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Not wrapping my head around Luck, Seahawks, Barkley, Blazers, NBA talk, Erickson and Beaver basketball

Thoughts rattling around the noggin as the holidays approach ...

• Loved what Joe Theismann told me on KPAM's 'Northwest Sports Tonight' about Indianapolis - should it get the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft - selecting Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Some have suggested Luck is too good to sit for even a season or two. Peyton Manning's father, Archie, has proposed those in the Colts' organization might feel that way, too. Poppycock, Theismann says. He believes the more difficult decision is whether the Colts keep the 35-year-old Manning. They must pay the veteran QB - who underwent neck surgery in September - $28 million in March, or trade or waive him and pay him nothing.

'The big question is, am I going to write that kind of check, not knowing whether Peyton is going to be able to play next season?' asks Theismann, the former quarterback great who now works for the NFL Network.

Theismann sees nothing wrong with Luck serving as understudy for a short time under Manning.

'I don't think you trade the pick,' Theismann says. The Colts 'need a quarterback. It is painfully obvious they need someone to come in and play. If I had the pick, I would use it on Andrew Luck. It's a perfect scenario for Luck to play behind Peyton and learn a lot of the nuances of this game from one of the greatest who has ever played.

'And remember, that (Colts) offense IS Peyton. He calls it at the line; he calls it inside and out. He would be a wonderful mentor. And realize, he only has a year or two left. Wherever he goes, Andrew is going to be the quarterback for 10 years, or maybe more like Peyton. If he has to sit a year, so what?'

• Theismann calls Seattle's 5-1 run after a 2-6 start 'magical.'

'If not for what's going in Denver (with Tim Tebow), (Seahawks coach) Pete Carroll might be the guy we're all talking about,' Theismann says. 'I really like the way his defense has played. His secondary is as athletic and good as anybody's.

'Marshawn Lynch is a sound back, (quarterback) Tarvaris Jackson has shown some improvement each week and (receiver) Doug Baldwin - what can you say about a kid nobody wanted? He's doing the things you love to see a young man do - seizing an opportunity and making the most of it.'

• Matt Barkley's decision to return to Southern Cal is puzzling to me, as was Luck's decision to play his senior season at Stanford this fall.

The romantic side of me loves Barkley's move. The pragmatic side - passing on a couple million dollars in salary - makes me shake my head.

Barkley's decision is a good one for Oregon State and a bad one for Oregon.

The Beavers won't play USC next season. The Ducks will - twice, if they both advance to the Pac-12 championship game.

• Like me, Brent Barry sounds as if he'll believe Nate McMillan's vow to run with the Trail Blazers when he sees it once regular-season play ensues.

'It's interesting to watch Nate coach those guys in Portland,' says the former Oregon Stater, now with the NBA Network. 'For a few years, we've been talking about how they're so well-coached and well-disciplined, but they've had some guys you might want to let loose a little bit. Now they get Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford, who like to play up-tempo. We'll see if there's a chance for those guys to do it.

'With the retirement of Brandon Roy, they have a major hole to fill. Jamal and Wesley Matthews have to step up. We'll see if they can right the ship. We'll find out if there is enough talent on that team to beat the top dogs.'

• Barry, on winning the slam-dunk contest during NBA All-Star weekend as a rookie with the Los Angeles Clippers in 1996: 'I cut the trophy in half. Now I use it for a salsa bowl.'

• Dwight Howard's request to be traded by Orlando has been tabled until the end of the season, thanks in no small part to Alex Martins.

Martins is the team president and CEO who was brought in as a calming influence when Howard's trade demand to general manager Otis Smith created a firestorm.

Howard, who has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season, wants the Magic to surround him with better talent. Martins points out that the Magic have won more games than any NBA team other than the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics over the past four years, 'and we've won more playoff games than either of those teams.'

'We've been building toward a championship franchise,' Martins tells me. 'We continue to work toward putting pieces around Dwight that we hope will get us to a championship.

