB, DET landed Goff, who in 2017 and 2018, looked to be a rising star under Sean McVay, but has since regressed, leading the front office to openly talk about a future without the 2016 No. 1 overall pick. Goff will start an expensive 4y/$134M contract with $110M guaranteed this season. It is clear that Detroit will be hitting the reset button after adding draft capital, hiring a new head coach and GM in Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes, respectively, and now bringing in a new QB in Goff.
Honorable Mention: Dame drains GW over Bulls; Lakers-Celtics comes down to the wire
1/29/21: The Cardinals acquired superstar 3B Nolan Arenado from the Rockies in blockbuster deal
In a deal that sent shockwaves throughout the baseball world, the St. Louis Cardinals landed Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies. In exchange, the Rockies are expected to receive LHP Austin Gomber, RHPs Jake Woodford & Angel Rondon, 1B Luken Baker, and OF Jhon Torres. Colorado will also pay $50M of the 6y/$199M remaining on Arenado’s contract. It may take a few days to become official due to Arenado’s no-trade clause that must be waived and his opt-out clause after the 2021 season that may need to be reworked. The MLB and MLBPA will also need to approve the trade due to the large sums of money involved.
Arenado, 29, dealt with a shoulder injury for much of 2020 that limited him to just 8 HRs and 26 RBIs in 48 GP. Despite his subpar season, the 5x All-Star and 4x Silver Slugger remains one of the game’s best hitters, averaging 35 HRs and 114 RBI per 162 GP for his career. He is also considered perhaps the best defensive third baseman in baseball and one of the most valuable gloves regardless of position. An 8x Gold Glove winner (one in each of his eight seasons) and a 4x Platinum Glove winner, Arenado brings amazing defense and an impact bat to a team that ranked 28th in runs scored during 2020, lifting STL to among the top-tier in the NL.
1/28/21: Rockets overcome 20-point 1st Qtr deficit and Dame’s big performance for the win
With the Rockets trailing 30-10 with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter, it appeared that the Trail Blazers were on their way to an easy win. However, from there to the end of the third, Houston had the upper hand, outscoring Portland 76-47. After the Blazers took an 88-86 lead on a 9-0 run of their own to open the fourth, both teams traded buckets in a back-and-forth final 10 minutes. In the end, though, Houston was able to complete the comeback on newly-acquired SG Victor Oladipo‘s clutch layup to extend the lead to three points with 26.2 seconds left. Subsequent team free throws secured the 104-101 victory for the Rockets.
Houston has now won four straight and are 5-3 since trading James Harden (3-6 before). Further, all three losses are without John Wall, who missed the games due to left knee soreness. Their defensive rating has surged from 111.1 (22nd in the league) with Harden to 102.7 (ranked first) in the eight games since the blockbuster trade. If Wall can stay healthy and the team continues to focus on the defensive end, Houston can be dangerous. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard‘s 30-point, 9-assist night wasn’t enough for Portland (9-8), who was without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers now fall to the West’s eighth seed after their second straight defeat.
1/27/21: Tobias Harris drained GW-FG to end the Los Angeles Lakers 10-0 road start to 2020-21
The top teams in each conference took the floor Wednesday night when the West-leading Lakers visited the East-leading 76ers. Philadelphia looked like the better team most of the night, leading from early in the first quarter on until 11.2 seconds remaining thanks to Anthony Davis‘ made layup from a LeBron James assist to give LAL a 106-105 lead. That basket capped a 13-0 run that began with just over three minutes remaining with the Lakers trailing 105-93. The lead was short-lived, though, as Philly’s Tobias Harris drained a 15-foot jumper with 3.0 seconds remaining to lift the 76ers to a huge win over the defending champs.
Harris, in the midst of arguably his best season as a pro, finished the night with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 2-of-4 on 3-pointers. Through 16 games played, Harris is averaging 20.1 PPG on an efficient 52.5 FG% and 46.1 3P%. Philly’s other two stars had big nights as well, with Joel Embiid adding 28 points while Ben Simmons registered a 17-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, his third of the season. The win keeps PHI (13-6) atop the East and improves their home record to an NBA-best 10-1, while LA (14-5), who had their 10-game road win streak to open the season snapped, fell to second in the West behind the red-hot Jazz.
1/26/21: Philadelphia re-signing J.T Realmuto headlined a big day in MLB Free Agency
Phillies re-signed C J.T. Realmuto:
Among the many notable moves to occur on Tuesday, none were more significant than the announcement of Philadelphia’s deal to bring back their All-Star Catcher on a record-breaking contract. The 5y/$115.5M deal carries an average annual value of $23.1 million, topping former Minnesota Twin Joe Mauer’s annual salary of $23 million as the highest ever for a catcher. Realmuto, who will turn 30 in March, was acquired by the Phillies in 2019 from the Marlins in an inner-division trade.
In his first season in Philadelphia, Realmuto hit .275 with 25 HRs and 83 RBI, earning his second straight All-Star appearance along with his first Gold Glove and his second Silver Slugger award. He followed up his best season in the majors by hitting .266 with 11 HRs and 32 RBI in 47 games during the shortened 2020 season. Realmuto re-signing is massive for a Phillies club looking to finally get over the hump with Bryce Harper and make the postseason for the first time since their five straight appearances from 2007-11 that included a World Series title in 2008.
