► West Virginia’s Shell, Worley, Chestnut day-to-day
Three injured starters haven’t been ruled out for No. 22 West Virginia’s next game at Oklahoma State.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday that cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut and running back Rushel Shell are day-to-day. They were hurt in the first half of West Virginia’s 41-27 win over Baylor on Saturday.
Worley injured his ribs after fumbling a second-quarter punt. Later in the period, Chestnut sustained a head injury after a hard block from Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman.
Shell hurt his right ankle after a first-quarter run.
All three did not return.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game. We wanted to play that way,“ Holgorsen said. “I thought we were nasty. We played the type of game that I felt like we needed to in order to win.“
The Mountaineers overcame the injuries with their depth.
Backup cornerback Ricky Rumph made six tackles, while Ishmael Banks had a tackle and broke up a pass. The Mountaineers limited Baylor to season lows for points and total yards.
In Shell’s absence, three other running backs combined for 150 yards on 42 carries. Baylor had entered the game allowing an average of 108 yards on the ground.
Dreamius Smith, the Mountaineers’ fourth-leading rusher, gained 39 yards on a second-quarter drive that he capped with a 9-yard scoring run. Wendell Smallwood, who had a season-high 123 rushing yards a week earlier at Texas Tech, led West Virginia against Baylor with 66 yards on 20 carries.
“Having guys go in to play at a high level when guys go down is what you have to do if you want to win games in the Big 12,“ Holgorsen said.
Worley’s fumble was the latest in a season filled with problems on punts for the Mountaineers. Their average of 3.6 yards per return is among the worst in the nation. Jordan Thompson also has had fumble problems and deciding when to catch punts. Twice on Saturday, West Virginia lined up with all 11 players rushing the punter and no one back to field it.
West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) plays at Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday.
► Marshall Sports ran 2013 deficit, WVU netted $4.2M
A state legislative report says Marshall University athletics ran a $749,800 deficit in 2013, using $7.9 million from sources like state money and tuition.
The subsidized money comprised almost 29% of Marshall Athletics revenue in the 2013 budget year.
On Tuesday, a financial report on NCAA athletics in West Virginia was released to a legislative panel. Legislative Post Audit Division Director Denny Rhodes wrote it.
The report says West Virginia University, which netted $4.2 million, only used $31,500 in subsidized money in 2013. That’s about 0.04 % of its revenue.
WVU brought in $77.7 million outside of direct institutional support, like Big 12 conference distributions, donations and ticket sales. Marshall yielded about $19.7 million in that category.
WVU lost $816,000 on men’s basketball, while netting $10.9 million from football.
► Marshall Brief
Marshall’s most recent trip to Miami nearly mirrored the 2013 journey to Florida International University. After a slow start, the Herd asserted its dominance and rolled to a 45-13 win.
It is understandable that several players, including quarterback Rakeem Cato, were amped up and even pressing during the first half. For so many players who hail from Florida, this game is the only chance for family and friends to see them play. For Cato, the added excitement of playing at home was compounded by anticipation of breaking Russell Wilson’s record of 38 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
The Herd trailed for the first time all season when FIU took a 7-0 lead. Marshall led by just seven points at halftime and it still won by 32 points. The bottom line is when a team “struggles” and still wins by 32 points, it’s a pretty good football team.
You know you’ve arrived when…
You’re not big time unless you have parody Twitter account or one of your body parts has its own Twitter. Meet @47sStiffArm or “RockHeads Stiff Arm.”
“Still shocked,” said Johnson. “I was like, ‘what in the world?’ I never thought my arm would be on Twitter. It doesn’t bother me at all, I thought it was funny. Hopefully he doesn’t put anything stupid on there.”
It’s never too early to peek towards the future. I’ve mentioned before some of the younger players such as Angelo Jean-Louis and Tommell One give Herd fans reason to be very optimistic about the future. Add Ryan Yuracheck to that list. The true freshman has eight catches for 74 yards this season, including Rakeem Cato’s record breaking touchdown pass. Now, with Deon-Tay McManus playing outside receiver he’s the undisputed No.2 tight end. It will be interesting to watch him develop over the next three years.
Keep calm and play on
Maybe it is just our nature in West Virginia to hope for the best but expect the worst. That may be why I’m already receiving messages from concerned fans who fear Marshall could have one of its best teams ever and still might be left out of a New Year’s bowl.
Let the season play out and see what happens. As I said last week, if members of the playoff selection committee take the time to watch Marshall they will see the schedule is not the reason this team is having the success it is. We will get a good idea where the Herd stands next Tuesday when the committee releases its initial top 25 ranking.
► Upsets Leave Big 12’s College Playoff Chances In Peril
The Big 12 has been as entertaining as any league in the country. All that fun might come with a price.
Upsets like West Virginia beating Baylor and Kansas State surprising Oklahoma have again made the conference impossible to ignore during the regular season. But they could also leave the league out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Mountaineers QB Clint Trickett threw two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, while Kevin White had a pair of TD catches and West Virginia surprised sloppy No. 4 Baylor 41-27 Saturday.
The Mountaineers (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) surpassed their win total of last season and beat a top five opponent for the first time since defeating No. 3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2007 season.
Also on Saturday – No. 11 Oklahoma, trailing by a point in the fourth quarter, had finally had seized momentum after playing catch-up for much of the game. The Sooners (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) drove to the Kansas State 1-yard line, but couldn’t punch the ball in.
Oklahoma kicker Hunnicutt missed a chip-shot field goal that would have put the Sooners ahead with 3:53 remaining. A stunned home crowd gasped and groaned, and No. 14 Kansas State (5-1, 3-0) took possession and ran out the clock, defeating Oklahoma 31-30.
Kansas State, TCU and Baylor are the only one-loss teams left, and each has plenty of challenges ahead.
► Bills put Spiller on short-term IR
The Buffalo Bills placed running back C.J. Spiller on injured reserve/designated for return Tuesday.
In a corresponding move, the team signed running back Phillip Tanner.
Spiller underwent surgery Monday to repair a broken clavicle.
He got hurt in the second quarter of Sunday’s 17-16 win over Minnesota. Spiller came down hard on his left shoulder at the end of a 53-yard run, his lone carry of the game.
Fellow running back Fred Jackson could miss up to four weeks with a groin injury.
Tanner spent the past three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, compiling just 56 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
► Jets sign Kerley to four-year extension
The New York Jets have signed wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to a four-year extension.
According to multiple reports, the deal is worth $16 million ($5.4 million guaranteed).
A four-year veteran, Kerley has 22 catches for 201 yards with one touchdown this season for the 1-6 Jets.
Over his career, Kerley, a 2011 fifth-round pick out of TCU, has 150 receptions for 1,865 yards with seven touchdowns.
► Cowboys waive Sam from practice squad
The Dallas Cowboys waived defensive end Michael Sam from the practice squad on Tuesday to make room for a linebacker who recently worked out for the team.
Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, was signed on September 3 after being waived by the St. Louis Rams, who drafted him in the seventh round.
The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri spent the first seven weeks of the season on the Cowboys’ 10-man practice squad without making the 53-man roster.
The move opened a spot for Troy Davis, who appeared in four games for the New York Jets as a rookie last season and who worked out for the Cowboys on Monday.
Before he was waived by St. Louis, Sam had 11 tackles and three sacks in four preseason games, including a team-high six stops in the finale against Miami.
Sam publicly declared his homosexuality prior to February’s scouting combine.
► Bucs DE Bowers suspended two games
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has been suspended two games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced Tuesday.
Bowers will be forced to miss upcoming games with Minnesota and Cleveland before being eligible to return for Tampa Bay’s home tilt against Atlanta on November 09.
The 2011 second-round pick started a pair of games earlier this season and has recorded six tackles and one sack over five overall contests in 2014.
► 2014-15 Miami Heat Preview
Changes are coming to the Miami Heat.
Of course, the reigning four-time Eastern Conference champions lost the best player in the world, LeBron James.
The man who led the Heat to two championships and four NBA Finals appearances allowed his heart to take him home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is gone and the Heat have to put the pieces back together.
“It was a big change this summer,“ said head coach Erik Spoelstra. “The chapter on that team was going to close. We’re looking forward to this challenge. It’s been a different process than we had the last four summers.
“I’m looking at this as a blank canvas.“
There is no way on Earth anyone can replace James. He is the best player in the universe for a reason - his total package of basketball skills on both sides of the ball.
“Rebuilding” is not the correct word to describe what is going on in South Beach in a post-LeBron world. The other two members of the Big Three - Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - both elected to stay with the Heat. That’s two top-20 players in the league, but in trying to adequately replace James, Pat Riley and the Heat brass did admirably.
First, before James decided to leave, the Heat brought in Josh McRoberts from the Charlotte Hornets. He will move into the starting power forward spot and brings solid shooting and passing.
But, the primary replacement for James will be Luol Deng, formerly of the Chicago Bulls and Cavaliers of all places.
“Everybody’s going to talk about him being gone and me being here,“ Deng said. “But I’m not trying to be LeBron James.“
He’s right, no one can step into the lofty sneakers of James, but Deng does some similar things as the four-time MVP.
Deng is a two-time All-Star and former member of the All-Defensive team. He can do a little bit of everything offensively, just none of it as well as James.
That’s fine. The Heat are very well aware of the fact that one man isn’t going to make everyone in Miami forget about James. It will be a few players with expanded roles that have to account for his production.
