Green Circles of Ba$ketball

Basketballs are simply a circular orb made of leather and filled with air.  The goal of the game of basketball is to put the circular orb through a slightly larger circular destination called a hoop.

To win a game of basketball, you must put the circular orb through the circular hoop more times than your opponent during the time allotted for the game. 

A brilliant analysis, eh?  Stay with me, though.

I have come up with this analogy after several days of pondering about the current corruption trial in New York involving payoffs of college basketball players by an assortment of shady characters (head coaches, assistant coaches, middlemen, family members, AAU coaches, Santa Claus, etc.). 

Though not a surprise to anyone, it was revealed on Wednesday that a University of Arizona basketball player named Deandre Ayton may have received payments of $10,000 per month from “someone” to play his one and only year of basketball in 2017/2018 for the Wildcats prior to bolting for the NBA.  As the #1 draft pick of the Phoenix Suns last year, Ayton is paid $733,000 per month (or $8.8 million per year) by the pro league for his services.

From a purely economic perspective, Ayton’s alleged pay while at the University of Arizona was a relative bargain!   However, in college athletics, it wouldn’t have been legal.

Just why would such a highly-recruited high school athlete come play at this particular university?

Money, of course.

It’s not that the University of Arizona basketball program lacks for fans.  U of A has the longest streak of leading its conference in basketball attendance in Pac-12 Conference history (34 seasons) and is second in the country behind the University of Kentucky (40 seasons leading the SEC in attendance). 

With over 14,000 seats filled for about 20 home games per season, the Wildcats men’s basketball team generates about $10 million in profits annually for the university’s athletic programs.  The revenue from the men’s basketball team is used to help defray the costs of other athletics programs (such as golf, swimming, etc.) whose expenses are higher than revenues generated.

Money, again.

The other college program receiving a very negative spotlight during this college basketball scandal is LSU.   About a month ago, it was revealed that “someone” may have offered to pay Baton Rouge freshman, Javonte Smart, an amount equal to the “NBA rookie minimum” (over $800,000/year) to play for his hometown Tigers. 

During this week’s ongoing college basketball scandal hearing, it was revealed that yet another LSU freshman (Naz Reid from New Jersey) may have been offered up to $300,000 to play his one and only season in Baton Rouge. Both LSU players have now entered the NBA draft after only one season in college. 

LSU’s young basketball coach, Will Wade, has turned around the moribund hoops program in just two seasons.   After the team went 10-21 the year before the new coach arrived, Will Wade’s first year record at LSU improved to 18-15.  This year’s second season had the Tigers winning the SEC (for the first time in ten years) with a 28-7 regular season record. 

In the case of LSU, the suspicions are sky high as to how Coach Will Wade has been able to recruit so many high-level basketball players to the program.

I would guess that following the money would be a good possibility.

What will happen?

Most of us would like to think that the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, would bring the hammer down on the universities involved in this growing basketball scandal.  In order to make sure that these travesties never happen again, the NCAA must step-in and do something for the integrity of college athletics, right?

Think again. 

The NCAA makes millions of dollars every season by showcasing these same college athletes in the NCAA’s annual “March Madness” championships, too.  If the NCAA were to seriously police the programs and enforce the rules across the board, the current men’s college basketball tournament would be less financially attractive.

There’s that money issue again.

Since everyone in this scandal (and we haven’t even mentioned the AAU, the shoe companies, and the other shady middlemen) has a monetary interest in keeping the status quo, I suspect that we will (eventually) have more coaches and assistants relieved of their duties by their respective universities very soon (under some indirect pressure from the NCAA to “do something”). 

I also expect that the NCAA rule book (which is already far too voluminous and confusing to anyone other than attorneys) will be gaining another few hundred pages of new rules and then expect all college athletics programs will live by these amended guidelines in the future.  Until it happens again. 

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Every year, there are hundreds of millions of dollars (primarily originating from a number of athletics apparel companies which are subsidizing teams in the AAU, high schools, and college sports in order to advertise their overpriced gear to young potential buyers) being doled out through an incredibly sophisticated web of monetary distribution with each party taking their cuts.

This current college basketball scandal’s complexity reminds some people of the way alcohol continued to be produced and distributed during the so-called “Prohibition” period of the 1920’s and early 1930’s.   Despite alcohol being declared illegal during that period, a sophisticated and secretive market evolved and existed to take their cut of the money being doled out by a nation of willing buyers.

Good ol’ supply and demand. 

Today’s green circles of cash which have been corrupting so-called “amateur” basketball are now so deep that they boggle your mind when thinking about all the participants. 

If no one in these green circles of cash is willing to slit their own financial throats to end the madness, why should anyone be surprised when the next “Aha!” cheating moment in college basketball occurs?

