Ray Ratto

Ratto: Can Cable, Raiders keep The Al happy?


Ratto: Can Cable, Raiders keep The Al happy?

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

It is a measure of the confounding nature of the 2010 Raiders that they managed to win and lose at the same time Sunday. And in more than one area.They gob-smacked the Denver Broncos, 39-23, but only after, in the words of laughing defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, they had to endure a lot of cursing from the head man. He got everybodys attention. RECAP: Raiders outlast Broncos, keep playoff hopes alive
They gained 502 yards, their fifth time exceeding 400 this year after managing it only four times in the previous 112. And yet, they were only 2-for-11 on third down conversions.They improved their intradivisional record to 5-0, outrushing the Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos by 669 yards and nine TDs, while their record outside it remains 2-7.And they won their seventh game for the first time since 2002 and lost one more chance at a playoff berth, because the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens both won.
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In short, their vistas narrowed as their self-esteem expanded, and self-esteem matters less than actual achievement in the Darwin-was-a-sissy world of professional sport.Seven wins? Kelly said with a smile. Id rather have eight right now, but I guess seven is a good stepping stone.But for whom?I dont know about next year, he said. Ill handle next year when next year comes. I might not be here next year.Thats the problem with almosts, which is what the Raiders are looking at if Kansas City beats Tennessee or San Diego beats Cincinnati next week. Theyll be done, no matter what they do or dont do with Indianapolis at the Coliseum.And even if they get by the Colts and then beat the Chiefs on the final day, they have to hope the Broncos can beat San Diego and eliminate the Chargers from the tiebreaking formulas.Without playoffs to distract the masses, the what-ifs come into play. What if Darren McFadden, who has 1,113 yards rushing with two games left and two games lost, hadnt lost those two games? What if they hadnt laid such mighty eggs against Arizona, San Francisco, Miami and Jacksonville? What if they could have shown a little more gumption outside their enfeebled division?Which leads us inexorably to the Cable question . . . again. If, as seems likely, they will be among the outsiders again this year, will Al Davis view this as improvement or a blown chance? Will he see the 5-0 and smile, or the 2-7 and scowl? Will he decide not to risk Hue Jackson bolting for a head coaching job elsewhere, or decide that Cable has finally figured out how to keep The Al content?In short, can you start over and maintain momentum?Guessing at the inner workings of The Als brain box is always sketchy work, and its been so long since the Raiders werent down that it is hard to know how he defines up. For a man who is well known for his rigid philosophical views on football, to imagine him bending on something as elemental as the postseason is, well, difficult.And if he doesnt see this season as good enough to maintain the status quo, how can it be so?Again, we are working with the future, and the imponderables of The Als disposition. It is hard to see Jason Campbell finally winning the quarterbacking job beyond any question, or McFadden becoming an elite running back, or the defense developing beyond its subterranean numbers of years past.But one of the things about being relevant in December is the fact that you do look at a picture bigger than the postage stamps the Raiders have been churning out most of the decade. And these Raiders look great only in comparison to their grisly predecessors. They have miles to go before they can sleep well.But they can at least sleep for a change. When The Al is genuinely unhappy, as he has been for years now, nobody sleeps, ever. In fact, they may not sleep while he is deciding whether to be happy or not.But at least this year, for the first time in seemingly forever, he might be happy. Okay, content. Well, okay, mollified.Depending on his mood. And the day. And the weather.And thats a dramatic improvement by any measure.

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.