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Deke Bellavia

Join Deke and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert for live, local talk about the Saints, LSU, Pelicans and much more on "Sports Talk!" 

Weekdays 4-8pm

Twitter: @dekebigchief
Email: bigchief@wwl.com

Deke: Final Four set with traditional men's hoops powers

Whoever first said "March Madness" sure nailed it. The 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has been shear madness, and this past weekend's Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games had a little bit of everything in them. Now the Final Four teams are set to make one final weekend push to see who will be crowned champion of college hoops.

Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke are the last teams standing going into the final weekend of this year's NCAA Tournament. The first two teams to punch their tickets to Indianapolis were the Wisconsin Badgers and Kentucky Wildcats. These two number one seeds took care of business and are back in the dance for the second straight year. A year ago at this time, both were coming off Elite Eight wins and then both would taste the harsh reality of bitter heartbreak as Wisconsin fell short of the title game while the UK Wildcats lost in the final game of the season.

The plot is even thicker when you factor in that the Badgers final loss of last season was a sour one-point defeat at the hands of - yup you guessed it, the UK Wildcats. And now these two teams that both came up short a year ago will square off in one of the national semi-finals Saturday evening in Indianapolis.

When it comes to the Badgers of Madison, Wisconsin, this is the Golden Years of UW Hoops. Wisconsin is in the Final Four for the second straight year for the first time in school history. And UW is led by a man they call Frank the Tank. Big Bad Frank Kaminsky is one great college hoops player that I think has a great shot to have a good NBA career in the very near future.

The Tank was all that and then some last weekend as he scored 23 points in the Sweet 16 and then upped his game even more with a 29 point outburst in the Badgers 85-78 win over Arizona. Kaminsky got a lot of help from fellow forward Sam Dekker. Having arguably the best front court in the nation, Dekker shined, pouring in 27 points to help his club get another shot at the Wildcats in the Final Four.

And speaking of Wildcats, is there another sports program on any level that faces the same pressure of winning a title every season as Kentucky? Coach John Calipari has his youngsters back in the Final Four again this season and perhaps the experience that many of his sophomore stars lacked a year ago as freshmen could be enough to help UK get another title banner next weekend.

UK is large and in charge with some of the best young talent that will soon be in the NBA. When your shortest starter is 6-6 then you know you've got a huge advantage against anyone you face. With a front court that features three forwards who stand at 6-10, 6-11 and 7-0 along with two 6-6 guards, then just rebounding alone gives UK a big edge on their foes.

But will the youth of the Wildcats do them in again this season? UK showed some weaknesses in their game in a two point win over Notre Dame as a lot of missed assignments and lack of execution nearly kept the heavily favored Wildcats from getting back to the Final Four.

Kentucky is built to where they don't need a ton of scoring from several different guys. The Wildcats strength is in their numbers and depth, as seven players average over 20 minutes on the floor per game.

Karl Anthony-Towns had the hot hand in the win over the Irish with a team high 25 points. In fact the super freshman was the only Wildcat starter that scored in double figures.

With the recent Final Four history and last year's tight-as-could-be national semi-final, I have no reason to doubt that the Wisconsin versus Kentucky game could wind up being the best game of the weekend with the winner taking it all!

Should any of us be surprised that the Michigan State Spartans are back in the Final Four again? With a 76-70 overtime win over Louisville, MSU makes their ninth trip to the Final Four. And should we be any more surprised that a Tom Izzo coached team has another shot at the national title?

Izzo will be making his seventh trip to the Final Four as leader of the Spartans. MSU has been on an impressive run as they are 12-3 in their last 15 games. And now the Spartans are just two wins away from capturing the school's third national title in men's hoops.

The 7th seeded Spartans are the lowest seeded team in this weekend's Final Four. MSU fell behind Louisville by eight points in the first half only to come out and really put the clamps down on the Cardinals the remainder of the game. Michigan State outscored Louisville 44-30 in the second half and overtime to advance to their first Final Four since 2010.

The Spartans duo of Trice and Valentine proved to be too much for the Cardinals to overcome. Travis Trice scored 17 while Denzel Valentine added 15 as the backcourt for MSU got it done. And fellow Guard Bryn Forbes came off the bench to give a much needed 14 point boost.

The Spartans now face another huge hurdle in the form of the Duke Blue Devils. If you love good sports, well, the meeting of the minds between Izzo and one of the greatest ever to coach any sport in Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will work all week long to put together the best game plan for next week's national semi-final.

Duke disposed of #2 Gonzaga to get back to the Final Four for a whopping 16th time. Duke has won four national titles and with a win over Michigan State the Blue Devils will advance to the national title game for the 11th time in school history. Duke last won the national title with a win over Butler in 2010.

