May 24, 2012

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ | Associated Press

 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sitting along the shore and staring at one of the world’s most majestic metropolitan views, Joe Lacob leaned over to hear fellow Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber whisper in his ear.

 

“Man,” Guber said, “we got to do this.”

 

And with that, the franchise’s new vision started to come into focus.

 

The Warriors, NBA Commissioner David Stern and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee officially announced Tuesday that the Bay Area's only NBA team will try to move back to scenic San Francisco. The earliest the team could leave Oakland would be 2017, when it can escape its lease at Oracle Arena.

 

“We can turn this dream into a goal by giving it urgency,” said Guber, the movie mogul and Mandalay Entertainment’s chief executive. “We will play here in 2017. Take that as a promise that we will fulfill. There will be a world-class entertainment venue. We’re all-in.”

 

The still-in-the-works project has a spot picked out that few can match.

 

The Warriors unveiled some of the plans for the estimated $500 million, privately funded arena on a sun-soaked day at Piers 30-32. The waterfront site near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge — one of the most beautiful views in one of the world’s most beautiful cities — is just blocks from the Giants’ ballpark and the downtown financial district.

 

“This natural amphitheater is second to none anywhere in the world,” California Lt. Gov. and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

 

A city fire department boat shot off water cannons and San Francisco-themed songs blared in the background at the end of an event that was all about smiles — and not shovels — with the project several years and road blocks away from reality.

 

Under the proposed deal, the city will provide the site and the Warriors will repair the crumbling piers at a cost of $75-100 million. There will be no new taxes and no money from the city's general fund.

 

“Absolutely, they have the money to do it,” Stern said of Golden State’s ownership group.

 

Little else about the financing plan has been announced — mostly because it's still in its infancy.

 

Renderings of the building on display show an arena with near floor-to-ceiling windows on the main concourse overlooking the towering Bay Bridge. The team and the city also hope the proposed arena will attract NCAA tournament games, concerts and other major events.

 

“We intend to build the most spectacular arena in the country for all Bay Area residents, not just San Francisco, to be proud of,” Lacob said. “An architecturally significant building on truly an iconic site. It doesn't get any better than this.”

 

The announcement came as no surprise to Bay Area fans.

 

Lacob and Guber have been working to return the team to the City by the Bay since buying the Warriors for a league-record $450 million in 2010. The Warriors played in San Francisco from 1962 to 1971 after moving from Philadelphia.

 

The proposed move is still sure to upset some in Oakland, the center of the area’s basketball prowess. Many NBA players past and present — Bill Russell, Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, among scores of others — rose to basketball fame in Oakland.

 

One aspect that hasn’t been a problem is fan support.

 

Despite only one playoff appearance since 1994, the basketball-booming Bay Area has supported the Warriors surprisingly well. The team ranked 10th in attendance this past season, averaging 18,857.

 

Lacob said the team has more season-ticket holders who live in San Francisco than Oakland and the fan base is split 50-50 between the East Bay and the San Francisco Peninsula. The franchise — once called the San Francisco Warriors — will remain under its current name, Lacob said, “until further notice.”

 

“It’s the Golden State Warriors and it's going to remain the Golden State Warriors for the foreseeable future and maybe forever,” Lacob said. He later added, “It comes down to what the fans want.”

 

The political push in San Francisco has only just begun.

 

Lee sent a letter to the owners this month saying the city would work with Warriors executives to bring the team to San Francisco in time for the 2017-18 season. The note, signed by all 11 city supervisors and numerous business and labor leaders, was sent a few days after Lee met with Guber in Los Angeles.

 

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan responded last week by sending the team her own letter to express the city’s commitment to keeping the Warriors — and the Raiders and A’s, who both need a replacement to the outdated Oakland Coliseum.

 

She expressed disappointment following Tuesday’s announcement and said Oakland’s proposal “was always a larger project than just one sports team,” and the city will continue to pursue all avenues for an arena.

 

That now seems like a lost cause.

 

“It’s been 41 years since the Warriors played here in San Francisco,” Lee said. “In my humble opinion, it’s time to welcome them home.”

 

Of course, building anything in San Francisco is never easy.

 

Overcoming the environmental concerns on the shoreline, the addition of a high-rise structure on the pier — not to mention the adjacent condominiums and businesses that could fight to keep their beautiful Bay Bridge views — and political wrangling in the politically charged city are among many obstacles for the project.

 

Lacob said it will likely take “two to two-and-a-half years” just to acquire all the permits. But he noted the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers headed some 40 miles south to Santa Clara for the 2015 season “created a great incentive on the part of the mayor and the city” to help the Warriors build an arena in San Francisco.

 

The Warriors are counting on the 16-mile drive between the team’s Oakland arena and the waterfront site in San Francisco to make all the difference.

 

Team executives believe more corporate sponsorship and national attention will follow in San Francisco and give the franchise the ability to land marquee free agents. Most teams that play at Golden State already stay and practice in San Francisco.

