Ray Ratto

Kerr has to figure out what form his next set of jumper cables will take


Kerr has to figure out what form his next set of jumper cables will take

The Great Player Empowerment Debate has come and gone, the National Basketball Association stands as before, and Steve Kerr is again slightly irked that a relatively harmless idea to fix that dent in his own team has become everyone else’s cry of disrespectful injustice.

Indeed, rarely has anyone felt so sorry for the Phoenix Suns since they lost that coin flip 48 years ago and ended with Neal Walk instead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But the underlying oh-crap moment in Kerr’s decision to let his players run practices and timeouts before the 46-point win over the Suns is actually just one more acknowledgement that the regular season can be a tedium-fest, even for the elite.

The Warriors have been less lasered-in this year. They have been less defensively mindful, and they have tried to overadorn passes in search of the adrenalin fix that used to sustain them so easily two and three years ago. It is mid-February, and they have set such a high bar of stimulus, and to be fair such a high self-image, that they find playing to their standard is often an exercise in overexertion.

They’re bored, pure and simple.

The playoffs are still too far away to be real. The excitement of wondering if they will open with Denver or Utah or the Los Angeles Clippers or New Orleans isn’t that exciting yet. Listening to that 45th lecture about focus is becoming the equivalent of listening to sad-trombone.

Kerr knows it. The players know it. They get along fine, and nobody is spoiling for Kerr to be replaced by Tom Thibodeau, but messaging loses some of its power after 366 games and 1,205 days, give or take the odd golf outing.

Indeed, all the messaging around the league is that the regular season as a whole is about combating boredom. Some teams (at least eight this year) indeed regard the regular season as a loss leader in search of that magical draft pick that usually never comes. Teams rest players and hide behind “sore right ring toe” as an explanation to keep the network mall cops at bay. Cleveland was performing a ritual self-immolation until Koby Altman dynamited the roster, an act of electroshock therapy unheard of in midseason. The Los Angeles Lakers are playing for 2019 even though 2018 is only 45 days old, and LaVar Ball is not disruptive enough to get anyone’s notice any more.

Everywhere, the message is the regular season is a month longer than it needs to be, and there is no cure for this mass ennui but time. Kerr played a card to energize his veterans for an evening, and it worked -- although the evidence suggests that they could have beaten the Suns by 46 even without the new time-out structure.

Only mid-March will make this problem go away, because by then title aspirants will start prepping for the time when the games matter a lot, mid-level teams will battle for the remaining 10 playoff spots, and everyone else will be doing mock drafts. They’ll have things to amuse them.

In the meantime, though, Adam Silver rises each day knowing that the solution to all this regular season disrespect (since that is what the Warrior-Suns game actually was) is eliminating February entirely – and no amount of network money can do that.

In the meantime, Steve Kerr has to figure out what form his next set of jumper cables will take – getting kicked out of a game during the National Anthem? Sitting in the stands? Sitting on the other team’s bench? Promoting JaVale McGee to assistant general manager and letting him work the buyout market? Don’t miss our next exciting episode, “The Burden Of Trying To Look Engaged,” or “Brooklyn on March 6.”

Sabean's return: Giants want team's dominant mind to be dominant again


Sabean's return: Giants want team's dominant mind to be dominant again

Brian Sabean’s return to the con in San Francisco, as first reported by noted troublemaker and barista A. Baggarly in The Athletic, is not a turn back to the past as much as it is a demand for a better future.

That is, unless the Giants sign Tim Lincecum, in which case you never read Paragraph One.

But Sabean’s return means that Giants ownership (presumably president Larry Baer and major stockholder Charlie Johnson) wants the team’s dominant baseball mind to be dominant again.

This of course generates rich speculation about current general manager Bobby Evans’ future, but that probably is beside the point . . . at least through the current calendar year. This isn’t really about Evans specifically anyway – it’s about ownewrship’s impatience, fear of a worrisome unknown and need for the comfort of the man who succeeded.

The Giants are at a similar fork in the highway as they were when Sabean first took the job in 1997. The 1996 Giants were 68-94, older chronologically against the league average, offensively substandard and horrific as a pitching staff. A year later, they won 90, got younger, improved in both areas, and then did it again in 1998. From that turnaround, they began what can fairly be described as the franchise’s renaissance, which finally ended last year with what in the eyes of most baseball experts and all meaningful metrics was the fourth worst year in the franchise’s 136-year history.

And because Sabean actually never left daily contact with the team and its decision-makers, this isn’t your standard chase for past glories fixation. It is, however, a measure of how little patience the Giants are willing to be with their present predicament.

But mostly, this is the team understanding that its ability to identify, develop and lure young talents is what saved it at the turn of the century and will have to do so again at the turn of the decade if they intend to make 2017 a blip rather than a harbinger.

The Giants could conceivably spend their way back into relevance, but their money wasn’t good enough for Giancarlo Stanton when every other suitor would be paying exactly the same number, and for that matter neither was their reliance on “We won three rings and we have a full stadium.” That they thought their past could work more than their present with a player who is looking for a future is a sign that they have over-relied on the lure of the good old days.

So they want that changed . . . with the guy who built those good old days. If that seems inconsistent, well, it is. But impatience and fear are going to do what they do, and Brian Sabean is as good an answer as they are likely to find. Which is why they found it.

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.