Ray Ratto

Ratto: America deserves Nelson-Kahn in Minny


Ratto: America deserves Nelson-Kahn in Minny

July 14, 2011


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Please let it be Don Nelson. Please oh please oh pleeeeeeezzzeee.Please, Lord, use your powers of persuasion, whether it be a soft white enveloping light or torrential frog showers, to inspire David Kahn to hire Don Nelson as the new head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.It will make the NBA lockout worthwhile. It will divert attention from LeBron James. It will make Minneapolis the What-The-Hell capital of the world, wresting the crown from wherever James Harrison happens to be today.It must happen.

Nelson needs no introduction in these parts, and frankly, he probably wouldnt like the one he would get. And for those of you who dont know, David Kahn is the T-Wolves answer to Bobby The Brain Rowell, at least in Minnesota, where most folks think he does goofy stuff just to see the looks on peoples faces.STEINMETZ: Nelson to T'Wolves ... ridiculous or real?
In short, it is the percent merging of reputations that couldnt be worse and therefore could only improve . . . or become a disaster the likes of which hasnt been seen since Al Davis brought back the overhead projector.The Timberwolves with Kahn as the architect are currently awful, way worse than the Warriors have been at nearly any time in the past 20 years, and as you know, thats saying something.Nelson was essentially run out of town by new Warrior owner Joe Lacob even before he was the new Warrior owner, and since it is typically hard to be fired by someone who isnt even your boss, thats saying something too.So their commingling must happen, because only entertainment can happen. And since the NBAs principal job these days is to show us old All-Star games and old drafts (Hey look, its Joe Smith!), the league needs all the entertainment it can emit.Lets break this down more simply, though.Kahn needs either a genius to save him from himself. Or a human shield. Nelson needs a team to reconstruct his legacy. Minnesota owner Glen Taylor couldnt be worse than Chris Cohan, and Kevin Love is more interior presence than Nelsons had in years.But thats just for starters. Kahn thinks he is the smartest guy in the room because he does strange things nobody else would dare try. Nelson knows hes the smartest guy in the room because hes done even stranger things that nobody else has dared replicate.And best of all, Nelson has a track record of considerable success that Kahn hasnt even remotely approached, thus promising a glorious fight for the owners love and attention between resentment of the basketball-underclubbed boss and the frustrations of the hyperexperienced underling.You dont think thats a beer and a brat in heaven? You dont think thats must-see training camp? You dont think thats the argument between the captains of the Titanic and the Andrea Doria over who gets to steer the ship to the bottom? On the other hand, who doesnt like a gloriously redemptive tale of the wizened old head and the stubborn kid who find magic somewhere between their positions? I mean, if Nelson saves the Wolves, he comes out whole, and Kahn escapes his reputation as the general manager who put levities and enmities in Minnesota Timberwolves.In short, they need each other, even though they might kill each other. And if thats not your idea of fun, then you hate fun.So please let it be Don Nelson, as surely as there is a sun in the sky, dirt on the ground and the prosecutors in the Roger Clemens trial being beaten with leather-bound books. He deserves it. The T-Wolves deserve it. You deserve it. America deserves it.What, you dont like America either? Damn. You are hard to please.

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


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.