The Warriors are soon to face their first crisis of the postseason, and it has bupkis to do with Rudy Gobert or Gordon Hayward or Joe Johnson or any of that other Jazz.
What the heck will the Warriors do on their time off in Salt Lake City? Except beat the Utah Jazz in Games 3 and 4, which assumes that a fourth game will be necessary.
See, on the list of most fun places to visit on the NBA tour, Salt Lake City ranks No. 31 out of 30, as a few Warriors players have strongly hinted this week. Balls feels their angst. It spent a lot of time there in the 1997 NBA Finals especially. Seven weeks’ worth from Games 3 through 5 if you can believe it. Or was it seven days?
Other than the practices and games, what Balls remembers is the bar-hopping and Triple A Salt Lake City Bees game. And that Chicago Bulls uberstar Michael Jordan ate some bad pizza in nearby Park City one night.
What Balls remembers more is the time that a few of us stragglers spent with Bulls wacko Dennis Rodman on the eve of Game 5 at the Bar-X, a cozy place that’s still in business. There the Worm outdid himself, beer after shot after mixed drink after shot after beer after shot, one drinking song after another, until finally around 1 a.m. or maybe it was 2 …
“Hey, let’s go to Vegas!” Rodman said with that far-out, devious smile of his.
Uh, you mean fly in and out the same day? A few hours short of Game 5? Of the NBA Finals? What if we don’t make it back in time? What would coach Phil Jackson say?
“The hell with Phil!” the Worm said.
Any time with Rodman was a highly risky proposition. As light-headed as Balls was, it kindly took a pass. Somehow, Rodman made it back in time for the Game 5 victory, one in which he and Jordan combined for 40 points — 38 by Jordan on a queasy stomach.
There has to be a message for the Warriors there somewhere.
THE LIST: Ten fun facts about the long, strange trip of Utah pro hoops …
10. Before the Jazz, there were the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. They won the state’s only major pro championship in the 1970-71 season.
9. The Jazz made their NBA debut in 1974 based in New Orleans. Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett was among the 17 players taken in the expansion draft.
8. In 1979, the league board of governors voted unanimously to move the franchise to Salt Lake City, largely to placate its owners. “It’s a shame,” Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli said at the time.
7. If not for one-man show Pete Maravich, the team would have relocated sooner. (If you never saw Pistol Pete play in person, check out his videos on YouTube as soon as possible.)
6. On Nov. 30, 1977, a then-NBA record crowd (35,077) watched Maravich and the Jazz outgun Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Superdome.
5. The Jazz selected Stephen Curry’s dad, Dell, in the first round (15th overall) of the 1986 draft. He was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers after one season.
4. The glory years were 1994 to 1998, when Malone, John Stockton and company reached the 60-win mark three times and lost to the Bulls in the NBA Finals twice.
3. Ian Clark began his career with the Jazz as an undrafted free agent. He spent one-plus seasons with them.
2. The all-time All-Warriors Jazz Team: guards Rickey Green and Nate Williams, forwards E.C. Coleman and Bernard King and center Wayne Cooper.
1. In one of the most heinous crimes in sports history, Utah stole its nickname from New Orleans and should return it immediately.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Did Santa Clara get a bargain in linebacker Reuben Foster at the 31st pick, as many draftniks assured us? Or did it get a lemon?
According to multiple reports, the rotator cuff surgery that Foster had recently didn’t turn out well. That scared off several teams but not rookie general manager John Lynch, who traded the 34th and 111th picks to the division rival Seattle Seahawks to move up three spots.
In fact, so much did Santa Clara like Foster, it was prepared to take him at No. 3 if the Chicago Bears chose defensive end Solomon Thomas one spot earlier.
Wait, it gets worst.
Foster could require additional surgery, which would put his pro debut in jeopardy. That is, if he played at all this season.
Oh, and Foster was sent home early from the league combine after he had an altercation with a hospital worker, one of the nicer things that an NFL player has done lately.
So, yeah, the league may want to hold onto that Executive of the Year Award and see how this plays out.
OUT OF ITS MIND: In so many ways, hockey is the coolest game on Earth. But on many fronts, the NHL is the worst pro (sic) sports league around.
That was apparent when Sidney Crosby was clubbed on the head by two Washington Capitals players on the same play. On the street, that can get you a felony assault charge. In the NHL, you spend five minutes in the penalty box. That’s it. No suspension, not even a hearing with the league police chief, no consideration of the concussion issue whatsoever.
You don’t see that kind of thuggery in MLB, especially the NBA and to a lesser extent even the NFL, all of which understand the value of marketing and star power. But hockey is a different animal, sad to say.
The Neanderthal mindset may be good news for the players and their attorneys in the future, but it’s horrible news for real fans of the sport.
JUST SAYIN’: The last-place Giants aren’t dead yet, but that sure looks like a respirator next to their dugout.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Madison Bumgarner?
Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.