MATTHEWS: THE CHAMPION ROYALS WERE IN THE NBA AT THE RIGHT TIME

THE CHAMPION ROYALS WERE IN THE NBA AT THE RIGHT TIME

I’m glad Rochester was in the NBA way back when instead or right now.

Savvy and frugal owner/coach Les Harrison’s leadership, relatively skimpy player payrolls and no free agency helped our smallish industrial-fueled boomtown Rochester win the championship over the New York Knickerbockers in 1951 in a 4,000-seat home arena.

In the current NBA, small-market teams are fated to be also-rans. Many of their fans attend games to see the superstars on the large0-market visiting teams.

The NBA -- with arguably the best collection of athletes in the world – is a flawed league. The major problem is obvious and a big one -- lack of parity.

The 30-team league usually begins a season with two, three or sometimes four teams with legitimate chances to win the championship. Merely making the playoffs is a reasonable goal for most of the other teams. The bottom teams are cannon fodder.

This season is worse than usual. The addition of center DeMarcus Cousins makes the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors the prohibitive favorite to three-peat.

Assuming the current Warriors stay healthy, it is difficult to envision any team winning more than six games over Golden State in a best-of-seven series.

The Warriors figure to slip next season. Cousins likely will to be playing elsewhere. Maybe age will begin take a toll on the holdovers.

But don’t count on a vastly more competitive NBA in the near future.

I don’t know how to solve the lack-of-parity problem. I get why superstar Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans. He can afford to pass on a five-year, $240-million supermax extension from the Pelicans to because he wants to play for a title contender where he’ll eventually make nearly as much money.

Davis’ most- likely destination is the Los Angeles Lakers. They have the young talent and draft picks to offer the Pelicans for their unhappy frustrated superstar. And Davis and LeBron James have the same agent. What a coincidence.

Sooner or later – probably sooner – the Warriors and Lakers could have a few spectacular showdowns in the Western Conference Finals. Then they’d probably crush the survivor in the watered-down East in the Finals.

Another problem for the NBA is the Western Conference’s overall talent advantage. TV ratings are down, partly because so many Warriors and Lakers home games start at 10:40 p.m., on the East Coast.

SUPER BOWL 53 NUGGETS

The EA Sports Madden Super Bowl 53 simulated forecast for Sunday’s game is Los Angeles Rams 30, New England Patriots 27. The MVP is Aaron Donald (sacks Tom Brady four times). The Madden Super Bowl simulations are 10-5 since they started in 2004. The pick for Super Bowl 32 was Patriots 24, Philadelphia 20. The Eagles won 41-33.

++++Since the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era began in 2000, New England is 11-0 in the postseason and 51-1 in the regular season when a players rushes for more than 100 yards.

++++Brady could tie Jim Kelly (Buffalo) for the most Super Bow losses by a starting quarterback. He’s 5-3, Kelly was 0-4.

++++The Patriots will wear white jerseys and the Rams will wear blue and yellow throwback jerseys.

++++The referee will be John Parry. In games he refereed, the Patriots 9-5 and the Rams are 7-0 (according to Pro Football Reference).

++++Records as NFL Head coaches:

Bill Belichick

5 years with Cleveland Browns – 36-44 regular season (.450) + 1-1 postseason

19 years with New England – 225-79 (.740) + 29-10 postseason (including 5-3 in Super Bowls)

Sean McVay

2 years with Los Angeles Rams – 24-8 (.750) + 2-1 postseason.

SOME NERVOUS UNEMPLOYED MAJOR-LEAGUERS

With less than three weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Major League Baseball spring training camps, many dozens of free-agent players are wondering which – if any – teams they’ll be reporting to.

Maybe when the two big fish are signed – Bryce Harper and Manny Machado – the logjam will break and the minnows will find their news homes.

Here are some of the best of the available free agents in my order of preference:

Starting pitchers – Dallas Keuchel...Gio Gonzalez...Clay Buccholz...Ervin Santana...Jason Hammel...James Shields...Yovani Gallardo...Jeremy Hellickson...Edwin Jackson...Wade Miley...Bartolo Colon.

Relief pitchers – Craig Kimbrel...Brad Boxberger...Sergio Romo...Ryan Madson...Adam Warren.

First basemen/DH – Lucas Duda...Logan Morrison...Evan Gattis.

Infielders – Mike Moustakas...Josh Harrison...Jose Iglesias...Yangervis Solarte....Alcides Escobar.

Outfielders – Marwin Gonzalez...Adam Jones...Carlos Gonzalez...Hunter Pence...Denard Span...Carlos Gomez...Curtis Granderson...Matt Joyce...Matt Holliday...Melky Cabrera...Cameron Maybin...Austin Jackson..Ben Revere...Jose Bautista.

