Dwight Jaynes

Apparently the NBA is worried about fan behavior this season. VERY worried.

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Apparently the NBA is worried about fan behavior this season. VERY worried.

Imagine you have had courtside season tickets to the Trail Blazers for 45 years, then got this email from the Trail Blazers today:

 CONDUCT ADVISORY

  "The NBA is committed to creating a safe and entertaining in-game experience for everyone involved with our game. Fans (like you) with seats in close proximity to the playing court bear a heightened responsibility to ensure that your conduct meets the NBA's safety, security, and fan code of conduct guidelines. We encourage all fans to enjoy the excitement of our game and to cheer for our players and teams in a respectful way. 

 Fans who act inappropriately will not be tolerated and may be subject to ejection from the game and/or cancellation of the ticket holder's account. Examples of such inappropriate conduct include, but are not limited to: verbally instigating any player, coach, referee, fan or any other person involved in our game; making any physical contact or attempting to make such contact with any player, coach, referee, fan or any other person involved in our game; using any obscene gestures' unreasonably interrupting the game; and a general display of inappropriate or abusive behavior." 

  Thank you for supporting the NBA and for helping to make our game safe and entertaining."

I really cannot figure out what "verbally instigating" a player or coach is. You can instigate people to do good things and bad but it's not specific. It's defined as inciting someone to do something. Cheering for a team is a form of instigating them to do better. But getting back to the real issue here: I suppose among people sitting courtside, perhaps one in 500 needs to be reminded to behave. The rest of those receiving this could possibly perceive it as an insult. I'm not blaming the Trail Blazers because certainly this note was apparently mandated by the league. But if you're sitting near the court tonight, just remember -- DON'T INSTIGATE!

Exhibition season a time for observations, but not judgments -- yet

Exhibition season a time for observations, but not judgments -- yet

For me, as someone covering an NBA team, training camp is the most frustrating part of the season.

I'm supposed to comment on or analyze changes the team is making, update people on new players and, in general, talk about how things are looking for the upcoming season. And I have to tell you, the way things are today, that's very close to impossible to accomplish.

We don't get to watch more than a few minutes of each day's practice and what we do watch isn't enough to draw conclusions. Hence, the frustration. That's why the exhibition season is a lot more fun.

And, of course, it begins tonight with a Moda Center game vs. Phoenix that you can watch at NBCS beginning with Rip City Live at 6:30.

What will I be watching tonight?

For me, it's about player development. I never worry about that with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum because we've seen their off-season work ethic and assume they will come into each season better than they were the previous season. But here are a few other players I'll be anxious to see:

  • Jusuf Nurkic -- We already know he's lost weight but what about his game? We've heard he has improved his shooting range but I want to see what we're going to get on the defensive end. How is his rim protection going to be? His rebounding?
  • Zach Collins -- Certainly Caleb Swanigan got all the early rookie attention with his play in the summer league, but lately, there is a buzz about Collins. He's looking comfortable and confident, we hear. I want to see where he is in his development.
  • Caleb Swanigan -- This team is looking for a starter at power forward, could a rookie claim that job? I wouldn't be surprised.
  • Meyers Leonard -- Well, you know -- confidence.
  • Evan Turner -- Where will he fit? He can be a valuable contributor in the right role and I'm interested in what that will be.

Obviously, there are other players of interest but these will be my main focus for the first few games. And let me add, it's real dangerous to make snap judgments at this time of year. To the veterans, these games are just a chance to get loose and work on specific things. Don't go overboard either way on performance.

It's time for observations, not judgments.

It's hard enough to keep QBs healthy these days without asking them to run the ball

It's hard enough to keep QBs healthy these days without asking them to run the ball

OK, I don't pretend to know a whole lot about football. Unlike baseball and basketball, I never coached it.

