This Week in Sports Talk (TWIST) is our weekly report on the big sports news headlines and major events, plus a preview of what’s up next. For April 16, 2023, here are the weekly top 10 sports news headlines to know – the big stories and major events in sports news this week in the NBA, MLB and more.
weekly top 10 big sports news headlines and major events: April 16, 2023
1. PGA’s Jon Rahm wins the 2023 Masters Tournament.
Last Sunday, at the first major golf championship of the season, Jon Rahm rallied from four strokes back to win his first title at the Masters. He’s the fourth Spanish golfer to wear the green jacket. He had played a practice round a few days before the start of the tournament with two prior winners from Spain, Sergio Garcia and José María Olazábal. Guess it worked!
Rahm is the first European player ever to win a Masters and U.S. Open in their career, and it didn’t seem likely when the day began. He was trailing the LIV’s Brooks Koepka as the rain-delayed third round commenced Sunday morning. In the end, he chipped away at Koepka’s lead, finishing 12 under. Kopeka ended 8 under, tied for a surprise second place finish with Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is a three-time winner at Augusta, and while he has played poorly on the LIV circuit, he made a dramatic return to form here. At 52, he’s the oldest player ever to finish in the top five at the Masters.
2. NBA teams save the best for last as the regular season ends on a high note.
The regular NBA season ended a week ago, and there were several thrilling record-setting team and individual career performances in the last games of the season. Here are a few of them:
During the final game of the season, the Golden State Warriors set a new NBA record, scoring 55 points in the opening quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers. CNN notes that “the Splash Brothers,” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, led the team in breaking the previous joint record of 51 points scored by the Charlotte Hornets against the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year. They also broke their team’s own record, achieved in a game against the Denver Nuggets in 2019.
Thompson also finished the regular season with the most 3-pointers in the league, a first for him.
The LA Lakers’ LeBron James finished his 18th year in the NBA on a high note, with eight three-pointers and 36 points, six assists and six rebounds.
The NBA G league Rookie of the Year, Kenny Lofton Jr., signed with the Memphis Grizzlies just in time to make his first NBA start in the last game of the regular season. It was a stellar first outing – he ended with 42 points and 14 rebounds, even as the Grizzlies lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In a promising performance heading into the postseason, Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard delivered 30 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. CNN notes that Pritchard could be a key player for the Celts in the postseason if he can keep this up.
3. NBA Playoffs begin.
The play-ins are over, and the 2022-23 NBA playoffs are set. Round One is a best-of-seven and the Game 1’s are already in the books for 8 teams, with the rest set to play this afternoon.
In the Eastern Conference, the eight teams, their seeds and their first-round opponents are: Milwaukee (1) versus Miami (8). Boston (2) versus Atlanta (7). Sixers (3) versus Nets (6). Cleveland (4) versus Knicks (5).
In the West, its Denver (1) versus Minnesota (8). Memphis (2) versus LA Lakers (7). Kings (3) versus Golden State (6). And Phoenix (4) versus LA Clippers (5).
Our Sports Desk notes that the potential for an upset is always there, and the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds are pretty evenly matched. But don’t sleep on the Lakers. Our Desk notes that they are finally healthy, and could gain momentum in the playoffs. With LeBron James on the court, anything can happen.
In yesterday’s Game 1 matchups, there were lots of thrilling plays. The Knicks beat the Cavs 101-97 in a hard-fought road game – it was their first playoff win on the road in 24 years! The 76ers set a new record for three-pointers in a 121-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Kings beat the Warriors 126-123 in another close one. It was Sacramento’s first playoff win in 17 years. Finally, the Celts easily handled the Hawks in their first game, with a 112-99 win.
4. Good times in Gotham
For the first time since 1994, all five local New York teams in basketball and hockey have made the playoffs in their respective leagues. The Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Knicks and Nets will all compete in the postseason.
The New York Post reports that for the first time since 2007, all three local NHL teams have made the playoffs. The Rangers and Devils are playing each other in the first round (its the first time that’s happened in 11 years, according to the New York Times). The Isles will meet the Hurricanes in Round 1.
Ah, 1994. Those were the halcyon days of yore. CBS Sports reminds us that in that golden spring, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup to end a championship drought of more than 50 years. And the Knicks made the NBA Finals (but lost to the Houston Rockets).
NHL fans are feeling more optimistic that their teams will go the distance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Only the most hardcore superfans think that the Nets or Knicks could win it all in the NBA. No New York team has won a national championship since the New York Giants in 2011. It’s been quite a drought. Now might be our time. Go Gotham!!!!
5. MLB Update
Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day in MLB – hats off to number 42 for his courage, talent and grace in being the first player to break the color barrier in pro baseball.
Rays have an incredible run to start the season
The Tampa Bay Rays started this MLB season on an incredible tear, and this week they became just the third team in the modern era to go 13 – 0 to start the season. In 1884 the St. Louis Maroons set the record when they went 20 – 0. The Rays’ run ended with a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
On the other hand, the New York Yankees are not off to such a great start this season: as of this posting, they’re 9-6, four games behind Tampa Bay in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays are in second place in the division, three games back. For the record, our beloved Red Sox are at the bottom of the division with a 7-8 record. Ugh!
