Sunday, March 30, 2014

Full Squad Fierce!

A funny action happened in the Bay at the beginning of the Millennium's 2nd decade that had every fan of Golden State Warriors scratching their heads. When Don 'Nellie' Nelson (his second stint as Warriors head coach, and last successful coach to take Warriors to playoffs in 1990's) brought The City a splashy entertaining team in 2007, a window opened leaning towards promise of repeat playoff success. Yet, brisk gales of staunch West Coast opponents quickly shut the glass panes, when it was clear the team Nellie and fans idolized was built one sided-run and gun offense. Realizing Golden State Warriors were continuing down the much too familiar yellow brick road to nowhere, fans and speculation pointed to Oracle tycoon Larry Ellison to invest and accelerate success in a solid Bay Area franchise. Before arguments could be formed on the pros and cons of an 'Ellison' owned NBA team, fans and Media were taken back when Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were announced as purchasing The City's NBA pride, Golden State Warriors. I know I was not alone at googling the new owners. Who are these guys and what intentions do they have with an NBA team? If we knew then what plans they had to bring us to what appears to be back-to-back playoff appearances, and best record since 1994, The City would have rolled out a Golden Carpet!

The partnership of Lacob and Guber acquired the Golden State Warriors in 2010. After short term success with Nellie's reprise coaching appearance that pumped up Golden State Warriors as potential playoff contenders 2007-2009,  NBA fans and analysts quickly realized there were missing pieces for Warriors to be serious contenders at the next level. Little did anyone with a finger on the pulse of 'The City' franchise realize a venture capitalist teamed up with a Hollywood producer would have a winning formula hidden in their Gucci wallets. The Bay Area community were flipped upside down when news broke that two seemingly unknowns had the purchasing power stronger than Larry Ellison to acquire one of the hottest franchises in the Millennium, The Golden State Warriors. In the sizzling Summer of 2010, everyone within a 50 mile radius of Oakland, California became familiar with the likes of Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber.

Leading up to the team's sale, the franchise had some tangible products in place in Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, and David Lee. The obvious sore spot that everyone thought was locked up was a big man, a bona fide Center. Andris Beadrins displayed a minute of hope. In the "Believe" run in 2007, Andris had one of the most influential break out moments in NBA history. In one Season everything Andres did on the hardwood worked; he was everywhere on both ends of the floor blocking shots, retrieving rebounds off the defense and offensive boards. Every tip drill that he practiced Paid off in a dreamy contract. As far as anyone knew, the scrappy line up of Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Andris Beadrins, Matt Barnes, and  Stephen Jackson appeared stable to continue contention as one of the top eight Pacific Division teams in the NBA West. It only took a year for the Golden State Facade to unravel before everyone's glittery eyes at Oracle Arena. The next two Seasons were bitter disappointment for everyone invested in the Golden State Warriors. Baron Davis left for the Hollywood lifestyle, signing with Los Angeles Clippers. Matt Barnes left; and the most famous and fastest performance collapse occurred with Andris Beadrins. With a head coach more interested in hosting Who's Who poker games in Hawaii, and an ownership seeming content to keep with the status quo, a boisterous grievance was going to be heard across the NBA community regarding dissatisfaction of affairs regarding lack of direction present in the Warriors franchise.

Fans, journalists, and local media knew the team was stagnate, and there was a demand to transition the franchise in to hands of an owner who would give more than two cents about winning, bring Golden State Warriors back to legitimate contention for a NBA title. The request was granted in 2010. The Golden State Warriors changed hands to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. Before exiting, one acquisition Don Nelson did make in the 2009 draft, was acquiring Stephen Curry from Davidson. It was a pick that was peculiar. Considering the assumption new owners would build the team around Monta Ellis, everyone wanted to figure out how two strong shooting guards would work in the line up. It wasn't long before ownership and a new appointed GM gave us a poignant reply, by trading away Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for big man Andrew Bogut (who was injured at time of trade). The 'Dream Team' we all adore in 2013-2014 began in humble and misunderstood beginnings of centering The Golden State Warriors Quest for a title around arguably one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, Stephen Curry.

