Big O Tires

Carr, Raiders both win with soon-to-be mega-deal done at right time

Carr, Raiders both win with soon-to-be mega-deal done at right time

If Derek Carr gets his $25 million deal from the Oakland Raiders and becomes the richest quarterback in National Football League history, the Raiders will have gotten a bargain.
 
Unless he gets hurt.
 
Or unless he turns lousy.
 
Or unless the NFL’s defensive coordinators decipher a way to strip him of his powers and render him McCown-tastic.
 
Or unless football happens in a hundred other ways, because of all the sports ever devised by wealthy man to amuse sedentary man, football taught cruelty to the landmine discus.
 
But the same can be said for any football player at any salary. Carr, on the other hand, is a qualified practitioner at a sport that has very few of them – maybe 10 if you’re looking at football, 119 if you’re trying to tot up all the quarterbacks who got contracts so Colin Kaepernick couldn’t.
 
That means he is a rare commodity, and the Raiders did the right thing by tying him up. The alternative, you see, is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Supreme Court-Mandated Native-American Heads.
 
Cousins was not signed when the Washingtons could have gotten him at a high but still reasonable rate, and now he is one year away from being franchised a third time at the hilarious figure of $34.47 million per year.
 
The lesson is clear. Nothing pays like procrastination, and by waiting to give Cousins what they knew they’d have to give him eventually for choosing him over Robert Griffin III, the Battling Snyders will pay through both nostrils, ears, eye sockets and mouth to keep him.
 
By signing Carr now, the Raiders have as much cost certainty as they can have at the position, and all they have to do now is (a) keep him stocked with supporting players and (b) keep him safe from opposing ones.
 
This isn’t easy, of course; most quarterbacks eventually end up in a fiery crash in Turn Two, and their ability to escape the mangled wreckage is the only thing keeping them from becoming part of the mangled wreckage.
 
So yeah, luck. Lots of luck.
 
On the other hand, the Raiders could have guaranteed that they would have had to overpay by a factor of 1.5 or maybe more by not signing him now, or they could have saved millions more by losing him entirely, which would have been just the gift for the discerning Las Vegas ticket holder who wanted an excuse not to buy tickets.
 
Essentially, Carr played the system brilliantly, and good for him since under most circumstances the system plays the players. Football players have a short enough career, and a shorter than average quality of life, so the rule of thumb should always be getting everything available and as much guaranteed as possible.
 
In fact, were I Derek Carr, I’d ask for ALL the money to be guaranteed just to set a standard for those who come behind me.
 
But if he’s happy – and let’s wait to see how much of this deal is actually guaranteed and how much is placed on a rug that will be pulled out from beneath him – and the Raiders are happy – and why wouldn’t they be? – then there’s nobody to complain, now, is there?
 
Now the Raiders of old would have screwed this up, and somehow Carr would have done so as well. But this team hasn’t done anything regally boneheaded since . . . well, trying to go to Los Angeles . . . or maybe hiring Dennis Allen . . . or . . . 
 
Oh, never mind. The point is, Carr was done at the right time, at the right number, for the right reasons, and both sides should be delighted.
 
And in nine or twelve or seventeen days when Matthew Stafford gets a deal that makes him a dollar more than Derek Carr . . . well, we’ll let the amateur accountants who think NFL contracts define players sort out that level of idiocy.

It's almost as if the Warriors are making the NBA tank the 2017-18 season

It's almost as if the Warriors are making the NBA tank the 2017-18 season

It’s taken a long time to figure out exactly what kind of sports enclave the Bay Area is, because in our ignorance we have tried to define it by sport. It was a baseball area when the Giants were winning or had Barry Bonds or had Willie Mays, or when the A’s were going to the World Series. It was a football area when the 49ers or Raiders were winning, or when they were at least interesting.
 
But this is the first time that it has truly been a basketball area from the Oregon border to the Paso Robles city limits, from the ocean to the middle of Nevada, and all it took was a two-time champion and “super team” that has so impacted its sport that teams are putting off short-term decisions to make long-term plans.
 
Kids, Golden State is finally a real geographical and conceptual entity, and everyone else is just renting space by the hour.
 
Granted, the Warriors have become a generational team – this generation’s team – by kicking all the ass presented to them for nearly three full years, with the great likelihood of at least a couple more.
 
But this is one of those rare times in sports history when a team is dominating its own offseason because the other teams are literally overwhelmed by the task of threatening them. It is as if the other teams in the league have made plans based not on how to challenge them but to when it is worth the effort to challenge them.
 
And most seem to agree that that time has not yet come.
 
A confluence of events, most of them tied to the TV contracts that and CBA provisions, have put a lot of big names, starting with LeBron James, on the market after next season. And the Warriors, having won five of every six games for three years and come within one five-minute shooting drought of being a three-time champion, are universally considered too far away to catch immediately.
 
In a weird way, it is almost as if the NBA is tanking the 2017-18 season for a brighter (and probably illusory) future.
 
That seems like too broad a statement, though, so let’s tailor it a bit. Let's call it not "tanking," but "abandoning," with the motto, "Ahhh, screw it. We'll just wait."

It is almost as if, in the absence of bolder concepts, the NBA’s main short-term strategies for dealing with the Warriors are:
 
•     Hiring their front office people (Jerry West, Travis Schlenk).
 
•     Flirting with Andre Iguodala (though that seems more smoky that actually flaming).
 
