Inside Brandin Podziemski’s rapid rise, plus surprising Pulse Poll results

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Good morning! Talk some trash today. It might work out.

Hi, My Name Is: The rookie who supplanted Klay Thompson

For most athletes, there is a thin line between confidence and delusion. For Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski, the line doesn’t exist, the two extremes seemingly cooked in the same pot, producing a form of self-belief that shocks even legends. 

Anthony Slater has a great piece this morning on the fiery Podziemski, who went from unheralded to starting alongside Steph Curry and Draymond Green in just six months. A few nuggets I loved: 

  • Warriors brass noticed Podziemski earlier than most, but only because they traveled to Santa Clara to see someone else play. They left convinced Podziemski would be a first-round draft pick. They were glad to take him at No. 19.
  • Despite a lackluster Summer League showing, Podziemski came in talking trash anyway. To Curry, Green and even Chris Paul. Take it from Green: “He talk s— all day. That’s all he do.”
  • And yet, as Anthony writes, Podziemski “has won over every level of the organization, most crucially his veteran teammates.”
  • There is no delusion about his talent or skill, at least not anymore. Podziemski took Klay Thompson’s place in the starting lineup last week. He projects to continue there until further notice. 

His game: He fashions himself a mix of Green and Gary Payton II, a bold defender who makes few mistakes on the offensive end. Warriors coach Steve Kerr compared him to Lakers guard Austin Reaves.

Make sure to read Anthony’s story for plenty more context, including some wild bits about how the guy nicknamed “Air Podz” and his locker-room antics. Also, it’s not a coincidence the Warriors are 8-2 in their last 10 games and rising up our Power Rankings for the last month.

News to Know

Former Nebraska player alleges grooming
Ashley Scoggin, who played basketball at Nebraska from 2020 to 2022, filed a lawsuit Sunday accusing former associate head coach Chuck Love of using his position and influence to groom her into a sexual relationship. According to Scoggin, Love created the perception that he could make or break her future with the team. More details here.

Byron wins thrilling Daytona
Two multi-car crashes — including “The Big One” — and a late caution flag escape ended with William Byron winning the Daytona 500 last night, 24 hours after the race was delayed due to weather. More than 20 cars were damaged across both accidents, which ended the nights of big names like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. For Byron, it’s a moment that cements him as a rising NASCAR star.

Let’s check in on the Angels
There is no team that captures my morbid fascination more than the Los Angeles Angels. They let Shohei Ohtani walk away for nothing this offseason, and at the start of spring training, their two biggest remaining stars — Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon — are talking about potential future trade requests and retirement, respectively. Trout’s tone, as Sam Blum noted, was especially indicative of the pressure on this club. PECOTA envisions this team hovering around 74 wins. I’ll take the under.

A surprise NBA firing
The Brooklyn Nets fired head coach Jacques Vaughn yesterday, just 54 games into the season and a year after he signed an extension. At 21-33, Vaughn has not been stellar, but zoom out and he looks like a casualty of a particularly dramatic period for this franchise. Vaughn took over as interim coach in November 2022 — his second stint as Nets’ interim — and then endured the trades of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant after becoming the permanent head coach. Woof.

More news

Feedback Loop: Yowza

ASG poll

Turns out essentially none of you enjoy the NBA All-Star Game in its current form. I expected a heavy win here, but not 95-5. That’s a Pulse Poll record. 

Two thoughts on how to maybe make the whole thing better: 

  • The first comes from John Hollinger, who suggests copying the Rising Stars format: expanding each conference’s All-Star roster to 14 players each, splitting those rosters into four teams of seven players each, and then having each play a round-robin series of games with target scores instead of time limits. As John says, there’s more to figure out here, but I like the seed of the idea. This year’s Rising Stars game was fun.
  • The second is a thought I couldn’t get out of my brain: Remember when the NBA, just two months ago, made us care about the In-Season Tournament? A thing it invented and started this year? The easy thought is to just give the All-Star Game a big cash prize. Maybe that’s ham-fisted, but hey, I cared about December’s NBA games. The template is worth exploring. 

Thanks, as always, for voting.

Watch This Game

Soccer: Inter Milan vs. Atlético Madrid
3 p.m. ET on Paramount+
We have two Champions League matches today, and I’m selecting this one. Inter is back on top of Serie A right now and remains a top CL contender after finishing second last year. These matches always feel so important. Tune in if you can.

NCAAM: No. 1 UConn at No. 15 Creighton
8:30 p.m. ET on FS1
Easily our matchup of the night, but we’ll see if the Huskies look like bulldozers against stiff competition again. A win here should all but sew up the Big East regular season title.

Pulse Picks

NFL salary cap cuts are coming. Some big names could be among them. See our picks here

Sam Vecenie has a brand new 2024 NBA mock draft out, with a new name at No. 1. We’ll have more on this tomorrow.

I thought Brendan Marks’
feature on the Bronny James situation at USC was particularly intriguing. I wonder if LeBron backs off his public wish to play with Bronny soon. 

MLB’s “Boras Four” are still free agents, and, as Ken Rosenthal writes, the staredown is getting frostier. Who blinks first?

Evan Drellich has nine possible candidates to succeed Rob Manfred as MLB commissioner in 2029. Yes, it’s far off, but it sounds like these next five years are going to be a “battle royale” to win the job. 

Corey Pronman picks seven young players who could be moved before the NHL’s March 8 trade deadline.

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(Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

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