Apr 22, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun (61) checks Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) into the boards in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bay Area Buzz 4/23: Sharks-Kings, Stephen Curry, Young Stars

Sharks-Kings is a rivalry without teeth

When the theatrically bombastic Jack Kent Cooke bought into the NHL as an expansion owner in 1966, creating the Kings, he envisioned tapping into a rich market – hundreds of thousands of Canadians resettled in greater Los Angeles.

When the expats failed to spin the Kings’ turnstiles, Cooke groused, “Now I know why all these Canadians moved to Los Angeles. They hate hockey.”

Eventually the Kings gained enough popularity to pack Cooke’s Fabulous Forum, and now they’re packing Staples Center, loving hockey but hating the Sharks.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Kings vs. Sharks is a rivalry in its infancy. There’s a spark there, and it heated up a tiny bit more here Tuesday night when the Sharks beat the Kings 4-3 in overtime, souring the Kings’ hopes of getting back into the series after being clobbered twice in San Jose.

The L.A. fans were quiet at the start, and the house got more somber when Brent Burnsknocked home a knuckleball in the first period for the Sharks’ eighth unanswered goal. But the fans woke up when their Kings battled back.

The Kings dominated the early overtime until Patrick Marleau’s winning goal. This won’t sit well with the Kings and their fans. Maybe there’s still hope for this rivalry to get legs, or skates.

These teams could hate one another over contrasting heritages. The Kings and their fans have endured way more seasons of character-building angst and frustration. Sharks fans have never truly suffered, but they also have never hoisted a Stanley Cup. The Kings’ championship trophy from 2012 still has that new-Cup smell.

So far that difference hasn’t fueled a major hatred. One problem is that when the Sharks and Kings play, the home team wins. Happy fans are too busy cheering to get chippy with enemy interlopers.

I chatted with several Sharks fans before the game, and they said they feel like semi-respected guests behind enemy lines.

“We’re treated pretty well,” said Neil Vachani, who grew up in the Bay Area and lives in L.A. “Even the razzing is mild.”

“It’s really nice, actually,” said Kiersten Slader of Danville, rocking her Sharks gear.

As Sharks fan David Eskanos said, “Fortunately (for his safety), the Sharks lose a lot here. It’s much nicer and easier on us when the Kings are winning. People shut up.”

The home-ice thing really is a wet blanket on this rivalry. In the past 25 games between these two clubs the home team is 22-1-2.

Logan Couture recently said, “Our fans don’t like their fans,” but if he’s right, it’s fairly one-sided. The Kings’ true rival is the nearby Anaheim Ducks. And Los Angeles sports fans in general don’t have the resentment or dislike for San Francisco’s teams and cultures that many Bay Area fans harbor for Los Angeles.

The reason this rivalry has a chance, besides the L.A.-vs.-Frisco thing: Both teams are good.

The Kings existed 25 years before the Sharks were born. The Sharks hit the ground winning, just when the Kings were slipping into a long coma. The Sharks made the playoffs 15 of the past 16 seasons. The Kings, between 1994 and 2011, won one playoff series.

Now they’re both riding high, colliding in the playoffs three times in the past four seasons. If they keep meeting like this, bad blood is sure to boil. But it’s not automatic just because of geography.

The Giants and Dodgers are the gold standard for intrastate hate, but they got a head start in New York a century ago and have battled mostly on even terms.

The 49ers vs. the Los Angeles Rams never heated up. For the Rams, the 49ers often were a rest stop on the road to glory. For the same reason, Warriors vs. Lakers never caught fire.

A history lesson might help fire a Kings-Sharks rivalry. You have to go back a bit, but the Kings (and Lakers) once embodied the stereotypical shallowness of L.A., thanks to the faux-regal Cooke.

A lover of color and flash and glitz, Cooke dressed his hockey players in garish purple (he called it Forum blue) and gold, gave his players nicknames (Cowboy Bill, Eddie the Jet, the Entertainer) and ordered his radio and TV announcers to use ‘em. He cultivated the Hollywood crowd, bringing glamour to a sport that prides itself on blue-collar grit.

Cooke, if he were still alive, would be disappointed. The Kings are no longer glitzy and live near the bottom of the L.A. sports food chain, way below the Lakers and Dodgers, even behind the nouveau-cool Clippers.

–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle

Warriors need Curry to carry them

Unselfishness sounds like a wonderful attribute. But for Stephen Curry and the Warriors, it is a detriment, one that led to their embarrassing 138-98 Game 2 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sticking to the game plan that worked in Game 1, Curry inviting the double teams, and sharing the ball proved to be a disastrous idea Monday. Curry’s teammates weren’t hitting shots, and the Warriors defense was helpless against the vengeful Clippers assault.

The Warriors were laughed out of Staples Center, trailing by as much as 40. They needed their star to carry them to competitiveness. Instead, the nation watched as the Clippers negated his greatness.

Yes, the Warriors head home with a 1-1 series tie, the goal of any road team. But they also go to Oracle Arena with an important lesson: The “others” are not going to beat the Clippers. In order to upset this No. 3 seed, the sixth-seeded Warriors need Curry to be Curry.