Blue Jays landed 2B Marcus Semien:
Marcus Semien’s market was hard to gauge. He had an amazing MVP-caliber season with the A’s in 2019, but that was the only year he’s been well above-average offensively. Semien hit .285 with 33 HRs and 92 RBI while playing all 162 games for Oakland that season. However, his previous career highs playing at least half a season were .257 in 2015 along with 27 HRs and 75 RBI, both in 2016 (hit .238 that season). His production took a nose dive in 2020 when Semien hit a career-low .223 with 7 HRs and 23 RBI in 53 games while struggling with a rib injury.
The Blue Jays were intent on making big moves this offseason and have now officially done so with their trio of George Springer, Kirby Yates, and now Semien. The 1y/$18M deal is low-risk for the Jays, who will be hoping that Semien can regain his 2019 form, but if he doesn’t, they will only be stuck with him for one season. With Semien’s addition and likely improvement from a down year, Toronto’s lineup will have improved greatly. They will also no longer have to rely on Vlad Jr. moving back to the hot corner where he struggled defensively as a rookie as Semien will move to 2B with Bichette at SS, forcing Cavan Biggio to take over 3B.
Twins added SS Andrelton Simmons:
The Twins have signed SS Andrelton Simmons to a 1y/$10.5M deal. The 4x Gold Glover, who had played his previous five seasons with the Angels, will be an immediate upgrade defensively for Minnesota, especially after Jorge Polanco’s poor defensive performance at SS in 2020. Simmons’ defense is so highly thought of that he has received MVP votes three times during his career strictly because of his success on that side of the ball. He also has a decent bat, hitting .269 with 67 HRs and 406 RBI over nine years in the MLB. His addition gives MIN ultimate depth, and strengthens what was already one of the best benches in the MLB.
1/25/21: King James WENT OFF in the 4th Qtr during his return to Cleveland
LeBron James had his best night of the season in his first game back in Cleveland in more than two years. James registered a season-high 46 points along with eight rebounds and six assists while shooting a ridiculous 19-of-26 from the field and hitting 7-of-11 3-pointers against the Cavaliers. He was even more special in the final frame. Trailing 89-87 entering the fourth quarter with the game on the line, LeBron took over, exploding for 21 points while only missing one shot (9-10 FG). James’ incredible performance helped propel the Lakers to the 115-108 win.
Monday night’s result vaulted Los Angeles back into first place in the Western Conference with a 14-4 record. The defending champs also improved to 10-0 on the road, further extending their franchise record to open a season. To this point, Los Angeles looks like the class of the league and the clear-cut favorites to repeat. What must be even more disheartening for opponents, though, is that LA appears to be better than last years’ squad that dominated its way through the playoffs with a 16-5 record en route to the franchise’s 17th NBA title. It’s all spearheaded by the aging King who has yet to show any signs of decline.
1/24/21: Chiefs-Bucs win Conference Championships to set up Mahomes vs. Brady Super Bowl
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will square off in Super Bowl IV on February 7th. It will be Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes in the QB battle of a lifetime as the two will go head-to-head at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Brady and Mahomes have split their four previous matchups. Brady won the lone playoff game between the two in an OT thriller in the 2018 AFC Championship game. The Chiefs and Bucs faced off in the 2020 regular season, a game that saw Kansas City defeat Tampa Bay 27-24 on the road. With the legendary matchup now set, here’s a look at how the teams got to this point.
The Bucs finished the season 11-5 and in second place in the NFC South, earning the fifth seed. They defeated Washington in the Wild Card round, the Saints in the Divisional round, and then upset the top-seeded Packers and likely MVP Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game. The Bucs took a 28-10 lead on the Packers early in the third quarter before hanging on to win 31-26 after GB HC Matt LaFlauer’s questionable decision to kick a FG instead of attempting to tie the game on 4th & Goal with just over two minutes left. Tampa is now looking to become the fourth team in NFL history to win three road playoff games and the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs, winners of the AFC West at 14-2, earned the top seed in the conference for the third straight season along with a first round bye. They hung on to beat the Browns in the Divisional round after Mahomes was forced to leave the game due to injury, and then dropped the Bills in the AFC Championship game. After trailing 9-0 early, Kansas City righted the ship and dominated Buffalo behind the trio of Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, and WR Tyreek Hill, outscoring them 38-15 from there en route to a comfortable 38-24 victory. The defending champs are now seeking to be the first team to repeat since Tom Brady’s Patriots did so in 2003 and 2004.
1/23/21: Murray & Crowder’s buzzer-beating 3PM’s highlighted a 2OT thriller between DEN-PHX
For the second time in two nights, the Nuggets and Suns needed overtime in the desert to settle their contest. And, just like Friday night, it was Denver that came out on top on the road, this time in double OT, thanks to Jamal Murray’s heroics. Murray hit a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game to OT. Then, after a back-and-forth extra period, with his team down by three, Phoenix’s Jae Crowder hit a clutch 3 of his own with 0.7 seconds left to ensure a second OT. However, that wasn’t enough to lift the Suns to victory, as the Nuggets were able to pull away in the sixth frame, earning a tough 120-112 win.
Denver’s superstar duo of Murray and Nikola Jokic led the way, as Murray finished with 26 points, while Jokic led all players with 29 points and grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds. This was the second straight impressive win by Denver (9-7), who has come on strong after starting the season 1-4. If they are to catch the Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz in the standings, the Nuggets must continue to get this level of production from their stars. Meanwhile, Phoenix (8-7), who was without Devin Booker Saturday night, will need to regain their early-season form that had them looking like a dark horse contender in the West when they started the season 7-3.
