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.
LeBron James isn’t going to stick to sports.
The way the president isn’t sticking to politics.
Donald Trump pulled his White House invitation to the Warriors Saturday after Stephen Curry said he would vote not to go to make.a statement.
LeBron James came to Curry and the Warriors defense on Twitter.
LeBron endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the last election.
Chris Paul also took a shot at the president.
LeBron and CP3 have been more outspoken on social and political issues in recent years, which has worked for them in an era where fans want players to be authentic and themselves.
Trump on Friday night at a rally in Alabama slammed the NFL for its increased focus on concussions saying it was ruining the game, and said regarding national anthem protests in the league:
“We respect our flag. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a b—h off the field, right now, out? He’s fired.”
This may resonate with some NFL fans, but LeBron will resonate more with NBA fan base, which is younger, more urban, and much more multicultural. The NBA fan base leans left of the NFLs, plus is far more international (where Trump bashing plays well).
Saturday morning, after being told by the NBA the Warriors were going to vote on whether to come to the White House, Trump pulled his invitation.
Now we know how LeBron and CP3 feel about that.
As tends to happen with presidential decrees in this administration, the announcement came via Twitter — the Golden State Warriors are no longer invited to the White House.
Curry had been clear Friday at Warriors’ media day that he planned to vote no when the Warriors discussed visiting the White House.
“We have an opportunity to send a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to appreciate what it means to be American, and stand for something.”
Curry, along with coach Steve Kerr and other members of the Warriors organization had been openly critical of President Donald Trump and his policies. They were expected on Saturday to vote to decline the invitation. The NBA had let the White House know what was coming.
Trump decided to be proactive.
The tradition of championship teams going to the White House for a PR photo-op — it is nothing more than that — goes back many administrations. Some sports figures have skipped the White House event in the past when Barack Obama was president (even if Tom Brady wants to deny that’s why he bailed), but teams have not skipped it. Of course, now the Warriors aren’t skipping it, they are not invited.
There is a physical price for the historic, MVP season Russell Westbrook had last go around.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder open training camp next week, Westbrook will be sidelined for a couple of days to rest his knee after getting a platelet-rich plasma therapy injection, Thunder GM Sam Presti told the media (as reported by Royce Young of ESPN).
PRP therapy was made popular in the NBA by Kobe Bryant and now a number of players have used the treatment. It involves the player giving some blood, which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets, which are then injected back into the area where the person wants to promote healing.
Westbrook is the heart and soul of the Thunder, averaging a triple-double last season with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. With the off-season addition of Paul George, the Thunder are a dangerous team in the West, one that will have a very strong defense and a couple of elite scorers now.
Westbrook also has a max contract extension sitting in front of him from the Thunder, as he has since July 1, which he has yet to sign. That should make Thunder fans a little nervous. George is in the last year of his contract, and there have been not-so-subtle hints out of his camp he is headed to the Lakers next summer. If this year goes well in Oklahoma City — such as the Thunder reaching the Conference Finals — maybe George reconsiders, and with that Westbrook would stay (he has professed and shown loyalty to the city so far). Maybe they stay anyway. However, both men seem to be using the LeBron James playbook of keeping all their options open.
If he could choose his destination, Carmelo Anthony would be playing this coming season alongside Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston. However, since that seems dead, Anthony has told the Knicks he also would waive his no-trade clause for Cleveland or Oklahoma City.
What about Portland, a team hot on the rumor mill?
Anthony has yet to tell the Knicks he would waive his no-trade to head to the Pacific Northwest, but he’s seriously considering adding the Blazers to the list, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.
The source told The Post that Anthony is heavily considering putting the Trail Blazers on his list as well.
Portland’s stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been very public in their recruitment of Anthony. That seems to be having an effect.
Portland has the pieces to get a trade done, much more so than the Thunder or Cavaliers. The Knicks would certainly ask the Blazers for the just drafted Zach Collins, and Evan Turner with his $17 million salary would be part of the deal to match up the numbers, then after that there would be other players and picks needed to round everything out. However, there are multiple ways to get that deal done.
Anthony just added Cleveland and Oklahoma City to his list of acceptable trade destinations, he likely lets Cleveland negotiate with them for a while to see if a trade can be reached. However, if no deal is reached — and it will not be easy to find a trade the Knicks like with those rosters, plus both of those teams are already paying the luxury tax so there are financial considerations — then the Trail Blazers could be in luck.