Jalen Hurts Should Transfer to Kentucky

Jalen Hurts is a very good college football quarterback. Since becoming the starting quarterback at the University of Alabama, Hurts has won and won often. When you’re the starting quarterback at Alabama, that’s the expectation -- to win a lot of games and a lot of national championships. When you commit to be the quarterback for Nick Saban’s team in Tuscaloosa you know what you’re getting into. You’re going into a situation where you know you’re going to win a lot of football games, you know you’re never going to be the center of attention because the team has five-star guys everywhere, and you know that you’re job is never really secure even if you are 25-2 as the starter for the Crimson Tide.

It’s not fair, but fans of Alabama will never forget Tua Tagovailoa flipped the script for the Crimson Tide in the National Championship game and stepped on the Georgia Bulldogs’ face with a hobnail boot. Hurts struggled and the offense was stagnant, so Saban and his thirty-seven offensive analysts adjusted. They gave Tagovailoa the keys and even Dom Toretto was amazed at what followed. Not only did Tagovailoa produce the most memorable moment for the Crimson Tide, sports analysts immediately started putting him in the Heisman conversation for the 2018-19 college football season. People are excited to watch an Alabama quarterback for the first time in what feels like forever. Tagovailoa is no Greg McElroy, A.J. McCarron, Blake Sims, John Parker Wilson, Brodie Croyle, even Hurts, he’s something else entirely. Saban finally has a quarterback that will make their 56-0 blowouts against the Vanderbilts of the world must-see television because this kid is a left-handed, flame-throwing assassin and Alabama never plays this kind of quarterback.

So where does that leave Hurts? What can he do? Is there a chance he could really win the quarterback job away from Tagovailoa this summer? Is there really a chance that fans won’t be pushing for Tua Time every time Hurts makes a mistake? Where is the fun in that? Fair or not, it’s best for Jalen Hurts and Alabama to break up, amicably. That means, of course, Saban allowing his 25-2 starter to transfer anywhere he wants. (Resist your dick-ish instincts, Saban. Don’t Maurice Smith the kid.)

Hurts should have options -- he could join up with Jimbo Fisher in College Station, he could join up with Auburn to replace Jarrett Stidham after he enters the NFL Draft after this season (this will never ever happen, I know, but I can dream, right?), he could even join up with the Florida Gators and Dan Mulllen and instantly become the best quarterback they’ve had since -- checks notes, oh dear God -- Tim Tebow was in Gainesville.

Or he could go to Kentucky.

I’ll give you a few minutes to regain your composure, and then I’d like for you to allow me to explain why Jalen Hurts transferring to Mark Stoops’ team would actually be a really cool development.

College football, especially the SEC, needs more of these kinds of transfers. It’s frustrating to see Jake Fromm and Justin Fields on the same team, it’s frustrating to see Kyle Shurmur play quarterback, it’s frustrating to see Luke Del Rio start for the Florida Gators, it’s frustrating to see so much talent in Baton Rouge while also remembering Danny Freaking Etling is under-center, and it’s frustrating, in general, to watch the South Carolina Gamecocks try and do that whole offense thing. If Fields can’t beat out Fromm this summer, I’d love to see him transfer to LSU. If Matt Corral doesn’t win the Rebels’ starting QB job, let’s put him in a Commodore uniform next year. We watch sports to be entertained, and LSU offenses aren’t entertaining anyone.

What helps is that the quarterback situation at Kentucky is murky. What doesn’t help is their offensive philosophy under Eddie Gran -- a Jim Cheney disciple -- is more pro-style than anything else. At Alabama, we saw the difference between Hurts in Lane Kiffin’s scheme versus Brian Daboll’s, where he thrived with the former and survived with the latter. Still, Fields, a five-star, dual-threat quarterback is in Athens, so he obviously thinks he can make it work or he’d be at Ohio State or Texas or Florida State instead. Hurts and Gran wouldn’t look the best, but they would win games.

It’s taken a bit, but Stoops is winning in Lexington. In the last two seasons, the team has finished 7-6, which to most SEC schools would be considered a down year, but not for basketball school’s like Kentucky. At Alabama, Hurts is just another guy. At Kentucky, Hurts would be The Guy. As fans, we remember good quarterbacks at traditionally bad schools. Everyone remembers Jared Lorenzen and Tim Couch; nobody remembers Blake Sims or Greg McElroy. Everybody remembers Jay Cutler at Vanderbilt and Chase Daniel at Missouri; nobody remembers Jordan Jefferson at LSU or Casey Clausen at Tennessee. When a traditionally bad school has a good, exciting quarterback you’re happy for them. You think, “This is a nice thing,” or “Good for them,” or even “How the hell did this happen?”

Hurts would have nothing to prove because already proved himself by transferring to Kentucky. If he went 8-4 in Year 1 and third in the SEC East, fans are pumped. The expectation is not winning National Championships, it’s keep us competitive and fun against our rivals and other good programs. Hurts would do that. He would do that because the Wildcats are recruiting well under Saban, they know how to put together an effective run game, and did I mention they out-recruited Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Colorado and Stanford this year?

Why not Kentucky? Why not transfer to a school, play for a few seasons, win a lot of games for a program that does have the history of winning a lot of games, and be remembered by college football fans years after you’ve moved on to bigger and better things? Why not make Kentucky Football relevant again for a few seasons? Why not go somewhere where you don’t have to worry about the guy behind you and you can just focus on being awesome to finish out your collegiate career?

Seriously, why not Kentucky, Jalen Hurts?

WWE With Danielle Matheson of With Spandex (Ep. 165)

Chase Thomas is joined With Spandex's Danielle Matheson to talk about the excellence of 205 Live (3:00), Lio Rush's place on the roster (15:00), the problem with long-term storytelling in the WWE (28:00), what excites them about NXT TakeOver: Chicago (35:00), Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal (40:00), the Smackdown Live women's division (49:00), the New Day (60:00), and The Miz doing too much comedy (66:00).

NBA With Scott Rafferty of The Step Back and Sporting News (Ep. 164)

Chase Thomas is joined by The Step Back and Sporting News' Scott Rafferty to talk about which Gilmore Girls character they identify most with (3:00), the Detroit Pistons hiring Dwane Casey to replace Stan Van Gundy (5:00), what he can do with this expensive roster (15:00), why Andre Drummond should be the one moved in Detroit (20:00), Thad Young potentially declining his player option for the Indiana Pacers (30:00), a potential Paul George return (33:00), other potential free-agent options for Indiana (40:00), and why George would fit on the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers (48:00).

Smackdown Live: "The Miz Is Doing A Lot of Comedy"

Comedy is good.

Comedy is necessary.

Except in professional wrestling.

Whenever a wrestler goes down the comedy route in their character arc, the end result is more often a crash-and-burn situation than a “This Might Be Better Than The Rock” situation. Only a few can pull it off -- Chris Jericho, Steve Austin, Kevin Owens, R-Truth, etc. -- but when they do, it hits hard. The thing about jokes, though, is somebody usually has to be the butt of them. If a professional wrestler does comedy it’s not going to benefit somebody, whether it’s the wrestler themselves or the target of their jokes.

The New Day are funny. They’ve got great comedic timing, they appear genuine, and they know how to make the most out of the lackluster material they’re typically given. Over the last few weeks, they’ve turned their comedy up a notch, and their target, The Miz, has gotten the worst of it. An errant pancake toss is one thing, being tricked into dipping your hand into pancake mix is another, but it all adds up. For the New Day, The Miz has been the perfect foil -- the wrestler who takes himself way too seriously and really doesn’t know how to take a joke. Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods have played off that perfectly, but the trio’s gain has been The Miz’s loss.

It’s taken years for fans to finally take The Miz seriously as a top guy, with his main event match against John Cena at WrestleMania 27 no longer in the back of many fans’ minds. On Monday Night Raw, with WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar away, The Miz, with the Intercontinental title, held the show together, put on the big-time matches, put together the big-time promos, and drove home the point that this guy was clearly ready for another chance at the biggest prize on Smackdown Live -- the WWE championship.