Wade is first on that list.
At 32, with bad knees and a lot of late postseason runs on those legs, Wade played only 54 games during the 2013-14 campaign. He did, however, average almost 20 ppg and that was with the bad legs and plenty of rest.
“My role is going to change a little bit,“ Wade told NBA TV. “I’m excited.“
Bosh may be the one to assume more of the scoring role. He indicated that he no longer wanted to bang around in the post like his Toronto Raptors days, but he might have to maximize Miami’s best opportunities. And how will he do that?
“Digging up what I had before and that’s as far as aggressiveness, volume of shots, minutes, rebounds, leadership this team is going to require from me in the absence of LeBron,“ Bosh explained. “It’s a different challenge.“
The reality in Miami is that title aspirations are pie in the sky. James is too big a hurdle to overcome, but the Heat did very well to get the pieces they did.
Miami would have had a difficult offseason if James had decided to stay. The Heat were embarrassed by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. San Antonio showed what team basketball was all about and Miami’s remaining big-time producers, Wade and Bosh, did not.
Spoelstra will have an entire season to work out rotations and figure out how to get the best production possible. If everything works accordingly, the Heat could be a tough out in the postseason.
A lot of Miami’s hopes rest on Wade and his health. That’s a gigantic question as is can Bosh reclaim his past success. Can Deng fit in and produce after a few injury-plagued seasons? Can McRoberts continue to flourish?
There are a lot of potential problems in Miami, but there is still talent and pedigree. One thing there is not in Miami is James.
2013-14 Results: 54-28, 1st in Southeast; Lost NBA Finals to San Antonio
ADDITIONS: F Josh McRoberts, F Luol Deng, F Danny Granger, G Shabazz Napier, G Shannon Brown, G Reggie Williams, F Shawne Williams, F James Ennis
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Mario Chalmers SG- Dwyane Wade SF- Luol Deng PF- Josh McRoberts C- Chris Bosh
KEY RESERVES: F Udonis Haslem, C Chris Andersen, F Danny Granger, G Norris Cole, G Shabazz Napier, G Shannon Brown, F Shawne Williams, F James Ennis
FRONTCOURT: Bosh averaged 16.2 ppg and in his four seasons with the Heat, his scoring production has declined. Same goes for his rebounding, assists and overall presence as an interior force.
Bosh expanded his range out to 3-point range and shot an admirable 34 percent from beyond the arc. Now, the expectation is that Bosh will return to the low post, yet still remain productive from the 3-point line.
In his five final seasons with the Raptors, Bosh never averaged fewer than 22 ppg. He had three seasons during that span with 10-plus rebounds per night. Of course, those years came in his early 20s, but Bosh is only 30, so he might be able to handle a heavy load.
Deng has career averages of 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 2.5 apg. Those aren’t near LeBron levels, especially in the play-making department.
But Deng is versatile offensively, not to mention great defensively. He can shoot the three respectably (33 percent for his career), is a great slasher and decent ball-handler.
“He’s a very underrated, multi-skilled offensive player,“ Spoelstra said of Deng. “The type of person he is, qualities he embodies are similar to the type of player we want here.“
The type of person Deng is came into question a bit this offseason. Deng was the player mentioned by Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry in his now infamous reading of a scouting report that questioned Deng’s character in some way because he is of African descent.
Deng took the high road publicly and it’s hard to imagine it bothers him terribly. He didn’t sign with the Hawks and it looks like Deng is keeping expectations relatively small in terms of replacing James.
McRoberts was signed early in the offseason and he does a little of everything, all decently, none great. He averaged 8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 4.3 apg with the Hornets last season and shot 36 percent from deep. He’s a solid NBA professional.
BACKCOURT: Wade’s 2013-14 season was odd. He missed 28 regular-season games due to injury or rest, but produced at a big level - 19.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 spg and 55 percent shooting.
Come the postseason, those numbers all dove. In the Finals, Wade looked bad. He averaged 15.2 ppg and only managed 10 and 11 in Games 4 and 5, respectively. Wade looked tired and worn down.
That happened the year before as well, but James overcame it. During the 2013-14 regular season, James had to do almost all of the heavy lifting with Wade in and out of the lineup. James just couldn’t overcome the Spurs this time.
What does Spoelstra do with Wade this season? His plan always seemed to be to get Wade as much rest as possible to keep him fresh for the playoffs, but can that really be the plan in 2014-15? The Heat aren’t a title team, and with James in Cleveland, can Spoelstra afford to rest Wade as much as the last two seasons? What would be the point? The Heat will need as many regular-season victories as possible to make the playoffs.
Wade needs to play well when out there to give the Heat any chance. Can he still do that 70-75 nights a year? That’s a lot to ask of him.
Chalmers was retained via free agency and if Wade looked bad in the Finals, Chalmers was even worse. Chalmers managed 4.4 ppg and played just a shade under 15 minutes in San Antonio’s clinching Game 5 win.
When Chalmers is playing decently, he’s a solid floor general who can shoot and defend a little. He might thrive a little without James constantly hounding him. Or, Norris Cole could finally unseat him, or maybe even rookie Shabazz Napier.
BENCH: Cole is a great change of pace guy off the bench. He’s got stones and isn’t afraid to take shots. His minutes jumped in his third season and could see the bulk of the action at the point.
Andersen is a fantastic backup big man. I think the Heat don’t use him enough, but in the Finals, when Gregg Popovich inserted Boris Diaw into the starting lineup, Spoelstra had to stay smallish and keep Bosh on the floor. Andersen is a good defender, underrated offensive guy and master agitator.
Haslem reminds me of the Traveling Willburys’ song - “End of the Line.“
Granger is far from his prime, but still might have something left. He hasn’t played a lot in the last two seasons due to injury, but he’s the kind of veteran Miami has gotten a lot out of in recent history.
Brown has impressed in training camp, and, as Wade’s primary backup, he could be needed quite a bit.
James loved Napier and tweeted about him several times during Connecticut’s surprising run to an NCAA title. Napier may not see a ton of minutes early on, but he’s a great floor leader.
Ennis spent last year in Australia, but has really wowed Spoelstra in practice. The coach said he expects Ennis to get time at both wing positions.
Williams had a decent year on the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Lakers last season.
Overall, this group is thin and that’s not great considering Wade’s playing time in recent seasons.
COACHING: Spoelstra is a very good coach who got nothing out of his guys in the Finals. Every move he made, Pop countered and when Pop made the first move, Spoelstra didn’t have the answers.
Still, Spoelstra has two rings. He’s one of the best in the sport.
Spoelstra said the Heat got over LeBron leaving in “less than 10 minutes,“ but filling that void will be a massive undertaking. He wants the Heat to be a strong defensive team, but it’s not a strength of Bosh or Wade.
And how he handles those two men, now in major alpha positions, will go a long way to define the Heat’s season.
OUTLOOK: There is a lot of talent still in Miami, so much so, the Heat should comfortably make the playoffs. They may even win the Southeast Division if they can hold off the Washington Wizards and Hornets.
It would be easy to dismiss the Heat with James gone, but Miami has an outside chance at hosting a first-round series, even if the Heat don’t win the division. Problem is, with the three division winners, Miami would need the next-best record in the Eastern Conference and the Heat aren’t as good as either the Cavs or Chicago Bulls.
Something in the five-seven range is probably a more realistic expectation for the Heat this season. That being said, no one will want to play them in the postseason, not with that pedigree and talent.
► 2014-15 Washington Wizards Preview
The Washington Wizards enter the 2014-15 season with expectations unseen in the nation’s capital for quite some time.
They are the favorites to win the Southeast Division.
After winning a round in the postseason, improving with veteran leadership and getting an assist when LeBron James bolted the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wiz have earned the preseason distinction as one of the Eastern Conference’s three best teams.
“Our time is coming now,“ said John Wall, who made his first All-Star game last season. “We’ve just got to keep it going.“
The Wizards team that finished last season with a second-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers in six games would not be strong enough to be mentioned in a group that could win the Eastern Conference.
Enter Paul Pierce.
The future Hall of Famer has something left in the tank and signed with the Wiz as a free agent. This team belongs to the backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal, but Pierce will provide leadership as well as timely scoring.
“He’s a vocal guy, a proven leader,“ Beal said of Pierce. “He’s going to push us to be the very best we can be. It’s always great to have a guy who’s going to push you to be the best you can be.“
Pierce’s numbers declined in his one season with Brooklyn, but that was to be expected. At 37, and with a talented Nets roster, Pierce’s scoring was bound to go down. He still produced in the playoffs and he is in Washington to make the Wizards a consistent winner.
He was not the only newcomer at Wizards camp.
Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair were brought in to improve the depth up front. Both are competent big men, hard workers and solid pros. Blair has a winning pedigree in his days with the San Antonio Spurs. Humphries may miss time at the start of the season with a hand injury.
Washington is loaded with veterans. Nene and Marcin Gortat will start with Pierce and an electric backcourt. They are an underrated big-man combo who both hit the glass.
Joining Blair and Humphries on the bench are Andre Miller and Martell Webster. Otto Porter, Jr., the third pick in the 2013 draft, might even see some action this season.
But, the lifeblood of the Wizards is pumped by the guards.
Wall is probably the fastest player in the league and emerged as an All-Star. Confidence is high for Wall and he mentioned championships in some interviews.
