The Week In Sports 2/2/18

Los Angeles Waves Goodbye To Blake Griffin

Despite the acquisition of a star, the Piston’s playoff hopes and head coach, Stan Van Gundy's job security may still be in limbo.

An attention grabbing, risk-ridden move, the Pistons' trade for Blake Griffin may be attributed to a lingering off-court concern with the team’s attendance rates. Quite simply, the Detroit Pistons don’t pack the stands like they used to. They have been in the bottom-third of the NBA in attendance rates for eight years straight, and in the bottom five for six of those. Adding a star to the roster, in the form of Blake Griffin, could bring fans in troves.

As for the team’s playoff hopes, they are uncertain to reach the postseason even with the acquisition of Griffin. However, they are comfortably in the playoff hunt sitting at ninth best team in the East. The eighth seed Sixers are a young, talented team, but are crippled by injuries and inconsistency and have been prone to long losing streaks. That being said, roster changes mid-season are a hit or miss affair. The Pistons traded away valuable contributors from their lineup including starting guard, Avery Bradley and forward, Tobias Harris, and backup center, Boban Marjanovic, as well as two picks, including a first-rounder.

Big men, Willie Reed and Brice Johnson were included with Griffin in the trade package. While Reed could provide valuable minutes off the bench as a backup center and interior defender, Johnson’s tenure with the Pistons will most likely be restricted to the bench.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the move for the Pistons is Griffin’s contract. He was signed to a five year max deal this past summer and will be receiving close to 40 million in the 2021-2022 season when Griffin will be his early 30’s.

Griffin debuted on Thursday night as the Pistons faced the Memphis Grizzlies in Detroit. Despite only participating in a single practice as a member of the team, Griffin came out of the gates strong and for the most part, looked like the team's best player. He played an all around game, putting up 24 points, ten rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. On the offensive end Griffin scored from all levels, showcasing his improved perimeter game. On the other end he provided a strong defensive presence next to Andre Drummond. His impressive first game lead to a close pistons win as they look to make a playoff push.

- Shane Hoffmann and Suibhne O'Foighil

Quarterback Carousel
Patrick Mahomes (left) looks to take the starting quarterback job in Kansas City, after Alex Smith (right) was traded to the Washingtons Redskins. With Smith's arrival in Washington, Kirk Cousins (middle) is free agency bound.

On Tuesday, news broke that Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback, Alex Smith had been dealt to the Washington Redskins for a third round pick and standout second year defensive-back, Kendall Fuller.

The relationship between Kirk Cousins and the Redskins' front office has become steadily weaker over the past year and with this trade they are finally ready to move on from the soon-to-be free agent. Alex Smith is rumored to get a max extension from the Redskins as they seem to have located their quarterback of the coming years, despite Smith's age (33). Some rumored destinations for Kirk Cousins in free agency include the Cardinals, Jaguars, Broncos, and Jets.

When the Chiefs traded up in the 2017 NFL Draft to select Texas Tech quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, everyone knew change was on the horizon. Fans knew they had their future franchise quarterback, and Alex Smith knew his days as a starter in KC were numbered. What people didn't know, is how fast the changing of the guard would happen.

Mahomes impressed in preseason with his daring throws, pocket mobility, and elite arm strength. After preseason however, he didn't see the field until the final week of the season, once the Chiefs had secured a playoff spot on the back of Alex Smith's career year.

In week 17, Mahomes received his first NFL start and impressed, throwing for 284 yards and a touchdown as he lead a game winning drive to beat the division rival, Denver Broncos.

Whether or not Mahomes is ready to take the reins of this high-powered Chief's offense (three Chiefs offensive players named to 2018 pro-bowl, including rookie running back, Kareem Hunt) one thing is for sure, the Mahomes era will be tantalizing.

- Shane Hoffmann

Observations From The Latest Mens Basketball Top 25 Rankings
  1. Villanova
  2. Virginia
  3. Purdue
  4. Duke
  5. Michigan State
  6. Xavier
  7. Kansas
  8. Cincinnati
  9. Arizona
  10. Texas Tech
  11. Auburn
  12. Ohklahoma
  13. Saint Mary's
  14. Gonzaga
  15. West Virginia
  16. Wichita State
  17. Ohio State
  18. Tennessee
  19. North Carolina
  20. Clemson
  21. Kentucky
  22. Rhode Island
  23. Florida
  24. Michigan
  25. Arizona State

A New Top Tier

Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers are on the map as the second ranked team in the nation after an impressive win over Duke.

