Las Vegas sports: Raiders get new QB, Lady Rebs shine and more
With so many pro and amateur sports teams in Las Vegas, it’s starting to feel like the news cycle never ends.
UNLV’s Lady Rebels had an amazing basketball season; the Las Vegas Raiders have a new quarterback; the Vegas Golden Knights are on top in their conference; and Las Vegas’ champion WNBA team, the Aces, start another season in May.
And, of course, there are rumors and innuendo that we’ll get into with our panel.
Lindsey Brown covers sports for The Bet 1140 AM. She joined State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann to talk sports along with Adam Hill, the Las Vegas Review-Journal's sports reporter and Case Keefer, the sports reporter at the Las Vegas Sun.
UNLV Lady Rebels
Coach Lindsay LaRocque, a Las Vegas native, gets a lot of credit for the Lady Rebels being ranked 22 in the country. It was the first time they made the top 25 in 29 years.
"I think she commands a certain standard from her players," Brown said. "And in her third season, so much of their brand is about rebounding, about playing good defense, about making the sacrifices necessary to win the games."
She said in today's basketball, there's a lot of three-pointers and "flash-in-the-pan" offensive strategies. Brown also said since the pandemic, recruiting has changed a lot.
"With NIR, with the transfer portal and how that's opened up since COVID," she said. "And so I think you're very much prisoner to the, 'What have you done for me lately' and 'What pieces can kind of fit into the current team,' because you're seeing so many players interchangeably moving on to different programs, whether that's in a fifth year post-grad, or just looking to transfer."
They lost to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
"[LaRocque]'s inspiring," Hill added. "Can you keep her around? Can you make it as a university, and as a market, appealing for her to stay, instead of going somewhere else? Because she can go wherever she wants. But as long as she's here, that program program is gonna be fine."
Las Vegas Aces
The WNBA said it's going to investigate the Las Vegas Aces for allegations that the team circumvented the salary cap by making under-the-table payments to players.
Hill said we don't know the evidence yet.
"When [Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis] took over this organization, he bought the Aces and he wanted to find a way. And he stated this on the record, he wants the salaries to go up. He wants the athletes to make more, he wants to find a way to pay them more. … And you look around, I think a lot of people have said, 'Wait, how do the Aces have this much talent?'"
Though, he said he doesn't expect anything major to come from the investigation. Ultimately, next season will be "a fun one to watch."
"I think for the most part fans, especially here in Las Vegas, they just want to see the team win. I don't think they care how they got there," Hill said.
Brown added, "I think you would have less of a story about outside business dealings or alleged outside business dealings, if they were able to kind of update that. But that is still up, I think for a few seasons still. They're kind of in an enviable position in that, but I think it's just speaking to how much growth we've seen in the WNBA and how much these players need to get paid because it's just not enough right now."
Vegas Golden Knights
The regular NHL season is down to its final months, and the Golden Knights are close to being on the way to the playoffs.
But if you're ranking past Golden Knights seasons, "this one is not close to the best one we've seen," Keefer said. "I mean, probably not second or third, either."
The Western Conference is wide open this year, which is where they have opportunity to go all the way.
"You can convince me anyone who gets in has a chance to to make a run, including the Golden Knights. So I don't think this is one of their best teams. But I think the setup, you got to like the way it looks for them," Keefer said.
If they get to the finals, could they win? Keefer said in hockey, it's easy to overlook how random the hockey postseason is.
Brown said it could also come down to how healthy the Colorado Avalanche ends up.
"The big question is, are the Colorado Avalanche gonna be happy or healthy when the playoffs roll around? They've had their captain Gabriel Landeskog out for the entire season because he had two knee surgeries and was able to basically play on one leg down through the stretch to their cup run last year, and they haven't really weathered the storm as well, which is kind of expected considering how many injuries they've had. But that also sets us up to potentially face somebody like the Golden Knights in the first round."
Las Vegas Raiders
Last week, news broke that tight end Darren Waller was being traded to the New York Giants right after his honeymoon with his new wife Kelsey Plum, an Aces star.
Coach Josh McDaniels revealed the couple's secret wedding to the media, then McDaniels said Waller was a key to the Raiders' future. Then after they were married, he was traded for a third round pick. Then Plum tweeted in jest, "Prolly cause he wasn't invited to the wedding lol." She followed up the next day to say she was joking.
"With the Darren Waller situation, I would say, I don't know that he was necessarily happy the last year just being around him" Hill said. "And I think for him, he's a very different type of person, that you can look at him and say he seems to be prioritizing his mental health and his personal well being, maybe over the team, which I say is great. I think it's good. Not everybody feels that way."
Prolly cause he wasn’t invited to the wedding lol https://t.co/K3i7oW5oe4— Kelsey Plum (@Kelseyplum10) March 15, 2023
In the meantime, the team just got Garappolo as their new quarterback.
A childhood friend of Garoppolo reportedly told the Mercury News he doesn't have a girlfriend he "has all the girlfriends." One often wonders about players who move to Vegas where every temptation advice is offered on a silver platter, especially if you have the money. The expression is "the Vegas flu" for new or visiting teams.
"I think a guy like Jimmy Garoppolo, he's a consummate professional," Keefer said. "I do think it's a funny thing to talk about. … He's known for dating adult entertainers and models and you know, what kind of distraction is going to Vegas be? But if you're asking me for my honest opinion, I don't think it's gonna be much … part of the reason they brought him in as they felt he's a good cultural fit."
Guests: Lindsey Brown, sports reporter, The Bet 1140 AM; Adam Hill, sports reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Case Keefer, sports reporter, Las Vegas Sun