Bench Talk 7/15/2017
“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.
After a 2 week hiatus we’re back!
In The News
Where does the MLB’s Home Run Derby stack up in All Star game skills competitions?
Thomas Waind (TW): It’s the top. No other sport makes one of their skills competitions its own singular event. While the NBA skills competitions can be fun, the level of quality can vary wildly. One year you have a Klay v. Steph shootout in the 3 point shooting contest. Another year you’ll have a Jason Kapono-type winning. One year you have Vince Carter jumping out of the gym in his iconic dunk contest performance… And the you get whatever the hell that was last year. Every year someone puts on a show in the derby. With home runs being hit further and more frequently with every year it only gets better. I could watch Aaron judge hit dingers for hours.
I’d even go so far as to say that the MLB could cut out extra innings and just decide any tie game with a home run derby. While this may reinforce the idea that I’m some sort of “shootout guy” who needs constant entertainment, I’d much rather watch games decided by sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and not position players like Darwin Barney trying to pitch.
CB: Out of all of these contests, the Home Run Derby is the best. But I feel like it’s all gimmicky. The Slam Dunk Contest has become hit or miss, I don’t know if I’ve ever watched the 3 Point Contest. At least in the Home Run Derby it’s still exciting to watch Aaron Judge hit into orbit. Honestly I’d rank the NHL’s Hardest Shot Contest ahead of both NBA skill contests. It’s just boring to me, but so are all of the All Star Games. At least the NHL tried to make theirs more interesting by switching to 3 on 3, but even at that it’s really still not worth watching. The players don’t care, the competition doesn’t matter. Don’t believe me? Watch any Pro Bowl ever and tell me that these guys aren’t just trying to get back to enjoying their vacation in Hawaii.
BB: I’d say it’s probably at the top. The players care about it, and everyone likes home runs. But that’s not to say it can’t become a bit dull. I think we need to lower our expectations with skills competitions and not critique them as much because they’re pretty meaningless in the end. I think the best part of it is watching the players in a more relaxed setting that we’re not normally accustomed to seeing. I think it’d be fun to see what an NFL skills competition would look like, but I don’t know if it’d be any better than the other leagues competitions.
NBA Summer League Storylines
TW: Dennis Smith Jr. is a beast
This guy has just been dunking on everyone in Vegas. The 9th overall pick in this year’s draft, Smith has been one of the most electric players in summer league so far. His hands, scoring touch and leaping make his game look like it will translate to the pros and is not just a Summer League mirage. He’s drawing comparisons to 3-time all star Steve Francis and high-fling point Baron Davis. This guy could be for real.
BB: Raptors Top Seed at Summer League
Success this time of year isn’t anything new for the Toronto Raptors, as this is the third consecutive year they’ve been the top seed in the Las Vegas Summer League, believe it or not. Add that to the fact a few of these current summer league players are coming off of a D-League (now G-League) championship, they’re a force for sure at this level. It’s encouraging to see guys like Fred Van Vleet, Jakob Poetl and Pascal Siakam play well, so they have a great shot at winning this tournament. Not that that means much…shout out Jonas Valanciunas 2013 Summer League MVP!
*Since writing this the Raptors have been eliminated from Summer League play*
BB: Clearly their summer league failures is an annual thing as well.
CB: Lonzo Ball
Lonzo in Nike’s > Lonzo in ZO2s. As much as I want to hate on this guy, he’s putting up some pretty crazy numbers. He’s had 2 triple doubles in 4 games, and put up 36 points in a win over Philly. While his shooting percentage is low, he’s shown flashes of the playmaking ability that he is known for.
If he can keep this up, it looks like the Lakers could actually be a good team soon. But for now they’ll continue to get pummeled by the absolutely stacked Western Conference.
Winners of NHL Offseason
CB: Dallas Stars
After missing the playoffs last year, it was obvious that the Stars had two major holes to fix. The first was to find a legitimate starting goalie, and the second was to get a shutdown defenceman. The Stars did both of these things, in acquiring Ben Bishop and Marc Methot. Then they decided that their top 6 forwards including Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza still wasn’t good enough, so they added Martin Hanzal and Alex Radulov to the mix. Dallas will likely be a contender in the Western Conference again, and could be back to their 2015-16 form where they finished 1st in the Conference.
TW: Arizona Coyotes
Out are veterans Shane Doan, Mike Smith and coach Dave Tippett. In is shutdown defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, center Derek Stepan (who isn’t quite a #1 center but most teams would be thrilled to have him centering the second line) and King Henrik’s most recent understudy Antti Raanta. They also just hired highly sought-after Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet to replace Tippett behind the bench. These in-their-prime veteran additions will help the advancement of a young core consisting of stud defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tobias Rieder, Anthony Duclair, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun and Max Domi. As the typical Western Conference sluggers get older and slower, the Coyotes hungry and nipping at their heels.
