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Raiders' possible Coliseum finale brings anything but Christmas cheer

Raiders' possible Coliseum finale brings anything but Christmas cheer

For all the time, care and diligence the NFL has put into keeping Eric Reid from testing positive for anything except basic bodily fluids, it could have applied a few minutes to the problem of the weekend.
 
Namely, flexing the Raiders’ game on Christmas Eve to another day and time. Say, like Sunday at 2 a.m.
 
You know the story by now – because of the happy confluence of construction deadlines in Nevada, local politics in Oakland and the general malaise that wraps itself around the football team like a Velcro skin, Monday night’s game between the gentlemen and the Denver Broncos has that worst of all possibilities.
 
A meaningless game that might have nothing, but meaning or might not. A celebration of football and secular-religious festivity that might turn into a stadium-wide brawl, or might not. A night of family bonding in which children want to talk about Santa while the adults would prefer to concentrate on Jon Gruden, or might not.
 
Monday night, and the last, maybe, Raider game ever in Oakland – a referendum on how many ways the Raiders can kill buzz on a night in which football really doesn’t belong anyway.
 
It still isn’t a guarantee that the Raiders will leave Oakland for good after Monday’s game, though the threat is clearly there since the city of Oakland decided to gamble a year’s rent to win hundreds of millions of dollars. All the Raiders have to do is find somewhere that will take them in 2019, a elaborate house hunt that might well end up in a figurative manger, if we must.
 
But for the moment, the spectre that this is the anti-est of climaxes is the thing that sells this game, with everything from empty sections and dispirited tailgaters to drunken protests and burning jerseys in the scrum.
 
And the NFL, which can move games from one country to another at the drop of a divot, decided that this king-hell bummer, scheduled at the worst conceivable time on the least attractive day, will show it all – the uncertainty, the angst, the bitterness, the betrayal, the way the stadium sausage is made.

I mean, who books this stuff, the White House?
 
First, the day itself. The NFL used to avoid Christmas and Christmas Eve like it feared divine retribution. It played the 1950 championship game in Cleveland on a Christmas Eve (the game drew less than 30,000 in an 80,000-seat stadium) and then went another two decades before playing the AFC first-round playoff games in 1971 on Christmas Day, and because people liked the two-overtime Kansas City Chiefs-Miami Dolphins game so much, the league stopped avoiding the Christmas holidays.
 
Because the NFL is, after all, bigger than Jesus.

[RELATED: How Raiders can broaden their search for new home stadium in 2019]
 
Okay, enough sectarianism. This isn’t really about playing on Christmas Eve anyway; the league has played 26 games on The Night Before Christmas in the last two years and the nation is no worse off than it would have been anyway, which is still pretty damned bad.
 
This is about the Raiders, and the last game that might not be. There isn’t a single story line that comes from this game that is good. Oakland depressed or Oakland enraged, empty seats or felonies on the half-shell.
 
It is more likely that Raider fans who believe this is the last waltz will skip the whole enterprise. Going back to 1981, there have been nine teams that have moved to another geographic area, and the only one that left a visible scar in the stadium was Cleveland in 1995 – and that town got a new team in four years.
 
But San Diego left 15,000 seats unbought for the Chargers' finale in 2016, as did St. Louis the year before. Houston drew only 15,131 to its last game before the Oilers changed names and relocated to Tennessee, and the previous final Raider game in Oakland in 1981 drew 10,000 below capacity in a 23-6 loss to the Chicago Bears.
 
In other words, people don’t do wakes unless they have to, and they certainly don’t see the value in going to a wake on Christmas Eve. In short, while the other events that make this franchise the hot mess it is were beyond the league’s control, scheduling this game on this night wasn’t.
 
But that’s Roger Goodell’s problem, and Mark Davis’ problem, and Libby Schaaf’s problem, and maybe even chief of police Anne Kirkpatrick’s problem. However this turns out, even if the Raiders sign that one last lease, this will be just one more septic backup, only with tinsel.
 
So ho, ho, and against our better judgment, ho. Current events eat history, and the future saddens more than it cheers. Meanwhile, the NFL has only two more opportunities to make sure Eric Reid's urine is clear.

Happy holidays, if that’s your idea of a good time.

MLB rumors: Giants have major presence during Troy Tulowitzki workout

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USATSI

MLB rumors: Giants have major presence during Troy Tulowitzki workout

Free agent infielder Troy Tulowitzki drawing interest from both Bay Area teams is not news. 

But if it's news to you, allow me to indulge you.

The shortstop, who was released by the Jays recently, is a Bay Area native, and even grew up an A's fan.

[RELATED: Tulo to the A's?]

