Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry; Jason Collins;/Mike Montgomery; Gaylord Perry; Trent Baalke/Reggie McKenzie;
THE WARRIORS playoff battle with the Denver Nuggets last night turned into something that resembled a rugby scrum but that was no surprise. These are very big athletes and, when something as important as this is at stake, they can get nasty. And, forget having the officials tone it down. With spectators so close to the action, referees are always conscious of them. It’s not quite as bad as soccer stadiums in South America, which have moats surrounding the field to discourage fans from attacking officials, but there’s a reason NBA teams have a much higher winning percentage at home than do NFL or baseball teams.
Now, it’s important for the Warriors to use this to their advantage tomorrow night. The Nuggets seemed to have the advantage going in to this round because they had four of the seven games at home, but the Warriors took away that advantage by upsetting the Nuggets in the second game at Denver. Now, they have to win this game at home or face almost certain elimination in the seventh game.
It’s not that they don’t have weapons of their own. Andrew Bogut is a brute in the middle, throwing elbows and body blocks when the officials aren’t looking, using his big body to stop others from driving the lane. I started watching pro basketball when there were many centers like Bogut as far as plugging up the middle. The Warriors had Wilt Chamberlain when I first came to San Francisco, then Nate Thurmond. Wilt was a tremendous scoring force, the best in league history, but he also shut down the middle. Thurmond was the same, though not the overwhelming scorer that Wilt was. Nate usually was the second alternative with Rick Barry around but NBA teams today would kill to have an all-round player of Nate’s ability.
The game changed when the three-point shot came in, and the Warriors have the best long-range shooter in the game today in Stephen Curry, who set a league record for most three-point plays in a season. The game tomorrow night will come down to whether the Nuggets can stop Curry, probably trying to knock him out of the game with illegal contact, or whether the Warriors star can elude the pressure and rain down the three-pointers.
If that doesn’t sound much like basketball to you….well, welcome to the NBA.
JASON COLLINS became the first pro athlete to come out as gay with an article in Sports Illustrated. Good thing he’s not a teammate of Chris Culliver.
I knew the Collins twins well when they were at Stanford, and I was on a “Chronicle Live” show recently with Jarron, who is now a commentator on college basketball. They were and are exceptional young men who, even in high school, were involved in philanthropic ventures. They were excellent students and, of course, outstanding players who helped Mike Montgomery to bolster his resume. To his credit, Montgomery issued a statement on Monday praising Jason Collins highly for his accomplishments and integrity.
Even as gays have been coming out in other professions, gay athletes have remained silent, fearing the backlash from the primitives like Culliver. Or from TV analysts like ESPN’s Chris Broussard who said on the air that gays and players involved in extra marital sex were “walking a line against God and Jesus Christ.” The Bible says that Jesus Christ preached tolerance and compassion but apparently some present day Christians didn’t read that far.
I remember vividly what Glenn Burke went through, with the Dodgers and, briefly, the A’s. He never came out while he was playing but his sexual orientation was common knowledge. Billy Martin, that wonderful example of personal rectitude, referred to him often as “that faggot.”
By that time, I’d had personal experiences which had changed me. I had never knowingly known a gay man (though I’d probably known some who were in the closet) until I came to San Francisco and started going to Glide Memorial Church. I was in the young people’s group for awhile before, in conversation with the group leader, I learned that about half the men in the group were gay. Since I’d had many pleasant experiences with them without knowing that, I realized that my conception of gays was skewed. I’d always avoided racial discrimination, so I did the same with sexual discrimination. So, when my son was working in the City Attorney’s office in San Francisco and wrote the legal brief for San Francisco’s attempt to legalize same sex marriage, I was very proud of him.
It seems the country is slowly coming to that same realization as more and more states ratify same sex marriage. And now, perhaps sports teams and leagues can do the same. There is absolutely no reason there should be a stigma attached to gay athletes. I’m glad that Jason Collins has taken the lead and I’m hoping the type of ignorance that Culliver represents will eventually disappear.
