Bench Talk (05/19/2017)

“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

What should the Celtics do with the 1st Overall Pick?

Brendan Ballantyne (BB): You’ve go to draft the best available, and Markelle Fultz is just that. At 6’4”, 195lbs, the Point Guard out of Washington enters the draft as the consensus number-one pick following an incredible Freshman season. Fultz possesses impressive physical tools for the Point Guard position with incredible length (6’10” wingspan), leaping ability and quick feet which allow him to change pace with ease.

These traits suggest that Fultz has the potential to become an excellent defensive player, but what is most tantalizing about him as a prospect is his offensive playmaking ability. He’s versatile and can score off ball with range, or create a shot on his own with the use of his superb ball handling ability. His length can allows him to shoot over smaller defenders if he doesn’t want to beat them off the bounce. If he does blow by, he doesn’t shy away from contact inside. His threat to score makes his vision and passing ability that much more dangerous for opposing teams.

Fultz was able to put up great per-game averages of 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 41.3% from 3-point land on a really bad Washington team (9-22). So despite his team not being in the NCAA Tournament this year, he should join the 76ers Ben Simmons (LSU) as the second consecutive first overall pick who played on a team that didn’t make the big dance.

Markelle Fultz’s talent is clear, but here’s why the Celtics take him. Simply put, he’s the best and most valuable piece available. The Celtics were already reportedly trying to deal one or two of their stockpile of young players at the deadline for a legit star in return. Drafting Fultz gives them more flexibility to pull off a deal like that and/or maybe (MAYBE) even consider dealing their current point guard Isaiah Thomas at some point. The Celtics, despite making the Eastern Conference Finals, are nowhere near the Cavaliers yet. But a young core led by Fultz could help them hit their stride and take control of the East just as LeBron is on his decline (which I assume will happen, eventually). The prospect of this formula is very discouraging for a Raptors fan like myself as the young Celtics are a regular season conference champion and have the ability to get younger and more talented with a #1 overall pick (man, the Nets are stupid). Drafting Fultz opens up the possibility for the Celtics to be good for a long time.

wtf-part-2

Thomas Waind (TW): I think they should trade down in the draft. There’s the common argument that Markell Fultz is so much better than the other prospects that you have to take him now and figure it out later. The thing is, Boston is a contender right now, and another point guard could make for some funny rotations. It would all but spell the end for Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart in Boston, but dealing one would still leave the Celts with three other point guards on the roster besides Fultz.

Also if Fultz isn’t dynamite right out of the gate, a contender like Boston can’t really afford to be too patient. So do you potentially give a prospect of Fultz’s calibre the 13 minute Terry Rozier spot? Or do you trade down a couple of picks and draft a forward like Duke’s Jason Tatum or Kansas’ Josh Jackson who would be guaranteed meaningful minutes right away?

While Jackson and Tatum may not be as much as sure of a thing as Fultz, plenty of scouts think they have the potential to be stars in their own right. This is one of the most deep drafts in recent memories. I could see Philly flipping the third pick and prospects to land an elite point guard to play with Embiid and Simmons. Maybe Sacramento flips their fifth pick, tenth pick and a prospect for a new franchise player. All of this trade talk is moot if GM Danny Ainge doesn’t feel he can truly build a championship around a defensive liability, ball-dominant point guard like Thomas. If that’s the case just draft Fultz.

Cameron Burgess (CB): As a Celtics fan, this situation is really exciting. However, a 19 year old is likely not going to take this team to another level to be able to immediately compete with a stacked Cleveland team. For that reason, the best thing to do right now would be to trade the pick for a star player. The logical link is with Jimmy Butler and Paul George as they are two names that have been mentioned a lot.

It seems like Paul George is already pretty set on going to the Lakers after next season in his free agency, but Butler is still in play and the Celtics have reportedly been interested in the past. I don’t think that trading the #1 pick for Butler straight up is a good deal for the Celtics, but a trade where those are the two mains pieces is something that could benefit both teams.

The Celtics are a piece or two away from actually being able to contend in the East, even though the finished top of the conference this year. The Bulls are a team searching for an identity, and despite making the playoffs this year, could be in search of a new young player to build a team around. Markelle Fultz could be their guy.

I’d like to see the Celtics trade this pick and create their new version of the Big 3, with Thomas, Horford, and potentially Butler. While it’s not the same as the Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and KG combination, Pierce and KG ironically still have a big part to do with the Celtics’ draft as they were involved in the trade that got this pick from the Nets. And yeah, Pierce is taking some of the credit for it.

Zaza Pachulia: Dirty or Clumsy?

