Sidelines with John Clay

John Calipari wants to stay ahead of the curve, plus more Big Blue Links

Southern Miss’ Nick Mullen is rated as the best returning quarterback in Conference-USA. Southern Miss opens the season at Kentucky on Sept. 3.
Southern Miss’ Nick Mullen is rated as the best returning quarterback in Conference-USA. Southern Miss opens the season at Kentucky on Sept. 3. Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

John Calipari blogs about staying ahead of the curve. “With that in mind, we’re going to try some things this season that, in my mind, will make us even better. Normally, I’m pretty specific in what I’m doing, what I’m thinking and what I’m sharing, but that’s not going to be the case this time other than to say that you’re going to see new things in our approach and how we do it.”

Justise Winslow lead the Orlando Summer League standouts on Saturday. Fran Blineburry of reports, “It was easy to spot the young player with already 91 games (including playoffs) of NBA experience. Winslow was under control and in control of everything he did in ringing up 21 points, four assists, four rebounds and two steals to lead Miami in a 91-71 whipping of the Clippers.”

Aaron Harrison was a bit of a disappointment on Saturday. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that the former UK guard made just two of 13 shots from the field against the Magic.

Eddie Gran’s move to UK was an opportunity not a gamble. Larry Vaught writes, “Did you ever wonder why offensive coordinator Edd Gran left Cincinnati, where he had one of the nation’s most productive offenses and all kinds of job security, to come to Kentucky?”

UK running back Boom Williams is flying under the pre-season radar, says my column. “And yet Williams still finished the season tops in the SEC in yards per carry (7.1) among backs with at least 100 attempts last season. Besides his home run against Lafayette, Boom had a 66-yard run at Vanderbilt, a 60-yard run against Auburn and a 53-yard run against Charlotte, one of four 20-yard carries against the 49ers. Did this impress the national or even conference experts? Apparently not.”

Kentucky’s opening opponent No. 55 in Orlando Sentinel rankings. Iliana Limon Romero writes of Southern Miss, “Southern Miss was a power in Conference USA, but the program struggled to regroup after coach Larry Fedora jumped to North Carolina. Ellis Johnson was fired after one season, steering the program from a 12-2 mark in Fedora’s final season to an 0-12 record in 2012. Todd Monken slowly steered the Golden Eagles back to the postseason, progressing from 1-11 in 2013 to 3-9 in 2014 to 9-5 in 2015.”

The Sentinel ranked UK 79th, by the way.

Kentucky’s three most important newcomers for 2016. Gridiron Now starts with Alvonte Bell. “UK needs somebody to get after the passer, and coach Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot and the rest of the defensive staff hope Bell can do just that. UK’s pass rush was anemic last season, with the Wildcats finishing with just 17 sacks; that was last in the SEC and 109th nationally. To make matters worse, no returning player has more than one sack and the returning players combined for just 4.5 sacks last season. Bell (6 feet 5, 260 pounds) gives Eliot some versatility; he can be used as an end and an outside linebacker in a 3-4 and can move inside when UK goes to a 4-3 front.”

A.J. Reed hit his first Major League home run on Saturday, reports Mark Sonka of the H-L. ‘Reed, who snapped an 0-for-16 start to his career with a single on Friday night, belted a pinch-hit homer off Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson to make it 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.”

SEC basketball must ignore today and focus on yesterday and tomorrow. Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader writes, “Dr. William Sutton, who heads the sports marketing program at the University of South Florida, suggested that the SEC adopt this approach in the renewed effort to promote its men’s basketball. Remind those who dismiss SEC basketball that such Hall of Famers as Charles Barkley, Bernard King, Bob Pettit and Pete Maravich played in the league. So did luminaries like Shaquille O’Neal and Dominique Wilkins. “

Mike Trangehese may be just what the SEC needs. Harry King of the Arkansas News writes, “Cash could fast track an upgrade of SEC basketball schedules, step one of a plan to increase the number of league teams in the NCAA Tournament. Step two is on the league coaches. Hired to enhance SEC basketball, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese offered the two-tier approach — schedule better opponents and then beat them — at a recent league meeting in Destin, Fla. On the surface, the assignments are equally difficult, but why not venture outside the box and pay top dollar for games with high-profile opponents.”