Ownership began ruffling comfort when they made a head snapping change in the front office dropping Chris Mullin (a beloved former Warriors player, and standout Community member) and promoting upcoming whipper snapper Bob Myers as General Manager. Myers began overhauling the line up, coaches, and opinion. At the beginning of bold changes starting in 2010, there became looming doubt about new ownership and their intentions with Golden State franchise. Were they interested in winning? Or were they drawn by one of the most profitable NBA teams with a solid fan base? We quickly had our answer on their intentions when they announced hiring Jerry West as a consultant. Key pieces that were added were Klay Thompson, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Dramon Green, Festus Azeli, and recently, Jermaine O'Neil, and Andre Igoudala. Exits included Jeremy Lin, Stephen Jackson, and a very hefty contract unload to Utah Jazz, Andris Beadrins. In three years, three coaching changes, and multiple moves in a twelve man roster, it appears the front office team of GM Bob Myers and Consultant Jerry West have created a premier contender for NBA West Title. When Golden State Warriors are at full squad with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Bogut healthy and starting games, they're literally unbeatable!

Looking back, Golden State fans have been treated with a flashy and exciting product, always displaying highlight reel dunks, sky hooks, alley oops, crazy beyond the arc treys, and spinning layups. Considering Golden State Warriors have only made the playoffs twice in last 20 years, the stands at Oracle were always filled with supportive diehards enjoying Warriors brand of basketball. Were fans more interested in a great show versus wins? It appeared that fans and sports media may have been satisfied with a zesty show, rather than showing up in the playoffs. Of course, fans and sports media were leery if any vision of the team's outlook would change with new owners. An unfortunate assumption amongst jibber jabber loud mouth fans and analysts alike were if new sports franchise owners could (or even aspired to) execute success, where previous owners fell flat? One reflection never made was the owners' individual success they've both made to place them in a position to acquire an opportunity to manage a NBA franchise, in hopes of attaining the NBA's highest prize, the Larry O'brien trophy. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber obviously possess leadership and decision making attributes we admire. The owners know how to build a management team that will reach goals they've established for Golden State Warriors. It's obvious now, Golden State owners and their annointed General Manager have created a change in Culture and expectations between coaches, players, sports writers, and most of all, the best fans in the NBA helping protect "Warriors Ground". The landscape has changed perusing the Western/Division front, and The City has pried the window back open!

This fan (along with Warriors Nation) looks forward to that day I know will happen sooner than later, a Parade down Broadway, in Oakland with a well fought for Larry O'Brien trophy in The City's hands!

Last time Golden State Warriors won a NBA title? I wasn't even 10!

Enjoy a trip back to Rick Barry's year of glory!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Minority Report

The perennial procession of time and moving forward has sprung upon us!

Its March, and as I age (hopefully growing wiser), it seems Seasons creep faster upon the shadows of my porch than I recall. February has whisked by, and with it, the knocking of Spring appears on manicured playing fields in our Nation's sunshine states of Arizona and Florida. Spring training has commenced, and the boys (more like Goliaths, in our millennium age) of baseball are taking up space on the fields dreams are unearthed.

There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball (MLB). Come March 1, all 30 teams have same hopes and aspirations of making it to the Fall Classic, MLB World Series.  Out of all professional leagues present in North America, Baseball has the fewest teams eligible to make playoffs. Only 10 teams have an opportunity to advance, based of course, on record. Of those 10 teams, 2 will be omitted in a 1 game opportunity to advance further. Less than 30% of MLB teams will get an opportunity to reach October glory. If you've been stuck in the wilderness, or vacuumed up by another dimension, the object to baseball is to hit the ball away from players on the field, round all 3 bases and score reaching home base. Of course, the pitcher throwing a ball at you, and all the position players assigned to cover the bases, and outfielders covering well hit balls have rigorous intentions to make sure all the batters that come up to the plate, either struck out or tagged out. Honestly, its quite a strategic game of cat and mouse at the highest athletic level. One of the greatest aspects regarding baseball, is there's no clock. Teams do not need to worry about minutes running down, or a buzzer sounding. Rather than worrying about futile sweeping of ticks escaping opportunity to score, all teams have 27 outs.  Needless to say, heavy emphasis lies upon hitting success.

Baseball has played in some sort of organized format at least 125 years. It's been considered a favorite past time in America, and pastoral game quite stringent to change. In its traditional form, and rules between 1890 and 1980, there were a hand full of stand out hitters. Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, and Pete Rose are the few like no one else. The feats fans were blessed to witness and marvel during their careers may never be repeated. In the 1980's, there was an interesting change in the anatomy and dynamics of baseball players. The era of performance enhancement infested the clubhouses in every town USA. It was a whispered transition purposely ignored by owners, and majority of fans. The thrill of hits, runs, home run bombs blasting out of yards began to draw National interest back to baseball that drifted in a lethargic stagnant decade of 1970's. Hitters were not alone. Pitchers needed to quickly figure out how to improve their performance on the mound. The days of complete games diminished, as team managers quickly realized 'specialists', like closers, and set-up men were in demand to keep a fresh arm available to combat the increasing number of power hitters.  No one was left innocent in a prevalent PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) Era that began in the mid- 1980's. A few of the distinguished known users were Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Samy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Andres Galarraga. Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco were ostracized by their baseball community publicly disclosing rampant use of PED throughout baseball. Of course, majority of baseball owners and players vehemently denied such accusations.

