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CHRISTMAS DAY WITH THE NBA

xmas bb 2CHRISTMAS DAY WITH THE NBA

They call it ‘Christmasketball!’  OK, so the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, however, Christmas Day has become one of the biggest, and most anticipated, days of NBA Basketball games all season long.  Even before the season got underway, sports writers were already talking about the Christmas lineup of games.

Back then the headliner was to be the Lakers vs. the Clippers in the ‘Battle of Los Angeles’ played at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles which is currently serving as home base to both NBA teams pending completion of the Clippers new facility in Inglewood.

And guess what, the Lakers and the Clippers have the best records in the NBA Western Division with the Lakers leading with a 24-6 record heading into the big Christmas day matchup.  The Clippers are at 22-10 with the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets trying their best to crash the LA party.

Actually, the folks who set up these Christmas games showed considerable foresight in picking relevant teams for the most part with close point spreads. The exceptions being the Golden State Warriors, who faced the red  hot Houston Rockets as 11 point underdogs, and the New Orleans Pelicans, who took on the Denver Nuggets in the late game as 8.5 point underdogs.

In the early game kicking off the Christmas day NBA action, Shooting Guard Jalen Brown, wearing jersey #7 for the Boston Celtics, was the leading scorer with 30 points for the victorious Celtics when they took on the defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors at home at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Brown hit the floor wearing neon shoes of two different colors. One was hot pink and the other electric yellow.  The Celtics were dressed in dark green uniforms and the Raptors were dressed in black.  The effect was like watching two little bright lights dancing around an otherwise darkened background. Distracting to say the least.  At least it was distracting to watch and they could become a distraction to other players as well.

Everyone connected with sports supports the ‘my cleats, my cause’ program, however perhaps it would be better if the players were required to wear shoes that are the same colors at least.

The Celtics never trailed the hometown Raptors and controlled the game all the way to a 118 to 102 final score. Kimba Walker scored 22 points for the Celtics backing up Jalen Brown and Fred VanVleet led all Raptors with 27 points in a losing effort.

But then the second game got underway in Philadelphia between the Bucks and the 76ers and the first thing noticed on the floor was that #21 for Philly, none other than Joel Embiid, had on one bright red shoe and one bright green shoe, here we go again. Let’s just hope that this does not become a new trend in the NBA.

Over in the NBA East, the Milwaukee Bucks lead all of basketball with 27 wins to only 4 losses.  The Bucks were up against the 22-10 Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas day. Even though the Bucks went into the contest as 3.5 point favorites, in the early going it was all Philadelphia, led by 6’10” point guard Ben Simmons. By the end of the first half of play, league leading Milwaukee trailed Philadelphia by 21 points, 69-48.

For once Las Vegas oddsmakers were fooled as the 76ers, who went into the contest as 3.5 underdogs, went on to lead the league leading Bucks by as many as 29 points and ended  up winning the game by a final score of 121-109.  Joel Embiid, in his dazzling shoes, led Philadelphia with 31 points and 11 rebounds.

Even without their two big stars, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors came to the Chase Center ready to play basketball against the mighty Houston Rockets featuring the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden.  The Warriors were 11 point underdogs when the game began.  They ended up beating the Rockets by a final score of 116-104.  Merry Christmas Golden State!

Of course the big game took place in Los Angeles between two Los Angeles NBA teams.  Although the Lakers have the best record at 24-6, they have lost their last three games, albeit to good teams. They went down to the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks on the road then fell to the Denver Nuggets at home.

Questions about the health of both LeBron James and Anthony Davis prevailed before tipoff, but both superstars dressed out ready to play as 2.5 point favorites against their in house rivals, the LA Clippers.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE IS UP FOR GRABS

nfl 3  HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE IS UP FOR GRABS

In the annual NFL Playoff Tournament few things are more coveted than ‘home field advantage’ when the divisional contests roll around and each and every team still has the Super Bowl in its sights….and little kids everywhere start dreaming of Santa Claus. One sure thing on every coaches and players wish list is ‘home field advantage’.