1/22/21: MLB Hall of Famer, icon, and long-time HR King Hank Aaron passed away
Baseball legend and long time Braves player Hank Aaron passed away on Friday at the age of 86. Aaron played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1954-1976. During his career, he played 12 seasons for the Milwaukee Braves before the team was sold and moved to Atlanta in 1966. He spent nine more seasons in Atlanta before finishing his career back in Milwaukee with the Brewers. During his 23-year Hall of Fame career, Aaron was a 21x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove winner, 2x Batting Title champion, MVP, and World Series champion with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.
On April 8, 1974, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714. He would go on to finish with 755 career home runs. That mark wasn’t surpassed until the steroid era in 2007 when Barry Bonds topped it, finishing his career with 762 homers. However, most baseball purists view Aaron as the legitimate HR record holder. He is also the all-time leader in career RBI (2,297) and Total Bases (6,856). Hank Aaron is widely regarded as a baseball titan and one of the greatest to ever play the game.
1/21/21: LeBron out-dueled Giannis in a potential NBA Finals preview
The West-leading Lakers (12-4) extended their franchise record with an eighth straight road win to open the season after defeating the Bucks 113-106. LeBron James out-performed Giannis Antetokounmpo in a battle between two of the NBA’s top title contenders. LeBron had the hot hand all night, draining 6-of-10 3PA, including a few long-range bombs, on his way to a season-high 34 PTS along with 8 AST and 6 REB. James appears to have turned his one weakness throughout his career – shooting – into a strength. Through 16 games, he is shooting 39.6% on 3PA’s, his second-highest mark ever, on a career-high 6.6 3PA per game.
Giannis put up 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting to go along with 12 boards and three assists. However, his jump shot continues to be inconsistent. He was 1-for-3 from deep, 2-for-4 from the charity stripe, and missed badly on a few jump shots. For the season, he is hitting just 30.9% of his 3’s and 58.3% of his FT attempts. Of more concern, though, is the Bucks (9-6) inability to beat top contenders. They now fall to 0-4 against the Celtics, Nets, Jazz, and Lakers. Their bench, outscored 31-16 by the Lakers bench, must improve if Milwaukee is to secure the top seed in the much-improved Eastern Conference for a third-straight season.
1/20/21: 8x Pro Bowl QB Philip Rivers retired from the NFL after 17 seasons
Philip Rivers will be retiring from the NFL after 17 seasons in the league. Rivers, 39, played 16 of his 17 seasons with the Chargers, earning eight Pro Bowl nods, before playing his last season with the Colts. He was acquired by the then-San Diego Chargers in 2004 in a draft-day trade that sent Eli Manning, who the Chargers drafted No.1 overall, to the New York Giants. He spent his first two seasons in the league backing up Drew Brees before taking over as the starter once Brees joined the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Rivers never missed another game after that, starting 252 consecutive games, including the playoffs, to close out his career.
Rivers will end his NFL career with 134 wins, eighth all time and the second most by a QB without a Super Bowl. He made the playoffs seven times, finishing with a 5-7 postseason record. Despite not having a ring or even a single Super Bowl appearance, Rivers is still one of the most accomplished QBs to ever play. He finished his career completing 64.9% of his passes for 63,440 YDS with 421 TDs and 209 INTs. His 95.2 career passer rating ranks 12th all time while he is fifth in both yards and touchdown passes. It remains to be seen whether he will get a gold jacket, but there is no doubt he was among the top QBs of his generation.
1/19/21: Toronto Blue Jays signed OF George Springer (and RP Kirby Yates)
The Blue Jays announced Tuesday that they have signed OF George Springer to a 6y/$150M deal. A centerpiece in the Houston Astros rise over the last half decade, Springer, 31, was a clubhouse leader and Houston’s best player in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Springer hit .265 with 14 home runs and 32 RBI in 51 games and hit four more home runs in the playoffs during the Astros run to the ALCS.
A 3x All-Star and 2x Silver Slugger across his seven MLB seasons (all in HOU), Springer played his best on the biggest stage. In his two World Series appearances, Springer hit .339 with seven home runs and 11 RBIs, and was named MVP of the Fall Classic in 2017. In Springer, the Blue Jays have finally landed a coveted star that can help lead their young and talented core to the top of the highly-competitive American League East division.
Toronto also signed RP Kirby Yates to a 1y/$5.5M deal. Yates, 33, struggled last season in just six appearances with a 12.46 ERA for the Padres before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right elbow. However, prior to that, he was one of baseball’s top relievers over the past two seasons, leading the MLB in saves in 2019 with 41. Yates is a welcome addition to the Toronto bullpen, and if he can regain his 2019 form could potentially lift the Blue Jays to among the top contenders in the AL alongside Springer in a big day for the Jays.
1/18/21: Steph’s Warriors completed a 19-point comeback on LeBron’s Lakers
Steph Curry and the Warriors are making a habit of second-half comebacks against LA teams. Less than two weeks after erasing a 22-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Clippers, Golden St. found themselves trailing by as many as 19 in the second half against the Lakers. It appeared to be over for the Dubs after Los Angeles stretched the lead back to 14 early in the fourth on a LeBron James 3-pointer. However, Golden State kept their composure and fought back, taking a 110-108 lead, their first of the night, on Draymond Green’s clutch layup with 2:40 remaining. GS never trailed after that, securing the come-from-behind road victory.
