Bench Talk (05/12/2017)
“It’s like the bottom of the ninth and I’m never gonna win. This life hasn’t turned out, quite the way I want it to be.” — Chad Kroeger
Losing can be tough. Losing while riding the pine is downright insufferable. Reach into the styrofoam cooler, crack a cold one and let’s talk some sports.
In the News
Big Baller Brand ZO2
Thomas Waind (TW): The best article I could find about these stupidly expensive shoes was by Dan McQuade on Deadspin (http://deadspin.com/why-the-hell-are-lonzo-ball-s-sneakers-495-1794953264).
The ZO2’s are essentially an on-court shoe that looks like it could be a knock-off Kobe (typically $215 to $295 at Foot Locker), but are priced as though they’re luxury Jordans. Except instead of paying for the Jump Man you’re getting…
Lonzo hasn’t earned anything yet. The idea of his shiny, expensive, church-looking shoes being endorsed by this loud-mouthed family kind of reminds me of that guy from the high school basketball tournaments who spent obscene amounts of money on gear yet was a decent player at best. I’m talking limited edition Kobe’s, special edition Nike Elite socks and shooting sleeves, but he’s dribbling the ball like a third grader. On the opposite end of the spectrum you could find me in a pair of underwhelming, grey, clearance bin kicks with good ankle support. What can I say? The shoes matched my game. If only the Balls could be as self-aware.
Cameron Burgess (CB): I’m so tired of hearing about this family. EVERYTHING LaVar has said in the media is ridiculous, so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that he thinks these shoes are actually worth $495. Just when I thought this guy couldn’t get anymore insufferable, he does this. I really hope nobody buys these shoes, Lonzo is a bust and we don’t have to hear about this family again… or at least until LaMelo is at UCLA. But with my luck, Lonzo gets drafted by the Celtics and I’m stuck reading more pointless headlines about the latest stupid thing LaVar says.
Brendan Ballantyne (BB): Alright, let’s take a look at this situation from this perspective: So there’s this amazingly talented college basketball player…he’s worked his entire life to get to the league, and he’s approaching the final step of reaching his lifelong goal: the NBA Draft. He wants to continue to forge his own path and do what many say is impossible, because that’s all he’s done to get to this point. He wants to build his own brand and make his own shoe without Nike, Adidas or Under Armour there to make money off of his back.
Sounds like a pretty inspiring story, right? I almost back it, and I can understand why athletes like Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Arian Foster support it by buying the ZO2. Those guys too felt the wrath of big corporations profiting off of their work, they like that “stick it to the man” mentally.
But I’m sorry Lonzo, you (or more likely, your dad) lost me at $495 a pair. Lonzo Ball may turn out to be a fine player, but Big Baller Brand is dreaming if they think that price makes sense in any way. It’s so ridiculous that I think they might’ve just done it to create buzz. If that’s the case, I have to respect the strategy. But understanding what I know of Lavar Ball, just seems like an addition to the list of his delusional antics.
Which NHL team had the most crushing playoff defeat?
CB: It has to be Washington. This was supposed to be the year that they finally made it past the second round. Holtby was playing like a true elite goalie, the forwards were making scoring look easy, and a strong defensive core was able to shut down opposing forwards all year long. The addition of Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline was supposed to be the final piece that brought this team it’s first Stanley Cup in franchise history. But instead, just like every year, the Capitals were bounced in the second round. If there was still any question as to who was better in the Crosby vs. Ovechkin rivalry, it’s been solved now. Crosby led his team to yet another series win over their division rivals, and Ovi gets to watch the rest of the playoffs from home.
TW: While the Washington choke job is fresh in everyone’s minds, Nashville’s first round sweep over Chicago may have been just as devastating. The veteran, Stanley Cup-winning core of Kane, Toews, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook and Crawford are collectively another year older with a lot of mileage on the odometer. While Panarin was an electric add to the roster last year, the Blackhawks weren’t able to fill the roster with homegrown talent this season like they have in years past. While Smaltz and Hartman were decent, in years past it was the Saads, Bollands and Shaws that helped Chicago support their stars. While they’re still a lock for the playoffs for the next couple of seasons, this year’s embarrassing playoff showing exposed their older, shallower lineup. They may need to shake things up to remain relevant in the Stanley Cup conversation.
BB: Washington is the obvious choice, but I’ll go with the Minnesota Wild. I should explain that this is moreso a crushing defeat for their head coach, Bruce Boudreau. Man, this guy cannot catch a break in the playoffs. He just can’t find a way out of the second round, it’s getting to the point where it’s just sad. Boudreau’s clearly a good coach. He’s led Capitals and Ducks teams to great regular season records and he did the same with this Minnesota Wild team this year. Points wise, this was the best Wild team in franchise history. But they ran into Jake Allen in the first round and he completely stood on his head for the Blues. Boudreau is basically cursed, and that’s pretty crushing for the Wild.
Who wins a Stanley Cup first: Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs?
CB: Edmonton. McDavid is the best player in the league and leading this young team to a Stanley Cup will prove it. I think the Oilers are a step ahead in their development (I mean, they should be after how many early first round draft picks they’ve had), and are just more complete right now than the Leafs are. To keep it simple, I’ll look at which team has the advantage at forward, defense, and goalie.
