I love the Kentucky Derby.
I have been lucky enough to attend a few times and it is a slice of Americana — from the frat party on the infield to the celebrities on up in the boxes to drunk guys in seersucker suits, what is not to love? The whole city of Louisville is alive for the weekend. I miss it. With young kids in tow we haven’t been in years, but my wife and I throw a big Derby party every year complete with plenty of ladies in hats, smoked ribs, good beer and mint juleps.
You can watch the race on NBC today or you can live stream it right here on NBCSports.com.
And in a tradition that dates back to my blog before this one, on Derby day I make my picks for the race. So here we go (I am assuming a dry, fast track).
WIN: Verrazano. He’s undefeated — 4-for-4 with those wins by a combined 28 lengths. He’s had great Beyers (not in the Wood, though he still won). Yes, he was unraced as a two year old but in a “what have you done for me lately” world he’s been impressive. Also, in what should be a slow pace (for the Derby) I like stalkers and he is one of those.
PLACE: Itsmyluckyday. He had an eight-week layoff, came out and blew a lead (to Orb) in the Florid Derby, but I think the Derby becomes his second race back bounce where he puts together a good run. We know he can flat out run from past races like the Holy Bull. Also, another stalker who should be just off the pace and able to make a move.
SHOW: Goldencents. Unless some horse just decides to break form and put up blistering early fractions, there’s a good chance the winner of the Santa Anita Derby has the lead as they head for home — and he’s capable of holding off the charge that will come. He’s had good outings every race he’s been in. Plus, I just like trainer Doug O’Neill.
The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.
Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.
Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.