Posted by: natehughart | February 11, 2012

Moving on up…….

Well, the day is finally here. I can announce that I’m moving this site to the Bloguin network. The site is remaining the same title, but the URL is changing to “www.evilcowtown.com“.

As far as everything else goes, this site will remain as an archive (it will eventually revert back to the eci.wordpress link but like I said, this will only be an archive so it shouldn’t be an issue).

Hopefully you enjoy the new digs as much as I am already enjoying it.

Nate

Posted by: natehughart | February 10, 2012

Kings beat Thunder 106-101 to win blackout game

Well, first off, I must admit I didn’t see the 1st half of the game, but I doubt that really matters much here. Let’s talk about a few other things instead.

* Ending quarters: The Kings did that. Each quarter the Kings finished out strong, and that’s something this team rarely has done well.

* The end of the game interview with Tyreke Evans/DeMarcus Cousins struck me as a bit odd given that Keith Smart has repeatedly said this Kings team does not have a superstar. It was interesting to see Smart in that interview talk about Evans/Cousins as building blocks, and it was even more interesting to see Smart there talking with Evans and Cousins. That was a very NCAA feel to it even if that was not the intention.

* News to the TNT Studio Crew: Technically NBATV counts as national TV games.

* The Kings had 21 assists and 12 turnovers. The Thunder had 22 turnovers and 13 assists. Recognize those numbers?

* The Kings had 60 points in the paint to the Thunder 34 points in the paint.

* The Kings committed 12 TO’s and the Thunder converted those into 12 points. The Thunder committed 22 turnovers and the Kings turned that into 25 points.

Progress.

* The Kings shot 40% from the field, and the Thunder shot 48% from the field. A big part of that is forcing shots that aren’t there. It’s clear that Keith Smart has helped this team figure out that quality defense can lead to quality offense. Many of the Kings best offensive possessions come off turnovers where easy points are coming easier and more frequently in the last few weeks. Tonight was another continuation off that trend.

* John Salmons shot 2-10 but made the drive that led to the eventual pass by Salmons to Thornton who hit a corner 3 to tie the game at 97 with just over 2 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Along with 7 rebounds, it was nice to see that Salmons could still end up helping the team with something other than scoring.

Salmons illustrated that you can play through missing shots playing fairly tough defense on Durant (I thought Durant’s shots were much harder from what I saw than what has been typically available for Durant in the past), and it was nice to see that Salmons can contribute in more ways than shooting. That’s definitely needed on this team.

* Chuck Hayes shot 4-6 from the field. I love to see that number.

* Tyreke Evans played 38 minutes, Salmons 36 minutes, Thornton 33 minutes, Thompson 30 minutes and Cousins 28 minutes. If Cousins was up to 32-33 minutes I’d be ecstatic about this minute distribution.

* Jason Thompson got his 5th double double tonight with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

* Donte Greene played well again tonight. Hopefully Phoenix is a 3rd game in a row where a positive impact by Donte is made. But, I must admit, I don’t see Donte ever doing a whole lot that isn’t as a stretch 4. Tonight Donte had the opportunity to play that 4 spot more than he sometimes has in recent times.

* The Kings had 4 guys with 3 or more assists tonight: Jason Thompson (3), Marcus Thornton (3), Jimmer Fredette (4) and Tyreke Evans (5). This is hopefully the start of a trend where ball movement is more consistently. There was semblance of ball movement tonight.

* Bottom line, and I could keep going probably for a bit more, the Kings found a way to not get the hinges of the door blown off tonight. There were times when OKC sensed that the Kings were there for the taking, but the Kings managed to hang around. Whether it was getting some baskets in transition, pounding the offensive boards, and not turning the ball over, there were less possessions that ended up with head scratching moments. Were there too many? Yeah, there were.

You can chalk this up to the Kings playing well because they were on national TV (I don’t think that’s it personally), but I do think it’s more like the Kings playing well because they saw the opportunity to win a game. If there is anything this Kings team is doing, this team is learning that momentum only swings in the favor of those who work the hardest in favor of swinging the momentum in their direction. At times, it was OKC. At times, it was Sac. That’s progress. This team is at the point where 10-16 is a bit of a disappointment, but given where this franchise was a month ago, it’s progress in the most real of ways.