Many will enter…few will win!

So, do you really want to leave college early and try your hand at professional football?

The 2019 NFL draft has just concluded.  There were 254 young men selected last week by the 32 National Football League teams during the seven rounds of player selections.

The eligible players automatically included all of the seniors and other players who have utilized their four years of college football eligibility.

The NFL rules also permitted college football players who participated for at least three seasons to leave school and declare eligible for the NFL draft. 

This season, there were 144 early entrants – players who put their names into the proverbial NFL draft pot-of-gold in Nashville last week. 

After all was said and done, though, 49 of those 144 players (34%) never heard their name called in the seven rounds of selections.  Based on the current NCAA rules, these 49 players are not permitted to return to play college football next season, either.

There is some good news for these players, though.  Many of these 49 football players will (or have already) signed with an NFL team as a free agent beginning on Sunday after the draft concluded. 

The bad news?  The odds of an undrafted player making it onto an NFL squad are quite low. 

NFL teams will make difficult decisions about players on next year’s team based on math, finance, and politics. 

Let’s look at the math first.  There are 53 players who made the final squad from the most recent football season.  NFL teams are permitted to carry an additional ten extra players (who each earn about $100K/year) on their developmental (or “Practice”) squad. 

This summer when training camps open, the NFL will allow each team to begin practices with a maximum of 90 potential players. 

Assuming no retirements or trades, that means that there will be a maximum of 27 new players (the seven draft picks plus unsigned free agents) competing to earn a spot on the roster/practice squad by the end of August. 

Now, let’s talk finance.  If the team just spent an additional $15 million per year to keep one or more of their veteran star players happy, then the payroll needs to be trimmed elsewhere. 

NFL teams will then look at the cost of keeping a few of their older (and much more costly) players and, potentially, replace some of them with the younger (and significantly cheaper) rookies or last year’s practice squad players.

In 2018, the NFL’s salary cap was set at $177.2 million per team.  If the star quarterback receives $25 million and his #1 receiver gets $15 million, the other 51 players can (theoretically) share the remaining $137.2 million (or about $2.7 million/player). 

In 2018, the NFL minimum salary for a rookie making the team was $480,000.  Many other veterans on the team will earn significantly more, so the team must keep an eye on its bottom line when making personnel decisions this summer on who to keep, trade, or cut. 

Then there’s also the politics of being drafted.

No matter how good or bad the #1 draft pick of your team performs during this summer’s training camp, it is likely that the team (which paid a significant amount of bonus money to their first round picks but significantly lesser amounts for Rounds 2 through 7) will keep that player on the roster for a least a couple of seasons. 

The draft “glow” also burns brightly for those selected with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks – at least for their first NFL season. 

NFL teams simply hate to admit that they goofed on during the spring NFL draft.  The team’s General Manager is responsible for the success (or lack thereof) for all player personnel selections and player development.  His job rides largely on the success of the seven annual draft picks.

For most of the college football players who went unselected last weekend in the NFL draft, they have or will soon sign with an NFL team who acted “interested” in them during the pre-draft workouts earlier this spring to become one of the 90 players at the team’s training camp this summer. 

They will get an opportunity to compete for a job, but the odds are against them. 

These undrafted free agents will have to find a way to impress the team’s coaches enough to keep them and release a veteran player, practice squad player, or one of this year’s drafted rookies to make the team.

Every year, there are a number of undrafted rookies who will make NFL squads. 

Several memorable NFL players were undrafted free agents and eventually became professional stars.  Undrafted college players such as Kurt Warner (St. Louis Rams QB), Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys QB), Antonio Gates (Chargers TE), Jeff Saturday (Indianapolis Colts Center), James Harrison (Pittsburgh Steelers LB), and Warren Moon (Houston Oilers QB) all went on to have incredibly successful NFL careers.

To succeed in the NFL as an undrafted free agent, you will need loads of talent, a hard work ethic, and more than a little luck in order to defy the odds to have a lengthy and financially rewarding NFL career.    

Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 26, 2019

Welcome back to SwampSwami.com and our weekly “Sweep-the-SwampCast” podcast-only presentation!

On today’s show, we’ll cover the “Ups and Downs” of Thursday night’s first round of the annual NFL draft in Nashville. We’ll also discuss the gamesmanship between two NFC East rivals during Round 1, the paranoia surrounding the Oakland Raiders‘ NFL player draft, the NHL hockey playoff television ratings (Up!) and the NBA playoffs (down).

Finally, we salute one of my favorite basketball players of all time. John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics passed away on Thursday at the age of 79. Hondo will forever be a part of my generation’s basketball memories!

