NFL teams look to improve rosters through free agency

By Dan Thompson ’18

Every season, NFL teams make a choice. They either look to build on their success from the previous season, or they look to improve their roster after a disappointing year. This can either be done through the draft or free agency. This years free agency class has been one of the best in recent past with many new teams getting and the mix and signing big time NFL names.

One of the most interesting team this offseason has been the Cleveland Browns. The Browns had the NFL’s worst record last year, going 0-16 and joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to go winless in a season. They have the first overall pick and the fourth but this didn’t make them shy away from free agency.

On March 10, the Browns went out and picked up three players in a single day. They signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor who ended the longest playoff drought in all sports for the Bills, Jarvis Landry a perennial pro-bowl wide receiver, and Damarious Randall a young cornerback with athletic potential and experience with a winning team in the Packers. This talent coupled with their first and fourth picks in the draft has led to some serious talk about improvement for the Browns.

“Jarvis Landry is one of the best wide receivers in the league, I think he can definitely help the Browns improve their record next season,” Alex Settos ’18 said.

A team with a very different situation in this years free agency mix was the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams were a playoff team last year going 11-5. They had the NFL’s best offense led by do it all running back Todd Gurley and young talented quarterback Jared Goff. Having a young team, the rams had plenty of cap space to go out and get players.

So far, the Rams have signed one of the best young corners in the NFL in Marcus Peters, one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh, and most recently speedy receiver Brandin Cooks from the New England Patriots. With these additions, some are saying that the Rams are now the best team in the NFL.

“The Rams didn’t lose any players from last season, all they did was add to an already great roster. I don’t see how they are not the best team in the NFL next season,” Zack Bloom ’18 said.

Not every team has the money to go out and get three major talents like the Browns and Rams did but there were still plenty of other big names to switch jerseys next season. To name a few, The Vikings signed former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Vikings former quarterback Case Keenum went to the Broncos, and former Jaguars wide receiver was sent to the Bears.

While it has never been proven that free agency is the best way to build a team, it is fun for the fans to their favorite players on new teams with new careers ahead of them.

“This has been one of the best offseasons ever. I can’t wait to see what all these players do on their new teams next season,” Stephen Niver ’18 said.

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NBA playoff preview

By Teddy Dienst ’20

The National Basketball Association playoffs tipped off on Saturday, April 14. As The best eight teams in the eastern conference and the best eight teams from the western conference compete in a seven game series throughout the postseason. Until one east and one west team remain and battle it out in the finals seeking the Larry O’Brien trophy.  

East:

The Toronto Raptors (1 seed) v.s Washington Wizards (8 seed)

The Toronto Raptors clinched the one seed in the east by ending the season with 59 wins and 23 losses. They are matched up against the eighth seed Washington Wizards and currently lead the series 1-0.  The Raptors are led by all-star shooting guard Demar Derozan and and all-star point guard Kyle Lowry. The Wizards are led by point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal. It would definitely surprise me if the Raptors did not come out on top in this series because they have a much better overall team with a lot of depth on their roster. Whereas the Wizards really only have two or three players that can get the scoring job done.

Prediction: Raptors win 4-0

Boston Celtics (2 seed) v.s Milwaukee Bucks (7 seed)  

The 55-27  Celtics finished the season strong clinching the number two seed in the east. They are currently beating the Milwaukee Bucks 1-0 after an overtime thriller. Although the Celtics are up by one game in the series  it would not be a shock to me if the Bucks ended up winning. Especially with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way. And the Celtics having to deal with the loss to star point guard Kyrie Irving due to knee surgery.  I predict the Bucks win the series 4-3

Philadelphia 76ers (3 seed) v.s Miami Heat (6 seed)

A good turnaround for the 76ers after having one of the league’s worst records last year. This years 52-30 team is led by the young core of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz. The series is currently tied 1-1 after Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade scored 28 points in a victory. Even though the 76ers are a less experienced playoff team, it would be hard seeing them lose to the Heat.

Prediction: 76ers win the series 4-2.

Cleveland Cavaliers (4 seed) v.s Indiana Pacers (5 seed)

The Cavaliers struggled a little bit this year compared to in the past. Led by Lebron James, Cleveland looks to go back to the finals for a fourth year in a row. The Pacers are leading the series 1-0 under shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Even though the Cavs’ struggles are apparent I just can not see the Pacers pulling it off and winning the series.

Prediction Cavs win 4-1  

 

West:

Houston Rockets (1 seed) v.s Minnesota Timberwolves (8 seed)

The Houston Rockets had an impressive season ending 65-17 clinching the number one seed in the West. This team is led by the 2018 MVP favorite James Harden who ended the regular season averaging 31 points per game. Even though the Timberwolves have a strong young core they are just no match for the fire power that Houston possess.

