Greetings sports aficionados, it’s Chris Bengel with you once again to bring you all the happenings in the sports world. I certainly don’t think that it can be overstated that this is the best time of the year when it comes to sports.
We’ve got the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing, Major League Baseball entering those beautiful summer months and NFL training camp inching closer and closer. As a Philadelphia 76ers fan, I can’t say I enjoyed Sunday’s Game 1 at that much, but I have no problem admitting that Trae Young is an absolute pleasure to watch.
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We’ve seen fantastic shooters throughout NBA history, but I can honestly say that I feel blessed to be able to watch players like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Young transform the game.
With all of these different sports happening, there’s a lot of news to get to on this Tuesday morning. Let’s break it all down!
? What you need to know1. MLB’s foreign substance reckoning is upon us
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Major League Baseball wanting to crack down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers. Well, the league will soon be instructing umpires to begin enforcing rules against the use of foreign substances.
The use of foreign substances has always been illegal, but the rule hasn’t exactly been heavily enforced in recent years. If you just look at a pitcher’s hat, you can tell that the rule isn’t being enforced.
As a result of the foreign substances debate, the concept of reduced spin rates has become a huge topic of conversation. CBS Sports’ baseball scribe Mike Axisa took a closer look at the spin rates of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in particular. Cole was recently accused of doctoring baseballs in a lawsuit, and Bauer’s connection with the subject goes back multiple seasons.
There’s quite a few interesting nuggets regarding the spin rate of both pitchers in Axisa’s piece.
- “When asked whether Bauer can be the same pitcher he was in 2020 if MLB cracks down on foreign substances, Bauer said, ‘Go look at the 2018 numbers and tell me what you think.’ Bauer was excellent in 2018 (2.12 ERA in 175 1/3 innings), though that is more or less an admission he is using foreign substances. The implication is he didn’t use them in 2018 but is now, which matches up with the data on his spin rates”
- “Cole … was down about six percent across the board with his spin rates during his most recent start Thursday, when he allowed five runs in five innings against the Rays”
That Cole start Axisa references was the pitcher’s first appearance since it was initially announced the league was going to being cracking down on the use of foreign substances. It is a little suspicious, and it will be worth following how Cole performs in his next start — which happens to be tonight in Minnesota.
2. NBA Playoffs: The Bucks are in trouble; Suns stay hot
No James Harden? No Problem. The Brooklyn Nets have to be laughing at the notion that the Milwaukee Bucks were going to give them a much tougher time than the Celtics did in the first round. Yes, the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, but regardless, the Nets coasted to a Game 2 victory on Monday without James Harden even in the lineup. Following the 125-86 rout, Brooklyn has a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Lets go to our NBA scribe Jack Maloney for some takeaways.
- The Nets were ready from the start this time: Game 1 of this series was close until the Nets went on a huge run at the end of the third quarter to pull away. Last night, it took Brooklyn just seven minutes and 49 seconds into the game to build a double-digit lead. They never looked back
- History isn’t on the Bucks’ side: In the entire history of the NBA playoffs, 430 teams have found themselves in the position the Bucks are in: trailing 2-0 in a series. Only 28 of those teams successfully came back, and none of them were playing the 2021 Nets. If the Bucks hadn’t rolled over in Game 2, there’d be evidence that they can come alive. Instead, this series feels over
The only other NBA action from Monday took place on the other side of the country in Arizona. The results were similar, as the Suns ran the Nuggets out of the building in a 122-105 win. The most important part of the win for the Suns? Chris Paul looked like he is back to being 100% healthy. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter alone.
3. Avoiding a full rebuild has been the Falcons’ biggest mistake
The inevitable finally happened on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons traded star wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a second and fourth round pick. It was a divorce that was expected, given the fact that the Falcons aren’t anywhere close to being a contender and Jones had been open about his desire to be moved.
I don’t have any issue with the Falcons trading Jones. The All-Pro wideout is 32 and only played in nine games during the 2020 season. CBS Sports’ NFL insider Jason La Canfora also doesn’t believe that trading Julio Jones is the franchise’s biggest mistake.
Instead, La Canfora writes that Atlanta not embarking on a full rebuild is the problem here.
- La Canfora: “For far too long, owner Arthur Blank and his underlings – now departed – were all in on the same sick joke; the one where they pretended that they were something other than what the roster and record dictated. They fell into the brutal wasteland of overestimating their own players based on how much they had overpaid them (Jerry Jones specializes in this), and rather than admit defeat as their Super Bowl losing team quickly unraveled … they doubled down on their veteran core and continued with a top-heavy roster lacking in depth and youthful production (particularly on defense). Deadly combination in this sport.”
La Canfora’s main point is that on top of all the other roster issues the Falcons have, they also do not know who their next quarterback is. I agree, and heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, I thought that the Falcons should’ve selected Matt Ryan’s successor. Ryan hasn’t been an upper-echelon signal caller in quite some time and you don’t exactly pick in the top five of the NFL Draft ever year.
On top of all that, the 2021 quarterback class was extremely deep. If it were me, I would’ve thought long and hard about drafting Justin Fields. Don’t get me wrong, Kyle Pitts is an unreal generational talent and I think he’s going to have a stellar career in Atlanta. However, quarterback is the most important position in football and that’s where the Falcons should’ve gone.
4. How the new USFL can actually succeed
The United States Football League recently announced that the league is going to return in the spring of 2022. It comes almost 40 years after it initially began as an NFL competitor in 1983. Back then, the USFL lasted just a few seasons as it closed up shop in 1986.
The reimagining of the USFL will be competing with a third version of the XFL, which will be under new management. The XFL was hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and the league was forced to declare bankruptcy.
I think that having another football league is always a great thing. The only problem is that new leagues rarely last. I truly believe that the XFL would’ve been extremely successful if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic. The league was doing well and I think people were very interested. I know I was.
So if the USFL can get out of the gates strong, I don’t see why it can’t be successful. After all, fans are always craving football when the NFL isn’t in season. CBS Sports college football scribe Ben Kercheval took a closer look at the new-look USFL and detailed what the league needs to do in order to be successful. To him, it comes down to something pretty simple:
- Kercheval: “No amount of money is going to save a start-up football league if the on-field product isn’t good. It took the AAF weeks before it became watchable; in fact, one of the travesties of its failing was it was just starting to become a quality league. The XFL played better football overall, but it was aided by quirky rule changes that kept it interesting (and affected gambling). The USFL can keep eyeballs after the initial surge in interest by having fun quarterback play and competent offensive lines. However, you don’t just pick those two things up off the street”
? Odds & Ends
? What to watch tonight
? Hawks vs. 76ers, 7:30 p.m. | PHI -220 | TV: TNT
? Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, 9 p.m. I COL -145 I TV: NBCSN
? Clippers vs. Jazz, 10 p.m. I UTH -175 I TV: TNT
? Best thing I saw on the internet
Gender equality continues to be a huge storyline in the sports world and women really are making history left and right. Over the weekend, 16-year old goaltender Taya Currie became the first woman to be selected in the Ontario Hockey League Draft as she was picked by the Sarnia Sting. Currie was selected with the 267th pick in the OHL Draft and will be the third woman to play in a Canadian hockey league.