"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NBA NIGHTMARE: WHAT IF GOLDEN STATE AND CLEVELAND BOTH GO DOWN?

Should the NBA Be Worried? With last night's victory, Oklahoma City is within a game of eliminating the leader in regular season wins, the defending champs and the two-time MVP. Talk about your upsets. Although the series is far from over, the Warriors are looking like they might just lay a Golden State egg. A team whose place in history has been debated almost all season might just put that argument to rest with one more loss to the Thunder. Is it possible for them to come up with some answer to OKC and extend the series? Probably, but history isn't on their side. A bigger concern has to be the mediocre play of MVP Steph Curry, who doesn't appear to me to be playing at full strength. His 6 for 20 shooting, with just two three-pointers in ten attempts, has to be a huge issue for coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the team. The Thunder beat the Warriors by a collective 52 points in the two games in Oklahoma City. That's consecutive beat downs of a ream that most thought would be challenged, but still emerge as the Western Conference champion. But Golden State has been here before. In last year's Finals, they found themselves down two games to one against Cleveland and won three in a row to win the title. There area a couple of key differences this time. First, Oklahoma City is healthy, with two weapons that are hitting on all cylinders. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 62 points in game 4 and it doesn't appear that Golden State has an answer for the tandem. In last year's Finals, the Cavs were attempting to ride Lebron James for two more victories and he just ran out of steam. Second, the Warriors are getting dominated on both ends of the floor. It's one thing to compete and lose close games, but these games are absolute blowouts. Usually a team could look at a 3 - 1 deficit and convince themselves that if a few plays went their way, perhaps the situation could be the reverse. Unless Golden State is fooling itself, there's no way they can think they are anywhere close to as good as the Thunder are at this point.

Now we head to the Eastern Conference, where the Cleveland Cavaliers saw their ten-game playoff winning streak come to a screeching halt in Toronto. Losing on the road isn't a disgrace, especially after coming back from 18 points down to take a couple of fourth quarter leads. I think the Cavs' problems are much more fixable than the Warriors, especially if Lebron decides to take over the game when his team needs it. I also doubt that Irving and Love will continue to shoot poorly, so with a win tonight in Cleveland, all might be right in northern Ohio. However, if Toronto's guards, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan continue to combine for 60+ points, the Cavs could be in real trouble. It appears that Cleveland's rookie head coach Tryon Lue is choking a bit under the pressure. Instead of sticking to the formula that resulted in that early playoff run, he seems to be reacting to situation by making changes that probably aren't necessary. The problem there is that he runs the risk of losing credibility with Lebron James and that could affect the chemistry that the Cavs had worked so hard to develop over the course of the second half of the season. Kevin Love's offensive difficulties also could jeopardize the trust that James has come to show in him. We'll see tonight how they respond.

Are we looking at a Finals that pits the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Toronto Raptors? If so, shouldn't commissioner Adam Silver and the owners be a bit concerned? As dynamic as the four stars that would be on display are, the Raptors play in Canada and OKC is still a small market team. The NBA is built around star power and the lack of Lebron or Steph will likely result in a ratings disaster. There's really no way the casual fan will find much to be interested in, except perhaps the chance that nice guy Kevin Durant will be able to pick up that elusive title. An OKC - Cleveland matchup would be a great series, as would a Warriors - Cavs rematch. But if the Raptors pull the upset and advance to face OKC, it's just difficult for me to envision a lot of national interest.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.






