Offseason Review: Detroit Lions

A new era has surfaced, and it starts with Mr. Graphite, A.K.A new Head Coach Matt Patricia. The wait is finally over as Detroit is believed to have found their guy. A disciple of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. While things haven’t panned out for most Belichick assistants, this one seems a little different. For starters, he didn’t get cold feet after the Patriots loss in Super Bowl 52 and return to the Pats (unlike Josh McD). He is his own man and it seems as if he is here to stay.

The NFL is a league of parody and when Lions general manager Bob Quinn decided to pull the trigger, it only made sense to hire one guy. People forget, Quinn joined the New England Patriots back in 2000 as a player personnel assistant, and gradually moved up to the director of pro scouting. The rest is history as he was signed in 2016 as the next Lions GM.

Since Quinn has been in Detroit, he has done something that previous GM’s have not been able to do in the Motor City: put together a winning culture. Sure, with former Head Coach Jim Caldwell it had its hiccups, but he did manage to finish 36-28 in his four years as head coach. All in all, a change was needed and getting Matt Patricia seems like it could pay dividends and land them in uncharted territory with “the Patriot-Way.”

FREE AGENCY

LE’VEON BELL

The Lions are in an odd spot in the 2018 NFL Draft. They don’t have a sexy pick but what they do have is a ton of money they are looking to unload.

What to do with $47 million? I don’t know, maybe go after the best running back in the league. As free agency is getting closer, the Lions should be licking their chops to show Le’veon what being a Detroit Lion is all about.

The MSU alum should fit perfectly in their offensive game plan to relieve some pressure off Stafford. The Lions $135-million-dollar man cannot do it all by himself. He isn’t getting any younger. He needs help.

Their window is now. With Stafford in his prime and Marvin Jones Jr. locked up until 2020, if they can land someone like Bell, it would be a hell of a lot more enticing for Golden Tate to resign in 2019. Could you imagine that offense? Well I can, and with the right scheme and 3rd down play calling, Lions fans might be able to witness their first ever playoff win.

NIGEL BRADHAM

Please tell me you guys love athletic linebackers that can play both inside and out. One of the standouts on Philadelphia’s Super Bowl winning defense, Bradham displayed the physicality, cover skills and leadership to help a defense earn the title world champions.

“We drafted Jarrad Davis to be the future!” I know, I know. Imagine if you had someone that could teach Davis the character it takes to be a top linebacker in the league? Don’t get me wrong, Bradham isn’t a household name but my god if you watched the NFL this year, you would be able to witness some outstanding defensive intensity.

SIGN THIS MAN! WHAT A BEAST! Bob Quinn, if you have the chance to pair Nigel Bradham and Jarrad Davis together, do it. You’d be doing Detroit a wonderful service.

WARNING DO NOT TAG ZIGGY HE IS NOT WORTH THE HEADACHE

DRAFT

1st round, pick No. 20

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

If the Lions do the smart thing and let Ziggy Ansah walk, Davenport seems to fit the mold of the the next generation of Defensive Ends. For god-sakes, the man is 6-7, 255 lbs. He’s a walking mammoth and could fit in beautifully with what Patricia is about to do with that defense. There is something recently about small-school guys panning out that I believe will happen again.

2nd round, pick No. 51

Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Keep bringing the boys home! With their first two picks on the defensive side of the ball, it is clear what direction this team should be going in. Hopefully with these two picks, they are able to generate a pass rush that could help the corners out.

Defense wins championships repeat after me.

Lions fans, there is hope. Your fan-base has always stuck by their beloved team and its now their time to deliver. Philly broke the curse, why not you too?

NHL Players Should Compete in the Olympics

I have been in the hockey mood for the last couple of weeks, so here’s another one. As I’m sitting here watching the US Men’s Hockey team take on Slovakia, there is a feeling inside me that something’s missing.

With the NHL pulling their athletes out of Olympic competition, it doesn’t feel the same as it has been in the past. Before I continue, I’m sure you are wondering why they pulled their athletes. Here’s why. The NHL and the International Olympic Committee, also known as the IOC, had a dispute related to insurance and marketing restrictions. However, I do understand why the NHL pulled out of competition. They are more interested in the safety of their star players, but in no means do I think it was the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, without these NHL stars, the competiveness of all of the teams in this year’s Olympics is down exponentially. I’m sitting here watching and have no idea who any of these players are. Having the big names like Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Ryan Sutter (Nashville Predators) James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs) bring in a larger market for viewers.

