Joey From Yonkers’ Worst Gambling Beats of 2020, Part 2

Finally time to wrap up 2020 and my bad beats from it. Here is the conclusion:

10. Notre Dame-Georgia Tech:

The Irish had a 31-7 lead. They won it by 18. I bought a point down to 19.5, but needed to buy a couple more. Notre Dame was stopped a yard short in the final seconds. They actually ran one last play in an apparent attempt to cover, but it didn’t get the job done.

9. Cincinnati-UCF:

After deciding not to score a touchdown that would have covered, the Bearcats then tried to score and didn’t quite get there. This is one of many games on my list that made Bad Beats. The video and Scott Van Pelt can do a better job telling the story. This game happened to be on the same day as Boise-Hawaii, so it is in the same Bad Beats segment.

8. Boise State-Hawaii:

Two fourth quarter touchdowns by Hawaii blew Boise’s cover. There were penalties. Again, easier to let SVP describe it and show you the video. I could have teased it with the over. Two of my favorite teams were playing against each other, and I was on the wrong side. At least in terms of a point spread.

7. Nevada-Hawaii:

I had the second half over 30. It was 14-14 after halftime. Hawaii had a 24-21 lead in the game, and faced a third down deep in Nevada territory with 90 seconds remaining. Pass interference was called. Hawaii then had a first down at the 2, and took knees to end it. A completion for touchdown would have been good for me. Getting stopped likely would have resulted in a short field goal. Even turning the ball over on an interception or getting stopped on downs would have kept me alive. Somehow the one thing that could hurt me ended up happening. Second straight week that Hawaii got me.

6. Florida-Tennessee:

My Gators -16.5 was looking good. I had bought it down from 17.5. Florida was up by 18. I got in before the spread went that high. Tennessee drove 96 yards to backdoor it. The touchdown was scored on fourth down, and Tennessee also converted a fourth down earlier in that last drive. Another game featured on Bad Beats.

5. Mets-Yankees:

It was the first game of a doubleheader. In 2020, each game of a doubleheader was scheduled for 7 innings. The Mets were winning 7-2, and an out away from victory. In fact, a leadoff error was followed by two outs. Theoretically, the game should have already been over. A pitcher often referred to as Edlose blew the save. He even stayed in for the next inning and was hit with the loss. Game 2 was just icing on the cake. Another extra-inning loss. Even if it was also just 8 innings.

4. Washington Football Team-49ers:

Although they did next to nothing on offense, Washington won by 8. I had Niners +3.5 in a teaser. Washington scored one touchdown on a fumble return, and another touchdown on an interception return. One of Washington’s field goals was set up by a fumble. San Fran had an opportunity to tie late. Or, they could have pulled within two and missed the conversion but won me my teaser. A big play that would have put the Niners inside Washington’s 25 was called back by penalty. It ended 23-15. This game was also a big reason why the Giants didn’t win their division. Common sense would have told me to tease Washington, but a rooting interest overruled my brain.

3. Seahawks-Washington Football Team:

If I labeled this game Seattle-Washington it would have seemed like a northwest location. Seattle was up 20-3 in the fourth quarter. Washington scored a touchdown but missed the extra point. Their drive started from inside the Washington 5. Seattle then drove down inside Washington’s 40. Wilson was picked off on first down. Seattle seemed destined to go up by at least 14. I had bought it down to 5.5. Washington scored another touchdown but went for two and missed.

Seattle punted it back to Washington. The Seahawks forced a fumble. It was recovered at Washington’s 27. Announcer Kenny Albert stated that Seattle had recovered. They didn’t. Just a tease and false hope. Seattle would have been in field goal range. Washington eventually failed on fourth down. Wilson took knees to end it. The game finished 20-15. I needed to buy another point or go ML. This was the week after Washington burned me with that San Fran game.

2. San Diego State-BYU:

Yet another contest that SVP featured. Three second half San Diego State possessions inside BYU’s 10 produced zero points. Long drives that resulted in nothing but time off the clock. This over should have hit easily. One ridiculous play after another. Even a slight tease on what could have been ruled a fumble but was not. I also lost on BYU giving points, so it was a double whammy. At least one seemed like a lock with so many first half points. In retrospect, teasing this game would have been profitable. Do yourself a favor and watch the video.

1. Warriors-Kings:

Yes, this was a preseason NBA game. I don’t care. The money counts equally, and this was a brutal loss. Golden State actually took the game seriously. At least part of it. The Warriors stormed back from 19 down. Golden State was really too emotional. The Warriors were hit with a technical foul late in the fourth quarter when leading 110-106. Golden State was then up 113-109 with less than a minute remaining. The Warriors could have gone up by five but missed the second of two free throws. Sacramento scored with about 30 seconds left and trailed 113-111.

You could see it coming. Golden State missed. Sacramento had just enough time to win it. The Kings were obviously not playing for overtime. Kyle Guy hit the game winning shot from downtown as time expired. I had Golden State -125. The Warriors were a slight favorite, but I found out that Sacramento went off as the favorite.

I could have won with a better line if my bet was placed later. Salt in the wound. I still can’t believe that they probably lost this game because of a taunting technical due to being overly thrilled about a preseason comeback. Sacramento hosted Golden State again two days later. I was disgusted and wanted no part of the rematch. This time, Golden State won. 

2020 Official NBA Mock Draft Featuring Coach Trager and LordTreeSap

The Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy less than six weeks ago, the NBA Draft is less than 48 hours away and its November, the season is getting ready to tip off in just over a month, but at this point it is par for the course when it comes to 2020.

The 2020 draft class has garnered a middling reputation, but will be stronger as the round goes on with solid depth. With a ton of unpredictability at the top, there’s still no consensus No. 1 overall pick as the time continues to tick on Minnesota. We’ve already seen a ton of wheeling and dealing in the league, which doubles as an Academy Award-winning drama when the off-season rolls around.