Since moving to the blue brand, The Miz’s character has overcorrected to too much comedy. This is not a positive development. To be one of the top guy’s in this industry, consistently being the butt of joke after joke is never a good sign. There are always exceptions to this rule -- see, Daniel Bryan -- but those are rare. For every Bryan, there are far more serious competitors whether it be Lesnar, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Triple H, Randy Orton, Cena, Braun Strowman and the list goes on and on. There is nothing wrong with a joke here or there, but The Miz is past what he’s been on doing the past month on Smackdown Live. He’s in line to have the most highly anticipated match in the company against Bryan later this year, a feud predicated on The Miz’s anger and passion to be taken seriously as The Guy.

The company has to be careful with how they’re booking The Miz, especially with how much momentum he had moving from the red show to the blue one, because he’s ready for a long title run on Smackdown Live. He’s been ready. So after Money in the Bank on Sunday, The Miz needs a reset. What can’t continue to happen is the continuation of The Miz we saw Tuesday night, a character that screamed and ranted looking for a contract in briefcase that was purely for show. This is the kind of character ineptitude the audience has come to expect from the Bayley character, not The Miz, and that is not a good place to be if you’re The Miz

***

Even AJ Styles is tired of talking about Shinsuke Nakamura

Jerry “The King” Lawler returned because the WWE was back in business and fans were treated with the Lawler of old. Lawler interviewed WWE champion AJ Styles by the entrance ramp -- I assume to give fans the opportunity to see his entrance and him in-person, as the Phenomenal One hasn’t wrestled on the show since Barack Obama was in office. This segment was brief, Styles rambled about the “unwritten rules” of pro wrestling, which put a smile on Brian McCann’s face, I’m sure, and the champ just seemed ready. Ready for this feud to conclude, ready to move forward onto something else, ready to regain his lost momentum due to his ostensible injury and long-winded feud with Nakamura.

On Sunday, this feud will end, and it looks as though Styles will retain. Nakamura is still entertaining, he is still thriving as a heel, and the crowd loves his surprise low-blows, but if he loses as expected, then what? He’ll have lost WWE title feuds with both Jinder Mahal and Styles, but he’s got a cooler entrance? Maybe tonight’s match with United States champion Jeff Hardy was a test to see how these two would work in a feud. Hardy is still a star, and he makes that title matter. Nakamura and Hardy share the rockstar-like vibe, and whenever they’re on the screen, you can’t look away. You’ll never not be intrigued or entertained by their presence. Maybe that’s where they go and that would be just fine.

Paige is getting better and better as general manager

Maybe it’s just refreshing to have an on-screen authority figure deliver their lines without a hitch on a consistent basis, or maybe Paige is just a natural at this. Whatever the case may be, Paige was especially good this week, and she was all over the place. (And we never even saw her texting or calling anyone all night!) Her interactions with Asuka and Miz backstage weren’t awkward, her opening promo was fine, and the authority role suits her.

The Outsiders vs. The Establishment is brewing in the Women’s Division

Maybe the most interesting visual from this week’s episode was The IIconics, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville staring down Naomi, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Lana in the ring. The latter are either feuding (Naomi and Lana) or building to a major feud (Lynch and Flair), while the former have nothing going on. Since arriving on Smackdown Live, they haven’t found their footing, just a random match and promo here and there. There is no plan for the women on the outside, while the four women on the inside are gearing up for big things.

With Asuka feuding with WWE Smackdown Live women’s champion Carmella, Deville, Rose, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay are left picking up the scraps. Right now, they're out of focus, by interrupting the opening promo, their hope is to re-focus. When do they get their first major feud, when do they get inserted into the title picture, when do they get to the point where you notice that they weren’t on the show one week? Only time will tell.

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • “Eww, Renee, move.” - Carmella

  • Just let Rusev be a babyface. Please?

  • Over/Under on the “No More Words” Jeff Hardy theme returning in two months or less? It’s time. He’s back.

  • Big Cass is actually bad.

  • Poor Good Brothers. This was their shot, and they’ve been relegated to the kickoff show for Money in the Bank and not even feature on the go-home show.

  • Where was Andrade “Cien” Almas and is SAnitY ever debuting? The former just needs to be around consistently -- not fall into the Tye Dillinger zone.

  • “You know what, Miz-y…” - Paige

  • Shelton Benjamin had his best match since his return, and it still fell short. Watching Old Shelton is like watching Wizards Michael -- just depressing. Father Time is undefeated. (I’m going to go back and watch Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels now. Excuse me.)

  • Speaking of Benjamin, instead of giving Big Cass promos each week, give that time to somebody like Benjamin who really needs to establish who his character is right now. His match with Bryan was far too quiet.

  • Are we sure The IIconics are good?

MLB With Josh Nelson of Sox Machine (Ep. 163)

Chase Thomas is joined by Sox Machine's Josh Nelson to talk about the Chicago White Sox potentially trading James Shields and Jose Abreu (3:00), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim losing Shohei Ohtani for possibly the season (18:00), the Seattle Mariners potentially winning the second wildcard spot away from them (28:00), the sad state of the New York Mets (34:00), the New York Yankees losing Tanaka for a few weeks (43:00), and what to make of MLB having so many historically bad teams in 2018 (50:00). 

Monday Night Raw: "The Monster Wins Again"

It’s been a good month for Braun Strowman. A few weeks ago, he defeated main-eventer and former WWE Raw Universal champion Finn Balor to close an episode of Raw, then he beat another former WWE Raw Universal champion in Kevin Owens, and then, of course, Strowman eviscerated the “Glorious One” Bobby Roode midway through the previous episode of Raw. That is the kind of three-week stretch that most of the wrestlers on the roster can only dream of having. It shows a firm commitment to the show’s biggest babyface that they’re building to something, that this Braun Strowman Cannot Be Stopped storyline is going somewhere.

But that’s not the case.

Unfortunately for the Monster Among Men, he is inching closer and closer to reaching that same ceiling he hit in 2017 and that ceiling comes in two forms: Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Like 2017, Strowman looked as though he may finally be handed the rock and given the opportunity to run with it, but he lost his big-time feud with Reigns and he lost his WWE Universal title match at No Mercy against Lesnar a few months later. In 2018, his rise and subsequent fall will not be all that different. Reigns, if you were paying attention to David Otunga’s comments in the booth last week make it painfully obvious Reigns vs. Lesnar III is happening sooner rather than later. With Lesnar’s next exit from the WWE looming large over Raw, you could make the case this latest Strowman dominant streak indicates that Strowman, and not Reigns, will take Lesnar’s place as the next gigantic Raw Universal champion.

Of course, this would require Vince McMahon to let the Roman Empire fall. On this episode of Raw, Reigns mentioned in a backstage segment once again about how the Universal championship should be around his waist and that Lesnar is essentially an illegitimate champion. The Lesnar and Reigns story isn’t over, as much as we all may wish it were, and it can only end with a Reigns victory. After months of struggling since his stunning loss to Lesnar at WrestleMania 34, would it really be logical or realistic for McMahon to finally put the title on Reigns only to drop it to Strowman soon after?

No, Reigns is still the long-term guy for this company, and Lesnar dropping the belt to the Big Dog is still the long-term plan for this show. Strowman is talented and deserving and more than ready to get a Universal title run, but this month of dominance that ended with his strongest showing yet -- defeating Balor, Owens and Roode in a Fatal 4-Way match to close Monday’s show -- is once again giving fans false hope.

It’s still the Big Dog’s yard.

***

What happened in that Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey promo?

Nia Jax is not a good actor. This is not news, sure, but this was the go-home show leading up to the biggest match of her wrestling career. Her delivery was off, her character continues to be all over the place, and, man, I am really not excited for this match.

Although, Jax tapping out to a vicious Rousey armbar may indicate she may not be walking out of Money in the Bank after all.

The Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Bobby Roode segments were refreshing

One of the most frustrating things about the current WWE product is how much it feels like the show is created for the company’s YouTube page. On this episode, we were treated with the brilliant and cerebral Kevin Owens trying to work his magic backstage prior to his main event match later that night to take out Strowman prior to Money in the Bank for obvious reasons: Strowman cannot be stopped. He lost. Balor lost. Roode lost. Owens is the best kind of heel in professional wrestling because what he’s saying is both piercing always containing at least a kernel of truth. It would be foolish for Balor and Roode to not follow Owens’ lead.

And he was right.

Elias vs. Rollins feels like a 2020 WWE Raw Universal title program, right?

If Elias isn’t “there” yet he is awfully close to getting off that exit. It’s not 2017 Strowman levels, but the “Walk With Elias” chants are more resounding than the “Get These Hands” chants these days. Fans obviously want to like the Drifter, but the company isn’t ready to start the babyface turn. Instead, they’re pitting him against the second-best babyface on Raw in Rollins.

This segment was exactly what you wanted days before a PPV. Not only is it unclear which wrestler is winning on Sunday, it’s evident that the Chicago crowd will be hot for this one. I’m thinking Sunday is a big night for the next potential breakout star in the company. My property on Elias Island isn’t for sale. Sorry.

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • Curt Hawkins got a complete entrance! In 2018! On Raw!

  • “Finn had to the win” from Coach hit me to my core. Poor, Balor.

  • Rousey’s UFC monologue hit hard. The “born ready” material got fans back into this segment. Rousey is good, folks.

  • Last week, Bayley had herself a J.R. Smith Game 1 In The Finals moment. This week, she got scarlet letter’d. Brutal.

  • I still can’t believe we’re getting Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal this Sunday. What a treat!

  • B-Team vs. Deleters Of Worlds officially has potential, but the former has to be treated like legitimate threats and they probably have to win.

  • “No, Jinder is an idiot,” may have been Reigns’ best mic work in years.

  • “Here comes the Big Dog” from Michael Cole is still the worst thing in professional wrestling. (Outside of Mahal’s presence, of course.)

  • Shoutout to extending a literal olive branch to a potential friend. Owens is a sweetheart.

  • Is the new Baron Corbin just Corporate Kane? That’s it, right?

  • That Fatal 4-Way opener was insane. What stood out? The number of blows from Alexa Bliss, Ember Moon and Natalya that hit made the match, from Moon’s suicide dive, to Bliss’s punches, to Natalya’s clotheslines. Everybody looked good here.  

Early CFB Over/Under Thoughts, Willie Taggart at FSU, and LSU's Future With Cousin Sam (Ep. 162)

Chase Thomas is joined by FSU alum Cousin Sam to talk about the departure of Jimbo Fisher from Florida State and his decision to go to Texas A&M (3:00), potential quarterback controversies for CFB Playoff Contenders (8:00), UGA's easy 2018 schedule (15:00), Tennessee's 5.5 project win total (22:00), the end of the Butch Jones era (39:00), LSU's disastrous run with Ed Orgeron thus far (50:00), and how Dan Mullen will fair at Florida (57:00).

Why Are We Doing This With Julio Jones?

The NFL becoming a twelve-month sport has become good for the league. The NBA is slowly but surely working to get to that point in recent years, too. People talking about your product every day is a good problem to have. Nobody is talking about MLB or NHL during the offseason months, but everybody is more than willing to gossip and argue and talk about the NFL and the NBA at any time. Mike Trout is having the best season of his career, but I haven’t had an argument with any of my friends and family about whether or not Mookie Betts has a better case for AL MVP. That’s not what MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants. For most fans, arguing about trades and unanswerable questions like, “Who is better the better rookie: Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell?” is a huge part of the appeal in being a hardcore fan. You can talk about Tom Brady’s greatness, Andy Dalton’s ceiling, Jon Gruden’s cliches, LeBron’s supporting cast, Joel Embiid’s social-media habits, the list goes on and on.

The side-effect to this year-round coverage is that, during the summer, especially June, the topic choices are limited, so you could understand the reflex of certain sportswriters or sports radio hosts to be a bit hyperbolic with their coverage on topics that don’t require such behavior.

Enter Atlanta sports radio host Mike Bell of 929 “The Game”, who tweeted the following on June 6:

“For Falcons fans who feel I'm "over reacting" regarding Julio's absence. Everybody else in "The Brotherhood" is there including players with injuries. You you think it's not important for the star WR to put the work in following a season where the offense went backwards?”

Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver, was absent from the team’s OTAs this year. Instead, he has been spending time this offseason working out with Hall-Of-Famer Terrell Owens. Head coach Dan Quinn isn’t concerned with Jones’ absence from the voluntary workouts. Falcons owner Arthur Blank isn’t concerned. The guy the team just gave a gigantic contract extension to isn’t worried about it. Jones hasn’t been holding from mandatory training camp, no he’s just been working out in the sand dunes with a HOFer that every Falcon fan hope results in Jones arriving to training camp looking close to Cleveland Browns’ wideout Josh Gordon. (Seriously, if you have not taken a gander at what Flash is looking like these days, open a new tab, go to his Instagram, and be amazed at just how cut another human being can get. Did I mention Baker Mayfield is going to be throwing to Gordon, Corey Coleman and Jarvis Landry this season? Insane.)

If it were first-round pick Calvin Ridley who skipped OTAs, it would be perfectly fine to be slightly concerned. The more the Falcons’ rookies and free-agent acquisitions are participating in team-related activities, the better. It was Jones who was absent and that has been the subject of discussion for Atlanta sports fans for the last few weeks. Of course, it doesn’t actually matter that Jones is away. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were non-participants, Odell Beckham Jr. and Fletcher Cox missed them last year, and more veteran stars will miss them because the CBA makes it very clear these workouts are optional.

 

The Falcons getting back to the Super Bowl in 2019 does not depend on Jones spending less time with Terrell Owens and more time with the team at voluntary workouts. Jones has earned the benefit of the doubt, every general manager in the league would love to have him on their roster, and Julio Jones is going to be a very productive player for the Atlanta Falcons in 2018-19.

But I get it.

There is nothing to talk about the NFL right now, unless Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension has ruined your 2018 NFL Fantasy Draft Board and you really don’t feel great about Brady having to start the season with Chris Hogan and Jordan Matthews as his primary wideout weapons. Ryan finally got his extension, Gregg Knapp is helping Steve Sarkisian adapt to the NFL, and Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are going to be a bigger part in the passing game this fall. That covers it, right?

Things are fine with the Atlanta Falcons on June 8, 2018. The team has top-5 roster in the NFL, the offense is in a position to bounce back, at least slightly, in 2018, and Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are becoming vocal, veteran leaders on the defensive side of the ball. There isn’t any drama, there isn’t anything to really talk about, and, yes, that includes that can’t-miss battle for the one fullback spot on the 53-man roster.


If you are feeling the itch to release a Julio Jones Should Have Been At OTAs take into the Twittersphere, the radio waves, wherever, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to. So, please, save that anger for Week 4 when this offense still isn’t clicking like it was in 2016 with Kyle Shanahan. Deal?

WWE RAW and Smackdown Live Analysis, NXT on TV, and CM Punk's Victory With Maxwell Baumbach of RBR Wrestling (Ep. 161)

Chase Thomas is joined by RBR Wrestling's Maxwell Baumbach to talk about the build to Money In The Bank (3:00), Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor (10:00), the Braun Strowman ceiling (15:00), Bayley's gaffe on Monday Night Raw (28:00), Becky Lynch's surprising win (33:00), the New Day and The Miz's comedy bits (44:00), CM Punk's legal victory (49:00), NXT on TV (56:00), and Lio Rush's future (64:00).