Forwards: Advantage – Oilers
McDavid is the best player in the league, and will lead this team to a Stanley Cup very soon. Much like Crosby, McDavid makes the other players around him that much better. Just look at what Crosby managed to turn Chris Kunitz into. Draisaitl, Lucic and a rejuvenated Zach Kassian (and I guess Eberle until he gets traded) will provide the Oilers with both the grit and scoring power needed to create a winning team.
The Leafs also have a good, young core in Matthews, Marner and Nylander, but I believe they lack the depth needed to compete.* I also hate Matt Martin and don’t think he’s as great as all Leafs fans would lead you to believe.
Defense: Advantage – Oilers
The Oilers finally have a solid defense core, meanwhile the Leafs had a pair of Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak throughout the entire season. I don’t think I really need to say much more than that.
Andersen and Talbot both had strong years, and look to be solid for years to come. In 66 games, Andersen posted a 2.67 GAA and .918 SV% along with 33 wins. Meanwhile, Talbot put up 2.39 GAA and .919 SV% and 42 wins in 73 games this season. Neither team has a solid backup option, but both of these goalies have shown they can be a workhorse for their teams.
*TW: Yeah Toronto only had eight players score 30+ points and five 20 goal scorers. Way too shallow. Also Rielly, Gardiner and Zaitsev > Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse. Don’t @ me.
CB: Zaitsev is barely a defenseman at -22.
TW: Nice stat Don Cherry. Does he also lose points because he’s not from Ontario? Zaitsev was a ROOKIE defenseman, playing an offensive style, who was second among the Leafs defensemen in defensive zone start % because the Leafs lack shut down guys. That’s a recipe for a bad +/- (which is a dumb stat). Also if he’s “barely a defenseman” then does that make Darnell Nurse a water boy?
BB: Man I really want to go with the Leafs here, but I can’t quite do it yet. It is closer than many may think though. I’ll take the Oilers because of their more solidified defense core, which is something the Leafs don’t have right now. Cam Talbot is legit, and obviously there’s the superstar McDavid factor. These guys could be Cup champions very soon. But the Leafs have a solid core up the middle; Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak gives the Leafs three impressive tiers. Also, William Nylander and Mitch Marner at a young age have already flashed the playmaking ability to create goals out of nowhere and may turn into players that can turn any linemates into goal scorers. This Leafs team can light the lamp with the best of them and Frederik Andersen is providing some solid goaltending. A defense pieces or two and I’d take the Leafs. But as it currently stands, its got to be the Oil.
TW: I’ll go with Edmonton despite my Blue and White allegiance. After years of being the stronger conference, the West is starting to slow down as competition in the East ramps up. It’s looking as though teams like Chicago, LA, St.Louis, San Jose are starting to show their age after a half decade of dominance. Hell, (potential 2017 Stanley Cup champs) Anaheim also relies too heavily on big minutes from Kesler, Bieksa, Getzlaf and Perry who are all on the wrong side of 30. On top of that, the West is also littered with bottom feeders like Colorado, Arizona, Vegas, and Vancouver. The East on the other hand features some dynamic young talent on teams like Buffalo, Florida, Philadelphia and Carolina who will soon be nipping at the heals of contenders like Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus, Montreal, Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers. The road to the Cup is much easier for Edmonton than it will be for Toronto in the upcoming years. Unlike the other two clowns in this column I’d take Toronto if they were to play a seven game series versus Edmonton. It’s just going to be tougher for the Leafs to even get there.
Who are you most excited to see in the broadcast booth: Rex Ryan, Tony Romo or Jay Cutler?
Cutler doesn’t have the polish of Romo or the pure ridiculousness and entertainment of a Ryan brother. In my mind Cutler’s combination of measured, yet unfiltered quirkiness could make him a refreshingly insightful analyst… or an absolute trainwreck. The worst thing he can do is be tone it down and be boring. At least his days of overthrowing receivers are (hopefully) over.
CB: As much as I’ve grown to hate Rex Ryan after years of him coaching division rivals of my Patriots, I think the things he’ll on TV will be absolutely hilarious. I gotta give it to him, the man has a sense of humour, and I think it’ll be something different than what every other NFL analyst is like. Rex was never shy as a coach when it came to talking to the media, so here’s hoping he brings that same attitude to TV. I’m sure he’ll put his best foot forward…
I hope everyone gets this reference.
BB: I think Rex Ryan will actually turn out to be the best of these three because of his outrageous personality. But as for who I’m most excited to see, it’s Jay Cutler. This seems like such an odd role for this guy and the fact is, nobody likes him. A lot of people hate him actually. Maybe it’s just the potential crash and burn effect that piques my interest, so Cutler is definitely a wild card. It should be entertaining whatever transpires, so he’s my pick(6).
3 Stars of the Week
TW: Lebron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
I’m a huge Lebron critic. He’s a transcendent athlete who has kept his nose clean despite years of being hounded by the media… yet I can’t help but find him completely insufferable. I doubted him. I didn’t think he could hit threes. I thought the Raptors would give him a run for his money.