SACRAMENTO KINGS: For once, the good guys may win out. The 12-owner NBA board studying the application by the Maloof brothers to move the team to Seattle unanimously recommended against it. The entire league ownership still has to vote on it but all Sacramento needs is eight votes against the move and they already have 12.
The owners recognized that Sacramento fans had supported the team very well until the Maloof brothers managed to drive the team down. At that point, attendance fell off – but the owners studying the situation realized that would happen anywhere. Fans aren’t stupid. They also realized that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has done a great job of getting another bid to buy the team and also getting plans approved for a new arena.
There is nothing to force the Maloof brothers to take the new offer from Sacramento and they are still holding out hopes to be able to get that offer, which was already an NBA record and has since been increased. Greed is never pretty, especially when it’s as blatant as this. Rest assured that the Maloofs won’t be applying for food stamps if they don’t get to sell the Kings to the Seattle interests.
Meanwhile, the NBA is showing some sympathy for Sacramento fans. That’s more than baseball commissioner Bud Selig has done for Miami fans, saddled with Jeffrey Loria, or Houston fans, whose new owner, Jim Crane, has inherited the title of worst owner in American sports, after accepting $60 million to trade leagues but putting less than half that into the team payroll. Loria, who dumped his high-priced players even after getting the new stadium he craved, is only second. The A’s dynamic duo of Lew Wolff and John Fisher look angelic in comparison.
TUESDAY COLUMNS: Until the end of the baseball season at least, I’m going to be doing this column on Tuesday. There are many Wednesday games I’d like to go to, including today’s A’s-Angels matchup, and doing the column that day makes it difficult and virtually impossible if I want to go to a Giants game, fighting the traffic both ways.
THE NFL DRAFT was an interesting one last week, mainly because it showed how silly all these mock drafts are. They weren’t even close to predicting what actually happened.
I wrote about one huge error in my Examiner piece last Friday. All the mock drafts that I saw had the Raiders picking a defensive tackle, either Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei. The Raiders traded that pick to Miami for their 12th pick in the first round and a second round pick. When their turn came up,, both Floyd and Lotulelei were still on the board but the Raiders took defensive back D. J. Hayden, whom Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said he would have taken if he had still had the No. 3 pick.
Possibly even more startling, In the ESPN Magazine, Mel Kiper Jr. predicted the Philadelphia Eagles would pick Geno Smith with the fourth pick in the first round. Nope. Smith was eventually taken by the New York Jets in the second round to join that circus. Since then, the Jets have released Tim Tebow – why they even acquired him is a mystery because coach Rex Ryan obviously doesn’t want him – and Mark Sanchez and David Gerrard will compete for the starter’s role while Smith learns on the job. Apparently, he has much to learn.
I had hoped that the 49ers would take Stanford tight end Zach Ertz with their second round pick because I had seen enough of Ertz to know he would fit well into Jim Harbaugh’s system – and Harbaugh had coached him one year at Stanford. A reader who wanted the Niners to go for defensive line help, which they did, said that Ertz was only the No. 4 rated tight end in the draft and that Vance McDonald was rated higher than him.
Which meant exactly nothing. Those mock drafts and ratings are for fans and media, who use them (I include myself) as a guide line because that’s the only information we have. The clubs pay no attention to those because they have their own scouting information and draft boards.
In this case, Philadelphia’s new coach, Chip Kelly, traded with the 49ers to move up in the second round to get Ertz, whom he knew well because his Oregon teams had played for three years against Stanford, where Ertz was an important part of the offense. Kelly had information that Ertz might not be available when the Eagles turn came in the second round. The 49ers drafted Cornelius (Tank) Carradine, looked on as an eventual replacement for Justin Smith and made another trade, giving up one of their surplus picks, to get McDonald, as a replacement for Delanie Walker. So, they filled two needs, which was very smart drafting.
That’s the way it works with the draft. McKenzie had told us in that media meeting last Tuesday that clubs put out a lot of misinformation, and that’s exactly what happened. I know it’s great fun for fans to play general manager with these mock drafts but it’s essentially meaningless. I knew that even when I was far more involved in it than I am now. I was always leery of making predictions and fortunately, was never asked to make a mock draft.
