Ray Ratto

Eight things that should happen during NBA All-Star Weekend


Eight things that should happen during NBA All-Star Weekend

The NBA All-Star Game under any format is as hot a mess as the sport can produce, but it is all NBA fans have this weekend. Sorry, no Nets-Suns for you.

But for those of you who need more than the Celebrity Game, the Dunk Contest, the Three-Point Competition and the Magic-Johnson-Gagged-And-Nailgunned-To-His-Chair-So-He-Doesn’t-Get-Caught-Tampering-With-Everyone-On-Both-Rosters Challenge, here are some things that either haven’t happened before or happened so long ago that they should happen again.

- One or both teams should score 200. The 196 scored by the West two years ago was educational enough, and the 192-182 West win last year set a new record for combined points, so this seems like the time for one team to go for two bills. I mean, if you’re going to make the game senseless, why not go all the way?

- Someone should challenge Nikola Jokic’s freshly-minted record for fastest triple double in league history. He did the deed Thursday night against Milwaukee in a stunning (even by Westbrookian standards) 14:33, beating the old record set in – oh for God’s sake – 1955 by Jim Tucker of the Syracuse Nationals. There have only been four triple doubles in All-Star Games, most recently by Kevin Durant last year, but he needed 27 minutes to do so. This is simply slothful indolence, especially in a game with 374 points.

- The two teams should combine for 300 shots. The current high is 286, set two years ago, in a game in which 16 of the 24 players jacked up at least 10. After all, there are standards we have grown accustomed to seeing.

- Someone should be forced to play all 48 minutes as a commemorative hat-tip to the new rest-conscious players and coaches, in honor of the glorious Miami-Philadelphia game at the end of the 2015 season in which the 76ers, who were trying to lose all their games, let Joel Embiid draw up plays during time outs and the Heat in response played six players, four of them (Michael Beasley, Henry Walker, James Ennis and Tyler Johnson) for all 48.

- Stephen Curry, who struggled to make the play he drew up work the other night, should designate Embiid to draw one up Sunday. He is, after all, the game's most experienced player-coach.

- Someone should get ejected as a cheery sendoff to the bad old days between officials and players that will have ended with their happy peace talks this weekend. No player has ever been tossed from an All-Star Game, and Red Auerbach is the only coach, having been tossed in the 1967 game (played at Our Beloved Cow Palace) by official Willie Smith. And if the players won’t go that extra mile for your entertainment (we’re looking at you, Draymond Green), the least one can do is to foul out as an homage to Hakeem Olajuwon, the last player to do so in 1987.

- Cleveland general manager Koby Altman should perform an in-game trade, just to show he isn’t a one-trick pony.

- And finally, Adam Silver should bet on the game as an olive branch to his friends in the gaming industry who think ill of him for that 1% integrity fee gouge. And a helpful hint, A.S. – bet the over; it’s 346. That should get done in three quarters.


Wrapping our heads around the week from hell for a lot of Bay Area teams


Wrapping our heads around the week from hell for a lot of Bay Area teams

It was a pretty good week in the Bay Area, all things considered. Only three of the seven professional teams lost important players to injury, and only two of those were mega-important losses. Only two of the three remaining college basketball teams in the area got knocked out of the tournaments they were in. And one of them -- the otherwise draft-hungry Kings -- found a higher dignity in playing before an empty house.

Yeah, it was pretty good stuff indeed – if your comparison point is having your car repossessed.

Stephen Curry’s new role as the NBA’s MVIM (Most Valuable Injury Magnet) was enhanced yet again when JaVale McGee fell into him during an otherwise desultory win over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night. This was his fifth injury of the season to go with his four ankle injuries, and the second in which the instrument of his pain was one of his own centers. At this point, the only sane route for Warrior fans is to assume he will not even be available for the postseason, and to accept any appearances he does make as surprise rebates from the credit card company.

And yes, atop all their other injuries, this means you may not refer to them as unlucky any more than you bristled at them being called lucky in 2015 when every other team in the league lost significant players while they were healthy and fresh. Maybe now you’ll understand that being called lucky when your team wins is actually just a veiled compliment delivered by a disgruntled fan of some other team.

Besides, after three years of pure and unadulterated frontrunning, the role of the plucky underdog would do you all some good.

Elsewhere in hell, Madison Bumgarner broke his pinky finger trying to catch a line drive from Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield and will miss six to eight weeks, or just enough time for Jeff Samardzija to heal from a pectoral muscle problem that was diagnosed the day before. By then, the Giants could well be flash-fried in much the same way they were a year ago when Bumgarner lost in straight sets to a dirt bike and helped insure a 98-loss season.

