Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sagstetter continues miraculous recovery after going into cardiac arrest

(From Nov. 2015)

By Trevor Hass
Sports Reporter

Rick Peterson gazed forward and saw someone in the distance waving and calling for help. Right away, he knew something was wrong.

Peterson, Spectrum High School’s cross country coach and athletic director, sprinted across the field at Kliever Park toward Nate Hackbarth, the student who beckoned him.

Next to Hackbarth, sophomore Nevin Sagstetter lay on the ground in an unresponsive state. Peterson thought Sagstetter was having a seizure, and Sagstetter’s breathing was sporadic.

Assistant coach Amy Cornelius swooped in from the other direction as Peterson tended to Sagstetter. He could tell Sagstetter’s breathing was getting even worse, as the gaps between breaths grew longer.

Peterson, who spent 17 years as a paramedic, gave Sagstetter mouth to mouth resuscitation and compressions, but Sagstetter’s breathing stopped altogether minutes later. He was in cardiac arrest.

Cornelius called 911, Hackbarth returned with a First Aid Kit and the medics arrived. Peterson had worked with that same emergency crew years ago, and Cornelius said everything fell into place.

“It was amazing to watch, because they just kind of all fell into this natural routine of what they used to do,” Peterson said. “It was like I was witnessing miracle upon miracle with what was going on.”

Sagstetter was whizzed in an ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and later helicoptered to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He’s currently rehabbing in Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, and is scheduled to return to his Zimmerman home for good two days before Thanksgiving, more than a month ahead of schedule.

For Sagstetter to be walking, talking and learning again is remarkable to those close to him. The incident happened Tuesday, Sept. 22, and less than seven weeks later Sagstetter is doing unfathomably well.

“I’m so thankful that he was where he was at when it happened and that help was there,” Nevin’s mother, April Sagstetter, said. “He could have just been out running on his own and been laying there, and who knows what would have happened then.”


April Sagstetter was heading home when she got the phone call no parent wants to receive. Amy Cornelius was on the other line, and Cornelius tried to speak as calmly as she could to convey the facts to Sagstetter.

Cornelius drew from the bravery and poise her mother showed when she was a child and ambulances appeared at her house multiple times to whisk her sister – who dealt with juvenile diabetes – to the hospital. Cornelius, now a mother herself, knew she couldn’t panic, just like her mother didn’t.

Telling Sagstetter her giggly, sarcastic, intelligent son was in critical condition wasn’t easy, but Cornelius’ motherly instincts kicked in immediately. From one mother to another, Cornelius delivered the news, and Sagstetter – who was surprisingly just as calm – rushed to the fields right away.

“She was in perfect mom mode,” Cornelius said of Sagstetter.

April Sagstetter called Nevin’s father, Tom, at 5:05 p.m. telling him the news. When April and Tom Sagstetter arrived at Mercy Hospital, unable to see their son, April remembers the nurse coming their way and informing them that the chopper had arrived.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, they’re not talking about Nevin.”

But they were. At that point, Tom and April thought their son might have suffered a seizure. They had no idea he had stopped breathing. No heartbeat. No pulse. Nothing.

“We didn’t have a clue how bad it was until we got to Mercy and they were loading him on the helicopter,” Tom Sagstetter said.

The horrific whirlwind of an evening continued, as the chopper took off and rushed Sagstetter to the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital.


Nevin Sagstetter was sedated and cooled for 72 hours straight. He was on a respirator and was out cold.

Day by day, progress was made. Small victories, such as removing the Electroencephalogram measuring his brain activity, became huge victories.

“He was literally covered with tubes and wires,” Tom Sagstetter said, “but day by day things started disappearing.”

The doctors had Nevin scratch his head, scratch his leg, squeeze his father’s hand, to distinguish between purposeful and non-purposeful movements. They wanted to decipher whether his movements were reflexes, or if he was consciously aware he was doing something. It was a brutal exercise, but one that had to be done to determine exactly where he was at physically and mentally.

Nevin Sagstetter is Spectrum’s second fastest runner. He loves nothing more than to move around. In those first few days at Children’s, he was deprived of that passion. Sitting in bed resting was a challenge, but without a diagnoses and without an implant in his chest, moving wasn’t an option.

Once he got a defibrillator in place to monitor his heart rate and a pacemaker to ensure his heart beats in rhythm, Sagstetter gradually began to do some of the things he’s accustomed to.

