This time, no splashy news conference went down on the pier. No visit from David Stern and Ahmad Rashad. No buttons heralding big things in 2017.
Still, the same doggedness over the Warriors’ arena project continues among the team’s brass. The same we-perform-miracles spirit is driving this project forward.
The arena project is not on hold. That was the adamant response Monday from team officials to reports that the project had stalled. The Warriors are now acknowledging what most already knew: Their plans for a fantastical new arena on the San Francisco waterfront won’t come to fruition in 2017. The new target date is 2018.
“We’re expecting to make 2018, and we’re full-speed ahead,” team president Rick Welts said when contacted Monday. “Any indication there is any pause, that we’re taking our foot off the pedal, is completely inaccurate.”
Yes, they are still moving forward — aggressively, they might add — toward the spaceship on the dock of the bay at Piers 30/32.
What’s more, Welts said moving next door to the Giants is not on the table. He said they aren’t considering East Bay locations. The smart money is on some alternative plans being worked out behind the scenes to save face. But the public stance remains emphatic.
“We’re 100 percent focused on 30/32,” Welts said.
It’s hard not to respect the stubbornness of the Warriors’ brass. The greatest of accomplishments require powering through the greatest of doubts. And this arena project is embedded in doubt.
The price keeps rising. The window of opportunity keeps closing. The critics keep chirping. This arena feels like even more of a pipe dream than it did when the project was announced in 2012. Of course, all of that would make fruition that much sweeter.
But it’s also hard not to shake your head at the same stubbornness. It’s as if the Warriors are choosing the path of most resistance. Running up a down escalator.
The Warriors and co-owner Joe Lacob have built up some good favor in the Bay Area. The public perception of both the team and Lacob have improved dramatically since the infamous booing that followed the Monta Ellis trade. But this arena stuff threatens that progress. Issues with arenas and stadiums can leave a team with egg on its face (the Bob Lurie-era Giants) or take away from the glory of their achievements (the Lew Wolff-era A’s).
The financial coup awaiting the Warriors, if they pull this off, is probably worth all the hassle. However, if it doesn’t happen, it’s going to be a long fall from grace considering the tunnel vision they’ve had this whole way.
–Marcus Thompson II, San Jose Mercury News
When the Kings acquired Rudy Gay in a seven-player deal with Toronto in December, coach Michael Malone says he was well aware of the attention being paid to Gay’s brief and largely forgettable tenure with the Raptors.
Gay spent less than a year in Toronto before the Raptors opted to part ways with him and a contract due to pay the forward more than $17 million this season. In 18 games with Toronto to start this season, Gay averaged 19.4 points but shot just 38.8 percent from the field, leaving some to question his fit in the Raptors’ offensive system.
Malone, though, was more intrigued by Gay’s early career in Memphis, where Gay had played alongside low-post presences Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol while establishing his reputation as one of the league’s more prolific scorers.
“You look at Toronto’s roster, and no disrespect to (big men) Jonas (Valanciunas) or Amir (Johnson), but they don’t have a true low-post presence,” Malone said. “We just thought the idea of putting (Gay) on the perimeter, and pairing that with the inside presence of DeMarcus (Cousins), could really allow him to showcase his abilities.”
When Gay met his new coaches in Sacramento shortly after the Dec. 8 trade, the Kings’ staff posed a simple question to the forward.
“The first thing (assistant coach Micah Nori) and coach Malone did was they asked me where I wanted the ball,” recalled Gay, who faces his former team tonight at Sleep Train Arena. “You can’t ask anything better than that.
“I just told them where I think I’d be the most effective, and he took that and ran with it, designed a couple plays for me. And the rest is history.”
In 25 games since joining the Kings, Gay has been more efficient on offense. He is averaging 20.7 points but doing so on 53 percent shooting – a mark that over a whole season would be by far the highest of his career – and on nearly four fewer shots per game (14.9) than he was taking in Toronto (18.6).