Catchers – J.T. Realmuto...Martin Maldonado...Matt Wieters...Reve Rivera...Drew Butera.

JON JONES GETS OK TO FIGHT IN NEVADA

Rochester product Jon Jones on Tuesday got the green light to defend his light heavyweight title in Nevada against Antony “Lionheart” Smith in the main event of the UFC 235 pay-per-view at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Jones is 23-1 and Smith is 31-13-0. Smith’s first 41 fights were as a middleweight.

Jones is the huge favorite at -600 *4660 to win $100). Smth is +400 (bet $100 to win $400),

SHORT SHOTS

++++ Sports Illustrated’s MMQ NFL 2019 Mock Draft No. 4 has the Buffalo Bills selecting Houston DT Ed Oliver No. 9 (“disruptive interior player with a high ceiling”).

++++Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia announced his retirement as a pro baseball player this week. His main claim to fame was having the longest surname in Major League Baseball history – 14 letters. Cory Rauschenberger (also 14 letters) was a minor-league pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals chain but never reached the majors.

Saltalamacchia, 33, played in portions of 12 MLB season with seven teams. He was a .222 career hitter with 110 HRs and 381 RBI. His best season was with the 2012 Boston Red Sox: .222, 25 HRs in 121 games.

+++Veteran pitcher Dillon Gee also retired this week. The 32-year-old journeyman right-hander’s highlight season was 13-6 for the New York Mets in 2011. He was 3-1, 2.00 ERA in five starts for the Rochester Red Wings in 2017. He pitched briefly and ineffectively in Japan this past season.

+++The Golden State Warriors, winners of 11 straight games by a combined 200 points, will host the Philadelphia 76ers, Thursday, 10:40 p.m., on TNT (33), and the Los Angeles Lakers (presumably with LeBron James), Saturday, 8:30 p.m., on abc .

++++A third-division soccer coach in Italy (60-year-old Giancarlo Favarin of Lucchese) has been banned for six months for head-butting the opposing coach (Gaetano Mancino of Alessandria) and inciting violence after a 2-2 draw on Sunday. The Lega Pro also claimed Favarin asked one of his players to “break the legs” of an opponent.

++++The Minnesota Twins have traded hard-throwing Red Wings relief pitcher Jon Curtiss to the Los Angeles Angels for Daniel Ozoria, a 19-year-old, 150-pound infielder who batted .195 with 12 RBI in 51 games in rookie ball last season. Curtiss has very good stuff. In 56 games with Rochester in 2017-18, he pitched 79 2/3 inning and allowed only 52 hits and struck out 94. He had 16 saves and a 2.49 ERA. In brief stints with Minnesota he had a 7.20 ERA in 17 games.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, January 30

Becky Lynch 32...Cameron Wake 37...Jalen Rose 46...Chris Simon 47...Kimo von Oelhoffen 48...Trent Klatt 48...Steve Heinze 49...Curtis Strange 64...Mychal Thompson 64...Nolan Cromwell 64...Larry Carriere 67...Davey Johnson 76, Christian Bale 45, Phil Collins 68 and Dick Cheney 78 are invited to the birthday.

Thursday, January 31

Tyler Seguin 27...Tommy La Stella 30...Mario Williams 34...Jim Kleinsasser 42...Othella Harrington 45...Doug Pederson 51...Bobby Dollas 54...Rod Higgins 59...Rick Dudley 70...Nolan Ryan 72. Justin Timberlake 38 and Minnie Driver 49 are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

January 30

61 years ago (1958), Major League Baseballannounced players and coaches rather than fans would pick all-stars...52 years ago (1967), Roy Emerson defeated Arthur Ashe for his fifth straight Australian Open title...48 years ago (1971), UCLA started its 88-game basketball winning streak...29 years ago (1990), Los Angeles Kings center Wayne Gretzky set an NHL record by scoring his 100 th point of the season for the 11 th straight season...26 years ago (1993), Monica Seles beat Steffi Graf 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 for her third consecutive Australian Open singles title...25 years ago (1994), the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta.

January 31

78 years ago (1941), Joe Louis KOd Red Burman in 5 for the heavyweight boxing title...44 years ago (1975), UCLA defeated Kentucky 92-85 to win the NBA basketball championship...31 years ago (1988), the Washington Redskins beat the Denver Broncos 42-10 in Super Bowl XXII...29 years ago (1990), the first-ever American sports daily, National , began publishing...26 years ago (1993), the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII.

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