For the longest time, Balls wasn’t into conspiracy theories. Preposterous, it thought like everyone else.
Then it covered 2,000-plus NBA games in person and saw first-hand how the league did business.
So nobody should be surprised by the NBA’s admission that five (5!) calls were blown in the final 13 seconds of the Oklahoma City Thunder-San Antonio Spurs game the other night. Face it — the postseason has been a dud thus far, one blowout after another. Only four teams can win it all — the Warriors, the Spurs, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Warriors. A league that lives off its television contracts desperately needs more controversy, white-knuckled finishes and extended series.
Whether the threat of another short series is what prompted some of the referees in the game to overlook a crucial offensive foul that helped the Thunder square the series, well, you make the call. But it’s easy to understand why so many fans and media have grown skeptical about the NBA in particular over the years. For decades, the league has had a hint of pro wrestling to it, and so many well-timed gaffes like these do little to change that perception.
Spurs over Thunder in seven games.
GOT THAT, BARKLEY?: Crazy as it seems, there still exist some critics who believe the Warriors are lucky. Well, those pea brains should replay their Game 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers the other night, when Festus Ezeli became the latest volunteer in their Hero for a Night program.
What they’ll see is a team that’s so deep, so versatile, so basketball smart, so devoted to the program, it can beat a playoff-caliber opponent even without Stephen Curry on a given night. If Andre Iguodala doesn’t come to the rescue, then it’s Shaun Livingston or Leandro Barbosa. Or Marreese Speights. Or Ian Clark. Or Ezeli.
Fun Stat of the Day: Only three Warriors have shot less than 45 percent the field this postseason, and every one is a starter — Harrison Barnes (36 percent), Draymond Green, (42) and Klay Thompson (44). Speights (45) is the only reserve who hasn’t hit at least half his field goal tries.
Truth is, the Warriors’ second team might have been good enough to challenge the Houston Rockets for the final playoff spot in the conference. The B Team would have been more competitive than the Rockets in round one, that’s for sure.
LESSON LEARNED?: Curry is expected to test his bum right ankle and knee in practice today and hopes to play in Game 3 in Portland on Friday night. But for all the things the Most Valuable Player can do, a physician he is not. As was the case on round one, there’s no reason for him to hurry back with a 2-0 lead in the series.
Steve Kerr has indicated that Curry won’t return until he’s absolutely ready. For the sake of the team and its best player, let’s hope that’s one game too late and not one too early this time. Even if he plays only in the clincher to shake off the cobwebs, that will be plenty.
TWO FOR THE SHOW: Enough of Jake Peavy and Matt Cain already. Give them gold watches and pats on the back then send ’em on their way.
The Giants have gotten their money’s worth out of free agents Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija thus far — 12 starts, eight wins, 3.47 earned run average. But if the higher-ups don’t act fairly soon, the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation have the potential to sabotage their playoff chances.
Despite the solid work of Cueto, Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner, Giants starters ranked 11th in ERA and 14th in opponents’ batting average. And that was before Peavy was lit up for four home runs in six innings of a 7-4 loss versus the lowly Reds in Cincinnati on Wednesday.
And, no, Tim Lincecum is not the answer.
MAJOR LEAGUE TRAVESTY: The Boston Red Sox will donate $17.6 million to Pablo Sandoval while he recovers from shoulder surgery, and is it any wonder that so many people have tuned out Major League Baseball over the years? In the first two years of a five-year, $95-million deal, he produced a .243 batting average, 10 home runs and 16 errors.
If this were the NFL, Sandoval might have gotten his big butt cut last offseason. Just another reason why the National Past(its)time lags so far behind pro football, it takes a search party to find it.
JUST SAYIN’: More suspensions are on the way, ESPN’s Outside The Lines warns us, and it’s nice to know that MLB no longer has a PEDs problem.
Pssst, Athletics ace Sonny Gray. If you really want to get out of Oakland, you may want to lower that 4.84 earned run average and raise your trade value.
Another reason why the 49ers should pursue Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback Nick Foles: His $1.8 million base salary is nearly $10 million less than what broken-down Colin Kaepernick will be paid next season.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has started a petition to get an NBA team back in Seattle, which deserves one, and Balls already has its coach. His name is George Karl.
YOUR TURN: “Just read your article New Bonds Is The Same Old Phony. Instead of us thousands of idiots, you are the idiot. You are stupid to ignore all his records. He was a great baseball player. His scowls were probably meant for you, when you asked him stupid questions.” — Bob Kitagawa, Los Angeles
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