As it happened, I thought both Bay Area teams did well. The 49ers general manager, Trent Baalke, has become a master at working the angles, trading up, trading down and always keeping his eyes on the main target. I was amused by those in the media who said the 49ers cache of draft picks was overkill because they didn’t have 13 spots to fill. As it happened, the 49ers trades meant they wound up with 11 picks but, as Baalke noted in a news conference after the draft, it’s always a good thing to have competition in training camp. Sometimes a player looks so much better than expected that he wins a job. Other times, the newcomers push the starters to play even better. That’s how winning teams do it.
The Raiders are still in a development stage, but the preliminary diagnosis of McKenzie’s draft is that it was a good one. He emphasized before the draft that he would stay with his draft board, developed after multiple conversations with scouts, and it seems he did. Now, the burden is on the coaching staff. There have been writers who have speculated on the future of head coach Dennis Allen but the real key to the Raiders this year and going forward is the assistant coaches. NFL head coaches do almost no coaching; they’re supposed to set the tone for the team. It’s the assistants who do the real coaching, and the Raiders assistants have their work defined now. The team’s play this year and in the near future depends on how well they do their jobs.
OH, REALLY? Didn’t you just love that story from John Elway’s agent that Bill Walsh was trying to trade Joe Montana to get the rights to Elway? One thing we know for sure: Walsh isn’t going to deny the story.
My opinion? Total b.s.
LONGEST GAME: The 19-inning game in which the A’s defeated the Angels Monday night was the longest in A’s history but not in Bay Area history. On May 31, 1964, the Giants beat the Mets in 23 innings in New York.
Both newspapers and baseball were much different in those days. At The Chronicle, we would send out two-way leads, “The Giants beat the (whoever) last night” and “The Giants lost….” Then, someone in the office would listen to the radio and send out “running” which described innings in which runs were scored. When the game was over, the appropriate lead was put on the running and that was the story for that edition. Bob Stevens’ game story wouldn’t appear until the next edition.
I was assigned to do the running that day, so I listened to all 23 innings. That’s a footnote to my career but the game made Gaylord Perry’s career.
Again, the game was much different. Pitching staffs were set up with four starters who were expected to pitch most, if not all, of the game. There was one relief pitcher who came in late in the game if necessary; Stu Miller fulfilled that role at the time for the Giants. The other relievers were pitchers who weren’t considered good enough to start.
Perry was one of those pitchers, and he was at the very bottom of the list. He was probably only a couple of weeks from being released. But while he was in the bullpen, Bob Shaw had taught him to throw the spitter, a pitch which had been officially banned since 1920 but had been used by several pitchers since, including Shaw and, it was believed at the time, Whitey Ford.
Perry came into the game in the 13th inning and catcher Tom Haller suggested he use the new pitch he had been working on in the bullpen. Perry pitched 10 scoreless innings and was put back into the starting rotation by manager Alvin Dark the next week. From there, he went on to a Hall of Fame career.
THE BIG EGO: Chronicle columnist Ann Killion saw Warriors owner Joe Lacob at courtside before last Friday’s game at Oracle Arena and commented on the excitement of the Warriors fans. Lacob had a nasty comment, saying he knew she would write something critical of it.
Why this reaction? Because Killion had, two months ago, criticized Lacob’s plan to build a monstrous structure on the Embarcadero.
In the meantime, San Francisco politicians have gotten assemblyman Phil Ting to put up a measure in the Legislature that would allow this structure to basically bypass the normal regulatory agencies. City politicians obviously fear that (1) The structure wouldn’t be approved; and (2) Lacob wouldn’t build it anywhere else in the city.
I think they’re right on both counts. San Francisco is a very environmentally sensitive city and the boards that would have to approve this project will certainly be sensitive to that. And Lacob wants this structure on the Embaradero as a monument to himself. What good is a monument if nobody sees it but people actually going to the event?
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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