● Janis Timma Signs Contract

Janis Timma, who the Orlando Magic acquired the NBA rights to last week, signed a two-year contract earlier today to play with Zenit St. Petersburg of the VTB United League through 2017.

Timma was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies as the 60th (last) pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Last week, the Grizzlies traded the 22 year-old’s NBA draft rights to the Magic in exchange for Luke Ridnour. The move began a bizarre merry-go-round for Ridnour, who has been involved in four trades involving five NBA teams over the past six days.

It is unknown if the Magic intend to negotiate with Zenit St. Petersburg to acquire the 6’7″ shooting guard/small forward. Just weeks before being drafted by the Grizzlies, Timma led BK Ventspils to the Baltic Basketball League championship where he won the MVP award in the losing effort. He chose to return to Ventspils and helped them win the 2014 championship and was named MVP once again. Last year he signed a one-year contract with VEF Riga for his first season in the VTB United League. He was named MVP of the 2015 Latvian Basketball League All-Star Game after he scored 41 points, establishing a new all-star scoring record. He was also named the 2015 VTB United League Young Player of the Year.

Hopefully Janis Timma signs contract to play with the Orlando Magic sooner than later.

● Luke Ridnour Makes It FIVE

Former Orlando Magic guard Luke Ridnour makes it FIVE NBA teams in less than six days.

Luke Ridnour-MagicHere’s the breakdown:

TWolvesZubric was drafted by the Raptors three years ago and is under contract to play for Cedevita Zagreb of the Croatian League. Ridnour’s latest move is similar to the deal the Magic made with Grizzlies last Wednesday to acquire the NBA rights to Timma. This time, the “something-for-nothing” move cost the Thunder who had to PAY the Raptors to dump Ridnour and acquire his $2.75M contract.

These past six days are sadly an accelerated time capsule of Ridnour’s 13 year career in the NBA. Ridnour was a 2003 first round draft pick of the Seattle Supersonics, a pick they acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks prior to the draft in a six-player trade.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

D. Clarke Evans/NBAE

Five years later in 2008, Ridnour was part of a 3-team preseason trade between the Thunder, Bucks, and Cleveland Cavaliers that “returned” him to the Bucks – the team that originally held his draft pick. He played for the Bucks for two seasons before signing as a free agent with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010. Three years later he was involved in yet another 3-team trade with the Bucks and Thunder, once again heading “back” to Milwaukee. He played just 36 games for the Bucks during the 2013 season before they traded him to the Charlotte Bobcats. Prior to the 2014-15 season Ridnour signed a 2-year, $5.5M contract with the Magic, a contract he is halfway through.

There will be a quiz on Thurday’s show at 6pm on AM740 theGame and iHeart Radio. Unless of course Ridnour gets traded again.

● Baseball From The Beginning

Set your DVR, dust off your VCR, it’s time to TiVo!

“Baseball From The Beginning: Tampa Bay” airs on FOX Sun Sports today beginning at 5:30pm.

Al Lopez Field“Part 1: The Birth of Baseball” is the first installment of this original four-part series which features the the people, communities, and cultures that have contributed to the history of baseball in the region, created by Sunburst Productions.

View a 15-second sneak peak HERE!

This series of programs will highlight a rich tradition that began more than a century ago and will feature interviews with historians as well as professionals and local legends of the game.

● Don’t Call Him Super Mario – YET.

The Amway Center was buzzing as the 2015 NBA Draft Began just after 7:30pm. The assembled crowd was more excited at the half-court shot attempts on their own court for $1,000 prize money than they were when the feed from Barclays Center in Brooklyn showing that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick. Even The Benchwarmers picked this one.

Amway Center

But soon after, things changed. The main scoreboard flashed that the Los Angeles Lakers pick was “in”, and shortly after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was back on the screen ready to announce that the Lakers had selected, “…D’Angelo Russell.”

WHAT?

Every bobblehead in the world with a blog or a radio or television show had been spewing for weeks that the Lakers were selecting Jahlil Okafor. At least The Benchwarmers suggested the Lakers might trade down.

It just goes to show that like every other sure thing you see or hear about, just like every single nugget of conventional wisdom that points to the most obvious path – it didn’t actually happen that way. Seconds later in fact, Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak asked his newest player, “Did we surprise you a little bit?” The former Ohio State point guard responded, “Absolutely”.