Should a Sweep in the NBA Finals Affect LeBron's Free Agency?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to come back from a three-games-to-zero deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. For most NBA analysts and fans, the thought of LeBron James getting swept by the Warriors in the Finals was more unfathomable than those last few seasons of “Lost”. To their credit, the Cavaliers should have left Oracle Arena after Game 1 with a one-game-to-zero lead in the fourth-consecutive Finals match-up. You know how the rest of that story goes, George Hill misses a free-throw, J.R. dribbles out of traffic to run out the clock, and NBA Twitter lost their fucking minds. What you didn’t know, what I don’t know, and what James probably doesn’t know is where he’ll be playing basketball next season. If the Cavaliers don’t waste an all-time performance from LeBron James in Game 1, does Mr. Momentum propel James’ cast of misfits to one of the biggest upsets ever? We will never know how the rest of this series would have played out had Game 1 ended with a Cavaliers victory. I would like to know if getting swept by the Warriors, watching Kevin Durant drain yet another cold, calculated three-pointer to ice another pivotal NBA Finals game, and getting psychoanalyzed by ESPN reporters will make James’ decision this summer any easier.

We’ll know soon enough.

If James leaves this summer, again, to, say, the Houston Rockets, joins Chris Paul and James Harden, and who just so happen to have the current best odds at signing the best player in the world as of this writing, what does that say to us basketball junkies who are enthralled with the questions of “Why” and “How” and “When”? James saw how close the Rockets, even without Paul for Games 6 and 7, came to defeating the Warriors. If you slide Trevor Ariza out for James next season, should they be considered the favorites win it all? If James picks Houston, it would say that, at this point in his career, he wants to win another title and it doesn’t matter where it is. If he were to pick Philadelphia, it would send the same message: The rest of my career is about playing on the team with the best chance to beat the Warriors. It would also say this postseason has taken a toll and having to rely on Jordan Clarkson, J.R. Smith, Rodney Hood and friends at this point in his career isn’t as easy to deal with as it was during the Mo Williams, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden era. Getting swept in the NBA Finals, through no fault of your own, is not as motivating as it was when it happened at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. That kind of experience is fine when you’re young, it’s not fine when Father Time is right around the corner. (For James, maybe it isn’t. Would it really surprise you if he was still awesome at 43-years-old?)

But should this inevitable sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors push James into making a win-now move and signing with the Sixers or Rockets? If he leaves Cleveland again, shouldn’t it be to go to a city that really loves basketball, romanticizes what a player like Kyle Kuzma could become in today’s NBA on the regular, and won’t really care if he can’t bring them a title because they already have plenty of those and are in the midst of the worst stretch in the franchise’s history and just want to root for a team that has a superstar and can carry them to fifty-plus wins again? If James were to choose Los Angeles, it would show that this exhaustive postseason didn’t push him either way. It would signal that this next chapter is bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than SPACE JAM 2. It would signal that he wants to enjoy the remainder of his prime in a fun city, start to prepare more on his life after basketball, and play with a bunch of young, intriguing guys who could ostensibly make Year 16 and Year 17 and Year 18 nothing like Year 15.

If he re-ups in Cleveland, with this group, with this old, anemic roster, does that show, once again, that losing to the Warriors in 4 games didn’t play a role in his decision? It would. If James is a Cleveland Cavalier next season it’s because he likes it there, he likes the idea of not potentially uprooting his family again, and likes the challenge of trying to Russell Westbrook his way to another NBA championship. There have never been more Please Appreciate LeBron James’ Greatness pieces than there have been after this unbelievable postseason run. James lost a playoff game in which he scored 51 points in regulation under That Didn’t Really Just Happen, Did It? circumstances. Everyone approves of this iteration of LeBron James story.

Maybe that’s why I’m so captivated by the next incarnation of The Decision that’s coming this summer. For most players, getting swept in the NBA Finals in the manner that James has would result in a rash decision. Losing this way sucks. Feeling powerless to change the outcome of a series while simultaneously being the most powerful player of a series can only be demoralizing. If this sweep affects James’ decision, it would be easy to understand. It is adapt or die: create your own super team or wipe this Finals experience from your memory bank and run this thing back. These are decisions fit for only a king.

Smackdown Live: Becky Lynch Is Back

Smackdown Live has found its groove again. On Tuesday’s show, just about everything hit like it was supposed to, Shinsuke Nakamura continued playing entertaining mind games with WWE champion AJ Styles, Sin Cara got beat up by Andrade “Cien” Almas, Asuka won a handicap match clean, Naomi ran circles around Lana, but, man, was it nice to see Becky Lynch get a full entrance, defeat Charlotte clean as a sheet, and that be it.

That is what it was. Nice. It was like if Matt Saracen transferred to the East Dillon Lions his senior year and took down J.D. McCoy and the Dillon Panthers in the Texas High School state playoffs. Like Saracen, you should never trust a person who can’t help but root for Lynch whenever they pop up on your television screen. Lynch was on Smackdown Live first, she was the first Smackdown Live women’s champion, but she’s gradually faded into the background while other wrestlers had their moment in the spotlight whether they really deserved it or not. (I’m definitely not hinting at Lana or Natalya here. Nope. I’m not.)

This week’s episode felt like Lynch and the creative team on Smackdown Live were moving forward. Lynch defeating Charlotte is a big deal. Lynch making Charlotte tap out to the Disarmer, clean, is even bigger. Does this mean Lynch is gearing up for a WWE Smackdown Live women’s title run after taking down Asuka or Carmella after Money In The Bank next Sunday? Does this mean this was just the start of a year-long, bitter feud with soon-to-be former best friend Charlotte? That part is unclear, for now, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that we’re talking about Becky Lynch again. Better yet, we’re fantasy booking future Becky Lynch storylines and title runs without it feeling like a gigantic waste of time.

It’s nice.

I wonder, though: Is The Miz starting to do too much comedy? Was “Careful, Mizjitzu,” funny? Of course. The Miz is one of the few who can pull of bad professional wrestling comedy, and so can The New Day. This dynamic works because of the seriousness of Miz’s character meshes perfectly with a trio that hasn’t taken themselves seriously in three years, even with the biggest decision of the group’s history still very much unresolved. Still, there is something to be said about being the butt of too many jokes. As long as The Miz is still main-eventing shows, wins the matches he needs to, etc., he’ll be fine, but if we’re only a few months out from the most must-see PPV match of the year, he needs to stop dipping his hand into pancake mix.

And then there is Carmella, who, by my count, uttered her catchphrase “'Mella Is Money”, both in the ring and on commentary no less than the number of times of Vin Diesel has uttered the word family in the Fast & Furious series. If you’re going to watch WWE programming in 2018, this is part of the deal, that dead horse is getting beaten, damn it. It’s interesting, though, that as much as Carmella has improved on the microphone, and she was great in this opening segment, I can’t help but think of how much it reminded me of Enzo Amore during his brief stint on 205 Live. Carmella isn’t Lana, but she’s certainly not ready for Asuka, either. On this show, we Asuka, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Lynch, Charlotte and Naomi all show just how good they are at professional wrestling right now and just how silly it is that Carmella is the WWE Smackdown Live Women’s champion. Does her promo chops mitigate her in-ring issues? For right now, the answer is yes. She just can’t beat Asuka. There’s suspending your disbelief in professional wrestling, and then there is Carmella outworking Asuka in 13-minute PPV match.

Can we talk about just how good Shinsuke Nakamura is? Was I alone in thinking about Road Dogg watching “The Dark Knight” this week, being amazed by the interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker and immediately sending a text to Vince asking if he could something similar with AJ Styles and Nakamura? (I’m 93 percent certain this is the case.) Jokes aside, this segment worked. It had faulty pins, Styles stumbling over poor dialogue, a very disrespectful Nakamura yawn, and an ending where no table was flipped or broken, just one man left standing.

Is 2018 the year of Samoa Joe on Smackdown Live? Maybe. Did he forget to mention that he lost to Roman Reigns at Backlash in the main event, which clearly showed that he is not always a man of his word? Of course. But Samoa Joe can talk, and it reminds me of Owens’ rise early on in his WWE days. You can trust Joe to make anything sound important, the interviewers always look legitimately terrified at his just how intense and fast he spews his venom, and he delivers in the ring. If Nakamura doesn’t steal the title away from Styles, a summer build of Joe vs. Styles that ends in a SummerSlam WWE title match with Joe going over wouldn’t be the worst idea. It’s too early for Almas, Big Cass sucks, Rusev doesn’t have the support of the powers that be, and, seriously, has anyone seen or heard from SAnitY lately? What about Jeff Hardy? Tye Dillinger? OK, I’ll stop, but you get my point -- the opportunity for Joe to have a big summer is there. Let’s see if he makes the most of it.

