Oh...yes....it is finally here. The NBA playoffs are set and the games tip off this Saturday and I am pretty excited to dive right into these games. Well...I should say excluding the Eastern Conference match ups. For those who are not the biggest NBA fans like myself let me point you to the playoffs series that you should make a point to check out over the next few weeks. Here are the four playoffs series that I am most looking forward to in the post-season in reverse order.
4 - Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)
This is the only Eastern Conference series that will make this list. The Eastern Conference playoffs should come with a disclaimer *Only hardcore fan need apply* because for real....it is a pile of crap out there in the East. That being said I am really looking forward to watching the Raptors play in this post-season. They has two really good players in the back court in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen who are going to cause fits for the AARP back court the Nets are rolling out there. The Kings of the North are a team that the causal NBA fan has never seen play. The man thing you need to know about them is they can D it up with the best of them. I know a first time playoff teams like the Raptors usually flame out quickly in the playoffs but I love the match up for the Nets and think they get it done in six vs. the Nets.
3 - Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)
A rematch of the 2013 second round match up although this one has a little different twist than last year. That little twist is Mr. Russell Westbrook. Last season he misseed the entire playoffs series and the Grizz used that to their advantage and dominated the Thunder. That was last year and this season the Thunder have a healthy Westbrook and Kevin Durant who went full video game mode with cheat codes this season. Thunder are the best team in the NBA in my humble opinion. Grizz will pose some issues for them but nothing too serious. Thunder in six.
2 - Houston Rockets (4) vs. Porltand Trailblazers (5)
Two teams that both like to push the tempo and shoot lots of threes. This is going to be a very entertaining series feturing some of the better guards in the NBA in Damien Lillard and James Harden and two of the better big men in LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard. Make sure to stay up for the late night west coast games in Portland. They have a great home court and an electric atmoshpere and it will be nuts for the playoff games.
1 - Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)
These teams don't like each other at all an they aren't shy about letting everyone know that. All their games have results in many hard fouls and a few ejections and the playoff games should follow suit. Plus some of the upper elite talent in the NBA are featured in this series with Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and, Andre Igoudala. This is a must see series and make sure to make an extra pot of coffee for the late night games and I promise you it will be worth it.
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By all accounts it looks like the Royals have found their next great young pitcher and his name is Yordano Ventura. This could not come at a better time for the franchise that appears to be ready to take the next step and have a legit chance at making the playoffs. There has not been this much excitement around a homegrown Royals pitcher since Zack Greinke. Ventura being named to the 3rd spot of the starting rotation can only mean good things is on the horizon for the Royals this season. The success of the Royals this season is directly intertwined with how good Ventura can be. If he is able to morph into the second coming of Zack Greinke and gives the Royals a legitimate ace to pair with James Shields then this season will live up to the expectations that have been set before them.
When it comes to Ventura my thought is it is about time the Royals had something pan out for them. Well, at least it appears like it is going to pan out. For so many years Royals fans have had to hear about this player or that player that was going to be the next savor for the franchise only to see said player flame out. That is always my first reaction every time I heard about the next “can’t miss prospect” that is making his way through the Royals system. To be honest that was my first reaction when I began hearing and reading about Ventura. I tend to have a defeatist attitude when it comes to the Royals and the concept of good things happening for them. In my defense I have the last 25 years to back up my logic. That being said, all signs point to the Royals finally having one of there own guys actually come up and pay off for the Royals in the big leagues.
Not only is the success of Ventura critical for the Royals to make the post season it is also critical to the legacy of General Manager Dayton Moore. In 2006 Dayton Moore took over a franchise that was pitiful and poorly ran for many years. What he has been able to do to since taking over is very impressive but the one black mark against Moore in his time in Kansas City is the lack of any of his own prospects to make a big impact for the big league club. None of the Moore’s first round has set the world on fire in the majors. Mike Moustakas has been disappointing, Eric Hosmer has been good but not great, Aaron Crow is a bullpen pitching, Christian Colon will be a utility player at best, Bubba Starling is still years away from being MLB ready, and Kyle Zimmer has hurt last season. Moore’s biggest win to date is Salvy Perez who has become one of the elite catchers in MLB so saying he could use another win is an understatement. Ventura looks like he is going to be the pitching prospect win that Dayton Moore has been unable to find at this point with the Royals. Only time will tell if Ventura turns into the franchise-altering player everyone thinks he will be.
