Dwight Jaynes

Ducks would be wise to huddle up, run clock and shorten their games

Ducks would be wise to huddle up, run clock and shorten their games

I'm waiting. Not for Oregon to DO something. I'm waiting for them to SAY something.

Braxton Burmeister, a true freshman, had a miserable night at Stanford Saturday. He completed three passes for 23 yards and had two interceptions. Ugly. But this is a freshman who was supposed to be a redshirt this season. He is playing only because the previous coaching regime missed on some quarterbacks it recruited and really missed on one it didn't -- a kid out of Lakeridge named Eric Dungey who ended up at Syracuse and very well might be named the national player of the week after leading his team over Clemson Saturday.

But that's ancient history. What I'm waiting for the current coaching staff at Oregon to say is simply, "We just aren't doing a very good job of getting our young quarterback ready."

The Ducks aren't throwing Burmeister under the bus, they're throwing him to the wolves. He's getting beaten up mentally and physically.

I mean, this kid was touted as a pretty promising quarterback when he was recruited. He seems to have some tools. And I have a hard time believing the Ducks couldn't come up with some throws for him that he's capable of executing.

Oregon is a puzzling offensive team. It rushed for 276 yards against the Cardinal and has a bevy of outstanding running backs. I'm not sure why that running game isn't translating to open receivers. How about some effective play-action passes? Stanford has built its program on a power running game, stong offensive line play and play-action passes. It hasn't asked much from its quarterbacks since Andrew Luck took his talents to Indianapolis. Oregon Coach Willie Taggart is well aware of that system -- he was there. Is it too much to ask that a few temporary changes be made with Oregon's offensive system?

And while I'm at it, why go no-huddle with an inexperienced quarterback? All it does is shorten Oregon's possession time and put more pressure on its defense. Run some clock, shorten the game -- the no-huddle is doing nothing but harm right now. Run the ball, run clock and keep the other team's offense off the field.

Give yourself a chance. And give your young quarterback a chance.

The first pro to sit down during the anthem? It may have been a former Trail Blazer

The first pro to sit down during the anthem? It may have been a former Trail Blazer

With all the talk about players not standing for the national anthem, on Throwback Thursday, I thought it appropriate to point out that the very first athlete to not stand for the anthem just might have been a Portland Trail Blazer.

Charlie Yelverton was a 6-2 shooting guard out of Fordham whom Portland took with the 25th pick in the 1971 draft. He averaged 7.9 points per game in a reserve role as a rookie for the Trail Blazers. He was waived by the Blazers in September of 1972 after an incident that occurred prior to a home game when, during the anthem, Yelverton sat cross-legged on the floor next to standing teammates.

At the time, Yelverton's actions were reported as a protest about a team matter:

There was also an incident where reserve guard Charlie Yelverton sat at the foul line in the yoga position during the playing of the national anthem, protesting the waiving of teammate Willie McCarter.

But later, in a story in the New York Post, Yelverton listed different reasons for his sit-down strike:

The Vietnam War and the plight of the poor are the reasons Yelverton gives for his decision.

Yelverton was sick of the red, white and blue mentality, which was shaded green.

”Everybody is so hung up on making money,” Yelverton said.

At 24 years old, he left to ball overseas. He played in Greece, Sweden, Switzerland and Italy.

It is apparent that Yelverton thinks about what could’ve been?

But he says, ”If I didn’t sit down on the flag, I wouldn’t clean my conscience.”

You ask, if he regrets the timing?

”I should’ve done it when I had a five-year contract,” said Yelverton, who had a two-year deal.

Yelverton played several successful seasons in Europe after a solid career at Fordham but not many people remember him as an NBA player.

Yet he may have been a pioneer. He sat while others stood for the anthem -- and it cost him his job.

 

 

Don't ask me why Andersen is gone -- but OSU lost a good man

Don't ask me why Andersen is gone -- but OSU lost a good man

Why, Coach, why?

That's all I can say in the wake of the news that Gary Andersen is no longer the football coach at Oregon State. I don't know why. It makes no sense. Colleges don't change head coaches in the middle of the season -- any season -- and although the school's athletic director, Scott Barnes, insisted many times over that it was "a mutual decision." Really? Nobody was pushing from either side? Boosters played no part in this? I just don't see Andersen leaving his team in the middle of the season. He doesn't seem that sort of man.

