Where Does LeBron Land?

This will be the most talked about story of the off-season for NBA fans. LeBron is obviously fed up with not winning titles. Yes, he has a few, but he wants more. And can you blame him? He the best player of this generation, one of the best ever, if not THE best. Rumors are bouncing around at an alarming rate as to where he will play. Let’s take a look at these.

First off, there are three teams that I’ve seen mentioned that don’t make sense to me. San Antonio? No way, they have older players and Kawhi Leonard’s injuries may be an issue. Also, the Spurs are shopping Kawhi. Washington? I don’t see an upside for LeBron in a Wizards uniform. Boston? The Celtics have their pieces in place for a 5 or 6 year run. I’m not sure adding LeBron is a productive move. And then there’s the Kyrie issue.

The Houston Rockets may be an option. Chris Paul, James Harden, and LeBron would be a deadly trio. The two factors that could hurt this are Chris Paul’s remaining years as an elite PG and a possible ego clash with Harden. This would at least be interesting to see the power struggle, both in the locker room and with the Warriors for Western Conference dominance.

The 76ers have a very good young core. The addition of LeBron would be huge in Philadelphia. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have both shown that they can excel at this level. Having LeBron on the court, and in the locker room, with them would be beneficial to all parties. They could rule the Eastern Conference with this combination.

The Lakers seem to be the favorite to land LeBron, at least according to media outlets and Vegas. They are rumored to be going after Paul George as well. Honestly, I can’t see LeBron and the Ball family coexisting. I feel a likely potential train wreck on the horizon if this happens. If I’m LeBron, I order daddy to stay away.

There are two scenarios I’d like to see. The first is LeBron going to the Cavs front office and demanding a supporting cast. They have given him nothing in the time he has been in Cleveland. Go after George, Leonard, etc. Get some players for him. The fact that he made the finals with the Cavs team he had this past season is monumental. The other scenario I’d like to see almost definitely won’t happen.

With the NBA adopting the disposition of a jilted high school girl, why doesn’t LeBron go to OKC and team up with Russ and George? Pull a Durant. Give the Warriors something to worry about. I doubt that would happen, but I would tune and watch that drama all season.

All of this will be partially dependent on where Kawhi and George land. It may or may not influence LeBron’s decision. Teams surely realize this, which could possibly result in these two players getting much larger contracts than they deserve. But such is the state of the NBA. Stay tuned, this could be a fun summer.

Lucky 13

Ok, who likes to gamble? Trick question, I doubt you’d be reading this or following me on Twitter if you didn’t. So I’ve been running this Lucky 13 league the last few years. This quenches our gambling thirst while waiting for football season. If you haven’t played it, or heard of it, check it out. It’s a fun way to follow baseball and keep those bettor juices flowing.

Here’s how it’s played. You get 30 people to draw a team. You can decide what the entry fee is, we just do $10 to win $300. The way you win is to have your team score every number between 1 and 13. When they get each number, you fill in the square. First team to get all 13 squares filled wins the pot. Pretty simple. You just have to make sure whoever is running the league is checking box scores each day. The cool thing is that you can start one at any time. Fill one today and the league can start tonight.

There are several sites that provide a printout for this league. Personally, I prefer the one that http://www.printofficepools.com offers. You can even export theirs to Excel and modify it any way you want. I added a zero column for our league. The added shutout makes it a bit more challenging. We’re on our second one this season, with the Braves winning the one that started Opening Day. The Dodgers have the edge right now on our second leg, only needing 0 and 13.

So give it a try. What else will have you hoping the Twins get that 1 extra run in the 9th inning in 10-3 game?

Let’s Go Hiking!

Ok, maybe not all of us at once, that would be weird. But we should all enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. I’ve spent these last few days in the New River Gorge area in West Virginia. It is a beautiful section of our country. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves just being outside.

There are plenty of trails to choose, from the easy walk in the woods to the more challenging ones geared towards the seasoned hiker. I was able to hike two of these, both of them in the moderate range. When you actually get out and enjoy nature, its true beauty will astonish you.

The first trail I did was the Long Point Trail. This was a 3.2 mile round trip that culminated in me standing on a ledge overlooking the gorge. To my left I had an incredible view of the New River Gorge Bridge. To my right was a section of the Endless Wall. But all around me was, simply put, nature at its finest. You feel like you can see the entire world, as if you can see into forever.