Braun Strowman Was Never Going to Be the Lead Guy

Braun Strowman was never going to be The Guy for World Wrestling Entertainment. At least, not in Vince McMahon’s WWE. To Vince’s credit, the company continues to make strides in evolving as a wrestling promotion, putting more of an emphasis on the in-ring work rather than the overly-scripted promos, creating multiple female stars in recent years, bringing back the cruiserweight division, and even gobbling up all the top independent talent that you would never have seen in a WWE ring as recent as the “Ruthless Aggression” era in the WWE. (Adam Cole, Aleister Black and Ricochet are the biggest stars on a WWE brand at the moment.) For all the Cole and CM Punk and Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles-types the company has brought in and pushed, they were still never Vince McMahon’s Guy. It was John Cena, and with Cena focused on Hollywood and staging break-ups for reality television drama, McMahon has someone else -- Roman Reigns.

Roman Reigns will be The Guy in 2019, and barring injury or suspension, will be The Guy in the WWE for a very long time. It’s easy to gloss over just how much the McMahon Machine has invested in making the former Georgia Tech football star the professional wrestler who will guide them into the next era of WWE television. Reigns is a three-time WWE World Heavyweight champion, Reigns pinned the aforementioned Braun Strowman clean, which, if you didn’t know, was a big deal at the time, set a Royal Rumble record after he eliminated 12 other wrestlers in 2014, Triple H is quoted saying, “Roman is one of the most skilled performers bar none in the WWE right now and that is on every level,” and, of course, he is one of two wrestlers to defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania. (Wait, did I mention that he has also main-evented the last four WrestleManias? F-O-U-R. Only Hulk Hogan, yes, that Hulk Hogan, has main-evented more WWE PPVs in a row.

So Vince McMahon likes Roman Reigns in what might be the understatement of the year. (Unless, of course, the company’s half-baked storyline that pitted Vince vs. Roman a few months back had you hook, line and sinker.) McMahon likes Braun Strowman, but for the mastermind of the XFL, he’s still no Roman Reigns. If things were different, Strowman would have gone over Reigns in their red-hot feud in 2017. Strowman could have gone over Lesnar for the Universal title at No Mercy. Strowman could have had a prominent match WrestleMania 34, but he won the Raw tag-team titles with a young fan instead. If you have the backing of Vince McMahon, it’s clear that you have the backing of Vince McMahon. (The latest example being My Favorite Pro Wrestling Bully Baron Corbin’s new title on Monday Night Raw thanks to the boss’s daughter.) Reigns has wrestled Brock Lesnar for the Universal title at the Greatest Royal Rumble ever, and before that in the main event of WrestleMania, and, before that, was the last wrestler eliminated in the Royal Rumble won by Shinsuke Nakamura. One of these things is not like the other.

That is why The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reporting that Roman Reigns, and not the wrestler obsessed with giving other wrestlers his hands, will likely be getting another WWE Universal title match against the Universal champion Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. To some, this may come as a surprise, but to anyone who had their volume turned up to seventy-five Monday night and caught fill-in Raw commentator David Otunga whisper that he thinks Roman Reigns hasn’t gotten enough credit for how much he pushed Lesnar in their previous matches. What Otunga or Corey Graves or Michael Cole didn’t say was, “Outside of Lesnar and Reigns, who can stop Braun Strowman?” Like it or not, pro wrestling fans will get Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for a third time in 2018 at SummerSlam. Roman Reigns was always going to be the one to take the title off Brock Lesnar, the story has just taken more sideroads to get there than anyone could have expected. (For the record, I picked Reigns to win the Universal title from Lesnar in Saudi Arabia during normal workday hours because it was the best shot the WWE had at having Reigns’ big moment not be met with a mixture of crickets and boos. Instead, instant replay and incompetent referees ruined another big moment in sports.)

The plan has never changed for Vince McMahon on Roman Reigns, not in the grand scheme of things, at least, as the Big Dog is still on track to win the biggest title in the promotion at the second-largest PPV of the year. With Lesnar away, with rumors swirling about whether or not he’ll fight in the UFC again, with Roman Reigns being relegated to an uninspiring feud with Jinder Mahal, fans and analysts have started to once again talk themselves into other guys on the roster swiping the brass ring away from Roman Reigns in 2019. The problem is that Vince McMahon is the only one who controls that brass ring. McMahon puts professional wrestlers in a position to grab the brass ring, professional wrestlings are not in a position to grab the brass ring from Vince McMahon. It is always the CEO’s call.

The CEO is still calling Roman Reigns’ number. Sometimes, McMahon extends an olive branch to guys like Strowman, Styles, Seth Rollins, and even Kevin Owens, but it never feels like it will last. McMahon has been working on the Roman Reigns dilemma for close to half a decade, why would he admit failure now? If he were to move on from Reigns, who does he pinpoint as his next long-term project? Kona Reeves or Tino Sabbatelli in NXT? Baron Corbin? Drew McIntyre? If Vince McMahon sells his place on Roman Reigns Island, it won’t result in an increased investment in the almost 35-year-old Strowman whom he already booked to lose to both Reigns and Lesnar in 2017.

But that’s what makes WWE legendary commentator Jim Ross’s Braun Strowman prediction so interesting and so wrong at the same time. 

On a recent episode of his podcast, The Jim Ross Report, he said the following about Strowman and his future in the company: “I like the continued advancement of Braun Strowman. He’s not being force fed to me. I think he’s going to be the next big thing in 2019. I wouldn’t do it before then. I don’t think he’s quite ready for it. But man you can see him getting better and better every week. Braun Strowman in my opinion the future lead mule in the WWE.”

Ross is right about Strowman not being force-fed to the audience right now, but that goes against everything we know about Vince McMahon and his creative quirks. His lead “mules” are often force-fed on those watching at home, whether it be John Cena, Randy Orton, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, Batista, Triple H, and the list goes on and on. In reality, the biggest indicator as to whether or not a character has a future in the WWE is how much the product pushes them onto their consumers. It’s been five years, and they’re still pushing Roman Reigns.

None of this is Strowman’s fault, as Ross is right, he’s getting better, he’s able to pull off compelling main-event matches with the likes of Finn Balor now, and watching anything from his Wyatt Family days feels like you’re seeing a different wrestler entirely. He earned his overness, organically, but so did Rusev, so did Daniel Bryan, so did Seth Rollins, but none of them have any real shot at being the top guy in the company in 2019. If there is any other realistic Top Guy on the Raw brand in 2019 outside of Roman Reigns -- there isn’t -- it’s McIntyre. You see the size, you see the intensity, you see the looks, you see the way he’s booked, and you see that he just turned 33-years-old. Drew McIntyre checks every box for a Vince McMahon project, Braun Strowman does not. That doesn’t mean it’d be a mistake to build 2019 around Strowman, it’s just that Jim Ross isn’t overseeing creative, it’s the guy who just had Strowman compete on a PPV tagging with Bobby Lashley to continue what’s been series of missteps for Strowman after breaking out in 2017 in his feuds with Reigns and Lesnar.

Like Roman Reigns on-screen, off-screen this is still Vince McMahon’s yard. He’s probably gotten more out of Strowman in the past year than even he would have expected when he first signed him. Strowman is a tremendous talent who continues to improve, but it’s easy to forget he doesn’t control his destiny. He can’t have a LeBron James-like playoff run on Monday Night Raw, he’s limited to what he’s given. He’ll continue to be on the shows, he’ll continue to get positive reactions, he’ll continue to have good matches, and he’ll even find his way into a few Universal title shots, but he won’t win them, like before, and that’ll be that. He won’t be The Guy, but he’ll be A Guy and that’s all he can really do.

