Warriors, Al Davis Moves, NFL Publicity Machine, Chronicle Woes
Because of the way the NBA is set up, home teams win a high percentage of their games, much higher than in baseball, for instance. Everything works against visiting teams Ė the rigorous travel schedule, the fact that fans are right on top of the court and the fans influence on officials.
As a result, even though the Warriors overall record is dismal, fans can be optimistic about their chances in home games.
The other reason is the Warriors style. They play a relentless style of offensive basketball, moving the ball upcourt quickly and usually taking the first available shot, often a three-pointer.
They lose so frequently because they play virtually no defense. In part, itís because they donít really have an inside presence. Ronny Turiaf is a good shot-blocker but not really a good defender. Andris Biedrins is a very good rebounder but not quick enough or strong enough to be a deterrent in the middle.
The others? Most of the time, they donít even try. They simply try to outscore their opponents, a strategy which obviously fails more often than it succeeds.
Itís a given in any sport that fans love offense. There are baseball fans who are thrilled by 1-0 games, but far more who prefer a 9-7 game with home runs and extra base hits. The 49ers had great defenses when they won five Super Bowls, but fans talked most often about Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young and Roger Craig, all of whom were offensive players.
Itís the same in basketball. Coaches (except for Don Nelson) like low-scoring, defensive battles where their strategy is more important. But fans lover the shootouts.
Meanwhile, the Warriors are a work in progress. The one good thing about all their injuries is that it has forced Nelson to play his young players, which he has always been reluctant to do. Rookie Anthony Randolph has shown flashes of his great potential. Second-year forward Brandon Wright doesnít have as much upside
as Randolph, but he could be a solid NBA player.
The Warriors most glaring need is for a point guard who can both run the offense and guard the good point guards. Until they get that player, they wonít be a playoff contender, but as long as they put the ball in the basket on a regular basis, the fans will keep coming.
RAIDERS MOVES: Incredible as it seems, Al Davis has been making the right moves lately, signing shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler to the contracts they deserve and getting rid of the deadwood on the roster, Kwame Harris, Gibril Wilson and (last season) De Angelo Hall. Hopefully, Javon Walker will go this week, too.
Davis said during the last season that he hoped to get somebody for the front office to help him with personnel decisions. At the Tom Cable news conference, he said he hadnít had time to work on that yet. If he hired a good personnel man and actually listened to him, the Raiders have a chance to get into the hunt with a good draft and good decisions in the free agent market; after all, a .500 record won the AFC West last season. But if Al continues to play the Lone Ranger as he approaches his 80th birthday in July, the Raiders may extend their NFL record streak of the most consecutive seasons with at least 11 losses.
NFL COMBINE: The NFL publicity machine goes year-round these days, and itís like nothing else in sports.
When I started covering pro football more than 40 years ago, it was relatively simple. The season was 14 games long and championship games were held in December. The draft was in February, and then, there was a dead period until training camps opened in July.
Now, there is one month of dead time, June, when coaches have to grab some vacation time. Otherwise, the NFL is in business.
The scouting combine is in February (last week). Itís very questionable how much coaches and scouts learn about the players ability at this time, especially since many high-rated players skip it to have personal workouts at their colleges, but the combine generates publicity for the league. Iím cynical enough to think thatís its main purpose.
By shoving the draft back to April, it generates far more publicity. There are websites devoted to evaluating players and doing mock drafts.
Then, thereís free agency. NFL owners fought this as long as they could, but it has added greatly to the publicity barrage for the league in its ďoff season.Ē
Finally, the season has been extended to 16 games and there are so many postseason games that the Super Bowl was played on Feb. 1 this year.
For some time now, pro football has been the top-rated sports in terms of fansí interest. This publicity barrage isnít the only reason, but it certainly hasnít hurt.
CHRONICLE WOES: The newspaper industry is in bad shape, particularly on the west coast, but many of The Chronicle problems stem from the sale to the Hearst Corporation in 2000.
The Chronicle had thrived for years because of its policy of emphasizing good and colorful writers. If Hearst had allowed The Chronicle editors to remain in place, the paper would be very different, and more successful, today. Instead, the editors from the old Examiner came over to run the new Chronicle.
The Hearst editors believed that editors, not writers, were the most important element in a newspaper. Executive editor Phil Bronstein even used his own image in TV commercials and newspaper ads. Has anybody ever bought a paper because of an editor? We know the answer to that.
Those editors gave plum assignments to the writers from The Examiner, a mostly mediocre group, while doing everything they could to get rid of top Chronicle writers, only a few of whom have survived. Iíve compared that policy to a grocery store taking the brands that customers liked off the shelf and telling customers ďYouíll like our new brands.Ē A grocery store that did that would fail, and The Chronicleís circulation plummeted from the moment the Hearst editors started their policy.
Most of those editors are gone and a smart man, Ward Bushee, has replaced Bronstein. But Bushee obviously faces a monumental task in saving the paper.
I hope he succeeds. I have very good memories of my pre-Hearst years with The Chronicle, whose editors gave me the freedom to develop a writing style which was quite different than those of other Bay Area columnists when I started. Even my departure in September, 2005 was not bitter because I got a very generous buyout. Plus, I still have several friends on the paper and I wish them well.
But I canít help wishing that the history of The Chronicle in this decade could be rewritten.
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