Luckily for you, Brandon “Coach T” Trager and LordTreeSap are here to walk you through the entire lottery for Wednesday’s NBA Draft. Take a look at our predictions and keep it locked on the Daily Mix Report for draft coverage from LTS, while Trager lives the life of luxury in the green room with Obi Toppin.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Coach T: LaMelo Ball, Australia

The most mysterious, yes unmysterious, tantalizing prospect of the draft. If you’re a hoops fan, we all remember what seems like yesterday a young freshman LaMelo pullin’ up from half court in video clips gone viral. Fast forward a few years, LaMelo is a 6’7″ do-it-all PG. I am beyond happy LaVar has shut his mouth and just let his boys have a normal professional career. It was funny at first, but it got old pretty quick.

However, I will give him credit, he said LaMelo would go No. 1, and be the best of the three Ball brothers. He’s made a lot of promises that have yet to come true, but it’s amazing that some of them have. In a draft with no certain No. 1 pick, LaMelo may have the best upside with his size and playmaking ability. Just like big bro Lonzo, he looks to make everyone around him better. I’m not sure how the Ball – Russell Dynamic will look, but if he pans out, a two-guard backcourt alongside KAT doesn’t sound too shabby. I see the Wolves going Ball here.

LordTreeSap: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Anthony Edwards has been billed as the top prospect for months now, so I don’t think the Wolves will ultimately pass up on the opportunity to pair him with D’Angelo Russell for an explosive back court and potential big three forming with Karl-Anthony Towns. During his best moments, AE looks like a young James Harden without the elite court vision, but a bulldog going to the rim just like the school he reps.

NBA Draft 2020: Anthony Edwards Opens Up on His Surreal Experience With  Michael Jordan and Golden State Warriors - EssentiallySports

2. Golden State Warriors

Coach T: James Wiseman, Memphis

Let me rant quick then I’ll stop, WHY DO THE WARRIORS NEED TO GET REWARDED AT 2!? Yeah, it stinks their two studs were essentially out for the season, but the NBA Gods hand them the No. 2 pick, when the Knicks can’t catch a break. Ok I’m done. The Warriors need a big, and Wiseman offers the best upside. 7+ footer, incredibly athletic, and will eventually step out and shoot, he may be the gem of this draft. Steph, Klay, Wiggins, Green, Wiseman, yeah, the Western Conference forgot about the Warriors. Here we go…

LordTreeSap: James Wiseman, Memphis

This is the layup of the draft. GSW has played it coy as a contender picking at the top of the draft who would probably prefer to flip the pick and assets for a third star alongside the Splash Brothers. If that doesn’t come to fruition, the athletic rim-running Wiseman gives the Dubs another weapon at their disposal and an inside presence they’ve lacked.

James Wiseman Says He Would Be A Great Fit With The Golden State Warriors –  Fadeaway World

3. Charlotte Hornets

Coach T: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

If Edwards slips to three, there’s no way the Hornets can pass up on him. If you look at this dude in a uniform, you may think he’s been in the NBA for 3-4 years. Explosive wing who can get to the rim and shoot the ball. He has that slasher wing in him looking like a young D-Wade at times. MJ may make up for all of his failed drafts with this pick here. Look for the Hornets to go with my favorite player in this year’s draft, Anthony Edwards.

LordTreeSap: Onyeka Okongwu, USC

We never know what Michael Jordan and the Hornets are going to pull when it comes to drafting, we just usually know it’s going to be the wrong decision. Onyeka has soared up draft boards as a versatile big in the mold of Bam Adebayo and everyone saw how valuable he was inside the bubble on Miami’s Finals run.

4. Chicago Bulls

Coach T: Deni Avdija, Israel

These European dudes are so hit and miss, but I feel like these have been more hits than misses of late. Basketball has really stepped up its game overseas, and you’re seeing the product translate to the NBA. Avdija is a strong 2-way player who is very experienced and has played against supreme talent.

The Bulls have a young roster, and he should fit in nicely next to Lavine, Markkanen, Carter, and some of the other Bulls young talent. I think anyone who passed up on (or traded) some guy named Luka would tell you they regret not honoring his dominance overseas. Look for the Bulls to continue to grow their young roster under new coach Billy Donovan with Deni Avdija.

LordTreeSap: LaMelo Ball, Australia

LaMelo Ball, the most polarizing prospect in this draft. You ask five different “experts” about his career trajectory and you’ll probably get five different answers. The final Ball brother has a good chance to be the best of the bunch with the way Lonzo has stumbled out of the gate. Chicago didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Kris Dunn, so a ball handler spot opens up alongside sniper Coby White to form the backcourt of the future. I’m still trying to figure out why Billy Donovan took this job though.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Coach T: Obi Toppin, Dayton

This next player is special because I had the opportunity to be a part of his path to the NBA coaching both him and his younger brother Jacob (University of Kentucky). Obi has grown from a 6’1″ high school senior, to a 6’9″ rim-running monster. The reigning National Player of the Year may be the most “NBA ready” prospect. He is incredibly athletic, savvy in the post, and can step out and shoot the 3. He is a prototypical NBA Big.

He needs to improve his perimeter defense/lateral quickness and continue to get stronger. However, he is going to be a consistent NBA player with a long career. From knowing Obi personally, he’s one of the most likable, humble people you’ll ever meet, and everyone who comes across him loves him. Being he played for Dayton in Ohio, I don’t see him slipping past six. I don’t love this spot for him, because this is probably my least favorite team picking in the top 10. However, look for Obi to make an immediate impact wherever he goes.

LordTreeSap: Deni Avdija, Israel

I’m not going to act like I’ve watched Deni Avdija play a full game of basketball, but he’s been on the NBA’s radar for some time. Checking out his skillset, I could easily see a Danilo Gallinari type of career coming his way, which would be a win for Cleveland.

6. Atlanta Hawks

Coach T: Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Full disclosure, I hope Okoro doesn’t get picked here, because I want the Knicks to draft him. Anyway, let’s pair up the talented young hawks with an athletic versatile 2-way wing. Okoro plays hard and will be an elite NBA defender. If he can develop a jump shot, he’ll end up being the highly coveted “3 and D” stud that every NBA team is looking for. Young, Okoro, Collins and co. sounds like a nice young core to me.

NBA Draft news: Auburn star Isaac Okoro to declare for draft

LordTreeSap: Obi Toppin, Dayton

Coach T put Obi on my radar a couple years ago and he’s played his way into a bona fide top 10 pick in that time. Although he’s already 22-years-old, Toppin is a sure-fire fit at the four in the NBA with great athleticism and a capable jumper.