'Orlando is Dwight's home. It's where he grew up. He has helped us build this franchise around him. We're going to stick with him. We're optimistic he'll stay with us. We'll take the year to evaluate the situation and work with him and hopefully we can convince him this is the right place for him to continue his career.'

• Martins was the media relations director in the 1990s when Orlando lost Shaquille O'Neal to the Lakers.

'We've learned from our history,' Martins says. 'We're not going to let that happen again. Dwight's a great kid, a hard worker, a leader for sure. He wants to win, first and foremost. That's a great thing. We want to do the same thing. He has an incredible desire to be one of the best in the history of the game. We want that for him, also.

'He wants to win multiple championships, and so do we. But it's a very difficult thing. We're close to getting over the hump, but we haven't gotten there yet.'

But Martins knows if Howard is insistent on leaving, there's nothing he can do. This could be the big man's final season with the Magic.

'In the end, we have to do what's best for our franchise,' Martins says. 'Next summer, we'll know whether we're going to re-sign Dwight, or make a different move in the best interest of the franchise.'

• Martell Webster is hoping he'll be able to return to action in January after undergoing September back surgery - his second such surgery on the same area of the spine in 13 months.

Webster was traded from Portland to Minnesota before last season. The Timberwolves have filed a grievance with the league, charging that the Blazers did not fully disclose the player's medical records. It will be interesting to see what comes of it.

• Jeff Van Gundy isn't worried about biting the hand that feeds him when the analyst calls the post-lockout rush by the NBA to schedule five games on Christmas Day 'a money-grab. Player health was not taken into account.'

Yeah. But my guess is, the Players Association had as much to do with the early start as league officials. The players wanted to lose as little salary as possible.

Can't believe Van Gundy and Mike Breen will double-dip on Christmas Day. They'll call the NBA finals rematch between Miami and Dallas in the morning, then take a charter flight from Dallas to Oakland for the Warriors' opener against the Clippers that evening.

Gosh, is ESPN that short on broadcasters?

• Haven't had the chance yet to ask Blazer forward Craig Smith why he wears No. 83, but I have a good idea.

If the 6-7, 255-pound Smith were ever to move over to the NFL as a tight end, he wouldn't have to change numbers.

• It was embarrassing for Dennis Erickson to go out as he did in Arizona State's 65-24 spanking by Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Sun Devils, trailing 28-10 midway through the third quarter, had the ball fourth-and-goal on the Boise State 1-yard line. Erickson, evidently spotting something in the Bronco defensive alignment, frantically tried to call timeout, to no avail. Brock Osweiler's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor, who took it 104 yards for a TD.

It was that kind of night for Erickson. And that kind of season.

It might be the end of a brilliant coaching career for Erickson, 64.

• Can't agree with Craig Robinson's assessment that his Oregon State basketball team, 10-2 going into its Pac-12 opener at Washington next Thursday - has played 'beyond expectations' so far this season.

The Beavers have exactly met my expectations. I wrote after their second game - an 82-72 win over Hofstra - that they should be 10-2 heading into conference play.

They surprised me with the win over Texas, balanced by the loss to Idaho.

Now the Beavers need to go 10-8 in league regular-season action - very doable. A win or two in the conference tournament might mean their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1990.

• One thing that would help Oregon State would be a sweep of its two games with a seemingly mediocre Oregon team.

Robinson is 3-3 against Oregon in his three years at OSU, much better than his predecessors. Jay John and interim successor Kevin Mouton were 3-9 against the Ducks. Ritchie McKay was 0-4 and Eddie Payne 1-10.

Over a 20-game stretch from 1994-2003, Oregon ruled the rivalry 19-1. A little different than during the Ralph Miller/early Jimmy Anderson era. From 1976-93, Oregon State dominated the series 35-8.

• A final note on a phrase that has eclipsed 'It is what it is' on my pet-peeve list:

How can you get your 'head wrapped around' something?

Hands? Sure. Legs? You bet. But explain to me, anybody, how you wrap a skull around anything, unless you're Gumby.