But I do have a tip for young offensive coordinators who weren't even born when I started watching college football. I mean, this is just a tip built on what I've seen over the last several decades of watching games. Take it or leave it:

If you have a quarterback who can throw the ball, maybe even a quarterback considered a blue-chip NFL prospect, TAKE THAT OPTION PACKAGE OUT OF YOUR OFFENSE, PUT IT IN THE TRUNK OF AN OLD JUNK CAR AND RUN IT INTO A VERY DEEP RIVER!

Guys, it's hard enough to keep a quarterback healthy and upright these days without asking him to carry the ball 10-15 times a game. You know better than I do that defenses are going to see a target on his back -- a way to take your most important player away from you. I've written about this kind of thing before and I usually get a bunch of people telling me, "You can't put bubble wrap around these guys. It's football and people get hurt."

Yeah, they do. But why increase the chances of that happening? My goodness, even big strong, tank-like running backs like Royce Freeman have trouble getting through a season without an injury. Most quarterbacks just aren't built to withstand the pounding. Nor should they have to take that abuse. They're too important.

And honestly, it's possible to run an effective offense without some sort of option that includes the quarterback running the ball. Take a look at your TV on Sunday -- the pros have no trouble doing it.

Oregon lost two quarterbacks Saturday night and obviously, Justin Herbert is going to be impossible for them to replace. For what? A short run to the end zone that any one of three or four Duck running backs could have accomplished?

It made me sick to see Herbert hurt on such a play. What a waste. The guy's future is NOT as a runner. His team's future is not with him running the ball. You CAN get along without that play and the entire option attack -- particularly if your offensive line is as good as people say it is. But you can't get along without Herbert -- at least not nearly as well.

And don't get me wrong, it's not just the Ducks who do this. It's a virus all over college football.

No, you can't put bubble wrap around your quarterback. But you can ask him not to run the ball unless he has to AVOID getting tackled. And don't play him with a big lead late in games, either.

Because he's that valuable -- and you're soon going to find that out.

Enough of NFL kneeling -- around fallen players knocked cold by big hits

Enough of NFL kneeling -- around fallen players knocked cold by big hits

I tuned away from a National Football League game last night because I was tired of seeing football players kneeling.

No, NOT during the National Anthem.

I'm talking about the all-too-frequent kind of kneeling that should be causing alarm bells throughout football at all levels. It isn't that pregame stuff. It's the kneeling during games -- meaning players gathered in a circle around a fallen teammate who has just taken a vicious hit on the field and is motionless on the ground.

I'm disgusted by it. I've had enough of it. Somebody is going to get killed someday -- and I mean killed. Dead.

So while people will spend the day arguing over whether the hit by Chicago's Danny Trevathan on Green Bay's Davante Adams was intentional, let me suggest that the intent part of this issue shouldn't matter any longer.

If you stick a guy like that -- helmet to helmet at high speed -- you should be in your locker room two minutes later, booted out of the game. Suspended and fined, too. Take the intent out of it -- you just can't tolerate dangerous situations like that. The players are too big and too fast, leading to a new level of violence that's better left to video games.

Football has lost its way, distracted by a love for "hitting" rather than "tackling." Nobody really tackles these days. Not if they can crush someone with a collision along the lines of a train wreck. The old days of wrapping people up with arm tackles is long gone. It's all about the sound and fury of a big knock now and what's needed isn't just a rule change, but a culture change.

And for me, this is getting hard to watch. There is no reason for the pros, the colleges or the high schools to put up with ANY hits directly to the head -- premeditated or not. Hit people on the shoulder pads or lower -- or find yourself looking for another sport. And that goes for offensive players, too. Ball carriers leading with the crown of their helmet should be penalized, too, if they cause similar collisions.

End the hits to the head and neck before it's too late. Don't make a tragic death the reason for a culture change.

Don't forget the NBA's contribution to the college hoops scandal

Don't forget the NBA's contribution to the college hoops scandal

While nobody is very surprised to hear about all the corruption in college basketball uncovered by an FBI probe into agents, shoe companies, money managers and coaches, I'm not hearing too many people talking about the NBA's role in all of that.

