THE NBA REGULAR SEASON WRAPS UP
Network Closed The Season On A 36-20 Run!
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It's NBA Awards Time... and the envelope please:
No question that this year's award will trigger lots of arguments no matter who gets chosen but it must go to "The Chosen One" - LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers' megastar is averaging 29.7 points per game for the team that long ago clinched the best regular-season record in the NBA and he remains the single most important player on his team in Commissioner David Stern's kingdom.
Second Place - Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City); Third Place - Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers).
COACH OF THE YEAR
Let's give this one to Dallas Mavericks' sideline boss Rick Carlisle who has masterfully pushed all the right buttons for this team playing .663 ball and keep in mind that Trade Deadline move that imported Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the Mavs - Carlisle allowed for these players to "be themselves" and everything quickly fell into place.
Second Place - Scotty Brooks, Oklahoma City; Third Place - Larry Brown, Charlotte.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The Sacramento Kings may get lost in the NBA shuffle these days but don't blame that on first-year point guard Tyreke Evans who is averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game and now looks to be the second consecutive former Memphis Tigers point guard (following Chicago Bulls' star Derrick Rose) to get the hardware.
Second Place - Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee); Third Place - Stephen Curry (Golden State).
PLEASANT SURPRISE TEAM OF THE YEAR
The Oklahoma City Thunder cops this award and - don't look now - may already be the NBA's most fun team to watch.
Second Place - Charlotte; Third Place - Dallas.
DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR
Here we will go with a team, a player and a coach - and it starts with the New Jersey Nets who not only "challenged" the NBA's single-season record for most losses but didn't seem to care all that much when they were piling up 10- and 15-game losing streaks. Shame, shame.
Second Place - Allen Iverson (formerly Memphis and Philadelphia); Third Place - Jim O'Brien (Indiana).
BARKING DOG SPECIAL
The Network has a live dog in Thursday's baseball card that's going to jump up and bite the moneyline! This is the same type of play we identified last Thursday when a top source fed us the Cubs (+175) over the Braves and Chicago won it 2-0! Dogs are the easiest to spot on Thursday, because it's getaway day around baseball, with teams getting set to travel to their next city for the weekend. That sort of variable brings a new intangible into the game and anything that upsets the applecart works in favor of the dog. And with our team of sources close to the action, no one is better suited to find thse barking dogs then Jim Hurley's Network. We're set to bite on Thursday, so get this play, plus a bonus game!
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BASEBALL'S NEWS & NOTES - TWINS WIN IN TARGET FIELD DEBUT
Was it really 28 years of Twins baseball in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome that finally ended this past Monday afternoon?
Heck, the Minnesota Twins broke in their new joint - the state-of-the-art Target Field - with a real bang as the American League club topped the Boston Red Sox 5-2 and wouldn't you know it that Minny was up to its old tricks in the home opener:
There were 12 hits including a pair of doubles by superstar catcher Joe Mauer and a power alley home run too by DH Jason Kubel plus the Twins registered four two-out RBI - sounds like the gang that played at the "Homerdome" all those years, right?
Maybe the best thing on the day for Minnesota's home opener outdoors was the weather - a 65-degree day had some folks wearing tee-shirts and shorts - but the $64,000 question is how will Target Field play over the course of an 81-game regular season and how will those inevitable chilly days/nights affect Minnesota's potent offensive attack?
The 38,145 folks that jammed into the spanking new ballpark all enjoyed the opener as Minnesota continued an early-season theme: Get folks on base for Mauer (batting .423 while entering Wednesday's tilt against the Bosox) and then get the ball into the hands of new star closer Jon Rauch who faced just three batters and earned his fifth save in as many tries for manager Ron Gardenhire's team.
No one's panicking right this minute 'cause Joe Nathan's out for the year, you know!
The Twins (6-2) never do seem to miss a beat whether they're winning on the left coast to start off a season (see three wins in four games in Anaheim) or returning home to a brand new place that was supposed to be filled with folks wearing blankets and sipping hot chocolate.
The new field's a hit in Minnesota - and maybe the Twins already have thoughts that they'll win it all in their first year in their new digs.
Did someone say the 2009 New York Yankees?