No one stirred more of a controversy with his words at the start of camp than Beal. He said him and Wall were the best backcourt in the league and it may be hard to argue. (Although, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters disputed the claim on behalf of himself and Kyrie Irving.)
That’s a big statement for a pair of young men, neither of whom can legally rent a car in the U.S. That’s why the veteran influence is so important on this Wizards team.
Wall and Beal aren’t just spouting youthful boasting. This team is balanced, smart and skilled. How they handle being a preseason favorite for a division title remains to be seen. With this much professionalism, it’s hard to imagine the Wizards falling into a trap.
And just when everything looks promising, Beal hurts his wrist and will be sidelined close to six weeks. That’s a huge blow, coupled with injuries to Humphries and Webster, and could make Washington vulnerable early in the campaign.
Just when everything was starting to look up for the Wizards ...
2013-14 Results: 44-38, 2nd in Southeast; Lost in East semifinals to Indiana
ADDITIONS: F Paul Pierce, F/C Kris Humphries, F/C DeJuan Blair
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- John Wall SG- Bradley Beal SF- Paul Pierce PF- Nene C- Marcin Gortat
KEY RESERVES: F/G Martell Webster, F/C Kris Humphries, F/C DeJuan Blair, G Andre Miller, G Garrett Temple, F Drew Gooden, F Otto Porter, Jr., F/C Kevin Seraphin, F/G Glen Rice Jr.
FRONTCOURT: In Brooklyn last season, Pierce put up measly numbers of 13.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 2.4 apg. All were career-lows, but it’s justified by the fact Pierce averaged under 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career.
But, Pierce still contributes solid defense and great clutch production. He can still be the guy the Wiz count on for fourth-quarter buckets. He wants to be in Washington and lead these guys. Pierce is a proven winner and might just be the missing component that will put Washington in the next echelon.
Where things will take a step back for Washington is defensively at the small forward spot. Pierce is strong and can cover some guys, but Trevor Ariza was an elite defender. Pierce is definitely not that.
Nene hasn’t played close to a full season since 2010-11. Age won’t help, but when Nene is out there, he’s productive. Nene averaged 14.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg, which isn’t a high number, but his toughness is unmatched. With the veteran help brought in, Nene can take some nights off to be ready for the postseason.
Gortat was downright unstoppable at times during the playoffs. He enjoyed a strong regular season with 13.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg. He shot 54 percent from the field and was handsomely rewarded in the offseason with a five-year, $60 million contract.
What Nene and Gortat lack in statistical numbers, they make up for with toughness. Pound-for-pound, they might be the toughest big-man combo in the NBA outside of Memphis.
BACKCOURT: Wall played all 82 games last season and logged the fifth-most minutes behind Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis, DeMar DeRozan and Carmelo Anthony.
He averaged 19.3 ppg, 8.8 apg (tied for second in the league) and 4.1 rpg. His 3-point shooting improved to 35 percent. Wall is a solid defender, but the biggest improvement heading into this offseason came in the form of leadership.
“Night and day from last year, he’s been our most vocal guy and has been most energized guy out there,“ head coach Randy Wittman said of Wall.
There was no sophomore slump for Beal. He improved his numbers across the board going up to 17.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Beal’s second season was the jumps in numbers he made from the regular season to the postseason - 19.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.5 apg and 42 percent from the floor and 41 percent from beyond the arc.
Whether these two represent the best backcourt in the game is up for some debate. But they are certainly on the short list, but that’s not the issue. They believe in themselves.
BENCH: Humphries had two straight seasons averaging a double-double, but since he was regulated to the bench, the production has slid accordingly. He’s a solid banger whose biggest transgression in the sport was marrying a Kardashian. Humphries hasn’t always handled bad news great, but in this situation, with a clearly defined role, he should produce.
Blair was solid and reliable in San Antonio, then was the same his one season in Dallas. He’s a high-percentage shooter, good defender and tough guy. He fits in perfectly behind Nene.
Miller keeps on ticking. His experience under Brian Shaw with the Denver Nuggets was hideous, but he came to Washington and played decently. Miller won’t play as much as seasons past (under 15 minutes per game in 28 with the Wiz last season), but he can still facilitate. Miller is also a master of using his body, be it in the lane, or on the post.
Webster was good during the regular season, but had trouble finding time in the playoffs. He played 10 less minutes in the postseason, but he’s a good 3-point shooter. Webster won’t be crying for playing time behind Pierce.
Porter was a non-factor last season. The only reason that makes you think he’ll be more of one this season is that Pierce in front of him is older.
Gooden was great in the playoffs. Any expectations from him in the regular season are misguided. But, he’s yet another veteran presence in that locker room.
Seraphin saw a substantial dip in playing time last season and with the acquisitions of Blair and Humphries, it’s hard to see that shifting back.
COACH: Wittman had an awful record as head coach until last season. He was rewarded with a new contract and is the man to lead this team, hopefully into a contender.
Wittman has so many veterans to coach that policing them shouldn’t be an issue. Pierce, Nene and company will hold everyone accountable. Wittman may have to talk to Wall and Beal about talking to the media and tempering expectations, but having a dynamic young backcourt is not exactly a headache.
Wittman is tough on his players publicly, but he produced results as the players grew into their roles.
OUTLOOK: The Southeast title is not just realistic, but expected. That will get the Wiz a top-four playoff seed and homecourt advantage in round one. They are good enough to win the division and should.
Long-term is a little scary. They could see the Miami Heat in round one, or even Charlotte, so advancing is no guarantee.
But, the Wizards are a top four team in the Eastern Conference. That backcourt is probably the best in the league and both can get even better. Wittman didn’t always trust his bench last season as the reserves played the 26th most minutes and scored the second-fewest points. But, that has been remedied substantially.
Washington has a lot of talent, and a lot of strong leaders. The Wizards should be a top-tier team, challenging for anything as high as the second or third seed in the East.
But, they have to guard against over-inflated worth. Everyone has anointed them as something special this season, including themselves.
The Wizards should be fine and very good.
► 2014-15 Utah Jazz Preview
The young and semi-talented Utah Jazz enter the 2014-15 season with a high ceiling and hopes of winning more than just 25 games.
The Jazz were the worst team in the Western Conference last season with a 25-57 record and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. This isn’t your Jerry Sloan Jazz team from years past, but Utah is hoping it can get back there in a few years.
Not much is expected from the Jazz once again and there’s a new head coach in Salt Lake City. Quin Snyder will be drawing up plays for the Jazz and was named head coach back in June. Tyrone Corbin was not offered a new contract and Snyder gets his shot at becoming a head coach in the NBA.
“The opportunity to join the Utah Jazz and to be part of such a highly respected franchise with an incredibly bright future is a great honor,“ Snyder said. “I approach this opportunity with gratitude and humility and am committed to doing everything I can to help the Jazz become a championship- caliber team.“
Snyder has some talent to work with in Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke and Enes Kanter. It appears the Jazz are committed to building around Hayward, who established career-best averages of 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Charlotte Hornets offered Hayward a four-year deal worth $63 million and Utah matched it.
“As we have said since the start of last season, we have always seen Gordon Hayward as a significant part of the future of the Utah Jazz,“ Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “Gordon is a young, multi-faceted player and a high-character individual who we are pleased will remain a member of the Jazz for many years to come.“
Snyder said he is excited for the opportunity to coach Hayward and is looking forward to seeing him develop as a player.
The same holds true for point guard Burke. Burke missed the start of last season with a broken hand and the 2013 first-round pick has tremendous upside. So does this year’s first-round draft pick Dante Exum. Exum was the fifth pick of this summer’s NBA Draft and brings speed and ball handling skills to Utah.
Rodney Hood was the Jazz’s other first-round draft pick and went 23rd. Hood sculpted his skills at Duke and has an impressive basketball IQ.
It will be difficult at first for Snyder to get his philosophy across to his players and perhaps another last-place finish in the West is in store. But at least there’s some optimism in the air.
2013-14 Results: 25-57, 5th in Northwest; Missed playoffs
ADDITIONS: HC Quin Snyder, G Dante Exum, G/F Carrick Felix, F Trevor Booker, F Rodney Hood, F Steve Novak
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Trey Burke SG- Alec Burks SF- Gordon Hayward PF- Derrick Favors C - Enes Kanter
KEY RESERVES: G Ian Clark, G Dante Exum, G/F Carrick Felix, F Trevor Booker, F Rodney Hood, C Jeremy Evans. F Steve Novak, C Rudy Gobert
FRONTCOURT: Hayward is the star of the show and has to prove he’s worth a new contract. The offense will go through Hayward and he needs to improve his inside game instead of relying on the deeper shot. Hayward not only led the Jazz in scoring last season, he was tops in minutes played with 36.4. In 19 of Utah’s last 26 games of 2013-14, Hayward shot at least 40 percent. He averaged 17.0 ppg in that time and hopes it carries over into the new year.
Hayward also became the second Jazz player to average 16-plus points, five- plus rebounds and five or more assists in a season, joining Pete Maravich.
Derrick Favors is Utah’s top big man, but still needs work to become an All- Star. Favors averaged 13.3 points and a team-best 8.7 rebounds last season. Favors, who also led the Jazz in field goal percentage at .522, plays well with his back against the opposition and is obviously a strong rebounder. He posted 25 double-doubles last season and ranked in the top-25 for blocked shots, rebounds and offensive rebounds. Favors needs to improve his jump shot.