Think about it.  You get to sleep in your own bed and go to work in your own car and park in your own spot.  All of these guys are travel worn and adapt to almost any environment when they are the visiting team, however, ‘there ain’t no place like home’.

Of course, creature comforts aside, the real reason that the teams all strive for that ‘home field advantage’ are the home field crowds, which can often be like having another player or two on the field with you when they get riled up and boisterous.  Players have often spoken in after game interviews how they were able to feed off the energy of the crowd during a last minute winning drive.

Remember that the NFL Playoffs are a single-elimination tournament, so playing on your own home field takes on an even greater degree of importance.  In order to achieve ‘home field advantage’ throughout the playoffs a team must not only win their respective division, they must also end up with the best winning percentage in the conference to do so.

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, only 6 will qualify from each of the leagues two conferences based on regular season records. These will be the winners of each of the four divisional races plus two wild card teams from each conference.

Seeding for the playoffs is determined by the best overall record by percentage.  For example, the team with the best win/loss percentage in the NFC will be the number one seeded team.  The wild card teams will become the numbers 5 & 6 seeded teams in the conference.

Out front in the AFC are the Baltimore Ravens at 13-2 followed closely by the New England Patriots at 13-3.  The Kansas City Chiefs have the AFC West well in hand with an 11-4 record and the Houston Texas seem to be in control in the South although they have only posted a 10-5 record this season.

Over in the NFC the positions are more hotly contested this year. Although the NFC East has produced no viable competition, the Western division boasts the San Francisco 49ers at 12-3 with the 11-4 Seattle Seahawks nipping at their heels.

The New Orleans Saints are firmly in control of the NFC South at 12-3 and stand in good position to end up with ‘home field advantage’ should they manage to beat the Panthers next week and have the Seahawks beat San Francisco.  Speculators on sports talk shows will drive you crazy with the endless possibilities of ‘home field advantage’ scenario outcomes.

‘Wild Card Weekend’ takes place the first week after the last regular season NFL games take place, giving the fans some additional football to watch, and the top rated teams a chance to rest up for the real playoff action coming up.  However, wild card teams have been known to win Super Bowls!

Next we have the NFL Divisional Playoffs which will boil it down to the two top teams in the conference, followed by the Conference Championship which will determine the winners of this year’s NFC or AFC trophy winners.

Those two teams will go onto glory in Super Bowl LVI on February 2nd and become a part of NFL history.  Win or lose, fans and students of the game will be watching those two teams in action for years to come.

With only the final Week 17 action still pending, only the Baltimore Ravens have actually clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs this year. The AFC leading Ravens have posted a 12-2 record with only one road loss and one home loss so far.

Super Bowl LIV will be played on February 2nd  down in Miami Gardens at the Hard Rock Stadium, which by the way is located on Don Shula Drive, where the weather is expected to be balmy and nearly tropical while NFL fans in the great northlands bundle up at their favorite sports bars to enjoy the spectacle.

In the annual NFL Playoff Tournament few things are more coveted than ‘home field advantage’ when the divisional contests roll around and each and every team still has the Super Bowl in its sights….and little kids everywhere start dreaming of Santa Claus. One sure thing on every coaches and players wish list is ‘home field advantage’.

Think about it.  You get to sleep in your own bed and go to work in your own car and park in your own spot.  All of these guys are travel worn and adapt to almost any environment when they are the visiting team, however, ‘there ain’t no place like home’.

Of course, creature comforts aside, the real reason that the teams all strive for that ‘home field advantage’ are the home field crowds, which can often be like having another player or two on the field with you when they get riled up and boisterous.  Players have often spoken in after game interviews how they were able to feed off the energy of the crowd during a last minute winning drive.

Remember that the NFL Playoffs are a single-elimination tournament, so playing on your own home field takes on an even greater degree of importance.  In order to achieve ‘home field advantage’ throughout the playoffs a team must not only win their respective division, they must also end up with the best winning percentage in the conference to do so.

