We are excited to watch the beginning of the PGA Tour’s “Florida swing” this week with the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. While a number of top American players are skipping the Honda this year, (schedules are tight given the Genesis Invitational from beloved Riviera and the WGC Mexico preceding the Honda and Arnold Palmer and The Players immediately following. the Honda), International stars Tommy Fleetwood; Justin Rose; Louis Oosthuizen; and Shane Lowery are all in the field. Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler are the top ranked Americans. The controversial Patrick Reed beat a buffed up Bryson De Chambeau by one last week in Mexico, (Bryson had three 3 putts in his final round). Highly touted rookie Viktor Hovland, (low amateur in last years Masters), won the Puerto Rico Open by one shot over Josh Teater. Hovland joins Matthew Wolf and Colin Mirakawa as rookie winners this season. As we have discussed in past blogs, these three, who are all about Brian’s age, could become the latest “new faces of golf.” We wonder what impact the awful coronavirus tragedy will have on top international players this year. The European Tour has already postponed the Maybank from Malaysia and the Volvo China (both had been slated for April.) The LPGA has postponed the Blue Bay and canceled the LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women’s World Championship from our beloved Singapore.
National Basketball Association
We will discuss this in more detail on our podcast tomorrow but it appears the Eastern Conference race is beginning to become clear. The Bucks, whose win Tuesday night in Toronto, was an important tone setter are 50-8 and a full eight games ahead of the Raptors. The Raptors and Celtics look to be in a dogfight for the important 2 seed (big gap in talent between the 6 and 7 seeds this year.) No team seems to want to take hold of the #4 seed and its first round home playoff series. The Heat and Pacers are both 3-7 in their last 10. The Pacers are struggling to integrate Victor Oladipo while the Heat lost last night at home (with Jimmy Butler) to the T Wolves who were playing without their best player-KAT. Philly is 5-5 and has lost Simmons (nerve impingement in back) and Embiid (shoulder injury) for an unclear # of games. The storyline in the West is the recent poor play of the Utah Jazz. They are currently tied with OKC for 5th in the West, only .5 games ahead of 7th seeded Dallas. Utah seems to be struggling with who to remove from the starting lineup. They know they need to add ace defender Royce O’Neal but who goes o the bench-Joe Ingles or Mike Conley, their highest paid player? We’ve talked at length about the exciting race for the 8 seed in the West. We have focused on current 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies (have lost 4 in a row and is playing without Jaren Jackson, Brandon Clarke, Justice Winslow and local guy Grayson Allen), the Portland Trailblazers and the New Orleans Pelicans. Is it time to give some love to the Sacramento Kings, 7-3 in last 10. The Kings moved Buddy Hield to 6th man role and his shooting has improved. What will the Kings look like when oft injured Marvin Bagley finally returns from injury? I believe that the 8 seed in the west is going to be the Portland Trailblazers because I don’t believe that the Pelicans are ready yet and a fully healthy Portland team (Nurkic and Collins returning soon), could give the 1 seed Lakers some real problems in the first round.
National Hockey League
The NHL trade deadline is over and a lot of big trades have happened like Patrick Marleau, (former Shark-our favorite team), to the Penguins. Ilya Kovalchuk went to the Capitals from the Canadiens and a number of other deals. I believe that with the Kovalchuk deal the Capitals are in a great position to over take the Bruins and go to the Stanley Cup final out of the East. The West is very tough to predict with teams like: The defending champion Blues; The Canucks with the addition of Tyler Toffoli; The Oliers who have arguably the best player in the sport in Conner Mcdavid; the Vegas Golden Knights (Cup finalists two years ago) and the Avalanche who have a great player in Nathan Mackinnon (leads in goals and assist). As people like Barry Melrose say, home ice advantage means nothing and that is absolutely true- I have seen an 8 seed win the Stanley Cup (LA Kings in 2012). If I have to pick a winner of the Stanley cup it would still be the Boston Bruins because they have the best goalie in the NHL (Tuuka Raask) and guys like David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand leading the offense and Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug leading the defense.