The most pleasing aspect of this recent stretch is that Keith Smart has this team’s ear and they are responding. With the talent, and with Smart providing some real insight, this team seems poised to improvement sooner than later.

The Arco Thunder returned once again tonight, and that is the most important aspect of the game. The fans have been waiting for something and a team to really cheer about, and tonight was a great start to that step.

Until the flip side appears once more.

Posted by: natehughart | February 9, 2012

Game 26: Oklahoma City Thunder at Kings

Okay, I don’t really think I can add to anything that has been dropped over the last few days. But whatever, that’s what I do.

Tonight? Big deal. It’s on TNT, and it’s more about the fans than it is about the team if I had to guess. But, it’s very much about the team too. They need to show well, and win on their homecourt. The Kings need to win a high profile game and follow it up with more success. Beating a team is something this team can do at random times, but consistently? This franchise has not been able achieve that very often frequently in most recent times.

OKC’s ORtg is 108.0 points (4th of 30) per 100 possessions and the DRtg is 102.9 points (17th of 30) per 100 possessions with the Pace being 93.3 (4th of 30) possessions per game.

Sac’s ORtg is 98.3 points (27th of 30) per 100 possessions and the DRtg is 107.7 points (27th of 30) per 100 possessions with the Pace being 93.0 (8th of 30) possessions per game.

Matchup’s? I’m interested to see how Tyreke Evans plays tonight more than anyone else. I think DeMarcus Cousins might have a strong game, but he also might not. I want to see what kind of game Evans displays tonight. Will it be another episode of Clownball, or will it be back to professional basketball again? Will Cousins be able to get better shots against Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka than he did against Nicola Pekovic Tuesday Night?

I’m also interested to see how John Salmons plays tonight against Kevin Durant. It’s not that Salmons can’t defend Durant adequately, but I am intrigued to see the quality of shots Durant gets tonight.

Opponent Required reading

Matt Kawahara of the Bee writes a profile of Durant and his comfort level with Oklahoma City. (Here’s a hint: It’s very high.)

This is a week old, but JA Sherman of Welcome to Loud City has a post regarding what has been the strange media dynamic of Russell Westbrook. This post deals, fairly understandably, with some things Bill Simmons said about a week ago as well.

Sherman also has a detailed links post that lays out all the latest big news regarding OKC. There is also NBA news there as well.

Royce Young of the Daily Thunder (and CBSSports.com) discusses the Kendrick Perkins-LeBron James nonsense.

Should James Harden be an All-Star? Young makes the case on DT.

Kings Required Reading

Not much here, but if you have not read the potential for an 80 million dollar investment for a new arena from the NBA/Kings by James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom than you should. For what it’s worth, this seems like a reasonable investment from the NBA/Kings. And, it’s not surprising that the city will ask the NBA to pony up something.

Tom Ziller has a post up at Sactown Royalty about giving the world an earful tonight during the TNT telecast. (This is noisy change I can believe in.)

Keith Smart talks about DeMarcus Cousins being picked for the NBA’s Rising Stars during All-Star weekend. From Jason Jones at the Bee Blog.

Jones has a post about Jimmer Fredette a couple days ago that should be read. There is a nice quote from Jimmer that gives a strong glimpse into why you can bench him and then receive a positive contribution a few games later:

“(Smart) felt like the guys coming in could help us win and we had a chance,” Fredette said when asked about not being in the game late. “Whether I stayed in or not doesn’t really matter too much at this point, it’s just the fact that’s what coach thought was best at that point.”

It’s really simple for Jimmer: The more he does means it’s more difficult for Smart to get him on the court. There is no doubt in my mind that Keith Smart would love to keep Jimmer on the court a lot more than he has. But, a guy has to earn those minutes. Jimmer is no different.