Monday Night Raw: "Balor Is Better"

Why isn’t Finn Balor the WWE Universal champion? Why isn’t Kevin Owens? Why isn’t Braun Strowman? Why isn’t Seth Rollins?

Why is it Brock Lesnar?

On this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw, Kevin Owens said something during a backstage interview -- one of what felt like 63 backstage interviews on this show -- with Renee Young that summed up this show quite nicely: “Who cares?”

His comments, along with mocking Finn Balor’s “Too Sweet” hand gestures, were meant to garner him heat ahead of his main-event affair with the leader of the Balor Club. Who cares about one-time Universal champion Finn Balor? A lot of fans. Who cares about the majority of the segments on Raw this week? Not that crowd in Houston.

Can you blame them?

This show started with promise, as Elias strummed his guitar, got the crowd belting out his catchphrases before being interrupted by his Money In The Bank opponent Intercontinental champion Seth Rollins. The words “Burn It Down” rang through the arena, the crowd popped, and Rollins made it immediately clear that he now take the Drifter and his handy guitar very seriously after his actions last week on Raw. Rollins’ stalking Elias around the ring clicked, their chair-meets-guitar spot and worked, but then Jinder Mahal stormed the ring.

And then Roman Reigns cleaned house.

And then, making former Smackdown general manager Teddy Long proud, Raw general manager Kurt Angle’s music hit, announced the now-obvious tag-team match and that was how that segment ended. On a thud. No continued fighting between Elias and Rollins. No mic time. Just Roman Reigns standing tall, as Roman Reigns does.

Bleh.

On commentary, there was no Booker T, instead, we saw the return of David Otunga and, other, than making the point that, “I don’t think people give Roman Reigns enough credit,” that resulted in me seriously considering closing my laptop and not finishing the rest of this show. (You know I wouldn’t do that, I have to write. It’s what I do. I watch and I listen and I write. Professional wrestling just likes that to make that more difficult than it needs to be sometimes, that’s all.) The commentators, to be fair, were in an uncomfortable spot for most of the night, as it’s clear the new long layoff between pay-per-views is causing things to really drag and everybody is ready for the go-home shows on next week’s agenda -- especially, Michael Cole.

That awkward gap between PPVs resulted in a Curt Hawkins segment and mic time, which is always a win. It may seem odd to you, the reader, to see that I’m spending time writing about this portion of the show, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was one of my favorite segments of the night. Hawkins can talk, he knows how to deliver punchlines, his timing is excellent, and he never fails to bring a sliver of joy to each show he appears on. Curt Hawkins knows his role, but he makes the most of it. He has the rare, genuine look of Just Happy To Be There guy, which is something John Cena and Drew McIntyre must seriously loathe. Hawkins did his job, he filled time, and he was a perfect foil to the natural bully heel in Baron Corbin. I’m not saying I want to see Corbin and Hawkins get rewarded with a 10-minute match on Raw following the opening segment on next week’s go-home show, but I would not be opposed to it.

What followed was a match between Nia Jax and Natalya where the ladder soared while the former dragged. The Nia Jax WWE Raw women’s champion run has bombed. That can be true, and it can also be true that placing her in a feud with Ronda Rousey, now, ahead of Summerslam even, was unfair. But Jax wasn’t working, her character direction took a turn for the worse following WrestleMania, and her acting, especially following Rousey checking on Natalya following her knee injury was excruciating. Timing is everything, and Jax has never had it. We’re getting Natalya vs. Rousey for the Raw women’s championship at Summerslam. It’s clear that’s the plan, and it’s not an intriguing one, but it’s where this story is headed. But where is Nia Jax headed?

And then are questions surrounding Braun Strowman. Yes, other unfortunate wrestlers are still being given those damn hands, but Strowman is clearly losing steam. It’s also unclear as to whether or not his matches with talent the WWE decision-makers ostensibly want to succeed are helpful. The story Balor and Strowman told in their main event match a few weeks ago was an outlier in the history of Braun Strowman matches. If Strowman is booked to face someone like, say, Bobby Roode, he works the same sort of match he works against Kevin Owens or Rollins or whoever is not named Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar. Roode was thrown around like a ragdoll, Owens took a shoulder block from Strowman and sold the hit like he was Prime Dolph Ziggler. The only real competition for Strowman is Roman Reigns and Lesnar. Reigns is busy feuding with Jinder Mahal and Brock Lesnar isn’t mentioned or seen on WWE television for weeks -- he’s also already feuded and lost to both the WWE Universal champion and the Universal-champion-in-waiting. There is nowhere for Braun Strowman to go, so he’s decided to go up, and that requires climbing a ladder and grabbing a briefcase he doesn’t need. Or maybe he does. I don’t know, but I know the WWE doesn’t, either.

But Balor is working, and Owens is consistent. It was peculiar as to why this main event match between two former Universal champions wasn’t billed as a match between two former Universal champions. Perhaps, it was because Lesnar wasn’t there, and rather than mention that red belt that is rarely seen on Mondays over the last year, they ignored it. The crowd did not care, as their match stole the show, the crowd was hot for it, and Owens’ anger issues cost him once again as he got himself disqualified. The post-match fight felt important, like these two should feuding over the top prize on Raw, similar to Owens and AJ Styles’ feud over the United States title on Smackdown Live last year. Finn Balor and Kevin Owens both have it, and they both have it in very different ways. This should be the WWE Universal title feud over the summer, but it won’t be. So it goes.

Scribbles From The Legal Pad:

  • Did I mention the opening segment did not need Roman Reigns or Jinder Mahal?

  • Something tells me David Otunga will not be back in the commentary booth next week. But if he were, would you notice?

  • The Reigns vs. Mahal match better not be going on last at Money in the Bank.

  • Is Curt Hawkins a top-5 mic guy in the company right now? I could make the case. Just not here. Not now.

  • Siding Corbin with the McMahon’s is the right decision. It’s like the inverse of the Roman Reigns’ storyline, but believable and interesting.

  • “Almost, Nattie…”

  • Best Bobby Roode main roster week of his WWE career? (Note: He was squashed by Braun Strowman.)

  • Bring back the cruiserweights if it will result in cutting these Sami Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley segments. I’d settle for showing Enzo Amore’s rap single on a loop for fifteen minutes over anymore of this. (OK, maybe not that. I’d settle for Gran Metalik vs. TJP.)

  • “Here comes Bayley!” “Why?!”

  • The Bayley character continues to just be...not the smartest professional wrestler.

  • “I am so brilliant!”

  • B-Team post-match reactions give me goosebumps on a weekly basis. This works. Keep it going, creative team.

  • Was that the best Bray Wyatt promo since 2015? Asking for a friend.

  • Bobby Roode facial reactions.

  • I don’t know Finn Balor personally, but I’d like to, because, man, does that guy not seem to be the most authentically nice guy on the roster? He’s the best. He should get a belt. Or a briefcase. Or a push. Something? Vince, where are you going?

30 MLB Questions With Will Leitch (Ep. 160)

Chase Thomas is joined by MLB's Will Leitch to talk about the Cardinals making the playoffs (3:00), Mike Trout's career-year for the Angels (17:00), the Giants getting Madison Bumgarner (20:00), the Diamondbacks' struggling offense (30:00), Ronald Acuna Jr. vs. Odubel Herrera (35:00), the Pirates' deep outfield (40:00), Orioles trades for Manny Machado (45:00), manager most-likely to get fired (48:00), Scooter Gennett's All-Star prospects (53:00), and problem with instant replay in MLB (58:00).

NBA Finals With Jovan Buha of ESPN (Ep. 159)

Chase Thomas is joined by ESPN's Jovan Buha to talk about the Warriors take down the Cavs in Game of the NBA Finals (3:00), the Warriors' depth issues (10:00), whether or not the Cavs are going to get swept (27:00), LeBron James' insane postseason run (32:00), the Sixers and LeBron (40:00), and what to make of DeAndre Jordan, Julius Randle and Boogie Cousins being on the Mavericks' radar (50:00).