Duke pulled away from #2 Gonzaga to rout the Bulldogs 66-52. Duke got balanced scoring and applied tenacious defense in their win over Gonzaga. Four of the five Blue Devils starters scored in double figures with Justise Winslow and Matt Jones scored 16 points each to pace Duke. Tyus Jones chipped in 15 to help get Duke back to another Final Four.
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Deke: Strief says "winning another Super Bowl is Saints' goal"

In the sports media world, we (reporters/host/anchors/journalist/analysts) are taught not to get too close to athletes, coaches and members of the organizations that we cover. However it's human nature to like those folks that are kind, nice and, well - likable! So of course, Saints OT Zach Strief is one of those guys that we like.

"Never! I never thought I'd last this long!" Zach said when I asked him if he thought he could last in the NFL for ten years. "It's a new challenge each year. The NFL is a mental and physical grind and you can never take things for granted."

The seventh round pick (#210 overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft was a key member of Sean Payton's first-ever draft class as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. The Class of 2006 has still been by far the most productive and successful class under Payton, and is arguably the greatest draft class in Black and Gold history.

Zach stopped by for a half hour visit to help promote Hogs for the Cause. Hogs for the Cause has developed into a major BBQ cook off competition that has grown from the first year of seven teams competing to nearly 100 cooking teams this weekend in New Orleans' City Park.

"I'm just doing my part to help promote this great event. We help raise as much money as we can for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research. I'm a firm believer in the cause and this event has been able to help so many children over the years," Strief said. Read more about Hogs for the Cause at their website.

As we continued our nice little in studio chat, Zach talked about his longevity in the NFL, the Saints disappointing 2014 season and what's next for him and the Black and Gold.

Even after nine full seasons in the NFL, Zach says that nobody can ever get used to what each offseason brings. "I guess you have to have the mindset to expect anything. When players are released and/or traded, we are not thinking about who's going to catch all of those passes now, or who's going to make those tackles for our defense. Players are thinking about and saying 'man, who am I going to eat with on Thursday nights this season? Who's going to be in the locker next to me?' I just had a good friend go to another team and thats what goes through my mind."

The once unknown product out of Northwestern has clearly cemented himself in Saints history as one of the most successful offensive linemen that have played in the trenches for the Black and Gold.

"Last season was a big disappointment. I can tell you that no one gets more frustrated and disappointed with the lack of success than the players. We work hard and we want to go out and have the kind of season like we did in 2009. It did not happen and we feel like we have identified the things that kept us from being a very good team last season."

The Saints are still enjoying some down time, as the official start of players working out and OTA's does not begin until next month. So have the Saints gotten better since they walked off the field in Tampa last January?

"I honestly don't know. You can't tell until you get out there and play. This is a very talented team. We have good players. But the hard work has to be done and we have to come together as a team on and off the field of play."

Zach talked about his QB Drew Brees, the challenge of helping getting the Saints back to being an elite team and his upcoming tenth season.

"After you win the Super Bowl, anything less is a disappointment. Can you have a good season and not win it all? Absolutely. But the goal here has always been to win the Super Bowl. I've been able to be on a team that won the Super Bowl and it is an incredible feeling. It feels great! But I feel like I have to be part of another Super Bowl win to make my career here in New Orleans more complete. This team, I want that feeling again."

You can listen to my entire conversation with Zach Strief by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Saints OT talks to the Big Chief on Sports Talk
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Deke: Top-ranked Tigers set to battle Wildcats

#1 ranked LSU will go for their third straight SEC series win this weekend when the Tigers entertain the Kentucky Wildcats. "When you look at Kentucky not many people know how good they are. Kentucky has built a solid program and we are going to have to play well in order to win this series," said Coach Mainieri told me on Thursday afternoon.

LSU is coming off a big 13-7 win over Tulane earlier this week in New Orleans. The 22-3 Tigers have won every weekend series they have played this season and the Tigers won their first two SEC Series over Ole Miss and Arkansas. LSU has had some solid play all over the diamond so far. And their pitching has been excellent.

"I'd say I'm pretty pleased with the weekend rotation. We're 15-1 in weekend series with our starting rotation and I like the way that group has come together. We will need another solid outing against Kentucky," Coach continued.

The Wildcats come into to Alex Box Stadium with a16-9 overall record including a 2-4 mark in SEC Play. You can listen to my entire conversation with LSU Coach Paul Mainieri by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Coach Paul Mainieri talks LSU baseball with the Big Chief
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Deke: Pelicans' inconsistency is consistent

It was just two short weeks ago that our New Orleans Pelicans were in 8th place in the Western Conference standings, in playoff position. Now I certainly did not put the cart before the horse, so to speak, but I'd be lying to you all if I did not have visions of a #1 seed vs #8 seed first round match-up with the Golden State Warriors and the Pelicans.

It was exciting to think that, at the very least, two nationally televised games live from Smoothie King Center would be a part of that once seemingly hopeful playoff series.

But that was then and this is now, and for Pelicans fans, now is not good at all. New Orleans has dropped five of their last six games and at the most crucial time of the season, the Pels are slumming through a four-game losing streak. And the team sits in 10th place in the playoff standings.

The Pelicans' season and playoff hopes are on life support, and it's looking more and more like a flatline! The one thing that has plagued the Pelicans this season and many seasons under current coach Monty Williams is inconsistency. In fact, the Pelicans are most consistent at being an inconsistent team.