If you haven’t watched the Keith Smart presser following the Minnesota loss, you should:

The most interesting Smart said: “We don’t have a superstar so we gotta find different guys every night to get it done.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

Tom Couzens asks Bee readership are the Maloofs the right owners moving forward for the Kings? You know where I stand.

Stathead Final Thoughts

Not much here, but Jason Thompson’s defensive rebounding has bothered me all season. His season DRB% is around 16.5%, and that’s really the only flaw JT has had all season as far as I can tell. If JT’s DRB% gets back up to 20 or even 22%, the Kings are possibly only a barely bottom 10 rebounding team instead of the 2nd worst in the NBA in DRB% right now. (Kings are at 69.5% and are barely ahead of the Wiz–who are at 69.2%–and a bit behind Golden State who is at an even 70% DRB%.)

As good as DeMarcus Cousins is on the boards, and Cousins is one of the 5 best rebounders in the NBA right now, there needs to be better effort from others on those said boards.

Hayes is the only Kings player not named Cousins at a 20% DRB% or better at 20.9% DRB%, and Hickson is significantly behind Hayes with a 19.1 DRB%.

The Kings need better effort from every player to get better on the boards. But it would be nice, not to mention helpful, if JT’s DRB% returned to his career norm fo 20% DRB%.

Final Thoughts

Tonight is the long awaited Blackout Game on TNT. Game starts at 7:30 pm at the ‘ole once upon a time gravity defying bracelet.

Go Kings!

Hmmm. So, there it is. The Kings lost what was for parts of 3 quarters a frustrating completely god-awful game to watch. Then, the Jimmah (he’s not just Jimmer; he’s now the Jimmah becuz that’s how we roll here at EC) got hot in the 4th and the Kings crawled back into the game. Then the Wolves defended Jimmah and the Kings forgot about him for a few moments. Ricky Rubio came in and did what Ricky Rubio does. Kings lose.

Onto the bullet points…

* Tyreke Evans is a mental midget. He played like crap. The end.

* DeMarcus Cousins showed exactly why he has so far to go. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m not complaining. A month ago Cousins wouldn’t have been playing meaningful minutes after what was a frustrating game where he could never really find a rhythm. 25 minutes, 10 points (3-13 shooting 4-6 line), 11 rebounds (3 offensive) and only 2 TO’s. If this is a bad game, I’ll take it.

* 2 ineffective games in a row for Jason Thompson with the exception of the few moments in the latter half of the 3rd where JT posted up Anthony Tolliver in the post. I’m very interested to see how JT responds Thursday.

* JJ Hickson had an excellent game all things considered. Particularly in the 1st half, Hickson was flying around and grabbing rebounds showcasing his fabulous athleticism. On the other flip side, there were some poor decision with fouling by Hickson that hurt regardless of missed Wolves FT’s.

JJ Hickson showed that he is not entirely dead. Which is not surprising given that other players have played well at times for Keith Smart who were not previously.

* John Salmons did not play one of his best games. Like JT, I’m interested to see how Salmons plays Thursday.

* Chuck Hayes went 1 on 1 tonight against Brad Miller. Twice. And failed twice. Other than that, Hayes was like Thompson, Cousins and Hickson in feeling frustrated how the game was called.

* I don’t typically speak about referees because it is such a major league copout when most fans do it, but tonight was one of those instances where the refs called a majorly choppy lack of rhythm type of game. These happen, and sometimes it’s on the players for not adjusting to how the game is being called. But, some of the calls seemed very inconsistent. Refs don’t have many off moments, but it felt like the whole game a lot of calls were very questionable. At least that was consistent for both sides.

* The Kings shot 37% from the field, 66% from the FT line, and 34% from 3. The 1st two can’t happen if you wish to be competitive on the road consistently. The rebounding advantage was 49-48 Wolves over Kings, but it felt a lot worse than that. Oh, and you might not have realized it, but the Kings had 20 assists tonight.

* I’m thinking of starting the #NeverPlayDonteGreeneEverAgain movement on Twitter. It’s not that Donte is terrible, but for this team he is all kinds of wrong in every way. Donte needs to go a roster where someone can A) create more shots for him and B) where Donte can play stretch 4. Donte does not work as a 3. I will say that Donte did a pretty good job on Michael Beasley in most ways down the stretch though.

