Dwight Jaynes

Nurkic is in the lead car of the Trail Blazers' rollercoaster ride

Nurkic is in the lead car of the Trail Blazers' rollercoaster ride

The rollercoaster season of the Trail Blazers hit another big skid Saturday night with a nasty loss at Atlanta to the hapless Hawks.

The only thing you can regularly expect from this team is inconsistency. I realize a lot of people see this season as simply the byproduct of a .500 team. You know, the whole "this is who they are" theory. By nature, a mediocre team is inconsistent. That may well be true but I'm still not ready to give up on my opinion that this is a better team than that.

Look, even a .500 team ought to be able to beat the worst team in the league. Or at least not get blown out by the worst team in the league.

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Jason Quick, on "Talkin' Ball" following Saturday night's embarrassing loss, searched for words to characterize the team he covers and came up with "nonchalant." And I think that's a very apt description. There is a casual acceptance of what's been going on. Nobody seems willing to get angry or openly irritated about playing poorly against some of the worst teams in the NBA. I don't know if that's because most of this roster is being very well paid or if it's just a natural evolution born of keeping the same group together for too long.

I don't get it. I'd like to see a little more of the passion we saw from the Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Philadelphia.

At the center (literally) of the Blazers' nonchalance is Jusuf Nurkic. This is a player with restricted free agency coming his way this summer. Most players in that situation would be playing their tails off in an effort to try to show prospective new teams they have great value. But it's entirely possible Nurkic is costing himself millions with his own personal brand of nonchalance. Night after night he's not finishing at the rim -- casually blowing open shots in the basket area and turning easy shots into difficult ones. He's shooting just .451 from the field this season and .433 in his last 10 games -- awful for a player who spends a lot of time in the paint.

There are 60 men who have played center in the NBA this season with a higher overall shooting percentage than Nurkic.

But he carries himself on the floor with a certain arrogance, as if he's one of the best in the business. He admits he plays better when he's "mad," but usually seems too cool to get angry. I believe his erratic play has been a big reason for his team's up-and-down performances. From night to night, even quarter to quarter, he's not been reliable.

I would imagine the coaching staff is running out of buttons to push in an attempt to motivate him. I'm pretty sure, too, his teammates are frustrated with him. They came into this season believing he was going to be the long-sought piece they've been missing the last few seasons who could propel them upward in the standings. The 20-game Nurk we saw last season was certainly that player. But for most of the 32 games we've seen him this season, he's not the same player.

I realize he is just 23 years old. But at any age there has to be an understanding of the rewards of playing hard. He needs to be building a foundation for a long career. And with free agency looming, he needs to be making a strong statement that he's a player of great value.

At this time, that's not happening -- and the Trail Blazers are suffering the consequences.


Paul Allen to blame for Blazer woes? That's just silly

Paul Allen to blame for Blazer woes? That's just silly

I'm not really sure where it's coming from, but lately I've been hearing a lot of blame for the Trail Blazers' early season struggles directed at the team's owner, Paul Allen.

I mean, seriously?

Let me ask you this: Without Allen as the owner, where would the Trail Blazers be right now? I'll answer that one for you -- in Seattle, that's where. Or Las Vegas. Or Vancouver, B.C. Because without Allen funding the construction of the Moda Center, this team would not have a new arena and would have moved out of town years ago as Memorial Coliseum decayed.

I've lived here all my life and I can tell you, there is no way this city would have ever paid for a new arena. There would have been no political will and no ballot measure. And if it ever got on the ballot, it would have failed. Miserably.

But Allen, unlike just about every other owner in pro sports, didn't come begging to the city for a new venue -- he built it himself. To the everlasting benefit of this city. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in basketball, you've probably enjoyed an experience of some sort in that arena. And the reality is, the Rose Quarter and its arena don't belong to Allen, they belong to the citizens of Portland.

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And you want to talk basketball? This city is very fortunate to have an owner who cares about his team. Cares enough to provide payrolls that have ranked the Trail Blazers very often among the top five in the NBA. This is a small market, folks. The TV and radio rights fees don't provide the kind of coin owners earn in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and many other larger markets.

Allen wants to win more than he wants to make money off his team. Think about that for a moment. How many other owners would even attempt to say that? Allen has proved it year after year and I would guess he's had very few seasons where this franchise has actually turned a profit. Allen wants a ring and is willing to pay for it.