Prediction: Rockets win 4-0

Golden State Warriors (2 seed)

It is surprising that this superteam is not the one seed. After winning two out of the three last championships they look to go back for the fourth time in a row. This roster consists of four all stars: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Spurs are a very well coached team under coach Gregg Popovich, however, with the absence on Kawhi Leonard who suffered a quad injury, there is just no way the Spurs can get it done against the defending champs.

Prediction Warriors win 4-0

Portland Trail Blazers (3 seed) vs New Orleans Pelicans

Portland is led by the dynamic backcourt of point guard Damian Lillard and shooting guard CJ Mccollum. They are down 1-0 against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are a very good team and I would predict them going very far in the playoffs if center Demarcus Cousins never tore his achilles. Without Cousins I just cannot see Anthony Davis carrying this Pelicans team to a victory    

Prediction:  Blazers win 4-2

Oklahoma City Thunder (4 seed) v.s Utah Jazz (5 seed)

This is going to be a very interesting series to follow, both teams are very talented and ended the season strong. OKC is currently up 1-0 led by reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. If the Jazz can prevent these players from having huge games I think they have a chance in the series, otherwise there is no chance they come out on top.

Prediction: Thunder win 4-1

This is a preview of the NBA playoffs with my predictions of the first round winners. The two teams I see advancing and seeing each other in the finals are the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Houston Rockets. Even though it is tough going against Lebron I cannot see the Rockets losing under the phenomenal play James Harden is producing.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic On The LA Galaxy Debut

By Ryan Burg ’18

A couple of months ago, the Sweden soccer legend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, got out of Europe to play in the Major League of Soccer. Zlatan was a very impressive player in his prime, scoring  450 goals total in his whole career for his country and his clubs.

Now Zlatan is 38 years old, which is pretty old for a soccer player, but he still loves the game. He left Manchester United because he wanted to sign with the MLS team the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Throughout his career, Ibrahimović has won 11 league titles in four separate countries while representing Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Ajax Amsterdam, AC Milan and Inter Milan in addition to leading his clubs to numerous other major championships that the LA Galaxy website provided was, “the UEFA Europa League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Italian Super Cup (3x), French League Cup (3x), French Super Cup (3x), a Dutch Super Cup and Dutch Cup, among others. Overall, Ibrahimović has scored 421 goals for club, 62 goals for the Sweden National Team and tallied 159 assists in 730 club games.”

Zlatan was an immediate impact to the LA Galaxy in his debut this last Saturday. The Galaxy was playing their rivals LAFC. Zlatan was a reserve for the game because of his new arrival to the club and hasn’t even played in a game in their jersey yet. Zlatan entered the match in the 71st minute with also a chant of “we want Zlatan” from the crowd. The game was 3-2 with the Galaxy losing.

In the 76th minute of the match Zlatan had a 38 yard goal over the goalkeepers head to tie the game up 3-3.

In the extra time of the match that the ref granted both teams with, Zlatan headed a cross from Ashley Cole to get the game winning goal.

The Galaxy became just the second team in MLS history to come back from a three-goal deficit to win in regulation.

“We were losing 3-0. We made simple mistakes in the first half, not really organized,” Ibrahimovic told the Galaxy’s website. “But after we scored the first one we kept pushing, got the second when I came in, I scored the third and the fourth. So thanks for my teammates — they make it easy not easy for me, but they make it more easy.”

Zlatan is one of the more advanced and more technical players out on the pitch in the MLS and it showed during the game. Most of the fans and the organization are excited for what else Zlatan has to offer.

Brooklyn Nets Offseason Gameplan

By Shane Rabacs ’18

The Brooklyn Nets missed the playoffs again. Currently holding a 25-53 record, an improvement over last year’s 20 win season, here’s what Sean Marks and company must do to be more competitive next year.

 

  1. Hit on another draft pick

In Marks’ first two drafts, the Nets drafted two guys that look like they’ll be in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future. Caris Levert (pick 20, 2016) and Jarrett Allen (pick 22, 2017) have made a immediate impact. With another low pick this year, it is imperative to make sure that whoever they take will turn out well.

    2. Figure out the guard situation

Brooklyn has a lot of guards. With Jeremy Lin returning next year, there will be eight guards competing for four or five rotation spots. Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson will need to figure out 1) who the guys of the future are and 2) what to do with the others.

    3. Bolster the big depth

The main problem for Brooklyn this year was the play from the bigs. There were too many games where an opposing big man would have a career night or where the Nets would be outrebounded and be bullied inside. Jarrett Allen has been a nice story, but Brooklyn needs more guys like that if they want to take another step next year. A guy I would look out for via free agency is Julius Randle. He would fit the system very well and could develop along former Laker teammate D’Angelo Russell.

