New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul appeared on TNT’s “NBA Tip-off” pregame show Thursday night before TNT’s ugly 7 p.m. telecast, the Boston Celtics’ 104-59 victory over the hapless New York Knicks. Paul appeared with TNT regulars Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.
Here are some excerpts of Paul’s comments:
On the Hornets focusing on defense: “It’s all about defense every day in practice. The best teams in this league don’t have individual defenders, they play defense together and that’s what we have to do.”
On playing in New Orleans for the entire season after playing most of the past two seasons in Oklahoma City: “The fans are coming out and supporting us, and as long as we continue to go out and play as hard as we’re playing and continue to be successful, they will continue to come out. A lot of people in New Orleans aren’t sure if we’re back, so we’ve been out in the community trying to help out as much as possible and letting them know that we’re back for all 41 games. It’s helped out so much (being established in one city), in that we know we’re going to be there, we have more of a routine we know that all 41 games are going to be the same building and gives us an opportunity to get a home court advantage.”
On his playoff prediction: “We’re going to the playoffs this year.”
Barkley: “And I believe he’s right.”
Switzer likes Sooners’ chances in Big 12 championship: Fox Sports BCS studio analysts Barry Switzer and Charles Davis weighed in on the Big 12 championship game Saturday night that will heavily impact who heads to New Orleans for the BCS national championship game. Switzer likes his former team’s chances: “I think Oklahoma has better players overall,” said Switzer, who coached the Sooners to national championships in ’74, ’75 and ’85. “ Oklahoma is a consistent program. They are accustomed to this type of setting and have won championships.”
Davis thinks Missouri has the upper hand, primarily because of their big win last week against Kansas: “What will help Mizzou is that they were able to beat the Jayhawks in that type of atmosphere (last week)” said Davis. “It felt like a conference title game, or a BCS game and that should only help them against the Sooners, who in the past have been able to intimidate teams based on their history. Mizzou will not be cowed by the surroundings or by OU’s mystique.”
Remembering ‘The Play’: To commemorate the 25th anniversary of “The Play,” Versus (Cox 251) talked to several of the principals of one of the most controversial moments in sports history when Cal scored the winning touchdown to defeat Stanford, 25-20, while Stanford’s band was already on the field celebrating. The special, “The Play 25,” will air at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Among those interviewed are Stanford quarterback John Elway; Cal defensive back Kevin Moen, who scored the winning touchdown as he ran through the Stanford band; current Cal radio announcer Joe Starkey, who called the historic game 25 years ago and uttered the phrase “the band is out on the field”; and Gary Tyrrell, the trombone player for the Stanford band who was knocked down by Moen during the winning touchdown.
And from Dennis Miller: From his monologue on “Sports Unfiltered with Dennis Miller” on Versus: “Michael Vick spent Thanksgiving at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warshaw, Va. Prison officials say they’re not treating their celebrity inmate any differently, although they did allow him to the small joy of electrocuting the turkey.”
During Fox NFL Sunday’s “Grumpy Old Coaches” segment this week, analysts Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer disagreed on the attractiveness of the LSU and Michigan head coaching positions. LSU coach Les Miles is rumored to be the top candidate to replace Lloyd Carr at Michigan. Johnson thinks Miles should stay at LSU; Switzer thinks he should go to Michigan.
Johnson: “LSU is a better job than Michigan.”
Switzer: “Yes, talent-wise but you can win more games consistently at Michigan versus LSU.”
Johnson on who he sees playing in the BCS final: “West Virginia will be there against Ohio State.”
On colleges hiring more black coaches, Johnson said: “There are only six black coaches in all of the 119 schools (in Division I-A). I think they should have the Dan Rooney rule just like in the NFL. (Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin was a coordinator for one year then (Rooney) hires him to be the head coach and look at the success they are having. A team needs to not just interview some black coaches but have a concentrated effort to go out and find the best black coach out there, whether it be a head coach or a coordinator on somebody’s staff. Look at (Mississippi State head coach) Sylvester Croom. With the fantastic job he did there, he should be the SEC coach of the year.”