To listen, please click above or subscribe to all of SwampSwami’s audio posts via Apple Podcasts! The price is right…it’s FREE!

There’s a Draft in here!

This week, you will likely hear all you care to hear about professional sports drafts.

There are 32 NFL franchises who will draft for seven rounds in Nashville, Tennessee beginning this Thursday night (Round 1), Friday night (Rounds 2 and 3), and Saturday afternoon (Rounds 4-5-6-7).  That means that a total of 224 jobs will be filled by the end of this weekend.

There are 130 major college football teams in the NCAA’s upper division.  If you assume that there are (conservatively) 120 players on the rosters of each of those teams, then 15,600 football players are lined-up every fall to play major college football.

But wait, there’s more!

We haven’t included the number of smaller division schools.  There are another 125 of FCS (formerly division 1-AA) teams plus another 400 Division II, III, and NAIA teams.

Let’s say there are 100 players on each of those teams.  That would add another 52,500 college football players and bring the total number to 68,100 players.

If you assumed that 25% of these players become (theoretically) eligible to play professionally every year, that means that 17,025 players have the potential to be available to play for pay on Sundays beginning this fall. 

If you take 224 jobs and divide by 17,025 potential players, only 1.3% of eligible college football players from last season will be drafted into the NFL this week.  Yes, I realize that a large number of additional players will go undrafted but will make an NFL team, too.    

According to the NCAA, the official probability of a college football player becoming a professional football player is only 1.6%.

Your best chance to advance from college into the professional sports ranks is in baseball (9.8%). 

However…

You better hope for a large signing bonus from professional baseball, because the annual pay scale for most minor league baseball teams isn’t much better than going to work for $10 per hour at McDonald’s.    By the time you climb through the ranks and reach Triple A baseball (one step from the major leagues), your annual pay will have reached only about $40,000/year.

If you are fortunate enough to finally make it to baseball’s major leagues, players are now taking home an average of $4.36 million per year with the MLB minimum salary of $555,000 per season. 

One of the most famous baseball players of the past year was a player who may never suit up in a major league uniform.  Baseball’s Oakland Athletics drafted Oklahoma University’s Kyler Murray in the first round (ninth overall pick in 2018), but the team was unable to convince him to stick to baseball even with a $4.66 million signing bonus to put in the bank. 

Kyler Murray also won the Heisman trophy as a college football quarterback.  It is nearly a certainty that Murray will be drafted to play football in the NFL during Thursday night’s first round. 

Based on 2018’s first round signings, Murray could make up to $23 million as a signing bonus to play four or five years in the NFL. 

If Kyler Murray’s personal objective is to guarantee that he will be able to snag the most money before even having to hit the field, the NFL offers the most riches in the short term and seems the way to go. 

Now let’s move to basketball.

On Monday night, the door was officially closed for college basketball players who want to try their hand at the professional level next season. 

My unofficial count showed 139 basketball players who are hoping their name is called in the NBA’s annual draft on June 20.  Alas, there are only 30 NBA teams and just two rounds of draft selections. 

That’s a maximum of sixty jobs to fill at the NBA’s draft party in June. 

Don’t forget that there are also many graduating seniors who are also eligible to be drafted in June.  Plus, there are an ever-increasing number of foreign players from Europe and other countries who may hear their name called on the NBA’s draft night in June.

Let’s say that 30 of the 139 early entrants in the NBA draft are picked in the two rounds.  That means that some of the other 109 players can (a) try-out as a free agent or (b) go to Europe or China to play or (c) find a job doing something other than playing basketball.

The NBA’s early entrance requirements are quite complicated.  Many of these 139 young players will learn in the next few weeks that the NBA is yawning and disinterested as they showcase their talents in various tryouts.

Between now and the June 20 NBA draft, the league will provide “draft evaluations” for these players who want to compete in the NBA or even in their minor league system called the “G” (as in financial sponsor “Gatorade”) League.

If the early entrance hoopsters follow the complicated NCAA rules properly (hint – I suggest they get an attorney first), then some of the players who are given the proverbial “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” response from NBA scouts will be permitted to return to school (if they are academically qualified) and continue playing basketball in college next season.

Given the large number of colleges who field a men’s basketball team, the NCAA lists the odds of a player making the squad of an NBA team at just 1.2%.

With the NFL draft this week and the NBA’s draft coming in June, it is a sad reality that less than 2% of all college football and basketball athletes will be playing professionally some day.

Let’s hope that the other 98% of these young student-athletes will take full advantage of the academic opportunities being offered to them.

A Salute to the ABA!

Over the weekend, it dawned on me that all four of the basketball teams from the American Basketball Association back in 1976 were in the NBA’s first round playoffs this year.

