For the first time in four decades, the Warriors held their annual media chat session as defending NBA champs — did they even have one in the Rick Barry days? The happy talk focused on everything from their perceived underdog role to Stephen Curry’s dance and culinary skills.
But not everything was rosy in paradise. There wasn’t nearly as much conversation about the most urgent problem of all, that of Harrison Barnes’ potential free agent status.
Barnes expressed optimism that a new deal would be struck before Oct. 31, at which point the forward could become a restricted free agent next summer.
“That’s the goal,” Barnes said. “Things don’t always happen that way. I know for sure I love it here in Oakland. This is home.
“Negotiations are ongoing. I’m optimistic that things are going to work out. You hope that happens. That’s a little bit out of my circle of competency.”
Barnes reportedly turned down a four-year, $64 million contract not long ago, a hefty chunk of change for a role player who averaged a career-high 10.1 points per game last season. But Barnes has visions of a maximum four-year, $89 million deal next summer, when the new league television deal will increase the salary cap to a record level.
The longer the stalemate, the easier it will be for Barnes and the Warriors to go their separate ways. And the better the chances that it will grow into incessant trade talk, a distraction that the Champs can do without in their repeat bid.
OLD KID ON THE BLOCK: The Warriors’ front office could have a done a lot worse than to invite veteran Ben Gordon to training camp on a make-good basis.
Gordon is a career 40 percenter from beyond the arc and 86 percenter at the free throw line. The guard also is good in the clutch and the locker room, which means he’ll fit in with this group.
At 32, does Gordon still have his rainbow jumper of old?
“My shot’s still there,” Gordon assured Balls. “Now I have to show them that I haven’t lost it. I’m in excellent shape. Nothing is guaranteed, but this is a good opportunity for me.”
If Gordon earns a spot on the 15-man roster, he’ll receive a one-year contract, after which he’ll be able to test the open market.
WRIGHT STREET, WRONG ADDRESS: Only months after 49ers’ general manager Trent Baalke acquired Shareece Wright, the cornerback wants out, the NFL Network reported.
Last weekend Wright tweeted “Politics as usual” before he was listed as inactive for the third consecutive game. The tweet was deleted later.
“That is an incorrect statement. It had nothing to do with anything,” Tomsula said. “I made the decision to put the guys up that I thought gave us the best chance of winning the football game.”
Wright started his last 27 games with the San Diego Chargers. He also is the league leader in pass interference penalties since the 2013 season, which kinda makes Balls wonder why Baalke wants him in the first place.
HOPE WHAT YOU WISH FOR? Ben Roethlisberger has joined Tony Romo and Jay Cutler on the growing list of injured quarterbacks, and you know and Balls knows what a lot of 49ers’ fans are thinkin’ right now.
THERE FOR THE TAKING: Now that preseason favorite Oregon has been exposed for what it really is — a Nike production with more style than substance — Cal and Stanford may be on a collision course to the Pac-12 North championship game.
Oregon comes off a 62-20 loss at the hands of Utah, a double-figure underdog. The loss was its worst at home in 38 years. As if their defense isn’t bad enough, the Ducks also have a dilemma at quarterback, where Vernon Adams hasn’t made anyone forget Marcus Mariota lately
Either Cal or Stanford would be an underdog in the conference title game, but any team that had Jared Goff or Kevin Hogan at quarterback couldn’t be counted out entirely.
WEST IS BEST: In terms of legitimate contenders, there’s no better college football conference than the Pac-12 right now.
The Pac-12 has four teams ranked among the top 20 in the latest Associated Press poll — No. 7 UCLA, No. 10 Utah, No. 17 USC and No. 18 Stanford — and all are trending upward. The SEC also has four representatives on the list — No. 3 Mississippi, No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 LSU and No. 13 Alabama — but none had been a dominant team. Maybe that will change when Alabama travels to Georgia this weekend, but probably not.
Whoever the the Pac-12 survivor turns out to be, it will be battle tested come tournament time.
YOUR TURN: “Judging by (Sunday’s) results, the 49ers are even more pathetic than I thought. Takes me back to the days of Joe Thomas. Now if they’d only stop trashing the name San Francisco …” — John Hurabiell, San Francisco
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