- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Once again, it’s time to check off some items on my “TIDU List” — Things I Don’t Understand:

• How another conference duo can top John Wall and Bradley Beal.

The Washington Wizards opened training camp with arguably the NBA’s best backcourt — at least in the Eastern Conference. Between Wall’s progress during last season and Beal’s strides during the playoffs, they’re the best reasons for optimism at Verizon Center. “It starts with us two,” Beal said. Objective observers would nominate Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” as the best.

But in Washington, it’s the “House of Guards.”

• Why Patriots fans are so paranoid.

New England is off to a torrid 3-0 start, with thoughts of an undefeated season starting to percolate. But the Patriots won’t win this week; they drew the dreaded early bye. It’s the result of computer algorithms and late byes the last three years, but their faithful smell a conspiracy. The Tennessee Titans are off, too, but their supporters aren’t crying foul play.

Only the most obnoxious fans could have Tom Brady and still complain.

• How jerseys can be removed, but not No. 58.

Based on photographs early Monday afternoon at the Nationals Park store, closer Jonathan Papelbon was a popular member of the team. His No. 58 jersey was prominently displayed, right next to Bryce Harper’s No. 34. A couple of hours later — less than a day after Papelbon choked Harper — an employee took down the assailant’s jerseys and put them in a back room.

Reading between the hangers, No. 58 will be on another team next season.

• Why Leonard Fournette should keep playing.

The LSU tailback is 6-foot-1, weighs 230 pounds and averages 210 rushing yards per game. He would be a top pick next year, but other numbers — his age (20) and his years removed from high school (two) — make him ineligible to be drafted until 2017. Until then, he’s supposed to subject his body to abuse and risk of injury for no financial gain.

He’s ready for the pros now, and should rest until they’re ready for him.

• Why Jay Gruden said “it’s Kirk’s team.”

Washington has three quarterbacks and no certainty about any of them. Naming Robert Griffin III the unquestioned starter entering training camp was wrong. Suggesting that Kirk Cousins would keep the job all season was wishful thinking. Another half-dozen or so picks could send Cousins back to the bench, opening the door for Robert Griffin III or Colt McCoy to take snaps.

It’s barely Cousins’ job, let alone his team.

• How SMU’s success and trouble are surprising.

SMU wanted to become relevant in hoops and accomplished its mission by hiring Larry Brown. The Mustangs won 27 games and reached the NIT in his second season. Last year, they won 27 games and reached the NCAA tournament. They’ll sit out the upcoming postseason because infractions under Brown have led to a ban, like Kansas and UCLA previously under Brown.

The Hall of Fame coach is consistent in more ways than one.

• Why the Wizards were so slow to adapt.

“Pace” and “space” are buzz words at training camp but they were close to curse words last season. The Wizards never saw a mid-range jumper they didn’t like. Coach Randy Wittman was a holdout as small ball and stretch fours became the rage, but he gave in during the playoffs and promises to embrace the trend from the start this season.

Better to be slow on the uptake than to keep slowing down the ball.

• How Kobe can be more like LeBron

At 37 years old, coming off injuries that limited him to 41 games the last two seasons, Bryant’s future is uncertain. The Los Angeles Lakers don’t want to offer him another contract and he’s unsure if he’ll play past this season. But, the days of “Black Mamba” as black hole need to give way to a kinder, gentler Bryant who shares and gets everyone involved.

LeBron James offers a blueprint, but Bryant is molded like Mike.

• Why NFL officials are so liberal with the penalties.

More football between flags, please. According to ESPN and Elias Sports Bureau, the 730 accepted penalties through three weeks are the highest total in NFL history. The slew has added nearly four minutes per game for a stop-and-go flow that makes rush-hour traffic seem to fly. Just because you can call holding on every play doesn’t mean you should.

If this is the price for more offense and scoring, we need a sale.

• How Maryland football can match its fashion.

Nike took Oregon’s football uniforms to another level and the Ducks soared. Under Armour wants to do likewise with Maryland, but the Terrapins remain stuck in their shells. The team will unveil new “Black Ops” helmets Saturday against Michigan. Unfortunately, according to The Baltimore Sun, the Terrapins are 0-3 in the black ops look and have been outscored 107-55.

They look the part, but success takes more than sartorial splendor.

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