From Comcast SportsNetGLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Oklahoma State has its chance to be in the national-championship conversation. All the Cowboys need now is a little help from Alabama. Surviving a missed field goal at the end of regulation and getting a big kick of its own in overtime, No. 3 Oklahoma State opened the door for the chance at a split national championship with a wildly entertaining 41-38 win over No. 4 Stanford on Monday night. "There is nothing we can do from here," said Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who tied the Fiesta Bowl record with three touchdown catches. "I do think we do have the best team in the nation." Oklahoma State (12-1) kept pace with Andrew Luck and the high-scoring Cardinal, getting huge performances from its two stars, Brandon Weeden and Blackmon, in their final college game. Weeden threw for 399 yards and the three touchdowns to Blackmon, who announced he's leaving for the NFL after catching eight passes for 186 yards. All that and the Cowboys' fortunes came down to two legs, those of Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson and their own Jordan Sharp. Williamson couldn't come through. The redshirt freshman missed a 35-yard field goal wide left as time expired in regulation and another from 43 yards to open overtime. Given a chip shot after Weeden hit Colton Chelf on a 24-yard pass -- initially ruled a touchdown but overturned on review -- Sharp came through, sending his 22-yard field goal through the uprights and the Cowboys charging onto the field. Should Alabama knock off top-ranked LSU in next week's BCS championship game, Oklahoma State will be right there, ready to stake its claim at being No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. "We feel like we could beat anyone in the country," Chelf said. Stanford (11-2) had its chances. The Cardinal had 590 yards of offense -- nearly 200 more than Oklahoma State -- got another stellar game from Luck before he heads to the NFL, and ran over Oklahoma State's defense behind Stepfan Taylor. They just couldn't finish it off. Luck calmly led Stanford 63 yards over the final 2:35 of regulation to set up a chance at winning its second BCS bowl game in two years. Instead, Williamson missed in regulation, again in overtime and was left sobbing in front of his locker while his coaches and teammates tried to shoulder some of the blame. "In the end, we lost, and I'm as much to blame as anyone," Luck said. Taylor ran for 177 yards and a pair of scores. Luck was his usual steady self, hitting 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. The Cardinal held Oklahoma State to 15 yards rushing on 13 carries and didn't give up the lead until the final play. Still, it wasn't enough, the Cardinal's hopes sailing wide left off the right foot of Williamson, who missed three field goals after missing three all season. "There's an old saying that adversity reveals character -- and that's not just for him, that's for all of us," Stanford coach David Shaw said. The Fiesta Bowl needed a pick-me-up game after the year it had. Last year's game was a dud on pretty much all accounts. Connecticut had trouble filling its allotment of tickets and keeping up with Oklahoma, the 48-20 rout leading to a big dip in the ratings. Not long after that, the bowl got tangled in controversy, nearly losing its BCS status following financial improprieties that were uncovered and led to the firing of executive director John Junker. This matchup figured to be the ticket to match the golden jackets worn by Fiesta Bowl officials. Oklahoma State has an electrifying offense -- second in scoring, third in total yards -- run by the 28-year-old Weeden and featuring Blackmon, the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner. The Cowboys also came in with a chip on their shoulders, believing they should have gotten a shot at the BCS title game instead of it being a rematch of the field-goal-kicking Game of the Century earlier this season between Alabama and LSU. Finishing a tantalizingly close .0086 behind the Crimson Tide in the BCS standings, Oklahoma State had plenty to prove, with booster T. Boone Pickens saying the Cowboys should get first-place votes in The Associated Press poll with a Fiesta win and a loss by LSU in the title game. Across the field was Stanford, another one-loss team that could have a legitimate beef with the BCS system. The Cardinal lost to eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon and crushed nearly everyone else with an offense that was top-15 in scoring and yardage. Stanford also has Luck, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up and all-but-certain No. 1 overall NFL pick, complemented by a powerful running game that's as good as any. The Fiesta Bowl had a pretty good lead-in, too: Oregon's wild, 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Stanford had the advantage early, piling up 225 yards while going up 14-0 early in the second quarter on Luck's 53-yard touchdown pass to Ty Montgomery and Jeremy Stewart ran for a 24-yard score. With its offense stranded in the desert early, Oklahoma State got back in it quickly thanks to Blackmon. The junior caught his first pass by splitting the middle of Stanford's defense for a 43-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, then showed off his power on the next, brushing off a defender like a jacket over his shoulder before racing for a 67-yard touchdown that tied it 14-all. Two big catches, 110 yards and the offensive show was on. Taylor scored on a 4-yard run and the Cowboys answered, tying it 21-all at halftime on Weeden's first career rushing touchdown, an ugly-but-effective 2-yarder. Luck hit Zach Ertz on a 6-yard touchdown pass to open the third quarter and, after the teams traded field goals, Weeden found Blackmon on a 17-yard crossing pass that tied the game at 31. Taylor put Stanford up 38-31 with 4 minutes left, ducking behind Stanford's massive offensive line for a 1-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State answered quickly, moving 67 yards in less than two minutes to tie it on Joseph Randle's 4-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys left too much time for Luck, but Stanford's luck ran out when Williamson couldn't come through in regulation and again in overtime. Oklahoma State celebrated what they thought was a touchdown by Chelf in overtime, then did it for real after the replay and Sharp's kick. "Our team rallied. Every time we got down, they just found a way to come back," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, who dedicated the victory to the four people who died in the Nov. 17 plane crash that killed Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna. And now the Cowboys can watch the national title game with a rooting interest, ready to stake their claim should the cards fall right.