Curry had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night (8-22 FG, 3-12 3PT), but his 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining gave the Warriors a five-point cushion. Steph finished with 26 points and seven assists while Kelly Oubre Jr. set a season-high with 23 points, but struggled again on 3PAs (2-8). For LA, Dennis Schroder’s season-high 25 points weren’t enough to top their Cali rivals, as LeBron (19 points) and AD (17 points) couldn’t find their shots, hitting on a combined 12-32 FG’s and 2-8 3’s. GS (7-6) will need to keep the momentum to earn a playoff spot in the stacked WCF while LA (11-4) needs to ensure blown leads won’t become a habit.
1/17/21: Tom Brady eliminated Drew Brees in what’s likely his final game
The Buccaneers are headed to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the franchise’s first and only Super Bowl title in 2003. Tampa Bay knocked off their NFC South rivals in New Orleans on Sunday, 30-20. Tom Brady, who struggled in his two regular season matchups with a combined 2 TDs and 5 INTs in two losses to the Saints, was efficient in the game that mattered. His numbers don’t stand out, but Brady was in control most of the evening against an excellent Saints defense, finishing 19-33 for 199 yards and two TDs. The story of the game was the Tampa Bay defense, which forced four New Orleans turnovers.
The Bucs shut down the Saints passing game, blanking All-Pro WR Michael Thomas (0 REC) and causing Drew Brees to have the worst playoff peformance of his career. Brees finished 19-34 for just 134 YDS, 1 TD and 3 INT. Questions have surrounded the NFL’s all-time leading passer, as Brees, 42, has mulled retirement this season. And, it now appears that this was likely the legendary QB’s final game. If it is the end, then, despite another bitter postseason ending, Brees and HC Sean Payton can hang their hats on an era filled with unprecedented levels of success in NOLA that culminated in capturing the franchise’s only Lombardi Trophy in 2009.
1/16/21: Josh Allen & Aaron Rodgers led their teams to the Conference Championship
The Bills are headed to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 1994. Buffalo smothered the Baltimore offense, holding the NFL’s top rushing team to 150 yards on 32 carries in the 17-3 win. The Bills limited Lamar Jackson to 162 yards and a pick with just 34 yards on nine carries while K Justin Tucker had an off night (1-3 FG). Josh Allen only had 206 yards and was held mostly in check, but his third quarter TD to WR Stephon Diggs proved to be the winner. Buffalo sealed the game with CB Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick six in the final minute of the third. The Bills are now set to either host the Browns or visit the Chiefs in the AFC Title game.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be hosting their first NFC Championship game in the HOF QB’s career. Green Bay defeated the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 to advance to their second consecutive championship game. The Packers, who never trailed, nearly doubled the Rams in total yards (484-244). Their three-headed monster of Rodgers (296 YDS, 2 TDs, 1 RUSH TD), RB Aaron Jones (99 RUSH YDS, 1 TD), and WR Devante Adams (9 REC, 66 YDS, 1 TD) all showed out. Rodgers’ 58-yard strike to WR Allen Lazard with 6:52 remaining ended any hope of a Rams comeback. The top-seeded Packers now await the winner of Bucs-Saints part III Sunday.
1/15/21: Yankees make moves by re-signing DJ LeMahieu & adding Corey Kluber
The New York Yankees strengthened their club Friday with the announcement that they are bringing back 2B DJ LeMahieu on a 6y/$90M deal and have signed SP Corey Kluber to a 1y/$11M deal. In his two seasons donning the pinstripes, LeMahieu has finished fourth (2019) and third (2020) in the AL MVP voting. The 32-year-old is a 3x All-Star, 3x Gold Glover, 2x Silver Slugger, and has captured two Batting Titles during his 10 major league seasons. He is coming off arguably his best season in which he led the MLB in BA (.364), and led the AL in OBP (.421), OPS (1.011), and OPS+ (177).
Kluber, 34 is much more of a risk after missing the majority of his last two seasons due to injuries. However, prior to that, he was one of the top pitchers in baseball. From 2014-2018, he was a 2x Cy Young Award winner (2014, 2017), a 3x All-Star (2016-2018), and led the Majors in ERA (2.25) in 2017. With Kluber’s addition and with LeMahieu re-signing, the Yankees are now back in the Championship picture and possibly at the top. They’ve fallen short year after year over the past half-decade, but have all the continuity, playoff experience, and chemistry after these moves that make up the ingredients to host a parade at the end of the year.
1/14/21: Jacksonville Jaguars hired Urban Meyer & New York Jets hired Robert Saleh
After much speculation, it was officially announced Thursday that Urban Meyer will be the new Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 17 seasons, Meyer went 187-32 and won National Championships at Florida (2006, 2008) and Ohio State (2014). Meyer, who last coached in 2018, will take over for former HC Doug Marrone, who was fired following a 1-15 season. Holding the right to draft QB Trevor Lawrence with the No.1 overall pick was likely a huge factor in convincing Meyer to come out of retirement. Meyer and Lawrence, both legends at the college level, will form one of the most interesting HC-QB duos in the NFL.