Meanwhile, the buzz in Amway Center increased. The Philadelphia 76ers were up next and as sure as everyone was that the Lakers were picking Okafor nobody equally had a clue what the Sixers were thinking. But the pick was in, and it would be Okafor. A Magic fan in the arena tweeted a thank you to the Sixers, since most of their recent draft lottery picks end up eventually wearing Magic uniforms.

Up next, the New York Knicks. Inside the Amway Center, it was getting real. Silver was front and center delivering the selection The Benchwarmers predicted on air an hour before – Kristaps Porzingis. The Magic fans responded with confusion since every media outlet within 50 miles of Lake Eola had been telling them the tall, skinny kid from Latvia was going to be picked by the Magic. The Benchwarmers were not against nor Forzingis – it’s that we had already heard from credible sources in New York that the Knicks were locked in to picking him. Too bad all those other media types… ah nevermind.

So the Magic were on the clock. Justice Winslow was still on the board. So was Willy Cauley-Stein, The Benchwarmers choice. Silver was back up on the main scoreboard and…

Mario Hezonja was the Magic pick.

It was pretty quiet for a moment inside the Amway Center. The silence was even more pristine because the fan noise that previously was being piped over from Barclays Center was non-existent.

So like every gambler with a checkbook and a dream, had The Benchwarmers had run out of aces, one hand early? Not quite. Mario Hezonja was the “other” European player that basketball fans had never seen in person nor knew nothing about. That being said, there were some national media that felt the Magic were going to draft him. And more importantly, he’s been on the Magic radar. What seemed uncertain was whether or not Hezonja would be able to get out of his contract with Barcelona and actually play for the Magic anytime soon.

Magic GM Rob Hennigan addressed that concern stating, “We’re fully confident he’ll be with us next season.” Hezonja himself said he expects to be in Orlando within the next couple of days. The bad news is that Barcelona just finished their season, so Hezonja will need time to recover physically before anyone sees him going all-out on a NBA practice court.

That being said, Head Coach Scott Skiles is all in. Skiles didn’t know much about Hezonja at first but has reviewed the extensive video and other scouting materials the Magic have assembled. Asked whether Hezonja is a one-dimensional player Skiles said, “There’s no reason he can’t be a really great defender. Like every other young offensive-minded player he probably takes a play or two off on defense that he shouldn’t. But it’s nothing he can’t be taught.”

“We’ve done a lot of research on Mario,” Hennigan said. The Magic’s European scout lives near Barcelona so they’ve had an opportunity to see the young professional for a few years.
Hennigan added, “Mario has been engrained in a professional environment, playing against grown men for several years now. We see Mario as someone who can play with all of our guys.”

But Mario Hezonja is not going to be a savior, simply because the Magic do not need a Super Mario in 2015. The Magic just need him to be Mario Hezonja of Croatia via Barcelona, who is ready to pick up his game to play at the next level. And that is going to take a full season cycle at the very least. Hezonja is not going to score 40 points when the Magic take to the floor for their season opener in the Fall. Hezonja may not even play ten minutes in that game, and that’s OK.

Sometimes the best decisions are the ones not made. We will never know whether or not the Magic were prepared to pick Kristaps Porzingis at #5. Even if they tell us one way or another now sometime down the road. For now, Porzingis’ future success rides solely on Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks organization.

● Re-Bit By The Soccer Bug

Heading to the Citrus Bowl tonight to watch Orlando City SC take on the Colorado Rapids, I can honestly say it’s not the first time I’ve watched a professional soccer match in person. But man, has it been a LONG time.

Citrus Bowl

Bethlehem Steel Soccer TeamSoccer was HUGE where I grew up in Pennsylvania. It probably started when the Bethlehem Steel Company sponsored a professional club back in 1913 and won five National Cups over the next two decades, still tied for the most US Open Cup victories in history. The steel mill became a melting pot of many cultures over the next few decades, cultures that all loved soccer. Even though professional soccer left the region, the sport continued to be very popular.

In my case, it didn’t hurt that my elementary AND junior high school gym teachers were both top-level soccer coaches – needless to say we played a LOT of soccer and kickball in gym class all school year – outdoors and indoors. Summer soccer camps with my friends led to eventually playing for my junior high school soccer team where I peaked as the 87th string JV goalkeeper. Thankfully I never gave up a goal, especially because East Hills had been undefeated and unscored-upon for decades. My high school team was really good, not the least of which was because I did NOT play for it. They shared the PIAA State Championship in my senior year, which was the first state title for the school in any sport.
It was a RIDICULOUS match.

