By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and while the weekend between the conference championships and the Super Bowl is usually a dead zone for NFL news, the weekend gifted football fans with an unexpected treat: a blockbuster trade. The Detroit Lions shipped veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, receiving a pair of first-round picks, a 2021 third-round selection, and quarterback Jared Goff in return. Dreadful surroundings in Detroit have long underserved Stafford. Now, with the Rams, he will look to spearhead a potentially devastating offense that will pair with L.A.’s dominant defense to make the franchise a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season.
As for the Lions, the package received may have included Stafford’s direct replacement in Goff, but a big reason for the wealth of draft pick riches heading to Detroit is Goff’s absurd contract. Despite failing to rank even more the top half of starting quarterbacks during his tenure with L.A., the Rams gifted Goff a laughable 4-year deal worth $134 million. On its own, that contract paired with Goff’s production is untradeable, hence L.A. including three prime draft picks in the exchange. Goff will look to revive his career with the Lions, though the team’s lack of weapons in the passing game will not make that an easy task. On the plus side for Detroit, the added draft picks will aid in the franchise’s overdue rebuild.
On Saturday night, the Portland Trail Blazers trailed the Chicago Bulls by five points with less than 12 seconds on the clock. Damian Lillard wasn’t content to settle for the defeat, instead hitting a pair of three-points, including one at the buzzer, to secure the improbable victory for the Blazers. Lillard finished the game with 44 points on 26 shots to go with nine dimes and five boards. Portland has struggled for wins with C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic on the sidelines. Still, Lillard continues to operate as a one-man offense, making the Blazers capable of beating any team on a given night. Portland will be in action tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Milwaukee is coming off an upset loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Leading the charge for the Hornets was rookie LaMelo Ball, who scored 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Ball continues to shine as a playmaker, and while it’s traditionally true that point guards take time to adjust to the NBA’s speed, that has not been the case here. The Hornets continue to be among the most entertaining teams to watch in the NBA, and with Ball seemingly improving on a nightly basis, that isn’t going to change any time soon. The Hornets will travel to Miami to face the Heat tonight.
Despite MVP-level play from Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks are in a tailspin. On Saturday night, Dallas dropped a fifth straight game, with few contests even being competitive. Doncic scored 29 in the team’s most recent loss to the Suns, and the Mavericks will again face Phoenix tonight. The supporting cast around Doncic has been a massive disappointment this season. With Kristaps Porzingis still rounding into form following offseason surgery, Dallas is in danger of ceding too much ground in the crowded Western Conference playoff race. Entering tonight’s game, Dallas owns the third-worst record in the conference.
Brooklyn’s miserable defense was on full display against the Wizards last night, and for all the offensive fireworks Kevin Durant and company are capable of, there is work to be done on the other end of the court. The Nets owned a five-point lead in the closing seconds yet still managed to lose in regulation following a Bradley Beal three-pointer, steal on the inbound pass, and a dagger from behind the arc from Russell Westbrook. Somehow, the final score of the game ended up being 147-to-146. Washington’s struggles on the defensive end are well known and fit the team outside of the playoff picture. For Brooklyn, a team with championship pedigree and aspirations, it is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.