Slant Pattern Odds and Ends

* LiAngelo Ball is working out for the Lakers, which I think on one level is actually a tad surprising given the Lakers' righteous antipathy to LaVar. I say righteous, because this is the way LaVar treats the Lakers.

Back when son Lonzo was headed to the NBA was when LaVar started to make a name for himself, as he ordained Lonzo as the future and savior of the Lakers even before the Lakers drafted him. He was clearly a Lakers fan before the team had the gall to not defer to his judgment.

Which brings me to my troll idea. My troll idea is only funny inasmuch as I'm not a Lakers fan. Actual Laker fans would find my idea horrifying, but they needn't worry because it'll never happen.

Once LaMelo is old enough, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss signs him and LiAngelo both. Now all three Ball brothers are on the Lakers.

Then, Buss hires LaVar as head coach, GM, and president (I'm not even sure that's permitted by the NBA, but...). He's in charge of everything.

Would that train-wreck not be appointment viewing? You have to remember just how very delusional, narcissistic, and wrongheaded LaVar is. How he claimed he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one despite being an end-of-bencher at Washington State. How he pulled his AAU team off the floor after getting t'd up for arguing with an official. How he pulled LaMelo, who is still only 16, out of high school to play basketball with LiAngelo in Lithuania.

Watching them go 12-70 wouldn't humble him — nothing could, it would be everyone's fault but his own — but wouldn't it be fascinating to watch? Hell, it doesn't have to be the Lakers, it can be any team. Just not my Cavs.

* One of the most interesting, but rarely-discussed changes in college football is the waxing and waning of the independent team. In 1980, there were 30 independent teams in the highest level of college football. By 2007, that was down to three: Notre Dame, Army, and Navy. Now Navy is in a conference, too.

This is largely due to the lucrative TV contracts being in a conference affords its members. That said, even with Navy joining the American Athletic Conference, that number is ticking back up: there are now six independent football schools.

Notre Dame and Army are still independent. BYU basically realized they did more for the Mountain West than the other way around, and I can't believe the upcoming season will be their eight as an independent. UMass quit the MAC. Liberty has moved up from FCS and was turned down by the Sun Belt and Conference USA. They decided to move up anyway, and was granted a waiver by the NCAA to do so.

The last independent is the most interesting case: New Mexico State. They and Idaho were kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference. They both had actually been booted from the Sun Belt before, than re-instated as football-only members, then kicked out again.

Prior to the second dismissal, each school was given the chance to make a presentation to the conference to help them make their decision — in other words, they were made to beg by the Sun Belt before getting the door slammed in their face.

Idaho took this opportunity to reclassify to FCS and join the Big Sky conference. It's a conference that they have a lot of history with, but they're the first school ever to demote themselves from FBS to FCS. It's also has to be a bit embarrassing to see the opposite arc of their rivals Boise State over the last 20 years or so — up until 2005, Idaho actually lead the all-time series against the Broncos.

New Mexico State, however, doesn't have history with the Big Sky, or a long history with any other conference that still exists for football (I'm not counting their stint in the Missouri Valley Conference because it was only 11 years). Of all the independent schools, they are the only ones who can be said to be independent almost entirely involuntarily. They are less independent than they are homeless.

This has got to hurt recruiting, too, because they don't have a name program, a winning history (last year, they played in (and won) their first bowl since 1960), or the ability to sell kids on the chance of winning a national or conference title. This all adds up to a huge underdog story, and I will be rooting for them because of it.

* On a lighter note, Thomas Pieters of Belgium, at the young-ish age of 26, is already a Ryder Cup veteran who has won thrice on the European Tour and has been as ranked as high as 23rd in the world, though at present, he is 67th. Despite the sliding form, no one can take away from the fact that he's the Bo Jackson of golf. Oh, dearie me!

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