Matthews: Tyus Battle Is Back!

ROOTING FOR A PRODUCTIVE...AND SAFE...JUNIOR SEASON FOR TYUS BATTLE

Tyus Battle had a terrific sophomore season for Syracuse University. He led the nation in minutes played and the team in scoring. He was second-team All-ACC.

But he’ll probably be most fondly remembered at SU for bucking the trend by choosing to return for his junior season.

Coach Jim Boeheim’s Orange will be deeper and better than last season’s gritty undermanned Sweet 16 team. Battle figures to play fewer minutes and score fewer points.

Battle is a true student-athlete. He and his family felt it is important to earn a degree from SU. He’s a hard-working and unselfish player who’ll be the respected floor leader of the team.

Battle probably would’ve been a first-round pick in the 25-to-30 range in the 2018 NBA draft. With an extra season at Syracuse to improve his game, his draft stock for 2019 could improve significantly.

The big gamble Battle is taking is the threat of injury. That’s an extra reason why SU fans should respect and appreciate his decision to return for one more year. At least 25 wins and another march deep into the NCAA Tournament would further boost his stock for the 2019 NBA draft, assuming he stays healthy.

Battle did not follow the lead of the 14 prominent past underclassmen who opted to leave SU early in favor of pursuing NBA glory and riches. Not all hit it big in the NBA but they all made a lot of money.

Here’s the list in my order of NBA success:

Carmelo Anthony – He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft after averaging 22.2 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman for SU’s only national championship team. The 10-time NBA All-Star has made $232 million (plus endorsements) and counting.

Billy Owens – He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft after a great junior season at SU. Made around $26 million in a solid 10-year NBA career (averaged 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 600 games).

Dion Waiters – The instant-offense guard didn’t start a single game in his two years at SU but was the surprising No. 4 overall pick by Cleveland in the 2012 NBA draft. He’s not a superstar but he’s been a solid pro and has found a home in Miami. He’ll have made $60 million-plus when his current contract expires in three years.

Wes Johnson – The junior transfer from Iowa State averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds for an SU team that was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft by Minnesota. He hasn’t been a star but he’s been a solid reserve and has made around $30 million in eight seasons.

Johny Flynn – The exciting point guard averaged 17.4 points as a sophomore and was the No. 6 overall pick by Minnesota in the 2009 NBA draft. He averaged 13.5 points as a rookie but suffered a hip injury in the final game of that season and was never the same. He made $9.5 million from his initial three-year contract.

Michael Carter-Williams – The tall highly-recruited sophomore point guard led SU to the Final Four and was the No. 11 pick in the 2013 NBA draft by Philadelphia. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year but peaked early. He has bounced around (four teams in five seasons) and made around $12 million.

Tyler Ennis – SU started 25-0 his freshman season and the flashy point guard rightly figured his NBA stock would never be higher. He was the No. 15 pick in the 2014 NBA draft and has been a reliable player for several teams. He’s made around $6.5 million, knows his sole and should have a long NBA career.

Jerami Grant – He averaged 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds his sophomore season and broke a lot of hearts when he entered the 2014 NBA draft. He had enormous potential and was selected No. 39 by Philadelphia. He’s made $4.2 million and likely will have ample suitors on the free-agent market for his rebounding, defense and athleticism.

Donte Greene – He averaged 17.7 points and 7.2 rebounds as a freshmen and it was no surprise when he opted for the 2008 NBA draft for financial reasons. The forward was selected No. 28 overall by Sacramento and made around $5.12 million in four decent seasons with the Kings. He then agreed to terms with the New Jersey Nets but the deal was voided when he broke an ankle playing summer basketball. He continued his pro career overseas.

Tyler Lydon – A promising freshman season was followed by a respectable sophomore season at SU. Drafted No. 24 by Utah in 2017 and was traded to Denver. Played one game for the Nuggets before spending a few months in the G-League and suffering a season-ending knee injury. Guaranteed $3.3 million his first two seasons with a team option at $3.8 million for the 2019-20 season. Tough call. He’s a decent rebounder and outside shooter for a big man but lacks speed and quickness

Malachi Richardson – The shooting guard averaged 13.4 points as a freshman and probably would’ve boosted his draft stock by staying at SU for at least his sophomore season. The No. 22 pick by Sacramento in the 2016 draft. Traded to Toronto. Has spent lots of time in the G-League. He’s made $2.9 million so far and will make $1.5 million next season, with a $2.5 million team option for 2019-20.