Enes Kanter is at center for Snyder and posted 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in 2013-14. Kanter will be pushed by Evans and Gobert. Kanter did step up his game after the All-Star break and needs to be a better shot blocker and rim protector. Snyder will preach defense and it starts inside. Kanter and Favors will try to make the fans forget about departed big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as well as forwards Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams.
BACKCOURT: Burke is the next star in the making in Salt Lake City. Entering his second season with the Jazz, Burke was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month twice (December and January) and scored a career-high 32 points in the last game of the season. Burke posted an average of 12.8 points and 5.7 assists last season and enters the campaign with a clean bill of health. Burke made just 38 percent of his shots and played just over 32 minutes a night. He did show great poise on the floor as a rookie.
Snyder is fortunate to have Burke in his backcourt alongside Alec Burks. Burks posted a career-high 14.0 ppg and 3.3 rebounds to go along with 2.7 assists last season and was Utah’s second leading scorer. The former Colorado star scored in double figures in 28 of the team’s last 29 games and made 45.7 percent from the field.
BENCH: The Jazz will get to see what both Exum and Hood bring to the table when their name is called off the bench. Hood has more upside for competing with the Blue Devils and against other great schools. Exum, though, proved he can score overseas, but will face his stiffest challenge in the NBA. He hopes he doesn’t get shipped to the NBADL to get his feet wet.
Gobert is hoping to get a solid amount of minutes inside and make a case to crack the starting lineup, while Evans has the same idea. The Jazz have some depth in sharpshooter Novak, Booker, Clark and Felix. Novak will replace the 3-point prowess of Jefferson. Utah’s bench averaged 15.8 ppg in the last five games and needs to be more consistent. Hopefully a new coach and fresh faces will alter that.
COACHING: Snyder is a basketball genius and learned from his former coach, Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski. Snyder has achieved success at every level of coaching and is counting on that reputation to continue with the Jazz, who hope he can get the most out of this lineup. Look for a defensive-minded Snyder to mix in some old-school technique with a sprinkle of new era hoops to Utah. There’s no secret Snyder has his work cut out with this young roster.
OUTLOOK: There will be excitement and a new-found energy with Snyder running the Jazz and he’s still fairly young. He’s not as young as some of his core players, who are aiming to take their game to the next level. The Jazz are still a few years away from being relevant again in the NBA and maybe will exceed last season’s win total of 25.
Better shooting (44 percent), tighter defense and player development are key areas for Utah in 2014-15, and also better play around the basket by Favors and Kanter. Hayward will carry the scoring load and needs more help from Burke in his second year. Snyder will try everything to make that happen for a Jazz team projected to win 30 games.
► Wizards sign John Lucas III
The Washington Wizards signed guard John Lucas III on Tuesday.
Lucas averaged 3.8 points and 1.0 assists in 42 games with Utah last season.
The 31-year-old has averaged 4.8 points and 1.4 assists in 216 career games (eight starts) with Houston, Chicago, Toronto and Utah.
► Rounding Third: Big Game Bumgarner delivers in Game 1
One pitcher came into the World Series with a reputation for pitching well in big games.
The other was James Shields.
San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner continued to cement his status as the best postseason pitcher in baseball on Tuesday, as he gave up one run over seven innings and the Giants rolled past Kansas City, 7-1, in Game 1 of the World Series.
Bumgarner’s only mistake was a two-out home run to Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the seventh inning, which ended his MLB-record scoreless innings streak on the road at 32 2/3 frames.
It was also the first run he had surrendered in three World Series starts, spanning 21 innings, dating back to 2012.
Of all those innings, though, none may have been more impressive than the third against the Royals, who put runners on second and third with no outs. After Bumgarner struck out Alcides Escobar and Norichika Aoki, he walked Lorenzo Cain to load the bases for Eric Hosmer, who promptly grounded out to second to end the threat.
“Bum has great poise out there, and he showed it tonight,“ San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “He doesn’t get flustered, and he keeps coming at you.“
Bumgarner then retired the next 11 batters he faced before the Perez homer.
By then, though, it was too little, too late for the Royals, whose postseason winning streak came to an end at 11 games, as they lost for the first time in nine playoff games this year.
When Los Angeles Dodgers righty Josh Beckett announced his retirement at the end of the season, gone was the best postseason pitcher of his generation. While it’s still a little too early in the process, Bumgarner is certainly on his way to staking his claim to the throne.
Bumgarner’s 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA in five starts this postseason. He’s also won all three of his World Series starts with an 0.41 ERA and is an amazing 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA in five road starts in the playoffs for his career.
His six straight postseason starts of seven-plus innings with seven or fewer baserunners is also an MLB record.
Clayton Kershaw is probably going to win the NL Cy Young Award, but if the Giants win three more games you won’t hear one complaint from Bumgarner.
FAMILIAR SCRIPT FOR THE GIANTS
Strong starting pitching? Yes that too, but the Giants essentially put this game away with three first inning runs and have now scored first in seven straight World Series games dating back to 2010 Game 4, and 13 of their past 17 since 2002.
By the way, how good has the Giants pitching been? Well, dating back to the start of Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, the San Francisco pitching staff has compiled a 1.13 ERA, permitting just eight earned runs over 64 innings.
As for opposing pitchers, well, let’s just say they haven’t been as impressive, especially in Game 1. In fact, Game 1 starters against the Giants in 10 games going back to 2010 are 0-8 with a 7.25 ERA.
Shields was just the latest big name to get hammered by San Francisco in a Game 1 of the World Series. Shields, Cliff Lee (2010) and Justin Verlander (2012) have now surrendered 21 hits and 17 runs over 11 2/3 innings in World Series Game 1s against the Giants.
Speaking of Shields ...
MORE LIKE “NOT SO BIG GAME” JAMES, RIGHT?
Is there a worse nickname in sports right now than “Big Game James” Shields?
Shields, who was starting on 10 days rest, continued to struggle in these playoffs, as he gave up five runs and was able to record just three outs in three-plus innings of work.
His ERA in four starts this postseason now stands at a putrid 7.11.
Before Shields there were 35 pitchers to make a World Series start on 10 or more days of rest in the wild card era. Those pitchers were 10-14 with a 4.09 ERA, and they’re 4-12 with a 4.13 ERA in the past 10 postseasons.
Still, Royals manager Ned Yost stated that he would start him in Game 5, if necessary.
RIGHT WHERE THEY WANT THEM?
As bleak as it looked on Tuesday, all is not lost for the Royals, who will face pitchers who had a losing record in each of the next three games.
Plus, the last time the Royals were in the World Series back in 1985 they lost their first two home games to the St. Louis Cardinals and eventually rallied to win the series in seven games.
Oh, and another little nugget from MLB’s PR team. The last five road teams to win Game 1 have lost Game 2.
GAME ONE WINNERS
The winner of Game 1 of the World Series has gone on to win the Fall Classic 68 times.
That has been the case in 10 of the last 11 and 15 of the last 17 World Series beginning 1997, with 2002 (San Francisco defeating Anaheim) and 2009 (Philadelphia defeating New York) the lone exceptions.
It has also occurred in 17 of the last 20 and 22 of the last 26 Series. In addition to San Francisco and Philadelphia, the only other exceptions in the last 26 Fall Classic were both by Atlanta, first game winners versus Toronto in 1992 and New York in 1996, but losers of each Series in six games.
LOOKING AHEAD TO GAME 2
San Francisco will try to take a commanding lead back to the bay area behind veteran Jake Peavy on Wednesday in Game 2.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Peavy, who was just 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA and 20 home runs allowed in 20 starts for Boston before he was traded to the Giants.
Since he’s been in San Francisco, though, Peavy has resembled the pitcher who won an NL Cy Young Award for Bochy with the San Diego Padres in 2007.
Peavy pitched to a 2.17 ERA and won six of his 12 starts with the Giants after the late-July deal. He’s also carried that into the postseason, surrendering just two earned runs in 9 2/3 innings in two starts.
The Royals, meanwhile, will turn to 23-year-old rookie Yordano Ventura, who has been battling some shoulder issues. He left his ALCS start versus the Orioles with tightness in his right shoulder after allowing four runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
After pitching to a 3.20 ERA during the season, Ventura has allowed seven runs in 13 innings this postseason.
Of course, Ventura almost ended the Royals’ postseason chances when he served up a three-run home run in relief of Shields in Kansas City’s wild card game. He bounced back with a marvelous ALDS effort against the Los Angeles Angels, though, before being roughed up by the O’s.
► Giants take WS opener behind Bumgarner’s gem
Madison Bumgarner added to his already extensive postseason resume with another masterful performance in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.
The ace left-hander threw seven innings of one-run ball and got plenty of run support as the San Francisco Giants cooled off the streaking Kansas City Royals, 7-1, to take an early series lead in the Fall Classic.
The only blemish in another otherwise flawless performance by Bumgarner (1-0) came on Salvador Perez’s two-out homer in the seventh, which ended his postseason road scoreless streak at 32 2/3 innings.
The 25-year-old was nevertheless impressive, allowing just three hits and one walk against a club that averaged 5.25 runs during an unprecedented 8-0 start to these playoffs.
