Bay Area Buzz 1/28: Harrison Barnes, The NFL And Its Safety Problem


Here’s a look at what’s buzzing around the Bay Area for Tuesday, Jan. 28:

Playoffs raised bar too high for Warriors’ Barnes

"The Warriors season is past its midpoint, and Harrison Barnes’ star, so bright in the playoffs, hasn’t shined nearly as brightly as it did last spring.What happened?The expectations for him were exaggerated. Seduced by memorable dunks and a potent 12-game stretch in the playoffs, people saw a star. The reality: Barnes is a talented-but-flawed, second-year player who needs developing.Barnes’ breakout last spring was the result of a season-long process. And that process started all over again with all the changes to Golden State’s roster this offseason. The addition of Andre Iguodala forced Barnes to the second unit. And even that bunch is an odd collection that doesn’t really give Barnes the support he needs. That’s why he’s averaging 7.9 points on 38.1 percent shooting as a reserve.His struggles to this point were more probable than that beast from the playoffs resurfacing.Putting Barnes in the starting lineup to get him back on track isn’t going to happen. (Coach Mark Jackson says injury is the only reason he’d change his starting five.) Trading Barnes for bench help isn’t going to happen, and it shouldn’t. Playing him at power forward isn’t going to happen, not as a steady diet, not as long as David Lee is around.The solution for Barnes is a long-term one, which means patience is in order. The first step is accepting that Barnes’ performance in the playoffs was not a breakthrough to stardom but a confluence of extraordinary circumstances that played to his advantage.There is no denying that he played extremely well: 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 38.4 minutes. But that was a break from the inconsistency that plagued his regular season. He struggled to find his role. His aggressiveness wavered along with his confidence. Those things didn’t just disappear.What happened?Lee got hurt. Once Lee tore his hip flexor in the opening game of the playoffs, Barnes had unlimited minutes and all number of touches. The pressure of trying find his shots among the plethora of scorers, the worry over getting yanked if not effective, all were gone by Game 2 in the first round.On top of that, the Warriors were forced to play with a small lineup: three guards with Barnes as the power forward. If defenses kept a traditional power forward in, Barnes had a quickness advantage. It also kept the floor spread wide, giving him room to work.What’s more, Stephen Curry’s shooting streaks resulted in teams putting a bigger player on him, leaving a smaller player to guard Barnes. Defended by point guards such as Ty Lawson and Tony Parker, the 6-foot-8 Barnes feasted.That all ended with the postseason. Maybe some of those circumstances return in the postseason.This only highlights the primary truth about Barnes: He’s a ‘tweener. He can dominate situationally, but he can also be negated. And until he grows as a player, that will remain true."

–Marcus Thompson II, San Jose Mercury News

In mothership that is the NFL, it’s all quids, pros and quos

"The National Football League is all about regression to the mean, and because it is the most powerful entity on earth (just ask someone who works for them), the weather will be as docile and obedient as everything else.As the week progresses and this becomes a fairly uninteresting buildup to Sunday’s big quiz show, we are going to find that the owners have deputized Roger Goodell to crush the polar vortex, made sure that there won’t be any Artie Lange/Chris Culliver fun’n’games on Media Day, will see to it that Richard Sherman doesn’t have another pro wrestling flashback, and will spend his spare time flavorizing Friday’s State of the Me Address.This has been, you see, a turbulent year for the league, between the increasing pressure for meaningful concussion monitoring and reduction, the officiating problem as the league tries to sea-change the culture of the sport, the ongoing controversy surrounding the Washington Things, the surprising drop in Super Bowl ticket prices, and the continued wrestling of money from the weak, the powerful and all humans inbetween. A plutocrat’s work, after all, is never done.But Goodell doesn’t get paid 1.7 Peyton Mannings for nothing, and his performance Friday is expected to be as bloodless as it is nothing-to-see-here. He has in the last several years turned his Friday address into the rhetorical equivalent of punching a heavy bag filled with oatmeal, and since he can see most of the questions coming well ahead of time, he can put his lawyer’s training into practice and make the question punch itself out between the time it leaves the reporter’s lips and arrives at the business end of the in-house speaker system.And since the weather seems to be sufficiently cooperative re: having to postpone or move the game (a longshot at best), the rest is relatively easy to muzzle.The officiating issues will be handled by tweaking some rules and replay situations, and by Goodell sacrificing a goat each night to the gods who control Terry McAulay and his crew for Sunday’s game. A controversy-free event will allow the matter of the impenetrable playbook and the insufficient number of officials to die down until the owners’ meetings, which gain far less attention."

–Ray Ratto,

Player safety hardly at the top of NFL’s priorities

"Even as the NFL reaches all-time highs in popularity and revenue, the callous disregard of players’ health by those at the top threatens to destroy the sport.I first became aware of this attitude when I covered the Raiders from 1967-71. Players were expected to play through injuries, or be benched. Kent McCloughan, a superb cover cornerback, had his career cut short because he played despite a catastrophic knee injury. Dan Birdwell, a defensive tackle on a ferocious front four, did the same, with the same results. They were discarded and replacement players were brought in.The 49ers did the same with Charlie Krueger, but Krueger did something that was unheard of then: He sued the 49ers and got a $2.3 million award.That should have been a wake-up call for NFL league and team management, but it wasn’t. Now, the big problem is the head injuries suffered by former players, some of whom brought a suit against the NFL. That seemed to be settled with an agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association until a judge ruled two weeks ago that it would be insufficient to cover the cases not yet discovered.The judge was absolutely right. We’re just starting to learn about the damage to players’ brains, usually after they’ve died much too young.The league is paying lip service to all this. New rules have been put in place to protect players from head injuries, though officials interpret these rules differently, as we saw in the 49ers’ playoff wins over the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. Players who suffer concussions have to pass tests before they can return to games.Meanwhile, though, every other action taken or contemplated by the league is detrimental to the players’ health. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is the point man, but never forget that the commissioner is hired by the owners. We have to assume that they approve of his actions or he’d be fired.Goodell keeps floating the idea of adding two games to the regular-season schedule, which was once 10 games and is now 16. He proposes cutting two exhibitions, but that’s not quid pro quo because starters play very little in those games.Meanwhile, there are an increasing number of Thursday night games. There is no way players’ bodies can recover from a Sunday game the previous week in time for these games."

–Glenn Dickey, San Francisco Examiner