Blake Griffin/Stephen Curry/ Magic Johnson/ Joe Lacob; Terrelle Pryor/Blaine Gabbert; Brandon Belt/Pablo Sandoval; Jim Johnson
REALITY BLINDSIDED the Warriors in game 2 of the playoffs when the L.A. Clippers routed them by 40 points.
The Warriors had shocked the Clippers by winning the first game in Los Angeles, eliminating the Clippers home court advantage for the series, but that was a fluke, primarily because foul trouble had limited Blake Griffin to 19 minutes. Griffin played 30 minutes on Monday night and scored 35 points.
I’ve always expected the playoffs to be a one-and-out experience for the Warriors because without the injured Andrew Bogut, they lack the inside presence they need. Bogut’s latest injury shouldn’t come as a surprise because he’s been dogged by injury throughout his career and that doesn’t get better with age.
The Warriors are led by Stephen Curry and he is having a great year, but teams don’t win NBA titles with a guard-oriented offense. Unless, of course, that guard is Magic Johnson.
Johnson was a great point guard – when Pete Newell first saw Jason Kidd at Cal, he told me Kidd’s passing reminded him of Magic, the ultimate compliment – but he was also 6-9, which became very important in 1980, in the NBA championship finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Lakers had a 3-2 edge when they flew to Philadelphia for the sixth game but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t make the flight because of a sprained ankle. Johnson, a 20-year-old rookie, took his place at center, scored 42 points with 15 rebounds and seven assists, as the Lakers won the game and title.
But no, I don’t expect Curry to slide into the pivot to replace Bogut. He’s very good where he is, but that won’t be enough against a Clippers team which is clearly better overall. The Warriors have done well against the Clippers in recent years, but not this time.
A first round loss will renew talk about coach Mark Jackson’s future but I doubt that he’s in trouble. His players really like Jackson, who understands the psyche of NBA players because he was one himself, and it would be hard to argue that the team has done less than could be expected, which should always be the criterion. He seems to be insecure, worried about his assistants getting too much credit, and his personal behavior is at odds with his image, preaching sermons while cheating on his wife. But in the NBA, that’s hardly unusual.
So, I think he’s safe and the Warriors seem to be in good hands with general manager Bob Myers and Jerry West in the background, taking no credit but certainly giving sage advice.
On another front, the Warriors have given up on their grandiose scheme for the San Francisco Embarcadero, for which I can only say, “Hallelujah!”
This was a bad idea from the start. Probably because they knew San Franciscans would not agree to a plan that was really a real estate grab, Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber emphasized the basketball part of it, but that was only one part of a scheme that had garages, condominiums and a planned expansion across the street.
Mayor Ed Lee went for it, as did the Board of Supervisors, because they imagined a financial windfall for the city. Of course. Just like the America’s Cup, which was supposed to bring millions to the city but eventually cost San Francisco $5 million. Oops.
But, there’s been a grass roots campaign against it, aided by former mayor Art Agnos, who has lived in the city since 1966 and cares deeply about it. Agnos has been going around the city, holding small meetings with residents and telling them what is actually in that contract.
Along the way, residents were also energized by the 8 Washington projects which got around the height limitations on the Embarcadero by a design which was low at the front but would have created a wall of buildings beyond the area where there were height limitations.
Through a petition, residents forced a vote on the issue and voted it down. Another petition would likely have forced the Warriors plan onto the ballot, and those who follow politics in San Francisco thought it would get defeated.
I was one of them. When I wrote that they’d never get it built, a reader who bragged of being a third generation San Franciscan though he had moved to Contra Costa County 30 years before, told me I was wrong, that the Warriors had the power brokers behind him. I told him he didn’t really understand how it works in San Francisco.
I only lived there six years but I spent a great deal of time in the city in the 34 years I wrote a Chronicle column. Combined, that was enough to show me that San Franciscans really care about their city. It’s almost like an Eastern seaboard city because people often discuss politics over their morning coffee.
I first saw this in the freeway revolt, shortly after I started with The Chronicle, stopping a plan to build a north/south freeway just east of the Panhandle. That would have been terrible. Now, people from the Peninsula going to Marin complain about how hard it is to get through San Francisco. My heart bleeds for them.
San Franciscans also understand that the Mayor and Board of Supervisors will swallow anything developers tell them. It’s up to the people to stop them, which they’ve done in this case.
There was an additional problem: The rebuilding of the piers where the Warriors grandiose project was planned was becoming more difficult and much more expensive than expected.
And, finally, it seemed the Feds might get in on it, with a review that could take years.
So, Lacob (the engine behind this plan) and Gruber decided to switch their plan to an industrial park area which is west of AT&T Park. Placed there, the structure will not impede views or inflict the massive traffic jams that would have resulted from 220 sports/entertainment events a year in an area which is already overburdened with traffic.
From basketball fans’ standpoint, the current location of Oracle Arena is perfect, reachable by BART from San Francisco, Oakland or Contra Costa County and also by freeway from those areas. But Lacob claims that top free agents want to come to the glamor cities, of which San Francisco clearly is one. It wouldn’t surprise me if he wanted to get into San Francisco social circles, as previous owner Chris Cohan did. Of course, he could do that simply by moving to San Francisco himself.
At any rate, if the Warriors are going to leave Oakland, the new site is far better than the Embarcadero. It will be on transit lines and also reachable by freeway.
There’s a bit of irony for me in this. Nearly 40 years ago, I was arguing in my Chronicle column that the city should build an arena downtown which would house the Warriors and an NHL team, as well as be host to many concerts. The concerts would have made it a sure money-maker but then Mayor George Moscone didn’t have the nerve to make the decision himself so he turned it over to a five-man committee, which voted it down, 3-2.