But it's hard. I believe it's much more difficult to win a championship in the NBA than any other pro league. Championships are won by the same teams year after year -- even before this modern era of "superteams."

Yes, Allen is interested in the Trail Blazers. Interested enough that he wants in on decisions regarding drafts, trades and roster. For what he's spent on this franchise, is that not his right? Does he "meddle?" I have no idea. I do know that some of his general managers could have used a little more meddling. Has he made some wrong choices with GMs and coaches? I suppose. But who hasn't?

Allen does not live in Portland but you could make a case with all he and his franchise have done for this city, on the court and in the community, he's one of its most benevolent citizens.

And any assertion that he's been a negative influence on his franchise is just plain silly.

Blazers prove the NBA truism -- the aggressive team gets the calls

Blazers prove the NBA truism -- the aggressive team gets the calls

Some real talk about Portland's 114-110 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night:

  • A wacky, crazy, strange game. And for Trail Blazer fans, probably the most exciting game of the season. In the fourth quarter Portland did a great job of mucking the game up -- being physical on defense and very aggressive at both ends of the floor. It resulted in a 42-point quarter while holding the Sixers to 25. I liked the Blazers' passion in the period more than anything. They fed off the home crowd, which was rightfully going bonkers for the first time in weeks
  • And speaking of the home crowd, the referees pitched in and helped as much as they could. Portland shot 47 free throws while Philadelphia got just 14. That's a joke, but once again testimony to the NBA truism that the aggressive team gets the calls.
  • The game may have turned on a flagrant foul call on Joel Embiid in the fourth quarter when he bumped Jusuf Nurkic to the floor. Or Nurkic just flopped onto the floor. I can understand an official watching that in real time and thinking it may have been a flagrant foul -- but after watching a replay? That was a real bad call -- and even though Nurkic missed his free throws, you could feel the game changing on that call. Embiid seemed discouraged and tired down the stretch. Great player, though.
  • Nurkic offered a look at both sides of his game. He suffered through all sorts of stumbles, fumbles and misfires over the first three quarters. The man has missed more close-in shots and layups this season than any player I've ever seen. But in the fourth quarter, after getting his nose bloodied, he found passion and assertiveness. He was an inspiration down the stretch -- leading to the obvious question: Where has THAT Nurkic been?
  • The Sixers are a well-coached team but I could not figure out why they didn't send Embiid to the low post in the fourth quarter and let him go directly at Nurkic who played most of the final period with five fouls. My goodness, Nurkic will commit that sixth foul if you give him half a chance. in fact, the passive game officials aside, I thought he did commit his sixth foul two or three times but it just wasn't called
  • Like Nurkic, Shabazz Napier completely turned his game around in the second half. He missed his first six shots and struggled against the quickness of 76ers guard T.J. McConnell in the first half. But he hit seven of his last eight shots and was a big part of his team's late rally.
  • I'm not sure how much longer NBA officials will keep falling for Nurkic's flopping around but you have to figure it will reach that point.
  • CJ McCollum had one of those games we've come to expect of him -- making just about every open shot he got, including some big ones.
  • Somehow, Portland found its passion button in the second half. I don't know what triggered it, but it's been missing most of the season. What a difference when this team is playing with desperation and aggression.

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What can Blazers do to fix their season? They better do something!

What can Blazers do to fix their season? They better do something!

OK, as we finish up a healthy post-Christmas break and near the end of the calendar year, it's probably a good time to assess the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland sits in a tie for the seventh spot in the Western Conference, with a 17-16 record. So far, the Blazers have been the definition of a .500 team -- win a few, lose a few, neither sinking nor swimming but just treading water.

It's really not much different than the past two or three seasons. But I sense the natives are getting restless. It feels as if Trail Blazer fans are tiring of it all. Where is the excitement? Where  is the buzz? There hasn't been much so far.

So what must a franchise do? Just stay the course and hope that the anticipated roster improvement expected this season finally kicks in? Or is time to make a move?

I think it's time for a change.

And I mean something that changes the nature of this team. Something that changes the course of the franchise.

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What are we talking about here? Well, there's only so much that can be done. But the first order of business would be to figure out the nature of the problem. Is it the roster or is it the coach? When you examine that question you could find answers on both sides of the issue.

This team's roster isn't balanced. It isn't complete. But it's a very high payroll for a .500 team seemingly headed nowhere.

