Greeting sports fans, it’s Chris Bengel coming at you once again on this Thursday morning. I hope everybody is looking forward to 4th of July weekend with lots of sports action on the menu, which is something that we couldn’t say a year ago.
I’ve spoken about the parity in the NBA playoffs this season in the past, but something just hit me. We could have an NBA Finals with two teams that didn’t even make the postseason one year ago in the bubble. The Phoenix Suns clinched their spot in the NBA Finals with their victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Additionally, the Atlanta Hawks currently lead the Milwaukee Bucks 2-1, and no one knows if Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will return in this series after hyperextending his knee. It’s definitely fun to have teams in the NBA Finals that we haven’t seen there in quite some time.
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Let’s dive into all the sports action!
📰 What you need to know
1. Suns ride hot hand of Chris Paul against Clippers, advance to NBA Finals 🏀
The Suns have become the first team to clinch their spot in the NBA Finals as they did so with a 130-102 win over the Clippers in Wednesday’s Game 6. Veteran point guard Chris Paul looked absolutely unstoppable against Los Angeles to the tune of 41 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three steals. Paul also was able to get under the skin of Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who shoved Paul in the back during a stoppage of play in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers’ effort was certainly valiant, considering that they played the entire Western Conference Finals without star forward Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was playing out of his mind before to suffering a knee injury in Game 4 against the Utah Jazz in the previous round. Paul George did step up in a big way and carried the scoring load for the Clippers, including a 41-point outburst in Game 5, but Los Angeles just didn’t have enough firepower to get the job done.
CBS Sports NBA scribe Jack Maloney offered his takeaways from the Suns’ series-clinching win over the Clippers, but below we are going to focus on what this all means for CP3.
- Maloney: “Chris Paul is one of the best point guards to ever play the game. That’s been clear for years now, and will remain true regardless of what happens over the rest of his career. But for all his greatness and the countless accolades, it’s impossible to ignore his lack of playoff success. Prior to this season, he’d only been to the conference finals once and had never made it to the Finals. Now, at long last, he’s broken through.”
2. Lightning edge Canadiens to take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final 🏒
Another Stanley Cup Final game, another Tampa Bay Lightning win. The Montreal Canadiens definitely threw everything that they had at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in Game 2. They even outshot the Lightning 43-23.
But Tampa Bay still managed to come away with a 3-1 win and take a 2-0 series lead.
Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli and Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki traded goals in the second period. However, the Lightning were able to regain the lead in the final seconds thanks to a highlight reel goal from Blake Coleman. Tampa Bay added an insurance goal courtesy of Ondrej Palat in the final period.
Here are a few reasons why the Lightning are now just two wins away from their second straight championship:
- Vasilevskiy stands tall: If you outshoot a team 43-23, you’re going to come away with a win more often than not. However, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy absolutely stood on his head throughout the night as he had an answer for just about every Canadiens shot attempt. In fact, the only Montreal goal came on the power-play, so it’s hard to truly blame Vasilevskiy for giving up that kind of goal
- Coleman’s insane goal: Game 2 proved to be a very different script than what we saw in the series opener. The Canadiens even appeared to have the upper hand at times. However, Coleman certainly had the play of the night when he scored arguably the most impressive goal of the entire NHL playoffs. As he was falling to the ice in the final seconds of the second period, Coleman was able to score on a diving goal that got past Canadiens goalie Carey Price. While it may not quite be that Alex Ovechkin diving goal from back in 2006, it was still pretty phenomenal
3. Why sitting out the 2021 season could be a huge mistake for Aaron Rodgers 🏈
One of the biggest NFL offseason storylines has been what is going to end up happening with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has made it clear that he isn’t a fan of the team’s front office and could be looking to leave the franchise. On the other hand, Green Bay has stated that they aren’t planning to move Rodgers anytime soon.