Pearl Washington – The flashy guard averaged 17.3 as a junior for SU and had nothing left to prove. The No. 13 overall pick by the New Jersey Nets in 1986. In hindsight, he probably should’ve returned to SU for his senior season. He was adored by Carrier Dome fans and his style of play was more suited to SU than to the NBA. Pearl and Nets coach Dave Wohl were a bad fit. He averaged 8.6 points in 194 NBA games with the Nets and Miami and made around $1 million for his three NBA seasons. He wound up playing a few years in the CBA. He died in 2016 of brain cancer at age 52.

Chris McCullough – A knee injury ended his SU career after 16 starts as a highly-touted freshman power forward. Selected 29th overall by the Brooklyn Nets in 2015 despite the injury. Has played in only 59 games and averaged 3.3 points in three NBA seasons, including 19 with Washington this season. The Wizards did not pick up a team option for next season. He’s an unrestricted free agent and his next pro basketball stop might not be in the NBA.

Fab Melo – He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore but was declared ineligible just before the NCAA Tournament. A decent shot blocker who set some mean picks but otherwise was offensively challenged. Drafted No. 22 by Boston in 2012 strictly on potential. Played a total of six games with the Celtics and was quickly released by Memphis. Spent most of his pro career in the D-League. He made around $3.7 million as a pro.  A hard-worker and a good teammate. Died in his sleep in his native Brazil on February 11, 2017 at the age of 27.

TIGER DESERVE SPECIAL CONSIDERATION FOR THE U.S. RYDER CUP TEAM?

Tiger Woods this week said he hopes to add “player” to his role as a vice captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team against Europe September 28-29-30 outside Paris, France.

No wonder. Tiger is a competitor. He’s on the comeback trail and has worked very hard to recapture his old form. He isn’t there yet and might never be.

It seems unlikely that Woods will qualify for one of the eight automatic spots on the U.S. team. He currently ranks 33rd in the standings.

But should Tiger seriously be considered for one of the four at-large picks by captain Jim Furyk?

Factors in Tiger’s favor:

He has shown enough positive signs lately to think he might play himself into legitimate contention for at least a captain’s pick.

His career achievements entitle him to special consideration -- all things being nearly equal.

Most American golf fans would like to see him play in the Ryder Cup.

His participation would give the TV ratings – and golf in general -- a huge boost.

Factors against Tiger:

He probably hasn’t done enough yet to merit a spot.

The U.S. hasn’t fared well enough of late (Europe has won 8 of the last 11 Ryder Cups) to hand him a courtesy spot on the 12-man roster.

His Ryder Cup history does not inspire great confidence:  In Tiger’s seven Ryder Cups, his overall record is 13-17-3: 4-1-2 in singles...4-8-1 in foursomes...5-8 in fourballs. Winning points percentage .44.

The U.S. has won the Ryder Cup only three times since 1997:

1999 – Tiger was 2-3-0 in the U.S. 14 ½-13 ½ victory

2008 – Tiger was No. 1 in Ryder Cup points but couldn’t play in the U.S. 16 ½-11 ½ victory because he was recovering from knee surgery

2016 – He was a non-playing vice captain in the 17-11 U.S. victory at Hazeltine.

I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Americans would like to see Tiger play in the Ryder Cup. He’d make the competition more fun to watch and it could be a huge positive step in his comeback.

REMEMBERING THE 1950 “FIRST YEAR” CLEVELAND BROWNS

I saw a note that the NHL Vegas Golden Knights have a chance to become the first “first year team in one of North America’s four major sports leagues to win a championship since the 1950 NFL Cleveland Browns.”

That’s true, but unlike the expansion Golden Knights, the 1950 Browns were not your typical “first-year team.”