The NBA has been complicit in the corruption for years. The league has been, at the very least, the great enabler.

Professional basketball has been hiding its intentions in regard to players entering its league for a long time. The league has taken two stances in regard to players entering the NBA directly out of high school. Let me summarize those for you:

  • Some of the kids don't make it in the league and end up without a college scholarship and penniless. We don't want this to happen and thus, want them in college so they can turn into upstanding citizens with a backup plan to pro hoops. We need to protect these kids from themselves.
  • A high school career in basketball isn't enough time for our scouts to evaluate their NBA future. It's hard enough to project players into the NBA after a couple of years in college -- doing so after high school is almost impossible. Plus, these players just aren't ready for the NBA.

Of course, reason No. 2 is much more important than the first one. The NBA really doesn't care a lot about the kids who don't make it. The concern is much more about wasting first-round draft money on players who aren't good enough to make their team. And, of course, the NBA always enjoyed it when college players were stuck in college for a full four years -- which was just enough time for them to become big-name, ready-made pro stars who could generate spectator and TV money from the day they entered the league.

Just a few months back, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went public with the idea that the "one-and-done" rule should be changed or modified:

“My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said Thursday night before Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals. “It’s not working for the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They’re not happy with the current system. And I know our teams aren’t happy either, in part because they don’t necessarily think the players who are coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see.”

Again, one reason for changing the rule would be that players coming into the league aren't "getting the kind of training that they would expect to see." In other words, Silver seemed to be in favor of extending the time players should stay in college, rather than do the right thing: Drop the one-and-done rule entirely and allow players make a choice about their chosen profession after graduating high school.

Athletes have that choice in baseball, golf, tennis, soccer and just about any other sport but basketball and football. (And if you think this basketball scandal is big, just wait and see what happens if the Feds ever start looking into football -- where the real money is.)

The blue-chip players are the ones getting those six-figure checks from the shoe companies. Allow them to enter the NBA out of high school and you solve a lot of these problems. By the way, a good portion of those players want no part of those college scholarships and prove it when they league those universities after basically one semester to chase the NBA dream.

If those players were allowed to enter the NBA immediately, would there still be corruption? I'm sure there would be. But not nearly as much. There wouldn't be a lot of money left after the cream of the crop gets its share. Young basketball players shouldn't be made to be criminals because they took money for their basketball talent out of high school. It should be their right to become professionals immediately.

And the NBA should get out of the way and allow it.

With Crabbe gone, who will fill that spot? How about Connaughton?

With Crabbe gone, who will fill that spot? How about Connaughton?

Allen Crabbe is gone, his contract and three-point shot shipped off to Brooklyn by the Trail Blazers. And if you had to choose one player on the Portland roster who has the best chance to fit into that off-the-bench scorer role, who would it be?

My pick would be Pat Connaughton. The third-year pro out of Notre Dame came on at the end of last season and became a part of the team's regular rotation on some nights. He even got court time in the playoffs. At 6-5, 210 he's a physical player who shows promise as an outside shooter and defender. He shot 51.5 percent from three-point range in limited duty last season and is at 40.7 percent for his 73-game career.

What say you, Pat? Are you ready to step into Crabbe's role?

"Obviously that's a coach's decision," he said after Tuesday's morning practice, the first of two workouts for the day. "But I learned a lot from AC. I was close to him and still am, I'm ready to do whatever needs to be done. I think I can step up, help the team win, make shots and do the things he did."

Connaughton is a big jumper and very physical. An athlete. But let him tell you what kind of player he aspires to be.

"I pride myself on being active," he said. "Use my athleticism on the defensive end and on the rebounding side of things and then making jump shots and being able to create a little bit off the dribble. Summer League was a short stint for me this year but I had the ball in my hands a lot and I learned those type of (playmaking) things from CJ and Dame. Obviously they are a little bit different players but you'd like to be a mix of AC and them. You want to shoot for that type of ceiling -- knock down shots and handle the ball when it's called for.

