Bay Area Basketball Frustration; NBA All-Star Folly; Football Salary Insanity; Flag Day
It's been a frustrating year for the Bay Area's men's basketball teams.
The Warriors, playing without injured all-star Klay Thompson for the second straight season and breaking in almost a whole team of newcomers, have struggled to stay above .500. The Stanford Cardinal, with its most talented team in several years, can't close out games because of silly turnovers and missed free throws.
Both teams are on the post-season bubble. The Warriors will need to develop some consistency to make the NBA playoffs, and Stanford must sweep the Oregon schools this weekend to have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Warriors have, at times, looked like a team that might not just make the playoffs, but advance past the first round. The one constant has been the brilliant play of Steph Curry, who continues to add to his resume as the greatest shooter in NBA history.
But injuries have sidelined centers Kevon Looney and prized rookie James Wiseman, leaving the team without a player taller than 6'7". Coach Steve Kerr has had to make do with retreads like Brad Wanamaker, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Kent Bazemore.
And, of course, Draymond Green.
One wonders when Green is going to grow up. His intensity, ballhandling, and defensive prowess are big parts of the Warriors' success. But Green's immaturity and uncontrolled temper cost the Warriors the 2016 NBA Championship, and his anger was on full display Saturday night when, with the Warriors ahead of Charlotte by two points with 9 seconds remaining, he drew an ejection and two technicals to hand the Hornets the game.
Stanford, meanwhile, has blown big leads and lost a number of close games in the final minutes because of an inability to take care of the basketball and an inability to make free throws down the stretch.
Saturday afternoon was more of the same against Washington State in a game the Cardinal had to win to make the NCAA tourney.
Both senior Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Oscar DaSilva, who spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble, and freshman Michael O'Connell, who otherwise played a brilliant game, missed two free throws in the final minute.
O'Connell's came with the Cardinal ahead by 3 and 10 seconds remaining. Just one would've iced the game. Instead, WSU tied it with a three pointer and won it in the third overtime, thanks to a rash of Stanford turnovers.
While the play of Da Silva and the emergence of O'Connell and junior Jaiden Delaire have been big plusses, highly touted freshman Ziaire Williams has been a disappointment.
Williams supposedly is a lottery pick in the NBA this year, with some ranking him in the top five. Yet he can't even start on a team that is unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament, and he's never on the court in crunch time. For the season, Williams is averaging 10.9 points and five rebounds, but he hasn't scored in double figures the last four games.
Like former Stanford guard Tyrell Terry, who turned pro after his freshman season, Williams needs another year.
Terry, by the way, has only played in 11 of the Dallas Mavericks' 28 games and was recently assigned to the G League Memphis Hustle. He'll be a two-way player for the rest of the season and only see NBA action in garbage time.
Let's hope Williams is paying attention and learns from Terry's mistake.
All-Star Game: The NBA is going ahead with the All-Star Game despite a pandemic that continues to sideline players and cause game cancellations? One has to ask why.
Let's face it. The All-Star game is a joke. Nobody, and I mean nobody, plays defense. In recent years, we’ve seen scores like 196-173 and 192-182. Fifteen years ago, when players still offered some defensive resistance, the score was 122-120.
LeBron James was the MVP of that game. The same LeBron James who last week said that playing the 2021 All-Star game would be a "slap in the face" to players and that he had "zero energy and zero excitement" about flying to Atlanta in the midst of a pandemic to play a meaningless exhibition game.
He has a point.
Salary Insanity: This type of football spending is why "minor" Olympic sports are being cut all over the country.
New Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian, known at "Seven Win Steve" while posting a 34-29 record in five years at Washington and later fired by USC after appearing drunk in public on at least two occasions, signed a six-year deal for $34.2 million guaranteed to become the new head coach at Texas
His annual salary starts at $5.2M and increases by 200,000 per year to $6.2 in 2026. The deal provides the usual head coaching accoutrements—cars, country clubs, use of private jets, game suites, etc.—plus a retention bonus of $1.2M if he’s still the coach on December 31, 2024 and a potential $675,000 in bonuses each year. His coordinators, including offense, defense and special teams, are all being paid over $1 million.
And this doesn't include the $15.4 million buyout for former coach Tom Herman.
Flag day: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered that flags be flown at half mast throughout the state of Florida to honor recently deceased conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, a man whose daily rants were marked by hatred and bigotry.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 has reached 500,000. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to fly flags at half mast throughout the country to honor the memory of all the Americans who have died from the coronavirus?
Think about it. A half-million Americans have perished from COVID, more than the total number of U.S. casualties in World War I, World War II and Vietnam.
Almost exactly a year ago today, on Feb. 26, 2020, Donald Trump proclaimed that "the number of people infected is going very substantially down, not up. The 15 cases, within a couple of days, will be down near zero."
As of today, the number of U.S. cases has surpassed 28 million.