Creditors say Christian Laettner owes $14 million, reports Tipton. “Former Duke star and Kentucky basketball villain Christian Laettner allegedly owes $14.05 million in unpaid debts, according to a court filing made Tuesday by five creditors. The creditors are trying to force Laettner into bankruptcy and want his financial affairs to be supervised by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Middle District of North Carolina in Durham, according to the court documents. “

Ex-Louisville star Damion Lee hit a buzzer beater in an NBA Summer League game on Saturday.

How state players did in Orlando. Rick Bozich of WDRB has the roundup. “Alex Poythress, Orlando Blue – Started, but scored only four points in 13 minutes. Added a pair of rebounds as well as a blocked shot. Did not attempt a three-pointer. Poythress finished his four-season career at UK last March and signed with Orlando as an undrafted free agent.”

Carl Lawson needs to deliver big for Auburn. Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser writes, “John Franklin III isn’t Auburn’s most important player. Carl Lawson is. Franklin is generating the most offseason buzz and plays the most important position on the field that also happens to be a glaring weakness of the Auburn offense, but he may not even start in the Sept. 3 opener against national championship contender Clemson.”

There’s too much hate in the Egg Bowl rivalry. Hugh Kellenberget of the Clarion-Ledger writes, “Have we all just lost our minds? Never has the Ole Miss and Mississippi State rivalry been more toxic. It’s become mean-spirited, short-sighted and to the detriment of the state as a whole. Have you felt the change? It’s happened quickly, within the past five years. TSUN is tame compared to some of the things routinely said by fans of both sides online every single day.”

Robert Tucker eager to help South Carolina offense. Matt Connolly of The State writes, “South Carolina’s in search of playmakers after losing its top three receiving targets off last year’s team. Freshman tight end Robert Tucker believes he can fill that void. Tucker, out of B.E.S.T. Academy in Atlanta, finished his senior season with 16 catches for 336 yards and four touchdowns, all team-highs, while also leading the team with 46 tackles despite playing in eight of 10 games. “

LSU’s 2015-16 sports year was one of almosts, says Soctt Rabalais of The Advocate. “For the first time since 1984, no LSU team, men’s or women’s, won a regular-season or postseason championship on the Southeastern Conference or NCAA level. There were close calls aplenty, but in the end it was a year of great, splashy talents who made a lot of noise and headlines but didn’t do a whole lot to add to LSU’s trophy case.”

Former Florida star Al Horford agrees to max deal with Celtics. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reports, “On Saturday evening, a deep Celtics contingent that even included Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wrapped up a recruiting meeting in New York with the prize of this free agent class, Kevin Durant. The Celtics were pleased with the gathering, and as they boarded a private jet to fly back to Boston they were also thinking about forward Al Horford, their other prime target.”

In North Carolina baseball history, there’s no bigger game than this. Writes Luck DeCock of the Raleigh News and Observer, “Nothing will compare to an actual, for-real, counts-in-the-standings Major League Baseball game played within the borders, and in a temporary stadium constructed at Fort Bragg, no less. What happens in Fayetteville on Sunday between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins will trump everything that came before it and, presumably, after it for a very long time. “

Tyronn Lue returns to his Missouri hometown a champion, writes Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star. “Tyronn Lue acknowledged making an unusual request in the locker room after a Game 5 victory at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., kept the Cleveland Cavaliers alive in the 2016 NBA Finals. Lue, who had been elevated to head coach midseason after David Blatt was fired, admitted that finding ways to motivate NBA players — like Cleveland’s star trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving — can be challenging. During a celebration in his honor on Saturday in his hometown of Mexico, Mo., Lue offered a peek into how he spurred the Cavaliers to the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, becoming the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the title.”

Kentucky 2016 football schedule

  • Sept. 3 Southern Miss
  • Sept. 10 @Florida
  • Sept. 17 New Mexico State
  • Sept. 24 South Carolina
  • Oct. 1 @Alabama
  • Oct. 8 Vanderbilt
  • Oct. 15 open date
  • Oct. 22 Mississippi State
  • Oct. 29 @Missouri
  • Nov. 5 Georgia
  • Nov. 12 @Tennessee
  • Nov. 19 Austin Peay
  • Nov. 26 @Louisville
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