The Hall of Fame tandem of Gary Payton and Warren Sapp returned for the latest edition of Unfiltered, the sports betting podcast brought to you by BetUS with host Dawn Lupul, taking a deep dive on the first two rounds of the men’s NCAA Tournament, which featured a historic number of upsets in one of the wildest opening weekends.
“It’s been a lot of upsets, a lot of teams that we didn’t expect to be there,” Payton said. “Nobody expected my [Oregon State] Beavers to be there, nobody expected Syracuse to be there, but Jim Boeheim’s son done came out and shot the lights out of the basketball, and my Beavers are playing defense.”
While discussing Oregon State, Payton also praised the play of the rest of the Pac-12 conference. The conference saw four of its five entrants in the tournament advance to the Sweet 16.
Looking ahead to the next round, No. 11 seed UCLA plays 2-seed Alabama on Sunday ahead of Sunday night’s 6-7 matchup between Oregon and USC. Oregon State, meanwhile, plays Saturday afternoon against No. 8 Loyola Chicago. Payton said he expects three of the four will advance. He expects the loser of USC-Oregon the only Pac 12 team not reaching the Elite.
“We’ve just got to get it out of our mind and go in there and play,” Payton said of his alma mater after noting that cross-state rival Oregon is also ‘clicking on all cylinders.’ “Loyola Chicago runs their offense. They run it to a T … and that big man [Cameron Krutwig], once he gets the ball, he reminds me of the Joker in Denver. That is basketball skills and basketball awareness that you can’t teach.”
Watson on Deck for Deshaun?
From there the conversation turned serious, as Sapp and Payton discussed a series of sexual assault allegations against Houston Texas quarterback Deshaun Watson — a total that stands at 16 as of this week.
Payton said it brought to mind his experience with the Los Angeles Lakers following accusations against Kobe Bryant in 2003-04.
“I stepped up and said I was going to be the big brother,” Payton recalled. “I didn’t want anybody else to communicate with him in the organization except myself.
“I got him to start relaxing, I got him to start getting out a little bit, we started doing a lot of things together, and it was marvelous,” Payton said. “We knew that the courts were going to keep him in the court … and we were fine with that. We just had to get his mental state out of it to play. That’s hard to do with a kid that’s 25 years old.”
Bryant was 26 when a judge dropped the charge against him in September 2004; Watson turns 26 in September of this year.
“I just don’t get it that you hold so long and then it comes out right now, but that’s just the way that life is,” Payton said. “We just gotta hope he didn’t do it, hope that it comes out the best, because I don’t wish anything like that on a person. It’s not good. Especially for a young star that’s coming up and had a bright, bright future —
“—and a $150 million contract with it,” Sapp added.
T.J. Ford Joins the Show
After Payton and Sapp broke down the LA Lakers’ injury troubles, which have stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis both on the mend, the crew welcomed former Texas and NBA guard T.J. Ford to the program and waste no time asking the question on everyone’s mind: What the heck was up with Texas in that tourney loss to Abilene Christian?
“When you look at that game, they were outplayed from the beginning as far as energy, as far as tempo, as far as passion, as far as aggressiveness,” said Ford, who led the ‘Horns to a No. 1 seed and the Final Four as a sophomore in 2003. “It’s kind of shocking to all of us because Texas was playing so well throughout the season under all those protocols and things they had to deal with during the season. But it didn’t carry [over] from winning the Big 12 tournament.”
As for his opinion on whether Texas should fire head coach Shaka Smart — Ford, whose number Texas retired in 2004, played things close to the vest.
“I’m not a person who likes to talk about someone getting fired,” he said. “That could affect someone’s family. I’m disappointed, and I’ve got a lot of ties to the program, to the kids at the program, so I try to be respectful that they are putting the work in and trying to get it done. They’re just not executing.
“With that being said, we can’t make any excuses … Where do we go from here? I don’t know.”
Social Media in the NBA
Ford also discussed his retirement at age 28. The retirement followed several injury scares related to a spinal stenosis condition doctors discovered during his high school days. He also recalled a memorable Gary Payton smack-talk experience from their first NBA showdown. Then the discussion turned to the impact of social media with Sapp.
“For me, all I can do with the kids we are mentoring is [tell them] to have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself,” Ford said, referring to his T.J. Ford Basketball Academy participants. “We find a lot of kids don’t have that self-confidence, and they may be looking for it through other people or other sources.”
“They build a brand and these people follow, like, comment, and it’s all good,” Sapp chimed in. “But when it turns the other way, that’s the part I don’t think these kids are ready to accept. It’s going to come at you with just as many emojis … and I don’t think they’re ready for this.”
Sapp closed with an emotional 99 Seconds on the topic of mass shootings. This is in the wake of another string of deadly events throughout the country this week.
“In the last seven days we’ve had seven mass shootings, and that is something that has to damn stop,” Sapp said. “We’ve got to do some gun legislation, take away the guns, get some background checks — whatever the hell we have to do — put some people at the front door that’s guarding some people.
“Because there’s no way in hell my mom, my sister, my auntie [should] go to the damn grocery store, and all of a sudden there’s a guy shooting a damn shotgun. That is not how we’re going to live in this country, that’s not how we want to live in this country, so we’ve got to do something about this.”
For that and more, check out the full episode below: