Odds & Ends is back and we begin this week’s edition with the Sacramento Kings getting the second overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft at last week’s draft lottery. The Phoenix Suns won the top pick and the Kings shot up from seventh to second. This is the team’s highest pick since 1989 when they selected Pervis Ellison first overall.
While there’s no doubt that the fans are excited about the pick in next month’s draft,there is debate on who the team will or should select. As of press time, the top two prospects are Arizona forward DeAndre Ayton and Serbian forward Luka Doncic. Some fans want Ayton and some want Doncic and some even want Duke forward Marvin Bagley III. Some even want the team to trade the pick altogether and either trade down and get more selections or get a proven player.
Ayton,at 7-0,has been compared to Shawn Kemp and David Robinson and has an NBA-ready body and moves well for a player of his size. He also can hit open jump shots in a reliable fashion. He averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game at Arizona in his lone season there. Doncic was the MVP of the EuroLeague championship finals this year and averaged 16 points per game and is noted for his ability as a sharpshooter. My concern with him is his lack of quickness and speed. Could he play on a team with players as quick as De’ Aaron Fox? I don’t know.
One thing I do know is that there is a lot of buzz in regards to who the team will select. Who do I have them choosing? Find out when my annual NBA Draft Preview rolls out on Jun. 19!
The Vegas Golden Knights have done something no NHL expansion team has done since 1967-advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The first-year team became Western Conference champions by beating the Winnipeg Jets in five games,winning four straight of them en route to the championship round.
To give you an idea of how much of a longshot this was to begin with, the Golden Knights had 500-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season. With a team full of spare parts from other teams and a couple of well-known faces such as David Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury, it was easy to see why. However, they were not just competitive all season,they were very dominant.
“We call ourselves the Golden Misfits for a reason,” said winger Ryan Reaves, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. “We’ve proven everyone else wrong all season.”
Not only that,but they’ve given a community something new to root for and even a source of healing following the tragic shooting outside the Mandalay Bay hotel that claimed 58 lives in October,just days before their inaugural season opened.
This team,unbeknownst to many of us hockey fans,was built to win now. A great deal of credit goes to general manager George McPhee who got great talent in the expansion draft and even netted draft picks in future drafts to build for the future. Make no mistake about it,this team had a mission from day one and they are four games away from finalizing it. Nothing they do surprises me anymore, in fact,I’m in awe of what they’ve accomplished. If you aren’t,you just don’t understand or are just a hater.
Moving on to baseball and what a great week it’s been for Giants first baseman Brandon Belt. He is swinging a hot bat at the moment with five home runs in the last seven games,including a three-run home run in the seventh inning of the Giants’ 9-5 win over Colorado on Sunday.
“You feel good when he’s up there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s really been swinging the bat so well and it’s been over an extended period of time. Right now he’s doing a good job of carrying us at times.”
Belt now has 11 home runs on the season, seven shy of his home run total from all of last season.
“I’ve known my approach to work in the past,” Belt said. “At times I’d get away from it. I think I’m just sticking with it now through thick and thin and working on it as hard as I can and doing it to the best of my ability. When I get a pitch in my zone, I’m doing something with it.”
It’s been refreshing to see Belt have the kind of success he’s had this season. He’s been a big part of the much improved offense for the team and if I had my choice of who should be the starting first baseman for the National League All-Star team this year,he’d be it right now. His season has been a great one and I hope his production continues to be solid.
Continuing with Belt as he had something to say regarding baseball and their commitment to tweak the pace of play and wondering if the umpires have anything to do with it.
Belt was upset with a game-ending called third strike by umpire Doug Eddings in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to Cincinnati. Belt said that he thought the pitch was clearly outside and that Eddings called a strike because he was anxious to end the game.
“It’s tough, because you hope that an umpire doesn’t affect a game like that. But he did, and I’m not sure if it was on purpose either,” Belt said. “You’ve heard that guy multiple times insinuate he’s trying to get through the game fast. And then he makes calls like that that I can’t imagine that he really thought was a strike. You’ve got to wonder.”
He added, “I’m not here to talk bad about the umpires. I think 99.9% of the umpires are great. I actually enjoy talking to them. But there’s just some times when you have a feeling that one or two of them are trying to get the game over with, whether it’s through what they say or what they do. And that just can’t happen. You can’t have those guys affecting careers and affecting games like that.’’
Belt has a point. I’ve noticed that not just the end of games have seen terrible calls like the one on Wednesday,but at several points during games. Clear balls have been called strikes and vice versa and it makes you wonder how so many calls can be so wrong. I think,at some point,that balls and strikes have to be allowed to be argued or reviewed. Either that or train your umpires how to call balls and strikes correctly. It isn’t hard.
Finally this week we have to talk about the return to football for one Johnny Manziel.
No,he’s not back in the NFL,but rather the CFL. Manziel signed a two-year contract to play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has not played since 2015 when he was with the Cleveland Browns. He has had a collection of off-the-field troubles and has been trying to overcome those and get back to playing football.
“I’ve been very upfront with my past and the fact that I haven’t been perfect by any means,” Manziel said. “Obviously, the magnitude of my mistakes in the past are something I’m definitely not proud of, but at the end of the day I feel like I’ve come a long way from that person that I was at that time. I feel I’ve grown a lot and feel through the mistakes I’ve made they’ve turned me into a better person, they’ve turned me into a man. I’ll never be able to outrun my past … the only thing I can do is grow and hopefully be a better person moving forward, and I have every intention of doing that.”
While I didn’t enjoy seeing his antics off-the-field (or even on it sometimes),I am of the belief that people can turn things around. I really hope that he does and has some success in Hamilton. Good luck!
That’s all this week for Odds & Ends,until next time!