   4. Continue to develop young talent.

Kenny Atkinson came into the Nets head coaching job with the reputation that he was a great assistant to develop the young guys. Over his first two years with Brooklyn, his young talent has continued to grow and improve. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s growth as been amazing. The rise of Spencer Dinwiddie (an article I wrote by the way, read it) is a testament to the Nets staff. Caris Levert and Jarrett Allen are here to stay. The next project, D’Angelo Russell. He was hurt for a good chunk of year but the performance team has enough film on him to know what he needs to improve on. A lot hinges on if he will improve. Of course they’ll focus on everyone else on the roster, but maybe they’ll put a little extra emphasis on Russell.

Japan’s Babe Ruth Looks To Cause Damage In the MLB

By Ben Klau ’18

As the MLB season gets underway, a star could be born. Shohei Ohtani, the newest member of the Los Angeles Angels, made a big splash by going three of four on Apr. 3rd against the Cleveland Indians. Headlines read “Real or Not? Dial Ohtani-mania up a notch after his first home run” the day after on ESPN. After a more than rocky start to spring training there had been question if the two way player was going to be able to make it. Having the ability to pitch well is very hard, but being able to hit well on top of pitching is remarkable. According to Fox Sports, Ohtani hit just 12.5 percent of the pitches thrown his way.

Shohei Otani was born in Oshu, Japan in 1994 making him a very young player in the MLB. While in Japan, Ohtani was apart of a team called Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. The Fighters play in the Nippon Professional Baseball. According to Big Reads, this league is “Japan’s top league and the second highest level of competition in the world after the MLB.” Ohtani played in the Nippon league from 2013-2016. During his time in the league he was able to hit 40 home runs and hit 135 RBIs. Not only was he Japan’s best hitter he was also Japan’s best pitcher featuring high 90s fastballs among other pitches. It was no surprise that Ohtani would be making a switch to the MLB. “I kind of heard of him before he came to America as a very good two way player”, Andrew Moy ’19 said.

Ohtani made his debut in the MLB on March 29, 2018 against the Oakland Athletics in what was a shaky pitching performance to start his MLB career. In his second game he proved to all the doubters that he could be a dominant batter in the league. He was able to notch a home run and three RBIs.

His ability to be able to be a consistent batter along with being a dominant pitcher has led for him to be called a modern day Babe Ruth. Buster Olney of ESPN writes “even Babe Ruth really couldn’t maintain what the Babe Ruth of Japan, Shohei Ohtani, will attempt for some major league team in the seasons ahead — to serve regularly as both a position player and pitcher.”

It is unheard of a player to be able to pitch and hit very well in today’s MLB. “I think it’ll be tough for him to be successful both ways. I think it’s more likely for him to find success as a pitcher rather than hitter,” Brian Rabacs ’20 said.

One thing is for sure, Ohtani is enjoying every minute of playing in the MLB. He capped off his batting debut with a curtain call. According to the NY Post,  “players broke character and jumped around Ohtani to celebrate, Mike Trout pointed to the field and instructed Ohtani to take a curtain call.”

2018 American League Preview

By Alex Massoud ’20

The 2017-2018 MLB offseason has been one of the most strange offseasons in recent memory. Struggling teams around the league have become contenders, while other teams have begun getting ready for a rebuilding period.

The offseason began with the sweepstakes for Shohei Ohtani, a 23-year old Japanese rookie who is expected to be both a pitcher and a hitter. Despite becoming a superstar with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, he decided to leave to compete in the MLB. There were rumors he would sign with the New York Yankees, but Ohtani shocked the baseball world and signed with the Los Angeles Angels, instantly improving a team who many have said are “wasting” two time MVP Mike Trout’s prime.

MLB free agency stretched into the beginning of spring training, and marquee names such as J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer remained off of teams until just a few weeks ago.

A lack of free agent signings stormed the league. A pair of Royals, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, remained unsigned into March. Carlos Gonzalez continues that list of unsigned stars, unwilling to convince teams to pay up for their services.

Along with the Yankees and Angels, the American League possesses the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, teams with beyond real pitching staffs. Lastly, the Houston Astros, the reigning World Series champions, got perhaps even better. Justin Verlander, Chris Mccullers and Dallas Keuchel headline the Astros rotation, while superstars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are complimented by the likes of Alex Bregman and George Springer.

However, as loaded as the elites of the American league are, there are teams that seem to be close to sinking into baseball irrelevancy.

The Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are three teams with the lowest playoff chances in the AL. The Rays traded away longtime leader Evan Longoria, and ace Alex Cobb left Tampa for Baltimore this offseason, citing the Orioles future as a key reason he left.

Saying this, baseball remains the most unpredictable of the United States’ four major sports, and this season poses to be a special and exciting year for the American League.