NBA commissioner Adam Silver held his de facto “State of the League” news conference Thursday before Game 1 of the Finals — in the Oakland A’s batting cages.
Oracle Arena lacks the space for a large news conference, so the NBA for the past two years has dressed up the batting cages at the neighboring O.co Coliseum for Silver’s address. And for the second consecutive year, Silver made it clear that the Warriors need a new arena.
“I’m not from the Bay Area, so I can’t speak to sort of the relative importance of the various cities out here,” Silver said. “All I can tell you is I’m very supportive of [owners] Joe [Lacob] and Peter [Guber] and [team president] Rick Welts and their desire to move the franchise to San Francisco. I’m pleased it would remain in the Bay Area. I know they’ve had fantastic support here from Oakland. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they need a new arena in this market. And again, the project has been presented to me several times in San Francisco, and it seems like it will be yet again the best of its kind. I’m very supportive of them doing it.”
The organization has the framework for a new arena in San Francisco that would be expected to open by the end of the decade. The Warriors, a crown jewel for Oakland, which has undergone a recent resurgence, could relocate across the Bay during its greatest run as a franchise.
It’s disheartening for Oakland officials, who have dealt with relocation rumors with the NFL’s Raiders as well as the A’s.
“I’ve lived in Oakland my whole life, this has been my team, I love them,” Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, told the Globe last week. “And this moment, this [Warriors] team is truly magical. It is difficult to think that they’re going to be moving away from the Roaracle Arena. But I know that they’re not moving out of this community. They’re staying in this market.
“They’re committed to the Oakland community, and the fact that Oakland is still part of their home, I know that commitment will not change at all if they move across the Bay.”
The Warriors have a loyal fan base, established decades before Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson arrived, but like many arenas that were redesigned in the 1990s, Oracle Arena has become antiquated, hence holding a news conference in a batting cage.
Oakland would like to keep the Warriors, but it lacks the resources to develop an arena plan competitive with San Francisco’s. The Chase Center is tabbed for the Mission Bay district of the city, but there has been opposition to the site and litigation postponed the projected opening for the 2019-20 season.
Schaaf said time remains for Oakland to make a plea to keep the Warriors.
“I think it would be fantastic if the Warriors decided to stay on the very ground where they make history with this team in Oakland,” she said. “I will obviously do everything I can within my power to make that a possibility. But I also recognize that before I became mayor of Oakland [in 2015] that this move was settled and done. My job is to enjoy this moment and make the most of it and to ensure that this good relationship we have continues.”
Marc Davis, owner of the Raiders, has met with officials in Las Vegas about a potential move there after the NFL’s other owners rejected the club’s application to move back to Los Angeles. The A’s have flirted with relocation in the past but agreed in 2014 to a 10-year lease to remain at O.co Coliseum.
“As a mayor of a city with three professional sports teams, I’ve learned a lot about the challenges and benefits of sports teams and sports facilities within your boundaries,” Schaaf said. “But I am actually very optimistic about the future of Oakland as a continued sports powerhouse and sports capital.
“The Oakland A’s have stopped their search outside our boundaries and have made an unequivocal commitment to remaining in this city and building a new ballpark. And we are making tremendous progress with the Oakland Raiders.”
The Raiders added former 49ers CFO Larry MacNeil to their staff of developing stadium ideas for Oakland.
“We’re more optimistic about the progress with the Raiders despite other talks and rumors out there,” Schaaf said. “When I came to office, the Raiders were talking with Los Angeles, so I’m accustomed and respect the fact that they’ve been frustrated with the city in the past. It’s my job to begin a new relationship and drive towards a positive outcome that is responsible for the team, for the league, the fans, and the taxpayers of Oakland.”
Oakland officials have encouraged national media to display sections of the city — and not San Francisco — during NBA broadcasts.
For years, the Warriors were an overlooked and overshadowed franchise until some astute moves upgraded the roster to a championship level over the past few years. Schaaf has attempted to capitalize on the team’s success to help promote Oakland, which has undergone a corporate resurgence over the past 15 years.
“I think the media has done a better job this [season] of identifying the Warriors with Oakland, of showing of Oakland, not of San Francisco, of the Bay Bridge,” Schaaf said. “The team is shared by the two cities. [The Warriors’] market is the whole Bay Area. I have a great relationship with [San Francisco] mayor Ed Lee. We are working as regional partners. I’m happy to share [the Warriors] a little bit.”
Players’ flailing has gone notice
While the NBA has attempted to deal with increasing physicality and hard fouls with video reviews and an increased number of flagrant fouls, some players have resorted to selling foul calls by flailing their arms and legs. The main culprits in the playoffs have been Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City and especially Golden State’s Draymond Green, whose feet have connected with three opposing players this postseason.
Green’s shin connected with the groin of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams, a play that was upgraded to a flagrant foul upon review.
And in Game 1 of the Finals against the Cavaliers, Green tried to sell an off-ball foul on Kyrie Irving and swung his legs so vigorously he kicked Irving in the chest.
This has been noticed by the league, which now is likely to incorporate more rules against luring officials into foul calls.
“We’re seeing a lot more leg kicks and, frankly, players flailing their arms as well, it’s clear what they’re doing,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “They’re trying to sell calls. They’re trying to make contact. They’re trying to demonstrate that they’re getting fouled on particular plays. It’s not something new in the league, but as we track it, it’s becoming more prevalent.”
The NBA did not suspend Green because it could not determine whether he kicked Adams on purpose. Determining intent is the toughest issue for the league office, but it’s obvious that players realize that exaggerating their movements influences officials.
“It’s not something we want to see,” Silver said. “In terms of flagrant fouls and potential suspensions, one of the things we look at is the intent of the players. Obviously it’s very difficult to discern intent. We want to find a way to discourage players from flailing.”