In fact, he made such steady progress that he was sent to another location – Gillette in St. Paul – on Oct. 12.


When Nanette Aldahondo, pediatric rehabilitation medicine specialist at Gillette, first met Sagstetter, the cross country runner was cooped up in a wheelchair and largely unaware of his surroundings.

Since then, in less than three weeks, she’s seen him regain the ability to walk to and from his therapy sessions. Though cognitive redevelopment isn’t occurring quite as rapidly as physical improvement, Aldahondo has seen Sagstetter make tremendous strides since she’s started working with him.

“He’s out of the danger zone medically,” Aldahondo said. “We still keep track of all those things and we monitor his heart, but we’ve really shifted the focus to physical, occupational, speech therapy.”

Sagstetter’s day is long and tiring. He starts school in the hospital between 8 and 9 a.m., takes classes until 3 to 4:30 p.m. and has a lunch break in the middle. He does therapy in addition to school, so every-day life can be exhausting.

“He’s pretty tired by the time 8 o’clock rolls around,” Tom Sagstetter says, turning to Nevin and smiling. “Usually you’d make it to 10 or 11.”

“Not anymore,” Nevin replies, smiling back at him.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Sagstetter looked at a computer screen with 100 dots on it. He moved the mouse and clicked on three different colors of dots – 100 in total.

“You actually were clicking on them so fast that the little computer couldn’t keep up,” Tom Sagstetter said to his son.

Nevin’s physical progress has been astounding, but his mental ability is lagging behind. First he started to walk, and now he can do so close to normally, however he believes he has started to run when in reality he hadn’t done so as of late October. He’s briskly power walked, but he hasn’t jogged quite yet.

When his father tells him he hasn’t run yet, Nevin grins and concedes. “OK, fine,” he says. He’s played Zoom Ball – a game involving a buoy and knocking things out of his parents’ hands – and now he’s starting to bike and swim.

It’s clear Sagstetter desperately wants to run, but considering there was the possibility he wouldn’t ever walk again less than two months prior, he’s ecstatic just to be alive and regaining his health.

“I didn’t know (if he would live),” Peterson said. “He had been in cardiac arrest for a long time at the scene. I don’t think there were any of us that knew at that time how this was going to turn out, not only if he would live but how much function he would regain.”


It was an unimaginably nightmarish scene for Peterson. Having to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on one of his athletes and not knowing whether someone whom he considers family would live.

But he did live, and since that day Peterson and Co. have done everything they can do ensure the Sagstetters know Nevin is on their minds. They made green wristbands with white writing that reads,” Running with Nevin,” as well as white T-shirts that say, “#forNevin” in blue block lettering, with black and white shading, on the front and feature the Spectrum mascot with a cross country logo on the back.

Amy Cornelius recalls eating pancakes and donuts with Nevin and his teammates after Saturday morning meets. She remembers going to Camp Shamineau in Motley, Minnesota, and watching Nevin running, paintballing, horseback riding and shooting rifles with his friends. The camp also had something called the blob, that Nevin loved, where kids would sit on the far end, and parents and coaches would jump off and launch them into the water. The memories are limitless, which is why those close to Sagstetter have constantly checked up on him to make sure he’s doing OK.

The Sagstetters have appreciated the overwhelming number of requests they’ve received to visit Nevin. They’ve had to decline some so he can stick to his tight schedule, but they’ve welcomed many others.

Tom Sagstetter set up a CaringBridge account to give family and friends updates about his son’s progress. He said the last time he checked the site, more than 3,200 people had viewed it. The Spectrum volleyball team brought Sagstetter a gift basket, and coaches and runners from other teams have reached out as well.

“They’ve been really supportive,” Nevin Sagstetter said. “People visiting me from school, and all the people from the cross country team, a lot of them have visited, which makes it really nice because it’s nice to talk to them and see them. It makes my stay here a lot better to know that they’re supporting me.”

While having visitors at the hospital is fun for Sagstetter, returning home is even better. And on Sunday, Oct. 25, he had that opportunity for the first time in more than a month.

They arrived home around 10 a.m. watched the Vikings beat the Lions, 28-19, played with his yellow lab, Kenya, and his cats. The family barbecued, Nevin saw his 13-year-old sister, Nicole, and he chatted with his grandmother and grandfather about the new lake they moved to – a prime spot for both hunting and fishing.

“I can’t wait,” Nevin Sagstetter said. “I’m more than ready to go to the lake.”


