Cornucopia: Warriors, Stanford, Cal Tip Off; Giants Must Act; Cardinal FB Improves; Swinney Responds
Our favorite time of the year has arrived. We're in the heart of the football season and basketball is just getting underway.
Some early NBA observations:
* Last night's loss to Cleveland notwithstanding, the Warriors (5-2) look much better this year with Chris Paul and without Jordan Poole or James Wiseman.
* Paul is making Steph Curry more dangerous. The Warriors' Achilles Heel has been turnovers. With Paul sharing the ballhandling duties, that is becoming less and less of a factor. When they're on the court together, Curry can work on getting open, knowing that Paul will find him.
* Even more importantly, the Warriors used to be vulnerable whenever Curry was on the bench. Now Paul has stabilized the second unit. He is also helping bring out Jonathan Kuminga's potential by delivering the ball to him at just the right time, in just the right spot.
* Paul had an amazing stat line against Oklahoma City on Friday night. 13 assists, no turnovers.
Moving on to college hoops...
* Stanford opens a critical season in both men's and women's basketball this week. After making the NCAA tournament 13 times in 14 years (1995-2008), the Cardinal has missed the tournament 13 times in the last 14 years, including seven years in a row under coach Jerod Haase.
* Haase returns his best player, Spencer Jones (14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds per game), along with improving center Maxime Renaud (8.8, 6.1), steady forward Brandon Angel (9.5, 4.5), and wing Michael Jones (9.5), who transferred in from Davidson last season.
* Three newcomers may make the difference for Haase this year. Point guard Jared Bynum, a transfer from Providence, gives the Cardinal the penetrating playmaker it has lacked for several years. Bynum averaged 10 points and four assists per game last season. Mix in two highly-touted freshman recruits. Andrej Stojakovic, son of former NBA star Peja, is a sharpshooter like his father. Guard Keenan Carlyle adds defense and quickness.
* The Stanford women are not ranked in the national top 10 for the first time since the Paleolithic era. All-American Haley Jones has graduated and gargantuan center Lauren Betts has transferred to UCLA.
* But Cameron Brink is back, and she is a force both offensively and defensively--scoring, passing, blocking shots. The 6-5 Brink overcame her difficulties from the foul line last season, making her last 48 straight, and is doing better at staying out of foul trouble.
* Brink is a leading candidate for national player of the year along with Iowa's Caitlin Clark, LSU's Angel Reese and Connecticut's Paige Bueckers.
* Cal's men are also going to be interesting to watch this season, as new coach Mark Madsen, the former Stanford All-American, is trying to resuscitate a program that might've been the nation's worst last year (3-29).
* Madsen has added three transfers--6-11 forward/center Fardaws Aimaq (Texas Tech) and guards Jalen Cone (Northern Arizona) and Keonte Kennedy (Memphis). Aimaq played for Madsen at Utah Valley, averaging 13.9 points and a national-best 15 rebounds in 2020-21, and 18.9 points and 13.6 boards in 2021-22. Cone averaged 17.6 points and shot 42.4% from beyond the arc last season, while Kennedy is a stalwart defender.
Baseball Postmortem: Congrats to Bruce Bochy, the manager the San Francisco Giants shouldn't have let get away, for leading the Texas Rangers to their first World Series title. His maneuverings during the playoffs were a master class in managing.
Today is the first day of the general manager's meetings, and Giants' GM Farhan Zaidi, who is lucky to still have a job, needs to pull some rabbits out of some hats.
The Giants made a good move in hiring Bob Melvin as manager. Now they need to find a premier starting pitcher and a hitter who will actually inspire fear in opposing teams.
For starters how about grabbing Blake Snell, Aaron Nola or the Japanese right hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Shohei Otani is probably looking for a stronger team than the Giants, but former Giants' nemesis Cody Bellinger would be a nice addition.
Or make a trade for a legitimate star. In my mind, everyone on the Giants' roster other than Logan Webb and Patrick Bailey is expendable.
Stanford Rising: The Stanford football team continues to improve under first-year coach Troy Taylor. After a near-miss against No. 5 Washington, the Cardinal beat Washington State 10-7 in Pullman.
The Cardinal had given up at least 40 points in their previous four games, but Taylor's charges held the Cougars to four yards rushing in the game and shut them out in the second half.
I'm not a big believer in "what-ifs", but Stanford (3-6) could be 6-3 If not for a deflected interception in the end zone against Sac State, a missed field goal against Arizona and a dropped fourth down pass against Washington.
Heisman Prediction: If I were a betting man, I'd wager that this year's Heisman Trophy winner will have "nix" in his name. As in Oregon's Bo Nix or Washington's Michael Penix, Jr.
Dabo Responds: At his radio show last week, Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney got a little hot under the collar when "Tyler from Spartanburg" suggested the coach wasn't worth his $11.5M salary given his team's 4-4 record. After pointing out his accomplishments over the past 12 years, including two national titles, and taking "100% responsibility for a bad year," Swinney said:
"Listen man, you can have your opinion all you want and you can apply for the job and good luck to you...What's happened at Clemson is we've won so much that it used to be the fun's in the winning. Now even when you win people like you complain and criticize the coaches and question everything...I'm sure you've never made any bad decisions. I'm sure you've lived a perfect life...I started as the lowest paid coach in this freaking business, and I'm where I am because I've worked my ass off every single day, and I ain't going to let some smart-ass kid get on the phone and create this stuff. I work for the board of trustees, the president and the AD, and if they're tired of me leading this program, all they got to do is let me know. I'll go somewhere else where there is an appreciation."
Well, on Saturday Swinney's team came out and upset Notre Dame, 31-23. Clemson committed zero penalties and Swinney became the winningest coach in Clemson history.
Take that, Tyler!