"Within the flow of the offense be a playmaker and make some shots."

There is a big emphasis on defense in Portland's camp and that plays into Connaughton's skillset.

"I think I've learned a lot in my two years in the league on the defensive end," he said. "It's not about picking a guy up full court, it's about your angles."

And Pat, I would say you are a little more physical than the average guy, right?

"Yeah, I would say so, too," he said. "I can use my athleticism to have an impact at the defensive end, both from an on-ball defender, a help defender and a rebounder."

Coach Terry Stotts showed confidence in Connaughton last season and gaining the trust of your coach is a big part of a young player's development.

"I really like Pat," Stotts said.  "He's really improved his shooting. He played on the front line in college and he's really developed his guard skills -- his shooting, his passing, his out-on-the-floor skills. There are minutes to be had with AC gone. Pat knows the opportunity is there.

"I think last year showed I wasn't afraid to put Pat in games. You can trust him. He knows all the plays from every position. He's a smart player. He talks, He's a good teammate.There's a lot of trust in Pat, not only from me but but his teammates. And for a young player, that's important."

 

Blazers open training camp: Let the clichés begin

Blazers open training camp: Let the clichés begin

TUALATIN --- Training camp opened for the Trail Blazers Tuesday ... and that meant the cliches were flying hot and heavy.

I feel sorry for the players and coaches this time of the year. They finish up the very first practice and then face the assembled cameras, trying very hard to say something reasonable, fair and different. Maybe even intelligent. Alas, few succeed in the "different" department.

It's about the same every season. Even Terry Stotts admitted it -- every year a coach stands in front of the crowd and vows his team will play better defense (or at least try to). Stotts talked about it with a smile on his face and, I'm sure, meant every word of it.  His players did, too, when asked about it.

But talking about it and doing it are much different things.

There were other buzzwords Tuesday at the team's practice facility. "Toughness" was a big one, as was "accountability." Players say they are going to hold each other accountable and not worry so much about hurting the other guy's feelings. And they want to play with a little more toughness Again, solid concepts that could lead to improved performance.

"Inconsistency" was another word tossed around like a bean bag at a corn hole tournament. No doubt consistency is something every team in every sport strives for -- but it's never as easy as it would seem. But an awareness of the problem always helps and Stotts has certainly made his troops aware of previous seasons' ups and downs, even going so far as presenting a graphic at Monday night's team meeting.

I'm not knocking anybody for wandering down Cliche Road. We all do it and events such as the first day of practice seem to beg for their use. How will the season go?

All I can say is, you never know. It is what it is. Only time will tell.

We shall see.

Wait a minute! Corruption in college basketball? Who knew?

Wait a minute! Corruption in college basketball? Who knew?

Wait just a minute. What did I just hear? A major scandal involving college basketball? Money being funneled through coaches, agents, shoe companies, money managers to recruits?

Who would have ever expected something like this?

Well, only those with even a passive interest in college sports. Folks, college basketball has been dirty for decades and I think by now just about everybody is aware of that. But with the news of this scandal today I think we're going to hear more about it that ever before. This time it's not some soft NCAA investigation into a rogue program, it's an FBI probe three years old covering the gamut -- from shoe companies to the players. People are going to go to prison before this is finished.

It's about time somebody looked into this mess.

I have been in the business of following sports and writing about them for a long time and I have to go back at least 30 years to remember the first time I heard a story about illegal inducements being paid for a university to obtain a high school basketball player. Since then, there has been story on top of story. Former college coaches laugh about them over dinner and drinks. Why didn't I write about them? There was never proof. I didn't want to get sued -- and these guys have learned to cover their tracks pretty well. The NCAA has never seemed serious about putting a stop to it.