American League Standings
In the rest of the AL, the Minnesota Twins lead the Central division by just 1, with the Cleveland Guardians hot on their trail. And in the West, the Rangers lead the Angels by just one game. The Astros and Mariners are tied for third, just 1.5 games back.
National League Standings
In the NL East, the New York Mets trail the division-leading Atlanta Braves by 2. Mets slugger Pete Alonzo is off to a hot start this season, and Justin Verlander is looking good to return to the field soon. So things may be looking up.
In the Central division, the Brewers lead the Pirates by just one game, with the Cubs in third place just two back. And in the NL West, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers are tied for first, with the Padres just half a game back.
It’s important to keep in mind that it’s still really early in the season for either elation or despair. So let’s agree not to get ahead of ourselves. The Red Sox could still have a good season! Right? Right????
6. Professional Sports x Fashion is officially a Thing.
This week, Major League Soccer tapped streetwear designer Guillermo Andrade to be its creative advisor, hoping his cultural cachet will make the sport more popular in the US. Andrade is best known for his cult-favorite streetwear brand, 424. The designer will oversee apparel and merchandise for MLS teams, and leverage his network for product collaborations. And he’ll direct a three-part series documenting the process for Apple TV (because if it’s not televised, it’s like it really never happened).
The NBA has long been the most fashion-friendly sports organization, having collaborated with brands like Louis Vuitton, Canada Goose and Kid Super over the years. So far, no one has been named Creative Director for the league. But that could change. In an interview with The Business of Fashion, Lisa Piken Koper, the NBA’s senior vice president, global partnerships, shared that merchandise and apparel are the third largest source of revenue for the NBA. She’s intrigued by the monetization potential from going bigger and bolder here. And launching branded womenswear with noteworthy collaborators could also help drive popularity and fan engagement for the WNBA, Koper said.
Watch this space for further updates.
7. Snyder reaches a deal to sell the Washington Commanders.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the beleaguered owner of the NFL’s Washington Commanders, Dan Snyder, has reached a deal to sell the team to a group led by Josh Harris for a record price of $6 billion. Snyder and the team are subject to ongoing investigations in to sexual harassment and possible financial irregularities.
Harris, a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, also owns the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s a homecoming for him, as Harris is a native of the DC area. Snyder acquired the franchise in 1999 for $800 million. Not a bad return on investment. It’s not a great lesson for the kids at home, but there it is: play your cards right and you, too, can exhibit extremely bad behavior, grossly abuse your power, and still earn a great deal of money on your way out. (Need further proof? Two words: Donald Sterling.)
8. New head coaches have a great run in the NHL this season
The Boston Bruins set a new record with 65 wins this season – and they did it with a brand new head coach. Jim Montgomery replaced Bruce Cassidy last summer after Cassidy’s lackluster 2021-22 season. Montgomery had previously been fired as the head coach of the Dallas Stars in the middle of the 2019 season for “unprofessional conduct related to alcohol abuse.” He entered rehabilitation, and subsequently served as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports on an odd coaching carousel that is truly head-spinning. When Cassidy was fired by the Bruins, he took the head coaching job for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, replacing Peter DeBoer. DeBoer was then hired by . . . wait for it . . . Montgomery’s old team, the Dallas Stars.
Remarkably, this has worked out quite well for all three teams. In addition to the Bruins’ record-setting season, Las Vegas is at the top of the Pacific Division with a 49-22-9 record. They’re on track to land the top seed in the Western Conference when the playoffs begin this week. The Stars are in second place in the Central Division, just behind the defending the Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche.
In further proof that sometimes a leadership change makes a difference, the Journal also reports that after Rick Bowness lost his head coaching gig in Dallas to DeBoer, he took on the same role for the Winnipeg Jets. Meanwhile, the former Jets coach he replaced, Paul Maurice, is now head coach of the Florida Panthers. Both teams have clinched a spot in the playoffs this season.
9. OBJ is now a Raven – but will Lamar Jackson still be?
Odell Beckham Jr. joined the Baltimore Ravens this week, signing a one-year contract. CBS Sports reports that the value of deal could reach $18 million, if OBJ earned the total of $3 million in incentives in the contract.
Beckham missed the entire 2022 season after suffering a knee injury during the LA Rams’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XLVI.
Press reports are that after agreeing to join the Ravens, the star receiver partied with Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson. However, OBJ says he never got assurances that Jackson would definitely be in Baltimore this season. Jackson’s status is one of the last big question marks heading into the NFL Draft at the end of this month.
10. Aaron Rodgers makes an early endorsement for 2024 Presidential race.
We may not know where Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will play in the upcoming season. The NFL Draft is only about 10 days away, so there has to be some certainty around that soon. But in the meantime, at least we know how Rodgers plans to vote in the 2024 Presidential election. He has already endorsed his chosen candidate . . . wait for it . . . RFK Jr.
The two are both famously vocal anti-vaccination advocates, so this should not really come as much of a surprise. Novak Djokovic, we await your public declaration of support for Kennedy as well. Just don’t hold us a seat at any indoor gatherings you guys have planned . . . ’cause you know, COVID.
Weekly Top sports news headlines and major events to know: April 16, 2023
That’s our take on the big sports news headlines and major events, and a preview of the week ahead, including what to know about basketball, baseball and more. Have a great week, dear reader. See you next Sunday.