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Monday Afternoon Basketball Housekeeping…

Did you hear that sound? Fifty thousand rapid fire pops? It was the sound of champagne bottles popping from San Jose, to the Golden Gate Bridge to Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors, hit by a Semi and left for dead on the side of the road, are being given CPR… Current Warriors’ owner Chris Cohan has spent much of the last decade battling Donald Sterling for the ignominious title of Worst Owner in Sports, but in the first savvy decision he’s ever made for his franchise, today he announced his intention to sell. If Cohan was the Semi that hit the Golden State Warriors, then President Bob Rowell was driving, and coach Don Nelson was the passenger in the front seat distracting Rowell with the sounds of his snores. The small glimmer of hope for this franchise is that this news means that all three of these morons will no longer be making basketball decisions for Golden State Warriors.

Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, has already made it clear that he intends to purchase the team, which means that he’s the one administering CPR. For fans of the Warriors (the family chewing their nails in the hospital waiting room) this is the first positive sign they’ve had in a long time.

Trust me when I say that Golden State has some of the NBAs best fans, perhaps even second to those diehards who’ve filled MSG every day through the Isaiah and rebuilding era. Warrior fans, come out to Oracle Arena every night, and cheer. These aren’t fair weather fans, and they aren’t “fans” attending the games to be seen. These are hardcore basketball fanatics, with high hoops IQs and they’ve stuck with this team through all of Cohan’s strange decisions (like rewarding Chris Mullin building a playoff team, by allowing Rowell to force him out). Finally, fifteen years years after Cohan purchased the team, they might get an owner who actually wants to build a winner. I know that they’re waiting on edge now, hopping, praying that the Dr. will come out of the operating room and say, “I have good news..”

The NBA Stretch:

There is very little intrigue as the NBA hits the stretch run; the playoffs in both conferences are all but sowed up, with only some minor seed jockeying left to determine. As I look at the conference stadnings, I can’t really see any moves that will help determine more than who survives to the second round. I mean, in the East we know the Raptors are first round fodder for the Cavs. Charlotte and Miami are struggling to get out of Orlando’s path, while Atlanta and Boston are jockeying to meet the winner of that outcome in hopes of avoiding lightning hot Milwaukee. Boston in particular has to fear the Bucks, but beyond that I think we can be sure that the second round in the East will see Cleveland, the Magic, and the Hawks.

The West has slightly more intrigue, just because Denver as the two seed and Portland as the eight seed are only separated by five games, but with only 12 games left, we basically know that LA, Denver, Dallas are the top three. The real trick in the West is the fight for the fourth seed. Utah is holding court right now, but Phoenix is nipping at their heals. Both teams play superb basketball in their home court, and desperately want to get that homecourt advantage. Ideally, they’d love to catch Dallas for third, to avoid the Lakers in round two, but not getting that fourth seed, virtually ensures that there wont be a round two.

For the Suns, that third seed is a tantalizingly close two and a half games, but with 12 to play closing that gap is asking a lot. To maintain any hope at all, they have to buck their road woes and take four of five games on an upcoming trip that sees (winnable) visits to: Minnesota, Chicago, New Jersey, Detroit, and Milwaukee. After that, their final five are significantly harder: a meeting with old friend San Antonio, a trip North to Zombieville, and then hosting Houston and Denver, with a potential playoff preview in Utah to close out the season.

The Madness:

The weekend was a doozey for March Madness fans. Surely you heard about the Kansas game, which destroyed many a bracket, including this guy’s. Sports on the Brain has been lucky thus far, as all the crucial upsets have either been predicted by us (if you read Thursday’s prediction, you know we called both St. Mary’s and Cornell making the Regionals), or failed to crush our bracket (Kansas wasn’t in our final four, nor was New Mexico). We were strongest in West, where Syracuse, Butler, Xavier, and Kansas State made us look smart (we aren’t, but lucky’s almost as good…). On the other hand, the Midwest escaped us, as only Ohio State stayed strong. Still, 10 of our 16 survive, including all of our final four teams.

Timing Out on the Tournament:

My only complaint about this weekend’s basketball? Time outs. It’s a problem in both college and the pros that the coaches have too many opportunities to bring the team to the sideline and work on their white board skills. Here’s a great example from the weekend’s first game, St. Mary’s classic upset of Villanova.

With 45 seconds left and the game close, here’s a transcript, minus score, with the occasional thought or action from yours truly:

– Foul
Time Out (Really, you needed a time out before free throws? What could you possibly be saying. “Ok, guys, don’t get a line violation here”)
– Foul Shot
– Foul Shot
– Turn Over (30.5 seconds left)
Time Out
– Inbounds
– Foul (28.3 seconds left… so basically, that last T/O was to tell your team to foul, which I think a) they should know, and b) you can shout from the sideline)
Time Out (no, really, again? We JUST had a time out, what possibly changed during the inbounds and foul?)
– Inbounds (here we go again…)
– Foul (23.3s)
– Foul Shot
– Substitution Break (Maybe I should check the fridge for leftovers?)
– Foul Shot (Digging week old chinese out of the back of fridge, hhmmm ‘smells kinda funny…’)
– Actual Basketball Play (Villanova 3 pointer. 12.6s… Eating Chinese…)
Time Out (Hhmmm… I wonder what boogers I have right now)
– Inbound
– Foul (Yawning…)
– Foul Shot (still yawning)
– Substitutions (picking up computer)
– Foul Shot
– Inbounds (Feeling some strange indigestion…)
– Actual Basketball Play (missed Villanova shot)
– Rebound
– Foul (3.8 seconds left)
– Foul Shot (Rushing to bathroom…)
– Foul Shot (Returning from bathroom…)
– Inbounds
– Game (I wonder if women’s curling is on?)

This whole sequence, that consisted of 45 seconds of basketball, took eleven minutes of real time. Why? Because basketball teams have twice the timeouts that they actually need. And coaches, not wanting to be “seen” as not coaching, make sure to use every freakin’ one that they’re given. Villanova needed to take a timeout to know that it had to foul? St. Mary’s needed to take one to know that they needed to inbounds the ball to their best foul shooter? Seriously, can’t coaches teach their players these things before the game? I mean, I’m pretty sure that 98% of the fans watching at that moment knew both those points.

The repeated timeouts that sent the telecast to commercial after commercial had me go from the edge of my seat to checking my email and picking my nose. I know I probably don’t have the world’s longest attention span, but I don’t have the shortest either. Like most sane people I hate the whole “foul, walk, walk walk, shoot, substitute offensive guys for defensive guys, shoot” routine that makes up the end of close basketball games, but at least it’s a necessary evil. The timeouts though? They’re utterly useless.

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