Monday, May 23, 2016

TOM BRADY WON'T LET THIS GO, BUT NEITHER WILL ROGER GOODELL

Deflate-Gate Needs to End: How much longer can this go on? It's been nine days short of 500 and counting since the New England Patriots took the air out of some footballs during the AFC Championship game in January of 2015. The Pats were stripped of a draft pick and fined $1,000,000. Tom Brady was given a four-game suspension to open this season. After appeals, a court decision in Brady's favor and then a reversal on appeal that went the NFL's way, it looked like we were going to be able to put the whole thing behind us. But no, Tom Brady has hired the former Solicitor General of the United States as his attorney and they are in the process of getting the full U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look at the case. Apparently, three judges weren't enough. At this point, even though I think the entire affair was overblown, it's just time to stop the back and forth and settle this thing like reasonable adults. The aspect of this that's so intriguing is the effort these guys are putting into resolving an issue that has to do with playing a game. Both parties, meaning Brady and Goodell, are rich beyond belief, yet for some reason they have a concern about something called their legacy. Really? Are we talking George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Eienstein, Theodore Roosevelt, Madam Curie, Jonah Salk, Neil Armstrong or Mother Theresa? Now those are legacies. A pretty boy quarterback and an overpaid league commissioner hardly have anything worthy of being called the same thing. Goodell is trying to enforce and maintain the integrity of a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL's billionaire owners and the millionaire players that work for them. It's laughable to put the word integrity in the same sentence as an agreement that basically makes Goodell judge, jury and executioner of player conduct issues. Except for Patriots fans and Patriots haters, I just don't think there's much sympathy from the general public for either side. Even with a ruling by the full court, there's a chance one of these idiots will actually petition the U.S. Supreme Court to adjudicate the case. Again, really? Is this the kind of case our forefathers and crafters of our government put the Court in place to hear? I think not. It was bad enough when Congress decided to interject itself into Major League Baseball's PED scandal in the early 2000's. How exactly did that work out? To spend taxpayer money on this particular episode is ludicrous on its face and downright insane in practice. Maybe I'm just a little testy at hearing about this case for the last year and a half. I'm more concerned about the apparent self-importance these guys have over their respective roles in society and history. Frankly, I'm a sports commentator and fan, but all I have to do is stop watching and these two figures end up having no impact on anything important. Come on guys, it's just a game. Or is it?

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.





MONDAY MUSINGS: DONOVAN DESERVES MORE CREDIT AT OKC, CAVS LOOKING TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN TORONTO, PGA TOUR'S JORDAN SPIETH STILL SHAKING OFF MASTERS HANGOVER

Thunder Roll at Home: The Oklahoma City Thunder led 117 - 80...after three quarters! A 45 point third period put the Warriors away and gave the Thunder a 2 - 1 lead in their Western Conference final series. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 65 points, more than the entire Golden State starting lineup. League MVP Steph Curry was held to 24 points on just seven made field goals. Despite never setting foot on the floor, one member of the Thunder is having a far bigger impact than most observers thought possible. In his first year coaching an NBA team, Billy Donovan seems to have done a pretty good job of figuring things out. Last night he had Stephen Adams, who had actually played pretty well throughout the post-season,splitting time with Enes Kanter at center and going with a smaller lineup. The team that won 73 games in the regular season didn't seem prepared last night and Donovan made sure his squad was ready to take advantage of it. Of course the notion that former Florida coach would have difficulty adjusting to the professional game is a bit absurd to me, considering he led a basketball program at a football focused school to consecutive national championships. As a member of the Rick Pitino coaching tree, he certainly had plenty of opportunity to be advised by Pitino about the differences in the college and pro games. So with all of the talk about the Thunder lineup that includes superstars Durant and Westbrook, it should be noted that the difference between this year and last is the guy calling the shots from the sideline. The Warriors now face a must win situation in Game 4, not an unfamiliar spot for the defending champs, but it will be interesting to see if Donovan changes things up again. If he does, Golden State will need to adapt quickly, or they could find their backs against a very big wall.