Blowing leads, losing to the league's worst teams while beating the best, and poor execution down the stretch is what I've seen, and that has me and many of you Pelicans fans very upset. With 11 games left in the regular season and the sand in the hour glass going the wrong way for our home team, one has to wonder if Monty Williams is in the midst of an 11 game stretch to see if he maintains his job.

I know, I know the Pels have had a ton of injuries for the second straight season. And one of the team's best weapons (Ryan Anderson) has been out of action for a significant amount of time. But those are excuses that fans are tired of hearing and I'm backing the fans on this one.

The truth is that the Pelicans are a better team than they were a year ago. And they do look like a team that's best days are in front of them. But is it OK to keep a coach that has his team playing bad at the most important time of the season?

And we are talking about a team that has one of the top four players in the league on their side! Anthony Davis is an MVP candidate this season but it's hard to be an MVP if your team does not make the playoffs.

Just last night, fans sat though another painful game which New Orleans should have won. Blowing a 16 point lead and having a shot to pick up a full game on both Phoenix and Oklahoma City adds salt to the wound that is getting larger and larger for this team.

You can't count a team out until they are out, but the Pelicans and how good they can possibly play no longer matter. New Orleans needs to not only play their best ball of the season, but they now need a lot of help from other teams.

The inconsistency is a head scratcher of sorts, as we've seen this team beat the likes of Atlanta (top record in the East) and other playoff caliber teams like Toronto, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Western Conference title contender Memphis. And the Pels have the most important tie breaker in their favor with a series victory over OKC.

But when you follow that up with losses to some of the worst teams in the league like Denver, New York and Utah - it only makes the season that much more of a disappointment. This team looks so close but yet so far away.

Would New Orleans be in the playoffs if Anderson, Holiday and others had been playing? I honestly can't say yes as I'm not all that confident that it's just on the players.

I've got an opinion like all of you. But I also like to read and watch what the national media and so-called experts say about the home team. And what the national media says is that Monty Williams does not use his MVP candidate the proper way. Far too many times when the game is on the line, New Orleans goes away from their MVP instead of going to him. I think I speak for us all when I say we hate to lose. But losing is a little more easy to swallow if we lose with the ball in the hands of our superstar.

So time is winding down, the clock is ticking and 11 games remain in this season - and maybe in the Monty Williams era in New Orleans. Dell Demps, Mickey Loomis, Owner Tom Benson and all of the higher ups will have some tough decisions to make shortly.

Does New Orleans paint the picture that we are merely injuries away from being a playoff team and New Orleans is a team of tomorrow?

Or does the harsh reality come to fruition and point out that this very same team that could be better without all the injuries. This very same team that could be the team of tomorrow could be in the same exact place a year from now. And that very same place is where they were a year ago at this time. That place is out of the playoffs. And that is inconsistency!
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Deke: Tigers fall apart in 66-65 loss to N.C. State

Coach Johnny Jones will be the first to tell you; it's much easier to coach when your team consistently has the lead in a game. Well, the Tigers maintained a double digit lead for most of the night until the final eight minutes of the game. LSU would score just three points in the final 7:21 of the game as N.C. State ended the Tigers' season with a 66-65 win. N.C. State closed the game with a 13-3 run.

Beejay Anya scored the final two baskets for N.C. State including the game winner with less than one second left, lifting the Wildcats to the one point win over LSU. Simply put, LSU fell apart in crunch time, suffering a hard-to-swallow loss to the Wolfpack.

Missing six straight free throws and an easy lay-up did the Tigers in and the LSU players looked stunned as Anya's game winning basket sank into the bottom of the net. LSU's season comes to an end with a 22-11 overall record.

LSU got balanced scoring as Tim Quartermann finished with a team high 17 points, Jarell Martin had 16 and Jordan Mickey chipped in 12, in a losing cause for the Bayou Bengals. The 9th seeded Tigers were in complete control of the game and looked to be well on their way to advancing to take on the #1 seeded Villanova Wildcats Saturday in Pittsburgh.

But credit the ACC's Wolfpack as they clamped down on the Tigers, allowing just one field goal in the last seven minutes of the game. N.C. State found themselves in a double digit hole for most of the game as they trailed 40-26 at halftime but never lost their poise in their come from behind win.

Star player Jordan Mickey looked as if he got hurt, which made calling the timeout much easier for Coach Jones. Mickey was OK and came back into the game following the Tigers timeout. LSU went cold, missing eight of nine shots as N.C. State pulled as close as they had been since they trailed by 16 at the break.

Kyle Washington hit a jumper at the 5:49 mark left in the game to pull the Wolfpack within four points down just 62-58. Johnny Jones called his second timeout in just over a minute, seeing the opposing team go on a 10-0 run to make things real tight.