Peterson should return next week: Last week, Fox NFL Insider Jay Glazer revealed that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s injury wasn’t as bad as originally thought. Glazer reported on Peterson practicing this week and when he’ll get to play again: “He practiced pain free and at one point ran past head coach Brad Childress and said, ‘Coach I’m fine, I’m ready to go.’ Brad said ‘settle down.’ What Brad told me is ‘once we know he’s good to go, we’ll take another week off and we’ll let him go the next week.’ So, expect him to play next week.” The Vikings host the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
GameDay in San Antonio: ESPN’s “College GameDay,” 9-11 a.m. Saturday, will be in San Antonio to preview the Big 12 championship game Saturday night. “GameDay” analyst Kirk Herbstreit also will call the game for ABC, working with Brent Musburger and sideline reporter Lisa Salters.
Flipping channels: NBC’s “Football Night in America” commentator Keith Olbermann picked Denver punter/kicker Todd Sauerbrun as his “Worst Person in the NFL” for kicking to Devin Hester twice on Satunday. Hester returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. Said Olbermann, “Do they not get the highlights west of the Rockies?” Sauerbrun, a former Bears punter, also had a punt blocked. … ESPN Classic will replay of Ricardo Mayorga’s decision over Fernando Vargas at 7 p.m. Sunday. On Saturday night at the Staples Center, Mayorga knocked down Vargas in the first and 11th rounds to capture a majority decision in a 12-round super middleweight bout. … KSBI-52 will air three state championship football games: Class 6A, Jenks vs. Union, 7:30 p.m. Friday; Class 3A, Clinton vs. Kingfisher, 1:30 p.m. Saturday; Class 2A, Dec. 8. … Thursday at 10 p.m., ESPN2′s new six-episode reality series Varsity Inc. will debut with a one-hour episode introducing viewers to the West Monroe (La.) High School football team and the town that loves them. The team has won six state titles and two national championships.
Were you like me and wondering why Brent Musburger was interviewing Boone Pickens about the price of oil and building water pipelines during ABC’s telecast of the Kansas-OSU game as the Jayhawks marched down field for another score? I thought this was supposed to be a FOOTBALL telecast. These were topics that George Stephanopoulos should have been handling on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday morning show, instead of a football game. Of course, Pickens is well deserving of an interview after giving zillions of dollars to Oklahoma State, but let’s stick to OSU and sports topics. As with the case of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” ABC and ESPN too often get sidetracked from the game with these celebrity interviews. Apparently they think they are trying to keep marginally interested viewers on board, but I think the interviews turn off a lot of people who are actually interested in the game. And, if it’s a bad game, the average viewer will have long since turned the channel. At best, these interviews need to be to the point and much shorter.
Grumpy Old Coaches rankings: Jimmy Johnson continues to give Oklahoma a higher ranking than his sidekick, Barry Switzer, the former OU coach, on Fox’s “NFL Sunday” studio show.
Switzer: 1. LSU, 2. Oregon, 3. Ohio State, 4. Oklahoma, 5. Kansas. On LSU: Good team that hasn’t played a perfect game yet. On Kansas: They don’t have as many athletes as some of these teams, but they’re well-coached.
Johnson: 1. Oregon, 2. LSU, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Kansas, 5. Ohio State. On Oregon: At the end of the year, they’ll still be on top. On Kansas: They’re going to lose.
Switzer also talked about Kansas on his XM Satellite radio show on Monday: “The test is coming up. It’s going to be Missouri and Oklahoma. You can say Kansas has arrived as a football team if they can handle those two. I agree if they can handle those two, they ought to be in the (BCS) championship game.”
Switzer and Johnson also discussed the media’s scrutiny of last week’s postgame handshake between New England coach Bill Belichick and Colts coach Tony Dungy:
Switzer: “It’s a media event. They are out there to capture something that they can criticize and be negative about. Photographers take 20 stills to finally get the one that that they can make a story out of.”