Lebron and Company Need to Regroup: After suffering their first loss of the postseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to regain some of their dominance over the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland appeared to lack the energy and intensity that they'd displayed in the first two games of their Eastern Conference final series. They also had two players, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who had bad shooting nights in the same game for the first time in the playoffs. Lebron James wasn't able to compensate for them, especially with the Raptors hitting from long range and Bismack Biyombo controlling the paint with 26 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. It's unlikely that Love, Irving and Tristan Thompson will combine for 4 - 29 shooting on consecutive nights and that Biyombo will dominate the glass again, primarily because I expect better shooting and floor spacing by the Cavs tonight. Of course, it's not like the Raptors can't compete with Cleveland. The Raptors finished a lone game behind the Cavs for the best record in the conference and defeated them two out of three games in the regular season, prevailing in both games in Toronto. That means the Cavs are still in search of their first victory of the season on the Raptors' home court, so perhaps Toronto is still more dangerous than was presumed a few days ago. But virtually everything went in their favor Saturday night, and midway through the fourth period Cleveland was still within striking distance. With seven footer Jonas Valanciunas still sidelined with an injury, I predict it will be tough for Toronto to even the series. If they do, we'll get the first opportunity to see how the Cavs play as the pressure builds. But with a win, Cleveland gets to breathe easier heading home, needing just one more victory to get to the NBA Finals. Since I've been on the Cavalier bandwagon since April, I'll stick with them to win tonight and close out the series in Cleveland Wednesday night.

Spieth Staggers at the Nelson: Jordan Spieth started the day in the final group, but a series of errant tee shots eventually resulted in a closing 74 and a tie for 18th. Even though the two-time major winner insists his final round collapse in the Master's is behind him, it looks to me as if he's still dealing with whatever swing issues caused him to struggle down the stretch at Augusta. As noted on CBS' telecast yesterday, Spieth was missing fairways on both sides, not a good sign as he tries to fix whatever is wrong with his swing. With the U.S. Open beginning in a little over three weeks at Oakmont Country Club, known for it's punishing rough and multitude of bunkers, inconsistency off the tee will make it difficult for Spieth to even make it to the weekend, much less contend. The bright spot for me on Sunday was Sergio Garcia's 68 that got him into a playoff with Brooks Koepka, which the Spaniard won on the first hole with a par. It's been almost seventeen years since Garcia burst on the stage by dueling Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship, eventually won by for his second major championship. It would be hard to find anyone that watched that round and thought Garcia would still be searching for his first major title. Sergio's closest accomplishments to a major win have been a Players title and his play on several victorious European Ryder Cup teams. I'll be covering the U.S. Open on site, and it would be great for the game of golf if Sergio Garcia was holding the trophy outside the Oakmont clubhouse late in the afternoon of June 20.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.





Friday, May 20, 2016

PGA TOUR FRIDAY: NO WOMEN MEMBERS AT MUIRFIELD, NO TIGER ANYWHERE, NO MERCY FOR PHIL

Welcome to the 19th Century: Much of the appeal of watching the Open Championship, otherwise known as the British Open to most Americans, is the sense of history we feel whenever the tournament is contested at one of the older links courses. Whether it be St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Turnberry and until today, Muirfield, it's fascinating to think that the game of golf started at some of these venues in the 1800's. This week, Muirfield took that historical perspective a little too seriously as the membership voted to keep itself an all male institution. This notion that in the year 2016 it makes sense on any level to exclude women from high profile clubs like Muirfield, St. Andrews, Augusta National and others is absurd. The others have made changes, but not Muirfield. Sure, it's their club and they have the right to be exclusionary, but having the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do. The R&A, the ruling body of golf  (along with the USGA) of most of the world, had no choice but to remove the club from the Open Championship rota, the most prestigious honor a course can have in the United Kingdom. It's unfortunate, but necessary. I'm a golfer, as is my wife, and we converse frequently about the discrimination women suffer in the game, from inadequate facilities to tees that are seemingly placed as an afterthought, despite women paying the exact same greens fees as men. For a sport that is desperately in need of an influx of new players, you would think it would be reaching out with open arms to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for a group that is ripe to provide additional participants. This antiquated notion that women slow down the game, can't play as well or are a nuisance haven't played much golf with them. While most macho guys are trying to hit drivers from tees that are too far back for their ability, many women are waiting in the fairway while the men are searching in vain in the trees for their errant shots. I guess it's okay for the U.K. to have had a woman to lead their country, and I'm not talking about Princess Di, but unfortunately Margaret Thatcher would have been denied membership at Muirfield. Really?