Check this out, the US Men’s team has 5 players from the Swiss National League, 5 from the KHL, 3 from Swedish League, 3 from the AHL, 2 from the German League and 4 from the NCAA. The captain is Brian Gionta at 39 years of age who is the only player on the roster with true NHL experience. Besides him, the players on all of the teams are either young prospects or old players who are way out of their prime. This is evident in each game as all of the teams have had trouble controlling the puck and increasing sloppy play.

No disrespect intended but shouldn’t the best in the world be given the opportunity to represent their nation. The amount of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and year that these athletes have dedicated to be where they are should be rewarded. The best in the NHL should not be watching their country’s compete in the Olympics. Like I am, on my couch at home.

 

You Won’t Want To Miss This (week 1)

I am starting a new thing here at Laced Up. Trying to create my own content for the betterment of the brand. It’s a piece that will come out once a week highlighting the top three things you WON’T want to miss from the upcoming week. It will be the best of the best games, headlines and stories in the world of sports. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this.

Let’s get started:

  1. Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, Thursday 2/14, CBS & Golf Channel

Holy crap I can’t wait for Thursday’s opening round. The groups were released the other day and Tiger is with not one, but two electrifying young stars. He is paired with Rory and Justin Thomas. If the cameras aren’t following their every move, then there is something wrong. If Tiger is walking between shots and so much as lifts a finger it better be on my screen.

Watching him play at the age he is, after everything he’s been through (no not with his ex-wife, with his body), is miraculous. I read something the other day where a reporter asked Tiger how he trains now as compared to his old ways. Well, here was his response:

Screen-Shot-2018-02-13-at-3.25.25-PM

UNREAL. This man is a legend in every aspect of the word and if that doesn’t get you hyped for Thursday’s opening round, then I don’t know what will.

  1. Players report to Spring Training, Saturday Feb. 17-19, MLB Network

This has got to be a miracle for the MLB Network. Those poor guys have had NOTHING to talk about during the offseason. There’s been no trades, no free agent signings and nothing of value besides rumors. And we all know how much we love rumors. Finally, MLB Network will have something to talk about and you bet I’ll be tuning in.

Spring Training is that perfect time of the year. Baseball season is right around the corner and with that brings nice weather. If you’re one of the lucky ones and live in a warm climate, I envy you. I really do. I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and decided to go to school in Michigan. Yes, Michigan. What on earth was I thinking.

This is my favorite time of the year. I know that baseball is back, and I can finally come out of hibernation and see the sun for the first time in months. Opening day is on the clock and I’ve never been more excited for it to start.

  1. The Olympics, Feb. 9-Feb 25, NBC

Is there anything better than the Olympics? Honestly. Few things in the world come close to the magnitude of the Olympic games. I would say the World Cup is definitely one, and Super Bowl is a maybe second. I love the Olympics because for two weeks it doesn’t matter what your ideals are, or who you vote for, everyone comes together as one nation. America.

With everything going on in our country now, I think the Olympics are a great way for people to put aside their differences and give them something to cheer for. Something they can come together and root for. That is why I love sports so much. The Olympics are everything that is so perfect about competition and athletics.

No issue is too big for the Olympics to put on hold. The athletes that compete in these games are worldwide heroes and deserve every bit of that title. They put on their uniform, ski goggles, skates and whatever else to go out and represent their nation’s colors.

Stay tuned for this every week and more!

You won’t want to miss this.

Somebody needs to bring back Hockeytown Houston

After a long week of attending class, studying in the library and going out on the town, me and a few friends decided to escape from the Austin limelight for a few hours. As we browsed the internet, there was one event that caught our eyes. Surprisingly, it was a hockey game which intrigued the five of us. So, we did what any college freshmen would do. We ordered an Uber and headed northwest on US-183 with our final destination the HEB Center. Home to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. Just 30 minutes later, we arrived at the front entrance of the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas.