I still feel bad for his Dayton Flyers season being cut short; who knows when they’ll be a potential one-seed again? Atlanta could use Toppin if rumors flying are true that they plan to test the market on John Collins if the two sides can’t agree on a fair extension.

7. Detroit Pistons

Coach T: Patrick Williams, Florida State

Williams seems to be fling up draft boards as a modern NBA big. 6’8″, versatile defender who can shoot the three. The Pistons are in the midst of a rebuild and Williams may be able to learn a thing or two from Blake Griffin, who has had trouble staying on the court.

LordTreeSap: Isaac Okoro, Auburn

Okoro will be a great fit and culture changer for Detroit on the wing for a barren roster that needs a lot of help. A tenacious defender, and if his jumper comes along, he’ll be the type of versatile defense-first wing that just about every team is starving for. We just saw the Trail Blazers pay two firsts for Robert Covington this week. This pick might finally right the wrong of selecting Stanley Johnson in 2015, who I really liked coming out of Arizona.

8. New York Knicks

Coach T: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

I can’t invest myself emotionally into the Knicks. It’s a yearly heartbreak that I can’t handle. We kill ourselves, and seemingly find no luck on our side. Mini-rant over. Let’s go with Tyrese Haliburton here, a nice combo guard who is a nice playmaker and can shoot the basketball. He plays hard and I think would be a great fit next to RJ Barrett, and in NY in general.

The Knicks have DESPERATELY needed someone to step in and man the PG position. They have a solid foundational core, and a point guard to help accelerate the rebuild would be huge. Pair Tyrese with RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks two best prospects, and we may be headed in the right direction (at least I have to say that). 

LordTreeSap: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

Coach T and I are on the same page here. The Knicks have been searching for a point guard to power the offense since Stephon Marbury ate Vaseline on a live stream. Haliburton has won me over as a sound decision maker, explosive enough to get to and finish at the rim, and still nail his funky jumper. Sign me up to see if Tyrese can finally fill the lead guard void that has plagued us for eons.

9. Wizards

Coach T: Onyeka Okungwu, USC

Considered by some to be the best true “big man” in this draft, he is already an excellent defender and rim protector. With a healthy John Wall and Bradley Beal this year, the wizards should be an improved team. Look for them to improve their front court with Onyeka.

LordTreeSap: Patrick Williams, Florida State

When early mocks were coming out, I kept seeing Vassell as the top FSU prospect, but P-Will has shot up draft boards in recent months to become the top Seminole available. Williams is oozing with potential as a gritty, do-it-all forward on the floor who makes the right play. Boasting a nearly seven-foot wingspan and still being 18-years-old always helps as well.

10. Phoenix Suns

Coach T: Devin Vassell, Florida State

Okay Suns, no pressure. You have one of the best young talents in the league in Devin Booker who reportedly wants out. Don’t screw this up. Vassell is another one of those potential 3 and D players you can surround Booker with in order to help the Suns be successful. They have some nice young talent with Ayton. Add Vassell to the fold and see what happens.

LordTreeSap: Killian Hayes, France

Another very intriguing prospect who opted for the professional overseas route. My good friend at The Ringer Kevin O’Connor has Hayes as the top player on his big board and he should be in consideration for the Knicks as well. The push in his jump shot does scare me a bit, but he can create and has good size. What a situation this would be to walk into and learn behind Chris Paul as Phoenix makes a push for the post-season.

Why Killian Hayes Is the Best Prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft | The Restart  | The Ringer - YouTube

11. San Antonio Spurs

Coach T: Saddiq Bey, Villanova

Who knows who the Spurs will pick, but whoever they pick, will make an impact at some point, like they ALWAYS do. Bey comes from a great program in Villanova and is a nice complimentary player. He’s 6’8″ and is highly versatile on the floor. I’m sure Pop will find a creative way to make the most out of him.

LordTreeSap: Devin Vassell, Florida State

I’m always looking for 3-and-D players in the draft. Just inject them into my veins — every good team needs them to surround stars with shot making and doing the dirty work defensively. Vassell fits that mold and should be a nice fit with the Spurs. Two FSU Seminoles in the top 11 gives me a chance to just remind the people coach Lenny Hamilton has never made a Final Four.

12. Sacramento Kings

Coach T: R.J. Hampton, New Zealand

In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting players in the draft. One of the most highly rated prospects coming out of high school, Hampton took the Ball route playing overseas this past year. Hampton didn’t get to showcase much of his talent, but he sure has a lot of it. He’s raw, but if he develops, he won’t have many flaws in his game. He’d be a nice piece next to Fox as a 1-2 punch.

LordTreeSap: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

With the Kings moving on from Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield wanting out, Sacramento needs to find another two-guard/wing to supplement their losses and give Fox some help. Enter Vanderbilt’s Nesmith, who is the best shooter in the draft and should be a sniper in the NBA.

13. New Orleans Pelicans

Coach T: Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt

SVG! Great young core that should start to make waves soon. Let’s go with Nesmith here, who is one of the best shooters in the draft and would fit nicely next to Ball, Ingram, and Zion. Pelicans like to push the pace (whether SVG will want to or not) and this would be a great spot for him stretching the floor for Ingram and Zion to operate inside.

LordTreeSap: Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama

Goodbye Jrue Holiday, hello Kira Lewis Jr. I debated Kentucky’s Maxey here as well, but the speedster out of ‘Bama heads to the NOP. The Pelicans are in a great spot and add their potential point guard of the future here, who plays with reckless abandon when attacking the cup, if they decide to move on from Lonzo Ball.

14. Boston Celtics

Coach T: Killian Hayes, France

There’s a good chance he won’t be available here, but it’d be a nice pick here for the Celtics. He could play behind the likes of Kemba Walker, develop, and potentially be a long-term replacement down the road for Boston.

LordTreeSap: Jalen Smith, Maryland

Anyone that watched Boston knows they need help down low. Jalen Smith was a beast at Maryland. Anytime I watched him play Michigan he seemed to be a lock for a double-double and addicted to cleaning the glass. He could get away with being a smaller five if he bulks up a bit because he’s already a strong defender with a nonstop motor.