One reason N.C. State was able to creep back into the game was due to their ability to do better on the glass. LSU had been dominating the game on the boards, holding a 34-24 edge in rebounds and the Tigers had 34-18 edge in the paint with 7:18 left in the game. The Tigers stopped the bleeding when Martin drew a foul and went to the line to make two free throws to push the Tigers lead up to 64-58.

But things would be tight the rest of the way. LSU made things hard on themselves with a chance to ice the game in the later moments. The Tigers missed six straight free throws late in the game allowing N.C. State to stay within striking distance, down just three points 65-62 with 59.1 seconds left in regulation. N.C. State outscored LSU 40-25 in the second half of the game.

N.C. State had a put back basket to trim the Tigers lead to one point 65-64. LSU squandered another shot as the Tigers had an easy shot on the other end, but LSU missed a layup. LSU looked rattled, the Tigers were out of sync and they just got flat out beat.

N.C. State now faces 33-2 Villanova. The winner of the Wolfpack versus Wildcats game will advance to the Sweet 16.

Photo via LSUSports.net
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Deke: Jabari Greer chimes in on Saints roster moves

It was November 11, 2013 and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was rocking. The Saints put a 23-20 licking on San Francisco 49ers to up their record to 8-2. And the Black and Gold were in control of everything, from the lead in the NFC South to the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. But none of us could see the impact that losing a key player would have.

"I can tell you the Saints defense was not the same after that, and it still is not the same without him," the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert said about the loss of then-starting CB Jabari Greer.

Greer was not only lost for the remainder of the 2013 season, but the former Saint played in his last game in the NFL on that early November day. "It's tough looking back on it. We had a very good team and we were playing well at the time," said Greer.

Greer visited with Bobby and I on Sports Talk earlier this week to give his thoughts on the current state of the Black and Gold. Greer is now a local analyst and he put somewhat of an understanding spin on the Saints recent off-season moves. "I can see where the team is trying to get better. And the moves that have been made make sense to me," he said us.

I asked Jabari - what does a good pass rush mean to a CB? "What does a knife mean to a chef?" he replied. "A pass rush is like the best friend to defensive back. I can tell you as a cornerback, our jobs are much easier when there is pressure applied to the opposing team's quarterback."

Greer also talked about how leadership was key in 2013 when the Saints had a major swing in defensive production going from 32nd in 2012 to #4 overall the following season.

"There is a level of comfort on the field that comes with team leadership. When Kenny Vaccaro was back there in his rookie season he had Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper to lean on and they helped him by just pointing out the many things that each of them had seen and been through in their careers. Leadership is vital with any team."

Greer also said that the injury to last season's prized addition safety Jairus Byrd was much bigger than it seemed. "Anytime you have to deal with an injury you deal with it physically and mentally. Jarius was dealing with an injury when he came to New Orleans and then he was lost for the season early in the year. That's very hard to overcome in many ways," Greer said.

To hear the whole conversation with Jabari, simply click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Jabari Greer talks to Bobby and Deke about 2015 Saints
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Deke: Don't Payton and Loomis deserve our trust?

I know the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type business. But with that said, I also think we should take into account the entire body of work. I'll be the first, and have already written several pieces on the Saints and how what they have done on the field lately has not been too much.

If the proof is in the pudding then the pudding is a big ole bowl with two playoff misses in the last three seasons. Plus the Saints roster has gotten older in key spots and some of the players that have been brought in to help filled those voids have not always worked out.

However, I still have faith and trust in what GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton are doing. Why? Well first of all they have won a Super Bowl. Yes, it was five long years ago. But it's still on their resume and that speaks volumes. A Super Bowl title carries a lot of weight as it should. And secondly, both have been actively aggressive in addressing the needs of their team in past off seasons.

As all of us continue to speculate on what we think this duo is up to, we can just follow the day to day transactions and try to come to our own conclusions on what's going on. What's going on is change. Change is needed each season. And when a team is coming off a 7-9 record (to me, they were worse than that) then change is not only going to come, but it is very much needed.

For a franchise that has only had 11 total picks in the last two combined NFL Drafts, the Saints have so far stock piled a whopping nine selections in this year's draft with three of those nine among the top 45 players.

Bobby and I get plenty of calls and texts about what the Saints are doing and then usually those comments are followed by "why don't they." My people - breathe, in and out, breathe in and out. PLEASE breathe in and out. The off season is still going on. The Saints have a plan. Just because some position has not been addressed yet does not mean it's not going to be addressed.

You can't give a grade until it's time to hand the grades out and now is not the time to hand out grades. I like what the Saints are doing. They know that they were a bad team last year. They know that some off field things that seemingly led us all to believe it was leadership issues in the locker room had to be cleaned up and I see those things being addressed.

Everyone has their own take on what the Saints are doing or at the very least what everyone thinks the Saints are doing. But do any of us truly, really know? No. We don't. My advice is to just follow the ball, so to speak.

In the last week alone I've seen Vegas push the Saints back from 25-1 to 30-1 from a Super Bowl odds standpoint. I've heard so-called NFL experts call the Saints moves bold, questionable and bad. I've heard people say that the Saints have seen what Dallas did last season and they want to be a "run first" kind of team now. Ha! That's not how the Saints are built. But I listen anyway like many of you do.