Contrary to what you have just read above, this post isn’t about our experience that night. This is about what went through my head as I left the arena last Friday night.

As we buckled up for the 30-minute ride back to West Campus, one question continued to baffle me:

What ever happened to Houston’s professional hockey team?

Now, I do know there was a hockey team in the City of Houston during my lifetime dating back to 1998. The Houston Aeros of the AHL played at the Toyota Center up until they relocated to become the Iowa Wild after the 2013 season. However, this was a minor league team, not a professional team.

Houston did have a professional hockey team back before my time. Contrary to popular belief, they were the original Houston Aeros.

The Houston Aeros of the Western Hockey Association began to play in 1972, but folded in 1978 after 6 seasons in the WHA’s short-lived operation. In their 6 seasons, they won 4 regular season titles, 4 division titles, and 2 championships (Avco World Trophy’s). The Houston Aeros are still regarded as one of the most successful teams in WHA history, which begs the question:

How do you leave the most dominant team out of the WHA-NHL merger?

It all began in 1977 when John Ziegler became President of the NHL. He was the one who started discussing a possible merger between the NHL and the WHA. Six teams applied to become a member of the NHL: Cincinnati Stingers, Winnipeg Jets, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers and of course the Houston Aeros. Unfortunately, the merger was voted against by the NHL owners.

Then, in 1978, merger talks resumed with the Houston Aeros appearing to be the top candidate to become a member of the NHL. In an effort to compromise with NHL owners, John Ziegler proposed an idea to allow only 4 franchises to join the league. The WHA agreed with the number of 4 franchises, but countered that all 3 of their Canadian teams would have to be accepted. With only 1 open slot, the decision came between the New England Whalers and the Houston Aeros.

Kenneth Schnitzer, owner of the Aeros, attempted to appeal to Jeremy Jacobsto, owner of the Boston Bruins. Schnitzer believed having the Hartford based Whalers in the NHL, would hurt the Bruins due to the close proximity of the organizations. Unfortunately, Jacobsto was against the merger altogether and to Schnitzer’s disbelief, NHL President Ziegler was against adding another southern team to the league.

Knowing the Aeros would not be included in the merger, Schnitzer attempted to buy and move the Cleveland Barons to the City of Houston, however the NHL voted against this. Instead, they allowed the owners of the Minnesota North Stars to purchase the Barons and combine it with their own. Schnitzer had no other choice but to fold the Houston Aeros organization on July 9, 1978.

Houston has not had a professional hockey team since.

And to this day, the Houston Aeros are the only WHA Champion to not be included in the NHL.

Should Houston try to get an NHL franchise?

Speaking on behalf of only myself, and I am sure a lot of other people out there, as a native Houstonian, I would be ecstatic to see an NHL franchise expand to the City of Houston. With so many of my friends at the University of Texas hailing from cities with NHL franchises like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas, hockey has become just a normal part of my life. I enjoy watching games, now have 2 jerseys of my own, and play NHL 18 when I am not in the library. Obviously. The popularity of hockey is growing and what better way to experience it than watching it in my hometown.

Somebody bring my city back a hockey team it deserves.

The Bulls are right where they need to be, now trust the process

If there’s one thing I hate about the NBA it’s tanking. I hate losing in the first place, and losing on purpose just flat out pisses me off.

As a Bulls fan going into this season I knew it was going to be rough. No Jimmy Buckets, No Taj Gibson, and to make it that much worst, two weeks before the season starts Bobby Portis lays a beating on Nikola Mirotic’s bearded face.

I heard a rumor this whole “incident” was over Niko spoiling the ending of the show, Ballers. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the show, and the Rock is fantastic, and I’d be pretty pissed if someone spoiled the ending too, but to punch him in the face? C’mon now.

This season was going to be a doozy, we all knew that. But something is changing with this team and I kind of like it. They’re meshing together nicely as a team. Questions were out there on how Lavine would be after coming off an ACL injury, if Kris Dunn could prove to be an above average point guard in the league and if Lauri Markkanen was the next Dirk Nowitzki.

