Quick hits with Kolsky
In the local football world, 49ers LB Reuben Foster was arrested for possession of marijuana in Alabama last Friday, which is disappointing on a number of levels.
Let’s focus on Foster himself, though. I am on record as emphatically in favor of athletes being allowed to smoke weed — for the pain relief benefits, for the mental/emotional benefits, or even just because they want to. I would like to see major sports leagues lift their marijuana prohibitions … but they haven’t for the most part.
You know who has? The states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, plus our nation’s capital. If he was in any of those places, or had a medical license in any one of the dozen-plus states that have broad medical allowances, Foster would not have done anything illegal. I’m saying — leave your weed in California, my dude.
Foster provided a diluted urine sample at the NFL combine, which means he entered the league’s substance abuse program before he entered the league. This arrest will likely be treated as a second violation, which won’t result in a suspension but could mean a fine and, according to reports, the loss of guarantees in his contract — a loss he likely would not have to suffer if he simply spent his offseason in a different location.
Foster is not Josh Gordon or Aldon Smith, certainly not at this point. Undoubtedly the 49ers hope to never want to void his contract or cut him, and provided he stays healthy and out of trouble from here, whether or not his next few seasons are guaranteed shouldn’t matter at all. But as disappointing as it is that the NFL punishes guys for using a (kind of) legal drug that can ease their significant pain, as disappointing as it is that many states in this country maintain a prohibition of a mild intoxicant with significant medical benefits, the one thing Foster and guys like him can control is their own behavior.
Be smart, gents — smoke your weed legally.
It’s not the freshest football news but I have yet to make mention of the Raiders’ hiring of Jon Gruden. The good news is that my thoughts are very simple.
As it regards the choice of Gruden: Why not? Sure, we don’t know how creative or clever Chucky will seem after 10 years away from the sidelines, but he’s been pretty involved in the game and certainly paying close attention, so I imagine he’s fairly well-prepared. We certainly don’t know more about the actual head coaching ability of the many potential candidates who’ve never done the job. However good Gruden ends up being this time around, he certainly walks through the door with considerable clout and caché.
As it regards a likely Rooney Rule violation: The Raiders have a long and distinguished history of not only legitimately considering but of hiring both people of color and women in critical roles within the franchise. I don’t believe they violated the spirit of the rule that requires teams to interview minority candidates for coaching positions. I do believe they violated the letter of the law, though, and that the integrity of the rule is still critically important — so pay the fine and move on. Consider it a “we absolutely knew the guy we wanted so we just went and did it” tax.
As it regards Gruden hiring his pals and agency-mates to fill his staff: Of course he did. How do you think this works? You want him to hire a bunch of guys he doesn’t know or like? Don’t be stupid, you want your head coach to be on the same page as his assistants, and all of these guys have appropriate credentials for the jobs they are being given.
In short — let’s all calm down, this should be fun.
Heading into Monday’s big MLK Day matchup with the Cavaliers, the Warriors pocketed road wins over two other good Eastern Conference teams in the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. The Bucks victory was a beauty despite the absence of Steph Curry, with Kevin Durant sonning Giannis Antetokounmpo, Draymond Green doing everything and the team finishing with a .550 shooting percentage and only 10 turnovers.
The win in Canada was something else entirely.
It had the good, certainly: Klay Thompson was hot, with a team-high 26 on just 16 shots, Steph Curry was back and playing very well (notably with 12 trips to the foul line, nine assists and just one turnover), and the 81-54 first half showed us just how dominant this Warriors team can be, even on the road, even against great competition.
It also had the very bad: a blown 27-point lead thanks largely to a rash of self-inflicted wounds, mostly of the silly foul and bad shot variety. It’s hard to get too hung up on a few quick threes and touch fouls after a win over a legitimately good team on literal foreign soil, but it bears mention that their problems almost always come down to focus and execution.
This Warriors team can blow you out quickly, no matter who you are, but they have also shown that they can quickly become somewhat disinterested. It’s human nature, sure, but it’s also the only thing (besides major injury) that could become a real, actual problem in their Championship pursuit.
We’re only at the halfway point, and injuries have kept the full complement of Dubs from playing together all the time, but, for whatever reason, this team has yet to lock in and maintain the focus necessary to play their best basketball over a significant stretch. If intermittent star availability and intensity has led them to the best record in the league, just imagine how amazing it will be when they really hit their stride.
A marquee matchup in Cleveland seems like a perfect place to step it up a level.
In the baseball world, the hot stove was switched on to medium-low this week as alleged Giants target Jay Bruce signed with the Mets for a reported three years and $39 million. This is good news for San Francisco, who never should have entertained signing a near-31-year-old lefty outfielder with a career OBP of .319.
Better, right-handed outfielders remain on the market — Lorenzo Cain brings less power but better speed, defense and an ability to get on base; JD Martinez, the biggest remaining free agent prize, is younger than Bruce and outright better in virtually every way. These guys will cost more, but they’re well worth it and the currently frozen market suggests that their prices may not be as prohibitive as we originally believed.
The trade for Evan Longoria showed us that the Giants are serious about improving, and competing for a playoff spot. If they want to win the division, though, they likely need to make another major addition to the offense. The next month leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting will tell us just how serious this team is about getting past a tremendously talented Dodgers team to the top of the NL West.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, usually on weekends. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.