In Oakland, starting pitchers Jharel Cotton is done after Tommy John surgery, and Paul Blackburn went down with what manager Bob Melvin feared was a similarly severe injury. In addition, highly worshiped prospect A.J. Puk is now injured as well with a biceps issue.

In the college game, the Stanford women got boatraced by top-seeded Louisville to exit the NCAA Tournament and the Stanford and St. Mary’s men were decoupled from the NIT, although USF is now in the CBI finals after beating the Campbell...

...wait for it...

Fighting Camels. Perfect.

The Dons now play their archrivals North Texas (work with me on this) in a best-of-three series starting Monday. A tournament victory would give the school its first anything since the 1956 NCAA title, and would put them on the same track as Loyola-Chicago, which won the 2015 CBI when Sister Jean was an ingénue at 95, and Nevada, which won in 2016 and reached the second weekend of the hallucinogenic 2018 NCAAs.

Everywhere else, normalcy abounds, if that’s what you want to call it. The Sharks are going to the playoffs as a gritty counterpuncher, the Raiders and 49ers are among the few teams who don’t need to draft a quarterback early, the Earthquakes just began their 35th season with Chris Wondolowski, and life goes on.

Sometimes, though, you get an NBA title, sometimes you get a World Series, and sometimes you get a CBI. Be an adult. Deal with it.

Sharks slowly sneaking onto the list of off-brand teams that could make a deep run


Sharks slowly sneaking onto the list of off-brand teams that could make a deep run

We put a lot of stock in “being under the radar,” as though the defining metric for anything is whether or not we pay attention to them.

This, of course, is insane, but it is a tribute to our ability to define all things based on the narcissism that comes with believing the galactic central point. It’s a lot like “he or she is the best player I ever saw,” as though you’re the one who defines such things.

That said, I give you the San Jose Sharks, who are slowly sneaking onto the list of off-brand teams that could make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not deep enough to get them a parade or even a reprise of their 2016 Finals run, in all likelihood, but deeper than you thought when Joe Thornton crumpled two months ago.

It wasn’t just their 2-1 overtime win against Vegas, the NHL’s version of America’s Sweethearts, though that didn’t hurt. It wasn’t just their secondary metrics, which put them smack dab in the middle of the league, if not slightly below. And it isn’t as though they are radically different with Evander Kane, their trade deadline rental-with-an-option-to-buy.

No, San Jose has readjusted on the fly to deal with its changed circumstances, at least enough to establish one noteworthy advantage over its competitors.

They own their division more completely than any other team (20-4-3, and given the NHL’s playoff format they wouldn’t have to play outside their division until the Western Conference Final. And since their first two opponents will be Pacific Division opponents, the Sharks have a way to establish their mode of play that they would not have were they playing a team from the Central.

They match up best against Los Angeles, against which they are currently matched, with a convincing 3-1 record; against Anaheim, the other first-round alternative, they are also 3-1, though two of the wins and the loss occurred in a shootout.

Then if they get around that hurdle, they would draw Vegas, which is essentially The Team The Entire Hockey World Is Rooting For. Vegas has won two of the three matches with one to go, but each team has won an overtime game.

In other words, the Sharks’ first two opponents would likely be some combination of teams they have beaten seven times in eight regulation games, and are 3-2 in coin-flip games.

You’d take those odds, a hell of a lot sooner than a first-rounder against Nashville, Winnipeg or Minnesota, and maybe even Colorado. It is therefore helpful that the Sharks play each of them once before the regular season ends, to provide a bit more input for our pending miscalculations.

Series are not macro, after all, and matchups against individual teams matter more than records against whole divisions. Moreover, the Stanley Cup Playoffs do not necessarily go to the team with the best record but to the healthiest team with the goaltender playing the best. In that way, they more routinely represent your 2018 NCAA bracket than your NBA Playoff bracket, where the chalk prevails an inordinate amount of time.

Point is, the Sharks haven’t really inspired the outside world much – that under-the-radar thing again – but they represent the solid counterpuncher who ought to at the bare minimum punish the team that beats them sufficiently to make that team’s passage through the subsequent rounds considerably more difficult. That is more than anyone thought they would do once Thornton went down, but less than the level of notoriety of about eight other teams. They are not invisible, but they are hard to find.

But maybe if they hired a nonagenarian member of the clergy to hang around and offer scouting reports to Peter DeBoer, they could become media darlings, for what that may be worth. And let’s face it, you mock Sister Jean at your peril.