Johnson: “Coaches only do the handshake because they don’t want to be perceived as a jerk. What I used to hate is when the coach that wins comes over (putting his arm around Terry Bradshaw) and says ‘Nice game.’ Get your hands off of me!”
Switzer: “You know what I used to say? ‘Hey nice game. We hung half a hundred on you. Will play you again next year.’”
Channel flipping: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire and Bonnie Bernstein will call the OU-Texas Tech game at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC … Charles Barkley, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White and Eddie George, a former Ohio State and NFL running back, will be the guests at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on “Sports Unfiltered with Dennis Miller” on Versus (Cox 251). … NBC will have New England on two Sunday nights in a row — at Buffalo this week and home to Philadelphia on Nov. 25.
To celebrate their 150th remote “College GameDay” broadcast this Saturday at Williamston, Mass., for the Amherst College-Williams College game, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso conducted a conference call Thursday. None of the writers on the call asked them about “GameDay,” but they had a lot to say about the Kansas-OSU game, which Herbstreit will broadcast for ABC on Saturday night. Herbstreit is expecting a shootout Saturday in Stillwater in the game that will go to 63 percent of the nation.
Kirk: Their offense (Oklahoma State’s) is good enough to win the Big 12. Oklahoma State scores. They are averaging 35 a game, close to 500 yards of offense a game. It’s pretty amazing that when you think we came into the year we all thought that Bobby Reid would be pushing for Big 12 first-team all-conference at quarterback. Obviously, that didn’t work out. This kid Zac Robinson has provided a spark with his ability to run the football and throw. He seems to be making pretty good decisions. The real key to them is (running back) Dontrell Savage. Now that he has been back the last six games, they are like a different team. They are probably one of the most balanced teams offensively that you are going to see. I think that’s what allows them to be so good is they keep defenses guessing. The problem they have is they are so beat up and so young on defense. They just can’t stop anybody. That’s why this game this weekend against Kansas, as Lee likes to say, “Pack a sandwich,” because it’s going to be a shootout. I think both teams will score a lot of points. It might be one of those games that who has the ball last might win.
Chris Fowler noted OSU’s 42-32 victory over Kansas last year.
Chris: That’s the craziest quarter of college football all last year, 57 points in a quarter and a half between those two teams last year.
Kirk: Remember (Adarius) Bowman’s game he had last year, 300 yards of receiving in one game.
Chris: So both defenses will be waving the white flag in the second half?
Kirk: I think so.
The three questioned whether the Big 12 deserved to have three of the top six teams in the BCS in 4. Kansas, 5. Oklahoma, 6. Missouri.
Chris: It says that Oklahoma hasn’t played Kansas and Kansas hasn’t played Missouri yet. A lot of the top teams have collided already and knocked each other off. You can’t sit there with multiple losses and be in the top six of the BCS. Certainly it’s surprising. I don’t know if those are three of the six best teams in the country.
Lee: I think you should give an award to the three athletic directors at those schools for the cream puffs that they play out of conference. Oklahoma played Miami, Tulsa, Utah State and North Texas. (Cough)
Chris: At least they played one team from a BCS league. Missouri at least played Illinois.
Chris: We’ve seen Oklahoma-Missouri. We were at that game. Both teams were very good. We came away very impressed with Missouri. It’s not a surprise to us that they’ve gone on and started clobbering people. I think a lot of people would be interested in seeing a rematch in San Antonio (for the Big 12 championship). I think a lot of us are looking forward to watching Kansas play Missouri on a neutral field. There are some exciting games coming up in the league. But there is no doubt that schedules have been a huge factor for why those teams are where they are right now. If you take a snapshot of the BCS, that’s a big factor. They are solid football teams. Are they three of the six best? I doubt that.
Lee: Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International (Kansas’ non-conference opponents). If they don’t make it (to the BCS final) and they’re undefeated and they lose out to a one-loss team, that’s why. And that would be public perception.