Nevin Sagstetter reclines peacefully in a wooden and cushioned chair in front of a flat-screen TV in a meeting room on the fourth floor at Gillette at 11:06 a.m. on Oct. 28. He’s sporting his green Spectrum cross country jacket, black sweatpants and an infectious smile.

His father, wearing a gray hooded Spectrum Sting sweatshirt, sits to his right, and his mother, donning the #forNevin shirt, rests diagonally from him.

They don’t know what the future holds, but they hope they can put this terrifying chapter of their lives behind them. The climb toward becoming the fully functioning person he was two months ago is a daunting one, but Tom and April are confident their son will continue to shatter expectations. 

“I’m more of a spontaneous person, but it’s really hard to plan for what’s going to happen six months from now because we don’t know what you’re going to do that’s going to surprise us,” Tom Sagstetter says, looking at Nevin. Then he pauses and laughs. “Don’t worry about that, just keep going. Keep surprising us. It’s all good, man.”

There’s still no exact diagnosis. Doctors have run plenty of tests, but they haven’t deduced the cause of the incident. The Sagstetters hope they won’t have to change too much to the setup of their house once Nevin returns Nov. 24.

Tom and April Sagstetter now know that awful things happen to amazing kids, but they’re just relieved their son is still with them. 

“It’s truly a miracle that he’s alive,” Tom Sagstetter said, tears swelling in his eyes.

Then he turned to his 15-year-old son, who nearly died before he did, and placed his left hand on Nevin’s left shoulder.

“You are our miracle boy,” he said. “You are amazing.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

From grids to the gridiron

Maimaron thrives as teacher, coach, by using similar approach in both

By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
Twitter: @DuxburySports

It’s just after 9 o’clock on a typical Wednesday at Duxbury High School. A middle-aged, sharply dressed math teacher paces the room, making sure his students are fully engaged.

When he spots one surfing the web, on the 13-inch MacBook Air given to everyone from seventh grade up, he politely asks him to focus on the material. A few minutes later, the same student pops in some headphones, and the teacher reminds him why they’re there, this time a little more sternly.

It’s like the equivalent of being on a diet and having someone put a hot plate of brownies in front of you,” he says, referring to the benefits and the drawbacks of the sleek computer.

It’s clear he runs a tight ship when necessary, but for the most part he doesn’t have to. His students are largely engaged, and it quickly becomes evident they respect both him and his co-teacher. When he explains a concept, they’re listening, answering the questions he poses and jotting down notes.

The man, sporting a spiffy blue and white button-down, tan slacks, gray Under Armour shoes and a red, white and blue belt with the American flag on it, eventually meanders back to the front of the classroom and scans the attentive audience of 23. He takes off his glasses momentarily, pauses for a sip of Aquafina and then rests those glasses back on his nose.

“See how you have a grid here?” he inquires. “X intercept at 3 is right there. The X intercept is a point. Once you have two points, you can count the slope.”

He has a knack for explaining the issues at hand, and his students swiftly latch on and grasp what he’s saying.

During the school day, this is what the teacher does, and he loves it. After school, the teaching doesn’t stop. In fact, it continues in an extremely similar manner, only now the subject matter is something different. Football.

From intercepts to interceptions, grids to gridirons and MacBooks to playbooks, Dave Maimaron is always teaching. Perhaps the most recognizable high school sports figure on the South Shore, and one of the most successful, Maimaron is rightfully known for his acumen on the football field.

But what about his day job? What’s he like as a teacher? As he’ll tell you, the two are inextricably intertwined. His approach as a teacher funnels into his mindset as a coach, and he uses the same methods in both disciplines.

As someone who was a lost and often confused high school student himself, Maimaron knows how to relate to his students and players, and he prides himself on bringing out the best in them.

“They’re the same in my eyes,” Maimaron said. “You’re teaching in the classroom or you’re teaching on the field. You’re still teaching.”

“Football kind of saved me”

Plenty of the kids Maimaron grew up with in Quincy went down the wrong path. He knows that could have easily been him. Truthfully, he admits, it almost was.

When he was 14, his older sister, Nancy, died. Two years later, his older brother, Bobby, died. It shook the Maimaron family to its core, and he started asking more philosophical questions about life than any teenager should have to.

He’ll always cherish the memory of Nancy, who was six years older, teaching him how to ride a horse. She appreciated nature and the arts, and he still enjoys those parts of life to this day.