Or is the problem on the sidelines with the coaching staff? Is Terry Stotts getting the most out of his team? Are they playing hard for him? Is the team fully prepared for each game?

If you believe the answers to the questions above are "yes" then you must look to the front office. Has Neil Olshey done a good job of putting a winning roster together? Has he drafted and traded well? Is he doing a better job than could be done by somebody else? And you ask the same question you'd ask with a coach -- is there someone out there available who could do a better job?

I often look at the Portland roster and think it's not ideal for the kind of offense Stotts favors. There aren't enough outside shooters, for sure. But then the question becomes this: Is this Olshey's fault for not getting his coach the pieces he needs to do his job or is it the coach's responsibility to take the talent given him and tailor his offense to their talents, rather than stick with his own system?

Of course, we haven't even talked about the players yet. Changes can come there, too.

Is it finally time to give up on the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? I ask that question because it seems to me the only trade piece of real value would be one of those guards. Most likely that would mean McCollum. What could you get for him? Do you really want to give up on a player on the verge of all-star status?

And what about Jusuf Nurkic? Once thought to be the team's franchise center of the future and a reason to be excited about the team's potential, Nurkic is shooting just .458 from the field and acting sa if he doesn't have a care in the world. Nurkic Fever? So far this season he seems to be infected with a bad case of Nurkic Disinterest.

But would any team be willing to take Nurkic in a deal? Maybe -- but not with a lot of value in return. And that's the case with a good many Trail Blazers. Highly paid doesn't necessarily mean highly valued.

So where do you go with the Trail Blazers? What do you do? How do you fix this?

All I can say is that this point you better do SOMETHING before it's too late to salvage the season. This franchise is begging for a change of direction, a momentum-changing event. The fans are, too.

And it's time.

LaVar Ball's league would have a chance -- without LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball's league would have a chance -- without LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball's latest attempt to keep his name in the news, the "Junior Basketball Association," is a total non-starter,

But that doesn't mean it's a totally bad idea. I think the concept is one that could work. I just don't think Ball is the one to make it happen. It would take a whole lot of sports-business sense and a ton of money to start this league and I don't think Mr. Ball has either one.

Can you imagine the startup cost of such a league? He wants to play in NBA arenas but I doubt he has any clue what it might cost to rent those venues. He's promising pretty healthy salaries for unproven players and he;s going to have to pay some of that money without a lot of revenue coming in. If he had Nike or Adidas or another major corporation sponsoring the league to help it get off the ground, it would certainly help -- but he's planning to fund the league with his own Big Baller Brand.

And I seriously doubt there's a lot of ready capital in that company right now.

I would say this, though -- there is a place in this country for a league for kids who want to play pro hoops but don't want to attend college. (I've always felt there's a place for such a football league, too.) Spending a few months in college should not be a requirement for playing in the NBA.

Oh, I know -- you can always head off to Europe and play there out of high school -- except most decent European teams aren't going to be taking a chance on spending a foreign-player slot on a high school kid. The run-of-the-mill player has no chance -- even LaBar Ball knows that, after having to place his two sons on a backwoods team in Lithuania where they probably won't even get to play much.

And I don't think the G-League is all that sold on using high-school players. And the G-League has always struggled to make it, even with NBA subsidy. But what a lot of people miss about that league is that it doesn't have big-name players who could put fannies in seats. A high-quality league full of big-time NBA prospects would have a better chance. If the G-League would actively recruit prep players who have no interest in college it would be a big boost to that league. But that's not going to happen.

A league of first-year players has a chance. Oh, it's not ever going to make huge money -- unless it lands a TV contract, which is possible if it can sign up the cream of the crop of NBA-bound players. I think the league actually could land some very good players if it's solidly funded. It makes sense to me for these players to at least have the opportunity to begin a pro career in what would amount to be basketball's version of baseball's rookie leagues.

Players would have no restriction on practice time, the way it is in college right now, and would have a legitimate opportunity to speed their development toward the NBA if the league could sign quality coaching staffs.

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And once a few good players head that way I think there would be a stampede. It would seriously injure college basketball as we know it, but so what? In that case, we could get back to college players who actually want to get a college education. That's not so bad.

But you need the right people (very wealthy ones) putting this together. As you may have noticed, new leagues in any sport have a terrible time succeeding in this country. And I'm pretty sure LaVar Ball isn't the right person to make this one work.



Blazers get just five free throws for an entire game -- how crazy is that?

