Big O Tires

Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts

Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts

The Golden State Warriors wasted no time dismissing one of the 95 Narratives for this season – namely, the one that has them gunning secretly for 82 wins.
In a game very reminiscent of last January’s 120-90 win over San Antonio, the Warriors played the role of “90,” or to be more specific, “100” in a richly deserved 129-100 mauling. They provided a fiercely anticipatory and Beyonce/Jay-Z-enriched crowd everything they came to see – in the Spurs.
Kevin Durant? Did swell. Won a lot of hearts. Draymond Green? Had bursts of good and moments of not. Stephen Curry? Numbers but not a lot of impact. Klay Thompson? Didn’t shoot well, and didn’t do much else to mitigate that fact.
But the real failures came not from the individual components but the sum of their parts. A disrhythmic offense that highlight moments obscured too infrequently, an undistinguished defensive effort across the board, no bench presence of any kind, a casual attitude toward possessions in general and an almost dogmatic refusal to engage in rebounding skirmishes – in sum, they exhibited a severe pre-title hangover nine months before the fact.
So with all that as prelude, coach Steve Kerr attacked the media horde with a squinty-eyed “Anyone got any good jokes?”
And knowing that nobody did – at least none better than the game that had just been concluded -- he got down to the duties of the postgame presser. He broke the ice with the throwaway platitude (“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously”), the dismissive swat (“I think they were embarrassed tonight. I know I was”), the quick nuts-and-bolts analysis (“We missed easy shots, didn’t get a lot of loose balls, second efforts, third efforts, and we didn’t play with much physicality”), said the collective performance was massively inadequate at best (“’Strength In Numbers,’ it’s got to be about the group”), and the one dagger that will be the emphasis of Wednesday’s unpleasantness (“We didn’t really look engaged, like we were taking for granted that things were going to go well”).
Which brings us to the box score, where the locals were outrebounded, 54-35 (20-8 on the offensive end), outscored on second chances (24-4), and crushed by the non-starters (54-16 points, 24-6 rebounds). Durant had a less effective game than Kawhi Leonard, Green had a less impactful game than LaMarcus Aldridge, and Curry and Thompson were not as dynamic as second-year shooting guard Jonathon Simmons, local deadeye Patty Mills and the forever-young Manu Ginobili.
In short, it was not a coming-out party for the new dynasty, but a reminder that this is not last year, or the year before, and the Warriors are not nearly the finished product they seemed to present in 2014-5 or 15-6.
Their rotation is still a work in progress, and their combinations are even further away still. Kerr has been saying as much all summer and fall, and logic supports the fact that all teams take time to coalesce.
This is not to say they are going to be minus-29 bad; that would be, well, typical morning-after media analysis, for all fetid air that is worth.
But tonight was a good bucket full of icy well water to everyone’s sensibilities. Just as a year ago, the Warriors have been crowned champions by far too many amateurs before the rite of succession has even begun, and Kerr just received all the fodder he needs to drive home an early-season rebuttal to the ones most in need of hearing it: His players.
As for anyone else who needs to hear such a lesson – well, narratives don’t die that easily. The Warriors are the most covered team in NBA history (imagine the Bird Celtics or the Showtime Lakers in this era), and their failures will resound as much as their triumphs, and it’s all background noise come April 15.
You know, when the season actually starts.

Six things Warriors can do to mitigate the looming 'Warrior Fatigue'

Six things Warriors can do to mitigate the looming 'Warrior Fatigue'

The Golden State Warriors begin their Hubris Against America Tour Tuesday evening against the San Antonio Spurs, and one thing can be safely predicted even now.

Warrior Fatigue.

Not their fatigue; they seem in moderately acceptable basketball shape. Ours. Very much ours.