The “expansion” Browns entered the NFL after the seven–team All-America Football Conference folded after the 1949 season.  Cleveland, the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers were absorbed by the NFL.  The Buffalo Bills were among the four AAFC teams that disappeared (3-10-1 as the Bisons in 1946 and then 8-4-2, 7-7-0 and 5-5 -2 as the Bills from 1947 through 1949; they lost the 1948 championship game 49-7 at Cleveland) .

The AAFC lasted four seasons – 1946 through 1949. Cleveland, coached by Paul Brown, dominated the league, posting a 47-4-3 record in the regular season plus 5-0 in the postseason. They won the championship every year.

The NFL world was not impressed.

Most sportswriters described the 1950 Browns as “the dominant team in an inferior league.” Washington Redskins owner Preston Marshall said the weakest established NFL team “could toy with the Browns.”

Cleveland went 5-0 in the 1950 NFL preseason and then shocked the host Philadelphia Eagles 31-10 in their opening game before 71,237 shocked fans.

The Browns finished the regular season with a 10-2 record and outscored opponents 310-144. They beat the New York Giants 8-3 in a one-game playoff to earn a spot in the NFL Championship Game. They beat the Los Angeles Rams 30-28 in Cleveland to win the title.

The 1950 Browns had seven rookies and five other new players, but the nucleus of the team was holdovers from the Browns (including stars Otto Graham, Marion Motley, Mac Speedie, Dante Lavelli, Bill Willis and Warren Lahr).

The Browns had five African-American players, easily the most in the NFL.

Paul Brown said the 1948 champion AAFC Browns were the best team he ever coached (14-0 and outscored opponents 389-190 in the regular season) but 1950 was his most satisfying season.

The Browns went on to lose the NFL championship in 1951, 1952 and 1953, and won the championship in 1954 and 1955.

A REALISTIC PROGNOSIS FOR THE 2018 BUFFALO BILLS?

Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have cautioned that their rebuilding team might not be making a return trip to the playoffs this season. ESPN’s NFL analysts concur.

ESPN’s Football Power Index this week ranked the 32 NFL teams “with 100 days to go to the regular season.”

Buffalo ranks 27th. Projected wins 6.9. Probability of making the playoffs 19 percent. Probability of winning the AFC East 8 percent. Probability of reaching Super Bowl 53 1 percent. Probability of winning Super Bowl 53 less than 1 percent.

The AFC East overall – with the exception of New England – gets low marks. The Patriots are the NFL’s top-ranked team but Buffalo is 27th, Miami 30th and the New York Jets 32nd.AFC East projections:

Wins – Patriots 10.5...Bills 6.9...Dolphins 6.3...Jets 6.1

Make the playoffs – Patriots 89 percent...Bills 19 percent...Dolphins 13 percent...Jets 10 percent

Win division – Patriots 83 percent...Bills 8 percent...Dolphins 6 percent...Jets 4 percent

Reach (win) Super Bowl 53 – Patriots 32 percent (18 percent)...Bills 1 percent (less than 1 percent)...Dolphins 1 percent (less than 1 percent)...Jets less than 1 percent (less than 1 percent).

Buffalo ranks 26th in offense, 23rd on defense and 11th on special teams. (New Orleans and New England 1-2 on offense...Minnesota and Los Angeles Rams 1-2 on defense...Baltimore and Atlanta 1-2 on special teams).

ESPN’s Mike Clay’s projections for the 2018 Bills: 5.8 wins (29th in the NFL)...a top-5 pick in the 2019 NFL draft...Josh Allen (6 TD passes; 7 INTs; 1,321 yards passing and 58.98 completion percentage) replaces AJ McCarron (10 TD passes; 7 INTs; 2,208 yards passing) as starting QB after 10 games...LeSean McCoy 250 carries for 1,127 yards; 56 catches for 429 yards...Kelvin Benjamin 66 catches for 918 yards and 4 TDs; Zay Jones 48 catches for 618 yards and 3 TDs...His group rankings include Buffalo’s QBs (32nd), WRs (32nd) and offensive line 31st.

On paper, these forecasts do not seem out of line to me. The best chance for the Bills to surprise me and maybe some of you is if LeSean McCoy stays healthy and has around 1,750 yards from scrimmage, Josh Allen gets a shot and has a productive half-season-or-more and/if linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is Defensive Rookie of the Year and inspires the entire defensive unit.

