SaberCats open 2012 AFL season with high hopes

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SaberCats open 2012 AFL season with high hopes

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch the SaberCats take on the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. in HD on Comcast SportsNet California.

Nick LainoCSNBayArea.com
The SaberCats open their 2012 campaign with the goal of returning to the top of the Arena Football League. Last year San Jose returned from a two-year hiatus with high hopes but a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season resulted in a disappointing 7-11 record. For the first time since 1999 the SaberCats were unable to compete for an Arena Bowl title.

The road to redemption begins with Saturdays opening night matchup against the Arizona Rattlers.

Here are some things to watch for Saturday night:

QB Matchup - Mark Grieb vs. Nick Davila

Grieb, a two-time Arena Bowl MVP, set the league record last season with 5,312 passing yards. The 2011 AFL MVP led the league in pass efficiency with 127.6 yards. Grieb has passed for over 42,000 yards in his 12-year career, Both Arizona and San Jose finished in the top-10 in scoring in 2011, with the SaberCats finishing No. 1 in total offense. Expect more fireworks Saturday when these two gunslingers battle it out for QB supremacy in 2012.
San Jose's New Defense Philosophy

New defensive coordinator Cedric Walker may have the toughest job in Arena Football. In a league that promotes offense, he has to find ways to stop it. The SaberCats allowed a league-worst 320.4 yards per game in 2011 and gave up a third-worst 60 points per game. The Cats also brought in former NFL assistant coach Kerry Locklin, who helped the 2009 New York Jets defense post a league-low points allowed per game (14.7), while recording 32 sacks. Newly signed Tim McGill, who last year with Tampa Bay, became the first nose tackle in Arena Football history to post 10 sacks in a season, joins the returning two-time All Arena and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Gabe Nyenhuis to form what could turn out to be the most feared front line in the league.

A New Beginning with Some New Faces

The SaberCats are used to attracting the top players in the game. Last season they had to adjust to being an expansion team with expansion players. Head coach Darren Arbet hit the recruiting trail hard this season and it paid off with the signings of two-time All-Arena WR Huey Whitaker, 2011 All-Arena DB Andre Jones, 2011 All-Arena DL Tim McGill, 2011 AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year Rich Ranglin and 2010 All-Arena DB Vince Hill. WR Hank Edwards broke numerous school records on his way to a DII All-American First Team selection. WR Taurus Johnson brings three years of NFL experience to an already deep receiving corps. Aligning all the stars on both sides of the ball will be the key to making this a successful season.
Looking In the Mirror

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Rattlers are led by former SaberCats defensive coordinator Kevin Guy, the AFLs 2011 Coach of the Year. Omarr Smith, who won three of his four Arena Bowl rings with San Jose, coaches the Arizona defense. They brought the SaberCat Way to the desert and it paid off with a 16-2 record and a trip to Arena Bowl XXIV. It is always tough to beat a rival, and in this case, it is even tougher to beat an image of yourself.

As it is every year, expectations are high in San Jose. This organization expects nothing but the best from its players and coaches. That is why players come here. That is why coaches want to coach here. And that is why the fans pack the Pavilion on game nights. The San Jose SaberCats begin their 16th season Saturday night with every hope of a trip to New Orleans and another Arena Bowl championship.
Nick Laino is a tape playback operator with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and the HP Arena public address announcer for the San Jose SaberCats.

Warriors bury Clippers rivalry with 50-point barrage in third quarter

Warriors bury Clippers rivalry with 50-point barrage in third quarter

OAKLAND -- The Warriors-Clippers rivalry, dead for a couple years, was buried 50 points deep Thursday night.

There were, and may always be, occasional fits of temper in which both players and officials will be tested. That surely was the case during the Warriors’ 123-113 victory over LA at Oracle Arena.

But scoring 50 points in 12 minutes, as the Warriors did in the third quarter, is a rather emphatic statement that serves as its own embellishment. It sent the Clippers back home, unable to muster even a half-hearted comeback.

“That was incredible,” Kevin Durant said of third-quarter scoring frenzy.

“That’s a lot of points,” Klay Thompson said. “It’s that the most we’ve had all season?”

Well, yes, it is. The Warriors’ previous high for points in a quarter was 45, also against the Clippers, on Jan. 28.

So this was astonishing even to the Warriors, the highest-scoring team in the NBA for three seasons running. This is the Warriors’ fourth 50-point quarter in franchise history and their first since March 1989. They made nine 3-pointers, tying a franchise record for triples in a quarter.

Fifties are rare, period; the last one by any team in the NBA was on March 25, 2014, when the Lakers dropped 51 in a quarter against the Knicks.

“I had no idea we scored that much,” said Stephen Curry, who scored 20 in the quarter -- 17 in the final 3:37 before halftime. “Obviously, coming back from 12 down to having a double-digit lead, it all started with the defensive end and finding transition.”

The scoring breakdown: Curry scored 20, Durant 15, Thompson 5, Andre Iguodala and Zaza Pachulia 4 each and JaVale McGee 2. The Warriors shot 73.9 percent (17-of-23) in the quarter.

“It all started from our defense, getting rebounds and getting out in transition,” Durant said.

The Warriors forced five LA turnovers in the quarter, off which they scored 11 points. Trailing by 12 at the half, they led by 12 entering the fourth quarter.

The Warriors have defeated the Clippers 10 consecutive times overall. They’ve beaten them 11 straight times at Oracle Arena. The average margin of victory in four games this season is 21.5 points.

This was a matter of how the Warriors responded to the threat posed by LA in the first half.

“I’m not sure what needed to happen,” Draymond Green said. “But I know we took that quarter over. And it was pretty spectacular.”

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.