Twenty-four in a row. Twenty-nine. Thirty-five … When and where will this joy ride for the Warriors come to an end?
If we didn’t know better, the temptation would be to say either Friday in Boston or Saturday in Milwaukee.
Until the San Antonio Spurs come a callin’ — and that won’t be for another month — health will be the Warriors’ toughest opponent. Harrison Barnes has yet to play on the current road trip, and a second starter may follow him in civvies. Klay Thompson rolled an ankle in the final minute against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, and his status for the date with the Celtics was uncertain.
”It’s probably going to be sore for a couple days, but I should be back in no time,” said Thompson, trying to be optimistic.
Throw in Andrew Bogut and his bum back, and the Warriors no longer have strength in great numbers. Stephen Curry aside, their good health is what puts them head and shoulders above the rest.
Even the Warriors have their limit, and they nearly reached it in Naptown the other night. The makeshift lineup affects substitution patterns, which can affect rhythm and flow, which can spell trouble for a team that relies so much on athleticism and ball movement. We saw as much in the fourth quarter, when the bench frittered away a big lead and interim coach Luke Walton had no choice except to hurry the starters back into the game.
Lucky for the Warriors, Curry and Draymond Green are the starters who are most healthy, the ones they can least afford to lose. As long as they’re in one piece, The Streak is alive if not entirely well.
REST OF THE STORY: More than one person in Chicago believes Jeff Samardzija quit on the White Sox after he wasn’t traded to a contender last summer, and his 5-9 record and 6.29 earn run average after the All-Star break would seem to confirm as much. But pitching coach Don Cooper told reporters at the winter meetings that he was as much to blame for the struggles as anyone.
“I know my successes and I know ones I consider failures, and that’s one that I look at, ‘Man, I failed,’”
Cooper said, “It didn’t work out the way any of us would have wanted. That’s not to say anything negative about Jeff. He’s a quality pitcher and has many great assets, and I wish him the best. I never wish poorly on anybody because I feel if you do that, something’s going to come back and bite you in the ass. It just didn’t work.”
Samardzija and the Athletics didn’t part on particularly good terms after the 2014 season, either. He was scheduled to start the American League divisional series opener. His family booked their flights. His dad had taken time off work to watch him pitch. Then the A’s blew the one-game playoff, general manager Billy Beane blew up the nucleus and Samardzija was shipped to Chicago in the Marcus Semien deal.
THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE: While the Giants look for somebody to take their money, A’s operations chief-part owner Billy Beane has nearly exhausted his free agent budget, he says. All 48 bucks of it. That leaves the team to start the season with a rotation of Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Rich Hill, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt, and boy, won’t they strike fear in the hearts of the competition?
Gray is the only star talent of the bunch, all the more reason to extend his contract while it can be done at a reasonable price. Won’t happen. The A’s aren’t sold on his long-term prospects and have control over his contract for four years, so expect them to squeeze every last penny they can out of the guy.
HEART OF A CHAMPION: A lot of good stories have come out of Stanford in this Rose Bowl season of theirs, and Kevin Hogan’s may be the best of all.
Hogan faced a tall order when he replaced All-American Andrew Luck behind center as a redshirt freshmen. Three years later, he’ll leave Palo Alto as the winningest quarterback in Cardinal history. He’ll also account for more than 10,000 yards — 9,000 in the air and 1,000 more on the ground, the school record at the position. And only Luck will boast a higher efficiency rating on their all-time list.
“I just wanted to do my best and put our offense in a position to be successful every time,” Hogan said. “It was following a great leader, a great player in Andrew. You know, I said out there on the field, you can’t really fill the shoes. You’ve just got to go with what you can. And I’ve been a part of four or five great teams out here at Stanford, and the guys we have up front, in the backfield, out wide, they make my job easy.”
Hogan also endured the darkest days of his life. They came last fall, when his father Jerry battled cancer. While he struggled on the field for several weeks, only those in the inner circle knew the circumstances. Not long after his father’s death, he led Stanford to victory in the Foster Farms Bowl, a performance that would be the hint of things to come.
Said Hogan, “It’s pretty crazy that my time here is coming to an end, but I can’t say enough about the teams that I’ve been on.”
ALBERT DESERVES A WOW: Coach David Shaw has Hogan, Luck, John Elway and Jim Plunkett on his Mount Rushmore of Stanford quarterbacks, and it’s hard to quibble with his selections. But there has to be a place for the Hall of Famer Frankie Albert somewhere.
As the first T-formation quarterback in modern football and master of the bootleg play, Albert led the legendary Wow Boys to a 10-0 record and Rose Bowl championship in the 1940 season. Several NCAA-sanctioned groups recognized the Indians as national champions, the last time a Stanford team finished No. 1 in the country.
In his final two seasons, Albert ranked fourth and third in the Heisman Trophy races. He was the 10th player selected in the 1942 NFL draft but served as a Navy aircraft officer in World War II rather than turn pro. He went on to join the 49ers in the All-American Football Conference, where he was the 1948 co-Most Valuable Player and Pro Football Player of the Year.
JUST POUND, BABY: Yeah, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr made some bad throws that cost his team last weekend, and that’s on him. Like a lot of NFL quarterbacks, the guy has an arrogant arm, which is to say, he believes there isn’t a throw he can’t make regardless of the coverage.
But Carr isn’t the problem in the Black Hole right now. The problem is the lack of a consistent ground game, which puts too much pressure on a young quarterback and a crummy defense to close out games.
Even though the offense averages a respectable 4.1 yards per carry, it ranks only 27th in attempts and 21st in touchdowns. Coordinator Bill Musgrave may want stick with the ground game a bit longer, perhaps even call on Jamize Olawale more often. The bruiser who was just signed to a contract extension was effective in limited opportunities.
JUST SAYIN’: Carr has thrown 26 TD passes compared to nine interceptions. His 97.7 rating ranks seventh in the league. Not bad for a 24-year-year-old quarterback in his second season, huh?
YOUR TURN: “I follow the Giants’ minor league players. I have watched their games in person, read about them, etc., so I strongly believe on your (Baseball America) list of top prospects Mac Williamson needs to be included. I really like Jarrod Parker, and he is a solid player, but Williamson is better and a top all-around outfielder. Also, pitcher Chase Johnson should be on the list.” — Lou Tulipano, Santa Rosa
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