In 2015, a busy sports day can have little or nothing to do with actual sports.
Take Thursday, for instance. At first blush, an ordinary looking 24 hours plopped into the latter part of February that contained very little honest-to-goodness competition. Yet there was more to consume than at a Las Vegas buffet.
So grab a plate:
• Just when you thought the NBA had gone on hiatus, the league’s trading deadline provided its own zany brand of entertainment. During a span of about 20 minutes preceding the noon cutoff, teams exchanged players and draft picks like Yanni cassettes in a flea market bargain bin.
Kevin Garnett waived his no-trade clause and went back to Minnesota, where it all began. Underrated point guard Goran Dragic (and brother Zoran — yup Goran and Zoran) went from Phoenix to Miami. The Suns, Bucks and 76ers did a three-team deal that ended up with the Suns and Bucks getting some good players and the hapless 76ers getting draft picks they will surely find a way to squander.
In all, more than 40 current and future players got dealt in 11 separate trades — nine of them consummated during the final hour. A rollicking good time had by all except for Fresno’s Brook Lopez, who you get the sense would rather be somewhere other than Brook-lyn.
No team fortified itself more for the playoffs than Oklahoma City, a development that ought to make heads-in-the-clouds Warriors fans a little queasy. Just look at the Western Conference standings. The Thunder is a half-game back of No. 8 Phoenix but six games behind No. 7 San Antonio and 61/2 behind No. 6 Los Angeles.
With 31 games left, it’s almost impossible for Oklahoma City to climb any higher than No. 8. Meaning Golden State, provided the Warriors hang onto the No. 1 spot over Memphis, is now staring down a nightmare first-round matchup.
Warriors fans who lived through their own team’s history of first-round playoff upsets can appreciate the potential irony. Or not.
By this point during most NBA seasons you can pretty much pinpoint three or four teams that have legitimate chances to win the title. This year there are twice that many, at least, which ought to keep the conversation interesting well into May.
• Baseball’s spring training is a relic. A remnant from the days when players sold cars and life insurance during the offseason and needed six weeks in Arizona or Florida to get in shape. Still, the first day of stretching, throwing, scratching is always a kick.
In Giants camp, much of the early talk has been about Tim Lincecum going back to the long hair and his father’s old throwing regimen. Manager Bruce Bochy insists Lincecum will be in the rotation, but after three poor seasons the leash has to be shorter than an angry Rottweiler’s.
Bochy wouldn’t outright name Madison Bumgarner as his opening day starter but in a nod to last year’s World Series added, “He’s going the second game, too.”
Heck, why not left field and cleanup?
Across town, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw dispelled the notion he wants A.J. Ellis as his personal catcher and to not work with Yasmani Grandal, the big return in the Matt Kemp trade. And No. 2 arm Zack Greinke won’t say if he plans to sign an extension or opt out at season’s end.
Of greater concern is the health of closer Kenley Jansen, expected to miss up to three months with foot surgery. Good thing General Manager Andrew Friedman has a fat wallet.
• Few things in sports are more nauseating, or pointless, than the NFL Scouting Combine. While herding all the top prospects in one place three months before the draft has its uses for teams, coverage of the event has far outstripped its importance. Just more hype grease for Roger Goodell’s $10 billion machine.
Unless you’re the type who’s obsessed with Jameis Winston’s hand size, Thursday’s most interesting happening was 49ers coach Jim Tomsula’s first public appearance since his lamentable introductory news conference.
As you’ll recall, Tomsula was nervous, fidgety and generally discombobulated while being flanked by owner Jed York and Trent Baalke. Even the most basic of questions got long, rambling answers with frequent swerves into the nonsensical.
So when Tomsula opened the session by saying, “Good afternoon, we’ll try this again” with a big smile on his face, it was apparent the second impression would be better than the first.
But back to Winston, who supposedly shed 15 pounds over the last month by working with a trainer. What was he dipping those crab legs in? Alfredo sauce?
• The Amgen Tour of California unveiled its latest route, and once again the central San Joaquin Valley got left off the itinerary in favor of a sexier coastal stage.
The Tour hasn’t passed this way since 2012, which was the same year as Lance Armstrong’s ill-fated comeback. Yeah, best everyone forget.