Sports fodder for a Friday morning ... Brian Polian of the Nevada Wolf Pack and Tim DeRuyter of the Fresno State Bulldogs need to win big this year. Polian’s football team has done nothing but tread water since he took over the program in 2013.
He’s never had a winning season in conference play and is just 18-20 overall. DeRuyter, an ex-Pack defensive coordinator (2005-06), needs to prove that he can win without quarterback Derek Carr. Since Carr left for the Oakland Raiders, DeRuyter’s Bulldogs have gone 9-17 the last two seasons. DeRuyter is 0-3 in bowl games and is coming off a 3-9 season. The good news is that neither Polian or DeRuyter has to play Boise State this year. Polian’s Pack plays an easy schedule and should win at east eight games by just falling out of bed and not breaking their necks on game day mornings. If they land on their feet and not their head they could win 10 or more. DeRuyter’s Bulldogs, though, could be looking at a third straight losing record if they still cannot find a quarterback.
The Golden State Warriors’ signing of Kevin Durant is a bit strange. The Warriors won a record 73 games in the regular season and came within one game of winning a NBA title this past season. It’s not like they needed a huge upgrade or roster overhaul. The Warriors, though, are dumping roughly $30 million of perfume a year (Durant’s salary) on the biggest choke in NBA history because, well, they can. So they added the guy who choked in the Western Conference title series.
The Warriors sliced Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and Brandon Rush off the roster to add Durant. And they are also sniffing around a soon-to-be 41-year-old Ray Allen. This is sort of like the Miss America runner-up going out and getting a nose job and facelift as soon as the show is over.
Durant is a wonderful player and could help the Warriors go 82-0 in the regular season next year. He should guarantee that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson never have to deal with a double-team ever again. He can rebound and block shots when he wants to and can score from anywhere on the court if someone passes him the ball. It’s hard to argue against the signing from a basketball standpoint and certainly from a marketing standpoint. But, really, how much better can Durant make the Warriors? Who loses shots because of Durant’s presence? Curry? Are you kidding? Thompson? Draymond Green?
The NBA is all about egos. Just ask Dwyane Wade. When you sign a Durant you have to build your team around Durant. The Warriors already had that guy in Curry. And they also had a bunch of guys who were more than happy to have Curry be that guy. Why drastically change the dynamics of a team that was already pretty special? This team didn’t need a nose job.
The Durant era, though, might last just one year in Oakland. Durant is expected to sign a deal with the Warriors that will allow him to be a free agent after just one season. And then he can pull a LeBron James and go back to Oklahoma City.
If Durant stays with the Warriors after next season that will likely mean than Green or Thompson (or Curry if he doesn’t get along with Durant) will eventually leave. It just seems like a lot of unnecessary drama for an organization that floated through the season on a cloud of 3-pointers, smiles, YouTube moments and awards last year.
There are a dozen major league baseball teams that are already out of the playoff picture whether they know it or not. Yankees, Rays, Twins, Angels, A’s in the American League and Braves, Phils, Brewers, Reds, Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks in the National League.
Of those dozen, the most surprising are the Angels and Diamondbacks. Both those teams should have been in at least the wild card race until September. The Angels, though, are a mess and might be looking at an overhaul while the Diamondbacks just don’t seem to know how to put a winning team together.
Dwyane Wade is going back home to Chicago. Who benefits? Wade’s family and friends back home in Chicago, who can now see him play 82 games a year. Other than that, well, nobody.
The Bulls will be better with Wade but they aren’t going to the NBA Finals anytime soon, not unless Wade convinces his buddy LeBron to also come to Chicago. The Bulls are far more interesting with Wade than without him but this is a team that already sells out all their games.
With Wade the Bulls will win just enough to make sure they don’t get a decent draft pick the next two years. Wade, who felt disrespected by the Miami Heat, will feel the pressure of trying to carry his hometown team to a title, much the same way that Derrick Rose felt that pressure in Chicago in recent years. Wade is old and breaking down and has nothing left to prove. He’s merely going on a two-year farewell tour. Come to think of it, the Durant signing was brilliant for Golden State.
The Diamondbacks might also be at a turning point with Peter O’Brien. The Reno Aces slugger failed miserably in his extended tryout with the Diamondbacks the past month, hitting .125 (7-for-56) with an alarming 25 strikeouts. O’Brien, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his return to Reno Wednesday night, was 0-for-16 with eight strikeouts in his last nine games in Arizona.
The Diamondbacks, who are going nowhere this year, don’t seem to have much patience or faith in O’Brien. O’Brien, who will turn 26 next week, might be better off with a bad American League team (Angels, Twins, A’s) where he can just be the designated hitter and learn how to hit big league breaking balls on the job.
The Chicago Cubs were 52-32 heading into Thursday’s games and owned a huge (8.5 games) lead on second-place Pittsburgh. They are coasting to the playoffs. Their entire infield is starting in the All Star game. But a postseason choke might be closer than it appears in their rear view mirror. The Cubs are just 5-12 since June 20 and 13-17 in their last 30 games. Their bullpen, other than closer Hector Rondon, doesn’t scare anybody. And their bench has a Triple-A feel to it.
Expect the Cubs to make some sort of deal for an eighth-inning set-up man, an outfielder who can hit or another veteran starter before the deadline. Or all three. When you haven’t won a World Series in over a century you don’t just stand pat and keep your fingers crossed.