Atlanta Sports With Jeff Schultz of the AJC and UGA Football With Seth Emerson of The Athletic and MLS With Caleb The Bro (Ep. 158)

Chase Thomas is joined by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz to talk about the Atlanta Hawks hiring Lloyd Pierce (8:00), trading Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder (15:00), the Braves hot start (23:00), the Falcons keeping Steve Sarkisian (30:00), and what to expect out of the Falcons this fall (40:00). Then, The Athletic's Seth Emerson comes on the pod to talk about UGA's Jake Fromm vs. Justin Fields QB battle (45:00), early match-ups vs. South Carolina and Mizzou (55:00), the Auburn football schedule (60:00), and whether or not the Florida Gators could challenge for the SEC East (66:00). Then, Chase's brother comes on to talk about Atlanta United drawing with New England Revolution (70:00), more help for Josef Martinez (77:00), the Orlando City vs. Atlanta United rivalry (83:00), and a quick review of "SOLO: A Star Wars story."

WWE With Vaughn Johnson (Ep. 157)

Chase Thomas is joined by the Philadelphia Eagles' digital team producer Vaughn Johnson to talk about Drew McIntyre and John Cena commenting on the WWE locker room (3:00), changes to Smackdown Live once they move to FOX (10:00), Jim Ross' comments on Braun Strowman being The Guy in 2019 (30:00), Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet (40:00), Enzo Amore's rap video (50:00), and 205 Live's main event (55:00).

MLB With Nick Stellini Of The Athletic and Sporting News (Ep. 156)

Chase Thomas is joined by The Athletic and Sporting News' Nick Stellini to talk about the Blue Jays refusing to call up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3:00), the end of Hanley Ramirez in Boston (10:00), the Rays being kind of OK (18:00), the Mets horrible week (32:00), whether or not the Mets should trade Jacob DeGrom at the deadline (42:00), the Diamondbacks' terrible offense (48:00), and the muddled together NL West race (52:00).

Five Questions Following The Cavs Game 7 Victory To Return To The NBA Finals

LeBron James is a really good professional basketball player. He should be in every basketball fan’s top-3 of all-time rankings, unanimously, at this point. Like him or hate him, he’s there. And he’s going to remain there for a very long time. That’s just where we are. He’s one of the very best basketball players we’ve ever seen. That will never change.

It’s been a pleasure watching him make the lives of every fan of a team in the Eastern Conference a living Hell for the last eight years. An NBA Finals matchup that doesn’t feature James would feel weird. It would feel wrong. It would feel like we, the NBA fan populous, missed out on something. The best basketball player in the world should be in the NBA Finals. This is basketball, this is how it should work.

We were one game away from LeBron James missing his first NBA Finals since 2010, which, oddly enough would have snapped the Boston Celtics streak of not advancing to the NBA Finals. This Celtics team did not belong in the NBA Finals. Not because they wouldn’t have deserved it, but this incarnation, without Kyrie Irving, without Gordon Hayward, without Daniel Theiss -- I kid, I kid -- would have felt right. Outside of Boston fans, who really wants to see Terry Rozier go up against Stephen Curry in the final series of the 2017-18 NBA season? This Boston group is going to be very good for a very long time, they’ll get back to the NBA Finals at some point, and Jayson Tatum will hit a Kyrie-like shot from 2016 NBA Finals to win the Celtics another NBA title.

But this isn’t their time, this isn’t their moment. This postseason’s story has been about LeBron James, in Year 14 of his NBA career, dragging Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Green, J.R. Smith, and George Hill to the NBA Finals. For James’ story to end in Boston, just short of eight-straight Finals appearances, would have been as deflating as the series finale for “The Sopranos” -- “Wait, what just happened? Is that really how this ends?” It never ends like we far too often expect, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. If this is it for LeBron in Cleveland, he should go out like Jon Snow in the Battle of the Bastards -- unsheathe the sword and go down in style. (Unfortunately for James, though, is there is no last-minute help headed his way -- no Kyrie, no prime Dwyane Wade, no prime Chris Bosh, not even his old friend prime Zydrunas Illgauskas. It’s LeBron, alone and on a mission to humiliate the Golden State Warriors the only way he can -- by himself.

With that, here are five questions I have following, you guessed it, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Question No. 1: Is it weird that it felt weird for the final score of this game to be 87-79 in 2018?

No, it didn’t. Weirdly, it felt right. It reminded me of the last time the Boston Celtics were real contenders almost a decade ago. It reminded me of the days when the Los Angeles Lakers were contending, it reminded me of the Detroit Pistons, it reminded me of so many other teams that I grew up watching. Sure, the game was still different, the Celtics missed a lot of shots, but there is something nice about the Celtics finishing an important playoff game with only 79 points, right?

Question No. 2: How annoying will the “Please Appreciate LeBron” police be over the next couple of weeks?

Very. This is a very bad basketball team that LeBron just dragged to the NBA Finals. This is a team that came very close to falling to Victor Oladipo and friends in Round 1. This is a team that found a way to survive a Game 7 on the road without Kevin Love to deliver the only home loss of the postseason for the Celtics. What James has done this postseason is obviously impressive, it is obviously insane, but we don’t need to shame people for not appreciating LeBron James enough. Is there really a basketball fan that isn’t appreciating James’ greatness enough at this point? If there is, why do you care? Why are you engaging with someone who can’t appreciate LeBron James dragging Jeff freakin’ Green to the NBA Finals?

Let’s talk about something anything else. Yes, that includes whether or not the Orlando Magic should hire Kelvin Sampson. (Remember when this team was contending for championships? Sorry, Magic fans.)

Question No. 3:  Will I ever get a full understanding of George Hill, the basketball player?

No, I will not. Hill is a very good three-point shooter. Hill is, when he wants to be, a very good defender. Hill can pass, he can play off the ball, he can do just about everything except shoot the basketball a lot. He has no interest in it. I’m convinced that when George Hill looks in the mirror George Hill sees Andre Roberson. He has to be one of the most infuriating players to play with because you never know what you’re going to get, but you do know you’re never going to get Aggressive George Hill on a consistent basis.

No, Hill likes to keep things capricious, like posting a team-high plus/minus of +24 in Game 7 of the most important game of the season for the Cavaliers.

What the hell, George Hill? You’re good at basketball -- believe in yourself! Take more 3s! Drive-and-kick more! Be awesome all the time! Please?

Question No. 4: Will I ever admit I was completely wrong about Rodney Hood on this team?

Yes, right here. Hood, if you noticed, was given a DNP-CD by head coach Ty Lue in Game 7. Hood refused to come into the game for some garbage time a little while back, and Rodney Hood will probably not be a Cleveland Cavalier next season.

It’s amazing. Hood can ostensibly shoot 3s, he has the length and frame of a good defender, and he should be a valuable rotation guy on the Cavs this postseason -- but he’s not. He’s not even playing, he’s gone 3-of-19 from deep this postseason, and he’s a restricted free agent this summer. Everything may be coming up Milhouse, but nothing is coming up Rodney Hood.

Damn.

Question No. 5: Everyone should be cheering for the Cavs in the Finals, right?

This is tough. So, one of the things I love most about the NBA is the best team almost -- ALMOST -- always wins in the end. There are no Nick Foles Just Did What moments. There are no Vegas Golden Knights-like stories. If you’re a fan of the best team in the NBA, you’re rewarded. If you like parity, this is not the sport for you, and I appreciate that. There is something nice about rewarding those who excelled at their job.

Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Meyers has to put together the best roster in the NBA, he signed the second-best player in the NBA after assembling NBA’s best regular season team in history, and it feels right to reward him for being really good at his job. Rarely in life is the most deserving also the most successful. In the NBA, that’s how it goes. Rewarding good players and good general managers and good coaches for being, you know, good, is, well, good.

But I’ll be rooting for the Cavs. Everybody loves an underdog, and, somehow, yet again, the best player in the world is on a team that will be heavily favored against in the NBA Finals. Whether it’s the Houston Rockets or the Warriors, nobody will be predicting LeBron James hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy with Jordan Clarkson and Jeff Green at his side. No, I expect a lot of “4-0” or “4-1” predictions from very qualified and smart people.