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Well it is finally here. Royals spring training is in full effect, and by full effect I mean they are finally going to play a game that doesn't matter. The Royals made so many great strides last season that many "experts" like them as a dark horse team to make the playoffs. As much as I would love for the Kansas City Royals to finally break through and make the post season they still have many issues on this roster that need to be addressed if there is any chance of them making the playoffs. Thankfully for the Royals there are many solutions to these issues right under their nose.
First lets address what issues still plague this team. The primary issue with the Royals is the offense and lack of any homerun power on the team. The Royals ranked 28th in homerun hit last season with only 112. That was a full 100 homeruns behind MLB leading Baltimore Orioles and I don't want to hear about how big the ballpark is because the Oakland A's hit 186 homeruns (3rd in all of MLB) and they play in one of the most pitcher friendly parks. For the Royals to be true contenders they need to hit the ball over the wall. Thankfully for the Royals the solution to this issue lies at first and thrid base. As Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas go so will the Royals offense. It is really that simple. If those two players can take a step forward offensively and start turning those singles into doubles and make those doubles become homeruns then that will make everything easier for the rest of the line up. Hosmer and Moose are one of the keys to the Royals becoming a good team to a playoff team this season. The other key is the staple of all playoff teams and that is starting pitching.
Last season the Royals pitching staff (starters and bullpen) were just stupid good. They finished 6th overall in MLB with a 3.45 team ERA. None of the starting pitchers had the great win totals but as a whole the starting rotation was a major plus for the club. There is no way the starting rotation can be what it was last season mainly because Ervin Santana is not on this team. His replacement (Jason Vargas) is a decent pitcher but has nowhere near the talent level of Santana so a regression there is a given. The best way for the starting rotation to repeat what it did last season is if Danny Duffy, Kyle Zimmer, and Yordano Ventura are able to become what the Royals have been telling us. The highest hopes for a star out of those three is Ventura who has been called mini Pedro Martinez. Royals GM Dayton Moore and pitching coach Dave Eiland have not been shy to state that Ventura can make a jump to pitching 200 innings this season. If Ventura is able to reach that make then that means the Royals will be in contention through the entire season. That is something that has not happened in many years for this organization.
When you experience the amount of success the Royals had last year a regression the follow year is as constant as the sun rising in the East. For the Royals they are in a good position where they have many solutions within their own team to prevent a major drop off.
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It is here…the greatest American holiday. Super Bowl Sunday is finally here. This is one of my favorite days of the entire year. I love everything that goes along with Super Bowl Sunday. I even love the week leading up to it. I love the ridiculous media day circus along with hype around the commercial. I love having people over and over eating the entire evening. Clearly I love this day.
Now, all of that being said about the greatness of the Super Bowl you really should be paying attention to the NBA right now. Mainly you should be paying attention to that little team that plays its home games 5 hours down I-35 south the Oklahoma City Thunder. In case you haven’t been paying attention Kevin Durant is damn amazing at this thing called basketball. Right now he is putting together one of the greatest runs we have ever seen in NBA history. In his last nine games KD has dropped 38.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1 block, 1.3 steals while shooting 58% from the field. My God those are some crazy ass numbers. The numbers that Durant has put up is the reason why the Thunder has won 8 straight without Russell Westbrook. Right now Kevin Durant is the MVP of the NBA and it isn’t really close. He is truly a once in a generation player. Regardless of your feelings towards the NBA if you claim to be a basketball fan you need to watch him play every single chance you get. Speaking of watching Kevin Durant play this game of basketball.
That brings us to tonight’s match up vs. the Miami Heat. It is not often that a regular season NBA game on a Wednesday night warrants that much attention but this one does. This game features the two greatest basketball players in the world. It features a 4 time MVP in LeBron James and the soon to be crowned MVP in Durant. You have the most efficient player in the NBA vs. the most efficient scorer in the league. I know NBA in January is not something that resonates a lot in this area but you really should be watching ESPN tonight at 6pm to watch these great players.
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Four days later and it still stings. Blowing a 28 point lead in the second half of a NFL playoff game is going to sting for while. There is no doubting that. This is going to be a loss that is talked about for the next 20 years. Anytime a team gets down in the playoffs and/or starts making a comeback they are going to reference the Chiefs blowing a 28 point lead in the second half vs. the Colts. I guess if you are going to impload at least the Chiefs did it in spectacular fashion.