It will be an interesting offseason for the rules and competition committee. The “Hack-a-Shaq” rule is also something that will be considered.
“It may be that we have to take a fresh look at that and draw a brighter line in terms of what’s permissible on the court so that we do a better job disincentivizing players from any potential non-basketball move that could result in injuring another competitor,” Silver said.
“So it is something that we’ve talked a lot about in the last few weeks. We’ve been talking about it throughout the season.”
ROLE PLAYER’S REWARD
It’s Barnes’s time to cash in
Harrison Barnes sparked the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals with 13 points, and the swingman has shown flashes of being a primary scoring option in four years with Golden State.
It should be an interesting summer for Barnes, who as a restricted free agent will be free to field offers from other clubs, including the Celtics. The Warriors have the right to match any other, but the question is whether Golden State wants to potentially invest a maximum contract on Barnes, their fourth-best player behind Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
It could allow a team seeking a dependable scorer entering his prime to steal Barnes with a lucrative contract.
“Just after last year, I realized how rare it was to get to the Finals and how rare it is to potentially repeat,” Barnes said. “So right now my focus is trying to stay present, not trying to think about what’s going to happen this summer. Not thinking about roles, just because getting to the Finals and winning championships is not guaranteed. This could be my very last time getting here regardless if I stayed or left, so I just want to really enjoy this moment and give it all I have.”
The Warriors’ bench outscored the Cavaliers’, 45-10, in Game 1. Golden State became a championship team because players such as Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston have accepted reduced roles without complaint.
“You look at the Spurs, they’ve had guys that could have left multiple times,” Barnes said. “Guys who could have commanded a lot more money, and almost 20 years later and five championships later, here are these guys. When you peel away the individual stats and the money that could be made, all of that kind of pales in comparison to championships. That’s what it’s all about. We’re here and we have the opportunity to potentially win back to back, that is really what the focus is. But sacrifice is always huge in terms of teams that win multiple championships.”
Commentators voice support
All of the coaching vacancies have been filled, with the Knicks finally announcing the hiring of Jeff Hornacek. And none of the jobs went to Mark Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy, ABC commentators who have been successful head coaches.
Jackson, Golden State’s coach before being fired after the 2013-14 season, interviewed for the Minnesota job that went to former Bulls head coach and Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. Jackson and Van Gundy were asked this past week why the other hasn’t been hired again to be a head coach.
“Mark, coaching-wise, what he was able to accomplish at Golden State, I think unfortunately has not been given its proper due by so many,” said Van Gundy. “And he built a program, started it off, and unfortunately didn’t get the chance to finish it. But it just also does show to me, he interviewed with Minnesota this year, and maybe other places that I’m not aware of. But I just think he chooses not to publicize all the people who have interest in him. Whereas a lot of people, through agents and whatever, choose to be very public about when they are interviewing or whose clients are interviewing. Mark has chosen to be more private in that area.
“But I don’t think it should be thought of that there is not interest, because anybody who did what he did in Golden State, people are going to be interested in.”
Jackson said he is comfortable broadcasting but is interested in returning to the sideline.
“I’m having a blast from my end calling NBA games and working for ESPN/ABC and being surrounded by a legendary group of people who are not only coworkers but more importantly great friends of mine,” Jackson said. “As far as Jeff, again, I’m shocked, I’m stunned, and that’s with respect to the 30 head coaches in the NBA. I know his body of work, not only by sitting next to him but by being in uniform and playing for him. It was an absolute thrill for me to play for him.
“I have utmost respect for his knowledge of the game and his preparation. He’s an incredible motivator. So that’s shocking to me and it will remain shocking to me, as long as he’s sitting next to me. I think if I was owner or general manager or running a team, it would be his call, meaning Jeff’s call, to say no to me, because he’s absolutely that great of a coach in my opinion.
“I’m surprised that watching his body of work, playing for him twice, and witnessing him as a coach, in my opinion, a genius, still around and nobody has made a move to hire him, whether he wants it or not. I’ve been around coaching and I’ve witnessed coaching and this guy is an absolute gem.”
The Celtics will again participate in summer league in Utah (three games) and Las Vegas (at least five). And their squad will be loaded with players trying to show they have improved. R.J. Hunter has confirmed he will play, and he will likely be joined by Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey, Marcus Thornton, James Young, and also the picks from June’s draft. The team especially wants to see progress from Young, whose improvement has been limited over his first two years in the NBA . . . Relativity Sports is holding a Pro Day on Sunday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a workout that will include likely lottery pick Skal Labissiere of Kentucky, Elgin Cook of Oregon, and Spanish standout Juan Hernangomez. The academy will also hold a workout session for NBA free agents looking for nonguaranteed deals or summer league invitations . . . While Cal’s Jaylen Brown was the best of the group that worked out for the Celtics on Wednesday, former Texas A&M swingman Alex Caruso made a positive impression. Caruso is best remembered for helping the Aggies rally from a 12-point deficit with 43 seconds left in regulation to tie Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Boston has eight of the 60 picks in the draft but is expected to trade or stash a handful of picks . . . Austin Rivers opted out of his contract, as expected, and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The move has little to do with any issue with the Clippers but rather the opportunity to enter the market as the salary cap is increasing by $20 million. There will be interest in Rivers, who has established himself as a solid backup point guard. After a disappointing stint with the Pelicans, Rivers flourished under his father Doc Rivers, and he replaced an injured Chris Paul during the playoffs. Austin Rivers could return to Los Angeles with a substantial raise.
The All-NBA first team was announced on May 26 and three of the members earned the honor for the first time. Here’s a breakdown of the squad:
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.