Believe it or not, the Sacramento Kings actually have a shot at making the NBA playoffs as the league enters its mid-season (sort of) break for the All-Star game.
That’s a real change for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2006 (the longest current streak of futility in the NBA), and has prompted local partisans to recall the teams of the early century featuring the likes of Chris Webber.
The Sacramento Bee, always the civic cheerleader when it’s not holding the powerful accountable, is starting to envision an Interstate 80 playoff series between the Kings and the Golden State Warriors.
The Kings, for many years a dreary collection of second tier role players and frustrated star center DeMarcus Cousins, have achieved a remarkable turnaround under General Manager Vlade Divac.
Divac, the center on the good Kings teams of the early ’00s, was dismissed as a PR figurehead, somebody to distract the fans while giving them false hope, when he was hired in 2015 by principal owner Vivek Ranadive.
Divac has proved them wrong, directing two excellent drafts that have produced a couple of young players with superstar potential–I’m thinking of point guard De’Andre Fox and center Marvin Bagley III–along with others, like Buddy Hield and Harry Giles III, who will be major contributors in the future.
Coach Dave Joerger also deserves a lot of the credit for the team’s turnaround. Joerger’s preference is to play a ball control, half-court game, but he has turned the young Kings into a runnin’, gunnin’ fast-break team that is surprising the rest of the league.
The team actually has a winning record (30-27) two-thirds of the way through the season, and is in the hunt for the eighth playoff position in the west. If they actually make it into the playoffs, the figure to face the Warriors and quick elimination.
But that’s a big improvement over the last 12 years. The Kings have gone from bad to mediocre, and still have a long trek to becoming good and then a true championship contender, but now the fans actually have something to get excited about.
Rebounds: Kyler Murray, the two-sport star from Oklahoma University, has decided to walk away from the Oakland A’s and his $4 million signing bonus to seek his fortune in the National Football League. He may live to regret this decision.
Murray’s biggest problem is his size–he claims to be 5-10, maybe 5-11, but most people suspect he’s shorter than that. That would be okay if he was a wide receiver or defensive back, but he wants to play quarterback in the NFL, where he will have to pass the ball over defensive linemen who are 6-6 and taller.
Critics have a point when they say NFL talent scouts put too much emphasis on metrics–a player’s height, weight, speed, strength, etc. There are several too-slow receivers and undersized linebackers who have had good careers in the NFL.
But it’s hard to make the case that an undersized QB can succeed. Russell Wilson of Seattle is the only current starter under 6-feet, and he spends a lot of time scrambling outside the pocket to find clear throwing lanes down the field.
Murray’s been told all this, but I’m sure he has the confidence to believe he can overcome that handicap. Besides, its hard to beat the quick fame a QB can achieve in the NFL (just look at Carson Wentz and Pat Mahomes) versus the minor-league slog he faces if he plays baseball.
The A’s have retained their rights to Murray just in case he changes his mind in a couple of years and decides to pursue baseball, but as Tim Tebow and others have shown, it’s usually too late to come back. Murray may live to regret his decision.
The San Francisco Giants, who have been terrible when it comes to power hitting over the last few years, enter spring training in even worse shape than they were last year.
This is the only team in major league baseball that has failed to produce a 20 home run hitter in the last two seasons, and the Giants’ two top “sluggers” last year are no longer with the team.
But there may be a ray of hope, if you’re willing to believe the Giants are interested in free-agent slugger Bryce Harper, and visa-versa.
Harper, considered the No. 1 talent on the free agent market, is still unsigned as teams start spring training. Part of it may be cost–Harper reportedly rejected a 10-year, $300 million deal from his old team, the Washington Nationals–and the other part maybe the recent history of high-priced free agents turning into busts.
Harper in San Francisco is a long-shot. I doubt the Giants are willing to part with that kind of money, and Oracle Park has not been a good place for Harper, where he has put up his worst numbers.
Still, when your biggest star is a catcher recovering from hip surgery who has never hit more than 24 home runs in a season, you might be tempted to do something you’ll regret later. We’ll know soon enough.
In an era where everybody gets a trophy, you apparently can’t cram too many teams into the high school post-season playoffs.
But this effort to make everybody feel good can produced less than worthwhile results, as the Bear River girls’ basketball team showed recently.
The girls finished the regular season with a 16-13 record, 6-4 in league play, good enough to get them a 16th seed in the D-IV playoffs. But first they had to win a play-in game against Natomas, giving 17 schools a shot at 16 playoff seeds.
BR managed to beat Natomas. Their reward? They got to play No. 1 seed Colfax the very next day, where they were demolished 77-18. Somebody needs to explain to me what this embarrassing exhibition accomplished.