And I've heard Hall of Fame DB Deion Sanders say that the Saints new CB tandem of Browner and Lewis is second best in the NFL to only the CB's in Seattle. Ha I say to that as well. You can have the greatest cover guys in the world but without a pass rush they are just regular CB's to me. And the Saints have not upgraded their pass rush. Not yet anyway. So take what you want and use it how you will.

What I'm trying to say is that all we know is all that we know. People will guess, cite sources close to the situation and experts will weigh in. But truth is, only Sean and Mickey know what they are doing and what they want to do.

Regardless, if the Saints traded away three players that you had jerseys for and now you're out of $450.00 bucks, well boo hoo! Mickey and Sean deserve our trust not because we like the Saints but because of what they have done prior.

The Saints have picked up the most draft picks that they have had in the Sean Payton era, they have flipped a former third round pick into a first round pick and top center. And Mickey has flipped a former fifth round pick (Kenny Stills) into two players in the form of a much needed LB and a third round pick in this year's draft.

Would you rather be sitting here complaining about what the Saints have not done? At least we can all agree that our disagreements come on the topic of the Saints moves and not the lack thereof.

Mickey and Sean deserve our trust. But I'll be the first to tell you that if another 7-9 season or a non-playoff season follows the 2015 schedule then that trust will have to be, well, let's just say re-evaluated at the very least.
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Deke: CJ Spiller excited to be a Saint

Friday the New Orleans Saints signed free agent RB C.J. Spiller to a four year deal. Spiller is excited to be a Saint: "I'm just humbled and thankful for the opportunity to play for a great franchise like the New Orleans Saints," he said Friday on Sportstalk.

Spiller was the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. All five of his NFL seasons have been spent with the Buffalo Bills. In Buffalo, C.J. put up some good numbers, carrying the ball a total of 668 times for 3,321 yards with 12 TDs. The most impressive number is his five yards per carry average.

C.J. told me he's very happy to be reuniting with Jairus Byrd. "I'm actually training right now with Jairus and when I told him that I was signing with the Saints, we were both very excited." C.J. and Byrd spent three seasons on the same team when both started for the Buffalo Bills.

So what does Spiller say about his game on the field? "I'm a running back. I feel comfortable with being able to catch the football out of the backfield and I have done well on special teams. But my main thing is being a running back."

Spiller and fellow RB Mark Ingram were listed as two of the top six available RB's this year in free agency and now are both in the same backfield. "I think we can become a very good tandem in this league. I know Mark and I both learned from the same coach in college (Burton Burns) and I've talked to Mark and we are both looking forward to working with each other."

Spiller says he's in great shape and 100% healthy and will be an all ago when the Saints begin OTA's next month.

You can listen to my entire conversation with new Saints Running Back C.J. Spiller by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Deke talks to RB CJ Spiller on Sportstalk
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Deke: Saints are cooking, and right now I'm feeling the flavor

In the Payton-Loomis era, Saints fans have gotten used to a lot of things - the main and most important thing is winning. But since they teamed up in the winter of 2006, these two have been very active in making moves to make the Saints a competitive team.

Sure, I can - you can, hell, we all can - point out flaws, mistakes made and even speak on how the wrong players were brought in via trade or free agency and the draft. But the one thing that none of us can argue against is change. The Saints have always been actively aggressive when it comes to trying to find the right pieces to put together their Black and Gold puzzle.

Just in the last week, the following moves have been made: the Saints parted ways with RB Pierre Thomas, LB Curtis Lofton; restructured deals were given to WR Marques Colston, OLB Junior Galette and DT Broderick Bunkley; they traded away one of the game's premier offensive weapons in TE Jimmy Graham, and today unloaded starting OG Ben Grubbs. And the Black and Gold defense picked up one of the league's best secondary players for the second straight off-season by acquiring CB Brandon Browner.

READ MORE: Saints sign CB Brandon Browner, re-sign LB Humber

The Saints will have a lot of new faces... actually, make that a lot of new starters on both sides of the football this season. In the trenches on the o-line, center Max Unger is now the man snapping the ball to the franchise's most precious possession in QB Drew Brees, and a new starter at offensive guard will take over for Grubbs who is now a Chief.

There will be a new primary target on offense for Drew Brees to connect with as TE Jimmy Graham is gone, and you could say that another new weapon is here in the form of WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks was injured last season after showing signs of being that playmaker we all hoped he would become.

With #80 gone, who will be that reliable go-to guy for QB Drew Brees? And maybe more importantly. who's going to play the role of Mr. Get It Done? I mean that kind of player that no matter how big or small his numbers look, he always comes through with just enough to keep the sticks moving. That role was played by #23 RB Pierre Thomas for the last eight seasons.

READ MORE: Saints trade G Grubbs to Chiefs

Over on defense, with S Jairus Byrd (injured last season), the addition CB Brandon Browner along with the subtraction of LB Curtis Lofton means at least three new starters will be on defense in key roles as of right now.