Is the NBA Luka Doncic’s League Already?

He has arrived. The first chapter in Luka Doncic’s legacy was written Sunday afternoon, as he rose up over Reggie Jackson with his signature stepback move to sink a game-winner at the OT buzzer to even the series at 2-2. Oh, and that 43pts-17rebs-13asts stat line was without Kristaps Porzingis on the floor and less than 48 hours after badly spraining his ankle.

Doncic powered the Mavs to erase a 21-point 2nd quarter deficit with some help from an unlikely supporting cast that included a combined 46 points from Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. One point Kenny “The Jet” Smith has made on TNT I agree with: Look at this restart with a clean slate like it’s Luka’s third season, rather than thinking of it being a continuation of his sophomore campaign.

How often do we see the superior team win that type of game? I’d argue about 90%. But Luka, being the transcendent talent he is, just wouldn’t let that happen. The 21-year-old is coming along far quicker than anyone expected, and my jaw drops just thinking about what his game is going to look like in just another 3 or 4 years.

A few nuggets on how special that performance was from Luka yesterday: He became the youngest player to drill a buzzer-beater in the playoffs. He joined Oscar Robertson and Charles Barkley to record 40-10-15+ in a playoff game. Doncic is now in the same breath as basketball royalty with Magic Johnson and LeBron James as the only players to put up multiple triple-doubles in the post-season at 21 or younger.

His vision and feel for the game are LeBron-esque. No matter the situation, Luka is totally in control at all times. What’s impressed me most has been his emotional makeup and moxie, as the Clippers have tried to intimidate Doncic on multiple occasions throughout the first four games. This isn’t 2007 anymore; you’re not going to bully the Europeans coming over who have played professionally since they were 16.

Game 1 saw Marcus Morris try to rough up Doncic, which unfortunately led to the ejection of Kristaps Porzingis. We’ve seen Montrezl Harrell call Luka a “Bitchass white boy,” which he’s also apologized to him for (please relax right wing Twitter), and it’s only made Doncic raise his game to another level. He’s even engaged in the trash talk a bit himself, as Luka hasn’t been afraid to scream “And 1” in Morris’s ear or call out Harrell for his flopping.

I don’t know if the Mavs can actually pull this thing off and eliminate the title favorite Clips (shoutout Pandemic P), but Dallas has to be giddy about the future with Doncic and Porzingis at the helm. If I was starting a franchise today, Luka would undoubtedly be my number one pick, and that’s something I don’t know I would’ve said in January.

Game 5 should be fun Tuesday night.

 

 

 

Previewing Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs Inside the Bubble

Take a look at our predictions for every first-round matchup in the playoffs.

The NBA returned inside the Orlando bubble at the end of July and things couldn’t have gone much smoother. Gameplay’s been intense, presentation for the fans feels like real games, and most importantly, ZERO players have tested positive for COVID-19 since August 5th.

The regular-season games have given us plenty of storylines, as the Blazers have been carried by Damian Lillard’s heroics playing as a man possessed, the undefeated Suns became basketball’s darlings, Russell Westbrook’s thigh injury has thrown a wrench into the Rockets championship dreams, and title favorites Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks don’t seem to be as much of Finals locks as we once thought back in March.

With the Blazers clinching the right to take their shot at the one-seeded Lakers on Saturday to fill out the playoff picture, check out our predictions for the entire first round below. Tip-off is slated for Monday at 1:30 pm ET with game 1 of the Nuggets-Jazz series.

NBA-playoff-bracket-2020-Updated-standings-Round-1-projections

Eastern Conference:

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Orlando Magic

The bubble hasn’t been too kind to the hometeam Magic. Orlando, who went 3-5 in the restart, lost the promising Jonathan Isaac to a torn ACL, which should sideline him through next season. Milwaukee hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders since the restart, but cruised to the one-seed and now the real pressure is on for the favorite Bucks to roll through the Eastern Conference. Giannis has been on a mission this season (he’s the favorite for MVP and DPOY) and the Magic should be a light tune-up for him as Milwaukee sweeps.

Bucks in 4

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Brooklyn Nets

The 2019 champs are a bonafide threat to defend their throne and possibly repeat. I, for one, didn’t believe the Raptors would be this good (finished with the best winning percentage in franchise history) with Leonard heading to the West Coast, which should be a credit to my COTY Nick Nurse and the supporting cast taking their games to the next level.

As for the Nets, nobody could’ve seen a 5-3 bubble trip with a makeshift roster possible. Fans have to be thrilled with the team’s effort, but we know this is all about next year for them. Toronto’s size and depth should give the Nets fits all series, who shouldn’t leave Orlando with their heads hanging low.

Raptors in 4

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(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers

I want to throw up every time I think back to my pre-season prediction of having the 76ers coming out of the East, as Philly couldn’t be further from contenders right now. A logjam in the frontcourt and a coach that doesn’t know how to deploy his talent, and now minus Ben Simmons combined with a banged-up Embiid, this is the recipe for disaster in Philly. Tatum and Brown have evolved into a dynamic duo on the wing to lead the C’s. As long as Kemba and Hayward stay healthy, this team has a shot to make some noise in the East.

Celtics in 5

(4) Indiana Pacers vs. (5) Miami Heat

This will be the most competitive series in the East. A pair of teams that overperformed this year. Most people will be drawn to the theatrics of Jimmy Butler vs. Bubble MVP T.J. Warren, but my focus is on MIP candidate Bam Adebayo’s ability to control both ends and sharpshooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson pushing the Heat over the top to take a hard-fought 7-game series. Miami also has the coaching advantage with Spo > Nate McMillan.

Heat in 7

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Western Conference:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

This isn’t your typical 1-8 matchup. Every Blazer game has felt like a playoff game, as they roll into the post-season on a four-game winning streak. At times, their defense has been dreadful against lesser competition, so I fully expect LeBron to dominate this series and get whatever he pleases when exploiting Portland’s forwards. On the flip side, the Lakers don’t have anyone to answer for Dame, who should be able to steal a game or two by himself with his Bubble MVP heroics. Let’s just hope his tank doesn’t run out of gas (Blazers were a -13 on Saturday against the Grizzlies during his THREE MINUTES on the bench).

