My, what a difference five years makes

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My, what a difference five years makes

When times were bad in our little corner of the world, they were very bad. They are bad no longer.

Five years ago, the Giants were wrapping up the Barry Bonds era by getting rid of their owner and changing their dugout, and the As had just embarked on their five-year hiatus from relevance.

Stanford had just turned over the operation to Jim Harbaugh after years of meh, Cal needed to win the Armed Forces Bowl to preserve a winning season, and San Jose State had dropped back off the map.

The 49ers and the Raiders were long-term hopeless.

The Warriors had delivered their every-decade-or-so false positive, and the Sharks had their annual round-of-eight bailout.

The Earthquakes didnt exist and the SaberCats lost the Arena Bowl before disappearing with the rest of the Arena League.

It wasnt completely awful, mind you. Stanford basketball still thrived, and Cal won every rugby match it played for a long time. But mostly, it was as appealing and tasty as the bottom of an old barbecue grill.

And now?

The Giants lead their division by 7 games with 19 games to play, thereby robbing their fans of most of the reasons they have to bitch about the team, and the As never lose, and are now two games away from having THE BEST FREAKING RECORD IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE.

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Stanford just put a fresh elbow to the thorax of the USC Trojans, and San Jose State is getting good enough to have coach Mike McIntyre mentioned for other jobs.

The Earthquakes have the best record in MLS.

The 49ers are, well, you know.

The Raiders and Warriors are in full rebuilding mode, which means whatever they are, they arent the same thing theyve been in the past. For them, this is galactic advancement.

The Sharks management just padlocked its doors with the other 29 ingrates, so they cant disappoint anyone for awhile.

Hell, theres nary a discouraging word to be had. Not that we wont find one when it needs to be addressed, but right now, the locals are playing with a nice chip stack, and marks to either side of them.

Saturday was indicative of how things have gone. The worst thing that happened was that Cal scared the bejeepers out of Ohio State at Ohio Stadium in a game the Bears were expected to lose by 353 points. Instead, they lost by seven, late. The second worst thing was that the Dodgers beat St. Louis to remain only 7 games behind in the NL West race and move into a tie for the second wild card sport. The third worst thing was . . . well, maybe you burned your tri-tip on the grill.

But thats it. Stanford clocked SC again, an almost annual event now. The Giants won narrowly, the As won comfortably, the Quakes became the first team to qualify for the MLS playoffs, and San Jose State gobsmacked Colorado State.

Its almost as if weve forgotten how to watch bad teams.

And watching winners is as difficult in its way as watching losers. A fan has to fight against smugness, premature totaling of chickens, boring people who dont care with tales of things that other people achieved, and declaring things to be over when they clearly are not.

But it remains light years better than disconnecting ones phone, throwing the remote through the screen, wishing for people to die so that the team could make changes (and yes, you know who you are), and just being miserable wall to wall.

Of course, this can all go bad in a hurry again, because expectations have been elevated, in some places to impossible heights. Fans can forget that everything in the world is day-to-day, especially when you factor that the Mayans say we have only 97 day-to-days left in us.

But for now, for this moment, Laissez les bons temps rouler. It doesnt often get this good, so it should be enjoyed fully by those with the most interest in the game.

After all, it wasnt that long ago when the Bay Area was the kick-ee rather than the kick-er. You take the good times for granted, and they will be taken away in a nanosecond.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Durant gets taste of competition, plays 1-on-1 with Warriors coach

Durant gets taste of competition, plays 1-on-1 with Warriors coach

For the first time in a month, Kevin Durant got a taste of competition. Well, sort of.

Durant on Wednesday went through one-on-one sessions with Warriors assistant coach Willie Green, who is two years removed from a 12-year career as a guard in the NBA.

“He played full-court one-on-one, played some half-court one-on-one to start and then they stepped it up,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters prior to the Warriors-Spurs game in San Antonio. “Willie said it was a good workout.”

Durant and Green played five games of half-court ball and one with the full court. The active player, for the record, won all six games.

“Kevin got him pretty good, so it’s a good sign,” Kerr said before flashing a bit of humor. “If Willie had beaten him, I would have been very concerned.”

An even better sign for the Warriors is that only one man walked away feeling the burn of competition.

“Willie said he was really sore,” Kerr said. “Not Kevin. Willie.”

Durant has been out since sustaining a medial collateral ligament sprain and bone bruise to his left knee on Feb. 28 at Washington. Though there have been no setbacks in his rehab, there is no firm timetable for his return.

“It’s impossible to predict that stuff,” Kerr said. “But it would be nice for him to get a couple games in at the end of the regular season.”

The Warriors plan to re-evaluate Durant next week, after which they expect to plot out his return. There is optimism that he could be back in time to play two or three regular season games in preparation for the postseason, which begins April 15.

 

Anonymous poll: Is Sharks defenseman Burns still Norris frontrunner?

Anonymous poll: Is Sharks defenseman Burns still Norris frontrunner?

Throughout much of his dominant 2016-17 season, the words “Norris Trophy lock” have often preceded Brent Burns’ name. 

The 32-year-old has led all NHL blueliners in scoring for the past three months, building upon a strong second half last season in which he helped lead the Sharks to their first ever Stanley Cup Final, and solidifying himself as one of the best defensemen in the game.

In 76 games, Burns has 28 goals – 11 more than any other defenseman – and 45 assists for 73 points and a plus-17 rating. At one point on Feb. 19, he had 14 more points than Erik Karlsson, who was second among NHL defensemen.

But Burns went cold earlier this month. During one stretch, he went nine out of 10 games without finding the scoresheet, and finally snapped a 16-game goal drought with an overtime winner on Tuesday against the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Karlsson has been heating up. A two-time Norris Trophy winner in 2012 and 2015, the Senators defenseman has 13 points in his last 14 games. As of Wednesday morning, Karlsson was just five points behind Burns in scoring, with 15 goals and 53 assists for 68 points and a plus-seven rating.

There’s talk Karlsson could take home a third Norris, snatching it out of Burns’ grasp.

But, probably not.

In an anonymous poll among 21 PHWA members, most of whom get a vote for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, Burns’ designation as the frontrunner seems fairly safe with just six games to go in the regular season.

Of the writers polled, including a broad swath from across North America, 14 told CSN they would likely vote for Burns as the league’s best defensemen if the season ended Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Three were leaning towards Burns, while only four said they would give it to Karlsson.

One writer polled had Burns first, Tampa Bay’s Viktor Hedman second, and Karlsson third.

Of course, 21 votes is just a small sample size of the PHWA membership. Last season, 183 writers took part in voting for the Norris, according to the final tally. Burns finished third in voting, well behind winner Drew Doughty, while Karlsson was second.

Still, as long as Burns stays in front of Karlsson in the scoring race, it appears he remains in line to become the first Sharks defenseman ever to earn a Norris Trophy.