Kings' divorce from Sacramento is inevitable


Kings' divorce from Sacramento is inevitable

The news that the Dancing Maloofs seem finally to have found a relocation partner in Virginia Beach, VA, came neither as surprise nor outrage back in Sacramento. It seems that the town that housed the Kings has come to grips with the fact that the team wasn't really a member of the family after all, but just an upstairs tenant.This is a mature realization most fans never grasp -- the notion that your favorite team really isn't yours at all, but just something you get to have for awhile.It is also the fatigue talking. The Maloof family, having blown up most of its outside fortune, tried to squeeze more juice from the lemon of the basketball team and the town in which it resided than there was juice to have, and the town finally gave up rather than in. It has decided to redefine the term "big league city," and the money it saved by not giving in to the Maloofs' need for a tow line will determine what kind of city Sacramento is in the future.RELATED: Report -- Virginia Beach-Kings arena details worked out
That, though, is the future. The here and now is that the Kings are performing a slow-motion funeral in a city that gave it renewed life after the wilderness years in Kansas City and Omaha, and the most-moved team in the history of North American professional sports (don't forget Rochester and Cincinnati, after all) will be moved again this time potentially to a state that has had only one other pro franchise ever, the late and largely unnoted Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association.Which, hilariously enough, began as the Oakland Oaks. Northern California -- Gateway To The Chesapeake. But we digress from today's civics lesson. As Sacramento learns to divorce itself slowly from the basketball team that helped define it, Virginia Beach has just gotten a gift from the sky sort of. It had no great professional sports aspirations, but it had a population, and then it had plans for an arena (which might be built in part by Comcast Spectacor's Global Spectrum, its venue management division, it must be noted), and then it had a team.This is all contingent, apparently, on the state of Virginia throwing 150 million to help finish the project, and as we know, that kind of money tends to make fiscal conservatives sit up, take notice and make noises. In short, this isn't actually close to being done, because state-sponsored welfare for sports teams is less popular than it used to be.But the marriage between Sacramento and the Kings is now pretty much one in name only. Those who care about the Kings have watched their personal needles move from the purple of loving the team to the red of hating the Maloofs more. They know that even if Virginia Beach doesn't happen, Seattle is heating up in the bullpen ready to make its play. And they know the Maloofs are down to the strings in their pockets, and would happily sell the team to Nova Scotia interests to get out of their ever-worsening financial jam.There are lessons here for everyone, of course. There always are. No matter what the event, there is some ethereal pinched schoolmarm standing off in the fog holding an iPad and standing in front of a whiteboard with some hellish lecture to deliver. That's one of the sucky things about moments like this -- someone is always there to tell you what it means, when you already know what it means.In Sacramento, though, it means the end. The end of a nearly 30-year relationship that started so well, became contentious and even ugly, and is now just worn out.Virginia Beach may happen, or it may collapse under the weight of local politics and legal bribery. Deals aren't deals until everyone has been dealt with.But the failure of this deal would only mean a new one down the road, and more of the scab-picking that has already wrecked Sacramento's links to the Kings. The city seems done with the entire process, and even those who still believe in some deus ex machina to save the team must know that it is just one more band-aid. They have learned that their team really isn't theirs after all, and there is no repairing that feeling once it is lost.

Silent but effective Sharks look to be an under-the-radar power

Silent but effective Sharks look to be an under-the-radar power

The National Hockey League began its 685th season (or whatever the hell it is; the other reason to know is for the yobs who have to authenticate the shoulder patches), and apparently is going to belong to Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid and the new focus on speed and attack and goals.

At least that was the talk after Night One of 179, in which the first three games of the new season featured some mid-‘80s level run-and-run play. The Ottawa-Toronto game gave us Matthews’ first four NHL goals in a game his Torontos lost, 5-4. The Edmonton-Calgary game finished 7-4, with the nonpareil McDavid scoring twice. Even the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks engaged in some fun-time up-and-down play in a 5-2 St. Louis victory.

But here, we get cold, hard sanity – the discipline and territorial integrity that is the hallmark of the new-ish and ever-so-slightly improved San Jose Sharks. They opened their defense of the Not-Quite-Stanley Cup with a very grind-y 2-1 win over the allegedly declining but still obstinate Los Angeles Kings.

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Couture, Burns push Sharks past Kings]

Guess which game won’t be talked about come the morning’s national rehashes. And guess who won’t give a farthing’s worth of damn.

Matthews and McDavid will of course dominate – Matthews, because he is a Toronto Maple Leafs and all things Leaf trump all things anything else in this still-defiantly Canadian league, and McDavid, because he helped usher in the brand new civic boondoggle . . . err, arena in Edmonton with two goals and the quote of the night.

“I don't think I touched the puck four times in my first game,” McDavid said, telling what is clearly a monumental whopper because he knows a good story when it is thrust upon him.

That will get run.

The Sharks, on the other hand, have resumed their plan running silent and running deep. Despite having the territorial and chance edges, the Skating Selachimorpha needed to stay true to their truth, which is that 11-goal games are not to their advantage, and that the sum of the whole must exceed its parts.

That’s how they got to hang a new banner from the rafters of The Old Grey Girl on Santa Clara Street – by keeping their heads when all about them are scoring theirs off.

Then again, the Sharks have older legs in key positions, greater expectations than Get The Puck To The Young’uns and Try Not To Finish 13th, and a coach in Peter (Chuckles) DeBoer who has the pressure of taking last year’s stealth success and finish the job the Pittsburgh Penguins prevented them from doing a year ago.

