One of the best young hitters in baseball is on the move. 25-year old OF Justin Upton has been traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Atlanta Braves as a part of a seven player deal. Upton has been rumored to go to several teams including the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs but it was Atlanta who finally got the deal confirmed. Arizona received a slew of prospects from Atlanta including two guys in Baseball America's top 10 prospects list for the Braves' organization as well as P Randall Delgado who has received a ton of praise coming up the Atlanta system. The Braves and Diamondbacks also swapped infielders as Atlanta received 3B Chris Johnson and Arizona took INF Martin Prado.
This is a move that brings Atlanta to the head of the pack in the National League and establishes them as World Series contenders. They will likely compete with the Washington Nationals for the Eastern Division as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles for the right to play for a ring. Justin – who is joining his brother B.J. on the Braves after he signed with Atlanta last month – will take over left field as he comes into his prime ready to showcase his immense skills in the spotlight of a Pennant race. The 2x All-Star finished fourth in MVP voting in 2011 and won his first career Silver Slugger after belting out a career high 31 home runs. In 2007, Arizona called up Justin when he was just 19-years old to replace an injured Carlos Quentin. He became a pivotal part of Arizona's run to the NLCS in 2007 as he hit .357 with a .571 slugging percentage as a rookie in the playoffs. Since then, he has hit 108 home runs with 739 hits and 80 stolen bases in just five years of MLB experience. The future is very bright in Atlanta as Justin Upton leads the way with Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, B.J. Upton, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Jason Heyward all in their 20’s and ready to lead Atlanta into a new era.
• The traveling train wreck that is the Los Angeles Lakers continues to set new lows as a team seemingly each time I post one of these articles. The now 17-25 Lakers have lost four games in a row and are 2-8 in their last 10. They're an abysmal 5-15 on the road after dropping their seventh road game in a row to the Memphis Grizzlies 106-93 last night. Dwight Howard sat out the second half – this time he was not ejected, but rather had shoulder issues flaring up. He didn’t make a single basket from the field before leaving the game. Los Angeles leads the league in team meetings as they desperately try to right the ship before it becomes too late. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant spoke to the team and Kobe outright asked Dwight Howard if he was bothered by having to play with him. According to a team source, Howard did not offer any sort of a substantial reply. Shocking. The selfish man-baby that Dwight Howard has become is extremely disappointing coming from not only a writer, but a fan of the game that used to ache to see him play for my team.
• The best team in the country for NCAA men’s basketball received a shellacking last night. The Duke Blue Devils were dominated by the (25) Miami Hurricanes 90-63. The loss was Duke’s most lopsided defeat in almost four years as Miami garnered their first ever victory against a top-ranked team. Things started inauspiciously for Duke as they went more than eight minutes without sinking a shot in the first half as the sold-out BankUnited Center in Florida turned into a frenzy. The demoralizing loss was the third worst for a number one ranked team in NCAA men's history.
• The NBA All-Star reserves will be announced tonight as many hopefuls look to get the first All-Star nods of their careers. Who will be joining starters Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard in the West? And who will Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett call teammates in the East? Now, I think Dwight Howard has no business in this game and it’s a shame the fans voted him in as a starter when David Lee of the Golden State Warriors was far more deserving. I also believed Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers should have been the starter over Rondo and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets or Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks were better candidates to man the middle for the East over Garnett. Hopefully, Lee can make it as a reserve and Irving is almost a sure-thing to be named to his first All-Star team. I imagine two of the three guys in Noah, Lopez and Chandler will make the team for the East. You also have a wild card like Jamal Crawford in the West coming off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers.
• The Chicago Blackhawks look to become the NHL’s first four win team this season as they take on the Dallas Stars in Dallas tonight. Chicago is at the top of the Western Conference here in the early going with six points as they look to add two more against the 2-1 Stars. Some old veterans lead the way for both sides as Chicago has led the league in scoring with the help of Marian Hossa's four goals and Dallas has relied on Jaromir Jagr. Chicago has garnered three impressive wins over playoff contenders in the West by taking down the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, defending Pacific Division Champion Phoenix Coyotes and defending Central Division Champion St. Louis Blues.
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