Tiger's Comeback Might Be All Wet: When Tiger Woods dumped three consecutive shots into the water on a par 3 that is barely over 100 yards, it appeared that any serious talk about him returning to competitive golf was premature at best. There are probably some good reasons for his inability to get over a water hazard at Congressional Country Club, but the best one is most likely that he just isn't ready to come back to the tour. There was hope and speculation that he might play a tune up event prior to teeing it up at the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June. I'll be attending the tournament, and I have absolutely no expectation of seeing Woods anywhere close to northwestern Pennsylvania that weekend, unless he decides to visit Arnold Palmer in Latrobe. It's interesting that Tiger gets more coverage in recovering from injury than Jason Day gets by winning one of the biggest tournaments on the planet. That just substantiates how difficult it is to supplant the legends of the game. Jack Nicklaus shot a 72 at Augusta National this week, and you would think he won his 19th major. Don't get me wrong, there's not a bigger Tiger Woods fan than me. But let's face it, he's 40 years old, injured and worn out, with a lot less years ahead than he has behind him. Can he win again? That's not even the question right now. Will he ever play again? That still remains to be seen.

Phil Mickelson Out Over $1 Million: After vehemently denying for the last couple of years having any involvement in an insider trading scheme, Phil Mickelson ended up making restitution in the amount $931,000. That's a pretty big check to stroke if you're not guilty of something. It turns out that Mickelson, while benefiting from the transaction, wasn't charged with insider trading because he received the stock tip second hand, rather than directly from the insider, in this case the CEO of Dean foods at the time. Phil's information came instead from a guy to whom he owed gambling debts, probably a bigger hit to Mickelson's reputation than the stock transaction itself. Of course, Mickelson has never trie to hide his gambling, a perfectly legal activity if it's done in Las Vegas or other casino locations. But if he was placing bets through Billy Waters, the guy who gave him the stock tip that allowed Mickelson to pay him back, then that's illegal, no matter how widespread the practice. I'm not sure that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem will be too happy with Phil's connection to not only sports gambling, but the type that isn't technically allowed under the law. According to Yahoo! Sports, there is a clause in the PGA Tour bylaws that mentions "behavior unbecoming" to the Tour. I'm thinking that having to pay back a million bucks that you got by taking an illegal stock tip from your bookie to repay gambling debts might just fall into that category. My guess is that Phil will have a rather interesting phone conversation, if not a face-to-face appearance with Finchem to discuss the matter. Mickelson makes around $40 million a year from endorsement deals, which haven't been affected to this point, but public backlash could change all of that. If anything, I would think the entire episode might just dampen the five time major winner's enthusiasm for placing a few debts, unless of course he has a much bigger problem with gambling than is healthy. That would be something his sponsors probably would have to take notice of.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.








Monday, May 16, 2016

HOW CAN WE JUSTIFY $1 MILLION TO PLAY ONE BASEBALL GAME?

How Are High Sports Salaries Justifiable? We have teachers paying for their own school supplies, clergy working second jobs at Home Depot, public safety officers moonlighting as security guards, and this is all just to be able to do their jobs effectively or provide a living for their families. This season alone, over 30 major league baseball players will earn in excess of $20,000,000 on the field. Zack Greinke of the Arizona Diamondbacks will make over $34 million to pitch in thirty games, and that's if he reaches the postseason. That equates to over $1,000,000 every time he steps on the mound. As an avid sports fan with an undergraduate degree in economics and an MBA in marketing, I certainly understand how free markets work and that the money being thrown around in major league sports is generally attributed to supply and demand. But there is always a point where circumstances begin to border on the ridiculous. I'm not in support of the income inequality notions that are thrown around in this year's political election cycle, but if there are taxpayer funds being used to further the income of billionaires who can't seem to reign in their own egos, then something can and should be done about it. The same holds true for tax breaks or incentives provided to sports franchises to stay in or relocate to a particular municipality. If Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys wants to spend $1 billion to build his own stadium, good for him. But if his team plays in someone else's publicly supported stadium, then he's still a party, indirectly through his participation in the NFL, of benefiting from tax funds.