The Jets also announced that former 49ers DC Robert Saleh will be the next HC in NY. Saleh is the kind of culture changer a team like the Jets needed. Unlike their last hiring that could be seen as a clear failure right from the first press conference, New York finally got this one right. No Jets HC has ended their tenure with a winning record since 2000, so Saleh’s up for quite the challenge. His first major decision will be at QB, where he must decide between resetting the franchise by drafting a QB at No.2, or build around Sam Darnold, who has flashed at times but has also struggled. This decision could make or break his tenure in East Rutherford.
1/13/21: Brooklyn Nets acquired SG James Harden in a blockbuster 4-team trade
When a team is able to add a MVP, 3x scoring champion, and 8x All-Star, they usually do whatever it takes. That’s exactly what Brooklyn did as they showed desperation in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s recent absence that could turn into a disaster if he retired early. Now that they have another all-time great on their roster, that will surely convince their best player Kevin Durant to re-sign once he can opt out after next season. The question will be how do they fit these pieces together and can they surround them with enough defensive talent to overcome this trio’s shortcomings on that side of the ball.
There’s no doubt this is the greatest scoring trio ever assembled, but there’s only one ball for three of the greatest iso scorers to all share. It will be a challenge for rookie HC Steve Nash, one of the greatest passers of all-time, to figure out the best possible way for these three superstars to sacrifice touches and work together, especially considering Harden, Durant, and Irving all rank in the top 20 on the all-time leaderboard for usage percentage.
All three do have experience playing with other superstars in their primes, though. Durant won two titles in GS, Irving won one in CLE alongside LeBron, and Harden could have knocked off Durant’s Warriors in the WCF if not for Chris Paul’s injury. Big 3’s aren’t unprecedented either. There have been multiple “super teams” put together with varying levels of success, and none of those trios, even the Heat or Warriors, had this level of pure, individual offensive talent. It’s championship or bust for Brooklyn, who mortgaged their future by shipping out 1st Rd picks and young talent, but a title for a starved organization would be well worth the cost.
Along with the Thunder, nobody has more draft picks to look forward to in the 2020s than Houston now after pulling off the largest haul of draft picks in NBA history. When the smoke settled, Houston received three 1st Rd picks from Brooklyn (2022, 2024, 2026), one 1st Rd pick from Milwaukee (2022), and four Brooklyn 1st Rd pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027). The Rockets also got Victor Oladipo from the Pacers, Dante Exum from the Cavaliers, and Rodions Kurucs from the Nets.
In Oladipo, Houston will be able to pair him with a reinvigorated John Wall to potentially form one of the more underrated backcourts in the NBA. In a contract year, the Rockets could also flip Oladipo before the trade deadline, or decide to sign him long-term depending on how he fits in. Fliers on Exum and Kurucs are just icing on top. After having no direction and a dark cloud hanging over the organization, the future for Houston is suddenly as bright as it’s ever been. Regardless of what happens this season, the Rockets received a kings ransom for their disgruntled superstar that can set them up with a prosperous future thanks to a plethora of picks.
On an expiring contract, it was looking unlikely that Victor Oladipo was going to re-sign in Indiana in a few months, so the Pacers were able to trade the 2x All-Star for 26-year-old SG Caris LeVert, who’s just scratching the surface on his offensive potential. Playing alongside Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner will provide great opportunities for LeVert to use his elite quickness to blow by defenders and make plays. LeVert improved his play every season in Brooklyn, and was averaging a career-high 6.0 AST along with 18.5 PTS this season prior to coming over to Indiana.
Cleveland having Dante Exum on an overpriced $9.6M salary actually turned into a blessing in disguise as it allowed them to play salary matchmaker in the deal to help offset the difference between the Nets and Rockets’ packages. CLE was able to offload Exum and a 2022 Bucks 1st Rd Pick (which lost significant value once they re-signed Giannis) and gained one of the most promising defensive anchors in the entire league in Jarrett Allen. Allen is on an expiring contract so he’ll be due a raise in short order, but he gives them exactly what Drummond does with plenty more upside at only 22 years old.
1/12/21: LeBron hits Steph Curry-esque no-look 3PM from the corner in Houston
The Los Angeles Lakers recorded their second blowout win in Houston over the Rockets in three nights. LeBron James was the best player on the floor, finishing with 26 PTS, 8 REB, and 5 AST, hitting 10-of-20 shots and 4-of-9 3PT attempts. His best play of the game came in the second quarter with LA already up big. LeBron hit a no-look corner three reminiscent of Steph Curry, that put the Lakers up by 24 and silenced any thought of a Rockets comeback.
So much for a potential slow start to the season for the Lakers with roster turnover and the shortest offseason in American professional sports history. Los Angeles has the best record in the NBA at 9-3 and LeBron has seemingly picked up where he left off last season when he lifted his fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy. He has yet to take a night off and is averaging 24.2 PTS, 8.3 REB, and 7.5 AST in just 32.3 minutes a night, the lowest total of his HOF career. LA was already the title favorites entering the season, but if LeBron and the Lakers continue making it look this easy, the championship is theirs to lose.
1/11/21: Eagles fired HC Doug Pederson just 3 years after winning Philly’s 1st Super Bowl
The Philadelphia Eagles announced Monday that they fired head coach Dough Pederson, who led the franchise to its only Lombardi Trophy in 2017. That season, he coached Philadelphia to a 13-3 record and an improbable run to the Super Bowl with backup QB Nick Foles after Carson Wentz, an MVP candidate, went down in Week 15 with a season-ending injury. The magical run culminated in a 41-33 upset win over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, in which Foles earned MVP honors. The pairing of Pederson and Wentz, who would be entering just his third year in the league in 2018, appeared to set up an exciting future for the Eagles.
