From Comcast SportsNetTom Crean's whirlwind week got even crazier Monday.Upon returning home from the Super Bowl, the Indiana coach found out he's leading America's No. 1 college basketball team. Again.It was another crowning moment in a week full of big wins for the Crean clan. Indiana beat No. 13 Michigan State, archrival Purdue and No. 1 Michigan in a seven-day span, before Crean headed to New Orleans. There, he watched one brother-in-law beat his other brother-in-law for the Super Bowl title. Finally, he saw the Hoosiers reclaim the top spot in The Associated Press poll after seven weeks."Our guys appreciate winning. They appreciate the task that it is and I think because our older guys have been through so many hard times, they appreciate it that much more," a weary-sounding Crean said during Monday's weekly Big Ten conference call. "And I think our younger guys were raised on winning. Guys like Yogi (Ferrell), Cody (Zeller), Remy Abell, those guys were really raised on winning, and that helps."It's the fifth straight week there is a new No. 1 team.Duke started the current streak and was followed by Louisville, Duke again, Michigan and now Indiana. The last time there were five No. 1s in as many weeks was the last five polls of 2008-09, when it was Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Connecticut again, North Carolina and Louisville.The Hoosiers, the preseason No. 1, held the top spot for the first five weeks of the regular season. They moved up two spots Monday after their win over the Wolverines and then-No. 2 Kansas' loss to Oklahoma State. They received 58 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel, while Florida, which jumped two spots to second, got the other seven.Michigan, which made its first appearance atop the Top 25 in more than two decades last week, dropped two spots to No. 3 and was followed by Duke, Kansas, Gonzaga, Arizona, Miami, Syracuse and Ohio State.The change at the top of the poll came as no surprise in Bloomington.Even before Saturday's game ended, fans were chanting "No. 1, No. 1.""We've been playing with a chip on our shoulder since the day I got here," junior swingman Victor Oladipo said Saturday. "We've got to continue to play with that chip because it can be taken away at any time."Indiana found that out the hard way with an overtime loss to then-unranked Butler on Dec. 15.For the next seven weeks, the Hoosiers were trying to get back to No. 1.The only stumble was a home loss to Wisconsin. But last week, they played their best basketball all season, leading almost from start to finish in all three games and handing Purdue its worst home loss ever.For Crean, that was just the start of the whirlwind weekend.He flew on a private plane Sunday morning to New Orleans, where he watched the Super Bowl with his wife, Joani, the sister of John and Jim Harbaugh."It's really hard certainly for Joani and her parents because you've got such great joy for one and such pride," Crean said.He received a text message Sunday from Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who has had three children play college sports, that Crean showed to his father-in-law late that night."He said as a parent, you're only as happy as your unhappiest child, and I think it's an amazing statement and one of the most profound things that I've ever heard, and it probably fits what Joani's parents are going through," Crean said. "But in a sense, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so there's incredible joy in being able to be a part of it and see it."Crean was scheduled to return home Monday afternoon, in time for practice after a mostly sleepless night.There were four newcomers to the poll this week: Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, all of whom were ranked at some point this season. They replaced Wichita State and Mississippi, which both lost two games last week and fell from 15th and 16th; North Carolina State, which was No. 6 in the preseason poll and also lost twice last week; and San Diego State.
BOSTON – At this point in training camp with just a couple of preseason games to go, Monday night’s performance might have represented the exclamation point on Anders Bjork’s impressive drive to win an NHL roster spot. The 21-year-old Bjork has scored other goals during this preseason, but Monday night’s tally in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was his first while skating with prospective linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“I think we had more ice time together, which helped us get more comfortable and helped me kind of learn their chemistry a bit more,” said Bjork, who finished with 21 goals and 52 points in 29 games for Notre Dame last season. “Obviously, they have a ton of chemistry and they’re very easy to play with, of course, but you know, it’s nice to get more shifts with them and kind of pick up on their patterns and stuff like that.”
In fact, it’s become easy to see Bjork now winning the right wing spot with No. 37 and No. 63 after watching them work together in perfect concert for Boston’s third goal of the night.
Already up by a 2-0 score, Marchand turned over a puck in the Chicago defensive zone while on the forecheck hunt, and managed to work it over to Bergeron for a quick, backhanded saucer pass to the slot area. The alert Bjork stepped up into the high slot and one-timed the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a three-goal lead on Monday night, and allow all involved a sigh of heavy relief that Boston has found at least one rookie ready to hold down top-6 NHL job.
