Featured, Sports

Sports Corner

By: Rob Bishop

Back again, and with baseball’s opening day less than a month away, there is finally news surrounding developments other than the Houston Astros situation. At the forefront is a massive contract extension agreement reached between Milwaukee and superstar outfielder Christian Yelich. Yelich won the 2018 MVP, finished second in voting in 2019, and has more than earned the nine-year deal worth approximately $215 million sum heading his way from the Brewers. Losing arguably baseball’s best catcher Yasmani Grandal during free agency hurts Milwaukee’s short-term potential, but using the money to lock up Yelich for the long-term is an excellent reallocation of funds.

Already a tumultuous off-season that has included the firing of manager Alex Cora due to his involvement in the aforementioned Houston sign-stealing scandal and the jettisoning of superstar outfielder Mookie Betts in a cost-saving move, Boston’s outlook to another turn for the worst. Assumed ace left-hander Chris Sale, who was shut down last August due to elbow soreness, has renewed pain in his pitching elbow. Given the strength of the American League East, the Red Sox will be contenders this season in only a best-case scenario. Having Sale already struggling to take the mound is definitely far removed from ideal.

Don’t look now, but the Indiana Pacers have won four straight games to improve to 37-24, right on the heels of the Heat for the coveted four-seed in the East. Most impressive for the Pacers is that the run is coming without much production from Victor Oladipo, who remains rusty following a full calendar year on the sidelines. Indiana’s season has been boosted by the emergence of T.J. Warren as an above-average wing, Malcolm Brogdon’s continued growth as a play-maker, and big man Domantas Sabonis’s evolution into an All Star. Indiana’s hope—add a full-strength, All-NBA level Oladipo to that mix—and the Pacers are a legitimate threat in the playoffs.

Indiana’s winning streak will be on the line tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team looking to avoid a losing streak following a dismal showing on Monday night. The Bucks were throttled by the Heat in Miami, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combining to score 25 points on 34 shots. It was a tough loss that will hurt the team’s quest for 70+ wins on the season, but it does nothing to detract from Milwaukee’s ultimate ceiling: a championship. Tonight’s showdown against the Pacers is an exciting, must-watch match-up that serves as a potential preview for the second round of the postseason.

Chicago’s Otto Porter returned from injury on Monday night, shining in Chicago’s narrow win over the Mavericks. Porter scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, thriving as a focal point of Chicago’s offense with both Zach LaVine and Lauri Markannen out due to injury. It’s been a lost season for Porter due to injury, but he remains a talented and valuable—though overpaid—NBA contributor. Now that he is back in action, it’ll be interesting to watch Porter alongside Zach LaVine. The duo gelling on offense, and Porter’s presence as a perimeter defender lifting up LaVIne’s weakness, is paramount to Chicago’s hope of rejoining the Eastern Conference contenders next season.

In a nationally-televised game, the Brooklyn Nets managed to shock the Boston Celtics by erasing a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. Leading the charge for Brooklyn was Caris LaVert, who finished the game with a career-best 51 points, though his late-game heroics are the story here. Lavert scored a whopping 26 of his points during Brooklyn’s fourth quarter charge, including knocking down three free throws with less than a second on the clock to force overtime, and as an encore posted 11 points in OT to secure the improbable victory. Every win is important for the Nets as the franchise looks to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff fold.