This was a shocker. And, of course, so was the news that Andersen is walking away from more than $12 million owed him by the university.

This stuff doesn't compute and when all you get is "this is a mutual decision," you can't help but speculate. Be my guest.

But this I know: Andersen is a quality coach and quality man. I believe, given time, he was going to get it done in Corvallis -- at least as much as is humanly possible. Mike Riley spoiled a lot of Beaver fans who think winning is easy at Oregon State. It is not. I said it when Andersen was hired -- this is one tough job. You're in the rising shadow of the Ducks, you don't have the facilities that many other Pac-12 schools have and don't have a lot of money to throw at recruiting.

So don't ask me what happened in Corvallis. For right now, I just don't know. But what I do know is that Oregon State lost a good one Monday.

Some takeaways from the short-handed Ducks' 33-10 home loss to Washington State

Some takeaways from the short-handed Ducks' 33-10 home loss to Washington State

 * I would totally agree with the idea that freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister wasn't ready for his first Pac-12 start. What did anybody have the right to expect? But let me add something else -- I didn't think the rest of the Ducks were ready to give him much help. They didn't protect him well and didn't provide enough of a running game to take the heat off him in the pocket.

* I'm not sure why the Ducks are having so much trouble on third down. Going 2-17 on third down (and 0-3 on fourth down) is an embarrassment. This team has a solid offensive line and good running backs. And really, the Cougars didn't spend the whole game with nine men in the box. I wouldn't mind seeing an extra tackle or tight end on the field in some of those short-yardage situations. I mean, you have to do something, right?

* I did think Burmeister showed some ability to run but he better learn how to slide when necessary. Certainly he showed some toughness, surviving four sacks and some hard open-field hits.

* Jim Leavitt's defense was again terrific. When you can get 18 incomplete passes out of Luke Falk and sack him four times, you're doing a lot of things right.

* The Ducks scored 10 points at home against the Cougars. And that's a team that gave up 44 to Boise State and 23 to Oregon State. Yes, I know about the injuries, but still...

* I would expect Burmeister to show improvement each week if he doesn't get too banged up. The first order of business moving forward is to protect him better and get the running game going.

* Playing without an experienced quarterback is almost impossible.

* Oregon's yellow uniforms were bad enough, but it appeared each player was told to finger paint something on the shoulders of the jersey. That's called "bad optics."

What if the Trail Blazers took the (big) road less traveled this season?

What if the Trail Blazers took the (big) road less traveled this season?

Everybody in the NBA is trending toward small lineups these days. Golden State has set the tone and a lot of teams are copying -- either to better guard the Warriors or to improve their ability to shoot three-point shots, which is another thing trending upward in the league.

And that's why I'd like to see the Trail Blazers at least give careful consideration to playing big.

Why try to be Golden State Junior? Why do whatever everyone else is doing? Do you really think you can do it better than the Warriors? I doubt it. They have a roster full of unique players with versatile ability. Portland, on the other hand, is suddenly blessed with some big players who can shoot from the outside, yet do great damage on the inside -- with scoring and rebounding.

I know, the first thing everyone asks is "How are those big guys going to guard those small guys?" Sure. And I'll respond simply with "How are those small guys going to guard those big guys?"

There was a time in the NBA -- in the years when centers were really CENTERS -- when you didn't dare put a small player on a big player, at any position.Teams were very skilled at finding those size mismatches swiftly and dealing with them deftly. I can still remember former Portland Coach Mike Schuler standing in front of me yelling, "'Duck' has a little one! 'Duck' has a little one!" -- meaning center Kevin Duckworth was switched onto by a smaller player. Duckworth would drop into the post, his teammates would get him the ball and he'd put a few moves on, culminating in a layup or dunk very quickly.

I'm not sure today's teams are as willing and able to take advantage of such mismatches -- but they should be. I sit and watch NBA coaches today respond to small-big matchups in the opposite way. I swear, if some of them had Wilt Chamberlain at center and the other team put a 5-11 guard on him, Wilt's coach would quickly yank Wilt out and throw his own 5-11 player into the game to match up with the little man. And I'm not trying to be a wise guy.