Blazers get just five free throws for an entire game -- how crazy is that?

I would assume the frustration bucket is nearly full today for the Trail Blazers and their fans.

Last night in Minneapolis there were some very strange happenings.

You don't hear much about referees in this space. I leave them alone because they have a tough job and are too often used as a crutch for poor performances by teams or players. But sometimes, stuff simply must be discussed. Especially when strange things happen.

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The Trail Blazers shot only five free throws against the Timberwolves, who shot 21. Five? Damian Lillard gets more than that by himself on an average night. Worse than that, Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to take 35 shots, a good many of them surrounded by some heavy traffic. Yet they combined to take just one free throw and that was from Lillard. That is absurd. The Blazers got only two free throws in the second half while getting 34 points in the paint. They shot zero foul shots in the fourth quarter. That's just silly. And you don't see it often in the NBA, where officials are usually very careful not to look like "homers."

There was another play of concern, too:

Trailing by a point with 8.6 seconds to go, the Timberwolves got a rebound and called a timeout. Not before taking a dribble -- at least that's what it seemed. That's a big deal because if you dribble, you aren't allowed to advance the ball into front court after a timeout. And that was the original call. But then I heard something about one of the officials hearing someone yell for a timeout PRIOR to the bounce of the ball. Bingo -- the Wolves got the ball in front court, which was important at that point.

Stuff like that just doesn't look right. Bad optics.

I do not believe the officiating crew of Scott Foster, Leroy Richardson and Ben Taylor had a very good night. Lillard shoots 93 percent from the foul line and averages nearly seven attempts a game. McCollum shoots 88 percent and averages three attempts per game. You don't think it made a difference that they couldn't get to the line more than one time Monday night? And I'm sorry, I've been watching them play since they came into the league and know how often they get bumped or hammered on the way to the basket.

And look, there were plenty of reasons for the Trail Blazers to lose that game after blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. For one thing, Evan Turner's technical foul with 6:17 to go in a game lost by a single point was a big deal. And Al-Farouq Aminu's wild foul on Jimmy Butler with the game in the balance and two and a half seconds to play was a real doozy. I'm not sure what his plan was but he left his feet way too early, landed on top of Butler and that made it a very easy call to send Butler to the foul line for the winning points. Man, just stay solid, straight up and make him hit that shot.

I'm not blaming the officials for the Portland loss. Four straight turnovers in the middle of the fourth quarter had something to do with that.

But on a strange night in chilly Minnesota, the Trail Blazers deserved much better from the guys with the whistles. And it's only fair that they get their share of criticism for a loss that shouldn't have happened.

Steelers: That wasn't a catch -- in football or baseball

Steelers: That wasn't a catch -- in football or baseball

There is a lot of angst over that ruling in the Pittsburgh-New England game Sunday -- the one that disallowed a touchdown catch by Jesse James of the Steelers.

And I may be the only person around who has no problem with the NFL rule that if you're going to the ground as you make a catch, you must hold onto the ball during your fall. Whether you're in the end zone or not. Most people think that when you're crossing the goal line with the ball in control, it should be a TD -- whether you're a receiver or a runner.

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I disagree. I think there must be a standard for deciding whether a pass is caught or not. Touchdown or not. Just catch the ball and don't worry about trying to reach the ball over the goal line. Just catch it.

I had no dog in the hunt Sunday, didn't care which team won. But I will say I'm predisposed to accepting the NFL rule because it's so similar to the rules of baseball about catching a fly ball. If you catch a fly and fall down, run into a wall or bang into another player, you must hold onto the ball:

A catch is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball.

'It's pretty much the same rule. You can catch a ball and have it securely in your glove, but if you run into a wall or are diving, you better hold onto the ball all the way through the process.This whole process is a product of instant replay, of course. Without it, you'd never be able to see the ball hit the ground.And when it comes to replay, you have to take the good with the bad. And live with it.I'

Yes, the Ducks were awful, but judging Cristobal now is unwise

Yes, the Ducks were awful, but judging Cristobal now is unwise

Let's start off by saying that was one miserable performance by the "Men of Oregon" Saturday afternoon in Sin City. And I use the program's favorite phrase -- "Men of Oregon " -- because I'm including the coaching staff along with the players.

It was embarrassing. This game was supposed to be all kinds of things for the Ducks -- a fresh start, a validation of the new coach, a chance to build for next season, a first step in the Heisman campaign for the quarterback --- and on and on and on.

