Weekly Nickel 4-16-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Rafael Nadal (pictured above) took home the title in Monaco last year. He hopes to repeat this week.

By Josh Kramer

Welcome to mid-April.  NHL Playoff action is in full swing.  The NBA regular season is wrapping up.  And the MLB is part of the daily sports routine.  There is so much going on in the sporting world.  I hope you enjoyed the last week.  This week will be a good one in its own right though.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  Let’s go to Monaco.  We all wish right?  Well the ATP is heading to Monaco for the 106th edition of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.  And though this is a non-mandatory event for the tour’s top players, the majority of the world’s elite will be there.   This includes Rafael Nadal, who would love to defend his title in Monaco. Things in the tennis world are ready to heat up as players prep for the year’s second Grand Slam in Paris (French Open).  Make sure to keep an eye on this always highly competitive and entertaining event.

4.  The clock continues to tick on college basketball players to make up their minds.  Many players are still on the fence on whether they should declare for the NBA Draft or stay in school to refine their skills for another year.  It is a very tough decision for many 18, 19, and 20-year-olds to make.  By no means is there a black and white answer.  This is typical with tough decisions (just ask LeBron).  The deadline to decide is 11 days away (April 27th).

3.  Yesterday was a day to remember Jackie Robinson with all 30 teams in action sporting the iconic number 42.  We are a couple of weeks into the season.  Teams like the Nationals and Dodgers are already turning heads (in a good way), while the two “sexy” picks this offseason are occupying the bottom-tier in their respective divisions (Marlins and Angels).  As I have said and will continue to say, it is a very long season.  Though there is something to be said for what has happened over the first couple of weeks, this by no means is a finished product.  Over 150 games left for every team in the MLB.  My matchup of the week takes place in good old San Francisco.

Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants:  Are you ready for some pitching?  Both of these teams are common picks to not only win their respective divisions, but to make deep runs in the postseason.  And rightfully so.  I dare you to find me better pitching staffs than these two teams possess in the National League.  Tonight’s game between Lincecum and Halladay should be fun.  These two outstanding pitchers have combined to win three of the last four Cy Young Awards.  Plus, Game three on Wednesday features a Lee versus Cain matchup.  Neither team is playing well yet.  But I expect the Giants to continue to demonstrate their dominance over the Phillies in recent years at their home ballpark.  Look for the Giants to take three of four and start to roll.

2.  Once the NFL comes to a close at the beginning of February, there is a lack of excitement on Sunday’s in the sporting world.  That is until the NBA really gets going.  Recently, Sundays have turned into the “Carmelo Day” at Madison Square Garden.  Sadly, the second edition of “Carmelo Day” resulted in a loss for the Knicks.  Who else would love to see the Knicks take on the Heat in Round one?  Does anybody else remember what happened back in 1999 during the NBA’s last strike shortened season?  The New York Knicks, led by Latrell that year in the opening round, and cruised all the way to the NBA Finals.  Grab your popcorn because the playoffs are just around the corner.  My matchup of the week takes place in South Beach.

Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat:  The Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals will be Chicago or Miami.  There is no doubt in my mind.  Both of these outstanding teams are head and shoulders above the rest. Chicago made a statement on Thursday when they took down the mighty Heat, despite a dismal performance from the reigning MVP Derrick Rose.  This was not a good sign for Miami.  However, the Heat did put on a show in New York yesterday and always play well at home.

Though Chicago has the one-seed all but locked up, this is a huge game.  Chicago can make a major statement by taking down the defending Eastern Conference Champs while on the road.  Miami on the other hand needs this win in the worst way.  They have to prove that they can beat this Chicago team.  I will take my chances on a very motivated James, Wade, and Bosh.  Miami wins at AmericanAirlines Arena, where they are 25 and 4 on the year.

1.  Last year we had the luxury of witnessing four Game 7’s in Round 1 alone.  Will that happen this year?  Who knows (probably not).  Either way, the games have been vastly entertaining thus far, full of physical play and nail-biting finishes.  Though the most highly anticipated first-round matchup has turned into a massacre (Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia).  Hockey for once should be on center-stage this week as we wait for the NFL Draft and the NBA Playoffs to begin.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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