The ABA’s Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, and the San Antonio Spurs all made it into the 2019 NBA playoffs.

This marks just the sixth season (out of 42 seasons since the NBA/ABA merger) that all four of the ABA’s surviving teams have made it into the NBA playoffs in the same year (1994, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2013). 

San Antonio has made it into the NBA playoffs for a record 22 straight seasons (winning five NBA championships during that time).  None of the other three ABA teams have won an NBA championship yet.

So, with the ABA quartet into the first round of the NBA playoffs, my ancient basketball brain took an enjoyable nostalgia trip back into the 1970’s to look at the always fun and suspenseful drama on the nine-year history of the ABA.

In the late 1960’s, it became clear that football’s American Football League was going to “make it” and join the established National Football League. 

The next great sports idea was to do it again – this time with a competing basketball league!

At the time the American Basketball Association was born in 1967, there were only ten NBA teams (there are now 30!). 

The ABA and began play in eleven cities.  Below is a list of the original teams and nicknames:

Indiana (Indianapolis) Pacers (as in the pace car at the Indy 500)

New York/New Jersey Americans (later changed nickname to “Nets”)

Denver Rockets (later changed nickname to “Nuggets”)

Dallas Chapparals (moved to San Antonio six years later and became the Spurs)

Kentucky (Louisville) Colonels (yes, as in “KFC”)

Houston Mavericks

Minnesota (Minneapolis) Muskies (a freshwater fish in northern states)

New Orleans Buccaneers

Oakland Oaks

Pittsburgh Pipers

Anaheim Amigos

Only the top four teams above ended- up coming into the NBA nine years later in 1976.  However, only the Indiana Pacers and the Kentucky Colonels stayed in the same city for all nine years of the ABA’s existence and never changed nicknames. 

The Denver Rockets officially changed their nickname in 1974 to “Nuggets” after the NBA moved the San Diego Rockets to Houston (a city which had failed miserably in the ABA).  By 1974, Denver was hopeful that their ABA team would be accepted into the NBA. Even if the league folded, the city felt comfortable that it would likely receive an NBA expansion team soon thereafter.

The Houston Mavericks’ ABA franchise was moved twice.  After two seasons in Houston playing to sparse crowds, the team moved to North Carolina and became the Carolina Cougars as it played home games in the cities of Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. 

Five years later, the team was moved again to St. Louis and became “The Spirits of St. Louis” for two seasons before the league was dissolved.  The team played to crowds in St. Louis of less than 1,000 per home game.

The owners in St. Louis had been left out of the NBA/ABA merger, but they demanded to receive a percentage “cut” of the future television revenues associated with the ABA franchises in perpetuity.   In the merger year of 1976, the NBA and ABA television revenues were relatively insignificant (a few million dollars per season). 

However, by the year 2012, reports claimed that the owners of the defunct St. Louis ABA franchise had received an estimated $255 million in television revenues since the league’s 1976 merger with the NBA.  In the past few years, the NBA negotiated a buy-out and renegotiated to award the ABA’s St. Louis owners over $500 million in cash and a much smaller future TV royalty percentage.

Meanwhile, other ABA franchises simply wandered from city to city and ultimately folded.

The Minnesota Muskies became the Miami Floridians after just one year in 1968.  Like the team in Carolina, the “Floridians” then traveled around the state with Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and West Palm Beach hosting “home” games for four years until the team folded in 1972.

The New Orleans Buccaneers swashbuckled their way to the first ABA championship back in 1968.  By 1970, the team moved to Memphis (nicknames ranged from Pros, Sounds, and TAM’s (Tennessee-Arkansas-Mississippi – GENIUS, eh?). 

In 1975, the team moved to Baltimore and renamed the “Hustlers”.  After public protests prior to their first game, the team changed names to “Claws”.  They folded during the Preseason in Baltimore in 1975! 

The Oakland Oaks survived for two seasons before moving to Washington (Capitals) in 1969.  After only one season, the team relocated to Virginia and, like Carolina and Miami, traveled from city to city (Norfolk, Hampton, Richmond, and Roanoke) for their home games for the next six seasons before the team folded just one month prior to the ABA/NBA deal in 1976.

The Pittsburgh Pipers played one year in the Steel City and then, despite solid attendance (by ABA standards, that is), moved to Minneapolis for its second season.  Lack of attendance in Minnesota in 1968 forced the team to move back to Pittsburgh in 1969. 

The team came back to Pittsburgh but the fans weren’t happy that the Pipers “played them” (pun intended).  So, management opted for a “Name the Team” contest. 