TW: Pure grime. Speaking as a very small guard, unathletic who has experience constantly closing out on the three, I can say I’ve never turned hip first under a shooter’s legs. Zaza may be a clumsy oaf but he’s has an history of doing some shady sh*t on the court. Whether it was in Atlanta, Milwaukee or Dallas, there’s a history of Zaza making dirty plays. The Spurs absolutely would’ve won Game 1 if Kawhi doesn’t get hurt. Who knows what would’ve happened in Game 2 with a healthy Leonard. If the Warriors win the championship I’m slapping it with a big ol asterisk.

CB: I’m gonna have to agree with Tom (for once) and say “dirty”. When you look at the play from Game 1, it’s dirty but not necessarily enough to label him a “dirty player” based just on that. It’s when you look back at other similar plays he has made when you realize that this guy is human garbage. But I mean, I guess when you only average 6.1 PPG on basically an All-Star team, you have to do something to stay relevant, right? I agree that Game 1 could have ended differently if Leonard didn’t get hurt, but the Warriors were favourites before the injury anyways. Now down 2-0 in the series, I don’t see any way that the Spurs manage to win this series.

BB: To me this play was a foul, but it was not dirty. Zaza Pachulia is seen as a “grey-area” type of player based on a couple instances in his career in the past. But in this situation, I don’t think he intentionally closed out on Kawhi Leonard thinking “I’m going to do my best to injure him here.” Sure, the NBA has to do a better job of protecting its players by enforcing against close out plays like that. But as of now, that’s kinda part of the game. To me, if Kawhi comes down and doesn’t land on Zaza’s foot, this is on non-issue. To another extent, someone that’s not an MVP-candidate/Spurs-best player-by-a-mile injures his foot on this play there is nowhere near as much discussion here. What happened is unfortunate, there’s no denying that. What already would’ve been a miracle of the Spurs pulled a series win off against the Warriors, looks basically impossible now. All that being said, it doesn’t mean it was dirty on Zaza’s end.

Derek Jeter gets his number 2 retired by the Yankees. Should numbers be retired in sports?

TW: I’m out on number retirements in professional sports. The Yankees now have 22 numbers retired. The Montreal Canadiens have retired 15. For christ sakes, the Tampa Bay Rays retired Wade Boggs’ number 12 and gave him a lucrative signing bonus so he would wear a Devil Rays cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Number retirements are a joke, the only exception being Jackie Robinson’s 42. Think of all of the kids born in 1999 who can’t wear their ’99 birth year when they make it to the NHL. That’s the real tragedy here. I’m good with statues, banners and plaques to commemorate players but I think number retirements are asinine. I can’t wait until teams have to use triple digit numbers. Do you know what? No more numbers, just emojis. One day we’ll all remember the immortal number “poop-flame” emoji for his groundbreaking contributions to sports.

CB: I like jersey retirements, but I feel like they’re becoming too common. Eventually it won’t be possible to keep doing this. I feel that when a player has been the face of a franchise for most of their career, it seems like the right thing to do to honour the player. Teams will eventually run out of numbers for their current players to wear, and something will have to change.

I think one solution for this would for numbers to be retired for a certain amount of time, maybe 10-15 years. After this time, the number can be worn again but a banner should stay up to recognize that a player once had that number retired. Besides, then teams could have another ceremony to honour a jersey number being used again, where they have the former player come and hand a jersey to a player who will then wear that number that used to be retired.

This would create a way for a younger generation of fans to learn more of the history of the team. It would also allow players to wear the numbers they want, while also still recognizing the greatness that has been achieved in the past. I don’t want to see guys wearing numbers like 95 all the time in the future. Honour the player who made a number special, but don’t make it untouchable forever. My only exception for this is 99. If you have 1000 more points than the guy closest to you in all-time scoring, nobody else deserves your number.

TW: “I think one solution for this would for numbers to be retired for a certain amount of time, maybe 10-15 years.” What a cop out. Commit one way or another. You’re not technically “retiring” a number if it can be used again later. You’re just being a tool for anyone that wants to wear that number over that span that it’s deemed “untouchable”.

BB: I like the idea of retiring numbers in sports, it creates a history and culture around a franchise and it shows fans and players how much an organization respects an athlete that dons its jersey. But to be honest, I think it needs to stop, before it’s broken for good.

Think of it this way, and this isn’t a hard concept, there are only 99 possible numbers a player can wear. And with 40 man rosters in Major League Baseball, there needs to be enough left for them each to wear one, right?

