Ray Ratto

Westphal swamped by the tide


Westphal swamped by the tide

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Kings formally announced the hiring of Keith Smart as head coach, hours after the firing of Paul Westphal was made public and shortly before this column was filed.

Without knowing the secret workings of the Sacramento Kings, it is hard to know just how it is that they decided to fire head coach Paul Westphal Thursday.

Then again, the problem with the Kings is that so few people care about their secret workings. Even after DaMarcus Cousins either did or didnt demand a trade, the Kings have been impervious to the watchful eye of the NBAs thought-makers and opinion-ratcheters.

In fact, they are dramatically less visible than the Warriors nationally, and thats saying something.

But Westphal got red-carded Thursday after the second-fewest number of games since the NBA-ABA merger for what seems from a distance to be the teams monumentally bad results, and evidence that most of the players have already asked the waiter for the check and the valet to bring the car around.
RELATED: Kings fire Westphal after seven games

They are loaded with guards who like to shoot and dont like to prevent others from shooting, which makes them like the Warriors. Their five losses, the most recent of which was to Denver by the sprightly score of 110-83, have been by an average score of 109-89.

And this is after winning the home opener against the Lakers and causing the nation to declare the Lakers dead, rather than enthusing over the resurgent Kings, as the pundits have seemed to do with the still-mediocre Minnesota Timberwolves.

In short, the season is short, the enthusiasm over the sellouts for the Lakers and Bulls has dissipated, there is still the matter of a new arena to be hassled over, and the Maloofs cant sit back and take their usual zen approach.

RELATED: Cousins says he never demanded a trade

So Westphal, who drew a line in the sand over Cousins, has apparently been swamped by the ensuing tide. And Keith Smart, the former Warrior head coach who fell shamefully short last year in the one area that mattered most -- being Joe Lacobs guy -- happened to be in the building. And apparently, at least according to Kings beat writer Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, Cousins and Tyreke Evans seem to be fond of Smart.

Now there is also a notion that Westphals reaction to Cousins might have been way in the over- category, and its always easier to move a coach than a high draft pick, but as we have seen with the Warriors over the years, a misshapen roster is hard to change. And even allowing for the fact that general manager Geoff Petrie is nobodys dunce and has been working with both hands and one foot tied behind his back, this is a problem.

It is the same problem the Warriors have had, and all the Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul and now Dwight Howard rumors dont dispel the central truth -- that even if Stephen Currys ankle werent made of snack cakes, the Warriors wouldnt be a functional NBA playoff-quality team. Bad rosters on non-fashionable teams are hard to make good without a great deal of draft luck.

It helps explain why the Warriors have had such coaching instability (14 coaches in 25 years, 10 by Don Nelson alone). The Kings have had 13 in 25 years, and eight of those years were taken up by Rick Adelman. As a point of further comparison, the Kings have made the playoffs 10 times in those 25 years, the Warriors six, but the Kings had a nine-year run, mostly with Adelman in the saddle, which means there were lean times on either side.

But the Warriors just had the fire-the-coach festival, and the Kings are doing theirs now. What changes? Probably very little, as Smart can surely attest.

But if Smart gets the Kings to play as hard as he convinced the Warriors to do last year before being uncoupled by the Lacob Laser, the Kings will at least cut down on that margin of defeat stat. And if not . . . well, things have been so hard in the capital that nobody will notice whether he made them incrementally worse or incrementally better.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

The real issue that lingers now that OJ Simpson is a free man

O.J. Simpson is free. The system as it is defined by those who run it in the case of the Nevada Parole Board, worked.

But the issue that lingers is whether we can free ourselves of him. That system is far more amorphous, arbitrarty and essentially unfair. And in its own revolting way, it works too.

The O.J. market has always been bullish. The old cliché that people can’t get enough no matter how much you shovel at them is more true for him than for any other sports figure of the last 50 years. More than Tiger Woods. More than LeBron James. More than Michael Jordan. More than all of them.

And now his parole hearing, televised and streamed by every outlet except Home & Garden Television, proved it again. He will never not be O.J.

But he is also 70. He is also planning to go to Florida and be with his family, based on what he told the parole board Thursday. He has assiduously avoided the media in his nine years in Lovelock, and if his family is providing the support it pledges, it will do its utmost to keep him from our prying eyes as he enters his dotage.