What it proved to be, though, was a disaster. The Ducks couldn't move the football and looked so much like the Oregon teams that played without Justin Herbert during the season -- Unimaginative, untalented and uninspired.

But look, I'm not going to go nuts over this game. It was what it was -- a miserable performance in a game that meant very little. If you think it's a harbinger of things to come, just look back at Chip Kelly's first game as Oregon head coach, also against Boise State. The Ducks were awful -- worse than the Vegas Bowl. And the game was topped off by a nasty cheap shot of a punch that gave the Ducks a black eye for the season. But as we all know, Chip and his team recovered quite well from that disastrous beginning.

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Bowl games are there to give teams a few extra days of practice after the season, put money in the pockets of bowl organizers and the NCAA and oh yes, give the players a bit of a working vacation. The games don't mean a whole lot -- win or lose. And I don't think winning that game would have changed Oregon's fortunes next season to a great degree.

There are so many things that matter more than the outcome of that game yesterday. And let's get real about them:

  • Play calling. It was unimaginative all season and I'm not sure if that departed with Willie Taggart. The head coach and the offensive coordinator have a lot to prove next season but they have plenty of time for a rebuild, too. The offense must get better -- it's the backbone of the Ducks' flash-and-dash program.
  • Defense: Everyone is assuming Jim Leavitt is leaving and I would agree. Well, not only is a quality defensive coordinator needed, more premier defensive players are needed. It's about coaching, sure -- but it's about the players, too. And there needs to be more emphasis on recruiting talent on that side of the ball.
  • And up front on offense. I'm not sure what has happened to Oregon's offensive line but I seem to remember that it was supposed to be one of the squad's strengths. It didn't look that way in Las Vegas. And guess who coaches the offensive line? That's right, head coach Mario Cristobal.
  • Penalties. This coaching staff has an entire off-season to instill more discipline into the the program but what went on this season was unacceptable -- and the Vegas Bowl topped it off with some seriously unnecessary and embarrassing conduct that resulted in major penalties. That has to stop. I cannot recall ever seeing a team, at the very end of its season, need to call a timeout to keep from getting a delay-of-game penalty while the clock reads "15:00" at the start of the game. Can you imagine? You have weeks to plan your first play of this game and you can't get it off before the play clock expires, so you have to spend a timeout? That was incredible.

I have no idea whether the Ducks made the right hire with Cristobal. I know he flunked his first test. It was an "F." But it will all be forgotten if he can get things on the right track next season. He'll have time to build his own coaching staff and his own off-season program. He can shape the franchise the way he wants, rather than just picking up Taggart's pieces and trying to build something temporary out of them.

Don't forget, Oregon went into that game with a coaching staff full of question marks. Who will stay? Who will join Taggart? Who does Cristobal want to replace? Who does he want to bring in? That's a lot of baggage -- for the coaches and the players. Some of those assistant coaches -- the ones who are leaving -- quite possibly had their minds elsewhere last week.

Yes, we've heard so much (way more than is necessary) about the hotshot recruiting class that Taggart built. Cristobal is probably going to salvage some of that and those players better be as good as advertised because they' will be needed. And by the way, aren't we all a little tired of hearing about that group of players? Just get them on campus and keep them there and we will find out for ourselves what their impact will be.

I hope Cristobal has the freedom and the leeway to do things the way he wants on offense and defense, on the field and off -- rather than simply following someone else's path. He's going to find a lot of pressure with this job but he knew that when he signed his contract. Forget the Vegas Bowl and all that went with it. The real season starts in August with fall practice and by then we will know a lot more about the new coach, his staff and his team.

But this is no time for judgments. Move on. Move forward and forget about it. That's what you do when you lose.

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

It wasn't surprising that the Trail Blazers lost another game Monday night. The fifth straight defeat came in Oakland to the Golden State Warriors, a team that has beaten Portland like a snare drum recently.

Yes, the Warriors were without all-stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green and others -- but they still had enough to handle the Blazers with relative ease.