I can’t help but look deep into the inevitable future when #73 (most obscure jersey number I could think of) Johnny Dingers gets his number retired and the team realizes they don’t have enough left anymore. Is every great player in the future not as important anymore when they don’t retire their number? Do they do a reset and un-retire numbers? It would just be such an awkward situation. I think it’s just best to get rid of it now while teams still can, and take up the number “honouring” system where they don’t actually retire them. Kind of like the Leafs did before they went full blown history mode for their 100th season.

Halftime

RIP John Wall’s 2016-17 Wizards. See you next season.

 

3 Stars of the Week

TW: Darrell Ceciliani

They laughed at him. “He’s not a clean-up hitter,” they said. “He’s not even a good hitter,” they jeered. “Why’s he even here?”

A double and a home run later, who’s laughing now?

It looks like he could’ve legitimately wrecked his shoulder on that swing, so if this is it for him, at least he went out with a bang.

CB: Craig Anderson

Leading up to the series, nobody was giving the Senators a chance against the Penguins. I’ve been cheering against this team since the first round, but they keep proving me wrong. He’s given up 3 goals in 3 games against a Penguins team which has had no issues scoring up to this point in the playoffs. He has a .964 SV% this series, and is the biggest reason why the Senators are up 2-1 and look like they actually have a shot at knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champs. As much as I don’t like the team, it’s pretty much impossible to hate on this guy.

BB: Kelly Olynyk

A 7-foot, Canadian, white dude with a man bun is the reason the Boston Celtics are in the Eastern Conference finals after Olynyk went off against the Wizards in a decisive game 7. He poured in 26 points, 14 of which were in the fourth quarter. Olynyk deserves some props for his clutch game, enjoy it now before the Celtics are swept by the Cavs.

The Dog House

BB: Matt Harvey

I used to be a fan of this guy, he had a nice little run a couple years back and it seems like he’s got a good sense of humour.

Now it just seems like the guy isn’t all there. He recently didn’t report to one of the Mets games without contacting the team as to why.

He claimed he had a “migraine”, but we all know what that means, the guy was definitely gooned at 4am the day before and couldn’t get his sh*t together by game time. He’s got to have the common sense to at least give his employer the heads up that he’s not going to be there, can’t imagine he wouldn’t have expected some questions. But then again, this guy thinks he’s a super hero, so you never know. The “Dark Knight” has been anything but super lately,  barely even been average really. He’s not worth dealing with right now for his team and it’s time for him to smarten up. I think he’s as good as gone as a New York Met.

TW: The Atlanta Braves

I’m not going to get into the benches clearing incident between Pillar and Motte during Thursday night’s game Jays-Braves game. There’s only one legitimate opinion and that is the fact that Pillar was clearly in the wrong.

The incident I’m going to highlight from that game was the confrontation between Jose Bautista and Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki. Bautista hit a solo bomb while his team was down 8-3 and, judging by how hard he pimped his bat, he may as well have hit the ball to the moon. But seriously, why should anyone care? His team was getting pumped and Jose is currently hitting a pathetic .208. If he wants to make an ass of himself in a losing effort then why should anyone get in his way? Instead the Braves made a whole “to do” of it and confronted him. I’d understand the outrage if the Braves were the ones getting knocked around and Bautista started to show boat. But at that point why don’t the Braves just focus on closing out the game?

In tonight’s game the Braves hit Bautista as “revenge” for Loup hitting Freeman in the hand the previous night. Just a bush league move. If you’ve ever watched Loup pitch an inning of baseball, you know that there was no intent. If he was really trying to hit Freeman the ball would’ve sailed wide left three rows into the seats. Because of his bat flip, Bautista was the obvious target for the 95 MPH Tehrahan fastball since Pillar was issued a suspension by the Blue Jays. If you really want to stick it to the Jays beat em on the scoreboard, don’t start intentionally throwing at guys.

CB: Gisele Bundchen

A little off topic but still sports related, Gisele made the news this week for saying that Tom Brady suffered a concussion at some point last season despite it never being reported or listed on the Injury Report.

Whether or not this is true, the league is now investigating whether or not the Patriots have done anything wrong. Fans have begun to wonder if this is Gisele’s way of trying to get Brady to retire sooner rather than later, despite him saying he wants to play until at least 45. The Patriots could find themselves in hot water if they are found to have hidden any injuries, especially considering the ongoing lawsuit and awareness around concussions in the NFL. But knowing Roger Goodell, there’s a good chance this will drag on for way too long while he tries everything possible to penalize the team.

If this is true, it’s even more impressive that Brady was able to pick apart opposing defenses all season long with a concussion, along the way to winning his 5th Super Bowl ring. After seeing how Brady played after Deflategate, maybe Goodell shouldn’t give the GOAT any more extra motivation or he’ll hand up having to hand Brady his 6th Super Bowl ring in February.