“He’s got that speed and the smarts to get open and then find the openings in the quiet ice. It was a great play by him just to get open, and for me to see him. He made it really easy,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He skates well, he made some great plays, we just need to keep talking and finding each other more and more on the ice.”
Given the overall scope of Bjork’s performance in camp, his steady presence on a line with Bergeron and Marchand during the preseason and his speedy skill set, the rookie is stating a strong case that he’s ready for NHL prime time. It would be a major training camp shocker to this humble hockey writer if Bjork is anywhere other than in the Bruins lineup when they drop the puck against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5.
“Yes, it does [look like Bjork is NHL ready]. The competition will stiffen for him and we’ll keep evaluating that. Still, he’s got skill, speed, and courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against [and gives] second effort on pucks,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s not one-and-done with him. And for a young kid, that’s special, to be able to hang in and there and battle for those turnovers. That’s usually the part of the game they have to continue to grind on them.
“But he’s got a lot of that. Maybe that’s Bergy and March’s influence, I’d like to think they have some of that, because that’s their game. Marchy never quits. Bergy never quits. They’re going to be a hard line to play against if they are that dogged on the puck every shift.”
There are still two preseason games remaining before the real thing, so it makes little sense for the Bruins to pronounce Bjork ready for NHL duty until the time comes. Bjork’s combination of blazing skating speed, decision-making and confident swagger on the ice have pushed him to the top of Boston’s prospect list when it comes to being closest to play in the NHL. All were on display in his 12:48 of ice time with a goal and a plus-1 rating to go along with two shots on net, a hit and a takeaway while playing the fast, aggressive hockey that Boston prefers these days.
Bjork could have even had a second goal after he intercepted an Erik Gustafsson outlet pass, but missed the net high with a shot in close while going for his second goal of the game. All in all, it was another hurdle cleared by a talented Notre Dame standout that certainly feels like he’s destined to make the opening day roster, and equally ordained to start in a top-6 right wing role with arguably the best duo in the entire NHL.
It will be interesting to see just how good Bjork can be on a daily basis at the NHL level, and if he can get into becoming the 20 goals/50 points range player that should be in his future.
Now it’s up simply up to Bjork to finish up strong in the preseason when he’s paired with Bergeron and Marchand, and continue on the straight-ahead path toward cracking the Bruins roster for years to come. It would appear he’s poised to “pop” in training camp just as Brandon Carlo did a year ago, and stand as one of those talented youngsters ready to help bridge the gap between talented rookies and established core veterans.
CANTON, Mass. – LeBron James has embraced the fact that Kyrie Irving has moved on, but you get a sense that there’s still a bit of ‘what if. . .?” that James is still thinking about.
"I was wondering if there was something I could have did better to make him not want to be traded," James told reporters during Cleveland’s Media Day on Monday. "Is it the way the season finished, or, was it me coming back in the first place? Was it the coaching changes or the GM change, or, I don't know. I had so many different emotions go through my head."
When told about James wondering if there was something he could have done better to not make him ask for a trade, Irving responded, “Yeah.”
Irving declined to get into specifics, saying, “If we ever have that conversation, I don’t think it’s for anybody but me and him.”
He added, “Even if there are things, it’s really not anybody’s business. It’s between two men. That’s really where it is.”
Irving, a four-time All-Star in his six seasons with the Cavs, asked for a trade request in July.
Cleveland talked to several teams, and were seemingly focused on trying to send him to a team in the Western Conference.
While there was considerable interest, the Cavs didn’t see any deals come across their desk to their liking which is when they rekindled conversations with Boston.
After initially coming to terms of a trade, Cleveland was concerned that Isaiah Thomas’ still-on-the-mend hip injury was more serious than they had initially thought and asked for additional compensation in the form of a first-round pick.
The Celtics indicated during their initial talks that Thomas might not be ready at the start of the season. His timetable still remains uncertain, but reports out of Cleveland indicate that he may be ready to play prior to January.
Both Boston and Cleveland found a happy medium with the trade eventually being Irving to Boston in exchange for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2018 unprotected first-round pick from Brooklyn along with a 2020 second-round pick Boston got from Miami, that they conveyed to the Cavs.