* I’ve been as big a fan of Isaiah Thomas as anyone in the Kings fanbase, but tonight in the 2nd half LSG showed all of his problematic issue’s of being A) young and B) a tendency to get out of control in the wrong way. Nothing wrong with any of that, and it’s a learning lesson for the young man. The 1st half for LSG was pretty good in terms of speeding the game up for the Kings, but it was bad in the 2nd half in terms of rhythm. Do I pin this loss on Thomas? Absolutely not. But his real flaws showed up in the 2nd half and real flaws do cost teams ball games fair or not.

* Ricky Rubio showed why so many were high on him. While I thought Brandon Jennings would be better ultimately (I did believe that strangely enough–as of now I’m not really sure), I don’t miss Rubio at all really. The Wolves benefit a great deal by having Rubio, and Rubio benefits a great deal in having a head coach who understands his style of play. Additionally, Rubio really benefitted from an ego standpoint by being blasted for his play in Barcelona. It made him embrace a franchise in Minnesota he wanted no part of in 2009, and that in turn has made Rubio’s play a whole lot better. He feels welcomed, and that matters to him.

The strangest part about tonight’s game was seeing Rubio miss FT’s. That’s the first time this year I’ve seen him miss FT’s that way.

Needless to say the Wolves dodged a bullet, and I’m glad.

* Finally, the Jimmer. It was good to see Jimmer Fredette get hot, and I’m sure Keith Smart is relieved to see it. What I liked more than anything was that Jimmer didn’t really force many of those shots. There was one play with 3:16 to go where Donte Greene missed Jimmer who was in the corner and ready to shoot. Instead Donte pump fakes his defender up and steps in for a 18 footer. That type of selfishness cost Jimmer and the Kings a potential tie as the Kings would have tied the game at 80 up if Jimmer does indeed hit the 3. (Or takes it.)

The point is that Jimmer got hot, and forced Minnesota to use Ricky Rubio to defend him. That’s something. If you’re going to lose, growth for a team that struggled to even be competitive on the road for the most part this season is not such a terrible thing.

Let’s remember something: The Kings won 1 of 2 games on the road this trip in back to back nights. Ignoring the circumstances, that means the Kings are .500 for these past 2 games. And, if the Kings did that more often, the Kings overall record would be much closer to .500.

In regards to Jimmer’s season TS%, it’s now up from 48.9% to 50.2 TS% for the season. Not bad for a night’s work.

* Keith Smart and the last play of the game. I first want to say that I endorse the strategy of not calling a timeout to run a play. This is true regardless of coaching IMO. If there is anything this Kings team has shown effective in doing, it’s using frenetic energy to get points. With 8 seconds and the Wolves giving up the play (and the Kings not fouling), it was good to see the Kings take the timeout. It forces the Wolves to play defense on the fly rather than set up and be able to have some idea of a counter walking out of a timeout.

Seeing how the play developed, Smart could have taken the timeout with 4 secs left and drawn up a play. But, that’s not what this team’s strength is. Sometimes you have to let these guys go. Part of growth is failure and recognition. The more often you do those types of things, the easier it is to recognize how to get a quality play.

*******

Personally? I don’t mind the ending at all. Just seeing JJ Hickson perform at anything resembling an adequate level was nice, and seeing Jimmer get hot to bring the game back within striking distance for the Kings was a double ice cream triple sprinkle bonus. Or some shit like that. (I don’t do sprinkles.)

The point that I’m after here is that losing isn’t always a bad thing. This Kings team does not have an idea how to respond to success, and it started with both Tyreke and DeMarcus. Cousins looked out of sorts in part because of the refs, but Reke just looked like he doesn’t have a clue on what’s going on. If your two best players don’t really do much for you, it’s hard to ask your other guys to fill in for them. Those two guys need to be the Kings 2 best players every night. It’s that simple. If they don’t understand that, and Cousins clearly is showing that he’s beginning to really get that, than that leaves Tyreke.