One thing is for sure, we all know exactly how Brady reacted when he heard this story…

 

Highlights

DION DION DION!

While Phaneuf may play a pylon-y game, he still runs into one every now and again. Poor Bryan Rust.

 

Tweet(s) of the Week

Power Rankings: Ballantyne Gives us his “Top 15 Sports Movies”

This started as a top 10 list, but there were just too many good ones that came to mind. There’s definitely a nostalgia factor here. But there’s a little sprinkle of everything, and bottom line, I’d still be content with watching any of these at any time.

*important note* Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Blades of Glory and Dodgeball were not considered for this list due to the fact NASCAR, Dodgeball and Figure Skating aren’t real sports. Feel free to @ me. In addition, documentaries such as More Than a Game, for example, were also not considered.

Honourable Mentions (worth the watch, but couldn’t squeeze them in): Angels in the Outfield, Remember the Titans and Little Giants.

Now without further ado:

15. The Rookie – Classic story of an old guy capturing his dream of making the bigs. Dennis Quaid is solid as Jimmy Morris.

14. Semi-Pro – Jackie Moon and the Flint Tropics squeak into this ranking.

13. MVP: Most Valuable Primate – A monkey that can play hockey, what more do you want?

12. Kicking and Screaming – Will Ferrell’s best sports movie. Electric in the aaaaaiiirrrr.

11. Rudy – The underdog of all underdog stories. Tightropes the line of cheesiness fairly well.

10. Invincible – Seems like all of Mark Wahlberg’s movies are entertaining, but this one isn’t a comedy. Nice change of pace, kind of like in Vince Papale’s kick returns.

9. The Blind Side – Hard not to cheer for Michael Oher.

8. Major League – WILD THING.

7. Happy Gilmore – Shooter McGavin blew a four stroke lead.

6. 42 – An important story and a great movie.

5. Like Mike – Seriously considering ordering a Calvin Cambridge L.A. Knights jersey. Make me like Mike.

4. Coach Carter – Rich whaaaa? RICHMOND!

3. Moneyball – Entertaining movie, and Jonah Hill is the best. Would’ve been better if the A’s actually won.

2. The Mighty Ducks Trilogy – 2, 1, 3 in that order. Number 3 is not in the same stratosphere as the first two, but the second movie makes up for it.

1. The Waterboy – Bobby Boucher delivers some high quality H2O as well as a high quality movie

TW:
Issue #1: No Rocky, Hoosiers, Miracle or Caddyshack
Issue #2: An uncomfortable lack of Hansen brothers
Issue #3: Will Ferrell sports movies should be ranked as followed: 1. Semi Pro 2. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby* 3. Blades of Glory**…. 50 feet of crap….Kicking and Screaming
Issue #4: Wasn’t a big Waterboy fan. Probably wouldn’t crack my top 20
Issue # 5: The fact that you don’t think dodgeball is a “real sport” means that you clearly have a weak grasp of the 5 D’s of dodgeball. Patches O’Houlihan is spinning in his grave.
Issue #6: No Space Jam

I’ve got to give you props on The Rookie (one of my favourite baseball movies), Major League, Happy Gilmore, Coach Carter, Moneyball and The Mighty Ducks trilogy.

*Nascar is a real sport. If not then my years of practicing left turns, tailgating and day drinking were wasted.

**Figure skating is in the Olympics therefore is a sport. Also don’t try and come back at me with the “fast walking is also in the Olympics and it’s not a real sport” argument. The guy that sh*t his pants during Olympic time trials is more of an athlete than you or I can ever hope to be.

CB: I agree with a lot of what Tom says (it’s weird, this normally doesn’t happen), but he’s right for the most part. Miracle not on this list is a joke, and the Rocky movies should definitely be on here too. My biggest issue with this might be that The Waterboy is ranked #1, yet Space Jam doesn’t even make the top 15. Just doesn’t seem right to me. At the same time, I don’t see why Tom is hating on Kicking and Screaming. How can you not like a coffee-addicted Will Ferrell coaching kids soccer alongside Mike Ditka?

Also, no Friday Night Lights is questionable to say the least. Another issue is with #13… MVP over Air Bud? Smarten up and give that golden retriever the credit he deserves for being a five-sport athlete. What other animal could play soccer, baseball, football, baseball and volleyball? None, none of them could.

It’s not all bad though, The Mighty Ducks Trilogy, Happy Gilmore, and Rudy are all very deserving of being on this list.

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