THE NFL DRAFT: THE WIDE-OUTS AND TIGHT ENDS TAKE CENTER STAGE
We will continue to have complete and daily position-by-position coverage of the NFL Draft (April 22-23-24) right here this week and next week and it's all capped off by our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft which will be posted on this website on Wednesday, April 21st: Now, here's a look at the top Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:
JERMAINE GRESHAM, TE, Oklahoma - This 6-foot-5, 260-pounder didn't play a single down last year after suffering torn ligaments in his right knee last August but he's been medically cleared for action and our prognosis is that he'll be the first pass-catcher gobbled up in next week's NFL Draft. Gresham piled up impressive stats in 2008 as he caught 66 balls for 950 yards with a team-best 14 TDs as than-Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford relied on him in red-zone situations and note his 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash will make him an inviting target over the middle of the field from outside the red zone. Gresham will cause major matchup problems for many NFL linebackers and defensive backs and could be an instant star on a team that has other wide out weapons.
DEZ BRYANT, WR, Oklahoma State - No doubt one of the most talented pass-catchers to come from the college ranks in years but murky recent history (suspended for final 10 games last year for lying to the NCAA and "forgetting" to bring his cleats for recent "Pro Day" workout) has him on some shaky ground as former Big 12 star could drop out of the first 20 overall picks. The NFL folks love his size (he's 6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and he has great hands with a propensity to make the tough catch in traffic but they also wonder aloud if he owns a great work ethic. Bryant's 2008 season was a real smash with 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 TDs and then he did haul down 17 balls with 4 TDs in the first three games last year before eventually getting suspended by the NCAA big-wigs.
DEMARYIUS THOMAS, WR, Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets may be a run-run offense but this 6-foot-3, 225-pounder didn't slip past pro scouts after catching 46 of his team's 78 receptions last year (and for 1,154 yards and 8 TDs). The lingering question here is has Thomas fully recovered from a broken foot suffered in pre-NFL Combine workouts? The NFL folks love his hands and his penchant for getting lots of YAC (yards after catch) but there is some concern regarding his route running and many folks feel he's regressed by playing in an offense not exactly suited for a pro-bound receiver.
GOLDEN TATE, WR, Notre Dame - Most mock draft boards have placed this former ND Fighting Irish star at the tail-end of Round I but this 5-foot-10, 202-pounder could make a move up the charts should Bryant and Thomas get nabbed in the first dozen-or-so picks. Tate snagged a total of 157 receptions in his college career (third in Notre Dame history) and really proved to have a strong bond with NFL-bound QB Jimmy Clausen. The pro folks love his mental and physical toughness and his ability to fight for the extra yards after getting hit. We won't be entirely surprised if he's in the top 20 picks here.
ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE, Arizona - Here's yet another pass-catcher whose recent medical history is a real factor in where he gets chosen as the former U of A Wildcats star missed all of last season with back surgery. At an imposing 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Gronkowski is a perfect size for an NFL tight end and the 20-year-old can hold his own as a blocker and has super-soft hands that will make him a reliable third-down target right from the start of his pro career. Note that Gronkowski scored 10 touchdowns in the 2008 season despite the fact he missed Arizona's first three games that year.
JIMMY GRAHAM, TE, Miami - At 6-foot-6, 260-plus pounds this former 'Cane is considered a top 50 pick in next week's NFL Draft but count us among the folks who don't love his hands (missed a slew of passes in a couple of Miami's TV games last year) and will be chosen this high simply because of "potential". NFL people loved his attitude and focus in recent workouts and that's interesting because he wasn't always a focused player for Miami in a batch of games in 2009. Note that he registered only 17 catches last year and was more renown as a basketballer at the ACC school.
ARRELIOUS BENN, WR, Illinois - There's no question that this 6-foot-1, 220-pounder isn't entering the NFL Draft off a strong season as last year's rotten Illini club didn't do a whole lot right en route to a three-win season and Benn only managed 38 receptions and just two TDs. Still, this is a player that started 35 games in his college career and was a 50-catch, 1,147-yard, 17-TD player as a junior in 2008. Not likely to go in Round One but could be off the board in the first handful of Round II selections.
DAMIAN WILLIAMS, WR, USC - The Men of Troy didn't play in a January bowl game for the first time since 2001 and so it was easy for folks to forget about this 6-foot-1, 200-pounder but check out the '09 stats and you're sure to be impressed: 70 catches for 1,010 yards and 6 TDs and remember he was the Emerald Bowl Offensive MVP thanks to his 12-catch, 189-yard performance against Boston College. Looks to be a second-round pick but we might be inclined to nab him above some of these pass-catchers listed here.
NOTE: Catch our NBA Playoff coverage plus more NFL Draft Position Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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