For Lavine, so far so good. He appears to still have the same bounce as before, and has already  put up a highlight reel of dunks in the 13 games he’s been back. He’s averaging 17.3 ppg, and 4.7 rpg which are both career highs.

Dunn was having a much needed upside year, until he broke his face when he hit the deck after a dunk. He is averaging 13.7 ppg, 6.4 apg, and 4.6 rpg. All three are career highs for him and will look for him to get better after he is recovered from injury.

The biggest speculation was about Markkanen. What would he amount to? His best player comp is quite obviously Dirk Nowitzki. Both seven footers who can stretch the floor and shoot from just about anywhere. In his first year, Markkanen is averaging 15.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 1.3 apg. He also broke the record for fastest player to hit 100 three-pointers in NBA history. Faster than a-n-y-b-o-d-y. Great numbers for a rookie.

I went back and looked at Dirk’s numbers to see how the Finland native stacked up against the German future Hall of Famer. In Dirk’s first year, he averaged 8.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 1.0 apg. Dirk shot .406% from the field, and .206% from three. Markkanen? .429% from the field and .354% from three. Something to think about as the Bulls move forward.

Markkanen is the future of that team. Now it’s up to… take a deep breath… Gar Forman and John Paxson… exhale… to put together a competent team for Fred Hoiberg to do something with.

I’ll be honest when they decided to let Jimmy go instead of building around him I thought there was no chance that Gar and Pax had any idea what they were doing. Kris Dunn, a good college point guard but underperformed his first year. Zach Lavine, a dunk contest champion who’s coming off an ACL tear. These two for a guy who was coming off a year averaging 23.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 5.5 apg. Career high numbers for Jimbo.

Now that I think about it, it was a good thing. Sure, Jimmy would’ve been the star in Chicago, but he would’ve prevented the inevitable rebuild. I believe this front office and Fred Hoiberg have a vision. They are bringing in pieces that fit Hoiberg’s style and I like that. I think Hoiberg will be a good NBA coach when he has the talent. But for now, we need more.

One way they will do that is through this years draft. I used to think I wanted Trae Young, because I thought the Bulls needed a pure scorer. But boy did I change my mind. College’s have figured him out and Oklahoma has lost 6 of 8. If college players and coaches can do it, NBA players most certainly can.

I don’t want the Bulls to tank. I’m stating that right now. As I said earlier I hate that concept. Especially when, even if you finish dead last in the league, there’s still not a one-hundred percent chance you secure that number one pick. They will lose, because they will lose. Not because they’re not trying to. They just don’t have it and that’s totally fine.

The Bulls need to build character. They are very young and I think they are just figuring out how good they can become. They have some good pieces right now but are nowhere near where they need to be for the future. When a young team that knows their not supposed to win comes out on top, that builds character. It takes grit and teaches plenty of valuable lessons.

The game is getting bigger and smaller all at the same time. Big men are now stretching the floor and becoming shooters and better ball handlers. Point guards are becoming even better  athletes with unbelievable skills. Every player on the floor, will soon have to be able to play at least three different positions on the court. I’m not saying they will, but they’ll need to be able to.

For the Bulls in the draft, I want them to take the best available. Whether that’s a guard, or forward they just need the best of the best available. A lot of this will depend on how much they continue to improve over the season.

They need to build around Markkanen because he’s the next face of this team. Bring in a guard who will mesh well with him, the same way Steve Nash did with Dirk in Dallas.

The foundation is there, now all we have to do, is trust the process.

😉

Did I just predict the future?

If I remember correctly, I pretty much called it the night before the Cavs went rogue and traded everyone away. After that Timberwolves game, I wrote how it was the turning point for them.

37 points, 10 boards and 15 assists from Bron Bron that night was the changing of the tide in Cleveland.

A new wave of sports, where one player is so dominant he acts as not only the best player, but the Head Coach and GM as well.

There was no way he would let them suck for a second longer. He took matters into his own hands and did what he had to do. And look.

Three straight wins? Averaging a triple double? Any of this ring a bell?

Well it should, because I freaking wrote about it three days ago.

Shoutout to me for predicting the future.

Now, let’s get back to the Cleveland Lebroniers.

They look real good. They are finally using that team the way they needed to. After GM James went and traded away every person on that team, he finally got the system that suits the style of play he wants to run as the new Head Coach.