As far as Smart and Jimmer, I liked the Jimmer DNP-CD’s myself. Jimmer needed that to sort of stop flailing around. Tonight Jimmer got to spots and took shots. Jimmer didn’t hesitate. Smart’s moves have worked well with Cuz, Reke up to a point, and even John Salmons in some respects. Why doubt Smart’s decision with regard to Jimmer? Because you are a Jimmer fanboy.

In the meantime, these losses can serve as object lessons that clownball (you hear me Mr Evans?) doesn’t work at the NBA level. No matter how many times you try it or what the particular situation of the game is. There were times where Tyreke absolutely looked effective and did the right thing. But those times were not very frequent.

Keith Smart has a nice teaching tool to work with about handling success, about learning how to work to create open shots consistently, learning how to utilize your offensive weapons when they are in position to score, that effective defense and rebounding can keep you in games, and that effort and energy do really count for something.

A month ago this team probably would have lose this game by at least 20 points even without Kevin Love being in uniform for the Wolves. It was competitive, and the Kings should have been pushing harder at the Wolves for a victory even with the Wolves having 2 days off and the Kings playing last night in New Orleans. The last thing this Kings team needs is excuses, and it has to learn that excuses are for teams that don’t accept personal responsibility for their actions.

Can Keith Smart save this team? Perhaps he can. But whether Tyreke Evans ever becomes more than a partial mental midget a good chunk of the time is still a matter definitely in question right now.

On the flip side to Blackout Thursday we go. See ya there.

Posted by: natehughart | February 7, 2012

Game 25: Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves

Before we move on to the Minny-Sac matchup tonight, Keith Smart said something about DeMarcus Cousins I really want to highlight. Unfortunately, I transcribed this directly off the Kingsflix Youtube video stream so I apologize if you can’t attribute the quote anywhere.

(This is the embedded version of the link just above.)

First off, the question was asked about Jason Jones. (I know because I’ve heard his voice many many times now.)

Q: DeMarcus had some frustrating moments in that 1st half. He wasn’t shooting the ball, he wasn’t getting calls, he got a tech, how did you see him settle down in the 2nd half and get going?

A: “You know, sometimes as a coach you can overreact to a guy emotionally. And he was probably getting hammered a little bit around the basket. You know what was good? He didn’t explode. That’s growth. (Cousins) stayed under control, went down the floor playing basketball, and then probably said something to the official (Cousins) shouldn’t have said. But nevertheless, I’m happy (Cousins) never said it within the flow of the basketball game. So that was growth right there. (Cousins) just got up off the floor and ran back down. Yet, (Cousins) knew we need him in the game; need to have his mind in the game along with his physical skills.”

First, I’d like to say apologies to either Jason Jones or Keith Smart if I slightly misinterpreted here. I just mostly wanted the gist of the point Keith Smart made.

Smart talked about something that’s exceptionally important with DeMarcus Cousins: Cousins must be mentally engaged to be a great player. To be an effective great player. Great talent and great players are different things.

I’m saying this for I don’t know how many times now, but the challenge for any head coach with DeMarcus Cousins would never be reaching his body. It’s reaching Cousins’ mind. Get Cousins’ mind early in his career, and you have a 10 time All-Star. That’s all there is to it.

Now, onto the Minnesota game.

*******

Without Kevin Love, the Kings have a great opportunity to take their road record from 3-11 to 4-11. Can the Kings remain consistent, and can they play with energy for 48 minutes? Minnesota didn’t play last night, and knows it will take a great effort on their part to win games. Sometimes these games, as Keith Smart in this morning’s Bee noted, are problems because teams play sharper and with increased energy than they do when a superstar is in the game.

Tyreke Evans, and DeMarcus Cousins, need to have great games if the Kings want to increase their odds of winning tonight’s contest. Tonight would also be an excellent opportunity to try and figure out the beginning semblance of a 2 man game. If your 2 best players can’t play off each other at all, it’s difficult to win games in the NBA.

