Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks' margin of error roughly zero

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Ratto: Sharks' margin of error roughly zero

June 14, 2011

RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO

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CSNBayArea.com

The question often comes up . . . well, actually, the question almost never comes up, but work with us here . . . What do the Sharks have to do to get to the next level?Ignoring the fact that the next level is a criminally stupid clich valid only if youre on the third floor of a department store looking for the escalator, the Sharks next-level problem is now more profoundly difficult than it was two weeks ago.Two weeks ago, they werent deep enough or quick enough to deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Now, theyre not deep enough or physical enough to deal with the Boston Bruins, either.
RELATED: NHL playoff index
This is the maddening beauty of the Stanley Cup playoffs, one of its most profound yet most subtle gifts -- everything you knew to be true on May 15 is wrong on May 31, and wrong again on June 16, which is the final day of the season, barring an eight-overtime final that takes you past midnight.Which brings us back to the Sharks, who have packed in a hard fortnight of golf, hunting, child-dandling and healing all those injuries they accumulated by negotiating their way through Los Angeles and Detroit.They are unchanged, and will be for some time to come. The calendar prevents it, because the NHL draft has not yet been held, and most general managers are still meeting with their scouts to deal with that. Plus, free agency does not actually bloom until July, and thats if the owners dont start making the usual lockout threats.Not only that, San Joses player contract structure realistically prevents massive changes, no matter how disappointed you might be about specific players. The Sharks are pretty much what you thought they were two months ago, and they are going to stay that way. Even the most dramatic draft choice score doesnt change a team right away.I guess this is a long-winded way of saying, Mario Lemieux isnt walking through that door as the 27th pick, and if he was, hed be 46, and if youre going after a 46-year-old, you may as well just sign Chris Chelios and be done with it.For the second consecutive year, the Sharks lost in the playoffs to a demonstrably superior team, and if they played the Canucks in another 10 series, they would lose eight of them, maybe even nine. But it can also be said that they would have the same problem with this Boston team. They would have great difficulty scoring on Tim Thomas, and they would be relentlessly pounded physically after having been relentlessly pounded physically for the last month.So the first question to be asked of Doug Wilson, and you may rest assured by Doug Wilson, is not What the hell do I do with Dany Heatley? but Who are we and what do we need to be?Well, faster, bigger and deeper. Thats simple. But with minimal cap space, as always, as contracts that restrict the blockbuster trades you so fervently fantasize about, those three things will not be mastered. One, maybe, but not the other two.But if there is something else to be said, it is this: Neither the Canucks nor Bruins were very efficient in their trip through the postseason. Vancouver and Boston both played 18 games for the right to play seven more. The record is 26, by the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers, who lost to Edmonton. This was hard work for both survivors, and if you think otherwise, ask Nathan Horton and Mason Raymond.San Jose has to be more efficient, but that isnt the only way for it to survive next years playoff tower. Its structural in that Todd McLellan cant keep telling us about passengers and coasting and players who need to give more. That has to become the immutable law that no player dare violate, and that means that Joe Thornton -- who will be the first Shark to have his number retired based on last year alone -- will have to become even more strident in word and deed than even last year.The one thing to be said about the Bruins, win or lose Wednesday, is that they had no passengers. The one thing to be said about the Canucks is that they handled the most schizophrenic postseason ever, and I mean ever. The lessons to be learned from this postseason are not easily applied, and the Sharks still need time to sort them out.But this rises above all others -- their margin of error is roughly zero. They are still not the best team in the National Hockey League, they dont have the most talent, and they still have holes that are exploited by teams that see them over and over. They are good, and not good enough at the same time.For the first time in years, they have to know it in their souls and bones, and act accordingly. Every day. Starting in July. Theyre still off until June ends.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

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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.

How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

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How? Why? In 2018, the Warriors have been borderline zen

On a day and night when 21 technical fouls were called and five players ejected over 11 National Basketball Association games, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers received none of either in a game that should have created enough tension to warm the Yukon. This clearly makes no sense . . .

. . . unless of course the Warriors, having set a new trend early in the season for agonized dissent, have moved on to whatever the next thing is.

While a simmering uncivil war has bubbled between officials (and the management types who started this whole thing by telling officials to cut down on conversations and calm interactions with players and coaches), the Warriors have been on as close to their best behavior as they can manage.

Since the new year turned, the Warriors have played eight games and amassed only three technicals, one to Steve Kerr and two to players (Zaza Pachulia and, yes, you guessed it, Draymond Green). Oh, they still lead the league with 29 spaced over eight players and Kerr, plus seven ejections led by Kevin Durant’s three, but their seemingly insurmountable lead has been reduced to three over Oklahoma City and Phoenix (Phoenix?) and four over Houston and Charlotte (Charlotte?).

Indeed, you’d think that they could have mustered up at least one Monday night in Cleveland given the hype for this seemingly dying rivalry. I mean, the league even offered up one of its best and most strident officials in Scott Foster, whom Warrior fans are convinced is deliberately mean to the Warriors.

But here, too, is an outdated trope. The Warriors are 14-1 in their last 15 regular season games with Foster, and their postseason record of 7-5 with him is more a measure of him getting the maximum number of Finals games, where the Warriors have seven of their 16 postseason defeats. That doesn’t prove bias as much as it does frequency of use.

But we wander into the woods here. The point is, as the new discussion point is the much-advertised summit meeting between officials and players union officials at the All-Star break, the Warriors have been borderline zen. Why? Who knows? Maybe player performance maven Chelsea Lane is putting tranquilizers into their athletic drinks. Maybe they’ve taken up chanting. Maybe they can turn their ire on and off as they do the rest of their game. Or maybe these are the dog days for mouthing off at The Man.

Except that everyone else in the league seems to be taking up the cause of the revolution, so that last one can't be it.

Now we are willing to accept the possibility that so many day games Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday put the players off their typical routine, although the biggest incident of the evening happened in the night game between Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

It may simply be, then, that the Warriors either have nothing more to complain about, have taken to heart the lectures about their lectures, or they really have moved on to the next thing that separates them from the field.

Maybe never losing a road game ever again. Although, tediously enough, that is a record already held by . . . yes, them.