Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Thunder's AFL future up in the air

Share

Plus: the latest on OSU football, the sporting Plumlee family, CJ McCollum on the air, and more ... KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS


TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jared Perry of the Portland Thunder makes a touchdown catch in a 2015 Arena Football League game at Moda Center.Notes, quotes and observations about our sporting world …

• The Portland Thunder may be going under.

The two-year run of the city's most recent Arena Football League franchise could be over because of financial difficulties -- perhaps with the league more than the team.

"We have not re-signed our commitment for 2016 yet," Thunder owner Terry Emmert says.

Four of the 12 clubs that ended the 2015 AFL regular season have folded. Las Vegas and New Orleans ceased operations immediately after the regular season; Spokane severed ties with the league in October, and San Jose called it quits in November.

The Thunder finished 5-13 in 2015 but advanced to the playoffs when Las Vegas (5-12-1)-- ceased operations. The league board moved Portland into the postseason; San Jose beat the Thunder 55-28 in the first round en route to the title.

The AFL -- which has run continuously except for one year since its inaugural 1987 season -- recently announced a 16-game regular-season schedule with its remaining eight teams. Portland is scheduled to begin its third conescutive season on April 1 at Moda Center against Arizona and to conclude on Aug. 1 at home against the Los Angeles Kiss.

"Chances are good we'll be back next season," says Emmert, who hired Andy Olson as the team's head coach in September.

But Emmert is concerned about the league's medical insurance policies with the players and also is hoping to attract investors to help carry out the Thunder operation.

Emmert expects to make a decision about the future of the club in the next week.

The Thunder are Portland's second AFL franchise. The Forest Dragons played in the indoor league from 1997-99.

Love the Nissan Heisman House advertising campaign featuring Marcus Mariota lecturing the likes of Johnny Manziel, Herschel Walker, Roger Staubach, Steve Spurrier and Tony Dorsett, among others. It's good for a chuckle every time one airs. Classic.

Oregon State is going through the process of hiring two assistant football coaches, which is taking longer than initially expected. The school now hopes to have replacements for defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and linebackers/special teams coach Ilaisa Tuiaki by the middle of next week.

Footballscoop.com is reporting head coach Gary Andersen plans to hire Utah State D-coordinator Kevin Clune and Weber State secondary coach Cory Hall. OSU sources would not confirm that.

Clune, the D-coordinator at Utah State, coached linebackers at the school during Andersen's tenure there as head coach from 2009-12. Clune was also D-coordinator at Southern Utah during Anderson's one season there as head coach (2003) and was a grad assistant at Utah in 2001 and '02 when Andersen was the Utes' assistant head coach.

Hall played his college ball at Fresno State and spent six seasons in the NFL as a defensive back. He was a grad assistant under Andersen at Wisconsin and spent three months in the same role at Oregon State last winter before accepting the job at Weber State.

"We had one of our coaches leave, and Gary said, "You'd be an idiot not to hire this guy,'" Utah State coach Jay Hill told me in August. "He was absolutely right. Cory is a superstar in the making in the profession."

Genes can be a big deal in basketball, and there are few better examples than the Plumlees.

Trail Blazer center Mason Plumlee, 25, is the pre-eminent name in the family tree, but there is plenty of company.

Older brother Miles, 27, a fourth-year pro, is a reserve center for the Milwaukee Bucks. Miles and Mason played together for three seasons at Duke. Younger brother Marshall, 23, is a senior and the starting center for Duke, which is 11-2 and ranked 15th nationally. The youngest sibling, Maddie, is a sophomore outside hitter for the Notre Dame volleyball team.

It doesn't stop there. Parents Perky and Leslie both played Division I basketball -- Perky at Tennessee Tech, Leslie at Purdue. Mason's grandfather and a pair of uncles also played college ball.

Size runs in the family. Mason and Miles are listed at 6-11, Marshall at 7 feet, Maddie at 6 feet.

The boys were competitive with each other as youths.

"We had a lot of fun growing up," Mason says. "We played a lot together, and we're friends now. That's the sign of a good childhood. We've remained friends, and we're all there for each other."

In his first season as a starter, Marshall is averaging 6.2 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting .619 from the field.

"He's good," Mason says of his younger brother. "He plays very hard. He plays within himself, but he gives you everything he has. He's a great teammate. He's their leader."

Will Marshall follow his brothers to the NBA?

"He's 7 feet," Mason says. "He's athletic. There aren't too many people who can move like he can at that size, so he'll get a chance."

Blazers guard CJ McCollum is co-hosting a taped radio show called "Playlist" on JAM'N 107.5 (FM) that airs from 10 p.m. to midnight every Friday.

McCollum and local DJ Terrence Scott (Cool Nutz) work together on the weekly program.

"The station is a staple in Portland, and I like to listen to hip-hop and R&B," McCollum says. "I pick the music and talk with Cool Nutz.

"We go over various topics, such as the reasons why I like living in Portland. We talk about basketball, hobbies, road trips -- whatever comes to our mind. They give me a lot of freedom with the subject matter, and we play songs in between."

McCollum, 23, is no newcomer to the journalism/broadcasting business. He served as sports editor of the school newspaper at Lehigh, wrote a rookie diary for NBA.com, had a radio show on SiriusXM's NBA channel during his second pro season and is still partnered with the satellite station.

Former Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham has found a role as a reserve guard with the Cleveland Cavaliers -- ironically, the team that took him with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft.

The Cavaliers then sent Cunningham to Dallas in a draft-day trade, and he has bounced from the Mavericks to Atlanta to Sacramento and back to Cleveland in his four NBA seasons.

The 6-4 combo guard signed a conditional free-agent contract before training camp in September, made the club and earned plenty of playing time while starting Kyrie Irving was on the mend after knee surgery. Cunningham isn't playing as much now, but is averaging 3.7 points and 12.8 minutes in his 24 appearances with a club that could find itself in the NBA finals in June.

"It's been cool," says Cunningham, 24. "I've been in situations I haven't been in basketball. I finally found a place where I can succeed. I got a couple of starts and a chance to show what I can do. It's been good."

Cunningham says LeBron James has taken him under his wing.

"He's a great person to talk to about the game," Cunningham says. "He knows so much. He looks out for me and treats me like a little brother."

During the offseason, Cunningham and former OSU teammate Eric Moreland visited Corvallis to meet current Beaver coach Wayne Tinkle.

"We went there to introduce ourselves to him and meet the staff," Cunningham says. "When Coach Tinkle was at Montana, he coached one of my friends, who told me a lot of stories about how good a coach he is. I was excited for him to get the job and help turn the program around. It's a good thing for our school."

Moreland, incidentally, is still with the Sacramento Kings. But the 6-10 forward underwent foot surgery on Dec. 21 and is expected to be out of action for at least two months.

Moreland's former Sacramento teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, is not only a remarkable talent but also challenging for captain of the NBA's All-Knucklehead team.

Slam Magazine recently ran an expletive-laced question-and-answer article with the volatile All-Star center. Wrote Tzvi Twersky: "Over the course of a three-hour interview, he dropped 26 bombs."

Asked if he is the best big man in the NBA, Cousins replied, "It's not even close between me and the next person. I would say the next big is (Anthony Dais), but it's not close in my mind. Not close."

No false modesty there.

Cousins did make one assertion I mostly agree with. Asked how he changes his reputation, he offered: "I've sat and thought about it. I've analyzed it, and … win and they'll accept your for whoever you are. You could be a f-ing crackhead and they'll love you. If you win, they sweep everything under the rug."

Sadly, there's a lot of truth in that.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @kerryeggers