Ray Ratto

Lakers show ancestor worship still has its place


Lakers show ancestor worship still has its place

Watching the Los Angeles Lakers do whatever the hell it is they did to land upon Mike DAntoni as their new head coach was a reminder that, no matter the generation, ancestor worship still has its place.

The roster is almost geologically old, a concerted reach back to a glorious series of pasts. The coaching search, centered as it was on Phil Jackson, was all about seeking the familiar rather than the truly innovative. Even the apparently outsized influence of Magic Johnson suggested a need to replow old ground rather than break new.

In short, your age doesnt make you old. Your choices make you old. And the Lakers are old on old.

But theres a bigger point to make here, and it is this. Phil Jackson would have been a reach backward to an older time that no longer exists, and the fact that he would have been hired had not his demands seemed excessive even to a team that wallows in excess like Los Angeles tells us that the team came very close to embracing another re-run.

And that so many observers and fans thought it was the most sensible course of action tells us that innovative thinking typically scares both young and old alike.

That Mike Brown would be fired was a fait accompli, though not because the Princeton offense was such a crime against humanity. He had been declared unfit by virtue of being unsupported by the ossified Laker think tank, and being fired after five games only says that Jim Buss et. al. didnt have the nerve to fire him in the offseason. This wasnt a chance to succeed, it was a demand to fail.

And it worked.

But this isnt a defense of Mike Brown either. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it, and he must have figured early on that he was working for ancestor worshipers.

Indeed, the only reason they didnt hire Jackson instead of Brown in the first place was because Jackson was the guy who Brown replaced. And this would have been his third tour with the same team.

You know who else got rehired that many times? George Halas and Billy Martin. Halas, because he was the owner of the Chicago Bears. Martin, because George Steinbrenner had a love-hate thing going with Martin he never escaped.

And if Jackson could have modified his demands, he would have been that guy too.

Now on its face, hiring DAntoni instead of Jackson suggests that the Lakers were actually making a break with their past, when in fact it was a fallback choice. They wanted to go back in time, desperately so, and that it made so much sense to so many people suggests that old thinking is not restricted to the old.

So, if youre asking what the alternative to Jacksons resume and DAntonis no-defense style would have been, the answer is too obvious. Brian Shaw. Former Laker coach, well steeped in the Laker way and the Laker personalities.

But once again, he was a name for bandying only. Now either he interviews poorly (which was a charge leveled at Tony Dungy before Tampa Bay finally saw his obvious merits), isnt really considered all that as a basketball mind (which seems unlikely to the point of absurdity), or he isnt considered splashy enough (which knowing the way owners think is a very real possibility).

Or maybe his first head coaching job will have to be with a team he owns.

In any event, he would have been innovative without being a stranger. He wouldnt have been Phil Jackson, the ultimate back to the future hire.

And the Lakers would still have been old. Really really old. Just not that old.

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?”