The winning entry was the Pittsburgh Pioneers.   A local college already had the Pioneer moniker and threatened to sue!  Thus, the team became known at the Pittsburgh Condors for three seasons before the team folded in 1972 (four years before the NBA/ABA merger).

The original Anaheim Amigos became the Los Angeles Stars in 1968 after just one season.  After two lackluster years in the big city, the Stars relocated to Salt Lake City and became the Utah Stars.  

The Utah Stars drew great crowds (8,500 per game), but the owner apparently wasn’t very good at managing the team’s expenses. The team folded in 1975 after the owner missed the team’s payroll.   

Eventually, Utah’s fans were rewarded and Salt Lake City eventually received an NBA team in 1979 when the New Orleans Jazz NBA franchise owner relocated his team there (and, oddly enough, didn’t change the team’s nickname).  The Utah Jazz still play in today’s NBA.

The American Basketball Association brought the red, white, and blue basketball (which I still love), the three-point shot (which the NBA finally adopted in 1969), and added a significant increase of player talent such as future Hall-of-Famers Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Moses Malone, Dan Issel, Artis Gilmore, and my personal favorite, sharpshooting guard, Louie Dampier

The ABA’s teams and talented players gave the NBA some much needed energy and innovation at a time when professional basketball was struggling to find its niche.

SwampSwami salutes and will forever treasure his memories of the ABA! 

Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 19, 2019

In today’s edition of “Sweep-the-SwampCast“, our theme this week is about beating the gambling odds (or not). Some people have come up as big winners this week, while others, not so much.

This is an audio-only podcast version of the show. Click on the bar above to listen or, better yet, subscribe via Apple Podcasts to hear an audio version of each of our shows! Go ahead…try it. It’s FREE!

Have a HAPPY EASTER!

Time for another diaper change!

You can guarantee one thing about basketball’s LeBron James

Every season, no matter where he is located, there will be controversy and drama.  Sometimes (three times during his career, to be exact) there will be joy, too.

Ever since emerging as one of the final NBA players who arrived in the league straight out of high school, LeBron James’ career has been marked (and marketed) by a litany of annual angst. 

Yes, he won two NBA titles when playing in Miami and another in 2016 after he returned to Cleveland. 

But…

It seems that nearly everywhere James goes to play basketball, there is a trail of coaches and/or teammates who are tossed overboard if the self-proclaimed “King” isn’t happy. 

This year, LeBron took his almost 35-year old talents to LaLa Land to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.  For a guy who dominated in the NBA’s weaker Eastern Conference for his entire career, coming west to Los Angeles seemed to meet a few career checkmarks.

By moving to LA, LeBron James would position himself in the area where he already owned a home.

Next, James would be located in a city where his ever-expanding media profile could grow even larger.  Between basketball and LeBron’s interest in marketing his name in film and television, TinselTown is the place to be.

Lastly, James could (potentially) separate himself from Michael Jordan as basketball’s #1 name brand if he could somehow turn around the moribund Lakers from losers into NBA champions again. 

And what better city to write that story, eh?

After his first year in Los Angeles, LeBron James’ grand plan has started to unravel.  Sure, he may be personally comfortable ($30 million per year playing basketball can do that), and he’s already immersing himself into the television and film production business.

Basketball?  Oops.  LeBron’s appearance in a Lakers uniform this season did not translate into the team making the playoffs. 

Prior to the coming of King LeBron, the Los Angeles Lakers sported a record of 35-47.

This year?  The Lakers improved to 37-45 (just two games better) and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight season.   

The one thing we know about LeBron James is that he doesn’t willingly accept much (if any) of the blame.  LeBron’s overbearing presence on the basketball court didn’t seem to elevate his teammates’ performance, while his meddling behind the scenes may have been a bigger part of why the Lakers failed to improve after his first year in Los Angeles. 

Making matters worse, an 80-year old Los Angeles Lakers Hall-of-Famer by the name of Jerry West has quietly managed to dump all of the big-named stars at the cross-town rivals, Los Angeles Clippers.  Instead of going to the bottom, West’s Clippers are in the NBA playoffs right now, while LeBron James sits at home for the post-season and ponders his next move (or movie?).

LeBron James isn’t happy.  History says, “When LeBron’s not happy, it’s time to clear out the nursery room”! 

Already, the Lakers front office has begun to crumble after the failed expectations of this season. 

Before the Lakers final game last week, another Lakers legend, Magic Johnson, abruptly quit his position as President of the team.  He did so without even telling his boss!   In true LA style, Magic held a press conference and explained to everyone else why he thought it was time to go.

He wasn’t having any fun!  Seriously.  So, Magic Johnson walked away after a turbulent season trying to manage the ego of one of the NBA’s best players who also happens to be most difficult personalities to control in the game.     