Sacramento’s ORtg 98.7 points (26th of 30) per 100 possessions and the DRtg is 108.4 points (27th of 30) per 100 possessions and the Pace is 92.9 (8th of 30) possessions per game.

Minnesota’s ORtg is 104.4 points (13th of 30) per 100 possessions, the DRtg is 102.6 points (16th of 30) per 100 possessions while the pace is 93.2 (5th of 30) possessions per game.

Opposition Required Reading

Derrick Williams is ready to play more minutes. Via Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The almighty Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Trib discusses in length the Kevin Love suspension.

In case you didn’t know, the Wolves are .500 for the first time this late in the season since Kevin Garnett donned a Wolves jersey. (For some reason I tweeted this and I got a lot of RT’s.) Here is Jerry Zgoda’s blog post about the whole deal.

Okay, Tim Allen of Canis Hoopus notes how much better the Wolves have been under Adelman and how it compares historically. (If you get a chance, check out TA’s game previews. They are hilarious. It should be up in a few hours. IF I remember, I’ll link to it here.)

Kings Required Reading

Rob McAllister is doing a 3 part series on the process of getting a new arena, and part II is up at Cowbell Kingdom. It’s a must read if you even remotely care about the Kings staying in Sacramento. One point I’d like to make clear I didn’t make clear in my Seattle-Sacramento piece: The infrastructure Sac has to add to put a new arena at the Railyards is going to be greater than the proposed location that is being discussed in Seattle. But the key point is this: Seattle is at at least a year, if not two, before an arena even STARTS to being erected.

From McAllister’s piece:

While land is being gobbled up by Hansen, some public money will be needed – something residents in Seattle wanted no part of when the SuperSonics prepared to leave for Oklahoma City. Not to mention there is a 2006 voter approved measure that mandates any publicly-financed arena be profitable.

The most important part of the piece? This:

While the NBA is not as rich as the NFL, just look west to see how a league will step in when it believes in a market. The National Football League is giving the San Francisco 49ers a $200-million dollar loan to help construct a new stadium in Santa Clara.

“I expect an official ground-breaking ceremony very soon,” said Jed York, CEO of the 49ers. “Get your hard hats ready; we are embarking on the path to the next generation of 49ers football.”

The loan is the final financial piece that allows the five-time Super Bowl Champs to begin construction of a $1-billion stadium along Great America Parkway.

Expect a similar gesture by the NBA if the league is serious about staying in Sacramento.

Ayup. Unless Seattle shows it won’t cost the NBA any money in returning and quickly, I doubt Seattle gets the Kings. The Bucks? Possibly. The Grizzlies? Possibly. (Their lease is coming up sometime this decade–I wanna say 2018.) The Hornets? Possibly, although that’s seeming unlikely at the moment. If the Kings end up staying in Sacramento, that’s going to be the nail in the coffin for Seattle to get the most reasonable NBA team right now. It will be awhile before they get another NBA team, and 2018 is the most likely bet.

Ailene Voisin had an interesting tidbit in her Kings piece that I want to highlight:

Assuming the community and Sacramento politcal/business leaders continue making progress toward the financing of a new facility, I keep hearing Stern will remain committed to Sacramento. Given the stunning last-minute reprieve when the Kings appeared head to Anaheim last April, nothing would surprise me. I keep hearing whispers that Stern has a dramatic play yet to come – something “up his sleeve,” as they say.

Again, as I said Sunday, this comes down to money and how much of it the NBA has to pay both short and long term. Part of that includes brand management, and if you destroy a brand in one faithful NBA city for a few million dollars you are hurting your long term NBA future in other cities when it becomes that mercenary. That’s part of the issue David Stern is confronted with right now. Plus, there is no guarantee the NBA won’t be asked to kick in with Seattle anyway. Given that the NBA has averted one of those PR disasters that has badly hurt the NBA in some corners over the Seattle move, this is one way Sacramento has truly benefited from the timing.

Last but not least, Bryan at A Royal Pain has a post up about Tyreke Evans appearing on Cribs.