Though he can’t admit it, Mayor Lee has to be relieved by the Warriors change of plans. Though he called it a “legacy” proposal, the original contract he signed was likely going to cost the city a great deal of money. For his sake, I hope he makes a better deal this time.
QUARTERBACK IS the most important position on a football team but making the right decision is very difficult, as both Bay Area teams have shown.
The 49ers got a break for a long time because Bill Walsh developed Joe Montana into a great quarterback and then did the same with Steve Young, after buying him from Tampa Bay with $1 million of the De Bartolo fortune,
So, for many years, the Niners did not have to draft a quarterback on the first round. When they finally did, in 1997, they drafted Jim Druckenmiller. Do I need to say more? (A frequently reported “story” claims that they rejected Walsh’s proposal of Jake Plummer. I was talking directly to both Walsh and Carmen Policy – which those peddling this story never did – and I can tell you that Walsh was asked to find a quarterback who would be worth a second-round pick. He nominated Plummer, but he made no recommendations for a first round pick.)
Now, the Niners have picked up Blaine Gabbert, a No. 1 pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars who has been a bust. But important as a quarterback is, he has to have support from the rest of the team. We had first-hand experience of that with Alex Smith, who was reviled by fans (and some writers) who didn’t understand that he was put into an impossible situation, with bad coaches and bad teams. When Jim Harbaugh took over, the team was in much better shape and Smith blossomed.
Gabbert was in much the same situation with the Jaguars, so it’s really difficult to know what kind of quarterback he can be. He won’t be under any pressure with the Niners because he’ll be a backup to Colin Kaepernick, and there are no big expectations for him.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have traded Terrelle Pryor for a seventh-round draft pick from Seattle. No surprise there. They had given up on Pryor as a quarterback and he wanted to be traded, so they virtually gave him away.
At one point, I thought Pryor could be a good quarterback but the more he played, the more his deficiencies showed. Of course, he also played hurt, with an injured ankle, which didn’t help. But he reverted to his collegiate style, often free lancing on his plays. That worked well for him at Ohio State because of his athletic ability but that style seldom works in the NFL.
Frankly, I think Pryor would be better off playing another position, perhaps running back with an occasional option pass. But players who have been star quarterbacks in college have a problem giving up on that. Just ask Tim Tebow. He’s out of football – even the Canadian League doesn’t want him – because he won’t shift to running back. I guess God doesn’t approve.
THE GIANTS have come back to earth after their first road trip and, though their hitting sometimes disappears, their biggest problem remains their inconsistent starting pitching.
Madison Bumgartner is solid, definitely the staff leader at this point, and Matt Cain has come around nicely, though getting little run support. Tim Lincecum has had some good outings, some bad ones – and even in the good ones, it’s usually best to get him out after five innings. Tim Hudson has been solid but it would be a miracle if he stays healthy for a season. Ryan Vogelsong is yesterday’s feel good story, today’s disaster.
The Giants bullpen is strong but relievers often have to come in too early, and that will tell over the long season.
Hitting has been inconsistent, as hitting will be, and manager Bruce Bochy has made it worse by dropping Brandon Belt, who is having a breakout year, down to sixth in the batting order against lefthanders – while batting Pablo Sandoval ahead of him. That makes no sense at all.
Bochy now says he’s thinking of keeping Belt in the No. 3 spot. Bochy is not a man to make quick decisions. He’s thinking….and thinking….and thinking. It seems he may finally have reached the right decision.
The Giants biggest problem, of course, is that they’re in the same division with the Dodgers, the best team money can buy. They could still grab a playoff spot, though, with the expanded lineup that makes it very difficult to miss the postseason.
There’s another intriguing question about that division: Have the Diamondbacks given up on Kirk Gibson? They have the worst record in MLB as I write this. Their talent is better than that but the Gibson rah-rah, charge the hill approach wears thin after a time.
THERE CONTINUES to be speculation about the A’s because San Jose has narrowed the scope of the law suit it first filed, challenging the anti-trust protection MLB has, after its first attempt was quickly dismissed.
That means, well, nothing. To get the anti-trust ruling changed, the suit has to go to the Supreme Court. Two previous challengers have been told that, for this to be changed, Congress has to do it. If this case ever gets to the Supreme Court, it would have the same result. And this Congress can’t agree on what day it is.
So, the A’s are not going to San Jose. They announced yesterday that they can’t agree to the terms proposed in the 10-year lease they’ve been negotiating with Oakland and Alameda County. All that means is they’ll continue negotiating and try for better terms.
Local businessmen have volunteered to finance a new park near Jack London Square but Mayor Jean Quan has grandiose plans for Coliseum City, which are as likely to happen as any of her plans. Anybody remember the name of that big developer who was coming two years ago? No sign of him.
A’s players and manager Bob Melvin seem to have tuned out this background noise as they’ve posted the best record in the American League, 13-7, but they’ve hit a bump the last two days, losing one-run games to the Texas Rangers.
It seems Melvin has to restore Jim Johnson to closing duties. Johnson had a terrible start, mostly because he was puttiing pitches in the wrong area, but he seems to have gotten that under control and he has a record of success. It’s time to put him back where he belongs.
PERSONAL NOTE: I‘m tempting fate by going to the A’s-Rangers game today at the Coliseum. Wish me luck. The last time I tried this, three weeks ago, a woman driver ran a red light and drove me into the site of a small restaurant, totaling the car.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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