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Saints Draft Comments
Sunday, May 3
My major takes from the Saints' draft are:
  1. New Orleans' picks didn't come close to anybody's predictions. They have a mind of their own that hopefully will result in a number of solid additions to the roster. However, one writer ranks the Saints as his #1 Loser in the draft. When you come into a draft, even a relatively shallow one, with five picks in the first 78 selections, you want to come out with a pile of immediate-impact players. Instead the Saints walked away with a group of players who appear more likely to to help them over the long haul. ESPN's Mel Kiper gave the Saints one of his worst grades. The Saints really needed a good draft, not simply because they have some obvious needs and are coming off a really disappointing 2014 season, but also because Jimmy Graham is no longer with the team. When you lose a franchise icon and get draft proceeds out of the deal, you better get some good players. With the bulk of the focus on defense, which was a huge problem the past season, I'd just say they did OK. 
  2. The most interesting selection is QB Garrett Grayson. The Saints must think of him as their Drew Brees Replacement Project. Teach him the sys­tem for several years and let him learn from Drew so that he can take over when Brees reaches the end of the line. At least, that's the hope. Of course, there's the ever-increasing threat of injury for the aging Brees, especially if the O-line continues to decline. 12-year veteran Luke McCown and third-year man Ryan Griffin are still on the roster. So it's obvious the Saints think Grayson has more potential than Griffin, who probably won't make the cut for the regular season.
Sunday, May 3
This was a fantastic series, and it's hard to believe any of the subsequent series in this year's NBA Playoffs will match it.
  • Predicted to be the highlight of Round One, it lived up to its billing. It was the only first round series to go seven games.
  • Games 1 (Clippers 107-92) and 3 (Spurs 100-73) were blowouts but look at the other five.
    • Game 2: Spurs 111 @Clippers 107 (OT)
    • Game 4: Clippers 114 @Spurs 105
    • Game 5: Spurs 111 @Clippers 107
    • Game 6: Clippers 102 @Spurs 96
    • Game 7: @Clippers 111 Spurs 109
  • As you can see, the road team won four games, which is a testament to how good these two teams are.
  • I agree with the many commentators who said it was a shame that these two teams, led by the undisputed best coach in the league, Gregg Popo­vich, and another who is also highly rated, Doc Rivers, had to meet in Round One.
  • Of course, our Pelicans were responsible for San Antonio falling all the way to a #6 seed when Anthony Davis & Company beat the Spurs in Game #82 to clinch the #8 playoff spot for themselves.

Watching former New Orleans Hornet Chris Paul win Game 7 with a last-second shot after having to go to the locker room in the first half with a hamstring injury, I was left with a depressing feeling.

