Austin American-Statesman Golden's Nuggets column
Raise your hand if you believe we witnessed a 10-win team at DKR on Saturday.
OK, I'm still waiting.
Let's set off this week's nuggets with five thoughts from the Orange-White scrimmage:
1. This is no time to panic. It's far from September, and Texas looks headed in the right direction. By the time September rolls around, David Ash will be back at quarterback and Tyrone Swoopes will have four more months of throwing under his belt. Add freshman Jerrod Heard to the mix and perhaps a name transfer from California and things will be rosier. Maybe not Rose Bowl rosy, but you catch my drift.
2. Defensive ends Shiro Davis and Caleb Bluiett will provide enough of a pass rush opposite All-America candidate Cedric Reed to make up for the loss of Jackson Jeffcoat. Plus the secondary will notch more sacks thanks to blitz-heavy defensive coordinator Vance Bedford.
3. Still waiting for offensive tackle Desmond Harrison to blossom into the All-American that Mack Brown projected him to be. He was banged up this spring and wasn't operating at 100 percent Saturday, but it wasn't good to see him give up sacks to Bluiett on consecutive plays.
4. Would have loved to have seen some return game in the scrimmage instead of a bunch of fair catches. Special teams are a huge part of the game, and it would have been nice to see Daje Johnson on a kickoff. I did notice that Jaxon Shipley was back there fielding punts instead of the electric Johnson, which suggest he still hasn't earned Charlie Strong's trust.
5. We didn't get to see the complete receiver talent on display, partly due to Swoopes' early struggles, but expect Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Shipley to take on huge roles if Ash does come back. I expect Johnson to be the breakout star on this offense.
LAMARCUS Aldridge is the most unsung star in these NBA playoffs, but that may soon change after busting through the door with 46 points and 18 rebounds in Sunday's overtime win at Houston. LA is the second-best Texas alum playing in the league, behind Kevin Durant and just ahead of resurgent Chicago point guard D.J. Augustin, who will win the Most Improved Player award.
He also put himself in place as one of the most coveted free agents entering 2015 if he doesn't re-up with Portland.
Aldridge, who is scheduled to make $15.2 million in the final year of his contract next season, has said he wants to make sure he's fully appreciated in Portland before signing a long-term deal.
With the news that the NBA is looking to add $5 million to the salary cap, I wouldn't mind seeing Aldridge return to his home state. Tim Duncan is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career in San Antonio, while the Rockets could still use some inside help alongside Dwight Howard. Dirk Nowitzki still has some juice left in Dallas, but bringing in Aldridge as part of a big lineup would move Dallas up the Western Conference pecking order.
HAD the Mavericks held on to that 10-point fourth-quarter lead in San Antonio on Sunday, road teams would have finished the weekend with a 7-1 record. According to USA Today, it's the first season since 1966 in which road teams won more than three Game 1s.
History suggests that top-seeded Indiana is bound for the offseason after dropping its opener to the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks. The other two top seeds to lose to No. 8s after dropping the opener were the 2007 Mavericks, who lost in six games to Golden State, and the 2011 Spurs, who fell in six to Memphis.
Those were jaw-dropping upsets, but an Atlanta win over the Pacers won't be a surprise since sleepwalking Indy is 12-13 in its last 25 games.
IT SAID a lot about Spurs coach Gregg Popovich that he could turn off the competitive fire for an instant to give us the classiest moment of his coaching career.
With his team tied with Dallas through three quarters, Popovich went over to Craig Sager Jr. -- the son of the ailing longtime TNT sideline reporter -- and gave the nation a reason to smile. Sager is battling leukemia, and TNT employed his son to interview Pop, who has had more than a few moments with Sager during in-game interviews over the years.
"You did a great job, but I'd rather have your dad standing here," Pop said before turning toward the camera to address Sager. "We want your fanny back on the court," he said. "And I promise I'll be nice."
It would have been hard to mess up an easy opportunity to bring some comfort to Sager's family during a tough time, but it was still cool to see the delightfully confrontational Pop in this light.
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