The first story I heard was about a well-known player who was recruited by a college entirely without contact with that player's high school coach. Which seemed crazy. But what happened was the player's AAU coach and personal workout coach was the one in contact with the colleges. He brokered the deal. That coach eventually hand delivered the player to a college and guess what?

That AAU coach soon showed up as a paid counselor/coach at the college's summer camp for kids -- at a rumored salary of $10,000 a week, which was way above the going rate for such things.

I've heard stories of players getting cars, money being passed through the hands of girlfriends or relatives and even brown paper bags full of cash being left for players at a secret location.

It's a nasty business that turned me off to college basketball -- even college sports in general -- years ago. And now, perhaps, there might be a chance to dive into the cess pool and see what can be done about the problems.

 

What exactly is it that the Ducks are trying to do on offense?

What exactly is it that the Ducks are trying to do on offense?

Oregon's 37-35 loss at Arizona State Saturday night was one big, hot mess.

A lot of things went wrong, plenty of mistakes were made and there was blame enough to go around. But I came away from the game amazed at how much improvement Oregon has made on the defensive side of the ball. And also wondering just what in the world the Ducks are attempting to do on offense.

First, the defense. This is a far cry from the group last season that couldn't tackle consistently and was seemingly out of position all night. The Ducks this season are organized and most often in the right position to make plays, even though -- like all college defenses this side of Alabama -- they don't always make them. They even covered receivers one-on-one pretty well when it mattered. Sure, you'll say, they gave up 37 points Saturday night to the Sun Devils.

Of course they did. A lot of that was because of the inconsistent and sometimes even inept offense. Oregon's offensive failings kept its defense on the field for 38:06 of the game. The Oregon offense managed just 21:54 of playing time. That's awful. And folks, don't blame Oregon's uptempo offense. ASU was not huddling, either.

I just don't understand what it is the Ducks want to do with the ball. Going into the game at Tempe, I assumed this was a team that was going to hang its hat on a power running game, running downhill behind powerful Royce Freeman. Well, where did that go?

Freeman averaged 5.4 yards per carry but ran the ball only 15 times. Oregon attempted only 30 rushing plays and 10 of those were assigned to quarterback Justin Herbert. Please tell me why on earth the Ducks didn't come out and establish their running game?

It seemed to me that once Oregon fell behind it panicked a bit and began to lose patience with the run game. And I will say, this is not exactly the most diverse offense Oregon has put on the field over the last decade. There was not a lot of deception or variation. There is a lack of creativity.

And a couple of other things, while I'm at it:

Going 1 for 11 on third down with all the offensive talent Oregon has in the backfield is just crazy. Most of that was because there were way too many long-yardage situations on third down. Too many times when Herbert had to pass on third-and-long and everyone knew it.

And yes, 14 penalties is ridiculous. And just an obvious point -- penalties are a direct result of coaching. Or lack of it. You can talk all you want about cleaning that up, but the bottom line isn't talking, it's doing. It's been a problem all season and that's on the coaches.

Lastly, Oregon had two cracks late in the game at running a two-minute offense and looked sadly unprepared to do so. I'm shocked that Herbert wasn't able to work the ball down the field at least close enough for a long field goal. He's too good back there not to be able to do that. Yes, Oregon's receiving corps is decimated and seemingly lacking in speed. But the Ducks either couldn't protect Herbert or he was having trouble judging where his receivers would be when he cut the ball loose. The defense got late stops when needed and the offense just couldn't even get close to paying it off.

So Oregon may be at a point where the defense is more reliable than the offense.

Who saw that coming?

Throwback Thursday Podcasts: Phil Knight

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Throwback Thursday Podcasts: Phil Knight

Over the years, we've had the opportunity to do a lot of interviews with some of Oregon's best. It all began with a show called "Posting Up" and our very first interview on that show was with Nike founder Phil Knight. Even though this was recorded several years ago, I think you will find great insight into this state's No. 1 sportsman. And stay tuned, there are more TBT podcasts to come.

On a mobile device, scroll past the podcast photo for the play button