Ray Ratto

Are 49ers best team in NFL? No, and who cares?

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Are 49ers best team in NFL? No, and who cares?

So because we are inveterate list makers and list-takers, this mornings question is an easy one. Are the San Francisco 49ers the best team in the National Football League, right here, right now?And the two-part answer will surely warm your soul. No, and who gives a damn?Lets start with the second one first, though, because the first answer infuriates fans far more.Who gives a damn is simple, because its Week 12, and nobody pays off in the middle of a race unless all the other competitors die. Not even bicycle racing.One of the great evils of the 21st century is the week-to-week football power rating, an offshoot of the equally pernicious weekly college polls, because while they create some valuable time-wasting arguments over alcohol-based fortifiers, they are quite frankly dispositive of nothing except mans ability to get liquored up and yell at equally plankfaced strangers. I think it is a gift from the Celts.Thats one of the great evils of football in general. Two many days between games, and a growing need to yammer on about it between those days. Whos the best team now? Whos going to be best in an hour? What about Wednesday? Its endless, and pointless, all at the same time.(And yes, this little rantlet contributes to that evil because, hey, a girls gotta work.)That covered, here is why the 49ers are not the best team in the NFL, despite their 8-2-1 record, and despite their sound beatings over the slightly overvalued Chicago Bears and hot-until-yesterday New Orleans Saints.RECAP: Maiocco's Instant Replay -- 49ers 31, Saints 21
And it isnt the Houston Texans or Atlanta Falcons or Baltimore Ravens that say so, but the New York Giants.Oh, the 49ers have done a very bold thing, demoting a successful quarterback at the height of his statistical powers. Colin Kaepernick has enhanced his image as the greatest gift from western Nevada since the Comstock Lode (Google it, kids; its good exercise for your rubbery brains), and while his raw numbers arent as good as Alex Smiths and his rookie-ness remains evident, the fact that the 49ers have not fallen off as a result of the switch is noteworthy.They are still a run-the-ball team, and a defend-you-until-you-cry team, which makes the Kaepernick development more a sidebar to the greater truth than the change that turns good into great. But it shows Jim Harbaughs mad scientist side, and our constant amusement with the solar flares inside his head also kills hours between games.MAIOCCO: 49ers' defense gets the best of Brees
But heres why they arent as good as the Giants, and why that matters more than their being better than the Falcons, Texans or Ravens.The Giants, when they play as they did Sunday night, remind us that it isnt about being empirically best, but being the best matchup at the best time. They slightly outplayed the 49ers in last years NFC championship game (and dont hand me Kyle Williams any more; look at the box score), and they dominated them in Week 6 this year.In other words, when they arent in one of their periodic fits, the Giants have the 49ers number at least until further notice and proven otherwise. And when they play as they did against the Packers, they show that they are still those Giants.Now the 49ers dont currently have to play the Giants, and may miss them entirely. They may also miss the Falcons, and there is no reason to plan for the Texans, Ravens, Patriots or any other AFC team yet.But for the moment, standard professional wrestling rules still apply. To be the king, you have to beat the king, and the 49ers havent done that yet. Niner fans can make all the Well, they havent faced the wrath of Kaepernick yet arguments they like, because they have to fill tavern time too (I know this; Ive seen them drink). But the 49ers arent about Kaepernick yet, any more than they were about Smith. They are still a team whose truest strengths are elsewhere, and until those strengths can be shown to trump the Giants strengths . . . well, thats that.In short, if you have to pick a side in this argument, go with Who gives a damn? Youre on safer logical ground, and the other barflies will leave you alone. And that is a victory of a special kind.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

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AP

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
 
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
 
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
 
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
 
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
 
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
 
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”