Chris: It’s very obvious that Kansas constructed its schedule to get bowl eligible, not to get BCS championship game eligible. I look at their future schedules and I don’t see a lot of big name teams either. I don’t blame the players. They’re just playing who is on their schedule. I just say the schedule is not in line with the quality of Mangino’s program right now. Maybe you say, who could have predicted that. It’s not their fault, but you have to judge them accordingly.
Herbstreit was impressed with Mark Mangino’s coaching job in leading the Jayhawks to a 9-0 record.
Kirk: What he has done is he has recruited guys who are team-oriented kids who come from high school programs where that is their mind-set. They’re selfless. He has put them into a system where they are running a version of the spread, which is kind of an equalizer if you have a quarterback who can run that offense, which he has in (Todd) Reesing, and has enough playmakers at receiver and running back. And he has a defense which is smart. They’re probably not going to the (NFL) combine and blow it up, but they are just smart within their system. Lee and I talked about this last week. When you look at a team that has a turnover margin which is second in the nation at plus-16, they lead the nation in kickoff returns, they are the least penalized team in all of college football. When you do little things like that, those all add up and allow you to have a very successful year. They are still being questioned because their schedule hasn’t been the toughest, but it will get tougher with Oklahoma State on Saturday and Missouri at the end of the year. It’s been fun to watch him get afforded the opportunity to get into his sixth year and show what he could do.
I had a chance to talk to ESPN college basketball analysts Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps during a conference call Tuesday. I asked them about the Sooners’ propects for the season and whether Kelvin Sampson should have been fired after his latest violations. By the way, Phelps, a former Notre Dame coach, was still in morning over the Irish football team’s triple-overtime loss to Navy — the Midshipmen’s first victory over the Irish in 44 years.
Jay Bilas: I think they (the Sooners) are going to be pretty good. Blake Griffin is the real thing. He is going to be a horse for them. Even though he is a freshman, I think he is going to come in there and really be an impact player in the league. They did very well on their foreign trip. I think they are on an upward trend. I happen to know Jeff Capel pretty well and think very highly of him as a coach and think he is doing a really good job of sort of building back up in the matter in which he sees fit, which I think is going to serve Oklahoma really well.
Digger Phelps: You go through a season as a coach like Jeff Capel did last year, going 16-15 and 6-10 in the conference, those kids know that, and there are so many games you lose close, whether at home or on the road. You say, “We’ve got to get it going.” What happens is once you get that one win on the road, and team confidence builds — and Jeff Capel has been a winner wherever he has been, including as a college player, so I see where Oklahoma can now make a move forward. When you look past Kansas, I really think the Big 12 is going to have a lot of things happen. Texas is still good, Texas A&M may be good. I think by February when you’re in the middle of conference play, you’re going to see a team like Oklahoma really start to shine and make some wins happen. I think that’s what so great about that conference, plus the conference tournament: They’re going to end up with five teams from that conference getting in the NCAA tournament. Yet when you look at the overall picture, as good as Kansas is, it’s up for grabs whoever is going to be the second, third and fourth teams.
Should Sampson have been fired by Indiana University after the latest telephone call infractions?
Bilas: I don’t get into the whole should a guy be hired or fired thing. I think whatever a university decides is their business. I do think the phone call thing is a little bit overblown. I don’t condone anybody breaking any rule any time for any reason, but the only thing I will say is we seem to beat up on the penny ante stuff that we catch. That’s fine. I understand that. The truth is the folks that are out there really violating this rule are using untraceable cell phones, like they are using a completely different cell phone that doesn’t get paid by the university, calling cards, phones at the airport, things like that. That stuff has gone on all the time. That doesn’t excuse it, but it explains in the landscape of recruiting, there is a lot more going on.