SALARIES FOR PLAYERS IN THE NBA FINALS...THE LOSERS WON’T STARVE

Interesting tidbits from HoopsHype on the salaries of NBA teams and players for the 2017-18 season reveal that LeBron James will not be the highest-paid player in the Finals and that the Golden State Warriors do not have the highest player payroll in the league this season.

Highest team payroll – 1—Cleveland $137,718,426...2-Golden State $137,607,884.

Salaries of the starters and key reserves on the two teams in the Finals (salary rank in the NBA in parentheses):

Golden State – Stephen Curry $34,682,550 (1)...Kevin Durant $25 million (16)...Klay Thompson $17,826,150 (54)...Draymond Green $16,400,000 (t65)...Andre Iguodala $14,814,815 (76)...Shaun Livingston $7,692,308 (147)...Nick Young $5,192,000 (201...Zaza Pachulia $3,477,600 (245)...DEavid West $2,328,652 (297).

Cleveland – LeBron James $33,285,709 (2)...Kevin Love $22,642,350 (28)...George Hill $20 million (41)...Tristan Thompson $16,400,000 (t65)...JR Smith $13,760,000 (85)...Jordan Clarkson $11,562,500 (111)...Kyle Korver $7 million (159)...Rodney Hood $2,386,864 (292)...Jose Calderon $2,328,652 (292)...Larry Nance Jr. $1,471,382...Jeff Green $2,116,955 (314).

PROPS FOR HASEN AND STYRES

Mike Hasen of the Rochester Knighthawks is Inside Lacrosse Indoor’s National Lacrosse League Coach of the Year and Hawks owner Curt Styres is runner-up for General Manager of the Year.

The voting panel of seven writers selected Saskatchewan Rush GM/coach Derek Keenan as top GM (4-2-1-0-0: 31 points to Styres’ 3-1-1-0-1: 23 points) and runner-up for top coach (1-2-4-0-0: 25 points to Hasen’s 3-2-2-0-0: 29 points).

Hasen rallied the Hawks from a 2-6 start to a spot in the NLL Finals. He overcame the trade of star Dan Dawson to Saskatchewan and integrated three rookies into the lineup.

Styres selected Ohio State teammates Jake Withers, Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell 2-5-6 overall in the 2017 draft and traded star Dan Dawson for two draft picks in a controversial in-season move that sparked a team turnaround with more playing time for the talented rookies.

SOME NEAT THINGS ON THE RED WINGS

The Rochester Red Wings completed their first road sweep ever at the Durham Bulls with a 5-4 victory Thursday night. After a disappointing 1-5 homestand against the Buffalo Bisons, the Wings are 3-0 on this trip heading into Norfolk for three games Friday through Sunday.

Rochester is 17-8 on the home and 10-15 at Frontier Field. Very odd.

The Red Wings hit three more home runs Thursday night and have 17 HRs in their 12 games since May 22. They had 16 HRs in their previous 38 games.

The bullpen has been outstanding: 9-5 record; 14 saves in 14 opportunities; 191 1/3 innings; 154 hits allowed; 63 walks; 241 strikeouts; 11.34 Ks/9 innings.

Rochester is 16-2 when it scores at 4-or-more runs.

The newest Red Wing is 28-year-old Taylor Motter, a versatile infielder-outfielder who had a terrific 2015 season for the Durham Bulls. In 127 games, he batted .292 and led the International League in doubles (43) and extra-base hits (58). He also had 14 HRs and 26 stolen bases. He played in 92 games with the Seattle Mariners in 2017 (.198 batting average, 12 doubles, 7 HRs and 26 RBI).

SHORT SHOTS

Summing up Thursday night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals: Golden State 124, Cleveland 114 in overtime. LeBron James was magnificent with 51 points but couldn’t prevail against a dubious overturned charge/block call (would they have done that if the game were in Cleveland?) and a teammate who dribbled out the clock in regulation because he thought the Cans had a lead – but the game was tied and the game went into OT. A very, very good team striving to make the short list of great teams (Golden State) outlasted one of the two or three best players ever (King James)...The Warriors are 12 1/2-pont favorites at home for Game 2 Sunday night.