The second trail was the Endless Wall itself. I ended up at Diamond Point atop the wall. This round trip was just a few miles as well. And once again, it ended with an amazing view of the gorge, but from the other side of the river this time. Seeing the bridge from a distance is awe-inspiring. A man-made structure that big, it’s hard to wrap your brain around it. The New River Gorge Bridge is the 3rd highest bridge in the country. Just driving over it is an experience.

And then we have the Bridge Walk tour. I forked over my $80 to do this. It’s a guide led tour with every safety precaution in place. You have a sturdy walkway, handrails, and you are tethered to a safety line that can hold 6,000 pounds. The guides are very well-versed in the bridge and the history of the area. This morning, on my tour, it was very windy. This added to the experience. Feeling the bridge move, all 88 million pounds of it, while standing on it must be experienced in order to appreciate it. Nervous yet? Well, don’t be. As I mentioned earlier, it’s very safe. The views up there are priceless. You can see the river wind through the gorge with the mountains around it adding to the scenery.

If you can’t make it to West Virginia, then find a place closer to home. This country has so many beautiful areas. I’ve hiked in the Appalachians in Tennessee, the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, and Clifty Falls in Indiana. Just get outdoors, it breathes life into you. So put the phone down and get off the grid for the day. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

The Golden State Warriors Are Champions……Again

3 titles in 4 years. That’s what we call a dynasty. The Golden State Warriors, with a Game 4 win last night, just swept the LeBron James led Cavs to win back-to-back titles and their 3rd title in 4 years. This is an incredible accomplishment, an amazing team to watch.

When the series started, I figured it would go 5 or 6 games. I assumed LeBron would pull something out of his………hat, and pull off a victory or two. But this isn’t about LeBron right now. This is about the Warriors.

The Warriors were a very good team before they added Kevin Durant. His addition makes them one of the best teams ever assembled. They play great together. Everyone on the court is an active participant every single time down the court. Their ball movement is a lesson in fundamental basketball. But the scary part is the fact that each one of their starting five has the ability to create his own shot as well. How do you defend that? Seriously, how do you defend that? Apparently you can’t.

Kevin Durant won the Finals MVP when it was all said and done. He averaged 28.7 pts, 10.7 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. He also put up a triple double in Game 4. He became the face of a team that has the likes of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. That’s impressive. Curry could’ve won the award too, but it’s irrelevant when you compare it to the championship itself. Just ask the players.

Both Durant and Curry, in post game interviews, stressed that the MVP didn’t matter as long as the team won. Skeptics will cry BS, they may even be right. But at least they’re saying the right things in an adrenaline-filled moment. I truly believe these guys love playing together.

So what lies ahead for the Warriors? For the NBA? The league has put itself in a position where only 5 or 6 teams even matter. I hope they can find a way to fix this. We are in a time where super teams are the modus operandi for success. No more building the team through the draft or making key trades. But for now, let’s be grateful that we’re able to watch the greatness that Golden State brings us each game. It really is something to behold.

The NBA draft is around the corner. Which team will pick the right piece to their future? Stay tuned.

The Washington Capitals Are Your Stanley Cup Champions

The drought is over. The Capitals captured the first Cup in their 40+ year history. If you didn’t get goosebumps watching Alex Ovechkin raise the Cup, you may be dead. Consult your physician.

This was a fantastic hockey season. It had everything; action, drama, an expansion team, new faces in the playoffs, etc… And the playoffs took that excitement to the next level. The Vegas Golden Knights mowed through the Western Conference. The miracle looked like it was on track. Meanwhile, the Capitals had a hard fight on their hands getting through the East. Many, myself included, wondered if they would have anything left to knock off VGK. Spoiler alert: they did.

The series started with the Golden Knights winning a high-scoring affair 6-4. Washington fans got nervous, the hockey world anticipated a miracle, and the sportsbooks started trembling to the tune of a 5-7 million dollar loss on the horizon. But then Ovechkin and the boys buckled down and dominated the rest of the series.

Over the next 4 games, they showed the world who the best team in the NHL was. And they did so in dominating fashion. Braden Holtby, after Game 1, was impenetrable. He also provided us with one of the best saves that these eyes have ever seen. Evgeny Kuznetsov, 32 points, raised his game and breathed life into his team. And then there was Alex Ovechkin…….

Alex Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy. He had 15 goals and 12 assists. He led this team, he was the face of this team. He played with an intensity that we’ve rarely seen. He sniped, he hit, he blocked, he became the penultimate team player. He wanted this win, you could see and feel it. It was an historic performance. I was on the NHL website immediately to purchase the puck and the Blu-ray. I want to remember this forever, and I’m not even a Caps fan.