More A.D. coverage: If you’re like me and can’t get enough of record-breaking rookie Adrian Peterson, KOKH-25 has picked up the Minnesota at Green Bay game at noon Sunday, dropping Philadelphia at Washington. Oklahoma fans are jumping on the A.D. bandwagon as KWTV-9’s San Diego-Minnesota telecast Sunday — in which Peterson romped for a league-record 296 yards — drew a 9.9 rating, double the 5.0 rating for Green Bay-Kansas City game at the same time on KOKH-25.
Network analysts are gushing about Peterson. Said Cris Collinsworth on NBC’s “Football Night in America,” referring to fellow NBC analysts Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis: “I have a new standard for if a running back is good. If Tiki and “The Bus” are jumping up and down,he is a legitimate superstar in the league.”
Unbeaten New England at unbeaten Indianapolis. The NFL’s best two teams meeting for AFC superiority and possibly home-field advantage in the AFC championship game. This game at 3:15 p.m. Sunday on CBS really needs no hype. CBS also will have a new toy for the game: a FreezeCam system that enables it to replay game action, then “freeze” the action while zooming in, out or around the frame, to show players setting up for a given play.
CBS’ main announce team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms and studio analyst Bill Cowher discussed the matchup earlier this week in a media conference call. Some of the highlights:
On “Spygate” controversy fueling New England this season:
Jim Nantz: I don’t think that there is any question that what they are doing on the field is totally related to what happened at the end of Week 1. All of us in the media took that opportunity to go back and review and somehow attach what happened in the “Spygate” episode and try to take it so far as to say that this stained their three championships. How did they win? Oh, no wonder they won, because they cheated. So now they have had their championships, their integrity, called into question. Maybe it is not verbalized in the sacred setting of the locker room, where it is just the coach and staff and 53 players, maybe it is not something that has to be talked about, but I think they have all internalized it. I think they are inflicting that punishment on a weekly basis with that right at their very core.
On Patriots running up the score:
Bill Cowher: This is a football team that plays with a tremendous sense of purpose and focus. I’m not so sure that when they’re out there they are even looking at the scoreboard. The fact that you have some of your premier players in the game with the margins being what they are is Bill’s (Belichick) prerogative. That is his decision. The risk that he’s taking is that one of those guys could get hurt in those situations. That is his decision as a coach and he has the right to do that. This is a team that is playing with a tremendous sense of purpose every time they step on the field and Bill has them playing that way right now.
On keys to victory:
Phil Simms: What could be the difference, and I NEVER say, because I am not just one that is all about the quarterback, I just don’t fall into the trap, but it could come down to which quarterback is just in a groove that day. It could be that close. By in a groove, I mean throwing it into windows that are not big, the velocity, the accuracy, it’s all there…Quarterbacks are a lot like pitchers. They have days when they can’t get that rhythm or they’re just missing a little bit. Peyton Manning down in Carolina last week. Physically it took him a while and he had some throws that you just don’t see him make. Look at Tom Brady last year in the playoffs at times. In Indianapolis he didn’t throw the ball physically as well as he is capable of throwing it. There are so many great components to this game, that it just might come down to which one of them is having that great day.
On whether Patriots have become a team that people love to hate:
Nantz: If there is a good guy and a bad guy set up in this game, I really think the bad guy would be New England with the whole running up the score chatter that is out there today…They’ve gone from that team that was very likeable and the underdog to where now there is this awe factor. I know that all coaches and players are programmed not to look ahead, but sometimes I can’t help myself as a fan. And if you start thinking about New England, if it gets past this game, there are a couple of spots there that they are going to be tested, they’ve got Pittsburgh at Foxborough in December, but now would be the proper time to start thinking about this team in some sort of context. They have the chance to be the ultimate super team…How well though it sets up for Indianapolis? You win 12 games in row including beating New England in the AFC title game. You win the Super Bowl. You’re undefeated this year. The last two weeks you have been pressed to go on the road in a six day stretch, both against teams with winning records, and you blow them out on both occasions. Now you get to come home to your own building and you’re a 4 ½-point underdog. You want somebody to give you a chip on the shoulder? Well, there it is.