Ray Ratto

Is it time for the Sharks to retire Nolan's number?


Is it time for the Sharks to retire Nolan's number?

PROGRAMMING ALERT: The Owen Nolan Sharks press conference will be streamed live on CSNCalifornia.com at 2:30 p.m..

Owen Nolan is retiring as a San Jose Shark today, which means he is signing a one-day contract which will not require him practicing even once for Todd McLellan. And if it helps, he retires as the best Nolan in NHL history.And to be honest, Nolan was a good servant to the club in his eight years. He bounced around after being traded to Toronto in 2003, and never quite reached the heights predicted of him when he broke with the supremely talented but oddly underfunctional Quebec Nordiques, but he was a good Shark.
You may argue if he is the best Shark, and that answer will doubtless change as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the younger classes hit retirement age, but he is getting a reward for eight years (six full, and parts of two others) helping build a franchise, and being a credit to the club when it was going through its obvious growing pains.However, Nolans honor, being paid today, reminds us that the Sharks remain one of six active NHL clubs who have not yet found a number to actually retire, and frankly, the race not to be the last turkey in the shop should be more pressing than it seems to be.(At this point, we should mention that this is sarcasm, and that retired numbers arent what they used to be. The Minnesota Wild retired the number 1 on the opening day of its existence in honor of the fans it didnt actually have yet, thus lowering the bar for rafter enshrinement considerably).Oh I suppose technically the Sharks can say they retired Wayne Gretzkys 99, since that was a league-wide decision, but thats sort of cheating. And Mario Lemieuxs 66 was unofficially retired, at least until Calgarys T.J. Brodie wore it for three games last year before being upgraded to 7.Point is, the Sharks still have none, putting them in with Anaheim (which presumably will retire Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger), Florida (which probably should have retired John Vanbiesbroucks by now), Tampa Bay (which is just waiting for Vincent Lecavalier or Martin St. Louis to stop being good), Nashville (which has a number of tepid candidates) and Columbus (which may move before it gets the chance, making them the new California Seals).And if youre going to retire players by signing them to one-day deals, you should be preparing for the next step.Doug Wilson, being a bluff old traditionalist, is probably loath to retire a number just to retire a number. He may want a Stanley Cup banner before he starts honoring individual players, but the standard is flexible. The Washington Capitals retired Yvon Labres 7 because he was Yvon Labre.And there are candidates. Arturs Irbe was sort of a fans pet, and his return as an assistant coach with Carolina was greeted with a huge ovation. He could be Yvon Labre. Mike Rathje is the only player other than Marleau to play a full decade in San Jose, though he could be a frustrating favorite. Mike Ricci did seven years here, represents the teams first renaissance, and is still in the organization. Wilsons been on board since the beginning, though he is unlikely to submit to such an honor for years to come yet.More likely, though, the first Shark to get his number retired will be Marleau, because 14 years with one team not only gets your number retired, it often gets you into the Hall of Fame. And theres a better-than-average chance that he wont have to sign a one-day-finish-as-a-Shark deal, which given the number of times fans have demanded he be traded is a feat in and of itself.By then, Anaheim will have retired Selanne, Floridas new ownership might have figured out how to celebrate 20 years of existence, Nashville will probably salute its last original Predator, David Legwand, Tampa will take care of Lecavalier and St. Louis, and Columbus will probably be in Newfoundland.In the meantime, a salute to Owen Nolan is well earned. Maybe if the Sharks decide to exchange ad space for a ring of honor at the arena, they can put him there as well.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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


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?”