Lakers in 6

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(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

A lot has been made of this juicy series with the dazzling future MVP Luka Doncic writing the first chapter in his playoff journal. In his way stands the title favorite Clippers, who have yet to be at full strength inside the bubble, as Sixth Man of the Year candidate Montrezl Harrell is expected to make his debut.

Even with a historically good offense (highest offensive efficiency rating ever), Dallas has been atrocious in late-game execution, as they rank in the bottom of the league in games decided by five points or less. This should be a great learning experience for Luka, Porzingis, and co. but the Clips dispose of Dallas in five.

Clippers in 5

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Utah Jazz

If this series is anything like their earlier double-OT thriller in the bubble, it should be a classic. Two-man chess matches between Donovan Mitchell and Gobert clashing with the Joker and Jamal Murray are going to be the focus for both coaches, but look for the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. to lift the Nuggets. Injuries to both teams make for a bit of uncertainty, as the returns of Gary Harris Jr. and Will Barton are still up in the air, while Mike Conley just left the bubble to see the birth of his child and will miss at least the first three games most likely.

Nuggets in 6

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(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s pretty simple; how long is Russell Westbrook out with his thigh injury? If he’s back by early next week, Houston is in good shape. If he’s out for the entire series, the Rockets are in deep trouble. We all know how much Chris Paul wants to stick it to Houston for trading him and how ironic would it be for the Thunder to finally get out of the first round now instead of the Russell Westbrook-PG era.

James Harden is going to put up astronomical numbers, but will he get enough help? Mike D’Antoni is fully committed to the small-ball experiment, so my x-factor for the Thunder will be Steven Adams. Does he get exposed and need to spend a lot of the series on the bench, or does he wreak havoc as a bully on the offensive glass?

Rockets in 7

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Dame Time: With the World at a Standstill, Lillard Finally Getting the Respect He Deserves

“Put some respect on my fucking name,” Lillard barked after leading the Blazers to another crucial 134-131 victory over the Mavs to keep their playoff hopes alive. With the stakes higher than ever and the public microscope gleaming on him, it’s only brought out the best in No. 0.

Lillard tied his career-best with 61 points (22 in the 4th quarter!!) and made history by joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA players ever to post three 60+ point efforts in one season.

Following his missed free throws as part of the Clippers debacle last week, Dame Time has been fully in session, as he’s carried Portland with back-to-back 50+ point games and a pair of victories to keep the Blazers in the driver’s seat to clinch the 8-seed with a win on Thursday vs. the Nets. That’s 112 points in 81 minutes for those keeping score at home and the 10 and 11th 50-point games of his career, which ties him with Allen Iverson for 8th most all-time.

“When I first came here, I told you I didn’t come here to waste my time. They gave us a chance to get in like we asked for, and that’s what we’re here to do. The job still ain’t done, but I said, ‘You know what I’m here for.’ Our work ain’t done yet, but we fighting for it,” he told TNT’s Chris Haynes after the win.

As someone who lets his game usually do the talking, unless he’s in the studio, it’s been awesome to see Dame unleash on detractors while backing it up on the hardwood (averaging 37 points and 9.3 assists inside the bubble).

After calling out Paul George for switching teams and “running from the grind,” Logo Lillard then turned his focus to ethering the fraudulent Skip Bayless with an absolute haymaker on Monday. Not many things this pandemic have made me happier than seeing Skip getting put on his ass with an eviscerating knockout punch of a tweet from Lillard. Take that, old man!

The 30-year-old’s had several prolific “moments” in his career, as walk-off shots to defeat the Rockets (2014) and Thunder last year in the playoffs come to mind when the basketball world was in his palms. With Portland playing on the West Coast, it’s easy for Lillard’s late-night heroics to be reduced to an Instagram clip for followers to take in the next morning.

But this feels different, as the world’s stuck in a five-month standstill, every Blazer game has been must-watch cinema, and Lillard is the A-list star of the show. He seems to finally be getting the mainstream praise and collecting the accolades he’s quite honestly deserved for years. I have him on my All-NBA first team in the guard spot alongside Harden and conversations of him usurping the point guard throne from Steph Curry are bubbling on social media, as Steph and the Warriors have taken a gap year.

The job isn’t done just yet, as the Blazers still need to defeat the Nets on Thursday then win one of the possible two play-in games over the weekend to have the right to face the one-seeded Lakers. If all goes according to plan, Lillard should be the regular season Bubble MVP. This also wouldn’t be your typical 1 vs. 8 matchup, as L.A. has issues of their own to sort out. Being a student of the game, LeBron’s definitely taken note of Dame’s run and knows they don’t have any sort of answer for Lillard at the guard spot defensively.

Oh, and as a gift to fans, Dame and Adidas teamed up to make his Dame 6 sneakers on sale for $61 just for Wednesday in honor of his performance last night.

 

 

10 Players To Watch During the NBA’s Restart Inside the Orlando Bubble

It’s been 138 days since the NBA was shut down on March 11 following the unforgettable scene in Oklahoma City which saw Rudy Gobert test positive for COVID-19 as a harsh reality for the pandemic began to set in.

That horrifying number will (hopefully) be no more on Thursday when the Pelicans and Jazz tip-off serving as the official restart of the NBA regular season inside the Orlando bubble, which just might bring a tear to my eye.

Instead of doing an official playoff preview just yet (I’ll save that for August), I wanted to highlight 10 under-the-radar players who just might win their team a playoff game and could be someone you may have forgotten about during the layoff.

If you’re looking for star players like ‘Bron or Kawhi on this list, you’d be better suited just turning on FS1 and listening to Colin Cowherd talk about how Russell Westbrook and James Harden aren’t a top 10 NBA duo.

1. Gary Trent Jr. – Portland Trailblazers

Gary Trent Jr. became one of my favorite hidden gems coming off the bench this season. Ever since his 30-point explosion back in mid-January against the Thunder, the former Blue Devil has been an integral part of the Blazers’ rotation. That trend should only continue for the playoff-hopeful squad, as Trent Jr. put up 12 ppg and shot 41% from behind the arc during the month of February. He’s also a rock-solid defender on the wing.