I want to see what would happen if the Warriors fell to this Cavs team, what the team would do this summer, what LeBron would be faced with -- would James really leave the Cavs after winning the title? Would he? -- and so many other things. Chaos may be a ladder, but it’s also, at its core, interesting. The Warriors winning again isn’t interesting, but it’s right. A basketball team with potentially four HOFers in their prime should always win the title, but that doesn’t mean I have to root for it.

Talkin' 2 Myself Mailbag: God, I Hope the Rays Make An AL Wild Card Run

It’s Sunday, May 27, 2018, which if you’re keeping track, is, of course, not Friday, May 25, 2018. (Big, if true.) My goal is for this column to be a Friday staple, but, well, we’ve gotten off to a rocky start. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better with time management, Pomodoro Technique and Coffitivity was a game-changer for perpetual procrastinators like myself, and if you ever see me on my laptop, I can almost guarantee you there will be two Google Chrome tabs open that include both. Every time.

But I still fuck up.

It happens, and you have to roll with it. I didn’t have time Friday to bang out a long, mailbag-style column, so I wrote about something else. I wrote about the Atlanta Hawks and Marvin Bagley III and Luka Doncic and everything surrounding the Hawks No. 3 selection in this summer’s NBA Draft.

So it’s not like I didn’t write Friday. I did, and I like what I was able to put together and hope you did, too. The point is, I wrote, and I wrote to completion. Not writing is one of the easiest things a writer can do. You have this idea that hit harder than a James Harrison tackle while sitting in rush hour traffic, you scramble to write it down, and you make the plan to do something with this idea. I can’t tell you how many times the light bulb has gone off in the shower, in traffic, on the phone with a family member or friend, or even just walking my old-ass dog (he’s fifteen-years-old, his name is Bandit, and he’s the best), but I never get around to following-up on it.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to write. I want to write every day. I’ve written all weekend. Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and, yes, I’ll be writing tomorrow, too, because if you type it, you do it, right? (Shit, this is going to be really embarrassing if I don’t end up writing tomorrow.)

***

The idea for this kind of mailbag is simple: I talk to myself a lot. I got it from my dad, but he’s the Michael Jordan of Guys Who Walk Around The House Talking To Himself level. I’m not there, yet, but it’s in my genes, so it’s probably going to be a thing for me, too. (Early apologies, Future Wife.)

When I talk to myself, though, I’m usually thinking about sports questions or opinions. I can’t help but ask myself, sometimes out loud, how the Hell Mike Moustakas still is not an Atlanta Brave? I ask myself what it says about the Golden State Warriors to need Andre Iguodala as much as they do with four potential HOFers already on the roster. I wonder about why the WWE is even considering bringing back Hulk Hogan in any capacity? I sometimes even wonder if Junior Soprano would have been a good boss of the DiMeo Crime Family had he gotten a real run as boss earlier than when he did.

Coming up with questions to ask myself is not like escaping Alcatraz. It comes naturally, and it’s probably a big reason why I love doing my podcast. Asking other people questions never gets old, asking myself questions never stops.

So that’s why I’m titling this column the “Talkin’ 2 Myself” mailbag. In this column, I’m going to answer my own questions. I’m not going to answer each one the same, some answers will be longer than others. Sometimes, I may even answer my own questions with a 2,000-plus word response, and sometimes it may even result in a simple “no”.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have all of the questions.

Let’s go.

***

First question from the mind of Chase, “Should the Suns really consider trading the No. 1 pick this summer?”

I’m not a fan of the Phoenix Suns, but I love exploring this possibility. Yes, it’s not going to happen and it probably shouldn’t happen, but, if you’re a fan of the team, aren’t you at the very least intrigued by the idea?

In the NBA, the No. 1 overall pick has been traded six times, but the results aren’t terrible. The Cleveland Cavaliers ended up with a five-time All-Star in Brad Daugherty and became a perennial playoff team. The Celtics traded the No. 1 overall pick that ended up becoming Jayson Tatum, and, recency bias aside, looks to be a home run. The Celtics decades ago flipped the No. 1 overall pick for Robert Parish in a deal that, if you ask Celtics fans, would probably be universally praised. (Kevin McHale and Parish went on to win three NBA titles together.)

If general manager Ryan McDonough, takes DeAndre Ayton out of Arizona, it’d make sense. Building around Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, and Ayton is something you can sell. I’m not sure what that means for the futures of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, but a young core of Jackson, Bender and Ayton is something.

If McDonough takes Donic, it’d make sense. A Donic and Booker backcourt is something worth exploring. Can it work? Who knows, but if it doesn’t, taking Doncic No. 1 overall would still make sense. Imagine giving McDonough shit for trying to create the next great NBA backcourt with Doncic and Booker. You can’t because it’s very crazy and very stupid.

But to trade this pick would be something else. It’d have to be for Kawhi Leonard. LeBron James isn’t going to Phoenix. The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t trading Russell Westbrook to the Suns. If Neil Olshey of the Portland Trail Blazers calls asking about the No. 1 pick in exchange for a package built around C.J. McCollum you hang up the phone. If Phoenix were to trade the No. 1 overall pick, you do it for Leonard and only him.

The mind of Chase asks, “ How fucked are the Seattle Mariners?”

This is a simple question, but an interesting one that only requires a simple answer: Very.

This team is 31-20, as of this writing, and this team has a very real shot at the second Wild Card spot this fall over the Los Angeles Angels. The Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Indians are going to be playing in October. That is happening and done and I don’t like that it’s definitely settled just as much as you, but that’s what’s happening.

So that leaves one spot.

It could be the Mariners or it could be the team with WAR-leading Mike Trout and Shohei Otani and Justin Upton and other guys who are very good at baseball. The Mariners just lost Robinson Cano to an 80-game suspension, the starting rotation is less than ideal, and there is a very real chance if this team doesn’t make the playoffs this season there will be major changes in Seattle this winter.

So, yes, the Mariners are fucked, but they could still make the playoffs, I guess. 

The mind of Chase asks, “When do you think The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan will happen?”

Summerslam is the only answer. WrestleMania is too far out, and the Royal Rumble match itself would overshadow it. That leaves that big pay-per-view this summer.

Once The Miz was moved over to Smackdown Live from Monday Night Raw, the fantasy booking surrounding the A-Lister and Bryan kicked into high gear. This is the match every professional wrestling fan has been waiting for ever since that infamous segment on Talking Smack. You can only tease an event like this for so long before pulling the trigger. It should take place at Summerslam, and it should draw the biggest reaction of any potential match in the WWE in 2018

No pressure.

The mind of Chase asks, “What if the Tampa Bay Rays are still in the AL Wild Card race this fall?”

Oh, man. I want this to happen so bad. As a non-fan of the Rays, and any team trying to tank only to end up being a lot better than they expected, I really enjoy this. The Rays gave away Corey Dickerson -- who is picking up where he left off with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season -- and have been rumored to be interesting in trading ace Chris Archer since the Ronald Reagan administration, but they’re still fine.

This club, somehow, has the third-best team batting average, per Baseball Reference, but I’m not totally sure how that’s possible even with Mallex Smith, C.J. Cron and Matt Duffy doing stuff. This team hits with a hodgepodge cast of characters, and, as of this writing, are 24-26. What if, instead of exploring trading one of their two or three starting pitchers, the Rays explored going for it? In a season where manager Kevin Cash has elected to test out “The Opener”, why not try an even bolder strategy in Central Florida: Be buyers at the deadline.

Rather than continue to trade guys like Archer and Blake Snell and Sergio Romo, what if this organization made calls to the Chicago White Sox about Jose Abreu, or the Detroit Tigers about Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez, or even the Kansas City Royals about Danny Duffy.

The Rays are going to hang around, so rather than continue to gut the team, what if ownership and the front office elected to just go for it this summer and play spoiler to one of the American League behemoths? That’s the kind of stuff that makes sports fun, and that’s what I want to see. Go for it, Tampa. You have my blessing.