This is probably more of a societal issue than one confined to the world sports. Entertainers such as Beyonce make an insane amount of money, Wall Street traders can make bonuses in the eight figure range and even lottery winners get a huge chunk of cash for doing nothing more than buying a ticket. But since my focus is generally on sports, I'll confine my comments to that arena. I'm not really calling for legislation or government intervention, but more the recognition on the part of our society that there may be better and more humanitarian ways to use billions of dollars. It's amazing what we could do with that amount of funding if we just cut sports salaries in half. I find it hard to believe that Greinke would quit the game if his contract was only for $17 million a season or that Nick Saban would find another line of work if he was only earning a paltry $3 million to coach football. What I'm calling for is that people examine for themselves the actual value of supporting, whether it's through ticket sales, direct contributions or the purchase of advertised goods and services, the high salaries for players and coaches.

I'm not giving the PGA Tour a pass here either. They flaunt how much money is given to charity, but they're only able to do that because the local events are staffed by primarily volunteer workers that devote a week of their lives to the cause due to the charity contributions. The Tour, which yesterday concluded their signature event, the Players, was bragging about the $75 million that they've given to local charities since the event was started in 1974. By my math, that's roughly $1.8 million a year. The purse alone for last weekend's tourney was over $10 million. So that's $10 million for the players, a couple of  million for the charities and $0 for the volunteers, except for discounted food and passes to the tournament. It's undisclosed the amount that was left over to line the coffers of the Tour itself. What other business gets to thrive and pay it's performers millions while the majority of the help works for charity, most of which just ends up being a nice tax write-off? Don't get me wrong, at least the PGA tour is giving to charities that are in desperate need for the funds. But I'm not naive enough to think that the first check written is to the deserving organizations.

I would like to see a more aware public and sports culture start to stand up and demand a more rational and realistic use of these billions of dollars. Because ultimately, whether it's through increased prices to pay for advertising which pays for rights fees which go to the sports organizations, or higher cable bills to pay for rights fees which go to the sports organizations, or...Anyway, you get my point. We're paying for it in some way, and the only way to stop it is to stop paying. I'd really love to see a weekend where no one goes to a game and no one watches an event so that the people in charge understand who is really, ultimately and totally in control. Without fans paying for tickets or corporation paying for advertising and luxury suites, there isn't any money, or at least not enough to pay Zack Greinke $1,000,000 a game.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.





Thursday, May 12, 2016

NBA PLAYOFFS TAKE SHAPE AND IT'S TIME FOR THE PLAYERS TO BE GIVEN MAJOR STATUS

Cavaliers Have Their Feet Up, Still Waiting and Resting: As the Toronto Raptors defeated the Miami Heat in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, the Cleveland Cavaliers continued to rest, probably rooting for the Heat to win Friday night and send the series back to Canada for a deciding seventh game. The Cavs haven't played since Sunday's close out of the Atlanta Hawks, and it's likely to be another several days before they take the court again. Cleveland has played the minimum eight games, allowing them to get plenty of off days and enter the next series against either the Heat or Raptors healthy and with a fully charged battery. Their opponents, especially if the series winner has to play seven games, will likely come into Cleveland in need of a little refueling. Except for perhaps a bit of distraction that would come with Lebron taking on his old team, I really don't see the Cavs experiencing much resistance on their way to the Finals. I also don't see the Warriors sweeping the Thunder, who now seem likely to take care of business against the Spurs at home tonight  in OKC to advance. I know, the Spurs have been left for dead before, but an aging Tim Duncan appears to be overmatched against the younger, more mobile twin towers of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. The Warriors looked vulnerable at times last night, but Steph Curry hit some big shots, especially a circus three pointer in the last minute that proved to be final dagger in the Blazers' slim chances to pull a series upset.  Many so-called experts have been saying for weeks that the Thunder might have the best chance to defeat the Warriors, and that may be so. But the best chance still isn't a particularly good one, so I'll be looking forward to a Cavaliers - Warriors rematch. I've been saying for weeks myself that the Cavs will prevail in that one, and I've seen nothing so far that would make me abandon that position.