Changes always take place each off-season. Maybe when it's all said and done, the final numbers will show that the number of changes is not any more or less than in previous years under Loomis and Payton.

Hey I'm with y'all! If you don't make the playoffs then it's a bad season. And 2014 was flat out bad, even terrible at times. But you have to be fair and give credit when and where it is due. And by the moves made and changes that we've seen in a short amount of time, Loomis and Payton were not happy with last season, and they are doing some things about it. Whether or not those things and changes are the right ones will ultimately be judged on the success of the 2015 New Orleans Saints.

In other words the proof will be in the pudding. I'm not sure what the final bowl is going to taste like. But right now I'm feeling the flavor. You feel me? Who Dat!

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Deke: Not wise for Lewis to make demands of the Saints

In sports, in politics, in life, they say that timing is everything. Well, the timing of Saints CB Keenan Lewis and his demands could not have come at a worse time. On Tuesday, the same day that the Saints traded TE Jimmy Graham and just hours after cutting defensive captain Curtis Lofton, Lewis basically said pay me or else!

Folks I'm a person that thinks the value of social media and the various tools that many of us use on a daily basis are for more good than not. But sometimes people hit send, text or tweet before they really know the consequences of their message.

Lewis said that he wants the remaining years on his current contract to be guaranteed or he's going to take his talents elsewhere. Say what? Isn't that LeBron James's line? And who is Keenan Lewis to be saying that?

Yes Keenan is a proven pro that has had some very good seasons in the NFL, but he is a member of one of the worst defensive units in the game today. Can any Saints defender make demands right now? Or better yet should they? Hell NO!

When you go back and listen to what Mickey and Sean said after the season and you look at the moves that have been made, right now is not the best time to make demands. What did Lewis can only hurt him.

From the looks of things Sean Payton is trying to make the Saints a better team on the field and in the locker room. And bringing back a player that is publically airing his frustrations about his status with his current employer is not real wise. In other words would it be wise for you to say things or make demands from your employer where the entire world could hear, see or read those demands? Hell NO!

Which leads me back to the main question that all of us have and that is why? Why would Keenan Lewis do this? His timing is horrible. The Saints are a team that is making moves and they have proven over the last 10 days that no player (with the exception of Drew, I think) is above being cut or traded.

Lewis has had two pretty good seasons on the field. It's a shame that his actions off the field have hurt him.
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Deke: Saints clearly have a plan in place

After arguably the most disappointing season in the history of the franchise, the New Orleans Saints top men said that they had identified some of the problems and that those problems were going to be addressed. Should we read into the recent transactions and players that are gone as part of the problems the Saints had last season? Of course we should.

Hey, I'm just a fan like everyone else, so what I try to do is listen to what the GMs, coaches and players say to us and then just use it in my logic. Sure the entire body of work of Mickey and Sean is as good as it gets in Black and Gold history. And their run is one of the best in the NFL since 2009. But my people, that Super Bowl trophy being hoisted down in sunny South Florida was five years ago. Hell, that's half of a decade.

And when it comes to what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, well, the Saints haven't done much. And that is strictly going by their own expectations. Two of the last three seasons have been flat out bad. Sorry and sad.

The combined embarrassment of "Bounty Gate" (even though I don't totally agree with the NFL) and the 7-9 campaign in 2014 have been very disappointing to say the least. That is how the Saints themselves have described things. Since the league pounced down hard on the Saints in the spring of 2012, New Orleans has posted a 25-23 regular season record with one playoff win. And after a hot 5-0 start in 2013, the Saints have gone a dismal 13-14 in the regular season.

The end results have not been good, and when you factor in that Las Vegas has counted on the Saints as an elite team, the end result is even more depressing.

So those numbers, showing a lack of success on and off the field, have prompted Sean and Mickey to reevaluate things and get rolling. I have no idea what the Saints plan is. I have no inside info and I only write to you what I know has been said, what has been done and what has been told to us all. But the Saints do have a plan.

Like it or not, the move to ship #80 to Seattle paid huge returns for the Saints. If I told you that every five years that a third round pick would land you one of the NFL's premiere players at any position and a #1 draft pick in return, we would all take that. That's just good common business sense.

And because of their own doing, the Saints have had fewer draft picks than any other team in the NFL over the last few years, and as of right now, New Orleans has three picks in the top 45 selections in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Maybe the Saints have seen that some of the things that they did in the past that worked are no longer working as well. Maybe the higher ups at Saints camp see that some of the moves that they made did not pan out overall in on-field production, team chemistry and locker room leaders. Or perhaps simply put - the Saints know that 7-9 and no playoffs is totally unacceptable and has to be dealt with.

The Saints do have a plan. The plan is in place, it is in motion and now we will see moving forward if this plan pans out or produces the same results we've seen as of late.
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Deke: LSU's sweep pushes Tigers to #1

They are riding their longest win streak (12 games) since 2013. And right now they are red hot after their fourth weekend series sweep. "I like the position we are in. Our team has been put in some different and challenging situations and they've responded well in all phases of the game," said LSU Coach Paul Mainieri.