P.S. My only issue with GT was seeing him on the virtual blackjack machines in the Bahamas. As a millionaire, it’s time to move to the legit high roller tables, my guy! 

2. Ben McLemore – Houston Rockets

When your career needs to be revived, every offensive-minded player should give Mike D’Antoni a call. MDA gave a lifeline to another career that was on its last breaths with Ben McLemore this season, who evolved into a sniper for the three-point happy Rockets this season. Averaging just under 10 ppg on 40% from three, McLemore’s brought his magic to Disney, as he lit up the Grizzlies during Sunday night’s scrimmage for 26 points on 6-7 from downtown.

3. Bol Bol – Denver Nuggets

Bol Bol is one of the early winners from the NBA restart. After not playing a game this season in Denver, Bol exploded onto the NBA Twitter scene with highlight-worthy plays on both ends of the floor, which flooded IG timelines in the first couple of scrimmages while starting in the BACKCOURT!! with Nikola Jokic. Seeing that untapped potential on display could vault Bol into a secret weapon type of role for Mike Malone’s deep Denver Nuggets.

4. Seth Curry – Dallas Mavericks

For quite possibly the first time in his entire life, the stage will now entirely be set for Seth to shine without overshadowing from older brother Steph anywhere in sight. With Luka and Porzingis occupying the defense’s focus, three-point assassins like Seth Curry become indispensable. Seth was 2nd in the entire NBA while shooting 45% from downtown and the Mavs are going to need him to be lights out in Orlando to spread the floor.

5. J.R. Smith – Los Angeles Lakers

J.R. Spliff is back!!! After going unsigned the entire 2019 season, the Lakers finally decided to listen to me and roll the dice on Earl and reunite him with LeBron inside the bubble. For that reason alone, we need a documentary on the Lakers’ Orlando playoff run. With Avery Bradley opting out and Rondo injured, L.A. will be heavily relying on the likes of J.R., Alex Caruso, KCP, and Dion Waiters to supplement A.D. and Lebron with outside shooting late in games. Smith’s microwave scoring ability came to life on Monday with 14 points in the first half of their scrimmage against the Wizards.

6. Matisse Thybulle – Philadelphia 76ers

One of the most unique young players in the NBA. Matisse not only shines on the court as a lockdown defender, but he’s also become a YouTube sensation off the floor with his Welcome to the Bubble VLOG series, which he shoots and edits himself. The rookie’s versatility on the defensive end and streaky shooting will be needed to help power the Sixers, as coach Brett Brown has his hands full regarding how to best deploy his talented arsenal of weapons.

7. Duncan Robinson – Miami Heat

From Division III standout, to Michigan 6th man, and now a top 100 NBA player, according to Bleacher Report‘s latest rankings. Stories like Duncan’s are to be celebrated, as he landed in the perfect spot to flourish under the tutelage of Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and co. in breezy South Beach. Another 45% shooter from three makes the list, and a bright future is definitely ahead for the Michigan man. Admittedly, I didn’t think there was a chance DR would be an NBA player during his time as a Wolverine.

8. Luguentz Dort – Oklahoma City Thunder

Lu Dort is a name you might not be familiar with if you haven’t caught many Thunder games this year, as I had no clue who he was coming into the season and only found out about him through my brother after watching him pop off the screen one night. Dort has a knack for making good things happen on the floor, as OKC went 16-5 once Billy Donovan inserted him into the starting lineup and management rewarded the Canada native with a four-year extension for his efforts.

9. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

With the potential to be transcendingly special on the defensive end, Jonathan Isaac’s breakout campaign was forced to take a detour following a devastating knee sprain on New Year’s Day. After the shutdown’s extended layoff, the Florida State product has been cleared for action to participate in the bubble scrimmages, which should bring a smile to Magic fans’ faces if there’s any still out there. During his return to the hardwood Monday night, JI managed 13 points and grabbed 7 boards in just 7 MINUTES on the floor.

10. Norman Powell – Toronto Raptors

Another underrated cog in COTY candidate Nick Nurse’s army that somehow has Toronto back in the mix for an Eastern Conference run even without Kawhi Leonard. Powell would have a case for 6th Man of the Year but ended up starting 21 games. When returning from an injury in late February, Powell posted five straight box scores with at least 22 points to give the starting five unit a jolt before the shutdown.

Bad Pizza, Ripping Utah’s Hearts Out & Leaving a 7th Ring on the Table Bring ‘The Last Dance’ to a Close

Once again a topic from The Last Dance has actually taken off after the show. Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” might have actually been the “Food Poisoning Game.” Well, maybe. Apparently this pizza rumor was already out there, but we hear about it in great detail. This story has gone in all different directions. We’re told that five people showed up to deliver Jordan’s pizza. However, a man has since stated that he made the pizza and wanted to personally deliver it. Just two people total. This guy said he is a Bulls fan, and disputes that something was intentionally done to cause Jordan harm when he ate his dinner.

Jason Hehir directed the ESPN documentary, and added that Michael spit on the pizza to prevent anyone else from eating it since they had already eaten without him. This part was another subject that didn’t make the final cut. I’ll get back to what else was left out later. There is also a rumor that Jordan went to Vegas and was hungover. I don’t know what to believe. WFAN’s Joe Benigno talked about how he felt at the time. Joe didn’t think anything was wrong with Michael. Another host chimed in after the latest story came out. Craig Fite is the Chicago fan who spoke about making Jordan’s pizza. Fite said he bet on the Bulls, and obviously would not poison Jordan. WFAN’s Maggie Gray could not understand why somebody would bet on the Bulls. This is probably the dumbest take I have heard in quite some time. Nobody bets favorites. The team that is expected to win. Your favorite team. The one that has won championships before and would do so again. I’m not even getting into series prices and spreads. Sometimes she makes me want to rip out my remaining hair.

SB Nation on Twitter: "The Kings brought up an old food poisoning ...