The Players Needs More Love: The tournament that is generally considered the fifth major in men's professional golf still tends to take a backseat to the majors. However, it's deep field, great course and finishing holes drams makes it every bit as compelling a contest as the majors. Given the growth in the game in the last forty years, especially at the global level, it makes sense to consider adding it as an official major championship. It wouldn't necessarily alter the records that much, considering the two golfers at the top of the list, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, have multiple titles. It would raise Jack's total to 21 with Woods at 16. More importantly, it would allow previous non-major winners like Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, K.J. Choi and Ricky Fowler, to name a few, admission to that all-important club. But that's not my primary reason to include it. The real intent is to recognize a tournament that has the best field of any in the world. Players qualify for inclusion not through a short-term tournament process, but by how they rank in the world and that's earned by consistent good play over a period of time. The Masters, while a great tournament with as much tradition and drama as any, is still a limited field event. And many of those in the limited field are former champions who aren't really competitive with today's players. The U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship, while full field tournaments, all have qualifying processes that open the tournament to players that otherwise wouldn't make a field like the one at The Players. Is there something so magical about the number four? And for those that argue that it would work against, from a historical perspective, the players that competed prior to the inception of the tournament in 1974, I have the following answer. Prior to Arnold Palmer's time, The Open Championship and the PGA overlapped, meaning those players had to choose which one to play. Ben Hogan made the trip once and won. Just think how many majors he could have had if the current format had been in place in the forties and fifties. It's time for the tunnel vision of tradition to evolve with the new reach of the game and  recognize that The Players is worthy of major championship status.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.





Saturday, May 7, 2016

DERBY DAY THOUGHTS: CROWDED FIELDAT CHURCHILL DOWNS, NBA PLAYOFFS HEAT UP, TIGER STILL AWOL

Back to Back Triple Crowns? Probably not, based on history, but with unbeaten Nyquist leading the crowded field, there's always a possibility. You have to look at the number 13 post position and worry if the betting favorite can battle through the field and take a victory. There are also four other Grade 1 stakes race winners among the twenty horses entered, so there could be plenty of competition down the stretch in Lexington. The tough thing about the Derby is that none of these horses has ever run at the distance of a mile and a quarter before. A mile and an eighth is the longest any of them have run, making it difficult to handicap how they'll do with an extra 220 yards added to the track. At this writing, Nyquist at 7 - 0 in his career, is a 2 -1 favorite with Exaggerator next at 5 - 1. In addition to the difficult post position, Nyquist also has only run two races this year. Exaggerator has run the most races of any horse entered and also races every month, with four under his belt this year. But he is also wedged in the middle of the field, running out of the number 11 post position. I like Exaggerator, and I also think that even though the bettors don't seem to share my opinion, Suddenbreakingnews, currently at 25 -1, could make some noise. I don't always tune in to the Derby, but this year might be something special, so I'll be watching.

Raptors Even it Up: Before Dwayne Wade and Lebron James square off in a love fest in the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat need to get past the Toronto Raptors. After stealing game one in Toronto in a game where All-Star Kyle Lowry couldn't seem to hit the backboard, much less the rim. However, in game two, Lowery bounced back and the Raptors head to South Beach with a little more confidence and chip on their collective shoulders. Toronto challenged Cleveland all season for the best record in the Eastern Conference, but have not been given much respect my the media. Once again, the buzz is not about the Raptors, but about the expectation that Lebron James will have to get past his former team to take his current and other former team to the Finals. The good news for the Cavs is that whoever emerges from that series will probably have to go six or seven games. Cleveland can close out the Hawks tomorrow and sit back and rest up for their next series. With Wade getting long in the tooth, the more games he has to play, logic would dictate that his performances will diminish the farther they advance. The bigger issue is how the Cavaliers are storming through the playoffs, currently 7 - 0 and making three pointers at a higher rate than if they were playing in a game of H-O-R-S-E. After some early season doubt whether James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love could really put it together, it's pretty obvious that behind mid-season coaching replacement Tyrone Lue, they've figure it out. I've heard a number of commentators still maintain that the Cavs can't beat the Warriors or Spurs. I honestly don't know what games they've been watching, but Cleveland is hitting on all cylinders and if they continue doing so, I don't think anyone can take them out.