LSU was a perfect 5-0 last week with wins over Stephen F. Austin, Grambling State and then beat #8 Houston, Baylor and Nebraska last weekend at Minute Maid park in Houston. "I thought we played well. We hit the ball well a lot of times, but it was right at other players. I was pleased with our pitching and overall team play."

LSU moved up to #1 in the Baseball America Poll as the Tigers are one of four SEC Team ranked in the top 10. This week the Tigers face in-state foe McNeese State followed by their SEC Series opener against Ole Miss.

"I think state college baseball is great. The teams in Louisiana really get up when playing LSU and I take that as a huge compliment to our program. I pull for all of our state teams except of course when they are playing us (LSU)."

Coach Mainieri talked about the big week the Tigers face including this weekend's big SEC series against Ole Miss. You can listen to Deke's entire interview with LSU Coach Paul Mainieri by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Deke talks to Coach Paul Mainieri
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Deke: Are the Saints a team in transition?

Let's face it, football is still a sport - but on the pro level, it's now more business than ever before. Loyalty, dedication and longevity are terms that apply to those players and coaches that hang around in the NFL far more than those who do not.

Just go look in your closet and you will find the evidence. Many of your long time favorites no longer wear those Black and Gold jerseys because they are no longer here.

We know that eventually all good things do come to an end. Look away from the Big Easy for a moment and look up in the Far East. The New England Patriots parted ways with 15 year veteran and four time Super Bowl champ Vince Wilfork. And in the Steel City of Pittsburgh, the word is "Retire or we're gonna cut you" for future Hall of Fame star Troy Polamalu.

Does seeing those franchise staples let go make things any less emotional for members of the Who Dat Nation when they see their favorites given their walking papers? Absolutley not! But it does most certainly point out that no one - and I mean no one - is above being cut or released from their team.

READ MORE: Kristian: Saints free up some cash by restructuring Colston

As the New Orleans Saints front office continues to make moves to free up money and try to become more of a factor in this year's free agent market, Black and Gold fans are seeing the last few faces from the Super Bowl title team slowly fade away.Veteran leaders on and off the field have moved on. Guys that Who Dats will always be thankful for in helping bring the city its first title will never be forgotten.

LB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith, WR Lance Moore, RB Pierre Thomas, safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper along with OT Jermon Bushrod, LB Scott Shanle - these men represent not only good team play but locker room leaders that got it done.

It would be hard for any club in any sport to withstand such losses of good players and great leaders without some type of drop off. And the Saints first hand learned that painful lesson in 2014.

And the upcoming 2015 season will more than likely be the last for more longtime favorites. Now to sit here and guess at who I think will and will not be here a year from now would be kind of like playing a game... so I'll steer clear of that. But all of you can do the math and factor in years of service, price, production and performance. Are the Saints a team that is in transition? I'd say somewhat that they are.

The goal for every team is to put together the right mix of players that has some youth, some wise savvy veterans, and some new faces that can help make an impact and lead a team to the post season.

Las Vegas says the Saints are still an elite team that should contend for the title in 2015. So is a team in transition a legit Super Bowl caliber team? We're going to soon find that out because it's clear that the Saints are looking ahead to what they hope will bring back some history. And that history is winning a Super Bowl!

READ MORE: Don't you dare call Drew Brees greedy
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Deke: Who Dats are sad about letting PT go

Well it's the nature of the business. It can happen to anyone, and it has. But that does not make today's news any easier for members of the Who Dat Nation. Running back Pierre Thomas was informed today by the Saints that he would be released, ending an eight year run of the once-Cinderella story in a Black and Gold uniform.

"Obviously this is a tough decision because Pierre meant so much to the Saints on the field, and he was loved off the field. I would assume that the money saved by cutting Pierre will be used to try and re-sign RB Mark Ingram," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert.

I think that this is strictly a business move from the Saints standpoint. But what concerns me is that what if the Saints can't re-sign Mark Ingram? Is Sean Payton comfortable enough to let RB's Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet be the top two returning veterans? Or do the Saints have another player in mind that they plan on signing? I guess we will soon find out the answers to those questions.

As far as the reports about the Saints supposedly shopping LB Curtis Lofton to other teams, I'll wait and see if there is any real merit to this rumor. After all, Ian Rapaport has missed far more times than he has hit when it comes to reporting Saints news!

Curtis Lofton is one of the very few players on defense that I think are true keepers. All Lofton does is his job, he's a tackling machine and he leads by example. "In the NFL in order to get something of value you have to give something of value. I don't know if the Saints really are interested in trading Curtis Lofton. But I can tell you that other teams know how good a player he is and the Saints would be able to get something in return for Lofton in my opinion," said Bobby.

So the breaking news NFL off-season is in full swing and with a team like the Saints in dire straits to free up some money, expect more news sooner than later involving the Black and Gold.
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Deke: Norris Cole's impact huge for Pelicans

He's been an impact player since GM Dell Demps traded for him last month, and now he's a key figure in the Pelicans playoff push. Norris Cole is happy to be a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.

