The Sacramento Kings haven't had a winning season since 2005-06, when their team featured Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic and Ron Artest (AKA Metta World Whatever). This year's edition doesn't figure to reach .500 either, but the Kings do have some quality young talent in Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, and have won 4 of their last 5 games, including a 106-101 win over the Thunder on Thursday night. They sit at 10-16 going into tonight's game against the Suns in Sacramento.
Thursday night wasn't as good for the Suns, as they dropped a winnable game to the Rockets and played their starters a lot of minutes in the process due to woeful bench play. If the game against the Rockets was a measuring stick to see how far the Suns can rise, this game could be seen as a measuring stick for how far they can fall. Last season, the Kings beat the Suns in 3 of their 4 meetings despite the fact that, let's be honest here, the Kings had a terrible team.
This year's version of the Kings looks to be slightly improved, as Evans and Cousins gain more experience and they're adjusting to new head coach Keith Smart, promoted from assistant after a 2-5 start and a near-mutiny under former Suns player and coach Paul Westphal.
It's tempting to look at this game on the schedule and think the Suns "should" win, but these are fairly evenly matched teams.
Read on for more........
Is DeMarcus Cousins an emerging franchise big man or a selfish coach killer? The answer to that question is the key to the Kings hopes for the future. The #5 overall pick in the 2010 draft was suspended by former coach Paul Westphal for being, according to Westphal, "unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team; it cannot be ignored indefinitely." Four days later, Westphal was fired, as the Kings decided it was easier to replace a middling head coach than a 21-year old tremendously athletic (almost) 7-footer.
Cousins is a rebounding monster at 11.4 per game, 4.3 of them offensive rebounds. Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye will have their hands full, and Robin Lopez will have to see more action than he did Thursday when he sat out the entire second half. The good news is that the rest of the Kings bigs, Jason Thompson, J.J. Hickson and Chuck Hayes, are nothing special, and they're not an effective rebounding team overall.
On the offensive end for the Kings, Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton figure to carry the load. Thornton isn't shy about hoisting 3-pointers, taking over 6 of them a game. He hit two huge 3s late in their game against the Thunder to help seal the deal. Hey Suns, please do NOT leave him alone in the corner!
For the Suns, the obvious area for improvement is bench play after their train wreck of an effort Thursday. Michael Redd is becoming a solid contributor, a welcome addition to a team in frequent need of an offensive boost. But Sebastian Telfair, Josh Childress, Markieff Morris and Robin Lopez have been far from dependable.
How long before Alvin Gentry goes back to Ronnie Price at backup PG? Or gives Zabian Dowdell a call? Or maybe tries to coax Frank Johnson or Elliot Perry out of retirement? I'm open for any of these possibilities because watching Telfair makes my head hurt.
Channing Frye looks to finally be coming around as he's scored 19, 14 and 21 in the last three games, but his 3-point % is still only at 31%, well below his career average of 39%. If Frye would like to go on a tear right about now, that would give the Suns a huge lift. Some of the team's problems were to be expected, Frye's poor shooting was not.
The Suns are currently #12 in the West, while the Kings are #14. A loss would drop the Suns to #13 so, let's try not to lose, huh?
"NO RETREAT! NO SURRENDER! THIS IS SPARTA LAW! And by Spartan law, we will stand and fight... and die."
"O-kay. We see where you're going with this. But hear us out. What if, like, instead of fighting to win, you like, lose some battles, so you're more effective later?"
"WHO ARE YOU?!? Who are these Cretins? Why aren't you dressed in battle armor?"
"Oh, we don't actually fight with you. We more like cheer from the sidelines. See those logs all tied up and webbed together beside the battlefield? We sit there and sort of tell you what you should do."
"THE PERSIANS ARE ALREADY HERE! We've made a giant wall out of boulders and their bodies! Why do you want us to not fight our hardest?"
"You see, there's some fine up and coming young fighters, and if you lose a lot, you would get first pick! So by strategically having some of your best warriors hide in that water tank over there part of the time, you could throw a few battles, BUT next year pick up some young stud who has a 7' wingspan!"
"CAPTAIN! GET OVER HERE! These young gentle men wants us to throw some battles. What say you?"
Captain gNash shakes the hair out of his eyes as he splits yet another giant warrior with his sword. He high 5's several comrades as he rushes to King Alvgentridas' side. "I say we fight on!" he cries as yet another foe's head is sent spinning free from its body.
"LIEUTENANT! How say you?"
Lieutenant Goretat raises his mighty hammer and shatters the shield of the enemy before him, He brings down his terrible beak upon the helm of his foeman, cracking the iron and sending shards into his brain. Spitting a piece of blood vessel from his mouth, Goretat exclaims, "We battle to the death!"
"No, you don't get it. We really like our idea. If you just don't try so hard, you might get some real sharpshooter in the offseason."
"HAVE YOU NO FIRE IN YOUR BELLY? What young fighter would wish to join our band if we were of the ilk who lay down their arms?"
"Changeling was doing so well, missing shot after shot, his longbow always off target. And Chilldrax was way off with that wacky swing of his. But now he's slashing, and slicing and dicing! You'll do no better than middle of the road! That's just madness!"
"MADNESS? THIS. IS. PHOENICIA!!! This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die!"
With a mighty crash of swords upon shields, the orange-clad knights followed their battle-hardened captain into the fray once again, to do or die trying, leaving a pile of young bucks, hawk feathers, cat skins, and bear limbs in the wake of their slaughter.
The webbedloggers caught one look of the grim faces on the Sun-emblazoned fighters and skeedaddled over the hillside-- unless they, too, were ready to join the battle!