Hearing about Jordan’s ordeal brought me back to 2002. I took Sacramento in game 2 after they lost to Kobe’s Lakers in the opener. Bryant was suffering from food poisoning. The spread seemed to indicate that he would either be out or most likely ineffective. Bryant played more minutes than any of his teammates. Sacramento covered by hitting late free throws. I searched to find information on the game, and stumbled upon a new conspiracy theory. An article said that a New Jersey mob guy was the one responsible for Kobe’s food poisoning. Supposedly there was a heavy mob bet on the Nets to win it all. Or, you could believe another story in that article. Kobe was too drunk to even find his hotel room.

This weekend’s episodes opened with footage of the feisty Pacers-Bulls rivalry. Reggie Miller and MJ going at it. Mark Jackson gets a ball thrown at him. No mention of how Jackson was on both teams that took Jordan to 7 during his championship seasons. Patrick Ewing used to lose and afterwards say that his Knicks were the better team. Miller said this about his Pacers. At least they went right down to the wire in a game 7 on the road. Speaking of Patrick, there was a trivia question about Jordan eliminating HOF players. It claims that he knocked out Ewing 4 times. It was actually 5 if you count 1989. That wasn’t a title season for Chicago. Throw in the college days if you want one more Ewing loss to MJ.

Since I referenced things being left out a couple times so far, I’ll get into that. The teams split games 5 and 6. That was their way of skipping over Jordan falling down late in game 6 against Indiana. As the documentary rolled on, it seemed like the blatant omissions became even more egregious. MJ hits a winning shot at the buzzer against Utah to begin the 1997 NBA Finals. Nothing about Karl Malone’s missed free throws just before that. Scottie Pippen said, “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.” Totally left out. They didn’t even put that Jordan finished up with Washington when listing how players moved on after 1998.

Dan Patrick talked about Jordan’s career on WFAN. He took a shot at the 90s Knicks. I have tried to explain how people thought they were ruining basketball. Ratings dropped. Rules were changed. It’s funny how Detroit didn’t seem to get this criticism. There was a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover saying that the NHL was hot, and by contrast the NBA was not. Obviously MJ went through the Knicks quite often. Basketball really suffered when he wasn’t around. Patrick’s point was about how low NBA scores were. Cleveland limited possessions by draining the shot clock. Final scores were often around 80 points. James Harden might put up impressive offensive numbers when his team scores 120-130 points. Jordan would likely average much more in today’s game with higher final scores.

You knew we would see that MJ was motivated to face different players. Malone won an MVP. Bryon Russell made a comment when Jordan was retired. Good thing these players gave Michael some extra motivation. I’m not sure if he would have been able to take the NBA Finals seriously. MJ somehow had the urgency when he won the MVP award all those years. You can tell that certain things were wearing on me as this documentary was winding down. Jordan also brought back his old security buddy. Gus Lett returned to inspire MJ in game 7 against the Pacers. Lett died in 2000 after a long battle with cancer.

We learned about the murder of Steve Kerr’s father in Beirut 36 years ago. That was clearly the most emotional part of these latest episodes. Kerr said that he never discussed this with Jordan. It was unfortunately something they had in common. Kerr talked about John Paxson taking Steve under his wing. I often thought of Steve as the later version of John on that team. Steve mentioned his early years with Cleveland. I became a fan of his back then. He threw in a long heave against the Nets, and seemed like a Mark Price clone to me.

Dennis Rodman always has to cause trouble. He missed practice during the 1998 NBA Finals so he could attend a wrestling show. Maybe I should rephrase that. He participated in a wrestling show. I liked Phil Jackson’s response about it being a distraction. Players play. They don’t sit around crying about something stupid. Unless you are Bill Cartwright getting upset that Scottie Pippen asked out. Media members will keep asking if something is going to be a distraction. Maybe, if they keep bringing it up. Anyway, Jackson said it might be a distraction for the reporter.

Scottie Pippen had an injured back against Utah in the 1998 series clincher. He was only able to score 8 points. Tough to kill him for it, but with that guy somehow it was always something. Migraine in game 7 against Detroit. Not wanting to ruin his summer and missing regular season games because surgery was put off. The infamous final 1.8 seconds of a virtual must-win contest during the 1994 playoffs. Dealing with Pippen and Rodman only adds to Jordan’s legacy in my opinion.

The Time Michael Jordan Almost JOINED The NEW YORK KNICKS! - YouTube

One ridiculous Jordan story is that he would have missed time in 1999 due to a severed tendon in his finger. He suffered the injury attempting to cut a cigar. People argued that playing only 50 games would have helped Chicago, but I just don’t see how it could have worked. Apparently Phil Jackson was not interested in waiting through a rebuilding stage. That’s what I figured based on his reputation.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said just that Sunday. The relationship with GM Jerry Krause seemed damaged beyond repair. Michael might have thought he could convince Pippen to return for another year, but Scottie was going to get paid. He definitely wanted big money and a long deal. Scottie was starting to break down, and big bucks were finally coming his way. Jordan and Phil were pretty spent. They could have tried to reload, but there were certainly changes coming. I think Reinsdorf had no interest in breaking the bank for potentially one more championship. He had told Jackie MacMullan that they wouldn’t be the 90s Celtics. That team got old and guys were injured. It ended unceremoniously.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan did not come off looking very sharp. He apparently had no idea that Jordan was less than 100 percent, although Michael still played well. Jordan wasn’t just a decoy. The Jazz only scored 54 points in one of their losses. Sloan looks down and asks if that was really the score. I’m not sure if Sloan was kidding either time. Karl Malone has asked people to say prayers for Jerry. The coach has had health issues in recent years. Jerry has battled Parkinson’s disease and dementia since 2016. Speaking on a 90s NBA Zoom call, Malone said that Sloan is not doing well.

Watching highlights from Chicago’s games against Utah and Indiana brought me back to my early days betting NBA games. There were some close calls each way. One of my friends took the Bulls giving 5.5 in one game. He lost on a shot at the buzzer. Scott Van Pelt played it along with Uncle Brent’s radio call for a final vintage Bad Beats segment.

In recent days there has been a video circulating of Bob Costas putting a bow on the Chicago dynasty. He knew that it was at least possibly their last run. I can remember Bob speaking after the 1993 championship. He speculated that perhaps they could come back for a fourth straight title and be known as the “Quad Squad.” It would have been interesting if that really happened. I wonder if Costas trademarked the phrase. Hopefully I can speak with him one day. I have a lot of questions. We can get into his classic 1989 interview with Bobby Heenan.