The Rochester Knighthawks have won a National Lacrosse League-record 14 straight home playoff games at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. They’ll host the Saskatchewan Rush Saturday, 8 p.m., in Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series. The Rush won 16-8 last week in Saskatoon.

Justify, who’ll be gunning for the Triple Crown June 9 in the Belmont Stakes, weighs 1,280 pounds – about 100 pounds more than 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. Trainer Bob Baffert saddled them both and I like his comparison of the two colts: “Michael Jordan (American Pharoah) and LeBron James (Justify).”

Syracuse U. football had a huge addition this week – 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive left tackle Koda Martin, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M. He started 11 games last season for a potent offense and is eligible immediately.  His father, Kirk, is SU’s first-year quarterbacks coach.

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James has been voted Hickok Belt Athlete of the Month for April.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds, with coach Bob Lilley and seven former Rochester Rhinos on the roster, no longer are the only undefeated team in the United Soccer League. Their record is 4 wins, 1 loss and 6 draws after a 1-0 home loss Wednesday night to Nashville SC. Attendance at Highmark Stadium was 967. The Hounds finally allowed a goal at home after six straight shutouts.

Vegas Golden Knight defenseman Brayden McNabb, who knocked Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov out of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night, was a solid player for the Rochester Americans in 2011 through 2014. In 145 games, he had 17 goals and 63 assists.

Former Red Wings slugger Adam Brett Walker III has signed with the Washington Nationals after a brief stint with the independent Kansas City T-Bones. In Walker’s first 8 games with the Harrisburg Senators (AA Eastern League), he’s hitting .227 (5-for-22) with 2 HRs, 5 RBI, 8 walks and 12 strikeouts.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, June 1

Nick Young (33)...Carlos Zambrano (37)...Santana Moss (39)...Derek Lowe (45)...Scott Greene (46)...Alexi Lalas (48)...Larry Centers (50)...Jeff Hackett (50)...Greg Schiano (52)...Dan Quinn (53)...Paul Coffey (57). Alanis Morrisette (44), Heidi Klum (45) and Morgan Freeman (81) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, June 2

Eddie Lacy (28)...Sergio Aguero (30)...Curtis Lofton (32)...Abby Wambach (38)...A.J. Styles (41)...Earl Boykins (42)...Raul Ibanez (46)...Mike Stanton (51)...Charlie Huddy (59)...Hoby Brenner (59)...Tootie Robbins (60)...Larry Robinson (67)...Lawrence McCutcheon (68)...Horace Clarke (78).

Sunday, June 3

Otto Porter (25)...Jonathan Casillas (31)...Rafael Nadal (32)...Al Horford (32)...Travis Hafner (41)...Carl Everett (48)...Deb Richard (55)...Hale Irwin (73)...Billy Cunningham (75)...Steve Dalkowski (79). Anderson Cooper (51) is invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

June 1

146 years ago (1872), James Roe rode Joe Daniels to victory in the sixth Belmont Stakes...93 years ago (1925), Lou Gehrig replaced Wally Pip to begin his streak of 2,130 consecutive games...72 years ago (1946), Warren Mehrtens road Assault to victory to complete his Triple Crown in the 78th Belmont Stakes...36 years ago (1982), Ricky Henderson became the fastest to reach 50 stolen bases in a season...12 years ago (2006), the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Buffalo Sabres 4 games to 3 in the NHL Eastern Conference Final.

June 2

117 years ago (1901), Benjamin Adams was arrested in New York for playing golf on a Sunday...85 years ago (1933), the first indoor swimming pool in the White House opened...76 years ago (1942), Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams enlisted as a U.S. Navy aviator...27 years ago (1991), Rosie Jones won the Rochester LPGA Tour stop.

June 3

86 years ago (1932), Lou Gehrig in a 20-13 Yankees victory over the Philadelphia Athletics became the first major-league baseball player to hit four consecutive home runs...63 years ago (1955), Stan Musial hit his 300th home run...51 years ago (1967), Bill Shoemaker rode Damascus to victory in the 99th Belmont Stakes...34 years ago (1984), Patty Sheehan won the 30th LPGA Championship...6 years ago (2012), Tiger Woods tied Jack Nicklaus with his 73rd PGA Tour victory.

Bob Matthews' Column

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