Kings are princes no more


Kings are princes no more

Programming Note:Comcast SportsNet California will be re-airing the Kings' historic win in Chicago. Don't miss the encore presentation at 4pm on Dec. 26.
Because they're the Kings, and because the Kings are typically regarded as princes (at best) when it comes to Bay Area sports, Monday night didn't quite get the play it deserved -- regionally or nationally.Fortunately, history has way of eventually giving such happenings their due. So come, say, 2024, you'll likely stumble upon some sort of "NBA Classics" channel that's among your 14,347 cable offerings and get a detailed breakdown of Sacramento's mind-blowing 35-point comeback against the Chicago Bulls.First of all, it's important to note that the Kings were down 35 in the second half. Not that bouncing back from 35 down in the second quarter is anything at which to scoff, but what the Kings did is far more impressive than what the comeback-record-holding Utah Jazz did in 1996.The Jazz trailed the Nuggets by 36 in the second quarter and won by four. The Kings trailed the Bulls by 35 with 8:50 left in the third quarter, and they were still down by 33 a couple of minutes later before storming to a four-point win of their own.In short, the Jazz had more than a half -- 27 minutes or so -- to come back from 35. The Kings had about a quarter and a half to come back from 33. Advantage, Kings.How'd they do it? Not even head coach Paul Westphal is sure."I'm not even sure I believe it," he said, "but it sure was fun."That might be understating things. It was beyond fun. It was borderline comical. Once the comeback started, it was like watching the Road Runner tooling Wile E. Coyote. One side did everything right, the other did everything wrong.And the Bulls are no joke. They're a better team than their 10-16 record suggests, at least talent-wise. They've got Joakim Noah, who is a lot better in the NBA than most people expected. Luol Deng is one of the rare former Duke players who's turned into something special as a pro, mostly because he didn't stay at Duke long enough for Coach K to systematically castrate his game. Derrick Rose is a flat stud, and Kings fans are well aware that John Salmons can play a little bit. The Kings, though, have Tyreke Evans, the hands-down pick for Rookie of the Year at this point. Evans outscored the Bulls 9-3 to finish the game, enhancing his steadily growing legend.But Evans was merely the closer on this night, and as is often the case in baseball, the setup man was the real hero who deserved the save. On Monday night, the Kings' setup man was Ime Udoka, who scored 15 of Sacramento's first 22 points of the fourth quarter.Ime Udoka? For real?Yes. Ime Udoka. An undrafted small forward out of Portland State who has played in the Developmental League, in Europe and for the Nigerian National Team, he's averaged 5.9 points per game over parts of six NBA seasons.Think that story might get some play in 2024? Congrats, Kings. Princes no more. When it comes to compelling NBA action, you have the NorCal crown.

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.