Big O Tires

Confident in what he's built, Kerr should prioritize health over coaching

Confident in what he's built, Kerr should prioritize health over coaching

Steve Kerr has always tried to will his vicious post-surgical back into obedience, to the point of showing discomfort even with well-wishing inquiries.

And he has failed. Damned bodies, always acting out.

He wanted the nick in his spinal cord and the fluid it released to self-correct, and though nobody is sure that this is the specific cause of his absence from the remainder of the Golden State-Portland, it has been a persistent issue for the last 20-plus months.

And now it, or a related issue, may jeopardize his ability to guide the Warriors to whatever their playoff destiny is.

That he chose to surrender to the logic of pain gives us all a pretty clear indication of how poorly he truly feels. Behind his jocular exterior and the perspective that comes with it lies a series of shields that forces him to be less forgiving about himself than others. He was going to defy his actual spine by showing how mighty his metaphorical backbone is, and as if usually the case, actuality trumps metaphor.

It seems unfair, but as Kerr will grudgingly admit, fair has nothing to do with it. Fair would be a successful surgery with no lingering side effects. Fair would be the ability to do his job pain-free. Fair would be tackling the evident difficulties of meeting the expectations of the entire basketball-playing world with a clear, undistracted mind.

So there’s your fair, in a fetid heap by the hamper.

As for his quality of life, it can be reasonably assumed that he would not jeopardize that just for a second ring. He is hyper-competitive, but he isn’t reckless, or worse, nuts. That’s his call for as long as he owns his back. If he doesn’t coach again in these playoffs, then he doesn’t coach again in these playoffs, and the worst thing that happens is that we argue pointlessly about whether he gets credit for the games they play between now and the end of their season, whenever that is.

And while it seems unduly callous, to talk about how long he’ll be out or what his version of “100 percent” is or how much coaching he will do from his office, or his home, it is where this part of the conversation must ultimately go.

Mike Brown is a qualified head coach whose only real shortcoming as it matters here is his different voice in the room. To the minimal extent that this could be disruptive, there is still Ron Adams and Bruce Fraser and Jarron Collins, not to mention Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston . . . oh, and Kevin Durant. The Warriors don’t coach themselves, but they have a healthy idea of what to do, how to do it, and how to create the conditions under which those things get done.

But in a postseason that has been almost notorious for the number of players who can’t, well, play, Kerr’s absence will stand out. The Warriors will be different as a result – certainly not better, probably not materially worse, but different. Every assumption about a hand ride through the playoffs is now so much wadded-up paper, or if you must, tablet without connectivity.

And maybe that’s the real casualty here. If Kerr misses only a couple of games, then it didn’t matter that much. If he can’t come back, it will. But the NBA playoffs are as casualty-strewn in their way as the Stanley Cup playoffs are in theirs, and if nothing else, it may cause us all to assume nothing about anything.

And that includes Steve Kerr. Here’s hoping he doesn’t rush back to fix a problem that doesn’t yet exist. Here’s hoping his view goes beyond mid-June. Here’s hoping he resists the impulse to coach this team with several vertebrae tied behind his front.

As unfair as all this might be (there we go again, doing that fair stuff), he sat out once, and his team thrived because of the atmosphere he had already created. He should be confident in what he’s built, and if he can be return for the start of the next series, it should be because he is ready to, not because he feels compelled.

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.

Bumgarner on the DL is the biggest of gut punches for Giants

Bumgarner on the DL is the biggest of gut punches for Giants

Giants fans will never look at a Madison Bumgarner truck ad again without having a violent twitch. After all, now that he’s been beaten up by a dirt bike, who knows what nefarious danger he’s courting in an actual pickup?

Bumgarner, the heart, soul, spleen and pancreas of the San Francisco rotation, is going to miss the next six to eight weeks (the neighborhood of a third of the season) after a dirt bike accident that resulted in a sprained left shoulder and bruised ribs and got him shipped to the disabled list.

In other words, he screwed with the moneymaker, and now the company is locked in a duel with their own worst thoughts.

This should logically take most Giants aficionados, including supervisors and employees, back to that fun-filled evening in 2011 when Buster Posey got trucked by Scott Cousins in a home-plate collision. Or, more distantly, Jeff Kent’s famous O’Rielly Auto Parts loofa injury of 15 years ago.

In fact, if you toss in Posey getting beaned earlier this year, some fans – typically those who believed that even years are somehow magic for them simply by virtue of being divisible by two – will doubtless conclude that the Giants are beset with season-destroying juju that makes low run support seem like skin lotion on an ashy elbow.

Of course, what we’ve done here is taken an internal combustion-related injury, merged it with a heart-of-the-franchise injury and come up with Bumgarner zigging on a dirt bike when sagging was clearly indicated. In fact, the three are unrelated, as anyone with a working knowledge of time and causation/correlation would understand.

But the immediate effect is that the Giants now have a gaping hole in the starting rotation, the thing that was supposed to indemnify him from the roster’s other holes. The team’s working plan, to hold Ty Blach is reserve until it gets a better sense of Matt Cain’s value, is now in shreds, and general manager Bobby Evans now gets to know exactly what Brian Sabean felt in 2011, and what he came close to feeling in 2002.

In other words, now Evans gets to know why general managers drink.

Now there may be more story here, as there was with the Kent cover tale in ’02. Or it may be as simple as Posey’s story in ’11, which couldn’t really be embellished much since it happened under high-visibility lighting.

Either way, the good news here is that if Bumgarner was going to hurt himself, 16 games into the season beats 106 games into the season. Unless the shoulder is damaged significantly (and there’s no need to get out over your medical skis until you need to, kids), the Giants will have time to minimize whatever damage there is to their year. In other words, if eight weeks turns to 12, this is a body blow to a team withgout a lot of margin for body blows.

And maybe Bumgarner, chastened by this incident, will give up any future plans for punching out a cow, wrestling a bear or juggling tractor motors to a medley of Blake Shelton songs.

That’s the good news, as we say. The bad news . . . well, you know that one. So does Buster Posey. We need not get into greater detail.

Yet.