“He was on top of his game,“ Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Bumgarner. “He has great poise and he should that tonight.“
Hunter Pence reached base four times and hit a two-run homer while Pablo Sandoval drove in a pair for San Francisco, which knocked James Shields (0-1) around for seven hits and five runs over the first three-plus innings.
The Royals lost for the first time since Sept. 27 and will look to bounce back Wednesday when rookie Yordano Ventura toes the rubber opposite Jake Peavy.
Kansas City had won 11 straight postseason games dating back to the club’s only World Series title in 1985, but what would have been a record-tying 12th quickly slipped through the AL champions’ fingers.
“We knew this series was going to be a battle,“ Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We didn’t expect to come in here and sweep.“
Shields, who passed a kidney stone during a 10-day layover since his previous outing, had no answer for a tested Giants team seeking its third title in five years.
Gregor Blanco led off the 110th edition of the World Series with a blooper in front of Lorenzo Cain in center, and Buster Posey followed with a base hit two batters later.
Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, lined a two-hopper off the wall in right to plate the game’s first run, though Posey was thrown out trying to score from first.
Fans at Kauffman Stadium thought Shields caught the corner on a 2-2 pitch to Pence, but home plate umpire Jerry Meals called it outside. After a foul ball, Shields threw one right down the middle and Pence crushed it to straightaway center for a 3-0 cushion.
Pence had been 0-for-11 in his career against Shields.
Bumgarner escaped the only jam he faced with a pair of strikeouts and a weak groundout in the third. The Royals had runners on second and third with no outs before Alcides Escobar and Norichika Aoki both went down swinging. Cain, the ALCS MVP, worked a walk to load the bases, but Bumgarner handcuffed Eric Hosmer into a harmless groundout to second.
“(Bumgarner) didn’t make many mistakes today, and the balls we did hit they made great plays on,“ Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said.
Pence began the fourth with a double and came around on Michael Morse’s base hit, which signaled the end of Shields’ night.
Danny Duffy came out of the bullpen and walked Brandon Crawford and Blanco in succession to force in another run, but the starter-turned-reliever retired the next eight hitters to keep the Royals within striking distance.
Yost left Duffy on the mound a little too long, however, as he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh and gave up a triple to Joe Panik. The usually sure- handed Aoki slipped going after Panik’s gapper in right, and Blanco easily scored.
Sandoval added an RBI single off Tim Collins, and Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland each threw an inning of relief behind Bumgarner to finish off the rout.
Bumgarner’s six postseason wins are the most in franchise history, and his six straight postseason starts of seven-plus innings with seven or fewer baserunners is an MLB record ... Sandoval has reached base in 24 consecutive playoff games ... Shields’ ERA rose to 7.10 over four starts this postseason ... The Giants have won their last eight postseason road openers ... This is just the second time wild card teams are meeting in the World Series and is the first Fall Classic sporting teams that failed to notch 90 victories in a 162-game regular season ... Fifteen of the past 17 winners of Game 1 have gone on to take the series.
► World Series Game 1 Result
Final Score: San Francisco 7, Kansas City 1
Madison Bumgarner added to his already extensive postseason resume with another masterful performance in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. The ace left-hander threw seven innings of one- run ball and got plenty of run support as the San Francisco Giants cooled off the streaking Kansas City Royals, 7-1, to take an early series lead in the Fall Classic. The only blemish in another otherwise flawless performance by Bumgarner (1-0) came on Salvador Perez’s two-out homer in the seventh, which ended his postseason road scoreless streak at 33 1/3 innings. He was nevertheless impressive, especially considering he silenced a club that averaged 5.25 runs during an unprecedented 8-0 start to these playoffs. Hunter Pence reached base four times and hit a two-run homer while Pablo Sandoval drove in a pair for San Francisco, which knocked James Shields (0-1) around for seven hits and five runs over the first three-plus innings. The Royals lost for the first time since Sept. 27 and will look to bounce back Wednesday when rookie Yordano Ventura toes the rubber opposite Jake Peavy.
► The Inside Line: NASCAR’s elite eight move on
The Eliminator Round in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, with the playoff field now trimmed to eight drivers.
NASCAR revised the playoff format for its premier series this year by including a number of elimination rounds to determine its champion. The Chase began with 16 drivers in the field, and then it was cut to 12 following the last race in the Challenger Round, held last month at Dover International Speedway.
While Brad Keselowski remained alive in the Chase by winning this past Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway—the final event in the Contender Round—Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson, the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, and Kasey Kahne, as well as Kyle Busch from Joe Gibbs Racing have been eliminated from the playoffs.
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Keselowski and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick each won a race during the Contender Round to automatically advance into the Eliminator Round, which includes the events at Martinsville (Sunday), Texas Motor Speedway (November 2) and Phoenix International Raceway (November 09).
JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman from Richard Childress Racing, Carl Edwards, in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing, and Jeff Gordon, a Hendrick driver and four-time series champion, accumulated enough points during the Contender Round to move on in the Chase.
Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, was in a must-win situation at Talladega in order to advance. After finishing 36th at Kansas Speedway and then 16th at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he entered the Contender Round elimination race at Talladega ranked 10th in the Chase standings, 19 points behind the coveted eighth-place spot then held by Kahne. Keselowski also had been fined $50,000 and placed on a probation period of four weeks for his post-race incidents with Hamlin, Kenseth and Tony Stewart at Charlotte.
Each of the first six races in the Chase has been won by a championship- eligible driver, with Logano and Keselowski scoring two victories apiece and one for Harvick and Gordon.
The elite eight in the Chase begin the Eliminator Round with 4,000 points each. If any one of those drivers wins at either Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix, that person will clinch a spot in the final four for the November 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The highest finisher among the four remaining Chase-eligible drivers at Homestead will win the series title.
“I think we’re in a really good spot for these next four races, but we’ve got to still execute,“ Keselowski said. “It would be nice to go to Martinsville and win, get a grandfather clock (trophy for the race winner there) and have three weeks to really think about Homestead. That’s my mentality moving forward. But if that doesn’t happen, we still have any one of these four tracks, which I think are good tracks for us.“
Keselowski leads the series with six victories this season, but he has yet to win a race at either Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix or Homestead during his Sprint Cup career.
Logano held the lead in Chase points when the Contender Round had concluded. He had finished no worse than fourth in the first five postseason races before placing 11th at Talladega.
“I thought we did a great job - a win (Kansas), a fourth (Charlotte) and an 11th unfortunately at Talladega, but we’re doing what we have to do to win this championship,“ Logano said. “Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix are obviously gonna be very important, and we have to do what we’ve been doing.“
Logano won this year’s spring race at Texas. He also finished fourth at both Martinsville and Phoenix earlier this season.
Harvick has one victory at Martinsville, which is the only short track race on the Chase schedule. He won there in the spring of 2011. Harvick placed seventh at Martinsville in March.
“Martinsville can be as crazy as Talladega if things start getting out of hand,“ Harvick said. “I feel like we should run well there. It’s just a matter of, like every other weekend, you’ve just got to put it all together.“
Phoenix has been Harvick’s best track in Sprint Cup competition. He won there for a record fifth time earlier this year.
Hamlin has won at Martinsville four times but not since the fall of 2010. He also has two victories at Texas (season sweep there in ‘10) and one at Phoenix. Hamlin won last year’s race at Homestead as well.
“I have said all year that if we made it to the final eight, to this Eliminator Round, that we suddenly had a good shot at this championship,“ Hamlin said. “This round has three tracks that our team has had a lot of success at over the years, obviously starting with Martinsville. We didn’t have a great race there in the spring, but we have made some gains on our short track program. I’m confident we can go there and compete for the win this weekend.“
Kenseth led the series with seven victories in 2013 but has yet to win a race this year. He has been consistent throughout the season, though. Kenseth finished 13th at Kansas and 19th at Charlotte but squeaked into the Eliminator Round with his second-place run at Talladega.
“I feel like my team is more than capable, but our performance hasn’t been as good as the top three or four guys,“ Kenseth said. “It’s nice to have our points back, and, hopefully, we can go and run the way we know we’re capable of.“
Newman, in his first season with RCR, has not won a race this year as well. He has won at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix in the past.
“I think winning in one of the next three races is the most important win that you could have, just to give yourself the best shot at Homestead,“ Newman said.
Newman concluded the Contender Round third in the rankings, just four points behind leader Logano. He finished fifth (Talladega), sixth (Kansas) and seventh (Charlotte) during that round.
Edwards has won at Texas three times and Phoenix and Homestead twice, but he has yet to make it into victory lane at Martinsville.
“Martinsville is a place where we feel like we can go and do some good,“ Edwards said. “We’ve run really well there lately. We had a test at Texas, and Phoenix is a place where we know we can win.“
While his teammates—Johnson, Earnhardt and Kahne—are out of the Chase, Gordon is the only driver from Hendrick to advance into the Eliminator Round, despite his 26th-place finish at Talladega.
“These are three guys that could be major factors in this championship,“ Gordon said. “They are great teams, great drivers and friends of mine. I hate to see them not in there. But we’re going to try to make Hendrick Motorsports proud and go out there and get ourselves to Homestead.“
Gordon has 92 career wins in the series, including four this season. He has eight victories at Martinsville as well as two wins at Phoenix and one each at Texas and Homestead.
