Ray Ratto

Ratto: Spurs have the same problem for Game 2 that they had in Game 1

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AP

Ratto: Spurs have the same problem for Game 2 that they had in Game 1

Gregg Popovich apparently has failed in his attempt to get Danny Green to grow “four or five inches,” the kind of detail failure that one would expect in a less experienced coach.

But the eminence grise of the San Antonio Spurs does not work only a superficial level, so after some negotiating, he has convinced Golden State’s Kevin Durant to “not be so good” for Game 2 and any subsequent games of the Warriors-Spurs series.

This, then, solves his conundrum after Game 1 and provides an answer to those who asked him to evaluate Green’s performance in Game 1. In other words, if he couldn’t make Green better, he could make Durant worse.

And there you have it. The series is now dramatically different going forward. All Popovich had to do was talk to Steve Kerr, remind him of his injury list and his prodigal Kawhi problem, convince him out of charity to a mentor in need to ask Durant to tank a bit, and because Kerr is a warlock, he managed to pull it off in a meeting with Durant on Sunday.

At least that’s the only way it could have happened. After all, the Green-gets-taller thing failed miserably, if only because medical science isn’t that clever or unethical – yet. Plus, there was no guarantee that a talker Green makes him any more effective defensively against Durant in Game 2. Shin or femur extensions can often render someone less agile, like a newborn giraffe, so there was clearly high-risk, low-return here.

But Durant? We all said he was a swell guy, just because he deferred some money in his current deal to help the Warriors keep their core together, so it only made sense that he’d do Kerr a solid, even if it was really doing Popovich a solid at Kerr’s expense.

And by now you surely must have deduced that this was all a transparent lie. Popovich didn’t ask, Kerr didn’t agree, Durant didn’t agree, and the Spurs have the same problem for Game 2 that they had in Game 1 – the Warriors when properly fueled are simply better, and by a considerable margin.

But in truth, Popovich at least should have asked. I mean, what’s he got to lose aide from a playoff series, right?

The meaning of Sean Manaea's no-hitter

The meaning of Sean Manaea's no-hitter

Sean Manaea has a memory that will last him forever. The Oakland Athletics have a touchstone they can use to trump whatever other misfortunes befall them.

That is the beauty of a no-hitter, which Manaea threw at the Boston Red Sox Saturday night in a 3-0 victory before a healthy crowd of 25,746. It means a lot for one day, then its magnificence fades, and the season plays out as it must.

In the meantime, it is an exemplary moment for a middle-of-the-road team trying to find its core. It doesn’t lead to anything else, it doesn’t change the course of a season, it is simply one moment in time for a player who has just had his one shining moment, and a team trying to figure out what will resonate with its fan base.

And Manaea’s performance will remind the customer base that anything can happen on any given day over the course of a six-month season, and that when in doubt, going to the ballpark to take in a game is not all that bad an idea.

And that, for anyone outside the circle of Manaea and his immediate family, friends and teammates, is the lesson. No-hitters are a singular and individual moment, and Manaea has one. That never fades...for him.

For the A’s, though, it can mean whatever they want it to mean. Maybe they learn more confidence in Manaea. Maybe he becomes the go-to guy they thought Kendall Graveman would be. Maybe subduing the best hitting team in the American League provides a level of confidence that the A’s need to be thought of as more than just a modest also-ran.

Maybe all these things happen. Maybe none of them do. But this is immutable:

9 0 0 0 2 13 108-75 1.23

That is Manaea’s box score line, and whatever other explanations result from this performance, the line still speaks for itself.

Put another way, a game with free admission doesn’t hold a candle to a no-hitter. Sean Manaea is now an official badass on a team that can use all it can get, and you need to take that at face value because face value is the only thing in which no-hitters pay. It’s a moment that can be much more, or just what it is, but what it is is more than sufficient.

Why the Sharks are about to be the NHL's biggest villains

Why the Sharks are about to be the NHL's biggest villains

Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, nothing is done until it’s done, the fourth win is the hardest, and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah. I’m still going to say this – the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Embryos are second-round opponents, and that’s the deal.
 
This means that for perhaps the first time since the Philadelphia Flyers’ terror cell known as the Broad Street Bullies of the mid-70s, there will be a clear, unambiguous and almost universal interest on one side of this equation.
 
And it isn’t going to be San Jose.
 
Vegas is Turbo-Cinderella, the expansion team that can’t be killed, a heartwarming tale of the meek kicking Earth’s ass. By winning more games by themselves than most full expansion classes in either hockey or basketball, the Knights have enveloped themselves in the admiration of the industry and even casual fans who know that expansion teams are required by federal and dominion law to stink. They are the perfect antidote to the inherent cynicism in any system. They are love in a world that runs on hate.
 
There, I think we’ve made the point.
 
On the other side is San Jose, a team who has succeeded on the periphery of the NHL diaspora. They have never been darlings outside the 408, and have been criticized more for losing consistently to the hump they should have gotten over by now. But essentially, they are good but inoffensive, and their fan base is loud but neither deep nor truly rabid. They have taken good and made it their base camp without venturing too far from it.
 
None of which matters in these circumstances, though. Everybody with an opinion wants Vegas because The Narrative, which means that nobody with an interest wants the Sharks. And when we say “nobody,” we mean “nobody except Sharks fans and the Vegas books,” which will be taking more bets on Vegas than they have taken on the last 15 Cup Finals combined.
 
But you get the point. Everyone wants Vegas. Vegas wants Vegas, the other 29 teams wants Vegas, the league office wants Vegas, television wants Vegas, radio wants Vegas, web sites and newspapers want Vegas. People who hate hockey want Vegas. The only entity with this kind of popular unanimity is Beyonce.
 
That means San Jose is the villain, and worse, a bland villain. They don’t play dirty, they don’t cheat, they don’t talk smack, they don’t have a great player anyone truly hates they haven’t inflated pucks or illegally filmed opponents’ practices, their coach isn’t a contemptuous jerk, their owner isn’t a notoriously financial predator, none of it. They will be hated simply for existing in the path of the Vegas Goodwill Train over the next two weeks. And fair has nothing to do with it.
 
So if you say “Go Sharks!” do it with a smile, and prepare to duck. You are swimming against a massive tide, and the only way to survive it is to ride the wave.
 
And if you cannot hold your temper and simply must get yours back, then just snarl, “I hope you get a Columbus-Winnipeg Cup Final,” and then walk away. It may not be much of a retort, but let’s face it, you’re not playing a strong hand. North America hates you. Deal with it.