In short, the Sharks are likely to be just as under-the-radar this year as they were last, and assuming health and focus, they are still one of the two or three best teams in the Western Conference.

It’s just that they can’t run hither and yon chasing whatever puck looks tempting to them. Their first duty is to maintain defensive integrity, which they did with fervor and purpose Wednesday night, and their second is to see to it that goaltender Martin Jones is not oppressively treated by the opponent (San Jose outshot Los Angeles 31-22, and totally outshot the Kings, 73-58).

There was, in short, relatively little to make anyone wax euphoric about this team off one game, and in fairness, Kings coach Darryl Sutter knows how to keep games into the race-to-three stage, which may color the judgment some.

But the Sharks are playing the way they have learned works best for them, and that means gumming up passing (15 takeaways) and shooting lanes (21 blocked shots). They are like the Kings – well, the Kings of a couple of years ago – than they are the newest incarnations of the Oilers or Leafs, and based on history, that shall be considered a good thing.

Of course, the game, she is a’changing, and at some point in the next couple of years the changes that every season brings will become substantive ones, the old core will give way to a new one, and the current orthodoxy that speed is the most important component to happy-happy-win-joy will overtake San Jose.

DeBoer, though, showed against last night that is perfectly comfortable dancing with who brung him, as the kids no longer say, and making the most of what Providence has offered him. And Wednesday, as it did for most of the past year save the lost fortnight in Pennsylvania, that philosophy once again came up trumps.

Well, maybe that’s a saying we should probably forgo for awhile. Let’s just leave it at “Sharks, twice as many as Kings.” That’s a good enough result to get paid off in this league, and until DeBoer is asked for style points, that will more than suffice.

49ers Faithful-ish watch while Kelly refuses to make QB change


49ers Faithful-ish watch while Kelly refuses to make QB change

Chip Kelly injured his left ear before Thursday night’s Cardinals-49ers game and had to hold a towel against it to stanch the flow of blood.

He did not, however, have enough terrycloth to cauterize what came next – another standard substandard performance by the San Franciscii, a 33-21 loss to Arizona that lowered the 49ers’ record to Gabbert Watch.

That’s where we are now, after another tedious offensive effort that Kelly accurately pinned on everyone involved.  He has been determined not to let this season deteriorate into a Blame Blaine campaign, but his highest praise for the quarterback and his offense came with the use of the word “sporadic,” and “sporadic” is typically the sendoff line before a trip to Clipboard City.

And if Kelly could do that to his offensive line, receivers, defense and special teams as well . . . well, it would be 2018, and this would all be in the organizational rear-view mirror.

But it isn’t, and it isn’t going to be. The 49ers don’t play again for 10 days, and when they do it will be in Buffalo, and it may well be with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, although Kelly reiterated (as in repeated yet again) that Gabbert remains the superior practice practitioner.

But will that make much difference? Not without a massive cleansing elsewhere, and the Cardinal game showed that there are still miles to go for this team before the basement is found.

Gabbert threw two interceptions, but he wasn’t responsible for the fumble on the second-half kickoff by Mike Davis, or the taunting penalty by Carlos Hyde that negated a first down, or the running into the kicker penalty by Rashard Robinson that turned a short Arizona field goal into a David Johnson touchdown run. Nor was Gabbert the guilty party in Johnson’s second-ever 100-yard game, a 157-yard, two-score evening that frankly looked like it could have been even better.

But he did manage to have a lower quarterback rating than a guy (Drew Stanton) who, filling in for the concussed Carson Palmer, completed only 11 of 28 passes for 38 fewer yards than Gabbert, and but for the grace of Larry Fitzgerald could have had the worst game by any quarterback this year.

And at some point, a coach is backed into a corner where he has to do something just for the sake of doing something. After all, when said coach can say “They got 17 points off 41 yards,” he has thought about the mistakes his team made and is beginning to be weighed down by them as he tries to change them and live with them until they are changed.

Indeed, whatever he changes he proposes to the week-by-week roster, he will get no argument from Jed York, who watched 45,000 or so of his 70,000 seats go paid for but unused by a fan base that (a) didn’t want to fight the traffic, but worse, (b) didn’t want to watch his football team. That’s an awful lot of voting with your couch, and not all of that is because of the in-game experience.

Put another way, the 45,000 Faithful-ish didn’t stay home to watch Temple-Memphis, or Louisiana Tech-Western Kentucky (which was a way better game), or Red Sox-Indians, which was also a way better game. The NFL’s Thursday night ratings are down, and this was the poster child for their continued erosion.

In fact searching for sporting events that weren’t way better games would take some doing, and therein lies the organizational problem. The 49ers have been abandoned by their Faithful (at least on weekday nights) because there is no light at the end of this particular tunnel. Nobody truly believes that Kaepernick changes this team in any substantive way.

Even Kelly, in resisting the notion that this is a transitional year, thought to remind us, “I wasn’t here last year, so I’m not really transitioning from anything.”

Except maybe unemployment, but that’s another tale from a bygone time.

Still, the season still has 68 percent of its life span to live, and even if Kelly isn’t going to be the one to gin up hope for the hell of it, it seems increasingly clear that he is running out of ideas to get the team to gin up hope on its own.

The greater trick, anyway, is for York and his marketing wizards to figure out a way to get those 45,000 people back, because they might have discovered Thursday night that their living rooms are a better entertainment choice . . . or a local eatery . . . or a local saloon . . . or just sitting in their cars, looking on their phones for another team to like.

Hey, La Tech put up 55 tonight. You gotta start somewhere.