Tiger Woods Not in for Sawgrass: Not many golfers can make more news by not playing than most players do by winning a tournament. But no other golfer is Tiger Woods, who hasn't teed it up competitively since last August and he didn't enter next week's Players. Rumors abound about when Woods will finally return to the golf course, but the fact is that probably no one, including Tiger himself, knows for sure. A premature comeback could result in another injury, one that would almost surely be career-ending for the guy I think is the greatest player of all time. Selfishly, I hope he shows up somewhere between the Players and the Memorial, giving him a chance to make the cut at the U.S. Open because I have tickets to the final round. But if I'm to be totally realistic, although Woods is exempt for the Open and has reportedly already booked accommodations, it's highly umlikely he'll be playing at Oakmont on Fathers' Day. But that doesn't mean I can't hope to be watching Tiger walking the fairways of the course where he finished second to Angel Cabrera in 2007.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.





Tuesday, May 3, 2016

NBA TALK: THUNDER BOUNCE BACK, CAVS SHAKE OFF THE RUST

Oklahoma City Resurrects Title Hopes: Thanks to a cold shooting stretch from the San Antonio Spurs and a late no-call by the officials, OKC, otherwise known as the Durant and Westbrook show, find themselves is a good position in their Western Conference semifinal series. Two days after getting blown out by 32 points in a game that really wasn't even that close, the Thunder did something only one team had done all season: Beat the Spurs on their home court. After taking a comfortable lead, OKC inexplicably left Spurs' guard Danny Green wide open on consecutive plays to give San Antonio some momentum. But Kevin Durant was sharp and the Spurs couldn't take advantage of a stolen inbounds pass in the final 13 seconds. Now the Thunder head back to Oklahoma City, needing to hold serve at home to take the series. Okay, I'm definitely getting ahead of myself, as the Spurs are more than capable of knocking off OKC anywhere they play. But it's interesting how the narrative of this series has changed in the last day. Prior to last night's game, speculation about Durant's landing spot in free agency was starting to build. But with the dramatic win, all of a sudden the conversation may be changing to whether the Thunder can knock off a Warriors team that will be playing with Stephen Curry at less than 100%. Can you say fickle? Well, that's the way it is in sports these days. I can't wait to see what the experts will find to talk about after Friday's Game 3.

Lebron and the Cavaliers Take Care of Business: After waiting more than a week to begin their second round series, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't show much rust as they took care of the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth consecutive time. Sure, the Hawks were able to grab a one point lead in the second half, but Lebron James quickly put an end to any thoughts Atlanta had of pulling a game one upset, scoring 25 points on the night. Kevin Love wasn't as sharp as he'd been in the Detroit series, but Kyrie Irving contributed 21 points as the Cavs rolled to a 104 - 93 victory. There was a brief scare for the Cavs, who have yet to lose a game in this postseason, when Kevin Love again appeared to injure his shoulder. But he got some help from the training staff and insisted he was fine. Can the Hawks break through against Cleveland? It' doubtful, especially the way the Cavs are moving the ball on offense and giving James, Irving and Love a touch on nearly every half-court possession. I'm going to continue to maintain that they can win it all if they stay healthy and play as a team. With Tristan Thompson grabbing offensive rebounds and keeping possessions alive, J.R. Smith hitting timely threes, Matthew Dellavadova spelling Irving at point guard and other role players like Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye contributing valuable minutes, any team will have to bring it all every night to win four games against this team. Lebron appears to be a man on a mission and just as in Miami, could be poised to bring a championship to his team in his second season with the current lineup. All I can say is I can't bring myself to pick against them, especially without Love and Irving in the lineup, they were still able to take a healthy Warriors team to six games in last year's Finals.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.