Ray Ratto

How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

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USATSI

How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

On a day and night when 21 technical fouls were called and five players ejected over 11 National Basketball Association games, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers received none of either in a game that should have created enough tension to warm the Yukon. This clearly makes no sense . . .

. . . unless of course the Warriors, having set a new trend early in the season for agonized dissent, have moved on to whatever the next thing is.

While a simmering uncivil war has bubbled between officials (and the management types who started this whole thing by telling officials to cut down on conversations and calm interactions with players and coaches), the Warriors have been on as close to their best behavior as they can manage.

Since the new year turned, the Warriors have played eight games and amassed only three technicals, one to Steve Kerr and two to players (Zaza Pachulia and, yes, you guessed it, Draymond Green). Oh, they still lead the league with 29 spaced over eight players and Kerr, plus seven ejections led by Kevin Durant’s three, but their seemingly insurmountable lead has been reduced to three over Oklahoma City and Phoenix (Phoenix?) and four over Houston and Charlotte (Charlotte?).

Indeed, you’d think that they could have mustered up at least one Monday night in Cleveland given the hype for this seemingly dying rivalry. I mean, the league even offered up one of its best and most strident officials in Scott Foster, whom Warrior fans are convinced is deliberately mean to the Warriors.

But here, too, is an outdated trope. The Warriors are 14-1 in their last 15 regular season games with Foster, and their postseason record of 7-5 with him is more a measure of him getting the maximum number of Finals games, where the Warriors have seven of their 16 postseason defeats. That doesn’t prove bias as much as it does frequency of use.

But we wander into the woods here. The point is, as the new discussion point is the much-advertised summit meeting between officials and players union officials at the All-Star break, the Warriors have been borderline zen. Why? Who knows? Maybe player performance maven Chelsea Lane is putting tranquilizers into their athletic drinks. Maybe they’ve taken up chanting. Maybe they can turn their ire on and off as they do the rest of their game. Or maybe these are the dog days for mouthing off at The Man.

Except that everyone else in the league seems to be taking up the cause of the revolution, so that last one can't be it.

Now we are willing to accept the possibility that so many day games Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday put the players off their typical routine, although the biggest incident of the evening happened in the night game between Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

It may simply be, then, that the Warriors either have nothing more to complain about, have taken to heart the lectures about their lectures, or they really have moved on to the next thing that separates them from the field.

Maybe never losing a road game ever again. Although, tediously enough, that is a record already held by . . . yes, them.

Don't anoint the Giants winners in the McCutchen trade just yet

Don't anoint the Giants winners in the McCutchen trade just yet

It’s almost like the San Francisco Giants wanted to keep their second biggest player acquisition of the off-season a secret.

But evidently it wasn’t a holiday for them, or for the housecleaning Pittsburgh Pirates, who having just rid themselves of pitcher Gerrit Cole for some odds and ends in the Houston system have agreed to a deal that sends center fielder Andrew McCutchen to the Giants, presumably in exchange for a package that includes pitcher Kyle Crick and may also involve minor league outfielder Brian Reynolds.

McCutchen, a significant force in the game until 2015, comes to a huge outfield that sits on power hitters, but he is also coming from a bit of a bounceback season in which all his various WARs, OPS+ and traditional offensive metrics all rose as his defensive range diminished (well, he is 31).

He is also a qualified rental, as his digestible $14.5 million salary in 2018 ends with him as an unrestricted free agent, so the Giants will only have him for one season unless he (a) falls in love with the team, (b) the town, or (c) plays well enough to stay but not well enough to get a better offer.

He will likely play right field while Hunter Pence moves to left and a gaggle of potential, led by Austin Slater, tries to tackle the vast gerrymandered spaces of center field.

Salary-wise, he takes the Giants to $191M (including the Matt Cain buyout), allowing them no more real headroom on the luxury threshold. In other words, the shop is closed until the team can match dollar for dollar.

But he adds another big name from the recent past to go with new third baseman Evan Longoria, and makes the Giants incrementally younger (he is two years and 222 days younger than new Tampa Bay Ray Denard Span). Thus, the Giants have improved themselves in talent and birthdays at the cost of a bit more than $5 million in salary. We shall learn in six months who got the better end of this exchange – the Giants, or Not The Giants.

If stomping the Cavs matters, the Warriors will defend fiercely Monday night

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AP

If stomping the Cavs matters, the Warriors will defend fiercely Monday night

The Golden State Warriors have taken their nostalgia tour to Cleveland for a regular season game given way too much import by those of us who don’t have the fortitude to wait for April. That’s what happens when you win – you become repetitive, and in our attention-spans-are-for-Grandpa culture, there are few things worse.

But one of them is allowing way too many points, and the Warriors – ONLY the Warriors – have found a way to give up points without giving up games. This seems unsustainable, and it certainly isn’t if you watch that vein in Steve Kerr’s forehead, but so far . . . well, you know.

The Warriors have allowed 120 points or more four times in the last 16 days, an unusually high number for a good team and a ridiculous one for a team that trumpets its overarching defensive value.

And it’s true. Golden State is a good defensive team with top-level shot contesters, shot-changers and shot-blockers. They could, if their put their minds to it, hold anyone below 90, and do it routinely.

But they aren’t, and while we could offers theories about injuries, tired legs, age or intermittent disinterest, we think this is just a diabolically clever homage to the 1990 Warriors under Don Nelson, an otherwise mediocre team that tied, if not out-and-out set an NBA record for breeze-bys by allowing five opponents 120-plus scores in seven days.

Now that was a bad team, and an epochally terrible defensive team, in part because Don Nelson believed that points for beats every other metric; hell, he didn’t know from metrics back then, because nobody did.

But in allowing 127 to the expansion Orlando Magic, then hitting the road to allow 144 to Indiana, 134 to Milwaukee, 132 to Chicago and 125 to Detroit, the Warriors established a record for screw-it that can not be bettered, given the fact that the rules didn’t permit more than five games in any seven-game period. The Warriors should have a patch commemorating this anniversary with a swinging gate next to the capital "R" on their scapulas.

And since no defense was mandated by this plucky unit (the 1988 team was even worse), that team was doing what it was told to do. This one is sixth in defensive rating and points allowed per 100 possessions, and yet is showing that defense can go through slumps, or at least can be turned on and off at will, to the consternation of every non-AAU coach who ever drew breath.

We’ll see tonight how much it matters, though. If stomping the Cavaliers matters as an ego exercise, the Warriors will defend fiercely – unless/until they get up by 20, in which case never mind. Because they really can turn it on and off, as maddening as that might seem.