During a workout in front of multiple teams, the Giants that had the biggest showing to watch him, according to Jeff Passan:

This would work for numerous reasons beyond just the fact that his agent said he's willing to come back to the Bay -- even willing to switch positions -- an interesting note considering he's been known to only want to play at shortstop.

[RELATED: Giants in on Tulo]

First things first, he's still owed $38 million by Toronto, so the monetary factor isn't much of a factor at all. Farhan Zaidi's theme is wanting smaller contracts both in money and timing terms which sounds very Tulo-esque at the moment. He doesn't exactly need the money.

Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria are locked in at the left side of the infield, but with the possibilities of him playing at second base becoming a thing, he could take the form of a platoon bat, which is something manager Bruce Bochy has been talking about a lot as of late. 

"I really believe in platooning when it's the right situation, I do," Bochy said on a recent episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "Why not? It makes sense when the splits are that significant on a certain hitter. If you can get the right player (off) the bench, now you're getting everybody involved, you're resting guys, you're getting a better matchup. All these things make it easier for me."

It's also rumored Tulo wasn't a fan of the Giants growing up, but it's doubtful that's going to be anything of significance. He wants to play even if he did spent a decade playing for the Giants' NL West rival Rockies.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say "if he can stay healthy ... " but that term was almost invented because of guys like him. 

With all said and done, seeing the five-time All-Star in a Bay Area uniform is something we should keep our mind open to. 

Kings Under Review: Breaking down Sacramento's wild back-to-back set

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USATI

Kings Under Review: Breaking down Sacramento's wild back-to-back set

It's been a wild 48 hours for the Sacramento Kings. On Sunday afternoon, they bested the Dallas Mavericks in their first look at rookie Luka Doncic. Monday evening in Minnesota, the Kings struggled early and turned to the bench after the first quarter in a 27-point loss.

There are always highs and lows in an 82 game NBA season, but the last two days have been a whirlwind for the Kings. The win over Dallas drew rave reviews and the loss to the T-Wolves requires some major explanation.

Sacramento currently stands at 16-14 on the season. Here are a few positives and negatives from the last two games:

POSITIVE

Team Effort

The starting backcourt of De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are becoming a force, but the duo weren't the only ones to shine against the Mavericks.

Nemnaja Bjelica found his range, knocking down 4-of-7 from behind the arc to finish with 15 point and 10 rebounds. He also defended Harrison Barnes well, limiting the combo-forward to 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while blocking his shot four times.

Starting for the injured Iman Shumpert, Bogdan Bogdanovic posted 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Bogdanovic has been really good with the second unit for Sacramento and his ability to play multiple positions as either a starter or off the bench highlights his versatility. 

Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos were solid at the center position and Yogi Ferrell hit some big shots against his former team.

NEGATIVE

Same Group, Different Result

After impressive showings in Dallas, Fox, Bogdanovic, Cauley-Stein and Bjelica came out flat in Minny and the game was over quick.

The quartet combined to shoot 2-of-13 from the field for six total points. Coach Dave Joerger pulled the plug on the experiment early, so the sample size is small.

Playing their third game in four nights, it was clear from his post game comments that Joerger had an idea coming in that he might rest his starting group.

Buddy Hield was the lone first team player to make shots, finishing the night with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 18 minutes of action.

Joerger chose to go with a reserve unit to start the second half. The team hit Minnesota with a 21-2 run to cut the deficit to 12 points in the third, but the coach kept his starters on the bench and allowed the game to take it's course.

POSITIVE

Stay Ready

Joerger went deep to his bench in Dallas. Really deep.

Skal Labissiere played 29 minutes for Sacramento after totaling 40 minutes over the first 29 games of the season. The 22-year-old looked a little rusty at times, but he ran the floor, swiped at shots in the paint and hit a pair of 3-pointers. For a player that hasn't sniffed the court in a long time, Labissiere showed that he has remained ready.

Harry Giles also played well in extended minutes. The rookie big posted 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. His perimeter jumper was on point, but he managed to grab just one rebound in 21 minutes.

Yogi Ferrell chipped in 16 points and Frank Mason added 12 points and six assists in 23 minutes of action with the reserves.

POSITIVE

A Split

Regardless of how poorly the Kings played in Dallas or the decision to sit the starters, Sacramento still earned a split in an extremely difficult two game set.

The Kings are 6-3 over their last nine games, including big wins over the Pacers, Timberwolves and Mavericks.

There are going to be ups and downs over an 82 game schedule. Despite the drubbing in Minnesota, the Kings are 2-1 against the T-Wolves on the season and own 16-14 record through the first 30 games.

Expectations are shifting. The Kings' schedule to finish 2018 is still extremely difficult, but the team has a shot to finish the calender year over .500, which hasn't happened since the 2004-05 season.