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, only 6 will qualify from each of the leagues two conferences based on regular season records. These will be the winners of each of the four divisional races plus two wild card teams from each conference.

Seeding for the playoffs is determined by the best overall record by percentage.  For example, the team with the best win/loss percentage in the NFC will be the number one seeded team.  The wild card teams will become the numbers 5 & 6 seeded teams in the conference.

Out front in the AFC are the Baltimore Ravens at 13-2 followed closely by the New England Patriots at 13-3.  The Kansas City Chiefs have the AFC West well in hand with an 11-4 record and the Houston Texas seem to be in control in the South although they have only posted a 10-5 record this season.

Over in the NFC the positions are more hotly contested this year. Although the NFC East has produced no viable competition, the Western division boasts the San Francisco 49ers at 12-3 with the 11-4 Seattle Seahawks nipping at their heels.

The New Orleans Saints are firmly in control of the NFC South at 12-3 and stand in good position to end up with ‘home field advantage’ should they manage to beat the Panthers next week and have the Seahawks beat San Francisco.  Speculators on sports talk shows will drive you crazy with the endless possibilities of ‘home field advantage’ scenario outcomes.

‘Wild Card Weekend’ takes place the first week after the last regular season NFL games take place, giving the fans some additional football to watch, and the top rated teams a chance to rest up for the real playoff action coming up.  However, wild card teams have been known to win Super Bowls!

Next we have the NFL Divisional Playoffs which will boil it down to the two top teams in the conference, followed by the Conference Championship which will determine the winners of this year’s NFC or AFC trophy winners.

Those two teams will go onto glory in Super Bowl LVI on February 2nd and become a part of NFL history.  Win or lose, fans and students of the game will be watching those two teams in action for years to come.

With only the final Week 17 action still pending, only the Baltimore Ravens have actually clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs this year. The AFC leading Ravens have posted a 12-2 record with only one road loss and one home loss so far.

Super Bowl LIV will be played on February 2nd  down in Miami Gardens at the Hard Rock Stadium, which by the way is located on Don Shula Drive, where the weather is expected to be balmy and nearly tropical while NFL fans in the great northlands bundle up at their favorite sports bars to enjoy the spectacle.

THE MILLION DOLLAR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

nba smTHE MILLION DOLLAR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took over the leadership of the National Basketball Association from long time commissioner David Stern in 2014 with the promise to revitalize the league and make it more of a commercially viable business as well as a major sport.  For the most part he had made great strides in that direction.

One of the regrettable axioms about the game of basketball is that you really don’t have to start watching the contest until the final 5 minutes of the game to see the best of the action.  Some even believe that watching the NBA games in the regular season is a waste of time when the real action does not begin until the playoffs start getting close.

It is in the nature of the game of basketball that the tension and drama do build up until it all comes down to the last few minutes of play to determine the winners of the game. Unless you are a serious student of the game, it is taxing to follow the action up and down the floor for an entire NBA contest.

In an effort to add a little more life into the NBA regular season, the Commissioner’s office has been considering some sort of mid season tournament for quite awhile now with the biggest stumbling block being generating enough interest among the players themselves so that the tournament does not seem like simply more of a work load.

However, Adam Silver and company have come up with an idea that just might get the players attention.  How does a million bucks per player on the tournament winning team sound?  Do you think Mr. Silver has gotten their attention with that one?

The mid season tournament would be structured along the same lines as the season finals tourney with the six division winners plus two wild card spots making up the quarter finals games, which will take place on the home team’s venue.  The semi finals will follow with the games then being played at neutral sites, which could bring live NBA to venues that lack championship caliber teams that year.

If all goes according to plan, the first mid season NBA tournament would take place during the 2021-2022 season.  The league will also be celebrating its 75th anniversary that year.  That is if the team owners don’t block the effort claiming lost revenue, but then very few NBA team owners are exactly facing poverty any time soon.