Bobby was his best friend. He was four years older, but they were inseparable. Dave’s son is Bobby, whose grandfathers are Bob as well.

Time has passed, and the wounds have mostly healed, but there will always be two massive parts of Dave missing.

“It’s a pretty traumatic thing for any family to go through, losing a sibling,” Maimaron said. “Losing two was difficult on everyone.”

Around that same time, as those doubts swirled, Maimaron met a man who would go on to become one of his biggest mentors. Football coach Kevin Macdonald took him under his wing at Archbishop Williams, in Braintree, and molded him into a confident, polished person.

Maimaron earned a spot on the UMass Boston football team and turned a metaphorical corner. He was back in better spirits, and he knew Macdonald was a major reason why.

“I had some challenging times in high school, and football kind of saved me,” Maimaron said. “He kind of saved me. The amount of anger you have, dealing with the grief, football really channeled that for me in a positive direction. If it wasn’t for that, and Kevin Macdonald, it would have gone negatively. My life would probably be a mess.”

He graduated with a sociology degree and spent his time bartending at Clarke’s at Faneuil Hall. The tips were nice, but he still didn’t feel satisfied. Something was missing.

He knew he didn’t go to school to bartend. There was more he wanted to do.

One day, he got a chance to substitute teach in the Boston Public School System, and he pounced on the opportunity.

“I loved it right from my very first day,” Maimaron said. “I’ve been teaching ever since.”

Trial by fire

Back when he was breaking into the field, the way Maimaron saw it, education was getting hammered and heaps of people were being laid off.

He knew he had to stand out somehow, so he chose to zero in on special education. Maimaron got his masters in special education at Eastern Nazarene College, and his Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies through Fitchburg State,  and he found a job as a teacher in a self-contained, behavioral management classroom that he held for 13 years.

“It was trial by fire,” Maimaron said. “You’re figuring it out on your own.”

He’s still close with a couple students from that program. That’s the way he is. When he builds a relationship, he always tries to keep it, because that’s what means the most to him.

The job, as exhausting and grueling as it was, was satisfying in many ways. He loves a good challenge, and this was no different, but he decided it was time for a change.

“Once I started my own family, I realized I was completely emotionally drained by the time I got home, so it wasn’t going to be fair to my own family,” Maimaron said. “I knew I had to get into a more stable situation.”

Dave, Colleen, Tiernan and Bobby Maimaron moved to Duxbury. Dave found a job in town in the early 2000s, and now his whole life is here.

“It was my goal,” Maimaron said. “Once I realized I wanted to teach and be a high school coach, not a college coach, it was my dream to teach and coach in a town on the South Shore. I don’t think I could have ended up in a better place.”

Parallel lines

In a typical day, Maimaron – who also taught sophomore English and MCAS prep in the past – teaches two co-taught geometry classes and one co-taught algebra course, and he oversees two learning centers with six and 13 kids.

He and his good friend, Tony Fisher, co-teach the math courses – a concept Maimaron was instrumental in bringing to Duxbury years back.

Principal Jim Donovan credited Maimaron for improving the special education model at Duxbury High. He said his versatility makes him stand out.

“He has a way of developing relationships with students that are multi-dimensional,” Donovan said.

He’s a joke-cracker, a hearty laugher and a gregarious guy, but he also demands a lot. He holds everyone he encounters to a high standard, and he strives to get the best out of them.

When a student doesn’t understand an issue, his goal is to help them master the concept.

“Breaking down a complex math assignment is really similar to breaking down a complex play on the field into simple, manageable steps that kids can understand,” Fisher said. “Whether it’s a test or an important game, keeping that same approach and that consistency is important.”

Maimaron echoes what Fisher says, noting that experience goes a long way. When senior Liam Kraemer first moved from Colombia to Duxbury, for example, Maimaron helped him learn English the same way he helped him learn football – through repetition, a variety of strategies and attention to detail.

“At this point, because I’ve been doing it for so long, a lot of times by the look on a kid’s face, or the question they ask, I can understand what they don’t understand,” Maimaron said. “I usually have a tool or a trick to show them a different way to understand that problem. If a play we run doesn’t work, I usually know right away why it didn’t work. I also know we can do this the next time and it will work. It’s no different in the classroom. A lot of that comes from experience. I’ve been doing it almost 30 years now.”