BB: Calgary Flames
Entering this offseason, the Flames glaring need was in the crease after a shaky season from Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson not being of starter quality. So they traded for a proven veteran and legit starter in Mike Smith from Arizona, plus they brought on a reliable backup in Eddie Lack to solidify that position. On top of that, their already stacked blueline got much stronger. They managed to pluck Travis Hamonic from the Islanders without losing any players. Giordano, Brodie, Hamilton, Hamonic and then the resigning of Michael Stone make this D-corps as good as any in the NHL. It’s clear the Flames philosophy is to build a strong defensive/goaltending situation behind their young, creative forwards and it’s looking good. They’ve definitely improved this offseason.
TW: RJ Barrett
The Mississauga-born wing took the FIBA U-19s by storm. He was named MVP of the tournament, led Canada to its first gold in an international basketball tournament and really turned some heads in the basketball community. His coming out party was in the semi-final game where David knocked off the Goliath American team with a stat line of 38 PTS (12-for-24), 13 REBS, 5 AST, 1 TOV in 33 min. Not to mention he dominated this tournament at age SEVENTEEN. That’s a full two years younger than most of the competition. Forget Andrew Wiggins. Barrett is the future face of basketball in Canada.
CB: Romelu Lukaku
After scoring 25 goals last season, the former Everton striker was going to be a hot commodity this summer. He ended up with two of the biggest teams not only in England, but in all of soccer fighting for him. It was between Chelsea and Man United, and in the end the deal brought the end of an era while also the beginning of a new one. Wayne Rooney, who had started his career at Everton before joining Man United and becoming their leading scorer, found his way back to Everton as part of the deal. Lukaku now joins arguably the biggest club in the world, and his scoring touch could be the push needed to bring Man U back to the Champions League. Really, Everton never had a shot at making it to the top of the table, just because the big teams in England have the money to buy a better team. Chelsea, Man U, Man City, Arsenal are all teams that stand in the way of Everton. But now Lukaku has a chance to show off just how dominant he can be on another stage, and make a lot of money while doing it. Not bad for 24 years old.
The Dog House
CB: Floyd Mayweather
Has anyone watched these press conferences and thought “you know, I really like Floyd Mayweather?” There’s no chance, the guy just screams sounds into a mic for a while everyone boos him. Meanwhile, McGregor is out there going scorched earth on Mayweather and everyone around him. While Mayweather is out there shouting “YEAAH” and “HARD WORK” like those are the only three words he knows, McGregor has been tearing him apart.
Mayweather hasn’t exactly been helping his own cause either…
TW: Conor McGregor
These press conferences haven’t been a clean sweep for Ireland’s favourite fighter. In New York McGregor came out guns a blazing in that weird ass robe he was wearing, but it was all downhill from there.
CB: Are you just trying to contradict me?
TW: That New York presser kind of sucked. McGregor clearly tried too hard to the point that Mayweather kind of won it by default. I haven’t caught too much of the London one today but Thursday night Mcgregor came across as corny.
CB: Yesterday was a pretty big L for Mayweather. A bunch of Irish fans flew to London and chanted “sit down shut up”, “pay your taxes” and all this other stuff at Mayweather whenever he tried to say anything.
TW: That’s a home win for McGregor that’s bound to happen. Quite honestly that’s a win by the fans not McGregor. When the fight comes the big thing will be how mobile the UFC/Irish fans really are.
At the end of the day both of these guys come across as complete dopes. At least they’re putting on a show.
BB: I wanted to save my three stars entry for after that little exchange, just for dramatic purposes. My Star(s) of the week are the guys in the “Dog House” according to my fellow writers, Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather. This is not me supporting what they’re saying, or even them in general. This is me tipping my cap to them for the elaborate con they’re getting away with. They’re managing to hype this meaningless exhibition fight up, because that’s what it is, and are each making hundreds of millions of dollars off of us drama desperate sports fans. Guaranteed they’re yelling at each other on those stages and then laughing with each other on the private jet to the next press tour location. They have us all fooled, good on them. Back to the Dog House…
BB: Pablo Sandoval/Boston Red Sox
To say this relationship didn’t work out is a massive understatement. Sandoval was finally designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Thursday after being hidden on the disabled list for quite a while for an injured baseball ability. He originally signed a 5-year $95million deal with the team and the Red Sox only got 575 at bats out of him. He’s now owed $50 million through 2019 to just go away, yikes.