Matthews: The Lastest "Hot Scoop" On The NFL Draft

THE LATEST “HOT SCOOP” ON THE NFL DRAFT – FORGET IT!!!

The biggest annual waste of time and space in sports coverage are “hot rumors” and “scoops” heading into the NFL draft. It is a ritual of spring.

The NFL is by far this country’s most popular sport. Fans can’t get enough of the flood of “information” pouring out of the myriad of news outlets regarding the draft.

Mock drafts are particularly plentiful. And they are – let’s face it – a mockery.

The latest “hot scoop” is that the New England Patriots are extremely high on Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Do you think any NFL team would leak valuable pre-draft information that would compromise any legitimate strategy they have for April 26-27-28? Teams circulate misinformation.

I’ve been touting Lamar Jackson for months as a potential draft pick for the Buffalo Bills. Suddenly I’m having second thoughts.

I’m pretty sure the “New England loves Lamar Jackson” story was planted by the Patriots. My guess is that Bill Belichick and Company don’t think much of Jackson’s NFL future and hope an AFC East rival will respond to New England’s lust for Jackson report by wasting a valuable first-round pick trying to “beat the Pats to the punch.”

I have no idea which NFL team will draft Lamar Jackson – but I’m sure it won’t be New England and I’m having second thoughts on whether the Bills should burn a first-round pick on him.

What do you think?

STICKING WITH GOLDEN STATE TO WIN THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP

The Houston Rockets were the best team in the NBA this regular season and James Harden clearly deserves to be voted Most Valuable Player.

The playoffs begin Saturday and my pick to win the championship is the Golden State Warriors.

I’m basing this prediction on Golden State’s Steph Curry being completely healthy for the Finals.

Curry missed 31 games with assorted injuries this season and currently is nursing a sore knee. He is expected to see limited – if any – action in the first round against San Antonio.

I expect Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to get the job done against the Spurs, but I wouldn’t have much confidence in Golden State the rest of the tournament minus Curry.

The Warriors clearly aren’t the same team without him. Minus Curry, they’re still a contender. With Curry, they’re the team to beat.

I don’t believe Golden State is as strong this season as it was in the past three years. The supporting cast isn’t as deep or as good. The teamwork hasn’t been quite the same. Minus Curry, it isn’t nearly the same.

Here are the championship odds from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Golden State 6-to-5 (bet $5 to win $6)... Considering that Houston has the better record this season (65-17 compared to 58-24) and Curry’s iffy status, I’m surprised that the Warriors are slight favorites.

Houston 5-to-4 (bet $4 to win $5)

Cleveland 8-to-1...beating LeBron James in a best-of-seven series is a tall order for any team and makes these odds inviting.

Toronto 12-to-1

Philadelphia 25-to-1...despite finishing the regular season on a 16-game winning streak...a team on the rise – finally – but probably not yet deep enough to seriously challenge Cleveland or Toronto.

Portland, Oklahoma City and Utah each 50-to-1.

Boston and San Antonio each 100-to-1.

Indiana, Minnesota and Washington each 200-to-1.

Milwaukee and New Orleans each 300- to-1.

Two reasons why my pick is Golden State over Houston in the Western Conference Finals (and then to beat Cleveland in the NBA Finals):

Golden State has more positive playoff experience than Houston. James Harden has to elevate his previous post-season play.

Houston’s three-point shooting has overpowered most opponents this season. But I believe Golden State still is the NBA’s best-shooting team (rank in the 30-team NBA in parentheses):

Points per game – Golden State 113.5 (1st)...Houston 112.4 (2nd)

Point differential – Golden State +6.0 (3rd)...Houston +8.5 (1st)

Field-goal percentage – Golden State .503 (1st)...Houston .460 (15th)

FGs per game – Golden State 42.8Mx85.1A...Houston 38.7Ax84.2M

3-Point field-goal percentage – Golden State .391 (1st)...Houston .362 (t13th)

3-point FG per game – Golden State 11.3Mx28.9...Houston 15.3Mx42.3A

Free-throw percentage – Golden State .815 (1st)...Houston .781 (9th).

THESE PENGUINS WILL BE TOUGH TO BEAT

The Pittsburgh Penguins embarrassed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 Wednesday night in the opening game of their best-of-seven first-round NHL playoffs series.

The Penguins need 15 more victories to win their third straight Stanley Cup. That’s a tall order but these guys obviously know how to win and Sidney Crosby is a pretty good man to follow.

Since 1927, teams have won at least three consecutive Stanley Cups only five times. It was much easier to do when the NHL had fewer teams (from 1942 through 1967, there were 6 teams in the NHL; now there are 31):

Montreal Canadiens won five straight Stanley Cups (1956-57-58-59-60).

Montreal Canadiens won four straight Stanley Cups (1976-77-78-79).

New York Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups (1980-81-92-83).

Toronto Maple Leafs won three straight Stanley Cups (1947-48-49).

Toronto Maple Leafs won three straight Stanley Cups (1962-63-64).

Crosby had three goals Wednesday night. In 149 Stanley Cup games (closing in on the equivalent of two seasons), he has 60 goals and 107 assists.

CAN’T IGNORE THE METS...FOR NOW, AT LEAST

A few Mets fans have texted this space to politely ask why the New York Yankees get so much attention in this column and mentions on my radio show than the Yankees do. Fair question. Simple answer:

The Yankees are by far the most popular Major League Baseball team in these parts and have been for a very long time. They’re the most revered team and the most jeered team.

