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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

By association, Charles Barkley’s 1993 Phoenix Suns played little girly basketball, according to Charles Barkley 12/02/2016

sunslog_1TNT troll Charles Barkley got some attention Thursday for saying about the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors: “I’m never going to like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people.”

Folks are in a tizzy because 1) Barkley said “little girly basketball” like it’s a bad thing, and 2) Barkley equated the darling Warriors with the bad thing.

He’s just projecting. Because what did our 1993 Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns do? We outscored people. #1 in OffRtg, #9 in DefRtg, 2nd to the Bulls in the Finals.

I’ve watched many girls play harder, and tougher defensively, than Charles Barkley did as a Sun. For instance, when Griner sets her mind to it, she’s one of the best defenders to play in The Arena That Charles Built. (When the Suns opened America West Arena in 1992, revitalizing downtown Phoenix, and hopefully signaling a new era for Phoenix Suns basketball, the brass looked at our pretty new building and the conversation was something like: “We have to decorate with a championship banner.” “We have to get us a Charles Barkley.” It was supposed to be a year like none other: New building, new coach, new Charles Barkley. Unfortunately, same old Michael Jordan.)

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In the Cal Classic final, Cal looked very together 11/27/2016

Logo_GoldenBear_whtIn the Cal Classic final against Duquesne, Cal got 51 points and 23 rebounds from three all-tournament forwards, and beat the Dukes 86-66.

Cal senior forward Courtney Range — they might list her as a “guard-forward”, which doesn’t describe Range as well as it describes most 2/3/4s — was the most valuable player in more than than one way. She’s taken on the senior responsibility at press conferences — she’s the union representative for 12 Cal students, which requires poise and fluency. Range also gathered 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists in two games.

Cal’s public address man calls the occasional Range trey with: “Long range three”. It’s a clever call, well used sparingly.

Sophomore Kristine Anigwe recorded 29 and 19, and I bet you could find people who’d say she had a bad weekend. Coach Gottlieb said Anigwe was making the extraordinary look ordinary, so substitute “ordinary” for “bad”. Anigwe made 29 and 19 look ordinary and somewhat disappointing.

Junior Penina Davidson is likes James Worthy in this regard: Worthy was the quietly dominant one in the Big Three dynamic of those great Lakers teams.

Ballhandling guard Asha Thomas made one turnover in the Cal Classic. She reminded me of Coach Mary Hegarty, who used to say she was just giving the ball to Denise Curry at UCLA, in an ironic bit of self-deprecation and unselfishness.

Junior guard Mikayla Cowling had 19 points and 14 assists. Those numbers made me think: “Huh? Really?”, because I feel like I wasn’t paying attention.

So this is the best thing I can say about the Golden Bears at their home tournament: Their guards were quietly spectacular. This coincides with what Coach Gottlieb said about her team: “We’ve got so many pieces to put together, and today you saw all of them.”

The worst thing I can say about the Golden Bears is to recite the old principle that the home team naturally invites three teams in the “stretch us hard but likely not beat us, especially when we play together” range. I hope the team takes that in a tongue-in-cheek, challenging way.

About the all-Cal Classic players from visiting teams:

USF senior guard Rachel Howard earned it. USF is a rocky program, rebuilding everywhere. I liked their senior guard Raushan Gultekin — she’s noticeable for diving under bigger players, and getting to the ball first. Then while I think to write that down, she’s chasing another loose ball.

Duquesne sophomore guard Chassidy Omogrosso was deserving. Duquesne is a striking family organization — they actually read each others’ retweets. Good basketball team, too.

Western Carolina junior forward Sherae Bonner had 15 points and 26 rebounds. Bonner had the Catamounts’ only double-double — none of her teammates made two doubles, which suggests their team’s unevenness.

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Cal is 4-0 on the eve of their Cal Classic

Pacific,Logo_GoldenBear_wht California, and St. Mary’s are all hosting four-teams-for-two-days tournaments this Thanksgiving weekend. Each of those schools is among my favorite basketball venues, and as it happens, each tournament invited an additional team on my beat: Santa Clara is at Pacific, San Francisco is at Cal, and Utah is at St. Mary’s.

It’s a predicament, but there is one heavily-weighted tiebreaker in favor of Berkeley: Haas Pavilion is a six-block walk from the BART station downtown, while McKeon Pavilion in Moraga and Spanos Center in Stockton make for treacherous driving conditions even under the best weather.

So I shan’t see Coach Lynne Roberts and her Utah Utes, which is disappointing, because I think Roberts has never looked happier than she does now during her second season in Salt Lake City. Her first four seasons at Pacific were very rough, but she built a Big West Conference champion from scraps, for which she’s rewarded by promotion to the powerful Pac-12.

Utah is 8th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, which will suit a Roberts group just fine — her teams aren’t happy unless they’re underdogs. When her 2013 Pacific team was crushing opponents, even I was feeling a bit like “well, yeah, but this would be more fun if it were unexpected”.

Cal is predicted to finish in the middle of the Pac-12, a reasonable jump to expect from last season’s 4-14 shock, but a long, long way from 2013’s 16-1 Final Four.

I’ve seen the undefeated Golden Bears three times. I thought they looked disarrayed on opening night at St. Mary’s — Cal’s defense is at its best when it is swarming and stretching and coercing turnovers, but it seemed to me that when the Gaels lost the handle on the ball, there just happened to be a Bear nearby to pick it up and run. You can stick to “luck is the residue of good design”, but sometimes perhaps it’s just bouncing the right way.

They didn’t look so sharp three nights later at home against Santa Clara, either — until the second half, when they routinely capitalized on greater athleticism, lobbing the ball toward the basket with an expectation that a Golden Bear would come down with it. Cal scored 40 points in the paint, and won the second half by 18 — final 73-58.

On 11/20 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield, the Bears took advantage of the Roadrunners’ aim to open the floor end-to-end. Cal assisted on 23 of 34 field goals, while stifling every Roadrunner but one — CSUB forward Aja Williams scored 35 of their 63 points against 86 for the host Bears.

It was the second straight 20-plus-10 game for sophomore forward Kristine Anigwe. “She makes some extraordinary things look ordinary,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “We’ve raised our expectations of her, which is pretty remarkable — we expect 20 and 10 from her, but now we’re asking her for more.”

The thing Cal really did right during those three games was improve noticeably. They were sloppy at St. Mary’s, better in the second half vs. Santa Clara, and getting it well together while routing Bakersfield. “We’re trying to get a little better with each game,” said Gottlieb, who cited her team’s defense against CSUB and particularly their shot selection: “We show them that this is what the great teams — Golden State and San Antonio — do: giving up good shots to get great shots.”

Next for Cal is the first round of the Cal Classic on Friday vs. San Francisco. The Dons were the hugely-surprising winners of the West Coast Conference tournament last March, going in as the #6 seed before beating #3, #2, and #1 to earn the berth in the NCAA tournament. Then coach Jennifer Azzi dropped a bomb, resigning seven weeks before the start of the 2017 season, replaced by Molly Goodenbour (who probably hadn’t furnished her new office at Cal State Hayward before leaving for USF) — I’m pleased; as much as I liked Coach Azzi, Coach Goodenbour has been a good story wherever she goes.

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