In today’s crime-tattered NFL, a head coach usually wouldn’t refer to a potential felony charge against a player as “silly.’’ But in the case of Raiders linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, Jack Del Rio doesn’t care.
Armstrong is under investigation for allegedly taunting a K-9 service dog before the loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. According to the police report, Armstrong “lifted his shirt, pounded on his chest and began barking at the dog as he was heading toward the field for the game.” A team insider said that he does this sort of thing regularly with teammates to get stoked before games.
In Pennsylvania, it is a third-degree felony “for any person to willfully or maliciously taunt, torment, tease, beat, kick or strike a police animal.”
“I’ve caught wind of this story,” said Del Rio, who added that he hadn’t spoken to Armstrong about the allegation. “I’m going to put in the ‘silly’ category. I think once the facts come to light I don’t think there’s going to be much of an issue. I wouldn’t make too much of it.”
But if authorities in Pittsburgh charge Armstrong with a felony, much will be made of it.
Armstrong always did have some dog in him.
SEVENTY REVELRY: With everyone talking about the potential for a 70-win season, including the Warriors themselves, let’s take a look at the schedule.
Their next 19 games range from slam dunks to free throws. The only toughie figures to come a week from tonight, when they meet the Clippers in Los Angeles. It’s not crazy to think the Champs could take a 25-3 or even 26-2 record into their showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena on Christmas Day.
Still, 70 W’s in an 82-game season are a lot of wins. Balls knows this well — it covered the Jordanaires in their epic season. As ex-Bull Steve Kerr would tell you, that team had two built-in advantages that these Warriors don’t have — an easier travel schedule in a less competitive conference.
That being said, don’t be surprised if the Warriors make a run at the big 7-oh before the All-Star break. But February looks like a killer — only two home dates.
Sure is fun to consider the possibilities, isn’t it?
STIRLING REMEMBERED: Scotty Stirling passed away at 86 in Sacramento on Wednesday. Longtime sports fans remember him as the former Oakland Tribune sportswriter and talk show host turned sports executive who was part of two local championship teams — the 1967 Raiders (AFL) and 1969 Oaks (ABA).
“Scotty was a good guy who put together an impressive resume in the Bay Area,” Rick Barry told Balls. “It’s rare that one person can be part of that much championship success. Not only that, but he did it in two different sports with different organizations. He certainly knew his stuff.”
Stirling joined the Kings in 1987 and spent 24 of the next 27 years as their director of scouting. He also served as Warriors assistant to the president for seven years.
“Scotty was an incredible person who had a tremendous love for the game of basketball and the people associated with it,” former Warriors coach Al Attles said. “Personally, he was someone who I leaned on heavily during my career as a coach and as an executive in the front office. He was a true confidant for me and one of the key figures to the success of professional basketball in the Bay Area and Northern California in general. He’ll be dearly missed.”
NEVER CAN SAY GOOD-BYE: As predicted here, the honeymoon between Sharks coach Peter DeBoer and his players has lasted only a few weeks, but maybe something good will come of it.
According to Hockey Night In Canada, Patrick Marleau has been the subject of recent trade talks. Apparently, the 36-year-old forward has given general manager Doug Wilson a short list of teams to which he would agree to be traded.
Marleau and Joe Thornton should have be gone months ago, except that team management mindlessly agreed to no-trade clauses that effectively paralyzed the franchise. Not only was the team stuck with one-dimensional softies who lacked leadership and physical presence, but Wilson and his coaches felt obligated to play them regular minutes, which only further delayed an inevitable rebuild project.
Marleau is the all-time points leader in Sharks history. They’re the only team that he has played for in his career. Yet sentimentality goes only so far in professional sports. It’s time for Wilson to send the guy on his way, after which Thornton may want to follow him, hopefully. The organization can always stage nights for them at the Shark Tank later.
THE LIST: The Warriors improved to 9-0 by beating the Grizzlies in Memphis on Wednesday night. Of the teams with the five best unbeaten starts in NBA history, three advanced to the championship round:
1948-49 Washington Capitols (15-0): Lost in NBA Finals.
1957-58 Boston Celtics (14-0): Lost in NBA Finals.
1982-83 Seattle SuperSonics (12-0): Lost in first round.
1993-94 Houston Rockets (15-0): Won NBA title.
2002-03 Dallas Mavericks (12-0): Lost in Western Conference finals.
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