Then there are some players to whom the million dollar prize for winning the mid season tournament could be sufficient reason to stay with a team that might be in contention that year. There exists also that elite bunch of NBA super stars to which the million dollar offer will not even raise an eye brow.

Others see the possibility of a team’s tanking during the mid year tourney so as to be in better shape for the real action then the NBA Finals really do begin in the spring.  At this point no one is quite sure how it will all work out.

Time will tell where the NBA stands in 2021.  If attendance and revenues are up and everyone is making money, the mid season tournament make be left on the shelf.  If however, the league continues to see declines in attendance and public interest, then a mid season tournament with its million dollars a man purse is a definite possibility.

IT WAS A BREES!

brees 3IT WAS A BREES!

NFL fans lucky enough to have tuned into Monday Night Football this week were treated to one of the greatest performances by a professional football player, regardless of the position, regardless of when, in NFL history.  It was an ‘all-time’, ‘best ever’ event, and one that will go down in the annals of the National Football League ending up in a small building in Canton, Ohio where Drew Brees will eventually end up himself.

As though his ticket was not already punched to the highly coveted NFL Hall of Fame, the unforgettable show that Drew Brees put on against the Indianapolis Colts last Monday night put any remaining doubts to rest as Brees completed 29 of 30 passes for an incredible record breaking completion percentage of 96.7%.

In a post game interview, Drew lamented the fact that he had missed on that one pass saying, ‘that one may haunt me for a little while’.  However, it probably wasn’t for very long as sports figures high and low lined up to congratulate the Saints veteran quarterback on his outstanding accomplishment.

After all was said and done, Drew’s 148.9 passer rating on Monday Night turned out to be enough to insure the Saints a 34-7 victory over the Colts at home in the Super Dome in front of the highest concentration of Drew Brees fans on the planet.

At the beginning of the Monday Night NFL game, retired quarterback Peyton Manning held the record for the most touchdown passes in an NFL career with 539.  The Patriots Tom Brady was right behind with 538 and Drew Brees sat in third position with 537; and Brees had the Monday Night stage all to himself.

Always the master motivator, the Saints quarterback not only fired up his team but obviously motivated himself into another gear and then put on one of the most unforgettable performances in the history of pro football.  Brees racked up 307 total yards, 4 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 96.7% completion percentage.

Saints head coach Sean Payton was acutely aware of the pending records on the line for his long time quarterback and friend.  Those two have been through a lot together and one can be sure that Payton, along with the rest of the coaching staff and the entire team, were aware of what was at stake and were 100% pulling for their All Pro Quarterback to break the all time passing record.

And he did. Brees needed one touchdown to tie Tom Brady and two touchdowns to tie Peyton Manning. He scored 4 passing touchdowns and now is the exclusive all time record holder in total number of career passes with 541.

However, the drama will continue for the remaining two games of the season when Tom Brady up in New England will have two more opportunities to ellipse Brees’ total for the record. But then, Brees has two more games as well.

Brady tweeted out after the game, ‘Congrats Drew!!  Couldn’t be more deserving.  Passing Peyton the anything is an incredible achievement and your records will be tough to beat! But it’s worth trying’.

Accolades poured in from luminaries ranging from Bret Favre to JJ Watt, from Ellen DeGeneres to Matthew McConaughey.  Sports broadcasters pushed the boundaries of excess with their praise for the performance of Drew Brees last Monday Night.  It will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest games by a quarterback of all time.

However, the greatness of Drew Brees should come as no surprise as the Saints quarterback has led the NFL in passing percentage for the past three years in a row and for six seasons overall.  Brees is no stranger to success.

This is the final year of the contract that Drew Brees has with the New Orleans Saints organization. Neither Brees nor anyone from the team have so far given any indication as to what the future may hold for the veteran quarterback.

But Drew Brees is one of the most popular figures in the New Orleans area and could probably be elected mayor of the city should he decide to forgo his football career, but, don’t hold your breath!  Chances are Drew will be around for a good while longer, he certainly didn’t look like he was slowing down any last Monday night.

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