It's taken a long time to figure out exactly what kind of sports enclave the Bay Area is, because in our ignorance we have tried to define it by sport. It was a baseball area when the Giants were winning or had Barry Bonds or had Willie Mays, or when the A's were going to the World Series. It was a football area when the 49ers or Raiders were winning, or when they were at least interesting.
But this is the first time that it has truly been a basketball area from the Oregon border to the Paso Robles city limits, from the ocean to the middle of Nevada, and all it took was a two-time champion and "super team" that has so impacted its sport that teams are putting off short-term decisions to make long-term plans.
Kids, Golden State is finally a real geographical and conceptual entity, and everyone else is just renting space by the hour.
Granted, the Warriors have become a generational team – this generation's team – by kicking all the ass presented to them for nearly three full years, with the great likelihood of at least a couple more.
But this is one of those rare times in sports history when a team is dominating its own offseason because the other teams are literally overwhelmed by the task of threatening them. It is as if the other teams in the league have made plans based not on how to challenge them but to when it is worth the effort to challenge them.
And most seem to agree that that time has not yet come.
A confluence of events, most of them tied to the TV contracts that and CBA provisions, have put a lot of big names, starting with LeBron James, on the market after next season. And the Warriors, having won five of every six games for three years and come within one five-minute shooting drought of being a three-time champion, are universally considered too far away to catch immediately.
In a weird way, it is almost as if the NBA is tanking the 2017-18 season for a brighter (and probably illusory) future.
That seems like too broad a statement, though, so let's tailor it a bit. Let's call it not "tanking," but "abandoning," with the motto, "Ahhh, screw it. We'll just wait."
It is almost as if, in the absence of bolder concepts, the NBA's main short-term strategies for dealing with the Warriors are:
• Hiring their front office people (Jerry West, Travis Schlenk).
• Flirting with Andre Iguodala (though that seems more smoky that actually flaming).
• Saying mean things about Kevin Durant (which is almost surely the stupidest narrative there is, in that it assumes a grown man who has made a series of excellent decisions for his own future can have his feelings hurt by some media hyena or a moron on Twitter).
• Hoping for some catastrophic injuries.
These are not creative, forward-thinking ideas, though. They are the equivalent of hitting on 17, or trying to fill a nine-high inside straight. They are hopes against hope, while the time of day is devoted far more to longer-term concepts.
Say, like waiting for the Warriors to age, which at least has the advantage of actually being an idea that will come true.
Nobody knows how these plans will play out, because we have just entered the knife-your-pals period of roster assembly, where teams try to poach the best players from other teams in hopes of creating their own "super teams." But we do know that for the first time ever, the Bay Area is paying closer attention to the NBA off-season when the Warriors don't have a draft pick than at any time when they did.
And why? Because the Bay Area isn't about one sport as opposed to another. It's about front-running, and not since the 49ers of the 1980s (and maybe never before) has front-running been so safe and clear and free from angst.
It also helps that the A's are stripping the roster down to the studs and re-bar (again), and that the Giants are comprehensively dreadful, and that the 49ers are years away from not being the same, and that the Raiders are good (though by no means dominant) while planning to leave. Cal has new coaches in its top two revenue sports and enough debt to crush the South American economy. Stanford lives in its own carefully constructed and very gated community, attention-wise, St. Mary's basketball is in an up-cycle but still too niche-y to make a lot of waves, the Sharks are, well, the Sharks, the Earthquakes are not even a playoff team, and the less said about the Kings the better.
In other words, the Warriors have hit their five-run homer not only at a time when the league has no immediate answers but at a time when the rest of the Bay Area is either sequestered, putting up "Room To Let" signs in the front yard or just plain hard to watch.
So the Bay Area is a basketball area again, in ways that the USF and Cal teams of the late ‘50s could not even begin to fathom, and the Warriors are the party that never ends in a landscape of Amish farms.
And right now, and right here, where the concept of shameless front-running has long been a dominant theme in fan loyalty and understanding, shameless front-running has never been so pervasive.
Or for that matter, rewarding.