Feb 6, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Chicago Bulls 102-87. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Bay Area Buzz 2/8: Steph Curry, Opening Ceremonies, Tragedy At Cal

If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix Warriors’ Curry

So if we’re to believe Charles Barkley, it’s not enough for Stephen Curryto provide nine assists per game while carving a place for himself on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore of marksmanship. Curry needs to become a pass-first point guard, as well, thinking only of “making his teammates better.”

Well, not quite.

In a conference call with TNT’s lead analysts Thursday, Barkley claimed that Curry tends to pass only out of necessity and that he won’t be a “great player” until he spearheads an offense built around rapid ball movement – whoever winds up taking the shot.

Plain fact: Curry is a great player by any standard. If you asked hard-core NBA fans around the country to name the five players they’d pay to see, Curry’s name would be a constant.

There’s a magical quality to his game, beyond the normal boundaries of two-handed wizardry and shooting touch. The man is a ball-handling virtuoso, and when the likes ofJerry West and Reggie Miller rave about his blindingly quick release, or his sublime touch on through-the-lane floaters in traffic, you know you’re dealing with greatness.

It would be wonderful, no question, if Curry could orchestrate an offense in the manner ofMagic Johnson, Bob Cousy or Walt Frazier. The Warriors could definitely use more spacing and rapid-fire passing in their halfcourt sets. But your game doesn’t translate that way if you’re the best damn shooter in the game - or at least in the argument with Kevin Durant. Scoring has to be foremost on Curry’s mind, and frankly, it’s a miracle that he’s such an imaginative passer. Few players in league history (Larry Birdcomes quickly to mind) had such startling assist-making ability with the off-hand.

Curry has often been compared to Steve Nash, but to be more accurate, only one other elite point guard in NBA history has ranked with the purest, most creative shooters of his time, and that’s Isiah Thomas. He also was known to get a bit too fancy with his passes, and his shooting repertoire was much like Curry’s: devastating, from any spot on the floor.

Though some of Thomas’ contemporaries took the traditional point-guard route with great success – Magic, John Stockton, Maurice Cheeks, Kevin Johnson - Isiah wasn’t afraid to go bucket-for-bucket against Michael Jordan, Bernard Kingor anyone else. And it seemed to work out fine; Thomas eventually found himself on a Detroit team filled with clutch shooters and intimidating inside bangers, and the Pistons won two straight championships (1989 and ’90).

Thomas was an original, and there aren’t many of those. Don’t put Curry in his class quite yet, and don’t even think of comparing the Warriors to any championship team at this stage.

It just seems to me that Curry is giving us all he possibly has to offer. It’s no accident that he’s an All-Star starter. Welcome greatness as it comes, in any form.

– Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle

Opening ceremony rises above Sochi’s problems

All right, so that crazy segment with the immense flying horses was well done. So was most of the other stuff.

And man, did the Russians ever need it.

After the angst and storm of previous days, Friday night’s opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics delivered. For two hours, security concerns and construction troubles were forgotten as Games organizers staged one of the better versions of what amounts to the planet’s biggest halftime show.

In fact, this halftime show was even better than the Super Bowl halftime show. That one didn’t feature killer amplified music from Russian classical composers.

Friday’s did. The pageantry was impressive, despite one minor technical glitch. So was the parade of athletes, which had no glitches. Plus, no stray dogs were killed in the process. However, one was seen walking about the concourse shortly before the music and spectacle began.

As a bonus, there were welcome eyebrows raised when the ceremonies’ usually boring speeches took a slight detour into a place no one expected — with subtle yet pointed references to Russia’s controversial “gay propaganda” ban that has rightly drawn international scorn.

Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, said halfway through his speech that the Games must be held “with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason.”

Those words drew loud applause from the athletes sitting behind Bach, as well as the entire stadium. More surprising was a phrase uttered by Dmitry Chernyshenko, the Sochi Organizing Committee’s president, who told the crowd that “when we come together in all our diversity, it is the Olympic Games that unite us.”

Again, there was an ovation after that sentence. Perhaps the word “diversity” in Russian doesn’t carry all the connotations it does in English. But the spectators clearly decided on their own interpretation. And after Bach’s remarks, you could sense thousands of eyes turning toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, sitting in his private box, for reaction.

There was none, of course. Putin has the most relentless stone face on the planet. So who knows what he made of it all?

Brian Boitano, the Bay Area figure skater and a 1988 gold medal winner, is here as part of the official U.S. delegation sent by President Barack Obama. And as one of delegation’s openly gay athletes, he hoped that his presence would quietly send the proper message.

– Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News

Cal grieving over death of football player Ted Agu

A grim scene unfolded Friday at Haas Pavilion, in a building constructed to house athletic glory and pride. Not tragedy.

Less than a week after Cal football player Ted Agu rushed the Haas court to celebrate the basketball Bears’ win over then-top-ranked Arizona – a happy college student embracing his college life – Cal officials gathered in an adjacent room and announced the worst news possible.

Agu, a 21-year-old walk-on defensive end from Bakersfield, collapsed and died early Friday morning after a supervised training run.

“There is no greater tragedy for us than to lose one of our incredibly bright and passionate young people, far too soon,” said athletic directorSandy Barbour, fighting back tears.

Cal head coach Sonny Dykes called it “a tragedy that no one can comprehend.”

Cal was prohibited by law from releasing detailed information about possible pre-existing medical conditions and will wait for the coroner to determine cause of death. Cal’s athletic team doctor, Casey Batton, said that he had known Agu since he arrived in Berkeley as a freshman in 2010 and had never known him to struggle in workouts before.

According to Batton, Agu was on an early-morning training run with the football team. When he started to struggle, near Bowles Hall – about 150 yards from the stadium – officials put him on a cart to drive him back. Batton said Agu was alert, talking and hydrating on the ride, but collapsed as the cart entered the stadium. CPR was immediately administered, a defibrillator was utilized and emergency personnel arrived. Agu was transported to Alta Bates Medical Center, where he died.

Though Cal quickly put up a protective shield around the team, and not many outside the program knew much about Agu, by all accounts he was a shining example of what college athletics can be. He was a walk-on to Jeff Tedford’s team who had earned an athletic scholarship last spring from Dykes.

“I can’t tell you how sad this makes me feel,” said Tedford, the new offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. “When I first heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I can’t imagine what his teammates are going through because it happened right in front of them.”

Agu was described as a young man with a zest for life, academics and his team. He wanted to go to medical school. He worked as a peer counselor for incoming freshmen.

“Ted’s the ultimate team guy,” Dykes said. “He came here because he loved the game. He had a passion for life, he loved to learn, he loved to laugh. He had a great sense of humor.

“He was rewarded with an athletic scholarship because of his hard work and dedication. He’s what’s good about college athletics. He’s exactly what you want from a young man.”

– Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle

Tags: Cal Golden Bears Football Golden State Warriors Sochi Olympics Stephen Curry Ted Agu

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