Portland staged a fourth-quarter comeback, mainly due to Damian Lillard's heroics. Lillard was playing with yet another new lineup combination down the stretch, this one consisting of Jake Layman, Zach Collins, Noah Vonleh and Pat Connaughton. Later, CJ McCollum came on for Layman, but this was the group that played most of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, starters Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard, who helped stake their team to a lead after the first quarter, didn't appear in the final period. Just as Shabazz Napier -- who had put together a nice run of off-the-bench performances -- rode the bench for the entire game. Napier has not played in the last two games and has seen just eight minutes of action in the last three. This after Napier had played at least 14 minutes in all of the previous 14 games. Leonard's playing time has been odd, too -- he went four straight games without playing, then in his last 12 games has played a streak of 4, 22. 17, 4, 0, 0, 0, 8, 16, 3, 20 and 18 minutes.

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Injuries have complicated Coach Terry Stotts' rotations recently, but Portland hasn't been crippled by injuries the way some other teams have. Stotts has said previously that he is more comfortable when he finds a set rotation but so far this season, it just hasn't been there.

I think it's become a problem for this team because players -- in any sport -- usually need a consistent role in order to perform consistently. Players need to know what's going to be expected of them every game.

But Stotts' job isn't easy. He has too many players who bring similar skills, too many who defend well but can't shoot and a roster that's unbalanced. His best two players -- McCollum and Lillard -- basically play the same position and he doesn't have any consistent scoring on the wings. In the middle, he has a center who hasn't played anywhere near what we saw from him during his sneak preview last season.

I don't know the answer to all this but I know the roster isn't going to change much. It's locked in. I think at some point the coach is going to have to make rotation choices and stick with them. I think, too, he may need to define who his shooters are and make sure they get more shots than the ones who can't make shots.

And hope that his team stays together long enough to get things straightened out.

Weekend wrap: Seahawks lose their marbles -- but haven't we all?

Weekend wrap: Seahawks lose their marbles -- but haven't we all?

WEEKEND WRAP-UP -- A summary of what I had my eye on for the last couple of days.

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  • ARMY-NAVY FOOTBALL : Fun game. Love seeing those kids caring so much about who they are and what they're doing. And what they're doing is preparing to protect us for a good portion of their lives.
  • YANKEES MAKE TRADE FOR GIANCARLO STANTON: Derek Jeter sent his former team a very nice Christmas present. Obvious bottom line to that deal was the group Jeter represents did not have enough money to buy and operate the Miami Marlins. When you have to come in and practically give away your best player and one of the biggest gate attractions in baseball -- along with laying off some very long-tenured people in the front office -- you probably shouldn't have made the purchase in the first place. And oh yes -- I am NOT one of those people who think baseball's better when the Yankees are great again. Just the opposite for me. I grew up watching them dominate the game and am still sick of it.
  • THE SEAHAWKS LOST A GAME SUNDAY -- AND THEN LOST THEIR MARBLES: Michael Bennett deserves a suspension for seemingly trying to hurt another player. And, confidential to pro players, I don't care if fans are throwing beer at you (and they obviously shouldn't be doing that) just keep walking to the locker room. Do you think you can climb into the stands and beat somebody up? Does that really sound like a good idea? You can't win by doing that. Go tell a security guard and keep moving. It's harder to hit a moving target.
  • THAT GOT ME THINKING:  I think everyone has lost their marbles these days. Literally. I haven't seen a marble in decades. Do they still exist outside of grandpa's attic?
  • ALAN TRAMMELL AND JACK MORRIS GO INTO THE HALL OF FAME courtesy of the Modern Era Committee. I would have voted for Trammel but not Morris. I would've voted for Dale Murphy, too -- but you already knew that. Murph being left out again proves that you can keep people out of the Hall for reasons of character and/or integrity, but those qualities won't help you get into the Hall.
  • BAKER MAYFIELD WINS THE HEISMAN TROPHY:  I had a vote again this year and Mayfield got it. Was really impressed with his accuracy, especially on the deep ball. I had Bryce Love second and that's where he finished. I voted San Diego State's Rashaad Penny third and he finished fifth. If you never saw him play, you missed out. He's a very exciting running back. And by the way, I'm still one of the stubborn guys holding to the rules of Heisman voting -- not revealing my vote until after the winner is announced.
  • CARSON WENTZ OUT FOR THE SEASON WITH A TORN ACL:  NFL quarterbacks just have to figure it out -- stop with the unnecessary running. Know who you are. Instead of dropping your head and trying to power for an extra yard, hook slide. Duck and cover. Marcus Mariota, in the midst of his worst season as a pro, has been playing through injuries all season due to his penchant for running.  Just sit back and throw the ball until you're in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl, guys.