So back to my soccer fandom. Growing up, there was a league called the American Soccer League and our local team was the Pennsylvania Stoners – easily one of the greatest nicknames for a team of the 80s in ANY sport.Pennsylvania Stoners The Stoners played at one of our local high school stadia and I remember going to many games with my friends. As I look back and read that the team tumbled to bankruptcy when it moved to my town, I can only assume they were giving away tickets to us kids because I remember the place always being packed.

Make no mistake, along the way I’ve announced my share of college and PDL soccer matches in the Gotham area, but I’ve always hesitated from jumping on the MLS bandwagon. Journeying to rusty Harrison, New Jersey to watch Red Bull New York is slightly less fun than heading to the swamp for Giants/Jets games. And I have to admit, I’m a little queasy watching a match at the new Yankee Stadium, it just seems as wrong as sitting in grandpa’s chair. Sorry New York City FC. For now.

Citrus Bowl

Needless to say I was surprised when I visited Orlando in March and saw the newly-remodeled Citrus Bowl. WOW! As I started to follow Orlando City FC from afar, it became really clear to me that the soccer bug bit me again. So here I am, ready to become a fan once again of The Beautiful Game, re-bit by the soccer bug.

● Mozgov Remains A Cav

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer is reporting that the Cleveland Cavaliers have picked up their option on center Timofey Mozgov for next season, reported to be $4,950,000.

(Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

(Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

Mozgov was acquired from the Denver Nuggets on January 7th along with the Nuggets 2015 2nd round pick (#53) in exchange for two conditional first-round picks. Mozgov was originally signed as a free agent by the New York Knicks and was sent to the Nuggets in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

Mozgov played in 46 games for the Cavs, starting all but one. He averaged 10.6 points and seven rebounds while logging in 25 minutes per game in the regular season and played in all 20 of the Cavs’ playoff games.

● Scary Mascot Shuts Down The Internet

A California-based investment company has created exceptional internet buzz for their newest sponsorship deal – by scaring children in Scotland.

Kingsford Capital logoYesterday, Kingsford Capital Management, LLC announced they had signed on as the new title sponsor of the Partick Thistle FC “Jags” soccer team.

Mike Wilkins, listed as Kingsford’s Managing Partner and Porfolio Manager, commissioned David Shrigley – a well-known Scottish artist AND Jags fan – to create a “unique” new logo for Kingsford that has been placed on the Jags uniforms.

JD02But wait, there’s more. The Jags now have a new mascot as well, based off of their new sponsor’s logo. It appears that the Jimmy Dean Delights spokes-sun decided to take a trip across the pond, weathered a painful cavity search at the claws of the TSA, was smacked around in the cargo bay for a few hours, missed a breakfast or twenty, and now… is very VERY MAD about the whole affair.

Say hello to Kingsley:
KingsleyThere is a disclaimer/catchphrase on the Jags homepage – “We’re Not So Cuddly Anymore”. As millions of people visit the Partick Thistle website to view the scary mascot, people who likely didn’t even know what a Partick Thistle WAS, Kingsford should be satisfied in achieving more web traffic in 24 hours to promote their sponsorship than Scottish football has logged since Mel Gibson was mauling mercenaries in the meadow.

Meanwhile, “The Kids Are NOT Alright”.
Sad boy with soccer ball

 

 

 

● Thaddeus Young Opts Out Of Contract

Forward Thaddeus Young has opted out of the remaining year of his $10.2M contract, according to Brooklyn Nets General Manager Billy King.

But Young isn’t packing his bags just yet, since King wants to re-sign Young to a new deal and keep him in Brooklyn. “I’m pretty confident, because we have some tools in our favor,” King said earlier today. The Nets hold Young’s “Bird Rights“, which allow them to offer Young more money than any other team can.

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Young was acquired at last year’s trade deadline from the Minnesota Timberwolves, allowing the venerable Kevin Garnett to return to the TWolves for a farewell tour. The arrival of the 27-year-old in Brooklyn coincided with the Nets late season turnaround. Young played 28 games for the Nets, averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game. More importantly, his insertion into the starting lineup sparked Brook Lopez’s offensive game and helped the Nets to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference where they lost in six games to the Atlanta Hawks.