In the classroom, he rarely yells, unless he needs to. On the football field? The approach is essentially the same, but the demeanor can sometimes reach a whole new level – like a tiger let out of its cage. This is what he loves, so it’s only natural.

As senior Jake Quilty discusses Maimaron’s shrewdness in both settings, Maimaron peeps his head in from the hallway.

“I won’t play you again if you bash me,” he jokes.

Quilty chuckles and shakes his head.

“He’s pretty scary when he gets angry.”

Biggest classroom in the school

With his teaching background as a driving force, and plenty of help, Maimaron has built Duxbury football up into the Godzilla of the Patriot League ever since the turn of the millennium.

Duxbury, fresh off a 14-13 victory over Hingham on Saturday, has won the league title 10 straight years, and 14 of the last 17, along with five Super Bowl championships during that span.

To say he’s solely responsible would be inaccurate. He has an experienced coaching staff, a rabid fan base and, of course, supremely talented players year after year.

But to call him the engineer and the visionary behind that success isn’t farfetched at all. He deflects the credit, but frankly he’s the puppeteer behind the entire operation.

He’s a teacher, both in the classroom and on the field, and oftentimes the lines are blurred. Those lines can be viewed as both parallel and perpendicular – always going in the same direction but also forever intersecting. It’s a dizzying nightmare for most math teachers, but a beautiful equation for Maimaron.

“Friday night is like a community event, when the whole town shows up,” Maimaron said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, what we’ve created. It takes a lot of work. The football field is the biggest classroom in the school.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NBA Preview: 2017-18

By Trevor Hass

I don’t know about you, but I’m particularly excited for the NBA season this year. Granted, I get giddy just looking at a basketball, but I really do think we’re in for a treat this season.

While the Warriors are the clear favorite, and will likely repeat, I’d say there are five other teams (Cavaliers, Thunder, Rockets, Celtics, Spurs, in that order) that have a legit shot at dethroning the champs.

Nothing will beat the Mavs’ run to the title in 2011, but every year I come into it hoping we’ll see something like that. Dirk and LeBron faced off in a series and Dirk won! How dope is that? Nothing even against LeBron…Dirk’s just the man.

Anyway, I digress. Back to 2017, where if you’re not on a team with three superstars you’re doing something wrong. It was crazy how the dominoes ended up falling this offseason. Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas are all on new teams. That’s wild.

It seems like nearly every team is different, except maybe the Spurs, who will likely still have the same nucleus in 2030 – perhaps with Tim Duncan’s kid thrown into the mix.

I say this every year, but I think the overall identity of the NBA is often misconstrued. Some people don’t like watching because they already know what’s going to happen. Will the Warriors win it all? Probably. Will people talk about Lonzo and LaVar Ball way too much? Probably. Will the Sixers tank? Probably not, so that’s cool!

But that’s not where the fun is. The fun is in the unpredictability and the chaos, the triple-doubles and the comeback wins. Think of it like going to see a movie, even though you likely know what’s going to happen. I mean, Harry was always going to kill Voldemort, but that didn’t make it any less exhilarating when it happened. I think this season will be the best one in a few years, so without further ado, here’s a preview:


1) Cleveland Cavaliers (54-28) – I could see this going either way. I think the Celtics and Cavs will finish with about the same record, but I think the Cavs will ultimately get the 1 seed. Losing Kyrie will hurt in the Finals, but getting D Wade and Isaiah ain’t too shabby. Their starting lineup is obviously great, but have you seen their bench? Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Jeff Green, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye is honestly one of the deeper benches ever. It might be the best. I mean that group of eight is pretty much a fringe playoff team in the East this year.

LeBron’s made the Finals seven straight years, so I see no logical reason to bet against him. Though the gap is dwindling, he’s still clearly the best player in the NBA. I think what’s really interesting here is how the Cavs will match up with the Warriors in the likely tetralogy.

I think Isaiah Thomas will have trouble guarding either Steph or Klay for extended stretches. With Kyrie gone, a lot of the scoring onus will fall on Kevin Love, and I think he’s going to have a big year. The Cavs can match the Warriors shooting 3s at nearly every position, and I think they’re deeper and more experienced at several spots, so it will be fun to see how it unfolds.

2) Boston Celtics (52-30) – It’s truly astonishing how much Danny Ainge and Co. chose to overhaul a 53-win team that made the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s kind of like going to one college and liking it, knowing it doesn’t benefit you long term and transferring to a new one and a potentially better life before it’s too late.