Each year following 2017 though, the Eagles have regressed. They finished 9-7 in 2018 with one playoff win and then won the division at 9-7 in 2019, but were eliminated in the Wild Card round. Then, this offseason, Philadelphia made the questionable decision of drafting QB Jalen Hurts in the second round after having signed Wentz, 28, to a massive extension. Despite the downward trend in recent seasons and questionable draft decisions, Philadelphia was thought of as a playoff contender once again entering 2020.
The wheels fell off, though, as the team was hit hard by injuries, especially along the O-Line, and Wentz’s play took a nose dive. He finished with a 72.8 PASS RTG after posting a 98.3 RTG from 2017-19. Wentz’s struggles ultimately led to him being benched for Hurts in Week 13 for the remainder of the season. Pederson then made the controversial decision to pull Hurts for Nate Sudfield in their Week 17 loss to Washington. With Pederson gone after finishing in last place in the NFC East at 4-11-1, Philly faces crucial offseason decisions regarding the franchise’s future, headlined by who the next coach will be and what to do at the QB position.
1/10/21: Browns 1st playoff win since moving back to CLE & Lamar’s 1st postseason victory
The Cleveland Browns are moving on to the divisional round for the first time in 26 years after securing their first playoff win since 1994. Cleveland was given little chance to pull off the upset over their biggest rival and AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers given the history between the two sides. Coming into Sunday night’s clash, the Browns had lost 17 straight in Pittsburgh and were just 6-44 in the Steel City since the 1970 merger. It seemed even less likely when HC Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl G Joel Bitonio, and top CB Denzel Ward all tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the game.
Despite the odds stacked against them, it was Cleveland who came out and punched Pittsburgh in the mouth. The Browns took a 28-0 first quarter advantage to lead 35-10 at half. The Steelers made it interesting, cutting it to 35-23 in the third, but never got within one score, as the Browns held on to win 48-37. Turnovers were the difference as the Steelers had five and the Browns had none. Mayfield threw for 263 yards and three TDs while Ben Roethlisberger had 501 yards and four TDs, but also threw four INTs. CLE moves on to KC in the divisional round while PIT faces an offseason full of questions, most notably Big Ben’s future.
The early window saw Baltimore and Tennessee square off in a rematch of last season’s divisional round matchup that witnessed the Titans upset the heavily-favored top-seeded Ravens. Just like last year, the road team came out on top, but this time it was BAL, who were able to exact revenge and come away with a 20-13 victory. Early on, it looked like this game would be a repeat of last year when Lamar Jackson threw an early INT and they fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. However, the Ravens were able to right the ship in the second quarter with a FG and LJ’s incredible long RUSH TD to tie the game 10-10 at the break.
Baltimore was the better team in the second half, shutting down RB Derrick Henry and the Tennessee offense, holding the Titans to just three points after the break. Henry was a non-factor, as the back-to-back rushing champ ran for just 40 yards on 18 carries. The Ravens sealed the game on CB Marcus Peters’ clutch interception just after the two-minute warning and subsequently ran out the clock to move on to the divisional round, where they will visit the Buffalo Bills. Jackson finished with 136 rush yards and one TD, making hime one of just two QBs to have 100 yards and a TD on the ground in a playoff game in NFL history.
1/9/21: NFL Super Wild Card weekend begins
Super Wild Card weekend kicked off Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts visited the Buffalo Bills. Unlike last season against the Houston Texans, Buffalo ensured that it wouldn’t endure another second-half playoff collapse to end their season. The Bills, who led 27-16 with just over eight minutes remaining, stopped the Colts on the final plays of the game to secure the 27-24 win, the team’s first postseason victory in 25 years. Josh Allen proved why he’s an MVP candidate after accounting for nearly 400 total yards and three total TDs while leading Buffalo to its first divisional round appearance since he was born.
NFC West rivals collided in the second game of the afternoon as the Rams and Seahawks squared off after splitting their two regular season meetings. Both QBs struggled, as Jared Goff, two weeks removed from thumb surgery, and Russell Wilson failed to complete 50 percent of their passes and were held to under 175 yards. However, Rams rookie RB Cam Akers carried the offense with 176 total yards and one TD in LA’s 30-20 win. It’s another early playoff exit for Seattle, who has failed to make it past the divisional round since their 2014-15 Super Bowl appearance, while Los Angeles won its first playoff game since their 2018-19 Super Bowl appearance.
Saturday’s night cap saw the Buccaneers defeat Washington by a closer-than-expected score of 31-23. Without QB Alex Smith, Washington turned to Taylor Heinicke, who in his second career start, threw for 306 yards with a beautiful TD in the back of the end zone, and led the team in rushing with 46 yards and a sensational score. However, he was unable to out-duel Tom Brady, who threw for 381 yards and two TDs. Brady earned his 31st career playoff win, while also leading Tampa Bay to its first postseason win in 18 seasons. Meanwhile, Washington, in its first playoff appearance since 2015, is still looking for its first playoff win since 2005.
