Walton appears on Dakich, talks life and basketball

Bill Walton appeared on the Dan Dakich Show today, putting in what the host called one of his best interviews ever. Walton doesn’t really talk about UCLA outside of some mentions of John Wooden and Pauley Pavilion, but he does ramble on as few others can.

At one point, he misquotes Neil Young’s “Walk Like A Giant” as he tries to explain how excited he is to be on Dakich’s show:

“‘Breaks my heart to think about how close we came/Think about how good it feels/I want to walk like a giant on the land/I don’t want to float like a leaf in the stream.’ And that’s why I’m honored to be on your show today, Dan. So how are the football players?’”

I don’t think Dakich asks more than five questions, but Walton unsurprisingly manages to talk for 40 minutes. Here are some other excerpts. You can find the full interview here. Continue reading

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USC rematch looms after layoff

Asked this week what it was like watching film of his team’s loss to USC, Ben Howland didn’t mince words.

“It’s depressing,” the UCLA coach said.

The Trojans stunned the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion three weeks ago, debuting in the new stadium with a 75-71 overtime upset. It marked UCLA’s only consecutive loss this season, and sent USC on a four-game winning streak that made interim coach Bob Cantu a legitimate candidate for the full-time job.

Point guard Larry Drew II had the most pointed words that night: “When we play SC again, it’s going to be war.” Continue reading

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Bruins cutting down playbook

Ben Howland, long known for his methodical halfcourt offenses, said he once used as many as 45 different sets.

In Saturday’s win at Stanford, the UCLA coach cut that number down to nine. After using around 18 to 20 for most of the season, he wanted to simplify the playbook even further for his young team coming off a quick turnaround.

Two days earlier, the Bruins had shot just 30.3 percent in the first half 76-63 loss at Cal. Against the Cardinal, UCLA shot 54.4 percent from the field.

“It’s all about execution and reading,” Howland said. “You have different reads: ‘If he trails me, I’m going to curl. If he goes ball side screen, I’m going to fade. If he fades, I have to shorten the pass. If he goes underneath, I have to re-screen.’” Continue reading

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Howland comments on Dr. Buss’ death

UCLA coach Ben Howland commented today on the death of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who passed away Monday morning after an 18-month battle with cancer.

“It was really sad. Jerry Buss was really nice to me during my tenure here,” said Howland, now in his 10th year with the Bruins. “I’ve been in his box a couple of times. What he meant to this city of L.A., with everything he’s done with the Lakers and their organization. He’s been great for basketball. As Magic (Johnson) spoke of last night, and a lot of people, he brought the whole event and ‘Showtime’ really to basketball. It’s incredible.

“I was listening to all the stuff they were doing on it last night. In 1979, the Finals, the year they won it, with Magic, part of that was tape-delayed. Can you imagine? That part of that was tape-delayed? That the NBA Championship? Such a different era.”

A private memorial service will be held 3 p.m. Thursday at the Nokia Center.

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Muhammad out with pink eye

Shabazz Muhammad missed Tuesday’s afternoon practice with pink eye, said UCLA coach Ben Howland. The freshman’s eye was too swollen for him to wear contacts, and he didn’t have a pair of working prescription glasses.

The issue shouldn’t keep Muhammad out of Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. tipoff at USC, and Howland hopes to have him ready by Thursday. The Bruins are taking Wednesday off from practice after spending the early part of this week focusing on non-contact five-on-five drills.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings — 2/19/13

1. Arizona (21-4, 9-4) — The Wildcats have settled into the teens in national polls and rankings, which is where they probably belonged most of the season. Sean Miller tinkered his lineup during a rough mountain trip — 13-point loss to Colorado, four-point win over Utah — and may leave glue guy Kevin Parrom in the starting five.

2. Cal (16-9, 8-5) — If the Bears had lost to USC, Mike Montgomery probably would have served a one-game suspension for pushing star guard Allen Crabbe. They won, so the push was folded into the “motivation” narrative, even though Crabbe shot 1-of-6 immediately after. Cal is playing its best ball of the season, but an NCAA tourney bid isn’t safe yet; the team never does well in the conference tournament and could lose two more games before then.

3. Oregon (21-5, 10-3) — Oregon’s win over Washington marked the first time the Ducks had more assists (10) than turnovers (9) since point guard Dominic Artis injured his foot in late January. The team returns home after surviving the trip north unscathed, but may be Continue reading

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Merrick becomes second Bruin to win at Riviera

Former UCLA golfer John Merrick won his first PGA Tour event Sunday, taking the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in a playoff.

The former Pac-10 champion and All-American finished at 11-under par, beating 28-year-old Charlie Beljan. Merrick, a Long Beach native, is the first player from Los Angeles County to win the tournament. He joined UCLA Hall of Famer Corey Pavin as the only Bruins to do so.

From Daily News columnist Jill Painter, who was on hand at the scene:

“Growing up as a kid and coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament,” Merrick said. “To win it, I can’t even put it into words. It’s a dream come true.”

When Beljan missed a 4-foot par putt on the second playoff hole at the 10th hole, Merrick hugged his caddie, Ryan Goble. Goble is a former assistant coach at UCLA who recruited Merrick. Their bond is longstanding.

Merrick, 30, also thanked the crowd for their cheers of “Bruins!” and “Long Beach!” The win qualifies him for his third appearance in the Masters Tournament in April.

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Weekly Q&A — 2/16/13 Answers

Q: With a knee surgery before the season and a surgery on the other knee after the season, obviously, Ellis McCarthy was not 100%. Is it unrealistic to expect Brian Price-like impact out of McCarthy in 2013?

A: If you mean Brian Price as Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, then yes. Price as a sophomore? Probably still a stretch. It’s hard to imagine McCarthy going from 10 tackles in a season — injury-riddled as it may have been — to first-team all conference. He should be ready for spring, so we’ll see how his knees hold up then. Hopefully for him, they won’t present chronic issues.

Q: Prior to Fall 2012, I expected that Johnathan Franklin and Datone Jones would have good seasons, based on 2011. They both had great seasons. What accounted for their massive improvements?

A: Scheme changes on both sides of the ball helped. Datone Jones flourished in the 3-4 defense, particularly with Anthony Barr bringing so much pressure from the outside. Johnathan Franklin stopped fumbling — got past the mental baggage and did some hand-strengthening exercises — and benefited from Noel Mazzone’s spread. He also became very good at getting yards after contact, particularly as games wore on. Continue reading

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UCLA 88, Stanford 80

UCLA nearly won a rebounding battle for just the second time in seven games, and the 11th time this season.

The Bruins controlled the game early by hitting the glass, easing its way to an 88-80 road victory over Stanford. The inside effort came from all over the roster: five players having grabbed at least three rebounds at halftime, but none had more than five for a 20-13 edge. The Cardinal beat out UCLA (41-38) by the final buzzer with some late caroms.

Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson combined for 63 points on 62.8 percent shooting, also chipping in 22 rebounds and seven assists in what was easily their best collective performance of the season. Anderson notched his seventh double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Continue reading

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