OAKLAND – A few short hours after Klay Thompson expressed indignation with an unnamed team source quoted referring to the Warriors as “cowards,” his coach stood firmly behind the All-Star shooting guard.
Steve Kerr, in his news conference prior to the Warriors-Trail Blazers game Friday night, said he, too, was not happy to see such a quote attributed to an unnamed team official in an ESPN The Magazine story portraying All-Star forward Draymond Green as someone whose firebrand ways grate on coaches and teammates.
“I talked to Draymond about it; I haven’t talked to the team about it,” Kerr said. “It upset me, too.
“I don’t know who said that. I’d guarantee it wasn’t any of our coaching staff. I would be shocked if it was anybody in basketball management. We don’t do that. Nobody ever said that to me, not even to the press. But nobody ever said that to me, like, ‘those guys played like cowards.’ So I have no idea where that came from.”
Thompson on Friday morning made it clear that he was less bothered by the content of the story than by the idea that someone within the organization, in describing the Warriors’ performance in losing Game 5 of the NBA Finals – with Green grounded by suspension – would refer to the team with such an unflattering term.
Though not as animated as Thompson was, Kerr clearly is concerned with the long-term ramifications of such a comment.
“It’s upsetting because you want to keep things in-house,” he said. “If somebody wants to say something, then they should put their name on it. If you don’t feel like you can put your name on it, you shouldn’t say it.”
Kerr paused ever so briefly before noting how media operates in the second decade of the new millennium.
“But on the other hand I also know how it works these days,” he said. “What is ‘an unnamed source?’ Who are ‘sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking?’ It’s gotten harder and harder to control stuff, to keep things in-house these days because what used to be a credible source is now . . . the standards are a little bit lower . . . I just know that sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking is an extremely vague phrase and who knows who that might be?”
Matthew 7 verse 24-27: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Not to get biblical on anyone, but the parable above is a perfect metaphor for the the Sacramento Kings. For years, they have built their house on sand only to watch it all wash away when the rains come. And the rains always come, that is the NBA world.
The Kings have tried a new approach this season. They are counting on head coach Dave Joerger to build their new house on a rock. A foundation of defensive principles mixed with a structured offensive system built to withstand the ebbs and flows of a normal NBA season.
In order to create this new foundation in Sacramento, Joerger and his staff almost had to turn their sneakers and workout gear for loafers and blazers. This is basketball academia and the Kings are going to need plenty of time in the study hall.
“The one thing I noticed out of coach Joerger, was he was teaching,” former Kings guard turned CSN analyst Doug Christie told the Kings Insider Podcast. “He has the floor. He was going through things and talking through things and they would run through it. And all of the sudden they would stop, and he would teach again.”
What Christie describes from the first week of training camp is coaching 101. But for many of these players, they’ve never seen something like this. Center DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh NBA season and Joerger is his sixth head coach.
Whether the coaches before Joerger were quality or not, none of them have tried the robust task of introducing such a refined system. And so the Kings coach must start at the very beginning with a mixed bag roster that will look substantially different at the trade deadline, next summer and even the summer after that.
The hope is that the foundation will survive. A core must be developed to carry the system from one iteration of Kings players to the next. Whether the youth of the team -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis -- are part of that core is yet to be determined.
