Ray Ratto

W's looked death in face, came away with odd smile

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W's looked death in face, came away with odd smile

Finally, the Warriors delivered a result worthy of the fans they perpetually tease.

Dorell Wrights elegant three-pointer with 1:25 to play and Nate Robinsons subsequent steal and throw to Wright for a breakaway layup sped the mythical State of Gold to its best win of the year, a 111-106 in overtime over The Team You Love To Hate Even More Than The Lakers, the Miami Heat.

And it came at one of those too-numerous-to-count moments in franchise history when the audience was ready to resign itself to one more year of the same old same old. The Warriors started disrhythmically, then went into a funk that led to a 17-point third-quarter deficit, and the sellout crowd was oddly distant through it all.

But a slow but steady comeback that eventually reduced the lead to five with five minutes to play enlivened the customers, who in turn enlivened the Warriors. An indistinct gray blur of a game suddenly became a moment of synergy between a ticket base that was ready to abandon hope after only 9 games and the team that keeps promising more than it delivers.

Put another way, the Warriors were on the verge of taking hold of 15th place in the 15-team Western Conference, an early-season metaphor for all that is bad about Warrior basketball, and the fans knew it.

But they were denied their moment of enduring despair because the Warriors chose not to give in to the funky vibe, or to the Heat, which played the last 20:34 in a seemingly self-satisfied glide. They expected, as did the world, to see the Warriors accept their fate as they do too often, but did not get the reward they expected.

Credit Dorell Wright, whose dagger of a trey with 31.2 seconds left in regulation, and recent pickup Nate Robinson for providing the difference-making energies down the stretch. In fact, credit whomever the hell you want. The Warriors looked death in the face and came away with an odd smile, like they were in on a joke nobody else had heard.

And once again, the audience was re-hooked.

By now it is hard to quantify exactly what Warrior fans deserve. It isnt as though they havent known that every year blends into the last one in an indistinct gray blur, and it isnt like they dont know that it isnt just about being entertained any more. They want a result beyond They played hard.

And under normal circumstances, they would pay full retail for that kind of misplaced optimism.

But they do counterpunch at home, and they do typically give full dollar for dollar for the locals. This was above and beyond the call, of course, and nationally most people will view this more as a condemnation of the Heat than a credit to the Warriors.

And hell, theyre 3-6 even with the win, so theyre not really entitled to a lot of national love. We Believe is a million years ago.

Still, they outscored the Heat 50-28 in the final 20 minutes, and slapped themselves out of their maddening torpor for one night. They gave the audience another six weeks of hope, even though most folks know how this hope thing usually plays itself out.

It was a moment, and a grand one, for a team that was on the verge of imploding once again. When you have the worst record in the conference at any point after the first week, people tend to see a long dark hallway with no light and no opening at the other end.

And these are the Warriors, after all, the team for whom that hallway is home sweet home.

But for this night, they beat the crowd to the punch, and carried them home to a win that will resonate for . . . well, for six weeks or so. This march to respectability is a long road indeed, but at least it doesnt have to reset its beginning to 2012-13.

Yet.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).

AFC WEST

DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)

AFC EAST

BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

NFC WEST

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)

NFL SOUTH

ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)

NFC EAST

DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.