•     Saying mean things about Kevin Durant (which is almost surely the stupidest narrative there is, in that it assumes a grown man who has made a series of excellent decisions for his own future can have his feelings hurt by some media hyena or a moron on Twitter).
 
•     Hoping for some catastrophic injuries.
 
These are not creative, forward-thinking ideas, though. They are the equivalent of hitting on 17, or trying to fill a nine-high inside straight. They are hopes against hope, while the time of day is devoted far more to longer-term concepts.
 
Say, like waiting for the Warriors to age, which at least has the advantage of actually being an idea that will come true.
 
Nobody knows how these plans will play out, because we have just entered the knife-your-pals period of roster assembly, where teams try to poach the best players from other teams in hopes of creating their own "super teams." But we do know that for the first time ever, the Bay Area is paying closer attention to the NBA off-season when the Warriors don’t have a draft pick than at any time when they did.
 
And why? Because the Bay Area isn’t about one sport as opposed to another. It’s about front-running, and not since the 49ers of the 1980s (and maybe never before) has front-running been so safe and clear and free from angst.
 
It also helps that the A’s are stripping the roster down to the studs and re-bar (again), and that the Giants are comprehensively dreadful, and that the 49ers are years away from not being the same, and that the Raiders are good (though by no means dominant) while planning to leave. Cal has new coaches in its top two revenue sports and enough debt to crush the South American economy. Stanford lives in its own carefully constructed and very gated community, attention-wise, St. Mary’s basketball is in an up-cycle but still too niche-y to make a lot of waves, the Sharks are, well, the Sharks, the Earthquakes are not even a playoff team, and the less said about the Kings the better.
 
In other words, the Warriors have hit their five-run homer not only at a time when the league has no immediate answers but at a time when the rest of the Bay Area is either sequestered, putting up “Room To Let” signs in the front yard or just plain hard to watch.
 
So the Bay Area is a basketball area again, in ways that the USF and Cal teams of the late ‘50s could not even begin to fathom, and the Warriors are the party that never ends in a landscape of Amish farms.
 
And right now, and right here, where the concept of shameless front-running has long been a dominant theme in fan loyalty and understanding, shameless front-running has never been so pervasive.

Or for that matter, rewarding.

With Schlenk and West gone, Bob Myers becomes top target

With Schlenk and West gone, Bob Myers becomes top target

As should have been expected, the thinning of the Golden State Warriors is now well in season.
 
Jerry West, who ought to have a statue outside one of the team’s facilities for all the times he whispered the right thing in the right ear, has decided his future lies back in Los Angeles -- with the Clippers -- as the consigliere to Steve Ballmer rather than Joe Lacob.
 
His contributions to the Warrior powerhouse have been told often, so repeating them here is pointless. He was the conscience of an organization that needed one, the encyclopedia in a room of newbies. He helped Lacob escape potential traps, eased general manager Bob Myers through the tight moments, was the sounding board with reverb.
 
Without him, the Warriors are 42 years without a championship rather than basking in the glory of their second parade.
 
But now his independent voice is gone, as former assistant general manager Travis Schlenk took his to Atlanta to seek his own fortune.

This, then, is the first of the many paper cuts the Warriors will have to endure, avoid or insure against in defense of what they have built. In sports, as in most corporate structures, the sincerest form of flattery is not imitation, it’s talent brigandry, and since Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, the Warriors have only front office figures to poach.
 
Toward that end, Myers becomes the next target for an acquisitive owner. He can have more power if he wants it, he’ll certainly get more money if he wants it, and he might even get a piece of the team a la Billy Beane if he wants it . . . and why wouldn’t he? The idea that things are too good in Golden State and he loves all his fellow workers too much to leave is laughable, because owners never mind overpaying for something they really want, and in the NBA where everyone is flush, money is the easiest thing to splash around.
 
See “refuse, an offer he can’t.”
 
This is not to say Myers will absolutely leave. He may know that this is that once-in-a-career opportunity, and that reveling in it is the smart play. Plus, he is contracted through the 2020 season -- though contracts have a funny way of changing as circumstances change.

But this is to say he will absolutely listen to and think about an overwhelming offer somewhere down the line. Hell, maybe that offer comes from the Clippers if/when they decide to whack Doc Rivers.
 
And then there is Steve Kerr, who won’t be healthy again until he is. If his war with his spinal fluid can be won, there is no reason why Lacob wouldn’t sit down and offer him an eight-figure extension or, if Myers leaves, an extension with a bigger title. Or maybe another team decides to over-over-overpay for his wisdom and team-building and sound-bitery.
 
Or maybe if Myers leaves, Kerr goes with him, as they are the most kindred of all the Warrior spirits.
 
These are a lot of ifs to process, some of them preposterous longshots, but they are no less conceivable than the more orthodox “Warriors are going to win five titles in a row” blather. In a world where money is hurled around at breathtaking speed and volume, the only certain thing is uncertainty, and the only guarantee is the next contract. The Warriors know this; hell, they’ve done it themselves.  After all, they stole Kerr out from beneath Phil Jackson’s nose three years ago.
 
We’ve gone far afield from the entirely predictable departure of Jerry West, true, and it’s still far better competitively and economically to be a Warrior than an Anything Else. Players make teams, basketball executives find players, and owners do what they can to keep everyone happy. So far, these things have meshed well in Oakland. Very well indeed.
 
But now that the parade is done and the promises of eternal victory are made, West will serve as a reminder that change is perpetual, and there are more bright front office people in the market than there are Kevin Durants or Stephen Currys.
 
And that grass isn’t the only thing that’s green.