Monday Morning Coffee

November 13, 2023

The Lakers beat the Blazers last night, but they are so obnoxious right now. When you hear Lebron, AD, and other members of the team talk, they act like it’s injuries that are responsible for their mediocre start. Sorry but that’s a lame excuse. They re-signed all these guys for continuity. This same supporting cast led the Lakers to the playoffs last season with Lebron and AD coming in and out of the lineup. Now suddenly they can’t play? Before last night the Lakers were +53 with Lebron on the court, and -77 with him off the court. In 81 minutes with Lebron and AD on the court together the Lakers are -78. This team is just lazy, unfocused, and their coaching staff is giving away games to experiment with lineups. The worst part about it is in this particular stretch, they should be banking tons of wins because their schedule is softer than Charmin toilet paper. No the answer isn’t trading for Kyrie Irving, or wrecking the team for some third star. It’s just being focused.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have lost 5 in a row, and are struggling to fit James Harden in with their team. I’m not saying it’s not going well, but the Clippers are a -28 with Harden on the floor so far. Now, Ty Lue is staggering the minutes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Harden. That’s actually even worse because it’s prolonging the time it’s going to take for these 4 to build chemistry together. The bigger concern though if it does take a long time for these guys to build chemistry, will Harden complain and start sitting out again? It sounds ridiculous, but nothing would surprise me anymore with this guy.

To baseball, where the hot stove is heating up with all the off-season rumors. Nothing has happened yet, but there’s tons of speculation around the Dodgers. We know Shohei Ohtani is going to be pursued, but acquiring pitching has to be a priority. Tony Gonsolin will miss 2024, Dustin May might miss most of it. Clayton Kershaw, even if he returns, will miss half the season, and Walker Buehler is going to be on an innings limit. That means Japanese 25-year-old Yoshinobu Yammamoto needs to be signed, and if they can trade for Corbin Burnes, that would fix a lot. I know everyone wants them to re-sign Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner, but I don’t really see either one. Bellinger’s best years are behind him, and after one respectable bounce back season, the Dodgers shouldn’t pay him big money. Besides, they have James Outman, who is young, cheap, and improving daily. As for Turner, yes he can hit, but he’s not the defender he once was. The Dodgers can do better with finding a younger, more athletic, infield bat.

As for the Angels, they hired Ron Washington as their new manager. This one is actually somewhat impressive for the Halos. Washington is a real name that has led a team to the World Series. However, that was a decade ago, and baseball has changed since then. It’s a much more analytics driven game, and managers have even less control now than they used to. In some ways this reminds me of the Joe Madden hire. Madden had success with the Cubs, but the game changed a lot by the time he got to the Angels. That’s exactly where we are with Washington. I’m sure the Angels celebrated his hire by taking him out to Zankou Chicken and having Washington pay for Arte and Perry Minasian’s meal.

The Chargers looked fantastic on offense yesterday, but equally as atrocious on defense. I was told Brandon Staley was a defensive coach. So much for that. Big plays were again a problem Sunday as the Lions generated eight that netted at least 20 yards. If you have a defense with Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, and Derwin James, you shouldn’t be getting gashed like that repeatedly. I guess this is what happens when you can’t play the Jets and Bears every week. The Bolts have 8 games left, and the have 5 teams to climb over to get to the playoffs. Considering they have to play the Ravens, Bills, and Broncos in that stretch, I have a hard time envisioning this team get into the playoffs, let alone finish the season over .500.

The Rams are in the midst of a bye week, and they definitely need it. They signed Carson Wentz last week, which I don’t expect to go well. Wentz may look like Prince Harry, but he certainly doesn’t have much going for him as an NFL quarterback anymore. This also goes to show you just how concerned the Rams should be about Matthew Stafford. What’s really a shame is that Stetson Bennett is out for the season for some kind of personal reason. That kid looked like he had some promise to develop behind Stafford and maybe even a quarterback of the future for this team.

It turns out that firing Alex Grinch wouldn’t instantly solve USC’s problems. The Trojans got beat by Oregon on Saturday, which ended their hopes of playing in the Conference Championship game. The result was not surprise given how USC has played the last month, but the game was very symbolic of most of USC’s season. Poor execution on defense, Caleb Williams was under pressure, and the team was very undisciplined. I’m sure it’s disappointing for the Trojans, who badly need to beat UCLA next week just to save some face for Lincoln Riley. There’s a lot of larger picture questions to be answered after this year, and if Caleb Williams departs for the NFL, quarterback will be one of them once again, in addition to the defensive issues they’ll need to solve.

Then there’s the Bruins, who lost a shameful game at the Rose Bowl to Arizona State. I’m sorry but there are simply no excuses to lose to a team with nothing to play for, that basically gave up on their season weeks ago. Even if UCLA was missing it’s top two quarterbacks, their talent is head and shoulders better than ASU’s. This is all on Chip Kelly. When the Bruins decided to fork over millions for him to be their head coach, this was not anywhere close to the expectations. In fact, the results have arguably been worse than the previous two regimes, yet they are burning so much more money. Even worse was the extension they gave Kelly about 10 months ago. How you can possibly think that things will get any better with Kelly as the coach when they are headed to The Big 10 next year? Martin Jarmond is going to have a lot of questions to answer to the Bruin alums.

Pasadena, CA - UCLA head coach Chip Kelly on the sidelines during a Pac-12 Conference.

At least UCLA can feel a little better about themselves because basketball season started. The Bruins are 2-0, albeit against 2 underwhelming opponents, but right now they’ll take the wins any way they come. So far, it’s very hard to know just what this team is, as they have a very European look to them. Adem Bona looked like a beast in the first game, and just an average player on Friday. The same can be said for Dylan Andrews, who was way down against St Francis- PA, and way up against Lafayette. The guys I’m most interested in seeing what they are though are Lazar Stefanovic and Aday Mara. Stefanovic played well against Lafayette and logged 35 minutes. He wasn’t all that efficient but he was looking for his shot more than the first game, and appeared more comfortable. Aday Mara on the other hand looks very out of place so far, so he looks like he’s a little bit away from making any meaningful contributions. Honestly, the best thing about this team is the unknown. Then again, it’s also the worst.

UCLA guard Dylan Andrews is fouled by Lafayette guard Devin Hines while driving to the basket at Pauley Pavilion.

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