Urban: Giants' Whiteside under the gun

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Urban: Giants' Whiteside under the gun

May 30, 2011
URBAN ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com

It's your gig, Eli Whiteside. Your time to shine. To prove you deserve the faith Giants general manager Brian Sabean says he has in you. Oh, and a little friendly advice: Make it snappy. Faith has a way of dissolving in a steady stream of 0-for-4's -- especially when they're coming amidst steady such streams from elsewhere in the lineup, and the reigning champs are soaking their way around the Midwest in that manner as we speak.Until Sunday, surely the Giants and their fans held out at least feint hopes that if the team were to reach the playoffs this fall, Buster Posey would ride in on a majestic white stallion, tell everybody to climb aboard and gallop, full-steed ahead, toward a successful defense of the world championship. Not even Posey's miniature press conference Friday, when he conceded it was "highly likely" that his season was over, fully extinguished the aforementioned hopes.After all, he's Buster Posey. The Giants' very own Chuck Norris, for crying out loud. Their Most Interesting Man in the Clubhouse. Surely he'd be able to conjure some sort of sorcery should his services be desperately needed come October.But then came Sunday and a big dose of reality in the form of another miniature press conference, this one hosted by a far less interesting but no less important man in the Giants' scheme of things. Head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner made it crystal clear that there will be no channeling Willis Reed for Buster Ballgame. No dramatic return, however short-lived, to the lineup. Not this year, anyway. Opening Day 2012, said the man they call "Gresh." That's probably the best-case scenario.LISTEN: Posey's post-surgery conference call
And so it's officially time for everyone associated with the Orange & Black to think more clearly and objectively than ever about LWB -- life without Buster. For the rest of the season.First up, Whiteside. The pitchers love him, and he gets bonus points for not just taking Prince Fielder's best shot -- and a cheap shot it was, with that forearm coming in way too close to Whiteside's melon -- but for giving Prince a bit of a punching after the fact.Alas, Whiteside is a career minor leaguer and big-league backup for a reason. He's a tad challenged offensively. That's the widely held perception, anyway, and there's only one way Whiteside can change it.If he doesn't, his rope will get shorter in direct correlation with the Giants' spot in the National League West standings.And if he doesn't, who's after Whiteside? It's not going to be Chris Stewart. Same issues as with Whiteside offensively.THE BIG URBCAST: Are the Giants' minor league catchers ready?
It's not going to be Pablo Sandoval, either. He's already said he has zero interest in catching when he gets back from hand surgery.Bengie Molina? It'd be a heck of a story, and Bengie says he's up for it, but there might be some bad blood between him and the organization, particularly Sabean, whom Molina pot-shotted after being traded to Texas last year. Then again, desperation occasionally ends up being the Clorox that cleans up bad blood. Stay tuned.LWB, at the very least, will be fascinating.

GM McKenzie: Raiders can sustain success, ‘we’ve built this thing to last’

GM McKenzie: Raiders can sustain success, ‘we’ve built this thing to last’

ALAMEDA – Reggie McKenzie doesn’t talk to the media often, maybe a handful of times per year. That’s been the case since he became Raiders general manager in early 2012 and, throughout that time, those interactions come with a common line of questioning.

Everyone wanted to know about his grand plan to return the Raiders to greatness, or a progress report on it. It was a tall order, and McKenzie never said it was going to happen fast.

He had to get right with the salary cap and completely overhaul the roster, actions nearly impossible to do in tandem. He radically deconstructed, then reconstructed in a method that would set the team up for long-term success.

This was not a steady ascent. Poor play was expected early on, though mistakes intensified tough times and muddled his vision to the short sighted.

McKenzie never wavered, trusted his internal compass and steered this pirate ship through a storm. The skies have finally cleared. His Raiders are 9-2 heading into Sunday’s game against Buffalo, armed with a franchise quarterback, elite pass rusher and a respected head coach.

There’s a hulking offensive line, a pair of top receivers and quality cornerbacks secured for the long term.

Those old questions aren't valid anymore. 

Deconstruction is long done. Reconstruction is clearly complete. Now it’s on to the next phase: Sustaining success.

“The key is that your drafted players become your core,” McKenzie said on Thursday in a meeting with local press. “As far as (what's next), you need to know you can sign them and keep them and continue that process.

“That’s where we are right now, and we feel good about where we are. We think we’ve built this thing to last.”

McKenzie has done so with a three-pronged attack.

1. He has drafted extremely well, over the last three years especially, building a young core headlined by Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Gabe Jackson and Karl Joseph.

2. McKenzie found a respected head coach in Jack Del Rio guys want to play for, with a staff focused on development.

3. McKenzie has supplemented well in free agency – importing Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson Michael Crabtree and Donald Penn, to name a few -- generally without saddling himself with burdensome contracts.

The Raiders were so flush with cap space a few years ago they were able to fork out huge amounts up front on contracts that become pay-as-you-go deals without dead money later on.

They often use roster bonuses over signing bonuses -- roster bonuses hit the cap all at once; salary bonuses impact the cap over the life of the contract – to help mitigate long-term impact. In short, that gives the Raiders financial flexibility and cap space to play with each year. 