I wrote a full Celtics preview, that you can check out here, but to sum up: I think they’ll be very good, really fun to watch and a step better than last year. It’s still LeBron’s East, though, at least for the time being.

3) Washington Wizards (51-31) – People seem to forget that the Wizards have just about everyone back from a team that was a normal Kelly Olynyk shooting night away from the Eastern Conference Finals. John Wall’s entering his prime, Bradley Beal’s one of the better two-way 2s and Otto Porter can do no wrong. The Wizards should be solid again this year, especially with the East in semi-disarray.

4) Milwaukee Bucks (44-38) – Everything in Milwaukee starts with Giannis Antetokounmpo (spelled it right on the first try. Midseason form, baby!). The Bucks have a really solid core around him, and I expect them to make a jump this year. They might even win a series.

5) Toronto Raptors (43-39) – The East, while far inferior to the West, isn’t that terrible. I mean if the Raptors, who are a very good team, could finish out of the top three, that tells you something. They’re kind of stuck in no man’s land, like the Grizzlies – very good and fun to watch, but unable to get over the hump.

6) Miami Heat (41-41) –The Heat are somewhat brash, and I think they think they’re better than they are, but sometimes that can help. As long as Dion Waiters is there, this is a team to watch. Championship or bust, am I right?

7) Detroit Pistons (39-43) – Avery Bradley was one of the most underrated acquisitions of the offseason. He’ll be a nice complement to Reggie Jackson and will help him get more uncontested looks. Bradley’s a lockdown defender, and when you put him with Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and Andre Drummond, good things are going to happen on that end of the floor.

8) Charlotte Hornets (38-44) – The loss of Nicolas Batum to start the season hurts, but this should still be a playoff team. Fun fact about Dwight Howard you might not suspect: He’s made the playoffs every year but one since 2007. He’s still dominant on occasion, and I think he, Kemba and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can lead them to the postseason.

9) Indiana Pacers (37-45) – This team has 9-seed written all over it. Myles Turner is one of the bright young stars in the league, and Victor Oladipo will help, but the Pacers are still in that in-between territory.

10) Philadelphia 76ers (36-46) – Sorry, I just don’t see it. Not yet, anyway. I think the Sixers will definitely make the playoffs next year, but I don’t think they’re quite there. Ben Simmons, though incredible in transition, is a turnover machine. Joel Embiid, even with his new paycheck, is incredibly injury-prone. J.J. Redick helps. They actually have a lot of shooting now, between Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Redick and Jerryd Bayless, but I think they’re going to struggle defensively and with turnovers. Next year. They’re certainly on the rise, though, and they’re way too good to tank.

11) Brooklyn Nets (36-46) – Recently, the Sixers and Nets have been battling for the No. 1 pick, and soon they’ll be battling in the playoffs, but right now they’re battling for mediocrity. D’Angelo Russell’s cool and all, but what makes people think he’s going to lead them to the playoffs when he’s still so unproven? Give it time, people. I will say that the Nets are tough. Sean Kilpatrick, Allen Crabbe, Trevor Booker and DeMarre Carroll are all fierce competitors, but I don’t see it meshing perfectly quite yet.

12) Orlando Magic (33-46) – The Magic have some nice pieces, especially Nikola Vucevic, but they don’t have enough firepower to make the playoffs. I think Jonathan Isaac will play a lot and could be in the running for Rookie of the Year.

13) New York Knicks (31-51) – Melo’s (finally) gone, which opens the door for Kristaps Porzingis to be the face of the franchise. There’s just one problem. I don’t think he’s destined to be the best player on a contender. He’s a great player, but I think he’s better suited as a No. 2 or 3 option. For now, though, it’s his team. Tim Hardaway Jr., Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee are all solid players. I don’t think the Knicks will be a train wreck, but I don’t think they’ll sniff the playoffs, either.

14) Atlanta Hawks (27-55) – The Atlanta Hawks might be a train wreck. They’re counting on Dennis Schroder to be a star, which he’s naturally not, and they’re also expecting an awful lot out of Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince.

15) Chicago Bulls (24-58) – Yep, I think it’s true. I think the Bulls really are the worst team in the East, and thus the league. Rose, Butler, Gasol, Deng, Noah and Michael Jordan are all gone. This team ain’t what it used to be. Bobby Portis and Zach LaVine should have big years stat-wise, but I don’t see this team winning too many games.


