Jarrett Jack/Stephen Curry/Andrew Bogut;
THE WARRIORS’ playoff run ended in Oakland last Thursday, but their future looks bright, depending on moves that general manager Bob Myers makes in the near future. Based on what he’s done so far, with help from Jerry West, I’m confident that will happen.
The most important move would be bringing back Jarrett Jack, who was such an important part of this year’s team. Jack was the player who came off the bench to score big baskets and to run the team in the late minutes of a game, freeing Stephen Curry to concentrate on scoring. Jack is a free agent and he’ll get attractive offers to be a starting point guard with another team. I couldn’t blame him if he takes one of those offers. The one thing in the Warriors’ favor is that he really enjoyed playing for this team and coach Mark Jackson. Still, for the to keep Jack, they’d probably have to pay him so much that it would be impossible to also keep Carl Landry, who can opt out of his contract. Landry was valuable to the Warriors coming off the bench, especially when David Lee was injured, but if the Warriors have to make a choice between him and Jack, well, that’s really no choice.
They’re not likely to make a big splash in free agency unless somebody takes Andris Biedrens and/or Richard Jefferson off their hands. At this point, other NBA clubs don’t seem eager to acquire either one.
So, next year, the Warriors will probably have to rely on their current roster because they don’t have the cap space to add any big free agents and they’ve traded away their two draft choices in what appears to be a mediocre draft, anyway.
Myers made a good point when he said the Warriors no longer had the feeling of desperation they had at the start of the season, and for most of the last 20 years. Also, there’s room for improvement from the current roster. Brandon Rush, who was expected to be a big scorer for them, missed almost the entire season but he’ll be back, healthy, for next season. Harrison Barnes stepped up in the playoffs. Barnes is going to be a top NBA player for many years and needed only to assert himself. Draymond Green, who was a force coming off the bench, is going to spend the offseason working on his shot. Festus Ezeli is another big man with potential who plans to build up his body so he can play more meaningful minutes.
The Warriors probably would have beaten the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs if Curry and Andrew Bogut could have stayed healthy but they both broke down. Bogut never told anybody how had his foot was but he was in serious pain, having to play every other night, and finally broke down. The good news is that, with months of down time ahead, he should finally fully recuperate from the operations on his ankle. A healthy Bogut would make an enormous difference to the Warriors.
Curry suffered a sprain to his ankle, not the one on which he had an operation, and was obviously hobbled by it. With Lee able to play only a few minutes, that meant the Warriors three most effective players was hardly a factor, so it was no surprise that the Spurs won.
There continue to be basketball people who say Curry isn’t a true point guard – Rick Barry among them – and should be shifted to shooting guard. Of course, that would relegate Klay Thompson to the bench and Thompson was both a dangerous shooter and a shutdown defender by the end of the campaign. If Curry were shifted to the off guard, he wouldn’t be able to defend against the top scorers, which is the reason Monta Ellis was traded last season. I’m sure the Warriors won’t make this change.
IN 1971, Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli feared that his team could not survive in the Bay Area. He scheduled six “home” games in San Diego and renamed the team the Golden State Warriors. That experiment lasted only one year. Ever since then, except for one year in San Jose when the Coliseum arena was being remodeled, the team has played in Oakland. But the silly Golden State moniker remained, which often annoys Oakland residents. Why have owners kept it? Apparently, they’ve feared they would turn off West Bay fans if they changed it to the Oakland Warriors. That was stupid because those fans already knew the games were being played in Oakland. But then, the Warriors owners have never lived in Oakland, so they had the customary anti-Oakland bias.
But, realistically, the name hasn’t made any difference. I think we all overestimate the importance of sports teams to a community and especially the city’s name. In the NFL, the Giants and Jets are on their second stadium in New Jersey, while still identifying themselves as New York teams. Has that bothered New Jersey? It seems not. The Cowboys haven’t played in Dallas in many years but they’re still identified as the Dallas Cowboys. Currently, they’re playing in Irving, a city which contributed $300 million to their grand new stadium. I had a phone conversation a couple of years ago with the mayor of Irving, and I asked him if he regretted the deal. His reply: not at all. He was smart enough to negotiate a deal that gives Irving a percentage of everything sold at the stadium, and he claimed they had already got their money back.
Locally, the 49ers are a year away from moving to Santa Clara, where they’ll still be known as the San Francisco 49ers. Nobody involved with the Santa Clara end of the operation has objected to that, especially now that they'll get the 2016 Super Bowl there.
The Warriors are playing the one American sport that is most popular internationally, and one of my Oakland friends thinks Oakland has been the loser because people in these countries don’t know the Warriors play in Oakland. But if they had Oakland on their jerseys, does anybody think we’d be getting a nickel more in business from those countries? The question answers itself.
As one who has lived in Oakland since 1969, I think the city often gets a bad reputation from people who see all the crime news on TV, also known as Crime Blotter USA. Oakland is much more than that. Jerry Brown’s plan to build condos downtown has paid off big time. Our son and daughter-in-law took us last Monday night to one of the many new restaurants, Borgo Italia, just opposite Ratto’s at Ninth and Washigton, and then drove us around the area to show us how many more restaurants and night clubs there are in what used to be an area that was totally dark at night.