Joel Corry, who is a former agent, took a closer look at the Rodgers situation and where he/the Packers stand financially if he elects to opt out of the 2021 season.
- Financial cost: “By opting out, Rodgers would make $6.8 million thanks to the roster bonus. A lengthy holdout would cost Rodgers $15,816,666 if Green Bay exercised its rights to the fullest extent with recoupment and he complied through payment. The difference in the two approaches, opting out versus a holdout, is $22,616,666.”
- Salary cap ramifications: “Rodgers’ existing 2022 cap number is $39.852 million. Since Rodgers’ 2021 contract year would become his 2022 contract year with tolling, his 2022 cap number would be $30.402 million. Green Bay would pick up an additional $9.45 million of 2022 cap space this way. Green Bay’s combined cap swing through tolling would be $39.852 million. Although Rodgers would have already received payment of the $6.8 million roster bonus and it wouldn’t be part of the 2022 cap number, the Packers would have recovery rights with a contract breach occurring next year.”
As the offseason drags on, it doesn’t appear that Rodgers’ stance is likely to change. I truly don’t see Rodgers playing another down for the Packers barring any organizational changes. Whether he sits out or forces a trade, I just think that we’ve seen the last of Rodgers in Green Bay.
Much like Brett Favre, I see Rodgers playing out the last few years of his career in another uniform.
4. Determining which NFL team passed on Tom Brady in free agency 🏈
What team in their right mind would pass on the chance to sign Tom Brady? Well, there was definitely one team that drew the ire of the G.O.A.T. In a recent appearance on HBO’s “The Shop,” Brady claimed that one team wasn’t interested when he was finalizing his decision last offseason and had a less-than-stellar option at quarterback at the time.
“One of the teams, they weren’t interested at the very end,” Brady said. “I was thinking, you’re sticking with that [expletive]?”
Now, Brady is probably never going to reveal who this mystery team was, but trying to make an educated guess is definitely a fun exercise. In fact, CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora took a shot at dissecting the entire league on a division-by-division basis in an effort to come up with some teams that may have passed on Brady.
Here are a few teams that do fit the criteria:
- Miami Dolphins: “For me, any potential marriage ended when Miami chose Chan Gailey to run the offense (not a fit with Brady, and, well, he was gone in a year anyway). The Dolphins had not drafted Tua yet. You could connect a lot of dots and talk yourself into it making sense. Two games a year against Belichick would have been wild.”
- New Orleans Saints: “I wouldn’t downplay the Saints’ odds here at all. Drew Brees was done and Brady and Sean Payton would have been an amazing combination and they were loaded and in win-now mode. Cutting the cord with Brees would be tricky, but Brady just went through a messy divorce himself so I don’t think that would have held him back here.”
- Las Vegas Raiders: “And the Raiders obviously are being looked at with much scrutiny here, too. Is Derek Carr that guy? Iconic franchise in an international destination opening an amazing new stadium? Hmm.”
I personally think that the Raiders make the most sense and they definitely could’ve used Brady. I obviously don’t think that the Raiders would’ve won the Super Bowl if Brady had signed with the franchise, but they aren’t competing against Patrick Mahomes and now Justin Herbert with Derek Carr. The Raiders were entering their first season in Las Vegas and what better face of the franchise would there have been than Brady?
📝 Odds & Ends
📺 What to watch tonight
⚾ Dodgers vs. Nationals, 7:05 p.m. I LAD -135 I TV: MLB.TV
⚾ Mets vs. Braves, 7:20 p.m. I ATL +150 I TV: MLB.TV
🏀 Bucks vs. Hawks, 8:30 p.m. I ATL +110 I TV: TNT
🥇 Best thing I saw on the internet
The Olympics are slated to begin later this month and there are sure to be plenty of heartwarming stories. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better one than that of sprinters Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall. The couple is dating and now both are going to Tokyo as they each qualified for the 2020 Olympics. This is relationship goals at the absolute highest level.