Should Orlando Magic fans get excited? NOT REALLY.

Young thrived playing alongside Lopez and would likely not put up similar numbers without him. Signing Young to the biggest deal of any current Magic player simply to become a player-in-waiting while Kristaps Porzingis or a similar player hopefully develops – hmmmmmmm.

● Jordan Spieth Wins US Open

It came down to the final hole of the 2015 US Open Championship at Chambers Bay. Dustin Johnson controlled his own destiny:

  • one putt wins the US Open Championship,
  • two putts force an 18-hole playoff with Jordan Spieth on Monday,
  • three putts… runner-up to Spieth.

Three putts later, Spieth won the 2015 US Open.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Around the water cooler, you might hear that Johnson faltered and/or choked in the clutch. Since The Benchwarmers want you to be the smartest tool in the shed, here are the five things cool kids need to know about this year’s US Open:

1 – WHAT JORDAN SPIETH DID TO WIN
After dropping a 25-foot birdie putt on 16, Spieth had a three-stoke lead heading into the final two holes. Johnson’s opportunity to win would not have happened without Spieth’s double-bogey disaster on 17. Spieth recovered and birdied 18, the first player to do so in a US Open since Bobby Jones in 1926. “It was mine to lose and mine to win on those last two holes”, Spieth said. “16 and 18 are the best holes I played all week.”

2 – WHAT DUSTIN JOHNSON DID TO GET A CHANCE TO WIN
Dustin JohnsonJohnson needed back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 if he was to force a playoff. He got the first, but not the second. NOBODY has ever won a US Open with an eagle on 18. NOBODY. “I had a lot of putts on the back nine from six feet in that I missed, Johnson said afterwards. “I did everything I could, it just wasn’t my time…during the week, all you want is the chance to win on the back nine on Sunday.” Golfers rarely get such a chance shooting three bogeys on the back nine BEFORE the 18th hole.

3 – IT’S OFFICIALLY “THE SUMMER OF SPIETH”
At 21, Spieth is the youngest player ever to win his first two majors. He’s the youngest two-time major champion since 1922, and the youngest to win two majors in the same season since 1923. He’s just the sixth player ever to win two majors in the same year. Golf has a legitimate young star, and the first rider on the Grand Slam Train in decades. Next stop? Scotland.

4 – TIGER WOODS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING
Tiger Woods
Ranked 195th in the world, Woods missed the cut for just the second time in 19 US Open appearances. His 80 and 76 rounds were the worst combined 36-hole score in all of his 308 professional starts on the PGA Tour. Last week, Woods celebrated the seventh anniversary of his last major victory. It appears Woods hasty return to golf after surgery will continue to ensure hasty exits after tournament opening rounds. Next up for Woods is the British Open. “Hopefully it will be a little bit better,” Woods sighed while leaving Chambers Bay earlier this weekend.

5 – JASON DAY IS OK
After Friday’s collapse on the ninth hole due to vertigo, Day played in the final group on Sunday and shot even for the round to finish tied for 9th. “I felt nauseous all day,” Day said afterwards, while announcing that he will withdrawl from next week’s Travelers Championship in order to focus on receiving medical care to treat the condition.

● Kimbo Slice Beats Up Godfather

The King of the Web Brawlers took another big step in his MMA career.

Kimbo Slice defeated Ken Shamrock Friday night in St. Louis. Shamrock, the 51-year-old godfather of MMA seemed poised for a submission victory in the opening moments, turning Bellator 138’s Main Event into an over-hyped afterthought.

But Slice had seven years of inspiration in his favor, and somehow fought his way out of a rear-naked choke that should have resulted in his tap out. The 41-year-old got back on his feet and turned on a fully-automatic assault on Shamrock’s face, resulting in a TKO moments later.

Kimbo SliceSlice won his first three MMA fights and was set to fight Shamrock back in 2008 at EliteXC: Heat. Shamrock was forced to pull out of the fight due to injury and unknown Seth Petruzelli stepped in, shockingly knocked out slice in 14 seconds.

Who cares what to AARP-aged MMA fighters do? BELLATOR. Slice is well-known for his ability to draw within the MMA community and hosting and hyping the bout that has been anticpated since Obama was POTUS helps gain steam for their “Live On Spike” series. And beyond.