That’s the kind of thing that will bring Oakland back, if we can ever get somebody in the mayor’s office who knows more than how to game the system. Whether or not the Warriors have “Oakland” in front of their names is really a non-issue.
WATCHING THE telecast as the Giants lost to the Rockies on Sunday reminded me of the start of my career when I was covering high school baseball in Watsonville. This game was full of errors, physical and mental, on both sides. Or, as Casey Stengel famously said when managing the early New York Mets, “Can’t anyone here play baseball?”
It was a horrendous trip for the Giants and, even though they beat the Nationals convincingly last night, it came with more bad news: Ryan Vogelson, who had by far his best game of the season, suffered two broken bones in his right hand and will be out at least six weeks. The obvious replacement for Vogelsong is Chad Gaudin, who has been in the role of long reliever but has been a starter for much of his career.
The questions remain about the Giants’ starting rotation, though. Matt Cain seems to have gotten past his early problems and Madison Bumgarner has been outstanding, except for a couple of bad starts. After that, it’s nothing but question marks. Tim Lincecum has looked very good at times, terrible at others. Barry Zito has been outstanding at AT&T, where he has cheering fans and a pitcher’s park, with a 3-0 record and only three runs allowed in 33 innings. But on the road….0-3 with 28 runs (20 earned) in 17 2/3 innings. Next time, they should leave him at home. Vogelsong had been terrible, and is now out after an outstanding game.
The one bright spot for the Giants is that there don’t seem to be any standout teams in the NL West, just teams struggling to stay above .500, except for San Diego, which is not a contender, and the Dodgers who have the top payroll in baseball but have had nothing but problems. Theoretically, if they get everybody healthy, they could challenge, but the aura around the team is not good. Manager Don Mattingly has to field constant questions about whether he’s going to be fired. He won’t have to worry about those questions after this season because he will have been fired by then.
But, once again with the Giants, we’re seeing that talent wins games, not attitude. Giants fans – and writers – should have learned that with the departure of Aaron Rowand. When Rowand was signed, one writer who shall remain nameless, declared that Rowand was the new face of the franchise because he was a great hustle guy. I wrote that I admired hustle but I admired ability more and Rowand was a middle range player whose offensive statistics were inflated because he had been playing in home run parks with the White Sox and the Phillies. He was never worth that huge contract and was released by the Giants with time left on it. Nobody picked him up, though the Giants would have had to pay almost all of his salary if another team had signed him.
THE A’S, who tend to get forgotten in the publicity generated by the Giants, are still fighting to stay in the AL West race, trailing the Rangers, whose payroll may be three times theirs.
They got a boost last night from Bartolo Colon, just short of his 40th birthday, who actually likes pitching in the Rangers’ park, which most pitchers dread. For those who wondered why the A’s brought Colon back, there’s your answer. He’s steady-as-you-go, just throw strikes and let your fielders do the work behind you.
It’s really difficult to predict how this A’s team will do because they’ve had so many injuries, including one to Brett Anderson, who should be their ace. The problem is that though Anderson has one great talent, his ability to throw pitches that are difficult to hit, he is not a good athlete. He has great trouble fielding his position and he often steps awkwardly, which was the cause with his latest injury.
Anderson is not the only one with health problems. Josh Reddick, who led the A’s with 32 home runs last year, has been out with a wrist injury sustained when he ran into a wall and will need extra time to get back into playing mode even when he comes off the DL this week. All the A’s outfielders have had injury problems this year, and you no longer hear questions aoout how they’re going to use all their outfielders.
In some ways, the A’s season mirrors last year’s, when they started slowly and then had the best record in the majors for the second half, winning the AL West on the last day of the season. Expecting them to repeat that is unrealistic but if they can get past this injury disaster, I think they’ll play much better.
MAJOR LEAGUE baseball has changed enormously since I first started writing about the Giants, and one of the biggest changes is in the attitude toward strikeouts. Once, hitters saw strikeouts as a personal disaster; the extreme was Joe Di Maggio, who struck out only 13 times in the 1941 season, when he set a record of 56 straight games with a hit. I think we can safely say, with the current attitude toward strikeouts, that his record will never be challenged.
By the time I came to The Chronicle in 1963, hitters were already using smaller bats that could be whipped through the strike zone faster, thus creating more power – and more strikeouts. Now, the attitude is that a strikeout is just another out. That’s not always true. If there’s a runner on first, for instance, a ground out can advance him into scoring position. On the other hand, if a hitter takes a big swing with two strikes and hits a homer, that’s an obvious benefit. At any rate, that’s the game we have now. I don’t spend any time worrying about it. It’s just another example of how sports change, although National League owners still cling stubbornly to the 19th century model, disdaining the DH. I wonder how many pitchers have to get injured while at bat before they’ll change their minds.
PET PEEVE: Scoreboard messages that tell baseball fans to cheer. Good grief. The A’s are particularly obnoxious about this, even though their crowds are much more like old-time crowds, whose fans were really into the game. The Giants have fans like that sitting right in front of the press box and very involved in the game. They also have many fans elsewhere in the park who spend more time at the various eating spots and games than watching the game. So, the Giants don’t put up those messages.
TOMORROW: I’ll be writing an extra Examiner column on whether NFL owners decide to have the 2015 Super Bowl in the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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