So now we wait until October. I’m already stoked for the upcoming season. What will the Capitals do for an encore? Will Vegas compete again? Will the perennials like the Red Wings and Blackhawks get back into the mix? I’ll be in Vegas for the start of the season. I’ll have my bets in hand, I’ll be in front of the TV. But most importantly, hockey will be back.

Iration

A couple weeks ago, Iration released their self-titled album. I was on vacation at the time, so I had to wait until I got home to really get a good listen. When I did, I was astounded. These guys just keep getting better. This new album truly defines the Iration sound. In their own words, they aren’t really concerned with which genre a certain song fits in, they just want the song to be good. Well, you get 16 tracks of way more than good with their latest release.

Hailing from California, this reggae/rock band has an impressive library of great songs. Lead singer Micah Pueschel, aka Poosh Daddy, has a soothing voice that will allow you to slip comfortably into relaxation mode. They create a perfect blend of a nice reggae vibe with straight rock-n-roll. And by all means, you want to catch their live show. Full of energy, pristine sound, and simply just a fun band to see and hear. I caught them in Cincinnati a few years back on their Hotting Up tour. It was Halloween, they took the stage in full costumes. Yeah, these guys are fun. I was even gifted with an amazing version of Tom Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance that night.

A few tracks really stand out to me on this latest album. Broken Promises, featuring Slightly Stoopid, may be my favorite song. Let’s face it, anything featuring Slightly Stoopid is going to be good. Broken Promises is no exception. Danger is another collaboration, this time with J Boog and Tyrone’s Jacket. An excellent song that puts on display a few different vocal stylings. The album closes out with All For You, an acoustic masterpiece that brings the album full circle.

So, if you haven’t heard these guys yet, get on board. You won’t be disappointed. Turn it up, roll the windows down, and enjoy this perfect complement to your summer. Raise the Shaka.

2018: The Year of the K

The 2018 MLB season is on pace to shatter the strikeout record. Shatter it into oblivion. If you look closely at the last couple decades of baseball, you had to see it coming to some extent. It’s not as though the pitchers are suddenly that much better either. The game has been changing, very slowly, right before our eyes.

I fully understand if Scherzer, Kershaw, Verlander, or Sale puts up double digit strikeouts in a game. The aces will do what aces do. But no-name pitchers, far removed from being household names, are regularly striking out batters at an alarming rate. A couple recent incidents exemplify this. The Cubs struck out 24 times in an extra inning game last week. That’s not a typo. Yesterday, in a double-header, Aaron Judge went 0-9 with 8 K. Again, not a typo. He is now the record holder for strikeouts in one day. Congrats, Aaron.

Gone are the days of hitters like Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, and Pete Rose. You know, real, complete baseball players. Players are bigger and stronger now. They’re huge. If you put an unusually large human being in the batters box who grew up watching the long ball being glorified on SportsCenter trying to hit the ball a mile, then there’s a really good chance he’ll be an easy victim of whoever is on the mound. We collectively bowed down to the home run. And baseball fed us this drug like the best pusher on the busiest corner.

Bud Selig, as well as the rest of MLB, ignored steroids for years. People were coming to the ballpark, they wanted to see power. They were spending their hard earned money. This is the root of today’s problem. I love watching a pitcher dominate a game. I even mentioned that in my last blog. But when a guy with an ERA of 5.43 is striking out batters to the tune of 13 per game, then something is wrong. It seems no one can really hit anymore. Sure, there are exceptions. But for every Trout, Harper, and Votto, there are a dozen of Chris Davis, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo. This isn’t baseball, in my opinion. Despite the possibility of a monster home run, the drama is lessened to the point of being predictable. The pitcher has the upper hand a vast majority of the time. I want this to change.

Unfortunately, it won’t change overnight. Or, possibly, ever. When I was growing up, Harmon Killebrew was considered huge for a baseball player. He was 6’2, 220 lbs. That’s a shortstop today. I get it, the game will change over time. All sports see this change/growth. But the change in baseball seems more of a detriment than the changes we see in other sports.

But I’ll still be tuning in, it’s baseball after all. But with the game on the line and my team facing Aaron Judge at the plate, I’m not nearly as nervous as I would’ve been years ago. And for the record, the point of this wasn’t to bash Mr Judge, but he is becoming the face of baseball while also representing the change that we’re seeing. I respect the guy, he has huge potential. Just hit the damned ball.