By: Joe Cardoso
I think it’s safe to say that the year 2020 has been unlike ANYTHING any of us has lived through, from COVID-19 to the world FINALLY saying ENOUGH is enough and as one world recognizing that Black Lives Matter. Through it all, we did not have our normal escape known as sports, which was perfect. It forced us all to have tough conversations and reset our lives. We all missed sports and the joy the games bring us, but it wasn’t time for that, and it appears that we are on the way back to the games. It goes without saying that all of us want to see professional and college sports back but not at the expense of the athletes.
On the surface, these leagues are doing everything they can to make sure that the players, staff, and families are as safe as possible. A clean space or a bubble whatever name you like to call it should be the safest place to be. Time will tell if I am right, I sure hope I am and can not wait for the action to begin! With the NBA, NHL, NWSL, WNBA, and MLS all get back at it. So who are the players/teams that I want to see performing and doing what they do best?
Zion Williamson- Forward New Orleans Pelicans:
Last we saw Zion, he was trying to lead the Pelicans to the 8th spot in the western conference and now they sit 10th with what I consider a VERY favorable schedule of games. I’m also curious to see what type of shape he’s in and overall health. The new thing these days is to record workouts and we, haven’t seen a peep from the rookie. A March Madness type environment on a national stage is just what the league and his team want.
Shohei Ohtani-Pitcher/DH Los Angels Angles Of Anaheim:
Showtime, as he is called, is healthy and the world of MLB awaits to see the best two-way player since___? Coming off Tommy John surgery in 2018, when he starts to play manager Joe Maddon says it is full steam ahead. His production at the plate earned his American League Rookie of the Year and the plan is for him to start 10-12 games and on off days put the fear of God into opposing pitchers. This kid could be the next big star in not just baseball but all of sports, with the support of a whole country of Japan behind him.
Sabrina Ionescu- Guard New York Liberty:
The coronavirus robbed us in March, Sabrina and the Ducks had us all ready for a March Madness run and we all know what happened with that dream. But never the less one of the greatest college basketball players ever is headed to the pros. She has been everywhere from the ESPNW summit to giving the commencement speech for the class of 2020. But through it all the workouts and mamba mentality have stayed sharp, who else would you want to lead a franchise out of the ashes?
I know I wasn’t alone when COVID hit who thought we would have to wait until 2o21 to see her in a Liberty uniform. With a 22 game season set to start in late July, it’s game on for the kid from Cali with the killer jumper. One of 7 rookies to join a team with the super talented Kia Nurse, can they shake things up league-wide? Having not been to the playoffs since 2017 fans are hungry, the league wants her to make a huge splash and she is more than capable of giving us what we want which is jaw-dropping moments and a face of a franchise.
Anthony Davis-Power Forward Los Angles Lakers:
Remember that year in the western conference finals when Anthony Davis took over and lead his time to the finals? Yea, me neither and that is what Laker fans and NBA fans want to see. With this bubble and environment, I think this is going to be the hardest playoff run in the history of the league or at least the top 3. If I’m wrong let me know what year had this set of circumstances to deal with. An aging LeBron James leading him and all eyes on the team how will he respond in those high-pressure moments? This is what true superstars live for it is time to put up or shut-up for AD.
Washington Capitals-National Hockey League:
Can they make it back to the promised land? The Caps will be playing in the qualifying round to fight for seedings and have 3 tough teams to face. What better way to get Stanley Cup Playoff ready, with Alex Ovechkin looking at age 35 he is still one of the best in the game and before the shutdown was rolling. For a team that was as up and down as they were in March, a break could be a blessing and we could see the great 8 dazzle us one more time and bring the cup to DC. Add in a hungry and healthy T.J. Oshie and look out to the rest of the league.
Giannis Antetokounmpo- Forward Milwaukee Bucks:
Legends are made in the NBA playoffs. With one MVP trophy on the mantle and another one perhaps on the way Giannis wants more and so does fear the deer nation. The book on the Greek Freak was to clog the lane and force him to shoot from the outside or make the smart pass. A summer spent working on that jumper showed as he looks more comfortable shooting from deep and that is big trouble for everyone else. Hitting 30% from three-point range and almost 6 assists a game with lowered minutes. On the back burner is his upcoming free agency a deep run or title could seal the deal for him to resign.
Skylar Diggins-Smith Guard Phoenix Mercury:
If you don’t know Skylar is a beast and can flat out ball period. Oh, and you know she played the 2018 season while PREGNANT, talk about tough. From Tulsa to Dallas things on the court have not worked out for the former Notre Dame star. Her work ethic and desire can’t be questioned. Now we get a restart with the Phoenix Mercury and join up with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. This is a chance for hoops fans to see her play and show why real hoop fans she is a walking bucket.
Gerrit Cole Pitcher- New York Yankees:
Maybe KD started something when he signed with the Warriors and the Yankees heard him loud and clear. Cole killed the Yanks last season so when the chance came they scooped him up. How many seasons have the Bronx Bombers crushed baseballs all season only to be shut down in the postseason? Now they grabbed the starting pitcher they have needed for YEARS in Gerrit Cole fresh off his time with the Houston Astros where he dominated. We know they will hit the leather off the ball but now have a stud on the mound to stop the other team. Can he live up to the NYC hype?
Look at this lineup top to bottom. Add in a long layoff which should mean time to study tape, get healthy, and improve. I love Ben Simmons game, could there be another team that could have used this break as much as they did? Embiid is a problem when he is focused and the keyword is focused, will we see the real Al Horford, and can Matisse Thybulle be the spark? A lot of questions for a team many had going to the finals.
Major League Soccer:
People are desperate for sports and are hungry as ever which means leagues can use this to boost their brands and get new fans. July 8 the MLS gets its shot with a tournament with all 26 teams. What needs to happen is they need to showcase an exciting brand of soccer and showcase the stars the way the big boys do. LAFC is not the champs but they play the game with a Europen swag. Putting its best foot forward is what I want to see.
As long as things can be done safely July is shaping up to be one of the greatest sports months ever. Every day we will have new storylines and moments to discuss and you can count on Nuts And Bolts Sports to be there along the way. For more conversation follow us on Twitter @NutsAndBoltsSP and you can find me @JoeCardoso301. Stay safe, be a decent human being, and enjoy the SPORTS!