"Everyone has treated me well and welcomed me here with open arms. I just want to go out and give my best each night we are out on the floor," he told us. The two-time NBA Champ with the Miami Heat brings experience, veteran leadership and solid play to the Pelicans backcourt.

Bobby and I visited with Norris after the Pels' Monday night loss to the Dallas Mavericks. "We competed hard. We did not play a terrible game - Dallas went on a run and played better down the stretch." The Pelicans saw their five game win streak snapped as Dallas won 102-93.

Cole said he and his Pelicans teammates have to shake off the loss to the Mavericks and get ready for the Detroit Pistons. "Every game counts. We are focused on one game at a time. We are all expected to do our jobs. You can't look too far ahead, and you have to take things one game at a time."

New Orleans will look to start another win streak as they host the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center. Cole says that he likes what he sees on his new team here in the Big Easy. "I think we have a lot of young talent on this team. I've been on two championship teams and I think we (Pelicans) have the pieces in place to become a championship caliber team," Cole said.

You can listen to our entire interview with Norris Cole by clicking below.

FULL AUDIO: Norris Cole visits with Bobby and Deke
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Deke: Saints have fiscal work going into free agency

If history tells us anything, the New Orleans Saints are right where they want to be. Ha! The Saints are as in as tight of a financial situation as any of the 32 teams in the National Football League. With that said, in past years, facing similar situations, the Saints were able to land some of the top available free agents.

"Mickey Loomis and his Front Office have done some amazing things in the past," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. "Being able to land guys like Curtis Lofton and Jairus Byrd when things were tight was incredible. I don't know if the Saints will be able to free up that kind of money this year. But in the past they have," said Hebert.

If you're looking ahead to what the Saints might do in-house, here's a few names to keep in mind. Veteran players like Offensive Guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs along with veteran WR Marques Colston could all be players that are kindly asked to take pay-cuts.

Both Colston and Grubbs would count about nine million dollars against the cap and Evans would cost 11 million from a cap standpoint. Being able to loosen up some payout on those three players would bode well in keeping proven veteran players intact and also helping the Saints front office be more flexible in the free agent market.

"I think that those three players are guys that the Saints will and possibly already have approached about taking a pay cut," said Larry Holder of nola.com and the Times Picayune. Holder said that the Saints have some work to do in order to free up some usable money this off season.

Some players that might become cap casualties that means possibly being cut outright include Linebacker David Hawthorne, Defensive Lineman Broderick Bunkley and Defensive Back Corey White.
"Bunkley and Hawthorne will count about four and a half million against the cap and White's cap number has elevated to about a million and a half dollars." Holder said that paying nearly two million dollars to a back-up CB in White might be too much for the Saints to pay out to Corey White in 2015.

The Saints also have to deal with the future of RB Mark Ingram. Ingram is coming off his best season yet as a pro but if the Saints can land one of their two first round picks from the 2011 draft to a long term deal with take some work and probably some compromise from both sides.

I think the Saints feel like that Mark Ingram is more valuable to them than that of any other team. But will the Saints be able to land Ingram at the price that they feel is right?
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Deke: Mainieri says Tigers are in perfect position

Coach Paul Mainieri and his #2 ranked LSU Tigers enjoyed another solid week on the diamond that included a third straight weekend series sweep of an opponent. The 10-1 Tigers took down the Princeton Tigers 3-0 this weekend including a 15-4 series finale blowout win Sunday at Alex Box Stadium.

"Our goal is to be at our very best once SEC play begins. Certainly we want to win each time we step out on the field. I think that we are in perfect position the final week before Southeastern Conference play starts. Certainly we would have liked to win the one game we lost but I'm truly happy with where we are as a team," Mainieri said.

LSU beat Southeastern in a slugfest last Thursday night 9-8 and then nipped Princeton 3-2 on Friday; "I used to get upset on those nights when we did not hit the ball well and came out of a close game. But after my father pointed out to me, those close games help your team get into tight situations that allow the team to gain poise, keep their composure and gain confidence in tight games," Coach continued.

The Tigers have their final few tests before SEC play begins next weekend when they entertain the Ole Miss Rebels. The Tigers have five games on this week's schedule. LSU plays host to Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday followed by another home game against in-state foe Grambling State.

This weekend the Tigers face their stiffest competition of the season as they participate in the 2015 Houston College Classic in Houston, Texas. LSU will take on the team that knocked them out of the post season last spring in the 8th ranked Houston Cougars. The series takes place all weekend long at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

"Those are three very good teams with some big time players. We all know how good Houston is, Stephen F. Austin always plays us tough and Nebraska comes from a power conference that is well coached. It's going to be great competition in a Major League Venue and we are expecting a lot of Tigers Fans with us in Houston this weekend."

The Tigers will also battle Big XII foe Baylor and LSU wraps the weekend with a non-conference tilt against Big Ten foe Nebraska.
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