The season is over and now we turn our eyes to fixing the problems that lead to the Chiefs blowing said 28 point lead. The major owness for the loss falls firmly on the defense in particular the secondary. I have no idea how the Chiefs defensive backs continued to let the fastest guy on the field get behind you time after time after time. Some of it was the scheme but for me a lot of it is the talent of the secondary. This game proved that the one of the main needs for the Chiefs to address in the off-season is the defensive back field. Kendrick Lewis showed that he does not have the athletic ability to be a starting safety in the NFL. His poor tackling late in the season combined with the poor routes he took on receivers was very costly for the Chiefs.
Lewis is not the only upgrade that needs to happen in the secondary either. Addressing the corner back position is a must as well. I love Brandon Flowers as much as anyone and I know he played through injury for a majority this season but for much of the season he was forced into the slot cover guy. That is not what you should be getting from a player who carries aroudn his contract. I don't want a number 2 corner to compliment Sean Smith or Brandon Flowers. I want a number 1 corner that bumps those guys down the food chain. Injuries was the cause for the mainly of the ills that hurt the Chiefs vs. the Colts but there were cracks in the foundation well before that playoff collapse. Good thing for the Chiefs is that these are not impossible things to do in this off-season.
The new management of the Chiefs and in particular John Dorsey and his staff showed that they can find and indentify talented players. Marcus Cooper and Sean McGrath being the prime examples of that. The Chiefs appear to be in good hands moving forward into this off-season but man.....what could have been if Jamaal Charles doesn't get hurt or if they don't let T.Y. Hilton go off for 4,293 yards and 5 TDs (my estimation) and what if Dwanye Bowe is able to get both feet in bounds.
Life of a Chiefs fan....What if
Craig A. Brenner
"It was all good just a week ago..." -- Kanye West
Now that quote from Yeezus doesn't 100% apply to the Kansas City Chiefs. For it to be completely accurate it would have to be something like "It was all good three weeks ago." Three weeks ago everything was amazing for the Chiefs. They were 9-0 and coming off the bye week and getting ready to travel to Denver to play the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. Then Peyton Manning went all Peyton Manning on them and things have spirailed from there. Devasting loss to the Chargers in the closing minutes and blowing a two touchdown lead to the Broncos (both at home) and the Chiefs now find themselves in the position of having to end a losing streak. Good thing for the Chiefs is the Redskins are a perfect remedy for what ails them.
The Redskins are a mess in every sense of the word. Their star QB, Robert Griffin III's play has beenuneven at best this eason while he tries to come back from a major knee injury. Their head coach has spent time this season publicly questioning his QB while his team continues to lose game after game after game. The Redskins scream of a team that has packed it in for the season already. Going from division winners to celler dwellers in the NFC East. If the Chiefs are able to get a lead on the Redskins early in the game there is a decent chances they fold up shop and the Chiefs are able to end this losing streak.
It sounds easier on paper then it will be to accomplish on the field. Even with all of the struggles the Redskins have encountered this season they are still a team with some very talented players. RG3 is a former Heisman Trophy winner who had one of the best seasons for a rookie QB last year. That could spell bad news for a Chiefs team that has had issues with stopping QBs the last few weeks. the Chiefs havent been able to get any pressure on the QB since the bye week. They have recorded one sack in their last three games. One of the keys to the Chiefs 9-0 start was their ability to hit the QB and force him into making a poor throw or a sack and a fumble. RG3 is a different type of QB then the last two the Chiefs have played. He can make plays with his legs and if the Chiefs are able to get any pressure on Griffin they need to make sure they don't let him escape the pocket because if they do things could get ugly. Back in week 3 the Chiefs allowed a few big runs to a QB with a similar skill set of Griffin in Mike Vick. And based on the lack luster tackling by the secondary the past few weeks I don't have a lot of confidence in them making sure Griffin runs do not become big gains.
Fortunately for the Chiefs one of their bigger weak spots is starting to look more like a strength for the team. The offense was just alogn for the ride for the first 9 games of the season. We all know that and we could all see that. Even though the last three games have resulted in losses, the strides the offense has made is a good sign for the team going forward. The way the offense was playing during the first 9 games was not good enough to win in the playoffs. In the playoofs you need to convert 3rd and long plays by passing the ball down the field. This Chiefs offense showed in the game vs. the Broncos that they can do that. Granted, they did not get into the endzone when they needed to but they were at least able to get in a position where they had a shot at a game tying touchdown.
I think the Chiefs end the losing streak this Sunday vs. the Redskins. The Chiefs are good enough where they are able to keep a losing team like Washington losing.