► Golf Course Review - Princeville Golf Club (Prince Course)
FACTS AND STATAS: Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr. (1987, 1990), Renovation by Jones Jr. (January 2011-March 2012). Year Opened: November 1987 and August 1990. Location: Kauai, Hawaii. Slope: 140. Rating: 76.2. Par: 72. Yardage: 7,378.
1 - Par 4 448 Yds 10 - Par 5 588 Yds
2 - Par 5 597 Yds 11 - Par 3 187 Yds
3 - Par 3 192 Yds 12 - Par 4 390 Yds
4 - Par 5 554 Yds 13 - Par 4 432 Yds
5 - Par 4 471 Yds 14 - Par 3 211 Yds
6 - Par 4 428 Yds 15 - Par 5 576 Yds
7 - Par 3 207 Yds 16 - Par 4 375 Yds
8 - Par 4 460 Yds 17 - Par 4 443 Yds
9 - Par 4 363 Yds 18 - Par 4 455 Yds
Par 36 3,721 Yds Par 36 3,657 Yds
Awards Won: Rated #22 - Golf Digest - America’s 100 greatest public (2013-14), #2 by Golf.com - Best Public Courses in Hawaii (2014), #4 by Golf Digest - Best Courses in Hawaii (2013-14), Gold Medal winner - Golf Magazine - Premier Golf Resort (2012), #2 by GolfWeek - Best Courses you can play in Hawaii (2008-12), #20 by GolfWeek - America’s Best 100 Resort Courses (2012), America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses - Golf Digest (2009-12), Five Star rating - Golf Digest - Best Places to Play, Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Hawaii’s Best Courses (2005-06).
HISTORY: Although the golf course only dates back to 1987, the historical significance of the Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is paramount to Hawaii. You see, the course is named after Prince Albert Kamehameha, the only son of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, dating back to the 19th century.
Born in 1858, Prince Albert was considered the last line of the family dynasty and his birth was celebrated throughout the Hawaiian Islands. He was the first son to be born to a reigning monarch of Hawaii in 20 years, but, unfortunately, he would be the last.
Named after the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert died just three months after his fourth birthday. An excerpt from a Honolulu newspaper, circa 1862, read, “Born on the 20th of May, 1858, his Royal Highness had attained 4 years, 3 months and 7 days at his death. Lovely in his appearance, with delicately formed features and bright, intelligent, meditative eyes, he early developed those amiable qualities of the mind which made him the idolized love of his parents, the hope of the nation.“ The King and Queen were devastated, so much so that just one year following his son’s passing, the King died.
The relevance of the history of the land is that the Prince Course is royalty in the Hawaiian Islands. This is a venue that many will strive to achieve and few, if any, will attain.
Robert Trent Jones Jr., the son of famed course architect Robert Trent Jones, was the mastermind behind the design of this magnificent layout.
Jones II has crafted over 270 courses around the world in more than 40 countries on six continents, but it was his work on the island of Kauai where he put his name on the map.
After several years of honing his craft with his father, Bobby left his dad’s firm and founded Robert Trent Jones II golf course architects. Known as the father of environmental golf course design, Jones II has designed some of the world’s finest layouts, including the site of the 2015 U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay in Washington.
Jones constructed his first solo effort just next door to The Prince, the 27 holes of the Makai Golf Club. In fact, of the nine courses on the island, Jones has designed four, but it’s his work on the Prince that sets this course apart from the rest.
The Prince Course is an exotic ride through 350 acres of rolling terrain, featuring enormous elevation changes and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby Hihimanu mountain peak. You’ll be awestruck with the many signature holes on the Prince.
As the years went by, the course had grown quite difficult, not to mention thick with vegetation. It’s not called the “Garden Isle” for nothing.
In any event, the closing of the golf course in the beginning of 2011 was crucial to the success and revitalization of the Prince Course.
“Our firm implemented a wide-ranging refreshment of The Prince,“ said Jones, “that will return the golf course to its original pristine condition and its stature as the best course in Hawaii - essentially, we’ve given The Prince the royal treatment that it deserves.“
Jones could have easily rested on his laurels at The Prince, but that would have been the easy way. From top to bottom, changes were made, starting with the complete reconstruction of the putting greens with SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum turf and sub-surface material to better serve the Hawaiian climate.
In addition, bunkers were added and remodeled. “We have carefully redrafted the bunkers to improve drainage, playability and strategic value while introducing some new tees for added shot strategy and variety,“ Jones added.
To stay up-to-date with modern technology, Jones added new tees on three, five and 13, but the biggest adjustment might have been tree removal and clearing, as this was accomplished on nearly every hole throughout the property. The project also included some fairway adjustments. “Fairway mowing patterns have been widened dramatically to promote a more enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels,“ Jones said.
“This revitalization makes the course more flexible for a wider range of players while still providing championship-caliber challenges for more seasoned golfers,“ Jones continued. “We’ve completed some reshaping that will help canny players use the slopes and ground features to their advantage, as we intended in our original design.“
When the course reopened in March 2012 after the multi-million dollar refreshment, the positive reviews poured in. Jones was particularly pleased with his handiwork. “We are very excited about the improvements at the course that will further elevate the Prince’s continual position in America’s Top 100 golf courses.“
“It’s such a great layout, very much a timeless layout and extremely unique,“ added PGA general manager T.J. Baggett of the Prince Course. “It’s really one of the most unique golf courses you’ll ever play.“
REVIEW: Most courses open play with a relatively benign opening hole, but the Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is not most courses. This downhill par-4 stretches to 448 yards from the elevated tee and features thick brush down the right side and trees flanking the left. The fairway angles to the right, so you can play down that avenue, but do not miss right, otherwise you’re taking a drop. Your approach, most likely with a mid-iron, now must cross a creek and marsh toward the green, which runs slightly from back to front. The putting surface is quite long but narrow with run-offs on both sides. Now that’s a starting hole.
Following a hole without sand, the second features plenty of the fluffy stuff, not to mention it’s the longest hole on the course, a whopping 597 yards. Here, the key is the tee shot, as you must play short of the crossing ravine and the two bunkers down the right, roughly 300 yards from the tee. Hardly reachable in two, your second shot is played uphill toward a fairly wide landing area. However, the closer you climb toward the green is where the sand on either side of the fairway comes into play. The putting surface, which sits well above the fairway, runs hard from back to front with a tier toward the back quadrant. Bail out to the right if you must, as a deep greenside bunker left is treacherous.
The difficult trend continues with the par-3 third, a slightly uphill one- shotter that reaches just under 200 yards in length. Three bunkers protect the putting surface, which features plenty of slope. Miss short of the green, and a false-front will repel your approach down the fairway. It’s hard to believe that this hole is rated the easiest on the course ... certainly not on my scorecard!
Number 4 is a visually stunning par-5 that wraps around a lake to the right toward the ocean. With Cook pines framing the hole, the beauty can be reached in two, but not without risk. Depending upon which tees you play, you’ll need to avoid the water down the right and sand on the left, but with a successful tee ball, you never know. Your approach is next, and that can be tricky, as a large fairway bunker down the left tightens the landing area and with the water on the right, you need to be spot on. Finally, the difficulty of the putting surface might be the hardest aspect of the hole, as the two-tiered green is 38 paces in length. Let’s not forget that missing this green to the right might propel your ball down the slope and into the lake. Bailing out left is the other option, but two traps will deter that thought process.
You’ve played four holes and only the first ranked in the top 10 of the most difficult on the course. That changes dramatically when you reach the fifth tee. At 471 yards long, the fifth is the longest par-4 on the course, as it doglegs hard to the right. Although the fairway was softened after the recent renovation, this hole requires two solid plays to reach the green. Playing slightly downhill off the tee, bunkers on either side of the rolling landing area will keep you honest. In addition, a marshy area down the right, just past the trap must be avoided. Your approach to the very long green is a smidge uphill, so check pin placement and take the correct stick. At 43 paces, the putting surface is hard to gauge and the deep pot bunker, both short and left, will give you plenty of angst. Good luck!
The sixth plays downhill, not only toward the green but to the mighty Pacific Ocean. The view is sensational, but one must focus on this straightforward par-4. The key here is the tee ball, as the fairway features two deep bunkers down the right and thick rough left, and the corridor narrows the further down you take it. The smart play is to lay back short of the trouble. Yes, it will leave a longer second, but with the slope of the hole, you’ll be able to compensate for the sensible choice. The green is fairly long and narrow with deep traps on either side. Rising from front to back, try to keep the ball below the hole for your best shot at birdie. A bogey is not the worst thing in the world, especially with the waves crashing below.
As good as the first six holes were, the seventh is stupendous. A massive par-3 of over 200 yards, this gem is all carry over a thick vegetation ravine with the ocean roaring to your left. Another massive putting surface, rectangular in shape is 41 paces in length, so club selection is critical. Four strategically placed bunkers guard this dynamic green. A bail out to the right is quite common. According to RTJ II’s website, “The seventh hole has been described as a Hawaiian version of No. 16 at Cypress Point: It plays 205 yards dead into the wind, with crashing ocean surf stretching beyond Anini Beach along the entire left side.“
The most difficult hole on the opening nine is the long, par-4 eighth. Climbing from tee to green, the fairway has been widened to the left of the fairway bunkers, giving the appearance of a massive landing area. Yes and no, as the two bunkers gain plenty of attention as you survey your options. The right side is the best play because this will open up your approach to the green, just from a longer position. With the Hihimanu Ridge in the rear, you’ll need a long iron or fairway metal to reach the putting surface in regulation. A miss right will find sand, while left of the two-tiered green is the best miss. Either way, you’ll be under plenty of pressure to make par.
