Women’s volleyball — Michelle Mankoff, beat writer After it was discovered in March that longtime head coach Jovan Vavic was involved in the college admissions scandal, former assistant coaches Marko Pintaric and Casey Moon have stepped up to lead a talented roster to its 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. USC was swept in the final match of the regular season, dropping to a 17-13 overall record. The Trojans were never able to string together a significant series of wins, with their longest win streak spanning just three matches. The team lost seven five-set matches during the year and won just four. The only top-tier team USC beat this season was Washington, whom they defeated twice. Ultimately, many of USC’s victories came against weaker opponents. All that said, USC has a chance to improve its mark with a deep tournament run, but the road will be tough. Still, USC lost to a poor BYU team, almost blew a 27-point lead against Arizona State and its backup quarterback, nearly lost to Colorado and got demolished by 32 points against Oregon at home. After going 14-5 against regular season and playoff opponents, USC men’s water polo’s stellar 2019 campaign is nearly complete. The players and coaches had to overcome a great deal of adversity this year but now find themselves ranked No. 2 in the nation with an opportunity to win their second consecutive NCAA Championship this weekend. With just three wins standing between them and the 2019 National Collegiate Men’s Water Polo Championship, the Trojans still have a chance to turn that A- into an A+. This season hasn’t exactly been the pinnacle of USC football, but it hasn’t been quite the trainwreck many think. USC picked up a few solid wins this year, knocking off now-No. 6 Utah and dominating then-ranked Stanford by 25. It competed with then-No. 9 Notre Dame until the fourth quarter and only lost by 3 on the road, and it picked up convincing wins against Cal, Arizona and UCLA. Grade: C Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was a standout during the regular season for USC, finishing sixth in the nation in completion percentage. (Ling Luo / Daily Trojan) A season in which USC, given all its talent, doesn’t at least win the Pac-12 South cannot earn a particularly high mark. This season has been littered with inconsistency, and USC never really seemed to find its groove against good competition. The Trojans’ 8-4 record isn’t anything worthy of excitement — it’s above average but, for this program, underwhelming. The No. 9 USC women’s soccer team’s season came to a close with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to No. 2-ranked UNC in the NCAA quarterfinals this past Friday. The Trojans ended the season at a solid 17-5-1 and made it further into the postseason then they had the past two years. For the third season in a row, head coach Keidane McAlpine put forth an elite unit, but the team could not pull off enough big wins to separate itself from the rest of the pack. Because of this, the team gets an A- instead of an A. Grade: A- Football — Nathan Ackerman, sports editor Grade: A- Underrecruited freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis emerged as one of the nation’s best signal-callers, senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is a Biletnikoff Award finalist, the team overcame injuries to several running backs and the defense took considerable strides forward despite subpar coaching. Grade: B- Men’s water polo — Joe Skinner, assistant sports editor The team suffered just four defeats over the course of the regular season. These losses came against highly skilled competition in UC Santa Barbara, Pacific and Pepperdine — each of these programs rank in the top six nationally. The Trojans’ lone postseason defeat thus far came in the opening round of the MPSF tournament against Cal in Berkeley, though USC defeated the Golden Bears up north the weekend prior. The huge losses to Cal, Washington and UCLA during Pac-12 play demonstrated that USC was not quite at the same level as teams like Stanford and Virginia. Although USC could have played better in the Pac-12, McAlpine still did an impressive job leading USC to its third Elite Eight. Next year, the Trojans will return players such as sophomore forward Penelope Hocking, junior forward Tara McKeown and redshirt junior goalie Kaylie Collins in an attempt to improve upon this season’s effort. Whenever a program puts itself in a position to win a national title, it deserves an A grade of one kind or another. This season’s water polo team earns an A- because USC had its share of ups and downs. That said, the downs were few and far between. The women’s volleyball team never quite reached its potential all year. Injuries plagued a group that started as the No. 14 squad in the nation. Early in the season, All-American senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier was out for a couple of weeks with a concussion. Junior outside hitter Brooke Botkin suffered an Achilles injury in November, which put extra pressure on Lanier to produce. Despite her early injury, Lanier was a rare bright spot this season for the Trojans. She tallied 40 kills against Utah, the second-highest mark ever by a USC player. Lanier rose to second in the all-time kill category for USC behind only former Trojan great Sam Bricio. Women’s soccer — Harrison Cho, assistant sports editor
TRADE RUMORS: Timberwolves shopping Jeff Teague, Robert CovingtonIf Presti is interested, there’s a path to a workable trade. If not, this is probably a non-starter.The Wolves fall into the same “long shot” group as the Rockets, but talking is free. We’ve already learned to expect the unexpected this offseason. MORE: Kawhi Leonard free agency winners and losersWestbrook has reportedly covered the possibility of a trade with Thunder general manager Sam Presti.This is based upon relationships on all sides — Russell Westbrook, agent Thad Foucher and GM Sam Presti — and collaborating together and examining alternative solutions. Trade timing is challenging this late in the summer due to salaries frozen across NBA from free-agent deals. https://t.co/L0ABYFwAfH— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 8, 2019The triple-double machine simply doesn’t match up with the Thunder’s timeline, especially not with new point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the roster. As hard as it may be to trade