After the Lakers final game last week, head coach Luke Walton was fired.  Depending on whom you listen to, Walton and LeBron James never got along very well (a common theme in James’ relationships with several coaches during his career).    

Ironically, Luke Walton was immediately hired this week by the Lakers’ NBA Western conference rival Sacramento Kings.  Apparently, other people in the NBA believe that the problems in Los Angeles this season were not the result of bad coaching. 

So, the President and the Head Coach are now gone.  That leaves the Lakers’ General Manager, Rob Pelinka, as the last person standing in a key management role. 

Since assuming his job two seasons ago, Pelinka hasn’t been successful by any means.  Believe it or not, he had no prior experience in his GM job, though. 

Rob Pelinka was an NBA player’s agent prior to being hired by the Lakers!  Yes, that’s the guy who does his best to get as much money for his players so that he, too, makes more money. 

I guess the Lakers felt like, “If you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em”!

He seemed to be the most likely person who SHOULD have been fired, but he may be spared from the current Lakers’ management dumpster fire.

And this is where LeBron James returns to our story.

After running off one coach in Cleveland (David Blatt), James was instrumental in getting former Los Angeles Lakers guard, Tyronn Lue, promoted and hired in Cleveland to coach LeBron and the Cavaliers in 2016.

Lo and behold, the Cleveland Cavaliers became the NBA champions the same year!  

Alas, LeBron left Cleveland last season in 2018 and stranded his little buddy, Tyronn Lue, with a team of Gilligan’s Island-like castaways.  Lue was fired after only six games (0-6 start) with the LeBron-less Cavaliers this season.  

Now, the great puppet master, LeBron James, is pushing the proverbial “Last Man Standing” of this sinking Lakers’ ship (Rob Pelinka) to hire his good buddy, Tyronn Lue, as the new head coach for the Lakers. 

Since Pelinka’s leash is likely short and ownership is fully onboard with the current “All LeBron, All the Time” show in LakerLand, Tyronn Lue should be considered as the front runner for the coaching job.

After that, LeBron can resume pulling Pelinka’s strings to bring in a few expensive free agent players (assuming any significant NBA stars would take the cash in order to play second fiddle to “King” James, that is).

Of course, LeBron could be setting the table to become either the General Manager or even the coach himself. 

Regardless of the short-term outcome, there is one thing I feel certain about. 

LeBron James is going to create more unrest for the Lakers until he gets his “change”. 

The smell coming from the Los Angeles Lakers organization in the past week indicates that someone needs to deliver a new nanny and a big box of Pampers to take care of the NBA’s biggest baby – quickly! 

A Ti-GIR by the Tale

If you listen to the sports media, Tiger Woods’ victory in the 2019 Masters has paved the way for another year of Tiger Slam talk.  Yes, the sports media is already fawning over the possibility that the 43-year old Woods can and will win all four of golf’s major championships this year.

Seriously?

First, I tip my SwampSwami cap to Tiger Woods for prevailing in a terrific weekend of golf at the famed Augusta National Golf Club.  While nearly every one of his challengers fell by the wayside on Sunday, Tiger Woods morphed into “Steady Eddie” as he avoided any significant mistakes down the stretch.

With the win, Tiger Woods secured his first major championship since 2008 (and all the previous years filled with numerous personal issues and significant injuries).  This marks his 15th major championship and leaves him just three behind Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.

Is Nicklaus worried? 

In a telephone interview with Golf Channel a few minutes after Tiger’s win on Sunday, the Golden Bear made his congratulatory comments on Woods’ victory and then mused about the next two major championships to be played this year. 

Jack noted that the next two majors are at Bethpage (New York) and at Pebble Beach (California) are being played where Tiger has already won a major championship during his career.

With his tongue firmly planted in cheek, Jack said, “He’s got me shaking in my boots, guys!

Tiger Woods played great golf all week at The Masters.  The biggest surprise to me is that he was able to make good decisions and keep his shots in play from the tee box.  In the past, he has been less than accurate off the tee for much of his career. 

Some have referred to him as “Tiger-in-the-Woods” earlier in his career.

His prodigious length off the tee (whether in play or not) generally allowed Tiger Woods to have shorter shots into the greens than most other golfers. 

At age 43, he’s still plenty long off the tee, but some of the younger players can hit it longer off than Tiger does now.

So, how did Tiger Woods win The Masters this weekend?