1/8/21: NFL named the 2020 All-Pro 1st & 2nd teams
The best 29 players in the league (including the 6 special teamers) were represented on the 2020 NFL All-Pro Teams on Friday. Only Travis Kelce and Aaron Donald were given the prestigious honor of unanimous selections. The rest of the team had amazing years that will be solidified forever now.
1/7/21: Mets landed SS Francisco Lindor in a blockbuster trade with Cleveland
New Mets owner Steve Cohen made a promise of a new age in New York, full of spending and being among the most aggressive teams in acquiring top-end talent to build a consistent winner. He delivered with his biggest move yet, landing 4x All-Star SS Francisco Lindor from Cleveland in a blockbuster deal on Thursday involving six players. Also heading to New York is SP Carlos Carrasco, while Cleveland received INF’s Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, RHP Josh Wolf, and OF Isaiah Greene.
Lindor, 27, is a 4x All-Star, 2x Gold Glover, and a 2x Silver Slugger. He spent his first six seasons in Cleveland and was a major contributor on the team that came within one run of winning the World Series in 2016. For his career, Lindor has slashed .285/.346/.488 with 138 HRs and 411 RBIs. He is coming off a down season in 2020 where he hit just .258 with eight home runs in 60 games, but, from 2017-19, Lindor averaged 34 home runs and a .278 batting average. Lindor, one of the most talented and marketable players in baseball, increases the Mets offensive ceiling and significantly improves their defense up the middle.
Carrasco, 33, is coming off an excellent season in which he posted a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts. He earned the AL Comeback Player of the Year after returning from a life-threatening chronic myeloid leukemia diagnosis. In his 11 MLB seasons, all with Cleveland, Carrasco has a 3.77 ERA, with his best season coming in 2017 when he finished fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. He will add another proven starter to the top of an already solid rotation that includes Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman.
The deal comes at a cost though for New York, who sent Cleveland two of their highest-regarded young players that they have developed over the last decade in Rosario and Gimenez. Gimenez was one of the top prospects in all of baseball for both his glove and hit tools. Wolf and Green are excellent prospects as well, rated as NYM’s No. 9 and 10 prospects, respectively. It remains to be seen which team will get the better end of this trade, but no one can argue that the Mets are likely the most improved team in the majors with their offseason additions outside of the Padres.
1/6/21: Payton Pritchard serves as Boston’s hero after Celtics and Heat protest for equality
The Boston Celtics narrowly escaped an epic collapse Wednesday night in their 107-105 win over the Miami Heat. Leading 105-95 with 1:17 left on the clock, Boston had a 98.1 percent chance to win according to the ESPN win probability metric. However, the Celtics couldn’t buy a bucket in the closing minute while the Heat got red-hot, hitting three 3-pointers (including a made and-1) to tie the game 105-105. Just when it seemed like overtime was inevitable, Celtics rookie G Payton Pritchard snuck into the lane, secured Marcus Smart’s missed layup, and converted the putback with 0.2 seconds to win the game for Boston.
The Celtics were able to exact some revenge on the Heat, who eliminated them in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The status of the game, though, was uncertain before its start after what the nation witnessed as pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building to protest elected officials confirming Joe Biden as President. Both teams left the floor and released a joint statement prior to tipoff, speaking of racial inequality and the differences in how protestors during the spring and summer were treated versus how the protests were handled by authorities on Wednesday. Most players from both teams took a knee during the National Anthem.
Peaceful protests took place all around the NBA, including in Milwaukee, where the Bucks and Pistons united in protest immediately following tipoff. Both teams kneeled on their first possessions before tossing the ball out of bounds. In Philadelphia, following their 141-136 win over the Wizards, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers commented on the contrast between how Black Lives Matter protestors in D.C. were handled versus how the pro-Trump supporters were dealt with in the nation’s capital. This certainly won’t be the last time that teams, athletes, and coaches will use their enormous platforms to promote social justice and equality for all.
1/5/21: Likely 2021 top-10 pick WR DeVonta Smith won the CFB Heisman Award
Alabama WR DeVonta Smith earned college football’s most prestigious award when he received the Heisman Trophy Tuesday night. Smith, likely a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, finished ahead of second-place vote-getter Trevor Lawrence, the consensus top prospect. Rounding out the top four were two other potential first-round picks at QB in Smith’s teammate at Alabama, Mac Jones, and Florida’s Kyle Trask. Smith is just the fourth WR ever and the first since 1991 to win the Heisman Trophy. He is also the third Alabama player to win the award, joining standout NFL RBs Mark Ingram and current back-to-back rushing champ Derrick Henry.
Smith, Alabama’s all-time leading receiver in yards (3,750) and touchdowns (43), was flat-out dominant this season. He led the nation in receptions (105), yards (1,641), and receiving touchdowns (20) in just 12 games. What makes Smith’s play even more special is that fellow WR and likely first-round pick Jaylen Waddle went down midway through the year with a season-ending ankle injury. He has had to shoulder an even bigger load as the clear-cut No.1 WR with defenses scheming up specifically for him in the pass game. Smith will be just the latest elite NFL WR prospect to come out of Bama, who’s recent history in producing WRs is second-to-none.