a franchise icon, launching a rebuild is the right decision.But which teams could pursue Westbrook? Finding the right fit isn’t easy. Russell Westbrook to the Heat?Taking your talents to South Beach isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Heat have “expressed interest” in acquiring Westbrook, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and Westbrook seems open to the idea of flying down to Florida.Adding Westbrook would give the Heat another star next to Jimmy Butler, who was part of a four-way sign-and-trade when free agency began. It’s not a perfect duo because both players want to control the offense, but at least Butler wouldn’t have a problem with Westbrook’s work ethic.The problem for any team chasing Westbrook? His gigantic contract.Russell Westbrook contractAgeSalary2019-2030$38.5 million2020-2131$41.3 million2021-2232$44.2 million2022-23 (player option)33$47.0 millionMORE: Thunder reportedly tried to trade Westbrook to RaptorsFortunately for the Heat, they have young assets (Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro) and big money on the books (Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk) that will help in trade discussions. Unfortunately, they don’t possess a ton of draft capital. The Thunder already own two future Heat picks via the George trade. Plus, Miami is hard capped, meaning this could be a three-teamer.Still, this could be the right trade for all parties involved. Westbrook goes to a preferred destination. The Thunder unload his contract for a prospect, expiring contract and/or a pick. The Heat roll out the Butler-Westbrook combo and become much more threatening in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.Russell Westbrook to the Knicks?Oh, this is so Knicks.After striking out with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, New York is stuck without a marquee player to promote to its fans. (Please don’t punch me, Bobby Portis.) Westbrook would fill that void immediately and pile up numbers at Madison Square Garden. Westbrook posting 30-13-11 on a nightly basis sounds fun, and fun has been in short supply under Knicks owner James Dolan.SUMMER LEAGUE 2019:Should Knicks be worried about RJ Barrett?However, there are complicating factors. The Knicks only have $4 million in cap space and can’t trade their pile of new contracts until Dec. 15, per CBA rules. Westbrook could easily be on a new team by then.This kind of move would also go completely against New York’s strategy of maintaining flexibility until it can eventually become a true contender. If Westbrook is the No. 2 guy next to someone else, fine, but Durant and George have both left Westbrook for greener pastures. Just let the youngsters improve and gain experience through the losses.A Westbrook deal is tempting and extremely Knicks-y for a franchise in desperate need of star power. That doesn’t mean the Knicks should do it.Russell Westbrook to the Pistons?Detroit has Blake Griffin on a hefty contract for the next three seasons (assuming he takes his $38.9 million option for 2021-22). Why stack Westbrook on top of that?Well, to steal a Westbrook line, why not? Could a Pistons team with Griffin and Westbrook make a postseason push through an open East? What’s so wrong with actually competing?MORE: George pens emotional farewell to ThunderReggie Jackson would presumably be part of this trade for salary purposes ($18 million expiring contract) and because pairing him with Westbrook is… yikes. Andre Drummond is another candidate, and so is Tony Snell. Luke Kennard and draft compensation could be attached as sweeteners.The Pistons are one of the “very real possibilities” for Westbrook, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Brett Dawson, and they owe it to themselves to engage with the Thunder. In a league full of big names, Westbrook could help Detroit stand out.That’s far from a championship lock, but it’s worth something for what has been a supremely blah franchise in recent years.Russell Westbrook to the Rockets?Landing Westbrook is a “long shot” for Houston, one Rockets source told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, and it’s not hard to see why. Matching salaries is a real challenge right off the bat.Clint Capela and Eric Gordon are the likely pieces here, as they would have been on their way out the door had the Rockets figured out a sign-and-trade for Butler. Even then, Houston would need an additional contract and a draft pick, otherwise it’s barely a blip on Presti’s radar.Once you account for all of the financial issues, there’s the on-court fit. Westbrook, James Harden and Chris Paul all want to run the offense. None of those guards seems particularly enthralled with working off the ball. Westbrook might not slide in so nicely.Per @bball_ref,Russell Westbrook is the only player in NBA history to post a usage rate north of 38% and an eFG% south of 48% in the same season.And Westbrook has done it twice. https://t.co/g3ENQXMPyr— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) July 8, 2019FREE AGENCY RUMORS: Rockets targeting Tyson ChandlerAnd that’s without mentioning the other end. The Rockets’ defense would essentially be an escalator toward the rim with no Capela to alter and block shots.Paul apparently supports this hypothetical trio, though. Instagram likes are 100 percent accurate. Put this trade on the board! 👀 the likes pic.twitter.com/F3vEk0WWbD— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) July 8, 2019Russell Westbrook to the Timberwolves?The Timberwolves wanted D’Angelo Russell, but the Warriors snatched him from their grasp and left Minnesota hanging without a wingman for Karl-Anthony Towns. How about Westbrook as the backup plan?This deal has to begin with Andrew Wiggins, who is under contract through 2022-23. The Wolves could place Wiggins on the table immediately, then gauge whether Presti finds the 24-year-old forward intriguing enough to continue the conversation. Russell Westbrook lost his Thunder buddy over the weekend, and now he may be on his way out of Oklahoma City.Following the stunning trade that gave Paul George his wish to join the Clippers — and guaranteed Kawhi Leonard would sign with Los Angeles in free agency — the Thunder sent Jerami Grant to the Nuggets on Monday, an important move with OKC focused on avoiding the dreaded repeater tax. These transactions could be the setup to a Westbrook deal in the near future.