Ray Ratto

Goalie situation unsettled for Sharks

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Goalie situation unsettled for Sharks

Todd McLellan has replayed 2010-11 all he can; he has reviewed what happened and didnt, what he could have done and what he shouldnt have, and why the Sharks ultimately ended where they did, and how they got to here.

And he neither smiles nor frowns much, so it is correctly assumed that he is punched out on last year.

This year, though, he is fervently noncommittal. Even on his starting goaltender, who looks more and more like Thomas Greiss rather than Antti Niemi due to Niemi's still-cranky knee.

On paper, we ought to be better, the Sharks coach said as he leaned back in his chair mentally surveying the locker room directly ahead and separated by dry wall. Not on paper, well found out quick enough.

He likes this team a tick better than the one he left last training camp with. I think weve had a better camp. Weve worked a little harder, weve done things a little differently, and were deeper, he said. I think guys get it. I mean, you dont know until youve played some games, so Im not trying to assume too much, but were pretty much where we ought to be right now.

Well, not entirely. He already has a hole in goal, where Antero Niittymaki is still months away from playing, and Niemis knee (cyst, surgery) is still not behaving as a proper knee should, so although nothing has been announced, the increasingly heavy betting is for Greiss to start Saturdays season opener against Phoenix.

This does not suggest Niemis knee will still be balky a week from Friday in Anaheim, or Saturday at home against St. Louis. But it is a noteworthy development in a camp that has really only had three: Niemis knee, Martin Havlats vexing shoulder, which has not yet been cleared for full-contact fun, and Brett Burns, the upright freezer-sized defenseman whose principal duty has been to hear McLellan tell him not to worry about the expectations of a hungry world.

Ive told him he needs to do the simple things, that he doesnt need to be extraordinary, McLellan said. He doesnt have to make any impression with us except that he knows what he want him to do.

The rest of it has been standard camp whatnot, with only the occasional tweak to the routine, like using two rinks in practice so that resurfacing doesnt eat up 10 minutes of practice time. It seems moderately anal behavior, but McLellans focus is simply to break routine. He starts practices earlier, they go longer, and meetings are moved up and back almost at whim. Except with McLellan, whim is pretty much going to the odd ballgame in mid-summer. Once the job beckons, he is there for the duration.

It was a very quick summer, he said. Barely time to collect yourself. The draft, the trades, camp. It just sort of flew by. We wanted to be fully focused and ready as we could be so that we didnt have to do what we had to last year.

That is, to fritter away three months and change looking like the Ottawa Senators.

I cant really quantify how much that did or didnt hurt us, though you sort of know that it wasnt the way we wanted to do things, he said. It leaves too much to chance, and forced to do a lot of things we didnt want to do -- play the goaltender (Niemi) too many games in a row, play some guys too many minutes for too many games, things like that.

The whole idea is not to have to do that again, he said, leaning forward. I mean , look at the playoffs. The teams that built up the cushions and knew where they were going to be wended up in the Finals.

That wasnt San Jose. And this might not be San Jose, either. There is still the nagging sense that until they show they can start fast, they should be expected not to do so. Then again, they have started fast in other years, and still limped into the playoffs.

Well, there are things you can control, and things you cant, McLellan said. Theres paper, and theres not paper.

Paperwork is due Saturday morning. Not paper is way harder. And nothing reminds a fellow of the capricious nature of the no paper season quite like not having your goalie for the opener.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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?”