But what is known, is that for the first time in a while, a head coach has been brought and given free run of the house. When Joerger signed a 4-year, $16 million deal this summer after leaving the Memphis Grizzlies, it was to build a program, not just take over the reigns from the outgoing George Karl.
To make matters more complex, Joerger is trying to go from a free flowing system to something very regimented. He is a system guy. And many of his players either played with Karl last season in Sacramento or under Karl in Denver. Right or wrong, Joerger has to break his players of their previous habits and install new directives.
“You’re just trying to keep building and we just keep working at it and guys are trying to make a change from one system to another system and it’s always difficult no matter what the system,” Joerger told CSN California.
Joerger left a veteran team where four of his core players had played together for six seasons. That is not a luxury he has in Sacramento. Outside of Cousins, no player has been on the roster more than three seasons. Continuity of coaches aren’t the only issues that the Kings players have faced.
After losing to the Clippers Tuesday night at the Golden 1 Center, Joerger pointed to this exact issue.
“We’re not saying we want to be like the Clippers, we want to be like all those teams, where we can keep our guys together long-term and build that chemistry and build your system,” Joerger said. “We’re trying to run something that we’ve been working on for two-weeks. They’re running stuff they’ve been running for six years.”
Before coming to the Kings, Rudy Gay had spent time with Joerger in Memphis when he was an assistant coach. They know each other well, but this is different. This is the first time Gay has worked with Joerger as a frontman. While the experience is new, the veteran wing appreciates the system being implemented, even if he doesn’t know how long his stay in Sacramento will be.
“It’s not difficult at all, this is what I prefer,” Gay said following practice earlier this week. “I prefer structure. My whole career I’ve had structure and that’s what I prefer and what I excel in.”
Gay has made it known that he would like a new basketball home, but it has nothing to do with Joerger or his system. He has seen the value of structure in his previous stops and he has also seen what a free flowing system can do. He even had a message for his teammates on the subject.
“Whether they like it or not, it works,” Gay said.
Joerger ran a 147-99 record in three seasons in Memphis. He led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in all three seasons, a place the Kings haven’t been in a decade. He has a tried and true system that even the Kings’ young players are drawn to.
“Joerger’s (system) is all about reading, it’s just making your basketball IQ higher,” Cauley-Stein told CSN California. “It’s really teaching me the game.”
Cauley-Stein, who just had his third-year option picked up by the team on Friday, is trying to transition from John Calipari’s style at Kentucky, to Karl’s system in his rookie season, and now to Joerger’s game plan.
“It’s not tough, it’s just different,” Cauley-Stein said of the transition. “You just have to get used to it. I like it better honestly. More structure. A reason why you’re running something instead of just free playing pickup.”
The reaction from the rest of the roster has been similar. From Cousins’, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” quote to veteran Anthony Tolliver, who is new to the team, but fully on board with the structured system.
“If you’re used to playing free-flowing and not calling plays everytime, to calling plays every time and being more organized, honestly, I prefer being in a system like this,” Tolliver said. “I just feel like things are more predictable. I feel like everyone stays involved more and the ball moves better.”
Tolliver’s experience is similar to what Cauley-Stein is seeing. Free flowing can often mean isolation or exclusionary. As role players in this system, it’s important that you are prepared to be a viable part of the offense, not just a pawn.
“You’re alway touching the ball, you always get to make a pass, you get a chance to make plays, it’s fun to play like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “You don’t get stuck in the dunkers zone or stuck in on the baseline and watch them play 4-on-4.”
For Joerger, it’s a tough transition. He is used to rolling out a small group of newbies and have his veterans there to help drive home the point. He now has a collection of players that have either played in a completely different system or are new to the team.
“I just keep telling myself - ‘stay on task, stay on task, stay on task,’” Joerger said. “That means being demanding on what’s important to us, how we go about our business, how we practice everyday. Stay on task.”
There will be good nights and bad as the Kings move through the 2016-17 season. Some nights everything will click and they will have no issues competing. Other nights they will win on talent alone. Don’t discount how dominant a players like Cousins and Gay can be. Lastly, there will be those nights when fans boo and they get run out of the gym. This is the NBA and the level of talent is incredible. Chemistry and cohesion take time. A new system will take time. The Kings will once again ask for patience. They’ll ask you to look at the big picture.
Joerger will stay on task. Cousins will roam the high post. But nothing is guaranteed. They are trying to building on rock this time and not sand. It’s not exactly a new concept, but a novel one in Sacramento.