While Gay has averaged at least 18 points since his rookie season, Malone said he also has been pleasantly surprised with other aspects of Gay’s play, such as his 3.2 assists per game as a King (Gay’s career high for a season is 2.8).
“If he’s not scoring, he can make plays for everybody else, and he’s done that,” Malone said. “He’s been a willing passer at times.”
Still, Gay’s main value is as a scorer. And Jalen Rose, the former player and now-NBA analyst for ESPN, said Gay’s resurgence in Sacramento is largely because of what Malone and the Kings anticipated before his arrival.
“The difference is he’s playing with bigs that can score down low,” Rose said. “That’s what he had in Memphis, (teammates who could) occupy the baseline, occupy the bigs, and it gave him lanes to drive and finish or pull up over the top.”
–Matt Kawahara, Sacramento Bee
There’s a highly caffeinated championship parade planned in Seattle on Wednesday, though it’s doubtful Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke and the rest of the 49ers franchise will be paying attention.
No surprise, I’m told the 49ers brass has been hunkered down the last few weeks, 100 percent mindful of what lies ahead.
Their bitterest rival took what the 49ers crave; the 49ers might be the only team good enough to topple the Seahawks any time soon; and Seattle’s crushing Super Bowl victory over Denver on Sunday just loudly reaffirmed all that.
(I’m sure Harbaugh and Baalke knew this would happen once Richard Sherman tipped away Colin Kaepernick’s last pass in the NFC title game.)
The 49ers were very good this season, but slightly less so than Seattle. If you’re second-best, that means you’re the most frustrated of all.
How do the 49ers attack the Seattle Problem? Here are five key points of emphasis this offseason . . .
1. Harbaugh probably will have even more input with the 49ers offense, which could mean amping up the passing game.
I’ve heard that Harbaugh took over additional parts of the 49ers offense toward the end of this season, especially on pass calls.
One NFL source noted that if offensive coordinator Greg Roman had landed a head-coaching job, Harbaugh planned to take over almost all the play-calling responsibilities.
Roman ended up staying, but I think some of the 49ers’ offensive struggles in 2013 have Harbaugh thinking about pushing the envelope a little more.
Practical point: The 49ers probably aren’t going to beat Seattle strictly by running it; Kaepernick needs more options in the pass game, and it sounds like Harbaugh is determined to open up the playbook to see what the QB can do.
That also means Baalke probably has to figure out how to re-sign Anquan Boldin and add a new slot receiver to re-energize that pass attack.
2. The 49ers need injured 2013 draft picks Tank Carradine and Marcus Lattimore to produce significantly in 2014.
To this point, the 49ers have not gotten a lot from either their 2012 or 2013 draft classes, and eventually that will take its toll.
The 2012 class (led by A.J. Jenkins) is essentially a washout. But 2013 first-rounder Eric Reid was a big hit as a rookie, and other 2013 picks are still relevant, particularly Carradine, a top-talent defensive lineman, and Lattimore, a potential star tailback.
Practical point: To keep that window of opportunity open for the long-term and to match Seattle’s depth and youth, the 49ers need Carradine, Lattimore and several others to become mainstays.
3. The long-term contract negotiations with Kaepernick could set the tone for the entire offseason.
A good start: Kaepernick told KNBR last week that he understands there needs to be a balance between what he wants to be paid and what the 49ers will offer within their payroll structure.
And watching Peyton Manning get demolished by Seattle’s defense two weeks after Kaepernick gave the Seahawks some trouble certainly hasn’t hurt Kaepernick’s overall standing.
The 49ers might not be rushing to give him a long-term megadeal — Kaepernick is still under contract for another season, and the 49ers could play that out and then franchise-tag him for multiple seasons.
I think there could there be a short-term compromise that gives Kaepernick some security but also reduces the 49ers’ risk, something near three years, $45 million.
Practical point: There might not be another quarterback who threatens Seattle the way Kaepernick does.
–Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News