Ray Ratto

Warriors cap off weirdest, hardest run with fitting ending

Warriors cap off weirdest, hardest run with fitting ending

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Coverage of the Warriors 2018 Championship Parade begins Tuesday at 9:30am on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on NBCSportsBayArea.com.

In some ways this was the perfect way to end the Warriors’ weirdest championship run – clinically, purposefully, almost cruelly.

Their 108-85 victory over the soon-to-be-freeze-dried Cleveland Cavaliers had none of the incandescent moments typically associated with Golden State at its best, no bursts of jaw-slackening brilliance or stretches of amazement, but it showed them at their remorseless best. They stole Cleveland’s heart, held it up for a gobsmacked arena crowd and the nation as a whole to see, and in a silent arena, they crushed it with one ruthless squeeze.

They showed anyone who needed further evidence that they have no peers, or even challengers. They sent the NBA into the offseason no better off than it was a year ago, and maybe a bit worse.

And though there were numbers to behold (Stephen Curry finished with 37 points and Kevin Durant triple-doubled his way to his second consecutive Finals MVP), this 103rd game, this 74th win, was the basketball version of watching a snake eat.

The Warriors defended LeBron James into the role of a passer with nobody to pass to, and rendered Kevin Love inert as a second option. They intercepted passes, slapped the ball out of careless Cavalier hands, took care of the ball and distributed it with the sureness usually found in scrimmages.

In all, the Warriors gave Steve Kerr and themselves exactly the game he enjoys most – a suffocating beatdown that denied their most serious rival even the barest illusion of hope.

They left no doubt and destroyed all doubters. They engaged the rivalry with Cleveland, they won the rivalry, and they killed the rivalry so surely that they and they made the LeBron James Era in Cleveland mostly bittersweet.

Not that is what James should be noted for, mind you. He is far more than the results of these four series, he was brilliant even as the futility of that brilliance became evident, and he did keep his word about winning one for Ohio. But when he left the game with 4:03 to play to a sustained ovation, he made sure to congratulate all the Warriors on the floor as an acknowledgement of what they did to his homecoming.

They ended it. With a concussive thud.

This was the hardest year for the Warriors, between the injuries and the ennui, and there was a sense that they viewed this victory with a mixture of joy and relief. But that might have been simply the fact that they started celebrating well before the actual game ended, because they assembled a game so complete and unyielding that it never actually reached the level of fun most associated with this team.

This was about business, and this was delivered with a businessman’s ruthlessness. This was the Warriors telling a skeptical world they have all the ways to win the league at their command, including denial of the opponent’s right to function. This was them not apologizing for ruining the league. This was them striding across the sport as the first team of this century, truly turning the switch at will and replacing the bulbs with floodlights once the postseason began.

This may not be a dynasty in the classic sense because it still lacks the third consecutive title that the Lakers of the ‘50s and ‘Oughts, the Celtics of the ‘60s and the Bulls of the ’90s, but it feels like one, and it looks like one that still has plenty of sting in its tail.

And there is no sign anywhere that there is a team even remotely close to challenging their claim that they are still years away from completing their run. They were once charming and fun and giddy and bubbly, but they have matured as champions. They are now clearly far too good for the field in all the ways good can be measured.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Warriors 108, Cavs 85

No matter how much Steve Kerr makes in his next contract, he will be undercompensated

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AP

No matter how much Steve Kerr makes in his next contract, he will be undercompensated

Steve Kerr either has completed or is about to complete negotiations on his new contract as the head coach of The Team That Ruined Everything, and we know one thing already.

He is still sadly undercompensated at any price.

Only this isn’t because his boss is a cheapskate. Joe Lacob does not squeeze the wallets of those to whom he owes a debt, and Kerr is owed a massive one. Three rings say so.

But Lacob’s climb in the national consciousness is tied to the work of many others, and Kerr is one of those, so if his new contract pays him twice his current $5 million per annum or even more, it’s still less than it ought to be.

[LISTEN: Warriors Outsiders Podcast -- Will Steve Kerr get $10 million annually?]

And yet Kerr is fortunate that he didn’t win the Stanley Cup. There, the prize is only $300,000, take it or leave it. And Barry Trotz, the head coach of the Washington Capitals who no longer is, decided to leave it.

