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Is Stanford becoming a football superpower?

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Is Stanford becoming a football superpower?

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) The diagram David Shaw has for the future of Stanford football is on a simple sheet of paper resting on the coach's desk.

The itinerary for this week: Wednesday at Palo Alto High School. Thursday in Ohio. Friday in New Jersey and Saturday at the Virginia state championship game. On Tuesday, assistants hit Northern California, Southern California, Houston, Louisiana and Ohio. Three of those coaches traveled to different places Wednesday.

``We actually see less people than everybody else,'' Shaw said. ``We just have to go to more places.''

As improbable as it once seemed, Shaw is finding ways to sustain success at a place better known for producing future world leaders and venture capitalists than Heisman Trophy finalists and NFL draft picks.

After last Friday's 27-24 victory over UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game sealed Stanford's first Rose Bowl berth since the 1999 season, there was no time to rest either. Shaw and his staff have something to sell recruits that even some of college football's most storied programs can only imagine: three straight BCS bowls.

Only Oregon and Wisconsin, whom the eighth-ranked Cardinal (11-2) will face in Pasadena on Jan. 1, can match that active streak. Stanford also is the only school to be ranked in the Top 10 of The Associated Press poll and U.S. News & World Report's academic rankings the past three years, something Shaw and his coaches have used to separate themselves on the recruiting trail.

``Are we becoming a football powerhouse? They still don't want to call us a football powerhouse,'' said Shaw, who has won Pac-12 Coach of the Year in each of his first two seasons. ``But how many teams have gone to three BCS bowls, how many teams have lost five games in three years?''

If this year proved anything, it's that Stanford's success no longer seems to be a passing thing.

The Cardinal weathered the loss of Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart after the 2009 season. Jim Harbaugh accepted the San Francisco 49ers job after the 2010 season. And Andrew Luck left to become the No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts after the 2011 season.

Stanford has still won at least 11 games each of the past three years. The program had won 10 games only three times before (1992, 1940 and 1926), and yet Shaw is still fighting the perception that the prestigious academics university is miscast among college football heavyweights.

``I guarantee it's not done. I guarantee,'' Shaw said. ``I told the guys before, `This needs to be done over a long period of time before we even think about changing the national conscience.' That's just the fact. There is no mountain top. We haven't reached a mountain top and said, `OK. Now everybody's going to get it.' It's not going to happen. Not yet.''

Shaw's secret to sustaining success goes back to three of his biggest mentors: late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, former Raiders owner Al Davis and Shaw's father, Willie.

Taking a break from watching video of the Wisconsin-Nebraska game earlier this week, Shaw pointed to a book in his office by Walsh titled, ``The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership.'' Shaw has tried to run his program the same way Walsh won: to concentrate on the process that builds winners, not the wins.

Shaw slides over to show a photo of Davis glaring at the one-time assistant coach before a game in Oakland. Anytime ``Young Shaw,'' as Davis called him, relaxed by putting his hands in his pockets, the owner would scream: ``Get your hands out of your pockets! You can't coach with your hands in your pockets!''

Davis often questioned Shaw, too, just to make sure he knew the answers. Once, he asked for Shaw's opinion on a player the Raiders eventually drafted, and Shaw agreed with most in the room to select that player.

A few months later, the Raiders cut ties with the pick, and Davis called out Shaw in a room full of coaches without ever turning his chair around: ``Young David, do you understand now why we can't draft players like this? Why we need guys that are faster?''

``He could smash you,'' Shaw said. ``But he wanted to see you come back again, poke your chest out and tell him what you believe.''

There are plenty of other helpful reminders in photos behind Shaw's desk.

One is particularly striking: Shaw is with his father, a former NFL and college assistant coach, wearing a generic No. 12 Stanford jersey - the number Luck later wore - on picture day in 1975. At that time, Shaw said, people viewed the Cardinal coaching position the same way they did up until a few years ago.

``Stanford used to be referred to me by a couple older coaches as, `That retirement job,''' Shaw said. ``That's the job you go there and retire. You know you're not going to win a lot. But every once in a while you're going to be pretty competitive, but you love the area, you love the kids that you're working with. It's OK.''

Times have certainly changed.

Shaw credits former athletic director Bob Bowlsby for vastly increasing the recruiting budget, subsidizing housing for coaches and increasing salaries. All of that has made the Stanford head coach's office one of the more attractive places in the country.

Shaw seems settled in now, decorating his corner suite with everything from a bobblehead doll of Luck to a football signed by wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown to the inspiring life lessons of photos throughout the years. He still insists he doesn't know of a better job in the country - and often times it's because of reasons he can't find in any keepsake.

One of those moments happened this past Sunday, when Willie Shaw walked into his office. Before the two exchanged words, Shaw's father - once a candidate for the Stanford head coaching job in 1992 before Walsh decided to return - smothered his son for a once-in-a-lifetime embrace.

``It wasn't one of those 2-second hugs,'' Shaw said. ``It was one of those kind of 10, 12-second hugs. He's very proud. He's very excited and he let me know that I don't have a choice: He's going to be on the field for the Rose Bowl.

``He informed me that he's been waiting his entire career to be on the sideline of a Rose Bowl game. I said, `You've got it, coach.'''

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”

*****

There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen soon.

*****

There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.

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