Tyronn Lue might as well be on a beach in the Bahamas right now, because there’s no coaching going on by him anymore.

Against the Hawks, Lebron finished with 22 pts, 12 rebs, and 19 (NINETEEN) assists. Oh, and did I forget to mention he had only 3 turnovers? Shoot, my bad. Guess I forgot about that.

Against the number one ranked Celtics he had 24 pts, 8 rebs and 10 assists. I know, how terrible right? No triple double? Did I forget to mention he only played 28 minutes? My bad again. I have a terrible memory, what can I say?

These new additions make the Cavs younger. I had a feeling that’s what Lebron needed. He is a 33 year-old in, a 22 year-olds body. He is the definition of a true professional. He puts his head down and he works his you-know-what off.

You’re probably thinking, what do you mean he puts his head down, he’s always in the media? Well, when you’re the second greatest basketball player of all-time, and considered one of the greatest athletes to ever play a sport, it’s hard to hide your face from the camera.

This post-trades Cavs team looks different, and feels different. There were two many egos on that old team, and as far as I’m concerned, Isaiah Thomas was at the center of it. He was abysmal in that locker room. You don’t go into the same locker room as Lebron James and say, “I’m the best player on this team,” because you’re not. You . just . don’t . do . that. (insert sassy lady clapping in between each word). Even if you’re fresh off a career year.

I.T., my man, in case you didn’t know, the Celtics traded you right after said “career year”. For who? Oh that’s right. Kyrie Irving.

Watching the Cavs play the Celtics the other night was Fun. For the first time all year, it looked like Lebron was enjoying being around his teammates. He was joking with the young guys, he was smiling, laughing. It was good to watch. These new look Cavs have the potential to be a one seed in the East now.

With nearly a triple-double a night from Lebron, and good role guys to keep feeding him, the Cavs could have what it takes to compete in a seven game series with any team.

Except the Warriors. They’re just unfair.

In-State or Bust

With National Signing Day in the rear view mirror, and the Texas Longhorns finishing with the 3rd best class in the nation, I want to touch on something that I have noticed over the last five years. Over the last half-decade, there has been a trend beginning every February on NSD. The Longhorn football program has been overselling their incoming recruiting classes judging by the production on the field during the season. What has caused these so-called “top class” to fail:

TOP IN-STATE RECRUITS

How did I come to that conclusion so quickly? Well, here’s the deal. The State of Texas lives and breathes high school football. I mean come on, there was a freaking TV show about it. It’s the State of Texas. High School football is a religion here. It’s the best of the best. The talent level is through the roof. In the 2016 NFL season, a total of 214 players played their high school football in Texas. There’s little to no doubt that this state is made up of some of the most promising up-and-coming players in the country.

With that being said, there is no excuse that Texas has been unable to retain at least 50% of the Top 20 recruits in the State in recent years. Before I talk about now, let’s go back to the Class of 2010. Out of the top 20 recruits in the State of Texas, Mack Brown brought in a total of 10 recruits for the Longhorns. That’s what Texas has been missing in the recent years. In order for the Horns to be successful, they HAVE to and MUST win the in-state recruits.

Why do I say that? Here’s what was going on from 2013-2017 with the top 20 players in the State of Texas:

· Class of 2013, 3 signed went 8-5

· Class of 2014, 4 signed went 6-7

· Class of 2015, 6 signed went 5-7

· Class of 2016, 7 signed went 5-7

Then, in the Class of 2017… ZERO, NONE, NADA signed with the University of Texas at Austin. I get that Charlie Strong was fired, but still. It’s THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS. It’s a world-renowned university. You would think, you would hope, at least ONE of the Top 20 in the State would have wanted to be a Longhorn.

But now…. after waiting almost 5 years, Texas football is back baby. The Class of 2018 has garnered 10 signees from the Top 20 in the State. It appears Head Coach Tom Herman is bringing back the precedent set on recruiting in this state. It truly is second to none. And, when the top recruits are in your backyard, you go out and get them. That’s the philosophy Herman is following and will continue to follow for years to come.

Don't beat yourself up, we know we're right