No other team is close. The race is for second place. The Mets are in the mix, along with the Red Sox (the favorite team of many Yankee haters), Minnesota (parent club of the Red Wings), the Orioles and the Cardinals (old parent clubs of the Red Wings) and the Blue Jays (across Lake Ontario). Nearly every team probably is the favorite of at least one fan in the area.

But let’s give the Mets some credit when credit is due. Like right now:

Entering Friday, the start of a six-game homestand against Milwaukee and NL East team-to-beat Washington, the Mets are:

A MLB-best 10-1.

On an eight-game winning streak. The only loss was 5-1 to St. Louis in the third game of the season.

Leading MLB with six comeback victories.

6-0 on the road coming off the team’s first sweep of a road trip of at least six games in 27 years.

Outscoring opponents 55-31 (+24).

Leading the National League with a 2.47 earned-run average. Opponents have a .204 batting average.

In 102 innings pitched, have allowed only 76 hits, with 36 walks and 117 strikeouts.

Reasons to think this hot start isn’t a total fluke: The pitching staff is genuinely very good, assuming it stays reasonably healthy. The lineup is underrated and has a strong veteran presence with Yoenis Cespedes, Adrian Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier.

Reasons to think this is too good to be true: Several starting pitchers have a history of injuries. There isn’t much team speed. The Washington Nationals probably are the better team -- time will tell.

Last season, the Mets finished 70-92 (37-44 and 33-48 on the road) and were outscored by 128 runs (863-735).

A FEW MORE MOCK DRAFTS FOR THE BILLS

(Taking up more space on things that won’t happen – but it is interesting):

ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay this week posted their guesses on the picks by the Buffalo Bills in the first three rounds of the NFL draft April 26-27:

No. 12 overall pick – Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmonds (Kiper)...Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (McShay)

No. 22 overall pick – Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (Kiper)...Alabama ILB Rashaan Evans (McShay)

No. 53 overall pick – Memphis WR Anthony Miller (Kiper)...Auburn CB Carlton Davis (McShay)

No. 56 overall pick – Ohio State OL Billy Price (Kiper)...UCLA WR Jordan Lasley (McShay)

No. 65 overall pick – Auburn CB Carlton Davis (Kiper)...Fort Hays State DT Nathan Shepherd (McShay)

No. 96 overall pick – Northern Iowa WR Daurice Fountain (Kiper)...Ohio State OT Jamarco Jones (McShay).

THE 76ers ERASED A 68-YEAR-OLD NBA RECORD HELD BY THE ROYALS

Thank you to the tipster who reminded me that the Philadelphia 76ers in winning their 16th straight game Wednesday night to finish this regular season erased another Rochester Royals entry from the NBA record book.

The old mark of 15 consecutive wins to end an NBA regular season was set by Rochester from February 17 through March 19, 1950. Those Royals fizzled quickly in the postseason. After tying Minneapolis with a 51-17 record in the Central Division, they lost a one-game tiebreaker 78-76 to the Lakers for the division title and then were upset with two straight losses to Fort Wayne (40-28 regular-season record) in the division semifinals.

The Royals rebounded from that disappointment by winning their only NBA championship in the 1950-51 season.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

Friday, April 13

1926 (92 years ago), Walter Johnson at age 41 pitched his seventh Opening Day shutout for the Washington Senators...1954 (64 years ago), Hank Aaron made his Major League Baseball debut with the Milwaukee Braves...1980 (38 years ago), the United States boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow...1997 (21 years ago), Tiger Woods won the 61st Masters at age 21.

Saturday, April 14

1921 (97 years ago), the Ottawa Senators swept the Toronto St. Patricks 2-0 for the Stanley Cup...1996 (22 years ago), Nick Faldo won the 60th Masters.

Sunday, April 15

1947 (71 years ago), Jackie Robinson became the first African-American in the 20th century to play in a Major League Baseball game...1958 (60 years ago), the San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-0 in the first Major League Baseball game played in California...1965 (53 years ago), the NFL changed the color of the penalty flag from white to bright gold.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, April 13

Melvin Gordon (25)...Josh Gordon (27)...Lorenzo Cain (32)...Hunter Pence (35)...Steve Pearce (35)...Baron Davis (39)...Patrik Elias (42)...Sergei Gonchar (44)...Ted Washington (50)...Quinn Early (53)...Mark Leiter (55).

Saturday, April 14Baker Mayfield (23)...Joe Haden (29)...Max Unger (32)...Tyler Thigpen (34)...Anderson Silva (43)...Gregg Zaun (47)...Steve Avery (48)...Brad Ausmus (49)...Greg Maddox (52)...David Justice (52)...Stan Humphries (53)...Meg Mallon (55)...Cynthia Cooper (55)...Pete Rose (77). Sarah Michelle Gellar (41), Adrien Brody (45) and Loretta Lynn (86) are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, April 15

Chris Tillman (30)...Daniel Paille (34)...Antonio Cromartie (34)...Ilya Kovalchuk (35)...Milton Bradley (40)...Jason Bonsignore (42)...Dara Torres (51)...Anthony Miller (53)...Kevin Lowe (59)...Keith Acton (60)...Evelyn Ashford (61)...Michael Cooper (61). Emma Watson (28) and Emma Thompson (59) are invited to the birthday party.

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