Unlike years past, the top of the rankings are not dominated by the classic 5-star athlete landing spots. Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and the other blue blood programs have been surpassed by teams such as Villanova, Virginia, and Purdue. Even Michigan State has slowed down after being ranked in the top three for several weeks. These programs often hold spots in the upper half of the top- 25, however this year they have joined the elite and it's not hard to see why. All three are incredibly coached, boast versatile offenses and stout defenses, and are disciplined. Time will tell if this trend continues in March, when it really matters.

Unlikely Leader in The SEC

Bruce Pearl's Auburn Tigers are surging and now have a two game lead in the SEC.

Auburn is a team that has snuck up in recent weeks. While they are accompanied in the top-15 with several other teams rarely seen that high such as Texas Tech, Saint Mary's, and Cincinnati, Auburn has subtly taken control of the Southeastern Conference. Austin Wiley still hasn't been cleared to play for the Tigers, however it seems they are fine without him as guards, Bryce Brown (16.6 points per game) and Mustapha Heron (15.3) have lead the charge in his wake leading Auburn to a 20-2 start.

Pac-12 Teams Continue To Fall

The Pac-12 division is in a down year. While conferences like the Big Ten have had similar struggles this year, they still boast several ranked teams. After a strong showing last year from UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona, two of those teams have dropped off the map leaving ninth ranked Arizona as the last Pac-12 powerhouse. Arizona State has been horrendous in conference play after a strong start to the year and look ready to drop out of the rankings as they sit as the last team in.

- Shane Hoffmann

Harden Has A Career Night... Again

Houston Rockets superstar guard, James Harden broke two records this week. In a 114-107 home win over the Orlando Magic in which several of the Rockets key players were injured, Harden put up an insane stat line of 60 points, ten rebounds, and eleven assists. Not only did Harden set the all-time Rockets single game scoring record, passing Calvin Murphy's 57, but also the most points in a game with a triple double (at least ten rebounds, points, assists).

- Shane Hoffmann

Why The NHL Has The Best All-Star Game + Game Recap
Nikita Kucherov scored a hat-trick in Sunday's game.

NHL kicked off the 2018 All-Star game in Tampa Bay, Florida this weekend and it was an entertaining one. The NHL has by far the greatest All-Star game of any major sport, one that every other league should develop. With the All-Stars of each of the league's 4 divisions competing in a 3 on 3 tournament format, it's all about big time stars on odd man rushes. With one million dollars on the line to split amongst the winning team, the game is competitive, and most of all entertaining; everything an All-Star game should be, and everything the NBA All-Star game and NFL Pro-Bowl aren’t.

The weekend of festivities kicked off with the skills competition. With 6’8” World Record holder Zdeno Chara and his constant runner-up Shea Weber not named All-Stars this year, Alex Ovechkin saved the “Hardest Shot” competition shooting the puck 101.3mph. Regardless of whether they play in the All-Star game, the NHL needs to start bringing extras to the skills competition. Nobody wants to watch eight guys shoot a puck under 100 mph when i know there's 2 guys watching at home who have both cracked 108. Fast skater went back to 21 year old reigning MVP Connor McDavid for the second consecutive year, and Marc Andre Fleury one the “Save Streak” competition with 14 saves and to the dismay of many fans, “Let it Go” playing in the background.

The tournament began with a Pacific division victory over the Central. Despite Central team captain P.K. Subban’s enthusiastic celebration, Connor McDavid and the Pacific were too much winning 5-2, and goalie Pekka Rinne putting on a show. On the other side of the bracket the Atlantic beat the Metropolitan lead by Nikita Kucherov and his 3 goals on three shots. The talent heavy Metropolitain kept the game tight at 4-4 with goals from Crosby and Ovechkin, but the Atlantic went on a late scoring spree including Jack Eichel and Brad Marchand, with another absolutely filthy goal from Kucherov.

The championship game began with the first penalty an NHL all star game in 2 years. Johnny Gaudreau went to the box giving the Atlantic a 4-3 power play. The Pacific won the game, as well as 1 million dollars to split with the team.

- Shea O'Brien

All Article Photos Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

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