1) Warriors (67-15) – Ho-hum. Excited to see Swaggy P and JaVale celebrate in June. 

2) Rockets (59-23) – Yep, I think they’re that good. The main question is whether Chris Paul and James Harden can mesh well together, and I think the answer is a clear-cut yes. They’re both going to have the ball a ton, and having two truly elite playmakers, who can both shoot, pass and dribble, will help immensely.

Chris Paul really needed a change, and now he has one. I also think the Rockets’ supporting case is criminally underrated. Nene, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Clint Capela and P. J. Tucker are all very solid role players, and Mike D’Antoni has them playing the right way. I think this is a team that can win 60-plus games.

3) San Antonio Spurs (56-26) – Ho-hum, part two. But seriously, do you really think Pop would let the Spurs dip below the three seed? I don’t. And that’s without them even caring about the regular season. They’re just too good.

4) Oklahoma City Thunder (53-29) – The Thunder are one of the teams I’m most intrigued to watch. They’re almost built like an all-star team. I think having Russ and Paul George around him is going to open things up a lot for Melo. He’s been dominant in the Olympics when he hasn’t had to take every shot, and I think playing with other stars will really benefit him.

It isn’t just the big three, either. Steven Adams is as tough as they come. I’ve never been a huge Andre Roberson guy, but he shouldn’t have to take very many shots now, which will bring out the best in him. The Patrick Patterson pickup is also stealthily huge. He’s terrific. There was certainly a lot of change, and there are a lot of ball-dominant players on one roster. But hey, maybe it’ll all work out. Either way, they’ll be a fun team to watch.

5) Minnesota Timberwolves (48-34) – You better believe it. The Wolves are playoff-bound this year. Karl-Anthony Towns could be a sneaky MVP candidate, Jimmy Butler is entering his prime and Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, my man Gorgui Dieng and Taj Gibson is a heck of a supporting cast. Oh, and where’s the offense off the bench coming from, you might ask? Why, from Jamal Crawford, one of the most prolific sixth men in NBA history.

The Wolves are legit. The rebuild is over, and now it’s time to win. If it ends up being Thunder-Wolves, getcha popcorn ready.

6) Denver Nuggets (44-38) – Don’t look now, but the Nuggets are the kind of team that could potentially stage an upset in the first round. They’re a little inexperienced at guard, but they’re absolutely stacked at forward/center. Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee is a heck of a foursome. Millsap was probably the other most underrated signing, along with Bradley, and I think he’s poised for a fringe 20 and 10 year if he stays healthy. He and Jokic should pair well together, as they’re both unselfish and play at a similar pace. The Nuggets should turn some heads this year.

7) Utah Jazz (42-40) – The Jazz lost Gordon Hayward, but they’re still stacked. Ricky Rubio will be a nice fit there and open things up for their shooters. Rodney Hood’s a rising star and Rudy Gobert is one of the most reliable players around.

8) Portland Trailblazers (41-41) – Which Blazers team will we see this year – the one that started last year slowly or finished last year strong? I think it’ll be somewhere in the middle. They’d be a clear playoff team in the East, but in the West it’ll be tough. Jusuf Nurkic will help Dame and C.J., and I think they’ll sneak into the playoffs.

9) Memphis Grizzlies (41-41) – As long as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are there, this is a solid team. Hopefully Chandler Parsons bounces back this year. Tyreke Evans’ health could be a big factor, and Ben McLemore will give them a nice scoring boost off the bench. I don’t see them making the playoffs, mostly because the West is so loaded. In the East, they’d be a 5 or 6 seed. They’re in no man’s land, and this could be the year they break it up.

10) New Orleans Pelicans (40-42) – Wait, the Pelicans have Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday…shouldn’t they make it? They should, but they won’t. their supporting cast might be one of the worst around. Once Rondo comes back, that should help, but until then it might be tough treading.

11) Los Angeles Clippers (38-44) – The Clippers are a curious bunch. They lost Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, but if Milos Teodosic is all he’s cracked up to be they still could be good. If Blake stays healthy they’ll be fine, but in the West nothing is given.

12) Los Angeles Lakers (34-48) – The Lakers have a rookie who’s going to change the face of the NBA. He played in the Pac-12 and was a first-round pick. His name…is Kyle Kuzma…No, but seriously, Kuzma’s really good. Lonzo? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

13) Dallas Mavericks (29-53) – I want better for Dirk, but this might be his destiny. Part of me wants him to go to a contender, but most of me doesn’t because that goes against everything I believe.

