The San Antonio Spurs crushed Miami 111-87 Thursday night. Do you still insist that the NBA conference finals are set in stone – Miami vs. Indiana (East) and Oklahoma City vs. Los Angeles Clippers (West)?
Answer: Yes – but I was impressed by San Antonio’s performance Thursday night. The Spurs were completely healthy for a change and sharp. Kawhi Leonard did a terrific job defensively on LeBron James and Patty Mills has made the Spurs even deeper...But I don’t think San Antonio can reach the West finals because Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have seen better days and aren’t likely to prevail against younger quality opponents in both of the first two rounds of the playoffs. I’m not hating on the Spurs. I simply believe that West rivals Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers are better and more likely to win in a best-of-seven format....San Antonio has a +6.5 point differential, but the Clippers are +7.1 and the Thunder are +6.7.
Question: What do you think about the Buffalo Bills not playing a “home” game in Toronto this season and not putting the franchise tag on Jairus Byrd?
Answer: I believe it is huge. My hunch is that president Russ Brandon, coach Doug Marrone and GM Doug Whaley are on the same page and have convinced the organization’s bean-counters that the Bills are on the cusp of making the playoffs and the handicap of playing a “home” game in Toronto could have cost it that elusive playoff berth this season. The message was overdue and had to please every loyal fan – winning is the No. 1 priority and maximizing profits is No. 2...I believe the Bills made a fair long-term offer but Byrd’s agent is certain that he can get better offers for his client from other teams – Cleveland and Philadelphia have been prominently mentioned. Losing Byrd will be easier for fans to swallow if the Bills spend to the salary cap to bolster the roster.
Question: UFC superstar Ronda Rousey this week said she could beat undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather in a fight using mixed martial arts rules. Are you buying that?
Answer: No, and I hope we never get the opportunity to buy it on pay-per-view. Money rules sports but this sideshow act would be going too far. Rousey knows how to generate publicity but she can’t be serious about beating Mayweather in any kind of fight. Punching people in the face is legal in mixed martial arts and she’d probably get seriously hurt before she could apply her armbar submission hold.
Question: How far do you think Syracuse can go in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament?
Answer: Reaching the Sweet 16 is a reasonable goal. Elite 8 would be a surprise. SU’s 1-4 slump is a surprise but – in hindsight – not as surprising as the team’s 25-0 start and No. 1 ranking for several blissful weeks. Coach Jim Boeheim has done a great job this season, but the team’s short bench, lack of scoring in the post, Trevor Cooney’s shooting slump and Jerami Grant’s sore back have finally caught up with the Orange. They might bounce back big but that seems unlikely.
BLUES AND HEAT ARE THE FAVORITES
Former Amerks/Sabres goalie Ryan Miller’s new team – the St. Louis Blues – is the 11-to-2 favorite to win the Stanley Cup, according to Bovada.net. Chicago and Pittsburgh each is 6-to-1, followed by Anaheim 7x1, Boston 8x1 and San Jose 10x1.
The two-time defending champion Miami Heart are Bovada’s 21-to-10 favorite to win the NBA championship, followed by Indiana (5-to-2), Oklahoma City (4-to-1), San Antonio (10-to-1), Los Angeles Clippers (12-t o-1), Houston (16-to-1), Golden State (20-to-1) and Portland (20-to-1).
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick believes he is worth at least as much as Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler ($18.2 million annually). I don’t think Cutler has eared that sort of money and I’d be more in Kaepernick’s corner if he hadn’t came up short in the last possessions of both games that ended the past two seasons for his 49ers.
Washington Nationals young power plant Bryce Harper reported to spring training looking extremely fit. He has unlimited potential and I wonder if the team ever would consider moving him from the outfield to first base to prevent him from hurting himself running into walls. He is fearless at the plate and in the field.
The best race of this young year for thoroughbred horse racing fans will be Saturday’s $ 750,000 Santa Anita Handicap in California. The field includes Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge (lost to Mucho Macho Man by a nose in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic) and Game On Dude (won this race in 2011 and 2013).