Number 9 is a chance to get a shot back from earlier struggles in the round. Just 364 yards from the tips, this par-4 can be attacked easily with a fairway metal off the tee. This will set up a short wedge to a fairly long and narrow green. Avoiding the quartet of bunkers in the landing area is of utmost importance. A slight draw off the right is the play, as the fairway slants to the left. The tiered green can be tricky to putt, especially with a back-left pin location, which will bring in the deep horseshoe-shaped bunker.
The 10th is a wonderful, risk-reward par-5, although from the back tees the chances of getting home in two are slim at 588 yards. Having said that, it’s a great hole, as it doglegs sharply to the left. Your tee shot plays slightly uphill to a generous, rolling fairway, with sand left and right. Now the fun begins, as the hole swings to the left and a big decision comes into play. Cut the dogleg and cross over the ravine or play out to the right over trees to a fairway that sits well below the fairway. The carry over the ravine is well over 200 yards, depending upon how close you drove down the left. That’s all carry to the green. The smart play is toward the right, where the fairway opens up, leaving just a small wedge to the very accessible green. Bunkers do tighten the landing area, but you should be able to negotiate the shot. The putting surface is wide and only 26 paces in depth, slightly elevated and features many undulating sections. The good news, when you look back, you see the Pacific Ocean. There has to be some solace in that!
The shortest par-3 on the course, No. 11 is only 187 yards from the black markers. That, however, only tells part of the story, as the shot is uphill the entire way to the very long and undulating green. A ravine flanks the entire left side of the hole, so any play just off the mark will be lost. The putting surface is two-tiered and runs from middle to back and front. A back-left pin is diabolical, but nothing a sweeping draw can’t handle. With no trees, the wind will play havoc with your approach.
Another signature hole on the Prince Course is the dynamic 12th, a short par-4 of only 390 yards. In fact, it plays significantly shorter, as the tee box stands some 100 feet above the green. Carved into a ravine, the fairway is quite narrow with trees guarding both sides of the landing area. If you thought the tee shot was difficult, your approach to the green must be spot-on, as the green falls off on the left and has a watery jungle to the right and rear. The putting surface is not tricky, so you’ll have a shot at birdie, that is, if you hit the green in two!
The stout 13th, which was carved into the hillside, is a picturesque par-4 which bends sharply to the right. The key to survive is the tee shot, which must find the narrow fairway. To the left, the landing area drops off sharply, while right is thick vegetation. By the way, driver off the tee is not needed, as a creek crosses the fairway at the nearest point in the dogleg. Playing slightly uphill to the green, you’re faced with a difficult approach to a very deep green that boasts sand left and a creek right. Take an extra stick and try not to get caught up with the natural waterfall and soothing garden grotto behind the green.
The final par-3 on the course is the longest of the quartet at 211 yards from the back tees. Playing downhill to the green, club selection is crucial, as dense trees and vegetation flank the left and a deep, massive bunkers protects the right. The putting surface is long and narrow at 44 paces, reminiscent of your left foot without the toes. Avoid the back-left pin, otherwise you might stink this one up.
Talk about a roller-coaster ride, the 15th is all that and then some. This winding par-5 can be stretched to 576 yards from the black markers, but it plays considerably shorter, as it’s downhill from tee to green. Split into two quadrants, the first portion of the fairway requires placement off the tee, not brawn, as the landing area, which slopes hard from right to left and down, runs out at 245 yards to the green. Be careful not to roll through the fairway, otherwise a deep ravine, thick with vegetation, will swallow your ball. Your second shot will be a choice of two options. Going for the green is a distinct possibility because the greens sits 40-to-50 feet below or consider laying up to the left to the very accommodating fairway. Attacking this hole is risky, especially with the deep falloff right, but why not, especially if you can make an eagle three.
At first look, No. 16 seems quite benign at 375 yards, but don’t be fooled. This hole, which doglegs sharply from right to left, plays uphill from tee to green. The fairway is user-friendly, as long as you avoid the right fairway bunker. Make sure you take an extra club or two with your approach, otherwise your shot might roll back down the fairway. Miss left and you’ll find a deep collection area, while the right side features a pair of bunkers. The putting surface is only 31 paces in depth and can be quite tricky, especially if you’re above the hole. Might be the longest 375 yard hole you’ll ever play.
Only 12 yards separate the 17th and 18th holes in distance; however, the penultimate hole is rated as the second-easiest on the course. Bending from left to right, No. 17 requires an accurate tee shot, as bunkers pinch the landing area. Most of the trouble is well to the right, so even if you land in sand, you shouldn’t fear the consequences. The fairway has plenty of slope, so be prepared for an uneven approach to the fairly small green, just 23 paces in depth. In addition, the putting surface is guarded appropriately by sand and slope, so even getting on in regulation will not guarantee a par.
The closing hole on the Prince Course is another dogleg right par-4, reaching 455 yards in length. The fairway feeds from left to right, with several landing area bunkers to protect the short grass. Thick underbrush lines the entire right, so avoid at all costs. A long iron or fairway metal is needed to get home, as your approach plays uphill to the elevated green. In addition, the putting surface is quite long and narrow with a bunker on either side for good measure. Picturesque with the clubhouse and Mt. Namolokama in full view, but difficult, nonetheless.
FINAL WORD: Stunning, to say the least.
The Prince Course at Princeville Golf Club is spectacular, difficult, beautiful, demanding, challenging and, yes ... stunning!
When Robert Trent Jones Jr. crafted this layout, he threw away all he learned from his legendary father and created something so unique that you’ll never see another course in the world that parallels the Prince.
Yes, it’s difficult with its 76.2 rating, but it’s also user-friendly enough with its minimum of five sets of tees on each and every hole. The course ranges from 5,400 yards to almost 7,400, so there’s a spot for everyone.
Carved through some of the most beautiful terrain that Kauai has to offer, the Prince Course requires some quality golf shots, avoiding thick vegetation and navigating slopes and canyons throughout the property.
There is no letup on this course. You need to go all out, not to mention think around the layout. Driver is not always the play and don’t forget the elements. The wind will blow and Kauai is known as one of the wettest spots on the planet. That, however, will not dampen your golf experience, as most of the wet stuff happens in the mountains and, guess what, that means rainbows, rainbows and rainbows.
Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle,“ and the Prince Course is as lush and tropical as it gets. The gorgeous vegetation and the conditioning of the course is as good as you’ll find anywhere.
The overall facility is world-class, with its massive 66,000-square foot clubhouse, 13-acre practice facility and the Prince Golf Shop, all 5,500 square feet of glory and goodies.
The practice facility is worth talking about in detail, as it features three different teeing locations, each one adjusted to different wind conditions. It also includes a 1,200-square-foot putting green and a 1,200-square-foot chipping green, so if it’s honing your game while away from home, this is the spot. Just make sure your spouse is happy at the Spa.
The $5 million renovation of the golf course for 13 months in 2011-12 was critical to the Prince Course in an effort to maintain its stature as the top golf course in Hawaii. “The Prince Course has been known as a very difficult golf course,“ Baggett said. “Improving playability was the big goal. Our goal coming in was to reopen the Prince and really raise the bar of what the experience is and the condition of the golf course as the No. 1 golf course in Hawaii.“
Do you want to play this course over and over again while on vacation? Well, there are plenty of great courses on the island, but none better than The Prince. Just make sure you play the correct tees and enjoy.
Did they accomplish their goals? Asked and answered ... YES!
► NFL Fantasy Player of the Week - Week 7
Once again, the passing game won out over the rushing game. Of the top 15 fantasy performances in Week 7, just three came from running backs and in all three cases, the running back supplemented his game by catching at least one touchdown.
The following players were the best at their position in Week 7.
Russell Wilson, Seattle - Wilson earned not one, but two bonuses, this weekend. He threw for 313 yards to get the ordinary passing bonus for quarterbacks, but added 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Although his Seahawks lost, it’s hard to imagine Wilson’s fantasy owners’ going down to defeat after getting a 40-point contribution from their quarterback.
Peyton Manning, Denver - Manning added another record to his already impressive resume, passing Brett Favre as the all-time leader in touchdown passes. His 318 yards and four touchdowns were pretty valuable to fantasy owners, but then we’ve come to expect this quality of performance on a weekly basis haven’t we?
Running Backs -
Shane Vereen, New England - Only five running backs cracked the 100-yard mark which allowed Vereen to steal top honors while only rushing for 43 yards. Vereen’s forte is catching the football and his did that five times for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns to produce a position-leading 27 fantasy points.
Matt Forte, Chicago - Forte, like Vereen, used his pass-receiving skills to add significant value to his Week 7 performance. The league’s most versatile back rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown and caught six balls for 60 yards and another score.
Wide Receivers -
Demaryius Thomas, Denver - There is no hotter player in the fantasy world than Thomas. A virtual ghost for the first three games, Thomas has racked up 521 yards and five touchdowns over the past three contests, including eight receptions for 171 yards and two scores on Sunday night versus the 49ers.
Golden Tate, Detroit - Once again Tate took advantage of Calvin Johnson’s absence to become a WR1. His 10-catch, 154-yard, one-touchdown afternoon against New Orleans was his third big fantasy total in the last four Lions games. His continued production at this level is tied to Megatron’s health.