You see, the Warriors have been in our faces, mouths and brains on an almost daily basis since they became an Internet meme (blow a 3-1 lead in the semifinals, people take no notice; blow one in the final and nobody can forget it). They assembled the latest version of The Greatest Team Ever, they have been castigated for talking it without walking it (yes, you, Joey “The Flying Auctioneer” Lacob). They have been relentlessly psychoanalyzed because Draymond Green may in fact be Public Enemy Number One, and they have been Curried, Thompsoned, Duranted, Iguodala’d and maybe even Looneyed into a thin gray paste. They have not been left alone for a day.

And they still haven’t played a game.

[POOLE: Curry: 'There's nothing that's going to derail' 2016-17 Warriors]

So yes, Warrior fatigue is coming, if it hasn’t already arrived. And there will no solution or cure for it. Whether they go 74-8, 8-74 or anything inbetween, they are America’s new sporting fetish, even more than the Chicago Cubs, and because America knows only one way to kill – overkill – America will Warrior you to death.

What the Warriors do about it is the Warriors’ problem, though there are things they can do to mitigate the problem:

1. Win a lot without winning at a record rate, and taking themselves out of the Race To 74 early. We would never encourage them to tank games, at least not without advance notice to take advantage of wagering opportunities, but removing that first block in the Hell-Jenga of anticipation they have created for themselves can only help.

2. Avoid high-speed cyclical dramas with Draymond Green (and good luck with that). The living embodiment of the talent-tumult scale is already the focus of the Warrior-Kumbaya-Is-A-Lie movement, and that frankly is a good thing since no team is as zen as the Warriors have claimed they are for the past two seasons. That Nirvana-in-Nikes (or Utopia-In-UnderArmour, if you must) sloganeering has been a particularly irritating part of the Warriors’ rise up the hoop-volutionary chart, and the sooner they stop explaining to us that they are so damned special temperamentally, they can get back to the business of being so damned special athletically.

3. Keep Lacob from explaining how the Warriors invented the Internet, reinvented basketball or deconstructed investing, or whatever new fanciful claim he wants to make to harangue his pals on the Silicon Valley Strip. Basketball is still essentially a pastime of players and styles, and the Warriors have lots of players and one very appealing style, so concentrating on that rather the innovation fetish that so appeals to the entrepreneur in Lacob would be an excellent public relations move.

4. Have Kevin Durant admit publicly for the first time that the real reason he chose the Warriors and offended old-timers everywhere is actually because the Sixers didn’t want to expend salary cap space on him. Or that he wanted to see water again before he died. Or that he made up his mind that he would only go where Javale McGee went. Or best of all, have him deny on camera that he signed with the Warriors while wearing a Warrior jersey. Denial in the face of demonstrable fact seems to work in a political year, especially this one, so why not have him tell a different ridiculous story every time he is asked – because HE IS NEVER NOT GOING TO BE ASKED.

5. Play the Georgian national anthem in tandem with The Star-Spangled Banner just to throw people off the “Did Curry’s eyebrow just twitch during the ‘rockets’ red glare’ part?” scent.

6. And most importantly, convince themselves that despite the mob or semi-coherent notebooks, tape recorders, microphones, cameras and zombie media ingénues that never go away, that they can remember the most salient facts about the 2016-17 season.

That they DID blow a 3-1 lead, and that they didn’t win the championship, and they’re not reinventing the mythology of unshakable team unity or the laws of basketball or anything else, and that until/unless they do win the title they tell anyone around to listen that Cleveland is the best team and has the jewelry and the parade to prove it.

Nobody will buy it, of course, and Warrior Fatigue will still be a part of all of our daily lives, but until we as a nation can mature and let the games speak for themselves on occasion, this is all we have.

Now, before we start doing something stupid and watching the Warriors play the Spurs, let’s fire off a few molten-hot takes about that Zaza Pachulia For Defensive Player Of The Year campaign...

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:

“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”

You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.

But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.

And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.

And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.

In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.

That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.

They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.

And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”

That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.

They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.

It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.

And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.

Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.