  • The Saints finally won a Super Bowl in 2009. But the Pelicans will NEVER play at the level exhibited by the Clippers and Spurs and have a chance at an NBA title. Let me explain my pessimism.
  • The NBA, like the NFL, has a salary cap to help "small market" teams com­pete. The NBA has a "soft" cap, meaning that teams are allowed to exceed the cap in order to retain a player who is already on the team. The NBA also has a luxury tax system which is triggered if the average team payroll ex­ceeds a certain amount higher than the cap. The NBA's agreement with its players also mandates a maximum salary for individual players based on a percentage of the total cap and the years of experience of the player.
  • The NFL has a "hard" cap based on the percentage of the league's total revenues that must go to the players. If a team submits a player contract to the league that puts the team over the cap, the contract is not approved.
  • Against this background, the main reason I think New Orleans will never field a team that can go to the NBA Finals is that the salary of one super­star player, such as Anthony Davis after the expiration his rookie contract (which was limited by agreement with the players' association), takes up a far larger percentage of the team's salary cap money than does the con­tract for an NFL player like Drew Brees. The Saints can pay Drew top dollar and still have enough, with intelligent talent evaluation, to surround him with enough talent to make the playoffs year after year.
  • The other problem with the NBA is superstars banding together to sign with the same team as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did with the Heat in 2010. James and Bosh were able to join Dwyane in Miami be­cause they signed for less than they could have on the open market (and Wade has his contract reworked as well) in order to win a championship.
  • But the total amount needed to sign three all-star players to jump a team into the elite category is far beyond what Tom Benson and the Pelicans can afford.
  • That being said, I think the Pels can do better than they did this year, when grabbing the last playoff spot was considered a triumph after missing the post-season for three seasons.
  • Remember when Chris Paul led the Hornets to a five-game victory over the Mavericks in Round One in 2007-08 and then to Game 7 (at home) against the Spurs in the Western semifinals? That may have been the apogee of the franchise for a long time to come.
Slice of History - 26 years ago this month
Tigers sweep Aggies for CWS berth
Garrity an unlikely hero as LSU advances to Omaha
by Joe Macaluso
Baton Rouge State-Times, Monday, May 29, 1989
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - There has never been a baseball squeezed so tightly.
First baseman Pete Bush had it. That Pat Garrity threw it - a long throw that had 4,200 mostly Texas A&M fans holding a collective breath - was most improbable.
Check it out: Here was a reserve third baseman who:
had to be reminded that his last hit came March 15 against St. John's;
had only 19 at-bats all season;
had played in 28 games, all as a late-inning replacement and not always at third base;
was the only left-handed hitter remaining on the bench.
After LSU's 5-4 victory, the fourth win in 36 hours - the Ti­gers had been on the bubble since Friday night's 6-4 loss to South Alabama - and he was talking with reporters about driving in the game-winning run in the 11th inning against the No. 1-ranked Aggies. He talked about how the Tigers accomplished what many thought was impossible, to beat the Aggies in their own yard, Olsen Field, and to beat a team that had waltzed through its first three regional games by outscoring the opposition 65-13.
"I was in shock when Coach (Skip Bertman) told me to get a bat," Garrity said. "I hadn't hit in so long. I know I just want­ed to get a hit ... get a pitch and hit it."
He picked a hanging curve from Scott Centala, regarded as the Aggies' best, a superstar reliever with All-Southwest Con­ference credentials.
The two-out double high off the wall in right field drove in Craig Cala who had doubled six pitches earlier.
The lead secured, Garrity went to third, where he was hang­ing tight on the line when he took a hot smash deep behind the bag and threw out one of the fastest players in college baseball, A&M's lead-off hitter Kirk Thompson.
When the ball hit Bush's glove a half-step ahead of Thomp­son, the improbable was done.
LSU was champion of the Central Regional. Later this week, ..., the Tigers will know who and when they will play in their third appearance in four years at the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. ...
There were so many heroes wearing first home whites in the 13-5 win earlier Sunday which forced the championship game, then road grays in the game that forced a tear from every Aggie worth his salt.
"Truly, this was a team victory, this regional, this trip to Oma­ha," Bertman said. "These last 36 hours were incredible. ... I mean you just can't underestimate the power of the mind. These kids really believed they could win. I heard things on our bench tonight - things like 'See a hit. Visualize what it would be like seeing a hit right now' for whoever it was at the plate - that I never thought I'd hear in baseball."
Why Garrity?
Bertman's first response was that Garrity was a better curve­ball hitter than Luis Garcia, whom he replaced, and Cen­tala was an outstanding curveball pitcher.
"I wanted to make the move earlier, but Luis was leading off the inning (the eighth) and I didn't," Bertman said.
That was an answer. The explanation went a lot deeper.
"I really believe that in situations like that good things happen to good people. Good kids come through," Bertman said.
"Pat has been one of those kids who come out every day, never complains, always is there working as hard as a starter, taking his groundballs and his cuts in the (batting) cage. I just somehow knew that he would do it. Don't ask how, I just knew."
Of course, there were other reasons, other players.
Bush, for instance, came up with a clutch single over second to send home Scott Schneidewind in the eighth to tie the score at 4-all. Schneidewind, who stole second, was on to run for third baseman Phil Espinosa who had walked.
There were four pitchers, all of whom were pitching on less than two days rest in the championship game.
There was Curtis Leskanic, who had beaten South Alabama Saturday night when he threw 39 strikes among his 42 pitch­es and came back to throw 66 pitches in the championship game. There was freshman Paul Byrd, who had worked in four of the six regional games relieving starter Russ Springer in the third.
Then there was Ben McDonald, the ace of the staff who had thrown 118 pitches through seven innings in Sunday's first game.
That McDonald, the tournament's MVP, faced the .385 hitting Thompson was a twist of fate Leskanic hated to recall. "I thought I had struck out that last guy," said Leskanic, a junior right-hander. "I threw a good pitch on 3-2 and when I saw Mike (catcher Bianco) jump, I jumped too.
"When the umpire called that pitch a ball, I just couldn't believe it. That was a good move by Coach Bertman to get me out. I was out of it."
Bianco backed up his teammate. "I just think the umpire was too much into the game. ... There's no doubt that everyone, including the batter ... knew it was a strike. It was a great pitch, but the ump didn't want anyone to come out of either dugout and argue. It was a terrible call.
"He had given them three runs in the first inning when Russell (Springer) struck that guy out on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded. He called ball four and then the next guy just reached out and chinked one into left field to give them three runs. He was a terrible ump."
Sharing All-Regional honors with McDonald and Leskanic were LSU leftfielder Matt Gruver, the leading hitter in the tournament; Tookie Johnson, who drove in the game-win­ning run in Saturday night's win over South Alabama; and designated hitter Wes Grisham, who made up for a .214 average through the first four games with a two-run homer among his five hits in nine at bats and five RBI in Sunday's two games.
Then there was Chad Ogea, who worked eight solid innings in Saturday's 13-8 victory that sent Nevada-Las Vegas pack­ing, a win that started what arguably was the most memo­rable 36 hours in LSU baseball history.
It started a string of 55 hits, 37 runs and a staff that held the opposition scoreless in 26 of the 36 innings.
"I can't tell you how we did it," Bianco said, "but I can tell you why we were able to beat a team with a 58-6 record, a team that hadn't lost two games in a row all year. Going to the College World Series has been our goal since last September. After we won the first game against Texas A&M, we knew we'd win the second. We didn't know how or when, but we knew we'd do it."

L-R: Pat Garrity, Ben McDonald, Curtis Leskanic, Chad Ogea

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This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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