Unfortunately, in a Congressional special report that came out in 2007, The Mitchell Report, confirmed such allegations. Millions of public dollars were used to expose questions regarding morality and legitimacy of PED use in a professional game. The information disclosed in the 409 paged Congressional Document to the attention of the Commissioner of baseball caused chaos. A supposed illegal substance banned by Major League Baseball in 1994, was the most significant oversight in regulation of professional sports. There literally was no enforcement in place, or punishment truly on record. Owners, and the commissioner of Major League Baseball were literally caught with their pants down.  There was no more speculation, no more denying steroids, designer performance drugs, Human Growth Hormone supplements were prevalent in USA's endearing traditional game. Altruists, and journalists who've followed the sports since childhood ostracized every player caught as cheaters. There were others, though, who had a more pragmatic evaluation, disclosing an era of baseball that was inevitable. Lines were drawn in the dirt, and journalists with their ultimate power of words and Hall of Fame votes, have risen the stakes of what side they represented.  With a critical aristocratic tone, majority of credential-toting journalists, beat writers snubbed any person challenging their black and white temperament regarding certain performances and its relation to use of a PED. It seems they've bunched up everyone who've used some type of PED as cheaters, plain and simple. Of course, there are valid cases of players sparse surges in numbers, and relation to some type of chemical assistance.  Majority of players who sought some type of PED, desired any kind of edge to assist in keeping them healthy and strong enough to remain valid, and in 'The Show'.  Yet, there is a player, regardless of designer performance supplements, that's truly an exception, and should never be lumped in to the same sentence as Ken Caminiti, or Samy Sosa.  I am in the minority supporting the excellence and jaw dropping career of Barry Bonds.

Barry Bonds was eligible for the Hall of Fame two years ago. The journalists have drawn first blood, shutting him out of a prestigious honor he deserves.  Unlike any other baseball player accused of using some type of PED, he successfully sustained explosive performances for 15 years. If you look at every other 'user', they may have had one, or two incredible years. The Hall of fame numbers posted by Barry Bonds begs the question, exactly how did still unknown and assumed designer PEDs assist Barry Bonds? The only advantage any regimen completed by the Bay Area legend would be recovery.  No designer enhancement made today or tomorrow can teach a player swing speed, and eye hand coordination. If anything, the advantage Bonds had over every other player, was his ability to see the ball, insane swing speed, and lineage. Barry Bonds is the product of two great hitters that groomed him, his father Bobby Bonds and Godfather Willie Mays. The research and studying Barry and his father put in to pitchers he faced would astound anyone.  Steroids destroys a body. Steroids eventually destroys sound thinking. I won't deny that Bonds may have used something to assist in his ability to sustain his performance, I don't think it was steroids. There are many other products  available to players (like Human Growth Hormone, Blood doping) where there are no valid tests presently in place by MLB (they really ought to discuss valid testing with Olympics testing labs, they seem to keep up with he most dated products used by athletes seeking zero detection).

Barry Bonds has been hired by San Francisco Giants to join the organization to become an assistant to the hitting coach. Once again, the sides have piped up if this is an appropriate action, a positive action to support team progress in hopes of boosting a known suspect offense. I whole-heartily support the move and if I were Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, or Brandon Belt, I would be ecstatic at the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest hitters ever dawning a San Francisco Giants uniform in the 20th Century.  I support the action of Barry Bonds becoming a Hall of Famer. I one hundred percent support Bonds presence at the batting cage. There is a wealth of knowledge and approach Barry Bonds has and can pass on to the next generation of hitters. I may never see another performer in my life time that had the power and patience as Mr. Bonds. I am privileged to count myself as one of thousands blessed memorizing greatness out at Candlestick and the current San Francisco Giants home, the house that Bonds built,  AT&T Park. I am the minority, and proud fan of Barry Bonds!

One of Barry Bonds' last public interviews, was one of the best candid windows in to a man we all think we know, but have a lot to learn about. Please watch and enjoy:

Barry Bonds Interview