  1. The Tiger Woods effect – Imagine, if you will, the massive crowds roaring with every shot played by Tiger Woods.   It is very difficult to concentrate and compete when the vast majority of the crowd is loudly cheering for just one player in the grouping.  Tiger played in the final threesome on Sunday with Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau.  In the final round, Molinari went from a 66 on Saturday to a two-over par 74 on Sunday.  Finau?  He shot a 64 on Saturday and ballooned to a 72 on Sunday.  
  2. The entire field generally cratered on Sunday – On Saturday night, if I had predicted that Tiger Woods would win The Masters by coming from behind and only scoring a final round of 70 (2-under par), would you have believed me?  The field scoring average on Saturday was 70.77.  On Sunday?  It zoomed to 71.46 with similar playing conditions.
  3. Rae’s Creek on Hole #12 Sunday – Coming into the shortest hole on the golf course (155 yards) on Sunday, the creek in front of the green claimed the golf balls of four of the final six players in the field.  Molinari, Finau, Brooks Koepka, and Ian Poulter all missed the green on the right side and their ball rolled back into a watery grave.  Woods played it smartly and played to the middle of the green.
  4. Greens in Regulation (GIR) – Woods not only beat the Bogeyman (just nine bogies and without a single double-bogey for the tournament), but Tiger Woods put his golf ball onto the putting surface more often than any other player in field.  When Tiger Woods morphs into “Tiger Greens”, he will be a contender in most golf tournaments.

Tiger Woods played smarter than most of his competitors on Sunday.  He didn’t make any big mistakes while nearly every other player will reflect on one or two holes that cost them a chance to put on The Masters’ famed Green Jacket.

Ti-GIR (Greens in Regulation) Woods has really grown and matured as a golfer.

Congratulations, Tiger!  It was even better to see you show such joy, emotion, and happiness on the 18th green after winning on Sunday afternoon. 

You certainly earned your fifth Green Jacket! 

Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 12, 2019

It’s finally here! The Masters is now underway and will conclude this weekend (weather permitting). Most of your favorite golf names are in the hunt for the famed Green Jacket, too.

In today’s podcast-only version of the show, we’ll discuss the start of the NBA playoffs; a better idea for the NBA’s draft lottery system (“Your wish is granted”!); tip our sports cap to a couple of retiring NBA legends; take a final look at the NCAA Men’s basketball championship game and how officiating and those bothersome instant replays really need an overhaul (“Your wish is granted…again!”); and entice you to spend your weekend watching The Masters!

Click on the button above to listen. Better yet, subscribe to Apple Podcasts and enjoy every show whenever you like! It’s FREE!

The Masters – All Tiger, All the Time

Though the 2019 Masters golf tournament starts Thursday in Augusta, Georgia, the majority of the news surrounding the annual event seems to be all about just one player of the 87 golfers in the field.

Tiger Woods

Tiger hasn’t won one of the four golf majors since the 2008 US Open that he won in a playoff with Rocco Mediate.

Yes, the same Tiger Woods who has been in the headlines for the past ten years for any number of personal issues and serious physical injuries. Tiger is now 43 years old, feeling and playing much better, and the sports media is back at it again in trying to convince golf fans that he is THE favorite again this week at The Masters.

Though Woods’ golf game has begun to round back into shape in the past twelve months after his health (back and knee injuries) nearly ended his golf dreams a few years ago, the Tiger Woods Media frenzy is back more than the golfer’s realistic expectations of winning. 

If you had any doubts about the extent that the sports media is driving “Tiger Mania” this week, let’s take a look at some of the incredible number of stories I found when searching the internet about this year’s Masters golf tournament. 

Tiger Woods’ 2019 golf statistics:

In his last start ahead of the Masters, he finished in a tie for fifth in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.  In four other starts this year, his best finish was a tie for 10th in the WGC-Mexico Championships.

Woods is ranked No. 12 in the official world golf rankings.

Woods is a four-time Masters champion and has 13 top-10 finishes at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

What are the betting odds of Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters? 

Rory McIlroy 7-1
Dustin Johnson 10-1
Justin Rose 12-1
Tiger Woods 14-1
Justin Thomas 16-1
Jordan Spieth 16-1
Rickie Fowler 16-1
Tommy Fleetwood 20-1
Francesco Molinari 20-1
Brooks Koepka 25-1
Bryson DeChambeau 25-1
Paul Casey 30-1
Phil Mickelson 40-1

One news outlet reported that a Tiger Woods fan has wagered $85,000 on Woods to win this year!  The bet, which was made in Nevada, would pay out $1.19 million if (I mean…when) Tiger Woods wins. 

Now there’s a true Tiger fan!   

Let’s see how the media is covering the Big Cat’s preparations for The Masters (these are all actual media reports)!

Tiger’s week-before-Masters– Woods flew up to Augusta from his seaside Florida compound last Wednesday and played a practice round.  Woods began with a three-putt from 25 feet on the first hole. It was his lone blemish on his card as he finished with a 65.