If the Trail Blazers have jusuf Nurkic and Caleb Swanigan in the game together, I'd love to see an opponent try to go small on them. Sure, Portland would get burned at the defensive end some -- but there are schemes to deal with such things. You can switch, you can zone, you can double-team -- all sorts of creative solutions. And meanwhile, your bigs are eating their lunch at the low post.

There is not an abundance of post players in the NBA right now but the Trail Blazers have Nurkic, Swanigan and Zach Collins -- and I'd like to see them operate near the basket.

Really, what do you have to lose by trying it? It's more fun to be different. As people trying to bump through traffic to get to the Moda Center in time for a 7 p.m. game will tell you, sometimes the road less traveled is the best way to your destination.

NBA's All-Star Game solution didn't solve a thing

NBA's All-Star Game solution didn't solve a thing

The NBA tried in vain this week to do something about its fading All-Star Game, deciding to go to a new format that features a player draft by two "captains," who will choose their own teams from already-selected players. All that's missing is shirts and skins.

But, as Ben Golliver pointed out, the league entirely missed the point. There will still be a vote by conference for the all-star players with 12 voted in from East and West in the pool that the captains will dip into for their teams. Wrong move. The vote should have been for the overall best 24 players in the league -- allowing for the selection of the truly top players, which means probably about 18 from the Western Conference and six from the East. THEN, you'd have something. But the new format doesn't solve the problem of many good West players being left out of the game.

And, of course, the even bigger problem hasn't been solved, either. The real dilemma about the game is that the players have turned it into a joke with the way they approach it. In the last two games, the winning West team scored more than 190 points. Now understand to get that many points in a 48-minute game you either have to be playing against air or for the Big Baller Brand's cherry-picking AAU team.

Not only do the teams now play ZERO defense, they have turned the game into a sort of casual beauty contest, with players jacking up long-distance threes or driving for uncontested fancy dunks. There is way too much preening and posing. All that's missing are courtside judges holding up cards.

You watch this stuff for 10 minutes and realize it's a waste of time. Believe it or not, players used to take great pride in this game. They wanted to win and played hard. That pride, I'm sorry to say, seems to be missing these days. There is no motivation to win the game and no amount of money you could give the winning team to provide incentive.

The league is stuck with a lemon of a game and it will stay that way until a few players show up and take it seriously. I'm waiting for a hotshot rookie to get there and decide to guard people -- really get into them. That, of course, would set up a testy atmosphere where other players would want to even it up and perhaps, give us a real game.

Right now, it's far from a real game and choosing up teams not named "East" and "West" won't help.

Trail Blazers: Figuring out a starting lineup and a rotation is going to be tough

Trail Blazers: Figuring out a starting lineup and a rotation is going to be tough

First reactions to the Trail Blazers' exhibition-game loss to Phoenix Tuesday night:

  • The biggest takeaway for me was just how much talent there is on this roster. There is depth -- good players up and down the bench. Terry Stotts is going to have a difficult time finding playing time for all these players. And keep in mind, part of his mission this season will be to continue the development of the young players. Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins are part of the future of this team and every minute they get on the court is going to aid their development. But then there is the culture of earning minutes and trying to get every win possible. And don't forget that combinations matter -- they lead to balance. You don't always have your five best on the floor at all times because of issues of balance between offense and defense, rebounding and shooting -- and all things in between.
  • I wouldn't want to have to set up a rotation here because there are going to be a lot of players who may deserve more playing time than they are going to get.
  • The Blazers are going to be able to put a very big team on the floor -- but will they? In an era when just about everyone else is going with small lineups, I like the idea of going big. Be different. Make the other teams adjust to you, rather than always trying to match up with them.
  • Swanigan is already Portland's best offensive player at power forward. He may have some problems at the defensive end but it's too early to tell. Starting him wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
  • Jusuf Nurkic is improved and it's going to be fun to see just how good he can be. He's also a free spirit and I hope he can keep all that under control. Right now, he is charming, funny and different -- and I hope he stays that way. Sometimes, though, that can get on people's nerves over time.
  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are improving with each season and nobody seems to notice that they play off each other better each year, too. They are a great foundation for the growth of this team.

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.