14) Sacramento Kings (26-56) – The Kings are going to struggle offensively. Zach Randolph, as bullish as he is, is their main threat, and that’s not ideal. De’Aaron Fox will be a star in a few years, but it could be a rocky start on a team without much punch. But Vince Carter is there, so who knows?

15) Phoenix Suns (25-57) – Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson is a really nice core, and I think they should think twice before breaking it up. They’re just so young, though, and the West is so loaded. We shall see.


1 Cavs over 8 Hornets in 5
2 Celtics over 7 Pistons in 5
3 Wizards over 6 Heat in 6
5 Raptors over 4 Bucks in 7

1 Warriors over 8 Blazers in 5
2 Rockets over 7 Jazz in 5
3 Spurs over 6 Nuggets in 6
4 Thunder over 5 Wolves in 7

1 Cavs over 5 Raptors in 5
2 Celtics over 3 Wizards in 7

1 Warriors over 4 Thunder in 6
2 Rockets over 3 Spurs in 7

1 Cavs over 2 Celtics in 6
1 Warriors over 2 Rockets in 6

1 Warriors over 1 Cavs in 6

NBA Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

Regular season awards:

1) Kawhi Leonard
2) LeBron James
3) Kevin Durant
4) Karl-Anthony Towns
5) Russell Westbrook

Rookie of the Year:

1)    Jonathan Isaac
2)    Dennis Smith Jr.
3)    Josh Jackson
4)    Ben Simmons
5)    Kyle Kuzma

Coach of the Year:
1)    Mike Malone
2)    Jason Kidd
3)    Tom Thibodeau
4)    Mike D’Antoni
5)    Brad Stevens

Scoring Leaders:
1)    Kawhi Leonard (29.4)
2)    Kevin Durant (27.6)
3)    James Harden (26.8)
4)    Karl-Anthony Towns (25.9)
5)    Giannis Antetokounmpo (25.7)
6)    Russell Westbrook (25.6)
7)    DeMar DeRozan (24.8)
8)    Steph Curry (24.6)
9)    Devin Booker (23.9)
10)  DeMarcus Cousins (23.6)

Rebound Leaders:
1)    Rudy Gobert (13.7)
2)    DeMarcus Cousins (13.4)
3)    Dwight Howard (13.2)
4)    Hassan Whiteside (12.8)
5)    Andre Drummond (12.6)
6)    Karl-Anthony Towns (12.2)
7)    Anthony Davis (11.8)
8)    Giannis Antetokounmpo (10.4)
9)    Nikola Jokic (10.4)
10)  DeAndre Jordan (10.2)

Assist Leaders:
1)    Chris Paul (11.4)
2)    John Wall (10.9)
3)    Russell Westbrook (10.4)
4)    Jeff Teague (9.9)
5)    Ricky Rubio (9.5)
6)    LeBron James (9.1)
7)    Jrue Holiday (8.7)
8)    Steph Cury (8.3)
9)    James Harden (8.1)
10)  Draymond Green (7.8)

Buy or Sell:
Lonzo Ball a future superstar  – Sell
Lonzo Ball a solid starter – Buy
Sixers make the playoffs this year – Sell
Sixers make the playoffs next year – Buy
Chris Paul and James Harden gel – Buy
Devin Booker all-star – Buy
Grizzlies make a trade – Buy
Dirk Nowitzki retires – Sell

Random predictions:
-       Jimmy Butler will have a huge year
-       Jeff Hornacek will be fired mid-season
-       Klay Thompson will flirt with 50/40/90 but won’t get it
-       Paul George will average less than 21 PPG
-       The Raptors will look very different after this season
-       Isaiah Thomas won’t play until February
-       Giannis will be considered one of the best of the best players in the league when the season ends
-       Brook Lopez will have a sneakily good year for the Lakers
-       Dwyane Wade will play fewer than 50 regular-season games
-       Paul Millsap will be exactly what Denver needs
-       Blake Griffin will either get injured or have a huge year – not in the middle
-       Bradley Beal will average over 23 PPG
-       Kevin Durant will shoot 90 percent from the line
-       J.J. Redick will lead the league in 3-point percentage

I’m sure all of these predictions will be wrong, but that’s not what matters here. What matters is that the wait is over! The NBA is back!