Tight Ends -
Gavin Escobar, Dallas - It’s likely his efforts were cursed by fantasy owners of other Dallas Cowboys. Escobar’s career-best three-catch, 65-yard, two- touchdown day was mostly a waste as he’s owned in less than one percent of all Yahoo fantasy leagues and probably started by only a small fraction of those owners ... if any.
Greg Olsen. Carolina - Olsen is a consistent point-scorer for fantasy owners at a position that rarely shows off that characteristic. He’s posted at least 62 yards in six of seven games and scored in four of them. Sunday he earned the 100-yard bonus for the first time this season for 16 fantasy points.
Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh - Suisham was a perfect 3-of-3 on field goals and extra points at a stadium known to be tough on kickers with swirling winds, inconsistent turf and bad weather.
Defense/Special Teams -
Jacksonville Jaguars - The position was led by the most unlikely of players, the Jaguars, who until this effort had not posted more than seven fantasy points in any week and produced minus totals three times this season. On Sunday they held the Browns to just two field goals, while producing three turnovers and two sacks worth a position-leading 18 points.
And the winner of the TSN Fantasy Player of the Week for Week 7 is ... Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson doesn’t have the consistency of Manning, but when he gets his running game going, to add to his arm he can be a very valuable fantasy asset. Sunday was one of those days.
► Head-scratcher in Minnesota
Whenever an offense turns for the worst, there always seems to be 65,000-plus offense coordinator wannabes in the crowd that believe they can call a better game.
I am not naive enough to believe my “expert Madden play-calling ability” would translate to an NFL field. Besides, my bread-and-butter was I-formation, which I’m pretty sure is illegal in today’s NFL.
Even still, there is one offensive coordinator in particular that causes me to scratch my head every Monday morning.
Norv Turner has surely not been dealt the greatest hand. A vast majority of his offseason game planning for the 2014 season involved All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Peterson will likely not play again this year, and Rudolph will probably miss at least half the season by the time he returns.
On top of that in a three-week span, the Vikings started three different quarterbacks under center. No wonder there is no consistency or flow in the offense.
Turner still baffles and angers fantasy owners, however, who want to see production from wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and running back Jerick McKinnon.
Patterson had an awesome Week 1 with six touches, 128 yards and a touchdown. He earned the 100-yard rushing bonus as 102 of his yards came on the ground.
However, Patterson has not even come close to that total again. After Week 1, Patterson did not score again until this past Sunday against the Bills. Plus, he has not had more than five touches in any game since the first week and never has led the team in targets. Instead, Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright each have more receptions and receiving yards than Patterson.
Patterson has 22 catches for 273 yards and one touchdown on the season. Since Week 1, he has negative running yards.
Turner is also frustrating fantasy owners in how he is using the backfield without Peterson. Rookie Jerick McKinnon has clearly proven he is the more talented back, but Matt Asiata leads the team with 70 carries.
At least Turner has featured McKinnon more as of late. In the last two games, McKinnon has out-touched Asiata 30-8. Still, it should not have taken this long for McKinnon to become the featured back, and the frustration still mounts with Patterson.
As fantasy owners, we want to have the most talented players on our rosters. Actually, an offensive coordinator likely wants the same thing. The lack of consistency at quarterback is obviously hurting the Vikings, but in that situation, shouldn’t an offensive coordinator simplify things and just get the rock to the team’s top weapons?
Turner is a great offensive coordinator. He was the architect of the great Dallas offense in the early 1990s. But it is still worth asking: why won’t he get his most talented players in Minnesota the ball?
Turner has told the press repeatedly he wants to get them involved and that he plans to. Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Turner. Get Patterson and McKinnon the ball.
► Curry, Paul, or Westbrook?: Who ya Got?
Over the past few seasons, the point guard position has become increasingly more valuable.
While there have been skilled point guards in the NBA for many years, the overall talent at the position has clearly become much stronger. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why teams have seemed to put more of an onus on having more versatile point guards on their rosters, but nevertheless it seems to be somewhat of an epidemic.
The point guard has always been the floor general, but has not always necessarily been the most skilled player on the floor.
The Philadelphia 76ers went to the 2000-01 NBA Championship Series with Eric Snow as their point guard. The Los Angeles Lakers have won titles with Derek Fisher running the show. These were solid professional players, but in no way would I draft those guys over point guards like John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, or even Kemba Walker.
Now with teams running out more versatile point guards, it has directly impacted the game of fantasy basketball. According to Yahoo, there are seven notable point guards that should be drafted within the first 25 picks. All of these guys are well-rounded athletes, who can score, pass, shoot from deep, and defend. However, there can be only one that gets drafted first, so as a result, let’s take a look at which player should be the first point guard taken off draft boards.
Stephen Curry, Golden State
This guy is a joy to watch, and is coming off a season where he produced career-highs in arguably the two most important categories as a point guard (24.0 ppg and 8.5 apg). To go along with that, Curry shot a solid 47 percent from the field, while making 8.4 field goals per game (also a career-high). Combined with a career 44 percent three-point field goal percentage, he heads into the 2014-15 season as the top rated point guard.
The biggest knock on the Warriors superstar, is the amount of times he turns the ball over. Curry averaged a career-high 3.8 turnovers per game last season, and owners should not expect that number to go down, as his career- average is 3.2. However, with that being said, there are far too many positives in Curry’s game for owners to shy away from him. He produces in essentially every fantasy category, with the exception of blocked shots (0.2 bpg career-average), with career-averages of 4.1 rpg, 1.6 spg, and shoots a remarkable 90 percent from the free throw line. Curry’s biggest weapon continues to be his long distance shooting, and as a result, he made an average of 3.3 three-pointers per game in 2013-14. His average draft position (ADP) is third overall, and in no way is it a reach to consider him there.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul is as steady as they come, and at 29-years-old, is still clearly in the prime of his career. He is a pass-first, point guard, and saying he fills a stat sheet, is simply an understatement. Paul ranked first in the NBA with 10.7 apg and 2.5 steals. On top of that he averaged 4.3 rpg, shot a respectable 47 perfect from the field, made 1.3 three-pointers per game, and shot a remarkable 86 percent from the free throw stripe, last season. If that isn’t filling a stat sheet, I don’t know what is.
One thing that sets Paul apart from Curry and Westbrook, is that he averaged 1.5 less turnovers per game (2.3) than the other two, in 2013-14. If owners value the turnover category, this is definitely something to consider, as Paul has a career-average of only 2.4 turnovers per game.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City
There may not be more pressure on any NBA player entering this season, than the Thunder’s starting point guard. He is coming off a season where he played a career-low 46 games, and also had somewhat of a down season from a statistical standpoint. With Kevin Durant sidelined possibly for the first two months, Oklahoma City not only needs Westbrook to be their go-to guy, but will also need him to be one of the best players in the league, if the team wants to stay afloat. This should be music to fantasy owners’ ears.
Even playing barely half the season, while dealing with multiple injuries, Westbrook still managed to produce better or equal to his career-averages in every major statistical category. He averaged 21.8 ppg (20.1 career), 6.9 apg (6.9 career) , 5.7 rpg (4.9 career), 1.9 spg (1.6 career), while shooting 44 percent from the field (43 percent career), 32 percent from three-point land (31 percent career), and 83 percent from the line (82 percent career). However, just like Curry, Westbrook turned he ball over 3.8 time per game last season, and with the ball constantly in his hands, that number is likely to be similar or even a little higher in 2014-15.
If all three of these players are on the board for owners on the clock, and if those owners want to draft a point guard; it is not a ridiculous idea to put the three names in a hat and pick the guy that is drawn. That is how close and comparable these three guards are. However, for me, as much as I love both Curry and Paul, the pick is Westbrook.
I am a believer in strong starts lasting for a full season, and I believe Westbrook will get off to a scorching start. With Durant battling his foot injury, it still has to be assumed that he will be back at 100 percent by season’s end, but there is no guaranteed timetable or that he’ll produce “normal” Kevin Durant numbers. As a result, Westbrook should expect to see increased numbers across the board, making him a potential MVP candidate in the NBA for 2014-15. If that happens, then he will prove to be the best of the three guards and the guy fantasy owners should choose.
|WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014|
|Major League Baseball - World Series|
|San Francisco at Kansas City, 8:07 PM - FOX|
|National Basketball Association - Preseason|
|Houston at Orlando, 7:00 PM - CSN-Houston|
|Brooklyn at Boston, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England|
|Washington at New York, 7:30 PM - MSG|
|Cleveland at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, ESPN|
|Minnesota at Wisconsin, 8:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin|
|Phoenix at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - ESPN|
|Portland at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - Time Warner|
|National Hockey League|
|Toronto at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - TVA Sports, SNET, DSS|
|Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, 8:00 PM - TVA Sports2, NBCSN|
|Washington at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - CSN-DC, SNET1, DSS|
|Buffalo at Anaheim, 10:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS|
|Major League Soccer|
|Chivas USA at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 PM - KWKU, CW30, DSS|
|Liverpool vs. Real Madrid, 2:30 PM - FS1|
|Montreal at New York (CCL), 8:00 PM - FOX Soccer Plus, FS2|
|Pachuca at Real Espana (CCL), 10:00 PM - UDN|
|LPGA - Blue Bay LPGA, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel|