Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks' McLellan takes aim at former mentor


Ratto: Sharks' McLellan takes aim at former mentor


Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

DETROIT -- Todd McLellan is unusually respectful when speaking of the Detroit Red Wings, and particularly their head coach, Mike Babcock. And McLellan ought to be, because they got him his current job.But that was 10 meetings ago, and since eight of those 10 meetings have been won by the San Jose Sharks and McLellan, one cannot help but wonder if the two men are going to notice their paths beginning to diverge.RELATED: Sharks, Wings shuffle lines at Tuesday skate
Before your shorts start riding up, this is not one of those McLellan is outcoaching Babcock nonsensithons which are normally posited by people who not only dont understand hockey, but dont understand sports. Coaching is almost entirely a function of the players one has and their performances within games. Todd McLellan did not get smarter, and Mike Babcock did not get stupider.

But Babcock and McLellan are also highly competitive beings, and they have both noticed who has gotten the better end of whom in the last year or so. Babcocks body of work is deeper and richer, but McLellan has won eight of the last 10 games between the two sides, including Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.And the reason for that is probably no more involved than the Sharks having been built, adjusted and re-adjusted to play Detroit at its best. McLellan didnt initiate or sanction the snow showers on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, but dont think he disapproves as much as he says he does. He believes Detroit can be knocked off its feet, and he has ratcheted up the body work from his forwards to see what Detroit wants to send back.RELATED: Game 2 notes: Sparks over Pavelski 'snow showers'
Its not an unusual notion; the Wings have seen this before. But McLellans approach is working because he has the personnel to carry out his instructions, and having broken them down in January after three and a half months of bad hockey, it has been easier for him to get the Sharks to do as they are told.Not consistently, mind you. The Sharks still have a bad player on their shoulders who likes to whisper, Fore-checking is for weenies; let the defensemen play defense. Its in the name, for Gods sake. Go on, take another neutral zone circle. Gliding is fun.But they do best with scares, and McLellan knows that. They got scared unnecessarily against Los Angeles, and they have decided that for Detroit, greater adherence to a harder-edged more physically engaged game is the only way to go.Again, a coaching decision that both coaches saw coming up Broadway.But this is where it gets interesting. Babcock has owned the Western Conference for years now, and having lost to those relentless underachievers from San Jose a year ago and now halfway to doing the same thing again, he is going to find the differences that separate him from McLellan when it comes time to finding summer fishing partners.There is plenty to draw from here, most notably when Bo Schembechler left Woody Hayes to seek his own fortune at Michigan, just up the road from here. Or Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight. They were close, then they let competition intrude, and then they werent for a long time.Ultimately, they are bound for the long term by the shared experiences, and they know that whatever enmity they will learn to deal with in the next few years while they fight for the same thing year after year, and more likely than not they will have to go through each other to get it.In short, their heartfelt howdies are going to get less frequent, and their gamesmanship will be more involved the odd snow shower or between-games line changes. If this was once mentor v. pupil, it is now near equals having at each other.We say near equals because McLellans Stanley Cup ring came from Babcock. Ifwhen he gets one of his own, this will get fun.

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.

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


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.