Urban: Giants on the brink versus D'backs


Urban: Giants on the brink versus D'backs

Sept. 1, 2011


Mychael Urban

A week or so ago, a glance at the big-league landscape showed but two playoff races worth tracking with impassioned day-to-day interest.The National League West division chase was one of them, the American League West the other. Every other playoff spot -- Brewers in the NL Central, Phils in the NL East, Braves as NL Wild Card, Tigers in the AL Central, YankeesRed Sox somehow divvying up the AL East and Wild Card crowns -- appeared taken.Not much has changed in the races that appeared all but over, although the Indians -- 5 12 games back -- aren't quite ready to conceded to Detroit just yet, and the AL West race remains a taut tussle between Texas and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County Near the John Wayne Airport and Disneyland but Not Really Anywhere Close to Los Angeles.But suddenly, after another agonizing week of turmoil with the defending world champions, the NL West race could be on the verge of losing considerable steam in terms of national attention by weekend's end.
NEWS: Quiet day for Giants Thursday; no callups
The front-running Diamondbacks, six games to the good, roll their nine-game winning streak into AT&T Park on Friday for the opener of a three-game series against the Giants, and anything less than a sweep by the reigning champs might very well put San Francisco out of the misery it's been feeling since the dog days of August started biting them in the hind region.Sobering thought: Should the Giants, who last weekend lost two of four to the worst team in baseball (Astros) and this week dropped two of three to the team with the second-worst road record (Cubs), manage to take two of three from the streaking Snakes, they'll still enter play next Monday with a five-game deficit with 22 games to play.
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To overcome that, even a 16-6 pace the rest of the way from the Giants wouldn't be enough to force a tie were Arizona to finish up 12-10, and both of those marks would represent a dramatic departure from the current pace at which each team is playing.Still, there's optimism in the Giants' clubhouse."I don't feel we're out of it," veteran leader Mark DeRosa said Wednesday after a 4-0 victory over the Cubs that fellow vet Pat Burrell said was needed "in the worst way."Added DeRosa: "We're not going anywhere."A skeptic with a smart-aleck slant could, of course, agree with DeRosa wholeheartedly: You got that right, pal. You're not going anywhere but to a golf course in early October.But that's obviously not what DeRosa meant. He was highlighting the competitive fire that appeared to be stoked when the Giants shook up their roster and clubhouse Wednesday by cutting ties with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada.DeRosa went out of his way to note that Rowand and Tejada weren't "cancers" in the clubhouse, but he did concede that "something had to be done," and that August had devolved into a Groundhog Day-ish procession of unsavory sameness.More of the same simply won't do against the Diamondbacks, who will be pitching AL All-Star Joe Saunders -- he's coming off one of his best starts of the season -- in Friday's opener, followed by their top two starters, Ian Kennedy (17-4, 3.03 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (14-9, 3.61), on Saturday and Sunday.The Giants counter with a trio of 2011 All-Stars, Matt Cain (10-9, 2.87), Tim Lincecum (12-11, 2.58) and Ryan Vogelsong (10-5, 2.63), each of whom has been hamstrung at various and many times by an offense that ranks 30th among 30 MLB teams in runs, 29th in batting average and on-base percentage, and 28th in slugging percentage."We still believe we can climb back into this thing," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We dug ourselves a pretty good hole here but it's a gritty group. We'll keep fighting to the end."Barring a sweep, the end could be here sooner than anyone in Orange and Black wants to think.

DeRozan fined by NBA for comments made after Raptors' loss to Warriors


DeRozan fined by NBA for comments made after Raptors' loss to Warriors

Following Toronto's 127-125 loss to the Warriors on Saturday night, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan wasn't happy.

His team had almost erased a 27-point deficit and he felt like the officials were helping the Warriors.

"It's frustrating being out there feeling like you're playing 5-on-8. Some of those calls were terrible, period," DeRozan told reporters after the game.

As you might imagine, the NBA wasn't thrilled with thoses comments and fined DeRozan $15,000 on Tuesday for public criticism of the officiating.

DeRozan's incident is the latest in a long list of greivances between the players and the officials. The two sides met face-to-face in late December and plan to meet again during All-Star weekend in February to discuss the growing tension.

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.