1/4/21: Pacers outlasted the Pelicans in OT thanks to Brogdon’s GW
The Indiana Pacers came away with a tough 118-116 win on the road over the New Orleans Pelicans thanks to G Malcolm Brogdon’s basket with 1.7 seconds left in OT. The one-handed floater capped a 21-point, 11-assist night for Brogdon, who’s been excellent so far, leading Indiana (5-2) in scoring with 22.0 PPG. His backcourt mate, Victor Oladipo, led the team in scoring Monday night with 25 points on 5-of-11 from three while Domantas Sabonis recorded his seventh straight double-double to open the season with his 19-point, 11-rebound performance. All three players are averaging 20+ PPG, forming one of the most underrated Big 3’s in the NBA.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans (4-3) in scoring with 31, but hit just 12 of his 31 shots. Despite the inefficient night, Ingram has been New Orleans’ best player this season, leading the team in points (25.0) and assists (5.7). Zion Williamson recorded his fourth double-double this season with 24 points and 10 boards. This was the second straight game the Pelicans, who led 104-94 in the fourth, held a double-digit lead in the final frame. But, unlike against the Raptors, their late-game collapse cost them this game. Though New Orleans is as young and talented as any team in the NBA, they will need to learn from this experience and not make it a habit.
1/3/21: Browns and Washington end playoff droughts after big Week 17 victories
After nearly two decades of dysfunction, questionable draft picks, and constant coaching changes, the Cleveland Browns are finally postseason-bound. They defeated a Steelers squad resting a number of key starters to clinch their first playoff appearance since 2002. At 11-5, Cleveland finished with its first winning record since 2007. The Browns playoff opponent will once again be the Steelers, their postseason nemesis. Pittsburgh ended Cleveland’s season in each of their last two playoff appearances – the 2002 Wild Card round and the 1994 Divisional round. That 1994 season was also their last postseason win, when Bill Belichick was their head coach.
The most improbable participant in the postseason is the Washington Football Team. They defeated the Eagles on SNF to clinch their first division title and first playoff appearance since 2015. Picked to be among the worst teams, Washington sported a 2-7 record through nine games. However, they rallied around Coach of the Year candidate Ron Rivera and Comeback Player of the Year favorite Alex Smith to finish in first place in the historically bad NFC East at 7-9. They will have a difficult matchup with the Bucs, but history is on their side. The two previous teams to make the playoffs under .500 won a playoff game, and Rivera was the coach for one of them.
1/2/21: Pelicans avoid late collapse to Raptors thanks to Bledsoe & Ingram’s heroics
For the second time this season, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Toronto Raptors faced off. And, for the second time, the Pelicans came out on top, this time thanks to Brandon Ingram and Eric Bledsoe. Ingram kept New Orleans in the game with 17 first half points. He finished the game with 31, the fourth time the Pelicans’ leading scorer has had at least 24 points this season. Ingram has proven so far that last year’s breakout performance in his first season with the Pelicans since coming over in the Anthony Davis deal was no fluke. He, along with Bledsoe, were huge for New Orleans against the Raptors Saturday night.
Bledsoe hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Pelicans a five-point lead at the end of the third quarter. That helped the Pelicans, who led by as many as 12, maintain a comfortable lead for most of the fourth quarter. However, TOR stormed back with a 14-2 run to take a 113-111 lead with 2:47 remaining. It was Bledsoe and Ingram who took over from there. Bledsoe made two game-changing plays on both ends of the court in the final minutes. He forced a TO with the game tied 113-113 and then drained a corner three with 41.6 seconds left. Ingram proceeded to go 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final seconds to seal the 120-116 victory.
Bledsoe hit 4-of-6 three-pointers and finished the night with a 19-point, 10-assist double-double, his first with New Orleans. He has been a solid addition for a young Pelicans squad, averaging 12.2 points and 4.2 assists per game so far this season. He was acquired via an offseason trade that saw New Orleans send Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Bledsoe, George Hill, and three future first round picks. The Pelicans currently sit tied for second in the West at 4-2. The Raptors, 1-4, forced to open the season in Tampa Bay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, continued their disappointing start to the 2020-21 season.
1/1/21: Fields outshined Lawrence in a battle of top-2 potential NFL Draft picks
The matchup between Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence was inevitable considering how stacked their two teams were and after the way last season’s playoff classic between the Buckeyes and Tigers ended. Their previous battle was a gut-wrenching loss for Fields, who threw the game-sealing interception on a miscommunication with his receiver. This time around though, there was no doubt about who the better team was, as Ohio State thoroughly outplayed Clemson, winning 49-28.
Justin Fields’ performance was the story of the game, as he delivered a legendary stat-line. What made it even more special was how he played after taking a vicious hit to the side that left him clearly less than 100% the rest of the night. Fields showcased his toughness, tossing a TD pass on his first play back after missing just one snap. With him not able to be his usual duel-threat self that makes him such a tantalizing NFL prospect, Fields was able to maneuver inside the pocket and deliver strike after strike, absolutely torching the Clemson secondary with his arm. He finished the game 22-28 for 385 YDS and 6 TDs (both Sugar Bowl records).
Trevor Lawrence played well in the loss, finishing 33-48 for 400 with 3 TDs (1 rush) and 1 INT. However, he also lost a fumble and was clearly affected by the Ohio State D-Line, missing on a few key throws that could have made the game closer. Lawrence is still clearly the top QB prospect and No. 1 overall prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft with three years’ worth of tape to show for it, but Fields may have cemented his place just behind Lawrence as the No. 2 pick. The two Georgia natives have been connected since high school as the top two overall players in the 2018 recruiting class, and now very likely could be the top two players selected in this years’ draft.