Big O Tires

Warriors continue to thrive in their second calling

Warriors continue to thrive in their second calling

Programming note: Warriors-76ers coverage starts today at 3pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Credit must be given to the Golden State Warriors for keeping the brand alive on multiple platforms – to the point where they are now indirectly and barely tangentially linked to the Great Oscars Envelope Piefight.

Stay with us here. We’ll get to it.

The mundane matter of winning has, as expected, taken care of itself. They’ve clinched a playoff berth earlier than any other team, at least in the 16-team playoff era, they’ve hit their full stride with the Kevin Durant trade, they’re nervously navigating the Draymond Green Cavalcade of Technical Fouls, and they have led their supporters into the same old trap of thinking that regular season success is the same as postseason invulnerability.

In that way, they are much as they were a year ago, and the year before that.

But it is their underrated ability to find ancillary links to the world outside the NBA that makes them more than merely, say, the 1983 Fo’-Fo’-Fo’ 76ers.

Steve Kerr has been a political and social critic, and more than once – meaning that he hasn’t stumbled into discussions about the political state of the nation as much as he has leaped into them eyes wide open and feet fireproofed. He has not been tricked into a comment, ever. He says what he wants, and is in that way the management equivalent of . . .

. . . Green, who is more often than not the de facto team spokesman, Pushback Division, in that he will speak to anyone on any subject at any time. He is in many ways the Swiss Army Knife of sound bites, and when he decides to err on the side of volubility does not mind taking on opponents, strangers, his coach and, occasionally even teammates. He is a walking debate about temper management that is either 1 or 1-A to DeMarcus Cousins.

Durant and Russell Westbrook have, less voluntarily, been the subjects of a semi-philosophical debate about loyalty vs. business vs. opportunity vs. abandonment. Much of it has been driven not by them but by us, but we let go of cheap and easy narratives with the same willingness that Rottweilers demonstrate with a burglar’s femur.

JaVale McGee, the backup center, has just now engaged with some force with megabus/provocateur Shaquille O’Neal over O’Neal’s intermittent needling of McGee that finally hit the red, resulting in a unilateral cease-fire imposed by O’Neal’s mother Lucille that has not yet been agreed to by McGee’s mother Pamela. In other words, this is a family thing, with all the landmined dynamics that implies – a sure-fire talker both for those who like their debates either trivialized or broadened to take on larger social themes.

And the Oscars? Well, Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali is a self-admitted huge fan of The Bridge, having grown up in the area, played at Mount Eden High and Saint Mary’s on a ball scholarship, and now he is part of the best Oscars story that doesn’t involve movie junkies since Sacheen Littlefeather rejected Marlon Brando’s Oscar on his behalf. That the Warriors weren’t wearing black armbands Monday night in Philadelphia to protest the envelope screwup is a missed opportunity that only having Ali courtside amid Joe Lacob, Pete Guber, Phil Hellmuth and Beyonce for Game 2 against Denver in April can remedy.

In other words, cue the marketing department.

Next to all this, the arcane notion of the Warriors clinching a playoff spot and being on pace to having the largest margin between conference winner and ninth-place team since Boston (67-15) whipped Cleveland (29-53) in 1986 by a smooth 38 games means – well, next to nothing. Especially since we now know, or should know, that nothing happens until June says it happens.

And if the Warriors are the brand name they occasionally claim to be by being more than just a superb basketball team, they will remain abreast of all social and cultural trends, fitting them as best they can between the 21 remaining off-days as best they can.

It is apparently their second calling – to be small but available thermometers for any subject you’ve got, from the changing nature of basketball to the coming civil war to the death of the sun. It’s a good thing they’ve taken care of the playoff thing; otherwise, there’d be no getting them to maintain focus.

With Clippers rivalry over, Warriors feed off feud with Foster

With Clippers rivalry over, Warriors feed off feud with Foster

This will come as a sharp blow to Warrior fans who like things the way they are, but they probably can no longer use Scott Foster as an alibi for failure, or a stalking horse for rage.
 
Well, I mean they can, but let’s be honest here – the evidence just doesn’t support it any more.
 
Foster, who no matter what you say is one of the elite officials in the league, has also been cast as a bête noire by all things Golden State. Either he’s imperious, or he’s standoffish, or he makes himself too conspicuous – they’re all standard complaints made of all officials who aren’t otherwise branded as just plain terrible.
 
Only Foster isn’t terrible, given the fact that he has worked a series of NBA Finals, and that remains the gold standard for officiating.
 
But the Warriors bang their heads against the backboard when he works their games, and were on the verge of doing that again Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. Foster called third quarter technicals on Andre Iguodala and the Warrior bench, and J.T. Orr called one on Draymond Green, all in the space of 6:34. The Warriors were unhinged, the fans were unhinged, innocent bystanders were being hit with flying hinges throughout the arena.
 
And in that stretch, the Warriors outscored the Clippers, 26-15, en route to a 50-point quarter (the first in two seasons and the third since the turn of the millennium) and another harsh slapdown of what used to be known as the Warriors-Clippers Cavalcade Of Hate, this time 123-113.
 
It isn’t that any more, not close. Truth is, the Warriors have won 10 consecutive games against the Clips, but probably never quite at decisively as this. At the game’s most lopsided stretch, Golden State outscored Los Angeles, 72-33, in a shade over 17 minutes.
 
Because that’s what they do.
 
Only this time, the comeback was not fueled by the existence of the Clippers, who had outplayed them pretty convincingly for the first 22 minutes and change, but with the officials, who as we have said before irk the hell out of them when their number includes Foster.
 
Who, again, is one of the game’s best officials. I think it’s a personality clash, to be frank, in which both sides can take some blame.
 
Truth is, though, when a team can go for 50 in a quarter and still have time to engage in a feud with the officials, it is making a kinky little statement about what they can do when enraged, and how difficult it is to stop them when they have a serious mad-on.
 
Yes, it is probably stretching a point to make this case, especially when the Warriors make 17 of 23 shots (9 of 15 from three) and assist on 13 of the 17 field goals. It is probably minimizing Stephen Curry’s 20-point quarter and his four assists, or Kevin Durant’s 15 and five rebounds, or David West imposing his body between Green and the officials to keep him from getting T’d up again for the second successive game.
 
But we have already established that rivalries are dying at their feet left and right. In the last three years the Clippers have gone from the Warriors’ arch-enemies to a team that has finished an aggregate 44 games behind the Dubs in the standings, making whatever animosity they can still stir 

Against the Clips a curio of a much earlier time. The Oklahoma City Thunder have come and gone, and even the Durant-Russell Westbrook has lost its last bit of elasticity.
 
Oh, there is still Cleveland, but that cannot be resumed for another 14 weeks at the earliest.
 
The Warriors, in short, have run out of opponents, and given that they will manufacture a foe when one does not otherwise exist, Scott Foster may have to serve for the time being, even if he is nothing but an intermittent prop to amuse the customers when the game cannot provide.
 
Though you’d have to think the third quarter Thursday makes that pretty thin oatmeal. The Warriors ate an entire game in 12 minutes, including the officials. They seemed like they got their fill.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

meat-pie-guy.jpg
AP

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.