Congratulations on surviving another Monday, I'm happy to have you back here for another morning of sports goodness. I'm willing to bet your Monday wasn't quite as eventful as J.J. Watt's, as the star pass-rusher found a new team (and a pretty nice paycheck.) We'll dive into some analysis and reaction on Watt choosing the Cardinals shortly. Also, another NBA coach has been fired, there are plenty more NFL trade rumors and a very different NIT has been announced.
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In other news, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of "NCAA Football 14" yesterday (I'd been looking to find one at a decent price for months) and I can't wait to boot up some elite-tier nostalgia later. I'm about to go dive into a 25-year franchise that will completely take over my life as I chain-smoke cigarettes while recruiting five-star playmakers. I may go missing for a few days. You've been warned.
📰 What you need to know
1. The Cardinals are a great fit for J.J. Watt 🏈
We'd been waiting for JJ Watt to make a decision on where the next chapter of his NFL career would take place. We speculated where he'd end up and looked for any and every clue that might tip his hand. Heck, we were so desperate for a scoop that we turned to Peloton for help.
But yesterday all the hubbub came to a swift end when Watt tweeted out a photo of himself wearing his new team's gear. Simple yet effective. And that new team? Well, it was a bit of a surprising choice.
- Watt has agreed to sign with the Arizona Cardinals and will reportedly ink a two-year, $31 million deal
- Watt, who will turn 32 this month, will get $23 million guaranteed as part of the deal
A lot of people were stunned by the news because the Cardinals weren't really one of the heavily discussed teams in the Watt sweepstakes ... it seemed like most of the rumors highlighted the Packers (Watt's hometown team), the Steelers (where Watt's brother plays), the Bills and the Browns. But the Cardinals actually are a pretty good fit for Watt, and our John Breech explains why:
- Familiarity with the defensive coordinator: Watt has a long history with Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph dating back to Watt's rookie year in 2011. Joseph served on the Texans' defensive coaching staff under Wade Phillips and still uses many of the same philosophies
- Watt gets to team up with Chandler Jones: Assuming Jones sticks around, Watt will have an easier time on the defensive line this year. Watt saw more double-teams than any other pass-rusher in the NFL last year, so teaming up with Jones would help take some of the attention off of himself
- He goes to a contender: The Cardinals may not stand out as a potential contender because they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs via tiebreaker this past season, but all of the games they lost were close and Kyler Murray is only going to get better. A couple more pieces and this team could be real dangerous
It's also worth pointing out that Watt gets to reunite with DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona, and both of them will get to play the Texans next season in a game that I'm sure they both already have circled on the calendar. At this rate, maybe Deshaun Watson will be a Cardinal for that game too (kidding...mostly.)
2. Atlanta Hawks dismiss coach Lloyd Pierce 🏀
Last week, Ryan Saunders became the first NBA coach to be fired during the 2021 season. Yesterday, Lloyd Pierce became the second.
- The Atlanta Hawks fired Pierce following a 14-20 start to the season
- Pierce went 63-120 overall during his two-plus seasons in Atlanta (2018-2021)
- Former Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan, who joined Pierce's staff this season, will serve as interim coach
The Hawks' ownership group had a lot of patience with Pierce as he helped guide the team through a rebuild, but it appears that patience ran out as the Hawks have failed to take the next step this season. After a big offseason spending spree from the front office, it's clear that there's a "playoffs or bust" mentality within the organization this year, and Pierce didn't inspire a lot of confidence that he was the guy to lead them there.
On top of that, Pierce has reportedly had issues with some of his players, including star guard Trae Young, over the past few years. That sort of friction can be overlooked when the team is finding success on the floor, but the Hawks haven't exactly found their breakthrough just yet.
3. Expect some more big-name NFL trades 🏈
We haven't even arrived at the draft/free agency juncture of the NFL offseason yet and there have already been a number of big-name players changing teams (for example: J.J. Watt!) If you're enjoying all the activity, then I've got some good news for you: Our Jason La Canfora believes there's going to be multiple star players traded in the weeks ahead.
In his insider notes column this week, JLC mentions several big-name players who could be involved in the next wave of blockbuster transactions:
- Von Miller: The Broncos could pick up a team option on Miller's contract, but even if they do it may ultimately serve as a precursor to a trade as they continue rebuilding in Denver
- Stephon Gilmore: It was assumed the Patriots would deal Gilmore this offseason and that appears to still be the case, as the two sides seemingly haven't made any progress on a contract extension
- Odell Beckham Jr.: Allen Robinson and Kenny Golladay are expected to get franchise tagged, which would create a seller's market for top wide receivers. The Browns may not be actively shopping OBJ but they may pull the trigger on a deal if a good one comes their way
There are plenty of other names mentioned in JLC's column, so it's worth checking out to make sure you've got all this stuff on your radar. On top of all that, we've still got plenty of smoke circling some QB situations around the league, and trade blocks always change after the draft ... so this offseason doesn't appear to be taking its foot off the gas anytime soon.
4. The NIT is going to look different this year 🏀
We're all greatly anticipating the 2021 NCAA Tournament later this month, especially since we had March Madness ripped out from under us last year, but what about the teams that don't qualify for the big dance? Well, some will still get a chance to participate in the little dance this year, and details for the 2021 NIT were released yesterday.
However, this year's NIT will look different, so let's recap what you need to know:
- The NIT is cutting its field in half (from 32 teams to 16 teams) and holding the entire tournament in the Dallas-Fort Worth area
- The decision to host the tournament in DFW was made in order to maximize health & safety measures during the pandemic
- Because of the reduced field size, the bracket of the NIT will be populated via a selection process of at-large participants
- The top four seeded teams in the NIT will also serve as four contingency teams on standby for the NCAA Tournament in case any of the 64 teams in the main tournament have to opt out
The tie-in between the NCAA Tournament/NIT is an interesting wrinkle that I hadn't expected, but it does make a lot of sense in terms of establishing a backup plan. The NIT will get underway on March 17.
📝 Odds & Ends
- A Luka Doncic rookie card sold for $4.6 million, making it the most expensive NBA card in history
- Emails show Texas Longhorns donors threatened to stop supporting (and funding) the university over the 'Eyes of Texas' controversy
- The Washington Football Team is expected to part ways with Alex Smith in coming days following his Comeback Player of the Year season
📺 What to watch tonight
🏒 Flyers vs. Penguins, 7 p.m. | PIT -105 | TV: NBCSN
🏀 Clippers vs. Celtics, 7:30 p.m. | BOS +3.5 | TV: TNT
🏀 Suns vs. Lakers, 10 p.m. | LAL -2 | TV: TNT
🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday
I have watched this incredible high school basketball blooper about 15 times and it keeps getting funnier every time.