Tiger Sunday – Woods returned to Augusta National on Sunday and walked the front nine with only a putter and wedge in his hands. Woods dropped golf balls and hit shots from 75 yards and then chipped and putted at each green.

However, on Sunday night, the media reported that (gasp) Tiger Woods was the last one on the course at Augusta National.  According the non-biased reporter with this information, “We can only hope the same is true in a week” (cough, cough).

Tiger Monday – As Masters week dawned Monday, Woods was first off for a quick nine holes on the back nine with Justin Thomas and Fred Couples joining him.

Tiger Tuesday – Woods played an early-morning practice round on Tuesday before he’s scheduled to meet with the media at 1 p.m. ET.

Tuesday’s Tiger Wardrobe scoop!  Word spread last week that Tiger Woods would be sporting retro mock-turtleneck golf shirts at this year’s Masters.  Woods confirmed that news Tuesday to the Detroit Free Press during his pre-Masters news conference.

“Well, I thought it was a pretty neat look back in the day,” Woods said with a wry smile. “I was probably in a little bit better shape back in those days. I’ve won events wearing the mock. I’ve always enjoyed wearing them, and you’ll see it on Thursday.”

But wait, there’s more!  On the sole of his golf shoes, the people at Nike, with Tiger’s consent, have placed a new-look “praying hands emoji” adorned with a Nike glove and the Augusta National colors. (cough, cough)

Highlights of Tiger’s Tuesday Press Conference:

“I feel like I can win,” said Woods, age 43. “I’ve proven that I can do it. I put myself there with a chance to win the last two major championships of the year. I was right there and just needed to have a couple more things to go my way and not throw away a couple shots here and there, which I was able to do at East Lake.

“I just feel like that I’ve improved a lot over the past 12, 14 months but I’ve more than anything just proven to myself that I can play at this level again. I’ve worked my way back into one of the players that can win events.

“For me to have gotten in the winner’s circle after the years I’ve had, the past few years … I didn’t really know if I would ever get there again and lo and behold I got there.

“I’m still working on it, still trying to get better, still trying to win more events. But I think that winning at East Lake confirmed to me that I could still win again. You have to do it first in order to truly understand that you can do it, and after what I’ve been through, it was a great way to cap off the season.”

“I don’t really need to win (the Masters) again,” Woods said. “(But) I really want to.”

(For those who are keeping score at home, Tiger said the word “I” 19 times in five paragraphs above)

Tiger Wednesday – Though many contestants played in The Masters’ Par-3 contest held on Wednesday afternoon, Tiger Woods did not enter or play in the event. 

Tiger’s Thursday first round (remember to be watching for his mock turtleneck – see Tuesday’s Tiger notes):

10:04 a.m. (CDT) — Tiger Woods, China’s Haotong Li, and Spain’s Jon Rahm

The media then asked questions to other PGA Tour players. It must have been something like – “We don’t have any good questions for you, but what do YOU think about TIGER WOODS and his chances to win The Masters this year?”

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson said, “I just wouldn’t rule him out.  I’ve seen him do things with a golf ball and perform at a level higher than anything I’ve seen in the game. I just would never rule him out.

“To see him play the way he did with such control at the Tour Championship and compete in the majors the way he did at the British and PGA, I just think that greatness is still in him, and I would never rule him out.’’

US Open Champion Brooks Koepka said, “Taking myself out of [winning this week], I think it would be absolutely incredible to watch’’ Woods win a fifth Masters.  “It would be incredible to see,’’ he said. “We all know he’s back. There’s no doubt about that. He can he get it done. With the Open and the PGA, he’s been very close. I wouldn’t be surprised this week if he’s knocking on the door.’’

Then there’s former PGA pro and Golf Channel commentator, Brandel Chamblee, who actually took the time to review Woods’ recent golf stats and tried to explain why he doesn’t think Tiger Woods should be THE favorite to win the 83rd Masters Tournament.

BREAKING NEWS REPORT – Brandel Chamblee has just been banished from the remainder of Golf Channel’s Masters coverage for his obvious error that Tiger Woods might NOT win this year’s Masters! 

(OK – I made that one up! Sorry, Brandel!)

I understand that Tiger Woods never asked for this incredible amount of over-the-top media coverage. 

However, the overwhelming amount of “All Tiger, All the Time” media hype makes me want to pull that much harder for one of those 86 relatively invisible golfers who dare to compete against Tiger Woods in this year’s Masters field.

Though the other 86 golfers surely must have heard from the media that they DO NOT stand a chance to beat Tiger Woods, they will still (quite bravely, I might add) muster the courage to tee-it up on Thursday…at The Masters!