Finally, there was an interesting exchange between Jordan and Larry Bird after the Pacers-Bulls series. Colorful language. It really was strange to hear the curses flying on ESPN. Getting back to 1993, I vividly remember watching a press conference after Phoenix stayed alive with a win in Chicago. Businesses were boarding up windows in anticipation of a wild celebration. Charles Barkley told people that they could take the “stuff” off their windows. It always stuck with me. I never expected ESPN to air this clip 27 years later. Especially an unedited version. 2020 certainly has been unpredictable.

With that, I thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully you enjoyed the documentary and my recaps.

Overcoming Detroit’s Bad Boys & Dennis Rodman’s ‘Vacation’ Dominate ‘The Last Dance’

Sunday night gave the quarantined world two more fantastic hours of Chicago Bulls entertainment, and I don’t know where to start. I’m not even sure what the beginning is, as we continue to bounce around. Still my top complaint, but I digress.

It seems like even more topics were buzzing around social media after this weekend’s episodes. Scott Burrell gets embarrassed (destroyed) by Michael Jordan, and his wife tweets about it. Jerry Krause dancing on the plane will not be forgotten anytime soon. However, Carmelo Anthony’s contribution will be. His big addition was remembering that Dennis Rodman one time talked about a regular season game against Washington and how there was no incentive for him to play. This is what he’ll never forget from the Chicago dynasty. It was quite the head-scratcher.

One more complaint before I move on. They chose to skip over some things. There is mention of being on to New York after defeating Cleveland, but no highlights are shown from that series. Joe Benigno actually thanked ESPN for skipping that. As a Knicks fan, Joe wasn’t interested in seeing that series. Somebody apparently didn’t believe it was important, and I am okay with the decision. One can only imagine what was left on the cutting room floor.

I really couldn’t understand why they chose not to show Jordan scoring with seconds remaining in game 3 to force overtime against the Lakers. It was a big moment for MJ and his teammates in their first NBA Finals. Also, we see highlights of Chicago blowing a lead in Utah. There were no highlights of these teams playing in January. That was the marquee game. Super Bowl Sunday on NBC. Bob Costas called the game before flying to California for the football game, but I’m getting off topic. Utah won in Chicago. It was a rematch of the 1997 NBA Finals. Utah was apparently hungrier after losing in June.

We only get a brief comment about the Jazz sweeping both regular season games after they complete that February comeback. Ironically, there is footage on the plane after Jordan wins money on Denver’s win against Green Bay. As I described, the Super Bowl took place just hours after Chicago’s home loss to Utah.

Getting back to Rodman, he was featured in one of the episodes. Saying that he was troubled is an understatement. We see that in the early 90s he drove to the Palace of Auburn Hills parking lot with a gun. You don’t see many athletes kick a cameraman in the groin. Rodman often talks about how he doesn’t care what people think. That’s exactly what someone says when they care a lot. Dennis himself has talked about wanting to be loved. Partying with Carmen Electra in Vegas certainly got plenty of attention. Although I can’t really condone that, it would have been one thing if Dennis was all business other than the 48 hours away. Well, we know it was longer than that. Still, perhaps this could be overlooked if there were no other incidents.

The Last Dance: Carmen Electra Once Hid From Michael Jordan

Rodman claims that he was never a bad teammate and he could be counted on. It’s always something with him. That story Melo mentioned is another example of how Dennis didn’t always have his heart in the right place. I don’t care if he ran fast in practice. This guy was like the total opposite of Allen Iverson. Inconsistent when it came to games, but boy would he give 100 percent during practice. Rodman was a distraction for San Antonio. Chicago could overcome his flaws with Jordan. Yes, he helped at times. I can’t ignore the negative.

When Pippen returned, Dennis didn’t feel important. I think his salary included games when other people were playing. You assume that Rodman knew about Scottie being on the team when his contract was signed. Even if Pippen was out when the season started. Rodman gets away with far too much, and enjoys playing the victim. One of his many flaws is not being able to apologize or take blame. Apparently, asking MJ for an extra cigar was his way of apologizing for getting kicked out. I would think he should be buying cigars to apologize, but Dennis took one instead. Definitely seems like a strange apology. Maybe it’s just me. Pistons coach Chuck Daly was very close to Dennis. I remember him coming out when Rodman was a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show.

Ron Harper was very upset that Lenny Wilkens wanted Craig Ehlo to guard Jordan before Michael’s famous shot in Cleveland to win the deciding game. He makes this quite clear in the documentary. I remember watching those exciting final 6 seconds live. Seems like yesterday. It was actually more than 30 years ago. Amazingly, that classic Bulls game was not nationally televised. Part of the country saw game 1 between Seattle and the Lakers. Luckily, that game ended first. Dick Stockton welcomes the other audience in time to catch a very dramatic finish. As for Ehlo, he was not interviewed Sunday. Perhaps it was his choice.

I had always heard that Jordan was responsible for Doug Collins getting fired. Apparently that was not the case. I wondered why Jordan would bring Collins to Washington when he was part-owner if they didn’t like each other. Phil Jackson wanted Chicago to play more of a team game, and taking the ball out of Michael’s hand didn’t really appeal to MJ at first. Jackson replaced Collins in 1989 after Detroit defeated the Bulls in 6.

Since we saw Chicago’s championship in 1991, I wonder how much time will be spent on the 1992 Knicks. They defeated Detroit and took Chicago to 7. Only the 92 Knicks and 98 Pacers took the Bulls to a seventh game during their title runs. The Knicks were another group of bad boys. Pat Riley didn’t have his Lakers squad in New York, so he molded a team with physical players that was quite similar to Detroit.

Hearing about the Pistons brought back memories of those Knicks-Bulls games. I can specifically recall one time in particular when Jordan went streaking toward the basket but decided to pull up for a shot. His choice was described as a wise decision. So, it will be interesting to see if any of this comes up. Horace Grant is teased to be part of next week’s lineup. He will be an important character down the road. Should be another great Sunday night.