Ray Ratto

Ranking Alex Smith amongst his peers

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Ranking Alex Smith amongst his peers

The matter of WGIBTU Whos Got It Better Than Us? has taken on an interesting form, when you consider the case of Alexander D. Smith, the Lazarus of quarterbacks.Given up for dead by the wishful thinking crowd, Smiths resurgence as a credible NFL quarterback has been much hailed, though mostly in that What did Jim Harbaugh do to clear up his leprous sores and make him a fully self-actualized human being? kind of way.But there is another factor here, brought home with stark force by the San Diego-Kansas City game Monday night, and that is this:The field has backed up to Smith just as much as he has risen to meet it.Many of these situations are temporary good quarterbacks having bad years, or injuries, or the curse of the howling short-arm, but lets break it down to show you what we mean:ARIZONA
Kevin Kolb has done little to revive the Cardinals, and since he was one of those quarterbacks people demanded be brought in to rid the fan base of the turbulent Smith, his struggles are particularly gratifying. According to the Alex Metric, he is dramatically worse. He may be better in the future, but the futures not ours to know, so for the moment, yes. WGIBTU? Not the Cardinals.ATLANTA
After a scruffy start, Matt Ryan is finding his stride again, but eight picks and 18 sacks have undermined his supremacy. WGIBTU? Ryan will have some better games down the stretch, while Smith is exactly as good as he can be now, so with a wince, the Falcons do.BALTIMORE
They hate Joe Flacco these days in Charm City, absolutely loathe him. And for good reason his completion percentage is under 54, his inefficiencies have gone from oh-well to oh, hell, and the comparisons to Trent Dilfer are flattering to neither man. WGIBTU? Not the Ravens.BUFFALO
Ryan Fitzpatrick just got a 59 million contract extension from Ralph Wilson. I dont know how much better that can be explained. WGIBTU? The Bills, for sure.CAROLINA
The Panthers have so little that Cam Newton stands out all the more, but the truth is on a more representative team, he would be an MVP candidate. WGIBTU? The Panthers, for sure.CHICAGO
Jay Cutler lives as well off Matt Forte as Smith does off Frank Gore, but his own stats are largely Smiths superior. That said, he hasnt made the Bears an indomitable team because theyre not so WGIBTU? Not the Bears.CINCINNATI
Andy Daltons red hair made Carson palmers expendable well, that and the draft choices from Oakland but he relies of safety-first passes as much as Smith does, and the Bengals are still not fully believable. WGIBTU? Not the Bengals.CLEVELAND
The Browns have been to the Bay Area twice in three weeks. Weve all seen Colt McCoy working with no discernible players. WGIBTU? Not the Browns, and not by a long shot.DALLAS
Tony Romo is embracing his new role as NFL tease, and all of his numbers save the interceptions are better than Smiths. But he is also considered the guy the Cowboys have until they get someone good, so this is a tough one. WGIBTU? The Cowboys, though too often that seems not to be true.DENVER
Do we really need to bother here? Quite possibly the worst situation in the league, not only because Tim Tebow is still too raw and inefficient, but because his rally over Miami probably took the Broncos out of the Andy Luck sweepstakes. WGUIBTU? Definitely not these guys.DETROIT
Matthew Stafford when upright is a damned sight better than most. Matthews Stafford on one leg and without a running game to protect him, not so much. Until he gets better, WGIBTU does not include the Lions, but that will change the moment his leg gets better.
GREEN BAY
Please.HOUSTON
Matt Schaub is simply better, and you cant argue it even with Houstons odd collection of results. WGIBTU? Definitely the Texans.INDIANAPOLIS
Peyton Manning begat Curtis Painter who may beget Andrew Luck. Until that moment, though, WGIBTU? Not the Colts.JACKSONVILLE
Blaine Gabbert is injured, but even at 100 percent, the Jaguars so much come out on the short end of WGIBTU it isnt worth serious analysis.KANSAS CITY
Matt Cassel looked pretty brutal last night, and his team won. In fact, his team has won four in a row to move into a tie for first in the AFC West. All that said, Matt Cassel. WGIBTU? Not the Chiefs.MIAMI
Horrifying. WGIBTU doesnt have the words to show how much not the Dolphins it is.MINNESOTA
Donovan McNabb is now Christian Ponder. Another win for WGIBTU.NEW ENGLAND
Sorry, no.NEW ORLEANS
No again.NEW YORK GIANTS
Eli Manning is having an exemplary year in an up-and-down career. This could change, but the Giants win WGIBTU pretty handily here.NEW YORK JETS
Mark Sanchez is more maddening than soothing, which makes him A.D. Smith 1.0. WGIBTU? Not the Jets.OAKLAND
Not even discussable at this point. WGIBTU? Not the Raiders.PHILADELPHIA
Michael Vick is catching hell, but not nearly as much hell as Andy Reid, which means that the fans are okay with him, and his numbers are indisputably better. WGIBTU? The Eagles, eventually.PITTSBURGH
After a feh start, Ben Roethlisberger is quietly but demonstrably having a big year. WGIBTU? The Steelers, and Mike Tomlin could absolutely pull Jim Harbaughs arm off in a handshake.SAINT LOUIS
A.J. Feeley has taken Sam Bradfords job while Bradfords ankle cant do its job, on a team with only Steven Jackson. Need we say more? WGIBTU? Not the Rams.SAN DIEGO
Whatever magic Philip Rivers had, he aint got no more. A snap? He fumbled a snap with the game in the bag? Right now, WGIBTU has it for the 49ers, though Id make a straight-up- trade right now and feel very good about it.SEATTLE
Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst. Move on, citizens. Nothing to see here.TAMPA BAY
Its hard to put the 48-3 loss out of our heads, and Josh Freeman has thrown more picks than scores. That is not a statistic the local fella need concern himself with right now. WGIBTU? Not the Bucs.TENNESSEE
Matt Hasselbecks numbers are comparable, but the Titans win when they defend, not when they attack. WGIBTU? Not the Titans.WASHINGTON
Rex Grossman? John Beck? I think I just threw up on my shoe. WGIBTU? Definitely not the Redskins.In short, Alex Smith, whom you all knew was the worst quarterback ever, is having a better time right now than 20 other starters, easily his best placement against his peers since he began his career. So whos got it better than them? A lot fewer than there used to be.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

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AP

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.

 

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

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USATSI

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.

HOUSTON

The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.

SAN ANTONIO

The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.

OKLAHOMA CITY

The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.

PORTLAND

Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.

BOSTON

The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.

THE REST OF THE EAST

Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:

SACRAMENTO

Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.