What a party it’s been for Bay Area sports fans the past few years.
No matter what happens against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Golden State Warriors’ NBA-record 73 regular-season wins and their NBA championship and Stephen Curry’s back-to-back MVP seasons won’t recede anytime soon from the regional sports memory bank.
The San Jose Sharks also are making a deposit. Going into Wednesday night, they needed only one more win to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time.
The Giants have won 13 of 14 to open several games of separation between themselves and the rest of the National League West. It’s an even year, so they’ll probably win the World Series again, as they did in 2010, ’12 and ’14.
Now it looks as if the Raiders are about to crash in on the fun.
For us, we’re about the work that we’re putting in. It’s real work. There is real sweat being put in. There is real effort and energy being put forth. A real commitment. That’s where our focus is, not on words.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio
They turned their world around last year with a 7-9 record, followed by an offseason of impressive free-agent signings. They nailed it again in last month’s draft with a decent collection of talent that will strengthen and deepen a club that was already talented, strong and deep.
Can you say AFC West champions? Do you believe in 13-3?
Let’s stop right there before the optimism of May precipitates a nutty prediction along the lines of a Super Bowl championship. You’ve got to be certifiable to make such a pronouncement while the NFL is still in the midst of organized team activities.
But the wagering trend on the Raiders is worth noting. In February, the Bovada online/offshore gaming behemoth had them at 66-1 to win Super Bowl LI. By March, the number fell to 33-1. On Wednesday, the Raiders were down to 25-1 – which elevated them into the top third of the league’s championship contenders.
At this rate, the Raiders might be the odds-on favorite to carry the Vince Lombardi Trophy out of Houston by the time they open their season on the road Sept. 11 against the New Orleans Saints.
Don’t worry about all this crazy talk of the team moving to Las Vegas. It’s only Mark Davis who is stirring it up. Eventually, the owner will get the deal he really wants to keep the team in Oakland, and there will be no need for him to keep playing these silly games with Carson or the Los Angeles Rams or Sheldon Adelson.
If Davis can’t work things out with Oakland, maybe Ronnie Lott and Rodney Peete’s group of predominantly African American business buddies can. You read it first from Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle, and nobody’s got their finger on the pulse of political stuff in the Bay Area better than those two.
As for the Raiders, perhaps the best source of information would be Jack Del Rio, the coach. He’s not the sort to hide the pea. He’s as straight up as they get, not one to talk out of the side of his mouth.
On Tuesday, after the Raiders completed the first of 10 allotted days of OTAs, he showed a relaxed smile. He looked confident, like somebody whose name belonged in the same paragraph with those of Bruce Bochy, Steve Kerr and Peter DeBoer.
He sure hopes his team can do the same kind of winning as the clubs who play for the leaders of the Giants, Warriors and Sharks.
“I think it’s awesome when it’s going good in an area like it is here in this area, and we want to be a part of that,” Del Rio said.
It’s too soon to say the Raiders are loaded, but they sure appear to be getting there. You can’t find a horrifying weakness anywhere on this team anymore.
The Raiders’ offensive line was one of the better units in the league last year. Now, with the addition of Kelechi Osemele and the return to health of Menelik Watson, it might be the best.
They have the top pass rusher in the NFL in Khalil Mack and enough pressure guys around him to ensure plenty of one-on-one opportunities for everybody. They seriously upgraded the secondary. They have a quorum of wide receivers, a triple option at tight end, Pro Bowl players in running back Latavius Murray and quarterback Derek Carr, and good rookies coming in all over the lot.
Incoming rookie quarterback Connor Cook of Michigan State made a couple of throws Tuesday that made you think he will be more than a backup before his career is over.
Looking at Del Rio a year ago, you saw a veteran coach who was determined to instill a feeling in his new team that it could win. On Tuesday, he exuded the confidence of somebody who had succeeded in that task and was ready to move on to the next one.
I think it’s awesome when it’s going good in an area like it is here in this area, and we want to be a part of that.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio
A lot of smart people are saying the Raiders did the most to improve themselves in the offseason, enough to establish themselves as the AFC West favorite.
Del Rio’s answer to that Tuesday: “Talk is cheap.”
“For us, we’re about the work that we’re putting in,” Del Rio said. “It’s real work. There is real sweat being put in. There is real effort and energy being put forth. A real commitment. That’s where our focus is, not on words.”
For those who can’t communicate without them, a couple that have come to define Bay Area sports teams in recent years have been “winning” and “championships.” It sure looks as if they’re about to become a part of the Raiders’ vocabulary.