“I’ve got to make plays. I’ve got to find ways to not let them take me out the game,” Curry said. “Double teams, that’s the point of why they’re trying to do it. I had to get to my spots where I can be efficient even if they’re going to double-team me.”

Curry the Baby-Faced Assassin is what the Warriors need. Curry the first-team All-NBA candidate. Curry the multifaceted offensive weapon who frustrates defenses with his versatile arsenal.

They need him to score and pass. They need him to draw double teams and beat them. And by no means is it acceptable for him to be reduced to a floor general.

Curry the distributor works only if the recipients of his passes make the defense pay for doubling him. As Warriors coach Mark Jackson points out, Curry is all too happy to oblige.

Monday showed exactly why the Clippers are forcing Curry’s supporting cast to beat them. It’s not good enough to produce regularly.

In Game 1, the Warriors looked like the Harlem Globetrotters — whipping the ball around the paint, getting dunks and open 3s. In Game 2, they were the Washington Generals, kicking the ball, missing open looks, too discombobulated to get anything going.

It just shows why stars are so important in playoff basketball. And the Warriors’ star was rendered ineffective. By the Clippers’ persistent double teams. By an oversimplified game plan. By his struggles getting past athletic, physical point guards.

At halftime, the Warriors were down 26, shooting 43.2 percent with 15 turnovers. And it felt as though they weren’t giving their best shot because Curry was just 1 of 6 from the field — and the last few attempts were forced because he hadn’t taken a shot in so long.

Klay Thompson was in foul trouble. David Lee had nothing going. And the Warriors’ second unit was getting thoroughly outplayed by the Clippers reserves. Game 2 was a wrap before the Warriors could get their biggest weapon out of the holster.

This team isn’t built for Curry to play the pacifist. Golden State has some good players who can hurt opponents on any given night. But in the playoffs, it’s about stars. The Warriors have Curry and a host of guys who need the right circumstances.

To beat the Clippers, the Warriors will need all those guys to produce — Thompson, Lee, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green. And that’s in addition to Curry being Curry.

If one positive emerged from the Warriors’ shellacking it is that a fire seemed to have been lit in Curry. Who knows why it took so long in Game 2, but with Golden State down 30, he hit another gear.

He stopped succumbing to the double-team so easily and giving the ball up, looking to create his own opportunities. And he did.

He took Paul one-on-one off the dribble. He attacked the paint by splitting defenders. He forced himself to get to the spots he wanted on the floor.

The right Curry showed up way too late in Game 2.

–Marcus Thompson II, Bay Area News Group

Young Bay Area stars Kaepernick, Sandoval still need to prove their worth

Two young stars, Pablo Sandoval and Colin Kaepernick, are seeking new contracts. So far, the Giants and 49ers have resisted. I think that’s wise.

The Giants are in danger of losing Sandoval if they don’t sign him to a new contract before the end of the season. There are surely teams with deep enough pockets to grab him. One of them is fewer than 400 miles south.

The Giants’ position has been that if Sandoval shows he merits a huge raise, they’ll sign him to that contract before the season ends. Right now, it’s by no means certain that he’ll be worth it.

When he declined precipitously last season, his expanding waist line was thought to be the problem. Certainly, it made a significant difference in the field because he could no longer bend for ground balls or move very far.

But did it affect his hitting? There have often been hitters who were effective despite being hopelessly overweight.

That includes some stars. Hack Wilson was shaped like a beer barrel, fittingly enough, when he hit 56 homers with 191 RBIs in 1930. Those 191 RBIs still stand as a Major League Baseball record.

Even Babe Ruth, who was in good shape at the start of his career, put on considerable weight, which hurt him as a fielder and on the base paths but didn’t stop him from hitting prodigious and frequent home runs.

So Sandoval’s hitting problems may simply be that pitchers have figured him out.

Oddly enough, that may mean throwing strikes. He’s been a noted bad ball hitter in his career, but he may be having problems with fastballs on the inside part of the plate. Pitchers have always done intense study on hitters — and vice versa — and there are now many more videos they can study.

He’s a long way from the hitter who slammed three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. His slump has now extended from the second half of last season to the start of this one. As beloved as he’s been by Giants fans, they may have to soon face life without him.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have the benefit of having much more time to make a decision on Kaepernick. He has another year to go on his contract and they’ll let that ride for another year because giving him a new contract now could wreak havoc with their salary cap situation.

Kaepernick has often made spectacular plays, but his judgment in the red zone is not good, especially in the most critical situations. In the Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he threw three straight incomplete passes into good coverage.

In the NFC Championship Game in January, he challenged Richard Sherman, the NFL’s top cornerback, on what became the final play of the game. Sherman tipped the pass and a teammate grabbed it in the end zone.

–Glenn Dickey, San Francisco Examiner

Tags: Colin Kaepernick Pablo Sandoval San Francisco 49ers San Francisco Giants San Jose Sharks.golden State Warriors Stephen Curry

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