Big O Tires

Most talked-about draft in perhaps ever delivered one extraordinary thing

Most talked-about draft in perhaps ever delivered one extraordinary thing

The NBA Draft was a resounding success for the chattering classes – that is, until it actually happened, at which point all the potential scenarios were reduced to reality, and as we are coming to learn, nobody much likes reality any more.

After all, what’s more fun – arguing about where Jimmy Butler was going to be traded, or the trade that sent him to Minnesota itself? Let me help you with that – it was the first one.

Before the act, anything is possible, and therefore anything can be suggested. Once the act is completed, though?

Scoreboard. End of discussion. Fun dies. Go home.

Try this is you don't think so:

Fact: Lonzo Ball wants to be a Laker. Hilarious supposition that drives conversation (and drinks) across the nation: What if he doesn’t get to be a Laker and his father pulls his own head off like a champagne cork? Result that ends all discussion: Lonzo Ball is a Laker.

And then it ratchets itself again. Hilarious re-supposition that re-energizes the argumentals: How good will Lonzo Ball be? Result that ends all discussion: How good he actually is. Tie-breaker: His dad pulling his own head off like a champagne cork.

This is how daily fantasy became popular – the creation of a different reality or realities that have nothing to do with the actual games played by the actual people. This is also how esports became a thing – creatures of the imagination fighting other creatures of the imagination over fictional glories.

Hell, it’s why the best day of the college basketball season is the day the 68-team NCAA tournament bracket is filled. The games ruin it by being the definitive word on the bracket.

It is, in short, the triumph of the process over the actual deed – interactive make-believe gone mad.

So it was Thursday night. The most talked-about draft in perhaps ever which delivered one extraordinary thing – the Butler trade to Minnesota rather than Boston or Cleveland. Everything else about the evening was noise signifying chalk. All the players everyone thought would go high went high, the ones in the middle were pretty much mid-level draftees, and the bottom twenty were . . . well, what bottom 20 picks usually are: G-Leaguers.

There weren’t any goofy foreigners, no stretches, no spite-filled Kristaps Porzingis trade by a fulminating Phil Jackson. Nobody did anything aggressively stupid or jaw-droppingly brilliant, which without all the pre-draft yelling and screaming would have made this a fairly bland evening.

The lesson, then, is this: In the new world of show-me-something-shiny-right-now, the shiny part of the NBA draft was the run-up. And we love the run-up, almost more than we love the games.

Or maybe we’re just better as a nation at the run-up. The NFL Draft is its own industry, right down to the large-men-running-in-their-underwear degrade-o-thon known as the combine. The NHL this year doubled down with an expansion draft the day before its amateur draft. The pregame show does a better number than the rest of the day, and since the new media truth is that the pregame show is all day, every day, we have hooked ourselves on conversations about what might be and flit about like a hummingbird on Ritalin to the next what-might-be thing.

This preference for the individually tailored virtual universe over the one we all actually live in is not something to be lamented or wept over. It just is, and it will remain that way until the games just wither and die and all there is talking about something that actually will never happen instead of a million things that might.

In that moment, the robots will win. Or more precisely, they’ll get to the round of sixteen, and we can all argue about whether they would be better off meeting the Cylons or the shape-shifters in the regional final.

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.