It does bring us to an interesting conundrum, namely finding the answer to the question, “What’s the love of a city worth to you?” Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Capitals who decided to lowball the only coach who ever gave him a parade, decided that the principle of not overcompensating a coach is worth more than the best moment he has ever had as a sports owner. Lacob, on the other hand, pays for his parades and the people who make them possible.

There is a measurable but also quantifiable difference between those two positions, and the word “gratitude” comes immediately to mind.

But the words Caps general manager Brian McLellan used were “high character and integrity,” and he used them to describe Trotz while he explained how the further care and grooming of the Cupholders could no longer use such a man in their employ.

No, this was about a plan to fire Trotz if he didn’t win the Cup (or, in the parlance of the day, “choose not to renew his contract,” or the even newer one, “choose to part ways”) that backfired because he got his players to do just that. It’s almost as if he screwed the organization by giving it a championship.

Oh, there will be other explanations offered in the next day or two as to why this had to be done for the good of the franchise, and how Trotz was surely losing the team while guiding it eagerly to the thing hockey players crave most.

But mostly, this was about valuing a once-in-a-lifetime moment at 20 percent of a man’s annual salary because, well, damn it, a deal’s a deal, and it’s just a coach and you can find them anywhere.

Of course you can. Cup-winning coaches are a dime a dozen – 52 total, or 14 percent of all the men who ever coached in the NHL. It’s a job so easy that most baristas could do it while foaming your latte.

Except that it isn’t, and never has been. Steve Kerr, who allegedly has the easiest job in NBA history, can vouch for how hard the Warriors’ third championship was, with the best team of its era. Joe Lacob can vouch for it, too, and is.

Oh, there will be a time when Kerr might be called overpaid, after the championship window has closed and the Warriors flail to repeat what it is doing now with such facility. But he will know he was treated well for those three Larry O’Briens, and that they now have a value of their own.

Specifically, about 10 Stanley Cups worth. Weird, because I always was told the Cup is the greatest trophy in sports. Now, it’s worth $300K, because Ted Leonsis said so. How lucky Kerr is to work for a guy who thinks about the long game, and the many millions more he made by going pocketward when it was the right time to do so.

 

Winning bid for 2026 World Cup highlights America’s ability to throw massive party, not grow the sport

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AP

Winning bid for 2026 World Cup highlights America’s ability to throw massive party, not grow the sport

The United States’ pre-eminent role in world soccer was reaffirmed Wednesday when the 2026 World Cup bid it shared with Canada and Mexico was approved by FIFA.

And when we say “pre-eminent role,” yes, we mean money – the official language of FIFA. I mean, the United bid threw so much promised money at FIFA that it didn’t even have to spend a lot of time apologizing for the current U.S. administration, which is a great deal of money indeed.

But the bid, which crushed one from Morocco, was also described by U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro as a likely catalyst for greater expansion of the sport in the U.S., to perhaps as many as 10 million registered soccer players from a current level of four million.

But we had been led to believe by soccer people that the expansion fight had already been won. And which, we were assured, was the reason for the 1994 World Cup, the last one held in the U.S.

In fact, linking the World Cup to soccer growth in America has always been a tenuous one. The sport grows at its own pace, and even after that World Cup and the creation and multiple expansions of Major League Soccer, the game’s hold in America is still fungible. Those four million registered players in America are out of 330 million, 1.2 percent, a similar percentage to 1994, and the 2026 World Cup is somehow supposed to fix that.

Well, that isn’t how these things work. The World Cup will generate billions in revenue (though the bid’s estimate of $14 billion seems wildly high), and rich folks will get richer. But this is more an acknowledgement of America’s ability to throw a massive party than its ability to grow the sport.

You see, the spectacle, and the money it churns, is still America’s most enduring link to the sport. Winning the 2026 bid is largely being framed as a grand consolation prize for the U.S. team throwing up all over itself and failing to qualify for the 2018 Mundial, which begins Thursday morning.

But it doesn’t truly affect “the growth of the game” because most of the money that will come in, estimate or no, will be great for the business of the sport. That’s where it traditionally stops. It will not create, and is not designed to create, the kind of fundamental changes that will make the U.S. more than a third-tier nation in terms of talent spotted and developed.

That will take more and more purposeful work, and the financial windfall of a World Cup is not the same as growing the sport. Period.

So yes, by all means hail the United bid (as it is called) is a triumph for North American soccer. But it’s mostly a triumph for money . . . as these things typically are.