There is nothing we have that can do him any good. We have eaten all the forms of O.J. there are, culminating in the Emmy-award winning documentary on him, and finally, his release from prison. If he is wise as well as smart, here’s nothing left of his life but re-airs.

So the question becomes not so much whether he can leave fame alone, or whether fame can leave him alone. Our national appetite is poor on the topic of leaving people be, let alone deciding enough is enough. The fame we make for people gorges, purges and gorges again, in a hideous cycle that demeans all involved.

In sum, O.J. Simpson can, if he is paying attention to the value of normalcy, end his addiction to fame. I have far more serious doubts about fame and its addiction to him.

Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations


Quietest time in sports yields a pair of idiotic fascinations

Some time not that very long ago, someone in sports management who will almost certainly spend all of eternity bobbing for razor-studded apples in a pool of lava saw an opportunity in the phrase, “The quietest time in sports.” And decided to fill it with filth.
It is believed to begin right after the end of the NBA Finals, although that artificial start date has been extended through free agency now that the NBA’s principal entertainment vehicle is the burning of money. It used to be right after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, though now it has been extended backward. And it ends roughly at the beginning of NFL and/or college training camps, depending on where you live and which of those two beasts you profess your God to be.
But let’s get back to the management succubus who has set us on the path that has led inexcusably to the current point. The idea that baseball no longer holds the interest or attention spans of the young, cool and inadequately trained in the value of money is now accepted as fact, and as any marketing nitwit will tell you, nature abhors a vacuum.
So here’s what we’ve got. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in what is very simply a lazy-stereotype-laden comedy tour that isn’t funny let alone even mildly convincing. They have both been on the stage too long, with a month still to go before the final shame-off August 26, where they simply enter the arena, stand with their backs to each other at the ring rope and spend 45 minutes trying to target-spit into the eyes of the high-rollers. Why the promoters didn’t just muzzle Mayweather and McGregor and use actual professionals like Key and Peele and Aisling Bea and Ed Byrne to work the crowds for a million per is simply a lack of imagination at work.
Here’s what else we have. Our idiotic fascination for Lonzo Ball’s two best Summer League games being achieved wearing shoes other than those promoted by his father/huckster as though his skills and intelligence are all in his feet.
What this actually is, of course, is people using Lonzo’s momentary and mostly microscopic achievement to call LaVar a tedious swine without ever using his name or his product catalog because he, like McGregor and Mayweather, beats down crowds and calls it entertainment, and people have signed on in a weird backdoor way – by finding reasons to like the son as a weapon against the father.
Thus, Lonzo Ball gets to learn how to be a professional athlete of note while carrying the load of his father’s impression upon the nation as well as the loads of those who believe that sins of the father must revert to the son. Popularity’s dominant property is its corrosion, and Ball will have to have very fast feet and well-constructed shoes indeed to dance away from the rising tide of a bored fan base with an ax to grind.
It isn’t as instantly gratifying a train wreck as Mayweather-McGregor, but it is a triumph of the new marketing strategy of wholesale idiocy that diminishes the watcher as well as the watched.
Neither of these events are in and of themselves interesting. Mayweather-McGregor is simply a kangaroo boxing a bear because circus entertainment no longer has circuses as venues, and Ball’s summer bears almost no relationship to the true test of his career – how to be the best player on a terrible team and then make the adjustment to being the third best player on a rebuilding team.
Ball has a longer shelf life because of that single useful component, but it is made less rather than more interesting by the presence of his father, who is now indelibly part of the tale at a time when most parents leave their children to find their fortunes by the virtues of their skills and wits.
McGregor-Mayweather has the sole benefit of being cringeworthy both before, during and after the event, a month-long smear of degradation that reduces all involved, including those who buy the fight, into penitents, into rolling apologies. It is an event in which nobody gets out with any shred of dignity, with the single revolting example of the grisly accountant-beasts who will take the Internal Revenue’s cut immediately after the fight.
And if that isn’t Satan winning, then you don’t know how to score a game in which Satan plays on all the teams at once and sees to it that the game is scheduled in the middle of July because some client of his told him it was the best time of year for personal and professional disgrace with a scoreboard on the end of it.