Four games later I’m shell-shocked. The Raptors are extinct. Lebron was the meteorite. During the series he threw up a line of 36.0/5.3/8.3 while shooting 48.1% from three. Pure dominance.
CB: Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
This choice hurts because I really was hoping King Henrik would get another shot at the Cup he deserves. But it was another All-Star Swede who stole the show in that second round series. But with 4 goals and 1 assist over just the last two games of the series, Ottawa’s captain and best player was the difference in this series. I don’t think The Senators have a chance against the Penguins, but I’m looking forward to seeing just how far Karlsson can carry this team.
BB: Pekka Rinne – Nashville Predators
Rinne has never really been one to excel in the playoffs, and after an average year (by his standards), nothing suggested that this would be the year we see a change. But following a shocking sweep of the number-one seeded Chicago Blackhawks in round one, Rinne has kept his positive momentum going after carrying the Preds past the St. Louis Blues.
It’s no secret how important goaltending is in the playoffs, and Rinne’s monster playoff numbers of .951 SV%, 1.37 GAA, while even chipping in three assists, has turned the Preds into a serious contender to represent the west in the finals this season. Rinne is doing it all right now and is well worthy of a star.
The Dog House
TW: Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
Hockey is purely a team sport, so it’s almost unfair that Ovi will shoulder the brunt of the scrutiny. While he may go down as one of the best goal scorers of all time, the lack of playoff success is glaring. He’s never made it past the Eastern Conference second round and hasn’t been a point per game playoff scorer since the 2011 playoffs. It doesn’t help that he is constantly compared to Crosby who has two Stanley Cups, and a Conn Smythe and seemingly eliminates Ovi and the Capitals from the playoffs every other year. At 31 years old, Ovechkin’s championship window is starting to close.
CB: James Harden – Houston Rockets
This one might seem a bit strange considering it’s between him and Russell Westbrook to win the MVP this year, but during the Game 6 beat down at the hands of the Spurs, Harden was just awful last night. In 37 minutes, Harden went 2 for 11 shooting, with both buckets coming from some of his 9 3PT attempts. By the time Harden fouled out of the game, he had pick up 10 points, 7 assists, and 6 turnovers. Obviously it takes a strong team to win games in any league, but basketball is a sport where superstar players have the ability to completely take over a game. And in a do-or-die situation where the Rockets needed a win to keep their season alive, Harden couldn’t provide for his team. Because of it, the Rockets are headed home while the Spurs are on their way to the Bay Area to take on Steph and the Warriors.
BB: Patrick Patterson – Toronto Raptors
I’m getting a little worried…nobody has seen this guy in a while. He was beyond invisible in the Raptors/Cavaliers series that ended up in a sweep. He had 8 points TOTAL in the four games and only put up 12 shots in the series (2/12, 2/9 3P). After averaging nearly 25 minutes per game in the regular season, his role was diminished to about 18 minutes. This coming in a series where he was supposed to be looked upon as a key contributor on the defensive end in stopping LeBron James and adding a secondary scoring punch. 2-Pats wilted when it mattered most, and with his pending unrestricted free agency, his future in Toronto doesn’t look too hot.
“This is the most beatable team that Lebron has entered the playoffs with since his pre-Heat days and, despite my uneasiness, this is the best team the Raptors have ever constructed. Let’s hope that there’s an upset in the works. Raptors in 7.” Thomas Waind 2017
TW: If it helps I also said “I think the smart pick is to have the Cavaliers winning this in 5”. What else can I say? Raptors let me down. Just like any Toronto sports team ever, they sucked me in, then stomped on my heart. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.
Tweet of the Week
In case you can’t tell the 2017 Washington choke job has a lot of legs in terms of tweets, gifs and memes.
Tom Ranks Gatorade Flavours:
I stuck to these 5 staple flavours instead of taking a deep dive into the obscure flavours like “Glacier Ice” or “Rain Berry”. I’m not a big grape guy. Lemon-lime is the only flavour that I find repulsive when not refrigerated. I’ll never turn down an Orange or Blue Gatorade. At the end of the day Red is my go-to. Whether I’m riding the pine in a basketball game or in bed hungover, Red Gatorade is a sweet escape.
Cameron: Blue Gatorade is the absolute worst of all the usual flavours. I’ll agree with Red at #1, but you have Lemon-Lime waaaay underrated here. Orange and Grape are just kind of there, never going to be your first pick but you’ll never say no to it. So I’d go Red at #1, Lemon-Lime at #2, Blue at #5. Flip a coin to decide the order between Orange and Grape. But as soon as you add in the other flavours the Gatorade Frost Iceberg is by far the best. That stuff tastes like Blue Kool-Aid. Definite nostalgia points awarded for that.
Brendan: I’m a big Blue Gatorade guy. I’d probably have it at number one, so I can’t bash your ranking there. But Orange in the top three? What a joke. Such a let down of a flavour, especially if it isn’t cold. Off the board hot take: Green Apple. I think it’s fairly new, but it may have snuck into my top three recently. To conclude, I hope we can all agree that those plastic Gatorade squeeze bottles improve any flavour’s quality, definite game changer.