Kings' Williams improving, could face Sharks


Kings' Williams improving, could face Sharks


EL SEGUNDO -- (AP) Justin Williams realizes the Los Angeles Kings need every available ounce of offense to have a prayer of keeping up with the high-flying Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.That's why he's considering a quick return from an injury that might keep other players out for a whole lot longer.Williams went through another practice Tuesday with a harness on his dislocated right shoulder, even taking a few checks along the boards from defenseman Drew Doughty to test his pain tolerance.
RATTO: Sharks vs. Kings -- 5 unconventional factors"Overall, it felt better than yesterday, and I hope it feels better tomorrow," Williams said at the Kings' training complex. "A lot of my game is shaking off checks, and if I can't do that, my impact goes down drastically. (The harness) isn't comfortable, but you've got to do what you've got to do."The Kings' second-leading scorer gets to make the final call on whether he suits up for Thursday's playoff opener at the Shark Tank. Williams hasn't committed to it, but coach Terry Murray said Williams would go right back into his top six forwards if he's ready.The right wing had 22 goals and 35 assists while playing in the Kings' first 73 games, but he missed the final nine after dislocating his shoulder on a check into the boards by Calgary's Robyn Regehr. Six days later, Los Angeles lost leading scorer Anze Kopitar for the season when the All-Star center tore ligaments in his right ankle last month."The criteria now is for Justin Williams to come and tell me that he felt good in practice, comfortable with his competitive battles along the boards, and that he can play," Murray said. "The doctors talked to him and met with him at the last game of the season, and he has basically been given the green light to play, so now it's up to him."The only restriction is the shoulder harness, and scratching the top of your head is about the only thing he couldn't do. It's a matter of getting yourself over that threshold. I do expect that. I just need to hear it."Although goalie Jonathan Quick is in the midst of another outstanding season, the Kings desperately need scoring to compete with a loaded San Jose lineup featuring Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and rookie star Logan Couture.The Kings' offensive problems persisted throughout the regular season, reflecting both their overall talent and the club's grinding mentality under Murray. Los Angeles had six 20-goal scorers, but nobody within 16 points of Kopitar's 73 points in 75 games.With Kopitar, the NHL's 10th-leading scorer when he got hurt, and Williams both sidelined down the stretch, Los Angeles' offense nearly ground to a halt. The Kings scored just 11 goals - not counting a shootout goal - in their final seven games, culminating in back-to-back one-goal performances in two losses to Anaheim last weekend, cementing their slide to seventh place in the West."We've had trouble scoring all year, and then to have two of our top offensive players go down, that really hurt," said defenseman Jack Johnson, who scored a career-high 42 points with a team-worst minus-21 rating. "Still, losing two players shouldn't be the end-all. Pittsburgh lost two pretty good players, and they're still scoring. We're going to have to find a way to create more offense than we did in those last two games. Two goals aren't going to cut it."The Kings managed just 219 goals, tied with Nashville for the Western Conference's fewest among its top 11 teams. Only Montreal (216) scored fewer goals among playoff teams.Los Angeles' power play is in a 1-for-23 slump despite the presence of Johnson and Doughty, who teamed up to lead the Kings' man-advantage unit to seven power-play goals in the first three games of last season's playoff series with Vancouver."We've got to create more offense in all situations, not just on the power play," Doughty said. "But playoff games are also more one-goal situations, so hopefully San Jose isn't used to those tight-checking types of games, and we are."Doughty and Johnson were the catalysts for much of the Kings' best offense down the stretch last season. They haven't assumed the same mastery this spring, but Murray sees both young defensemen evolving into more well-rounded players."Their improvement is on the checking part of the game," Murray said. "Our checking has improved again this year, and they're a big part of it. They can play all those situations. I've seen in the second half of the year a big improvement in Doughty's game, and I saw a big improvement in Johnson's game at the start of the year."

A's issue statement regarding Oakland's plan for Raiders stadium

A's issue statement regarding Oakland's plan for Raiders stadium

On Friday, the city of Oakland released a detailed framework for a planned stadium for the Raiders.

A day later, the A's issued the following statement in response to Oakland's plan.

"Oakland is an incredible sports town that deserves world class facilities. We wish the Raiders the best in their stadium quest. Our work is independent of theirs. We are focused on building a ballpark in our hometown for our fans."

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Supervisors will hold a public hearing and vote on a term sheet for a stadium proposal designed to keep the Raiders in Oakland.

Rewind: With another close loss, clock is ticking for Kings in 2016-17

Rewind: With another close loss, clock is ticking for Kings in 2016-17

SACRAMENTO -- Carmelo Anthony missed a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining in the Kings-Knicks game Friday evening at Golden 1 Center. DeMarcus Cousins, like he had done most of the night, gobbled up the rebound. The Kings All-Star big took a couple of dribbles and then launched a majestic 52-foot shot that was right on target.

Instead of sliding through the net to force overtime, the shot caught front iron and careened off the rim. Cousins fell to the floor, acting out the despair that so many Kings fans in attendance felt. Kings lost by a final of 103-100.

The plan was laid out by coach Dave Joerger in the first week of training camp. First learn to how compete and then learn how to win. It was always going to be a process, but after another tough loss, this time on their home floor, the Sacramento Kings are becoming the poster child for “close, but no cigar.”

“We didn’t make a shot in the last minute, minute ten seconds,” Joerger said following the game. “It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody’s trying to miss. We executed and got where we wanted.”

Sacramento got the stops they needed, although they still gave up a few tough offensive rebounds down the stretch. The game came down to their inability to finish on the offensive side of the ball.

Down one with 21.9 seconds remaining, Cousins cut through two Knick defenders and stood all alone at the basket. His two-footer somehow rolled off the rim and into the hands of the Knicks.  

With 3.9 seconds remaining and Sacramento trailing by 103-100, Rudy Gay missed a contested 3-pointer that would have tied the game. Again, no one tries to miss a game-tying shot.

You can’t ask for much more if you are Joerger. His best two players had the ball in their hands repeatedly down the stretch. They even had open looks, but sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you need it to.

“It’s tough - frustrating loss,” veteran Omri Casspi said following the game. “Basically it comes down to down the stretch, making plays and knocking down shots. I felt like we had good shots, we’ve just got to make them.”

Sacramento shot just 7-of-21 from the field (33.3 percent) in the fourth quarter, but the ball movement stopped late in the fourth, especially when Ty Lawson left the game at the 5:19 mark.

The Kings did a nice job of defending the Knicks down the stretch, but it always comes down to a missed layup, a slow rotation or an offensive rebound by the opposition that does them in.

“We competed throughout the whole night, it’s just small mistakes,” Cousins said following the loss. “We’ve got to correct those or we’re going to continue to lose close games.”

The clock is ticking for Sacramento. With the loss, they have now lost four of their last five and sit at 8-14 on the season. Their schedule to-date was considered the second toughest in the NBA and it doesn’t get any easier Saturday night when they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on the second night of a back-to-back.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Darren Collison said. “We can’t sit there and say that we’re going to figure it out and lose these games because the West is not going to wait for us. We’ve got to be able to play - play the right way.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Kings. They see improvement, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump. They have been within in striking distance late in games in each of their last four losses, but the process of finishing games has been a difficult one.

“I think we’re in a good place, we’ve just got to continue to grow, keep our heads up, stay positive,” Cousins said. “I think we’ll be fine. Hate to say it, but it’s a learning curve.”

Sacramento will be tested on what they learned against the Knicks when they face a well rested, but injury riddled Jazz team that plays extremely hard under coach Quin Snyder.