They’ll need it soon. Raiders premier players have come cheap, but the taxman is coming. Carr and Mack are still on rookie deals, but big contract extensions are a fait accompli. The same goes for Cooper when the time comes.

“The premier players will get paid, and we’ll try and keep everything intact as much as we can,” McKenzie said. “But what happens when your talented players play well? Contracts come up at times where they can benefit from it.”

Some teams -- New Orleans, for example -- suffer with a few players consuming significant cap space. Other teams, like New England and Seattle, keep on trucking with a good quarterback, defensive cornerstones and cheaper replacements through the draft or free agency.

“You have to continue to function with some young players,” McKenzie said, “and you have to find some mid-tier veterans who can step in and play well.”

The Raiders have been good mining undrafted free agents – McKenzie takes particular pride in those – to help keep the cupboard stocked.

While the Raiders rise may seem concentrated, from 3-13 in 2014 to 9-2 nearly two completed seasons later, it wasn’t quite so quick. McKenzie’s first two seasons were extremely lean while disposing of bad contracts, with a few hiccups that led many to question his vision.

Owner Mark Davis wasn't one of them. He stuck with McKenzie, a decision that looks pretty darn smart. His GM is certainly thankful for that.

“We were in constant communication the four years leading up to this year,” McKenzie said. “Nobody’s excited about losing seasons, but he did see the promise, and he believed in me. That was enough said. I told him my process, and he knew it wasn’t going to be a quick fix. We could try, but that wasn’t my style. That says a lot, because he was probably getting it from a whole lot of people to hurry up.”
 

Rewind: Warriors commit sin in Kerr's offense, fail to close out Rockets

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USATI

Rewind: Warriors commit sin in Kerr's offense, fail to close out Rockets

OAKLAND – The Warriors, possessors of the NBA’s best offense, never really found their rhythm Thursday night against one of the league’s softest defenses, and the disappointment was not limited to seeing the end of a winning streak.

No, the Warriors didn’t much like what they put on the floor in a 132-127 double-overtime loss to Houston. They engaged in a bit of self-flagellation and, quite frankly, they deserved it.

“All in all, it was our execution,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We weren’t moving and cutting like we normally do. I just felt like our ball movement went away and as a result we just kind of fell into their switching and kind of went one-on-one and took difficult shots. We have to do better with that.”

Which may be why Draymond Green, in a scorching dissection of the Warriors’ performance, spared no one.

[POOLE: Draymond sarcastically praises refs after frustrating loss to Rockets]

“We didn’t shoot well, and a part of that not shooting well was we were just standing there,” he began. “And it turned into the Steph Curry Show, the Kevin Durant Show. And that’s not who we are. We move the ball – and then it turns into the Steph Curry Show, and then it turns into the Kevin Durant Show. And they’re getting great shots.

“It’s not their fault that I was standing at the top of the key, and the other guys were standing on the weak side watching them play. I would do what they were doing, too, if everybody else is just standing there watching. That falls on us. We were over there watching.”

No aspect was more maddening for the Warriors than the two overtimes, during which they shot 25 percent (5-of-20) – including an utterly galling 9.1 percent in the second and decisive five-minute period.

They failed to get a field goal before Curry fouled out with 3:25 left, and got only one as he watched from the bench. Houston focused on Durant, whose efforts to carry the Warriors were in vain, as he was 0-of-4 in the second OT.

“Our offense wasn’t moving,” Green said. “(Durant) took all tough shots, and it wasn’t his fault. Everybody else stood and watched him play. I don’t think he was necessarily tired. I think every shot he took in overtime was contested, because we were all standing there.”

That’s a sin in Kerr’s offense, which relies on movement by the players and the ball. Instead, the offense seemed to deflate. Joining Green and Durant on the floor for most of the finish were Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

They managed four points in five minutes, with Green accounting for all four.

Truthfully, though, the Warriors were sagging all night. Though Durant started well enough, making 8-of-14 through three quarters (he was 4-of-14 from the fourth quarter on), he got little help. Thompson was 4-of-20. Curry was 9-of-22.

“We didn’t move the ball very well and we didn’t execute down the stretch,” Kerr explained.

Houston was superior almost across the board, from shooting percentage to rebounding and from points in the paint to second-chance points, which is why they led for the vast majority of the game.

James Harden was fabulous on offense, pretty much orchestrating the action en route to a triple double (29 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists). Ryan Anderson scored 29 points.

The Rockets were particularly effective grabbing offensive rebounds and turning them into points.

“We have to do a better job, come in and grab rebounds,” said Durant, who pulled 13. “If we had grabbed a couple of more, we would have won this game, but life has to move on.”

With Durant scoring 39 points and Green (20 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists) trying to will them to victory, the Warriors hung around. But when Curry and Thompson combine for 13-of-42 shooting, 7-of-26 beyond the arc, the Warriors usually are in trouble.

“We had our moments especially in the first overtime,” Kerr said. “We had a real cushion. I think we were up four (119-115, 4:11 left) and I thought we let it slip away at that point when we had every opportunity to finish them off.”

The Warriors instead were outscored 17-8 over the final nine minutes of action. That has to hurt when you’re rich in offensive talent, in a system designed to ring up points. All too often on this night, the Warriors seemed to forget about that.