 

Warriors President and CEO Rick Welts called the move the “most important journey in the history of the Warriors.”

 

“You have to be a dreamer,” added Warriors executive board member Jerry West, the former Lakers star and symbol of the NBA’s logo. “And we have two owners here who have vision. And they’re putting their money where their mouth is.”

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

May 24, 2012

By DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press 

 

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The trouble with trying to measure the progress of Tiger Woods is that by his own definition, he never really gets there. Even when he was at his best, Woods always thought he could get better.

So while winning tournaments is the goal, that's not always the best gauge.

Woods preached patience two weeks ago at The Players Championship when he said, "Guys, I've done this before. I've been through this. ... I had some pretty good runs after that, and this is no different." He then tied for 40th at Sawgrass for the worst three-tournament stretch of his PGA Tour career, which followed what some thought was a breakthrough victory at Bay Hill.

Puzzling? Yes.

Alarming? Not necessarily.

Go back to early 1999, when it looked as though Woods had finally figured out the swing overhaul under Butch Harmon with a 62-65 weekend at Torrey Pines for a two-shot victory. At his next tournament, Woods began a streak of 15 consecutive rounds without breaking 70. It wasn't until that epiphany on the range some three months later — "Butchy, I've got it," he famously told his coach — that Woods was able to play by feel and went on a run for the ages.

The revamped swing under Hank Haney appeared to finally come together in 2005 when Woods outlasted Phil Mickelson in that dramatic duel at Doral, and then a month later he won the Masters with a birdie on the first extra hole. Mission accomplished? Not quite. Two tournaments later, Woods missed the cut for the first time in more than seven years.

Woods is finishing up what could be his last two-week break until October. Starting next week with the Memorial, he is scheduled to play seven tournaments in the next 11 weeks through the PGA Championship, which precedes the FedEx Cup playoffs.

To figure out his progress going into this pivotal stretch is more difficult than ever.

Consider his last six tournaments. Woods closed with a 62 and made Rory McIlroy sweat to win the Honda Classic. He withdrew midway through the final round of Doral with tightness in his left Achilles tendon. He won Bay Hill. He had his worst showing ever at the Masters as a pro. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow. He was never a factor at The Players Championship.

Woods was at Congressional on Monday to promote the AT&T National, which benefits his foundation, when the question came up again.

How will you know you're back?

"Well, I won a tournament already," Woods said with a laugh.

When he won the Chevron World Challenge in December for his first win since November 2009, he told of getting a text from a friend reminding him of the lyrics from an LL Cool J song: "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."

But it is a comeback. The old Tiger Woods, who averaged more than six wins a year for an entire decade, had gone MIA. And by now, Woods knows he will always be measured against his past.

"I remember I had a pretty good year in 2000," Woods said. "And I didn't win for a couple months. And the word 'slump' came about. And that's basically the same thing that just happened here. I just played three events and, 'When are you back?' Well, I just won a tournament three tournaments ago."

Looking back on his performance during the other two swing changes, there's room for skepticism.

Harmon said he and Woods began revamping his swing after the 1997 season. Based only on results, Woods' big run began with back-to-back wins in Germany and the Memorial at the end of May 1999. In the 35 tournaments he played while rebuilding his game, he still managed to finish in the top five in nearly half of his tournaments, and he was in the top 10 just over 65 percent of the time. He never missed a cut. Only five times did he finish out of the top 25. He won three times.

Haney said he formally began working with Woods before Bay Hill in 2004. In the 24 tournaments until he won the 2005 Masters, Woods finished in the top five 50 percent of the time, 63 percent of the time he was in the top 10, and he finished out of the top 25 just twice. He never missed a cut (he wound up missing two cuts later that year). He won three times.

The results are far different during his latest swing change.

In the 28 tournaments since Sean Foley first worked with him at the 2010 PGA Championship, Woods has finished in the top 10 only 36 percent of the time (10 tournaments), and he has finished out of the top 25 the same number of times. He has missed three cuts. He won twice.

Then again, Woods went nearly four months without completing a tournament because of leg injuries in 2011. It wasn't until last fall when he could work out and practice without restrictions. Even if the starting point more realistically is the Frys.com Open last October, Woods has five finishes in the top five (and top 10) compared with four finishes out of the top 25.

It's the number of tournaments where he was an also-ran that raises questions.

But so much is different under Foley, unrelated to what he is teaching. Unlike the previous two changes, Woods did not have to cope with physical scars (four surgeries on his left knee) and emotional scars (public ridicule from serial adultery that led to divorce).

He began changing his swing with Harmon when he was 22. He was 28 when he revamped his swing under Haney. Woods is now 36.

It's not as easy, and it shows.

But if or when he goes on another big run, he shouldn't argue if someone calls it a comeback.

 

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Category: Sports

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