Bay Area gets shunned

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Bay Area gets shunned

Robert Braunstein

On Sunday the CIF announced the teams and sites for the first ever NorCal regional playoffs. The winning teams earn the right to play for a state title the following week, December 15 at the Home Depot Center in Southern California.

You can certainly argue the merits of one team making the regional game over another. Sacred Heart Prep as Section champs has a right to be upset not being chosen after a one loss season and section title. Both McClymonds and Central Catholic have more losses as the two teams chosen to play for the D-IV NorCal crown.

What you cannot argue is how the Bay Area is being slighted by the CIF. With five Bay Area teams earning spots in the NorCals, not one of the games will be played in the Bay Area. All five games will be played in Sacramento or North. In fact, no CIF event in any sport will be played in the Bay Area this year.

I shot the De La Salle game in a downpour Saturday night at Dublin High School, a site that works well for the section title games. I talked with NCS Associate Commissioner Karen Smith at the game and expressed my concern I was only hearing about Sacramento sites for the NorCal games. She assured me there were sites in the Bay Area like Dublin High and Diablo Valley College also being considered.

But neither was chosen, so national power De La Salle will, in effect be the visitor when the Spartans play Folsom at Sacramento State University this Saturday night. I asked the CIF in a conference call why all five Bay Area teams have to travel when there were other options in the Bay Area.

There was no real answer.

They talked about fine facilities where both schools will be honored to play. Sure, the facilities are great, they’re just not in the Bay Area. Clayton Valley is an easy choice to play at Diablo Valley College instead of Lincoln High school. Instead the Ugly Eagles will drive to Lincoln High in Stockton to play Oakdale, a big drive for both teams and against what the CIF tries to avoid in having a neutral site in the middle.

None of this seems to make any sense. The Southern Section has its regional games being played all over Southern California, one game in Long Beach, another in San Diego, another in Orange County. So why is Northern California different? Why is there not a single CIF event scheduled for Northern California this year? Basketball regionals and finals are also in Sacramento and Stockton. The state football finals are in Southern California, as is wrestling, golf, and track and field. Cross Country is in Fresno.  The Volleyball finals were just held in Irvine where the South won three out of the five matches. Sacred Heart Prep lost a fifth game 15-13 after traveling 300 miles to play.

It wasn’t too long ago when CIF final games were played in the Bay Area. The Oakland Coliseum was the site for many state basketball final games. Volleyball finals were played a few years ago at San Jose State’s Events Center. We have lots of great facilities in the Bay Area. Kezar stadium would be a great place to host the St. Ignatius vs Granite Bay game this Friday night. UC Berkeley hosts the NCS Meet of Champions and would be a fine location for a state meet. The CIF doesn’t seem to consider how people will get to these events. How do you get to Bakersfield from the Bay Area for the wrestling finals? You can’t fly there, you have to drive. Not a problem if you live in Southern California, but if your home is the Bay Area it’s kind of a big drive.

Money is the main reason the state basketball finals are at Arco Arena every year (or whatever it’s called now). I understand you get a great deal, but could you not get just as good a deal at UC Berkeley, Maples Pavilion, or San Jose State?

It all comes down to fairness. Bay Area schools are at least an equal part of what should be the equation in putting together sites each year for these games. Bay Area teams shine every year with great representation in every sport in the final games. To not have a single CIF event hosted at a Bay Area site is inexcusable.

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.

Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.

“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.

“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”

The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.

Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.

The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.  

“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”

Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.

Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.

Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.  

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”

Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.

 

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant returns, which could happen as soon as next week, the Warriors will be an appreciably better team than they were when he left.

Better because in Durant’s absence, veteran wing Andre Iguodala found the best of his game and fully regained his shooting confidence.

Better because David West, who spent the first two quarters of the season acclimating to his new teammates and the third on the injury list, has settled in and turned up his fire and production to a level that pleads for more playing time.

Better because Stephen Curry is dancing and Klay Thompson is cooking and Draymond Green is destroying opposing offenses.

Better because everybody on this team can sense the postseason and is making the mental adjustment, while knowing they’ll get an emotional bounce from Durant’s presence on the floor.

“Obviously, you hate to see KD go down; he’s going to be back soon,” Curry told reporters after a 110-98 win over the Spurs in San Antonio. “But we never really lost confidence in ourselves. There was no panic. We’ve just battled.”

Consider that the Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA, are coming off two nights during which they also proved to be the best team. Going into Houston and San Antonio on successive nights, they extended their seven-game win streak to nine, the longest active streak at a time when all playoff teams wish to peak.

By wiping out a 22-point deficit to a Spurs team that simply doesn’t allow that but did anyway even with Green completely off his offensive game.

And this was done with Durant observing and cheering from the bench in street clothes while also learning more about his teammates and appreciating what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Most notably, as a team, what they’ve done on defense. After recovering from the body blow that was losing Durant, losing five of seven in the process, the Warriors have pulled off a dazzling stretch during which they’ve taken apart all comers.

Prior to holding the Spurs to 41 percent from the field, the Warriors limited the explosive Rockets to 38.8 percent, the Grizzlies to 44.7 (34.8 in the decisive second half), the Kings to 48.2, the Mavericks to 35.9, the Thunder to 42.5, the Bucks to 40.4, the Magic to 37.2 and the 76ers to 43.8.

“We play a finesse style . . . but when we’re at our best, you talk about our defense,” Curry said. “It’s about having each other’s back, trying to do little things, physically, to keep teams out of the paint and off the glass.”

What has happened is most everybody in the playing rotation has grown in the absence of Durant. And while some had to if the Warriors were to withstand his loss, that they managed to do so is significant. The evidence is visible and palpable, never more than late Wednesday night.

“We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways,” Curry said. “Whether you’re down 15 and can’t figure out what’s going on in the first quarter, or you put together a beautiful performance for 48 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Night in and night out, you’ve just got to be ready to play."

At no point this season have the Warriors had reason to feel as good as they do returning home to Oracle Arena, where they will play six of their final seven games. Winning five more games gives them the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what the Spurs do.

They’re on top of their game and they’re a few games away from adding the man who was their best player through the first 60 games.

By all appearances and insinuations, Durant will be back for the final two or three games of the regular season. That beats any trade-deadline deal eight days a week.