Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 3:15 PM
THE NBA REPORT:
IT’S TIME TO PUT AN END TO THE 2013-14 REGULAR SEASON AND HERE’S THE WEDNESDAY NITE GAMES WE’RE WATCHING PLUS IT’S NBA AWARDS TIME TOO …
PLUS THE MLB MID-WEEK UPDATE: AN EARLY-SEASON DODGERS-GIANTS SERIES WITH GUSTO … OUR NFL DRAFT COVERAGE ROLLS ON WITH A LOOK AT THE BEST GUARDS & CENTERS
By Jim Hurley
Finally, we’re about to have all those seeding questions answered — once and for all — as we zoom into the start of the NBA Playoffs this Saturday/Sunday.
The final night of this 2013-14 NBA regular season is jam-packed with 15 games, and in a moment we’ll quickly touch on the ones that have “meaning”, but first let’s get to our annual "Jim Sez" NBA Awards … and see if you agree with our awardees:
MVP — Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
The Thunder’s 58 wins heading into Wednesday’s finale against Detroit marks the second-most in the league this year behind Western Conference regular-season champion San Antonio, but Durant’s not playing second fiddle to anyone as he’s averaging 31.9 points per game and merely has carried the torch with a slew of 40-plus point performances. Nope, there shouldn’t really be any doubt about this award — it’s Durant by a mile.
2nd Place — LeBron James, Miami; 3rd Place — Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Coach of the Year — Dwane Casey, Toronto
No doubt there were a slew of fine coaching jobs done in the NBA this year, but who’s done a better job than this third-year Raptors boss, who celebrates his 57th birthday on Thursday? Casey’s pulled together a team with real mix-and-match parts to produce a 48-win season while heading into the finale in New York... and to think this North-of-the-Border club could be the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs is purely amazing.
2nd- Place — Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix; 3rd Place — Gregg Popovich, San Antonio
Rookie of the Year — Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia
Don’t blame this Syracuse one-and-done dude for the 76ers’ shabby record as the tallish point guard is averaging 16.7 ppg and 6.3 assists per game.
2nd-Place — Victor Oladipo, Orlando; 3rd-Place — Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York
Defensive Player of the Year — Anthony Davis, New Orleans
The former Kentucky national championship star averaged a haughty 2.8 blocks per game this year and he intimidated lots more NBA shooters.
2nd-Place — LeBron James, Miami; 3rd Place — Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City
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Okay, so here’s some of what’s on the line in the NBA’s final regular-season evening …
Eastern Conference —
Toronto and Chicago — both of ‘em are 48-33 — head into action vying for that third seed with the Bulls in Charlotte, and note Toronto holds the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the Atlantic Division. Note: Chicago’s game in Carolina starts one hour prior to Toronto’s game at Madison Square Garden …
Meanwhile, plenty on the line in the fight for the #6 seed as both Washington (43-38) and Charlotte (42-39) want to avoid finishing seventh and thus drawing the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in opening-round play, and note the Wizards hold the tiebreaker here. Washington’s in Boston on this final regular-season night; Charlotte (winners of seven of its last eight games) hosts Chicago.
Western Conference —
The only real drama here — now that Memphis fended off Phoenix the other night in a thrilling 97-91 road win — is just who finishes seventh and who finishes eighth, and it’s all easily answered on this Wednesday night when the aforementioned Grizzlies (49-32) host Dallas (also 49-32) with the winner getting that #7 seed and a first-round date against Oklahoma City while the #8 seeds gets San Antonio in Round I.
Everyone else in the West is signed/sealed/delivered in their spots — it’s #1 San Antonio, #2 Oklahoma City, #3 Los Angeles Clippers, #4 Houston, #5 Portland and #6 Golden State.
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THE MLB MID-WEEK UPDATE
If you happened to sneak a quickie peek at the National League West standings this morning, you no doubt noticed that the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants are currently running 1-2 in the “race”.
Folks, you might expect to be seeing that kind of stuff — in either order — for much of this 2014 Major-League Baseball Season ‘cause the fact of the matter is the rest of the NL West is down, down, down and there’s some folks that believe the Dodgers’ payroll is probably bigger than the combined paysheets of Colorado, San Diego and Arizona (hold on, we’ll still doing the math!).
In any event, when the Dodgers and Giants kick off their three-gamer mid-week series in the Bay Area, you wonder if Don Mattingly’s crew will get a little bit of payback after the G-men won two-of-three in LA back on April 4-5-6.
The Giants snagged 8-4 and 7-2 wins to start off that weekend set before the Dodgers salvaged the series with a 6-2 win behind 3-and-oh RHP Zack Greinke.
Maybe it doesn’t exactly qualify as a “must-win” series for the Dodgers but consider that the Giants (8-5) uncharacteristically rank first in the National League with 17 home runs and their 66 runs scored is second-best in the senior circuit and — of course — there will be no LHP Clayton Kershaw in this set for “Dodger Blue”.
The rivalry remains red-hot in “Cali” and now Dodgers-Giants should have everyone talkin’ baseball on the left coast.
THE NFL DRAFT REPORT
Our extensive "Jim Sez" NFL Draft coverage rolls on with a look at the top incoming Guards and Centers:
ZACK MARTIN, G, NOTRE DAME — Many NFL Draft boards have this 6-foot-4, 310-pounder going somewhere inside the first 15 picks and note his versatility as the former Fighting Irish star also displayed solid skills when lined up as a tackle. Martin’s best trait — besides his athleticism — is a nasty streak that will serve him well on this next level. Conventional wisdom has ‘em getting snapped up by the Miami Dolphins at #19 but gut feeling is he is gone by then — how about the New York Giants at #12?
XAVIER SU’A-FILO, G, UCLA — Note that this 6-foot-4, 30-7-pound Utah native started 38 games for the Bruins and already served a two-year Mormon mission. Su’a-Filo is mature, powerfully built and he’s played against some real top-flight competition and so expect his draft status to go up even though most boards tend to think of him as an early-to-mid-second rounder. Many prominent web sites believe Su’a-Filo will be the final pick in Round One with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
JOEL BITONIO, G, NEVADA — The anchor for the Wolf Pack line the past couple of years, this 6-foot-4, 302-pounder from Long Beach (CA) played left tackle in college but is being projected as a guard in the pros where his strength, quickness and inner drive could make him a real missing puzzle piece for a playoff-type team (maybe Denver, Dallas or Baltimore could be good fits). Expect him to be a second-round selection.
WESTON RICHBURG, C, COLORADO STATE — The top-ranked center in this draft class probably won’t get snapped up till late in Round II, but keep in mind this 6-foot-3, 300-pounder is adept at pulling for sweeps and screens and he started all 49 games in which he played for the CSU Rams. Good fit for San Francisco or Seattle at the bottom of Round II.
MARCUS MARTIN, C, USC — This Los Angeles native only played one full year at the position but he graded out well and showed he’s a major plus blocker on passing downs and isn’t afraid to knock heads with defenders as he’s a tad nasty. Martin probably will be an early-to-mid third-round selection but those aforementioned NFC West foes from San Fran and Seattle could be tempted to reach for him in Round II if the other guys on our "Jim Sez" list are already gone.
NOTE: More NFL Draft Reports plus there’s MLB and NBA Notes too in the next edition of Jim Sez — and don’t forget the NBA Playoff Previews later this week!