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Busy week in sports yields many thoughts


03/28/18



 With NFL free agency under way, the regular season in baseball just, yikes, a week away, the Celtics suffering more injuries in a five-day span than both teams on Thursday night football, the Bruins grinding along with their own injuries, the NCAA Basketball Tournaments Sweet 16 in Boston this weekend, it is a busy time in sports. Here are a few thoughts on all of it.

You have to be of a certain age to have seen this guy, but the player Kyrie Irving most reminds me of is Earl Monroe. The Pearl would get into the lane, guys all around him, spin left, fake, spin back right, then throw up a fall-away the shot blockers narrowly missed that just slid over the front of the rim for a hoop, to which you’d ask, how did he get that off? Irving does the same thing. 
NBA 101: Three sets of identical twins, the Collins, Lopez and Morris brothers, have played in the NBA this decade. Only one other set played in the NBA prior to that. Name them. Hint: One played for the Suns in the Celtics’ famed 1976 Finals triple-overtime game.   
I wondered last March if giving outsider Stephon Gilmore gigantic money, after so many Patriots had to go elsewhere to get paid, would have repercussions in the locker room. Well, with Gronk grousing about being underpaid, and nobody taking the hometown discount this year, I think it has. And what do you think Jimmy G’s immediately vaulting past TB-12 on the salary scale did to the reported simmering tension between him, the coach and the owner? 
As for the losses, we all knew for whatever reason Malcolm Butler was gone long before the Super Bowl benching anyway, so thanks for the memories and the historic SB-saving pick. As good as Deon Lewis is, since Coach B found productive backs like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and LeGarrette Blount on the scrap heap before he pulled Deon off it, I suspect he can do that again. As much as I hate to see Danny Clutch go, if Amendola’s a three-down player in Miami his durability issues will be tested. Plus, the returning Julian Edelman mitigates the loss of DA, though the depth will suffer. So that leaves Nate Solder. He’s been good and durable, but given the holes on defense, I don’t think they could afford paying him $15 million per after what I thought was an up and down year. So it’s up to GM-B and Dante Scarnecchia to not get Tom Brady killed. 
As for Butler not blasting Coach B, maybe he just appreciates that if he hadn’t been pulled off the scrap heap by him after going undrafted he wouldn’t have just cashed in for $30 million. They call that class. 
Should it scare Patriot Nation that the first two trades Coach B made were for players (Danny Shelton and Jason McCourty) from 0-16 Cleveland? 
Exhibit A for That’s Why They Play the Game is Maryland–Baltimore County’s 74-54 destruction of Virginia. It wasn’t only the first time a 16-seed beat a 1-seed, but UV was the No. 1 in the country who got beaten by a team from UNH’s conference. Making it better, UMBC only got in on a last-second three from Jairus Lyles in the America East final vs. UVM. 
Was that karma or dumb luck for the NCAA that 13-seed Buffalo shocked by knocking out 4-seed Arizona and its under-suspicion coach Sean Miller in an 89-68 upset/rout in Round I?  
Why was that ESPN’s 30 for 30 on Phi Slama Jama so focused on sixth man/loose cannon Benny Anders? Here’s my Benny Anders story. I’m at the 1984 Final Four in Seattle, it’s in OT in the Houston vs. Virginia Semi-Final game, there’s a time out and as coach Guy V. Lewis sets up Houston’s final shot I’m looking for Benny. Now Trinity AD and then fellow NHC assistant coach Chip Polak sitting next to me points to the fourth row behind the bench and there’s Benny working on one of the cheerleaders. I’m thinking he got kicked out by Guy V. But the buzzer sounds and he runs onto the court after not hearing a word of what was supposed to happen. 
I didn’t see the surging Bruins having the NHL’s fourth-best record coming. Guess that’s why they went all in for Rick Nash. But while I’m no hockey expert, giving up a first-round pick, young Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and another pick seems like an awful lot for a two-month rental. Nash has big game experience, a big scoring past, and the final verdict will come from what he does in the playoffs. But with 18 goals, 28 points in 60 games with New York, his production didn’t match Spooner’s 25 points in 39 games in Boston. And with Spooner off to a 13-points-in- 10-games start to Nash’s six (three goals) in 11 games I wonder if the Bs would’ve gone the same 8-3 since getting Nash with Spooner instead. 
By the way, Western Conference-leading Las Vegas has the NHL’s fifth-best record. How does an expansion team pull off a first season like that? 
Given his full given name, who wants to bet Patriots guard Shaquille Olajuwon Mason was a 1990s basketball fan?
NBA 101 Answer: The Van Arsdale twins, Tom and Dick (if their parents had a sense of humor they would have named the next Van Arsdale son to come along Harry). See the glossary for their nearly identical careers. 
Finally, I’ve always thought whining about where you’re seeded in the NCAA Tournament was a big deal made over nothing. Regardless of where you’re seeded, sooner or later you’re going to have to beat everyone you face, so who cares when that game is? And with the only two 1-seeds (Kansas, Villanova) left, we could have none make the Final Four to make my case. 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 





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