S.F. Examiner: Bay Area legend receives due credit

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

Yes, Holy Toledo! What else would we say? What else could we say? Except that those who vote on the Ford Frick Award for broadcasting excellence, a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, got it right at last.

They’ve chosen the late — to add great, would re redundant — Bill King.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Raiders continue to soar when they need to

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The decibels were building, 16, 17, 18, according to numbers on the scoreboard, the fans trying to emulate a jet engine, lifting off a runway, soaring.

The momentum was building, one touchdown, another touchdown, another touchdown, a ringing of the Raider bell — bong, bong — a football team lifting off, soaring.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


Warriors loss ‘shows where they are’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This was a prove-it game for the Warriors, a game that would show when the other team was hot — in this case the Houston Rockets, that frequent nemesis — the Dubs could be as tough as advertised, prepared and ready to show what was possible.

Or maybe impossible.

A 12-game winning streak was on the line, and maybe on the Warriors’ minds, but it ended Thursday night at the Oracle in front of a sellout crowd that was as disappointed as it was bewildered. How did this happen? And was it portentious?

The night and the game seemed to last forever, starting late at 7:52 p.m. because TNT wasn’t ready, and ending at 11:06. A double-overtime that had virtually everything: comebacks, Steph Curry fouling out, Draymond Green getting a flagrant foul, Kevin Durant scoring 39 points.

Everything except a Warriors win, the Rockets holding on, 132-127.

After all those relatively easy victories the past few weeks, this was a difficult loss, especially after building a four-point lead in the first OT.

“It kind of shows you where you are,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “It’s easy to execute when you are winning by a lot of points. Under pressure with a tough game, you’ve got to execute better.

“That’s on us and our staff to do a better job of getting our guys ready into some things that they will be comfortable with down the stretch.”

The Warriors are all too familiar with the Rockets, who each of the last two years they outlasted in the playoffs on the way to the finals. Particularly the sleight-of-hand of James Harden and the muscle of Trevor Ariza.

What they didn’t know was how two new additions, Ryan Anderson, the 6-foot-10 forward from Cal who had been with New Orleans, and Eric Gordon would fit in. Perfectly, it turned out.

Anderson is astute and alert, and shoots like a smaller man. He had 29 points, the same as Harden. The Rockets moved the ball beautifully and got key rebounds after an occasional missed shot.

Curry, meanwhile, was failing early. He had five points and three fouls at halftime. And although recovering enough to score 28 points, Steph was only 9-of-22 and 4-of-13 on threes.

“They did a good job of switching,” Kerr said of the Rockets. “They outplayed us. They deserved to win.”

Harsh words for Warriors fans who, with the team’s acquisition of Durant as a free agent, possibly believed the championship that got away in 2016 would return in 2017. The Dubs are now 16-3 and obviously vulnerable.

“We started the game off slow,” said Durant, who was 12-of-28, “and let them get some confidence. They got a lot of long rebounds.”

So after the Warriors would force a missed shot, Houston came back for another shot and didn’t miss. At one point, the Rockets would be up by 10. All the shouts of “Defense, defense,” from fans properly distressed by the game’s direction, didn’t help much.

“We did not play well,” Kerr said. “We got off to a horrible start. We didn’t move the ball very well. We had our moments, especially in the first overtime. We had a real cushion, and I thought we let it slip away when we had every opportunity to finish them off.”

But they couldn’t, and they didn’t.

“We can compete with anybody,” said Harden. He draws fouls — he was 11-for-11 from the line. He draws boos.

“It’s a huge win for us,” said Harden.

Not a huge loss for the Warriors, but a reminder there is more to the NBA than the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs.

“They make it tough,” said Durant of matching up with Houston. “They stretch you out, and they have James (Harden) handle the ball a lot, well all game. He’s good at making plays. They have shooters.”

Shooters who shot down the idea that the Warriors would just keep winning.


Like Kobe and Steph, Raiders find a way

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — He grew up a Kobe fan, and while that may not be what people in Northern California want to hear, the background is understood and acceptable. Derek Carr figures anything is possible in sports.

That the way Kobe Bryant brought the Lakers from behind, well, why couldn’t Carr and his teammates do the same?

Even after blowing a big lead. Even after Carr, the Raiders quarterback, the Raiders leader, injured his throwing hand and was unable to take snaps from the center in the old T-formation but had to play out of the shotgun.

Yes, the Raiders won another one on Sunday at the Coliseum, going way ahead, falling behind and then, just when you wondered if a season that so far has been magical and almost mythical was about to come apart, wondered if the Raiders were to revert to the bad old days, did their Kobe.

Or, making it more appealing, their Steph and Klay. Or more accurately, their Derek and Khalil Mack.

Oakland beat the Carolina Panthers, 35-32, a fifth straight win. They beat the Panthers after flying home Monday night from Mexico City, where Oakland defeated Houston. They beat the Panthers after building a 24-7 lead and then falling behind 32-24 — meaning Carolina scored 25 points in succession.

They beat the Panthers after proving that indeed the Raiders will offer no excuses, only persistence.

“What a great victory here at home against a really good football team,” said head coach Jack Del Rio, who sounded very much like one of the sellout crowd at the Coliseum. “Just proud of our guys for hanging in there and finding a way. That’s been a theme for us this year.”

A theme and a pattern. Five comeback victories. The team that once was unable to win, now, Kobe-like, Steph-like, Derek Carr-like, will not lose. The words of Al Davis float in the breeze, to wit, “Just win, baby.” And in nine of their 11 games this season, they’ve just won. Baby.

