Joe Santoro: Warriors have established a golden era
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … We’re one more Golden State Warriors victory away from important NBA history. One more victory in Game 4 in the NBA Finals against the overwhelmed Cleveland Cavaliers and it will be time to put the Warriors in the conversation as one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. The Warriors won the NBA title two years ago. Last year they set the NBA regular season record for victories in a regular season before taking the Cavaliers to seven games before losing in the Finals. One more victory will give them 11 victories in the Finals over the last three years. And now this year they have a chance to become the first team in league history to go a perfect 16-0 in the postseason. A 16-0 postseason would be the greatest postseason run in NBA history. Such a run would be more impressive than winning 73 games last year. The Warriors are a win away from two titles in three years and if Draymond Green wouldn’t have been suspended last year this would be their third title in three years. We’re witnessing history. The greatest team ever? It just might be.
Kevin Durant, obviously, is the difference between last year and this year’s Warriors. This was the Finals where he was going to establish himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history and, well, consider it established. He has made the Warriors unstoppable this postseason, even against the greatest player (LeBron James) in the game. But he’s done even more than that. Durant might also have stolen the title of greatest active player in the world away from LeBron. He’s taking the Cavaliers’ and LeBron’s title. Green said it best this week. When asked to compare Durant and James he said LeBron is obviously great but if you wanted to create the best player in the world from scratch, you would create Kevin Durant, with his size, length and skills. There’s nothing Durant can’t do on the court wherever he wants to do it whenever he wants to do it. The Durant vs. James debate will heat up this summer and into next season after the Warriors win the title this week. It’s not James’ fault the Cavaliers can’t compete in this series. But you can bet he’s going to be motivated next year and beyond by how Durant took over this series.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are looking for a new basketball coach after suddenly firing Thad Matta last week. The perfect replacement, as all Nevada Wolf Pack fans know all to well, would be the Pack’s Eric Musselman. Of course, it would never happen. The Buckeyes would have a difficult time justifying the firing of Matta, one of the most successful coaches in college basketball over the last 13 years and replacing him with a 52-year-old guy who has never won a NCAA tournament game as a head coach. And Musselman would forever be known as the most hated man in Northern Nevada after accepting a huge pay raise and then leaving the university a month or so later. So it’s not going to happen. But Musselman would be perfect for the Buckeyes and would do an amazing job. Musselman was born in Ohio (Ashland) and went to high school in a Cleveland suburb.
His father Bill was born in Wooster, Ohio, and competed against Ohio native and future Ohio State great Bobby Knight. Bill then attended Wittenberg College in Ohio and later became head coach in the state at Kent State, Ashland and the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.
Musselman has always been a fun-size version of Bobby Knight, with his fiery and competitive personality. He’s exactly what Ohio State needs. But in coaching timing is everything and the timing just isn’t right.
The Wolf Pack, as of right now, has scheduled three home football games this season that will start during the daylight hours. The games against Toledo on Sept. 9 and Idaho State on Sept. 16 will kick off at 4 p.m. and the Battle for the Fremont Cannon against UNLV on Nov. 25 will be a good old fashioned 1 p.m. start.
With the way the Wolf Pack has promised to fill the air space above Mackay Stadium this year with footballs, that means fans will be able to get home at a reasonable hour at least three times this year.
The game against Hawaii at Mackay on Oct. 7, though, will be a different story. Expect at least 80-100 passes in that game as former Pack coach Nick Rolovich comes back to Reno as Hawaii’s head coach and tries to show off his new pass-crazy Hawaii offense. It all starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be filled with television timeouts and interruptions, which means we might have the first Wolf Pack football game in Reno that’s played on two separate days.
Last football season was billed as the year of the running back in the Mountain West. And the backs didn’t disappoint. Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego State (2,133 yards, 17 touchdowns), Brian Hill of Wyoming (1,860, 22), Nevada’s James Butler (1,336, 12), Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols (1,709, 23), New Mexico State’s Teriyon Gipson (1,269, 13) and New Mexico’s Tyrone Owens (1,097, 7) all had big years. This year, though, the Mountain West will likely fill the skies with footballs. It could be the Year of the Quarterback. Pumphrey, Hill, McNichols, Gipson and Owens are all gone and the league’s best returning back (Butler) might have to settle for blocking or going out for short passes while watching his quarterback throw the ball 40-50 times a game. Boise’s Brett Rypien, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Colorado State’s Nick Stevens and Hawaii’s Dru Brown are the pre-season favorites to be the best quarterbacks in the league but that’s only because nobody has seen the Pack’s David Cornwell throw the ball around yet.
The NFL is cutting its overtime period from 15 to 10 minutes which means we might have a few more games end in a tie this year. Cutting off five minutes of the overtime period to save some wear and tear on players seems like a silly and meaningless move, much like baseball eliminating the pitches on an intentional walk. Few NFL games go to overtime in the first place and even fewer go 10 or more minutes in the extra quarter. What the NFL should have done was adopt a version of the college overtime. Instead of giving teams the ball at the opponents’ 25-yard line to start a drive like in college, the NFL should put the ball at the 50 and go from there. It’s important to make teams earn every point instead of giving teams an automatic field goal try without even gaining a yard like in college. There would be no ties, as well as no punts and kickoffs. They would save wear and tear on the players and increase the excitement level tremendously.
Don’t look now but Major League Baseball’s playoff races are nearly over and summer hasn’t officially started.. In the American League, the Houston Astros have all but clinched the West. The Cleveland Indians will likely win the Central because everybody else is either rebuilding or too old. The East will come down to the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles with one of them winning the division and the other two qualifying as wild cards. In the National League the Washington Nationals are cruising to the East title and the Chicago Cubs will no doubt win the Central. The other three playoff teams will come from the West among the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. There really isn’t a whole lot of drama left in baseball until the postseason starts.