Such a bizarre game. Such a typical NFL game. Carolina couldn’t do anything in the first half, gaining just 89 yards total. Awful. Then the Raiders couldn’t do anything to stop Carolina.

“The third quarter was really tough,” agreed Del Rio, “and then we came back and finished.”

Carolina has been a mystery team. In the Super Bowl last season, a bust this season at 4-7, losing games but with Cam Newton at quarterback and other stars loaded with talent. The Panthers suddenly came together, with Newton throwing to Ted Ginn for a touchdown on an 88-yard play and to Kelvin Benjamin for a TD on a 44-yard play. Fortunately, the Raiders did not come apart.

“I thought there was a stretch where things were kind of unraveling a bit,” said Del Rio. “I actually tried to make sure to say, ‘Hey, let’s remember, if we keep fighting and keep believing, we’ll go from there. Then whatever happens, we can deal with it.’ I thought we snapped out of that and got our energy back.”

And got their quarterback back.

And never were without defensive end Khalil Mack, who had an interception and then a sack and recovered a fumble on the fourth-down play that, with a minute to go, would close it out for the Panthers — and thus for the Raiders.

Mack became the first player with a sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery and a touchdown since Charles Woodson in 2009. And digressing, the TD off the interception was oh-so-similar to that of Jack Squirek, picking Joe Theisman, in Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984.

Asked if he knew Mack was that agile, Del Rio insisted, “Yeah, he’s got good hands. He can throw it too. He can do just about anything he really wants.”

What Carr wanted was to get back in the game after the snap on the second play of the third quarter bruised the baby finger on his throwing hand and the subsequent fumble was recovered by the Panthers.

“A lot of pain,” said Carr. “Something happened with the snap. I don’t know what. I’ll have to see the replay. Something was different from normal.”

Carr put a glove on the hand, and the team doctors gave him the OK to replace Matt McGloin, who had replaced Carr. When Carr emerged from the tunnel, the crowd bellowed approval. Carr, although desperate to play, only wanted to bellow.

“Probably the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said.

He winced, he gritted, he and the Raiders triumphed. Oakland clinching its first winning season in 14 years.

“I’m happy for the fans,” said Carr, who as a Californian — he played at Fresno State — knows the team’s history. It’s been painful, if in a different way from that baby finger.

“We’re learning how to win. I really believe that our identity is just a team that works hard and believes in one another.”

After Sunday, it’s possible to believe the Raiders are an excellent team.


Winning Warriors at home in road jerseys

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Was watching the Warriors. You know, the basketball team that keeps trying all those little tricks, like wearing road uniforms at home to keep the opposition off balance and — certainly — to hope the fans buy another set of jerseys or T-shirts.

There were the Dubs on Saturday night in their slate, sleeved tops, and the Minnesota Timberwolves in white, as if Oracle Arena had been moved to Minneapolis. Had me fooled for a while.

Hey, that wasn’t Steph Curry throwing them up from the outside, was it? Not certain. Time to look at the scoreboard.

No fooling there. Another Warriors victory. Eleven in a row, this one by a score of 115-102. The Dubs are now 15-2. When do the playoffs start?

The idea that acquiring Kevin Durant as a free agent would make the visiting — sorry, dark jerseys, home team — virtually unbeatable is making a great deal of sense, as Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest are, well, virtually unbeatable. 

And Saturday they won without Draymond Green, out with a sore ankle. Maybe Dray, one of the NBA’s better defensive players — yes, a bit restrained with the accolades, as it’s still only November — would have kept Zach Levine from scoring 31 or Karl-Anthony Towns from getting 18, but that’s academic.

As it was, the Warriors’ Big Three indeed were a big three. Curry with 34 points, Durant with 28, Thompson with 29. And as Dubs coach Steve Kerr pointed out about the points, they came from inside as opposed to outside. Only 22 three-point attempts, 11 of those successful.

“We missed Dray,” said Thompson, “missed his defense and passing.”

And his exhorting and shouting. “The rest of us had to raise our voices to make up for it,” said Thompson. Most likely he was serious, but with the Warriors one never is quite sure how to take a comment.

They are a fun bunch, and for good reason. They’ve got the routine down, almost to perfection.

A quick start, a minor stumble, a halftime lead and then a victory, whatever the spread. But fans never get bored by wins. Neither do coaches or players.

Maybe the league ought to force the Warriors to sit out a starter every game until January. With Green missing, Kevon Looney, the team’s first-round draft pick in the championship year of 2015, started at what used to be known as power forward but is now called the No. 4.  

“Our spacing was very different,” said Kerr, if the results are not. Looney had six points and two rebounds. “I thought he played well,” said Kerr. Yes, just plug in another star and keep the machine running.

Then again, for the first time in 11 games, they failed to record 30 assists, getting only 25. Horrors!

Kerr is thinking about the future, the postseason, as are most of us. “We are interested in the process, and what we are doing,” he said when asked if any win, by one point or 20 points, was equally satisfying.

“We know, when games in the spring come, what it takes. We’ve been there the last two years and succeeded once and failed last year ultimately. We felt what the games are like in the playoffs, so you try to prepare for that in the regular season.

“You focus on the process. Try and win the game, but focus on the things that you know you have to get better at.”

Not much, one presumes, especially now that Durant is part of that process.

“The only thing we told him,” said Kerr about Durant, “was that he was going to guard Towns. We knew Looney could do a good job, and he would start on hm. But we told Kevin (Durant) he would have some minutes on Towns. I didn’t tell him anything else. He knows the game. I thought he was spectacular.”

No matter what color the jersey.