Stathead Final Thoughts

Interesting difference between Minnesota and Sacramento. Basketball-Reference has an Expected W-L (or know as the Pythagorean record so often used in baseball) based off points allowed and scored. With that comes an expected W-L, and the Kings expected W-L is 5-19 (the actual record is 9-15) and the Wolves expected W-L is 13-11 (the actual record is 12-12 of course).

Another thing is the eFG% of the Kings. Awhile ago, it was 30th for both offense and defense. Now? The league average is 48.2 eFG% and the Kings defensive eFG% is 50.3% which ranks them 26th in the NBA at the moment. The Offensive league average is, you guessed it, 48.2 eFG% and the Kings are now at 44.3 eFG% still good for last in the NBA. But unlike a week ago where there was a substantial gap between the Kings and the Bobcats (who are 29th), and Wizards (who are 28th), is merely 1/10 of a percentage point between the Kings & Bobcats (who are 44.4 eFG%) and 3/10 of a percentage between between the Kings and the Wiz who are at 44.6 eFG%. if the Kings keep it up, Detroit, Toronto and Indiana are all within striking distance. That means not being 30th in eFG% by a substantial margin.

Since getting pasted by Denver at home nearly 2 weeks ago, here are the 4 Factors for the @ Utah, @ GSW game, Portland, GSW and @ New Orleans games.

Kings at Jazz

Four Factors
Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
SAC 88.5 .500 14.8 27.8 .163 105.1
UTA 88.5 .487 16.0 34.1 .241 108.5

For the Utah game they were substantial over league average. If the Kings put this kind of percentage up consistently, the Kings would be top 10 in eFG%.

Kings at Warriors

Four Factors
Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
SAC 93.3 .463 16.6 29.3 .171 96.4
GSW 93.3 .451 7.6 18.0 .121 99.6

Again, the Kings shot substantially better against GSW, in a loss in Oakland, than they have most of the season. That matters.

Blazers at Kings

Four Factors
Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
POR 91.8 .477 12.0 28.9 .091 100.2
SAC 91.8 .480 14.5 25.6 .289 103.5

What really sticks out in this 4 Factors, other than the shooting, is that the Kings took much better of their FT opportunities than the Blazers did.

Warriors at Kings

Four Factors
Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
GSW 89.6 .522 14.3 22.2 .133 107.1
SAC 89.6 .490 14.4 43.5 .184 115.2

The Kings beat the Dubs solely on the offensive rebounding and the shooting gap, which was even worse than what the Final 4 Factors say, closed substantially as the game wore on particularly once OT hit.

Kings at Hornets

Four Factors
Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
SAC 85.8 .526 9.2 25.0 .231 116.5
NOH 85.8 .438 10.6 33.3 .259 107.2

Of course the real important note of the game is that the Kings shot substantially well and the Hornets did not. That matters a lot too.

After the Utah game the margin of differential was over -11. After tonight’s 8 point victory against New Orleans, the Kings margin of differential is now just over -9.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure I can have any more final thoughts than what I’ve already displayed here, but this is a major litmus test of how committed Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are to Keith Smart and the game plan. Can Evans/Cousins go out and execute? Will Evans/Cousins go out and execute plays? Will Evans/Cousins show counters when the Wolves respond? This is big boy NBA basketball. While Evans and Cousins both show unique and important glimpses, it’s time to get a real run of high quality NBA basketball going for these two. Tonight is a great start to show off that improved maturity and growth Keith Smart is always talking about.

Other than that, 2 more productive players off the bench would be nice because 7 guys can’t carry a team successfully , even one as young as this one, forever. Smart has been wise to pare down his rotation to find his key core guys, but after that you have to find a bench. Now we are finding who the main core rotation guys are, and now it’s time to find out who the bench guys are.

Game is at 5pm PST with the game being carried on CSN California. YeeHaw, here we come 600 1st Avenue Minneapolis!

Posted by: natehughart | February 7, 2012

Kings comeback against Hornets in New Orleans; Win 100-92

This is going to be short because A) I don’t think I can offer anything the boxscore can’t tell you, and B) I don’t feel like writing a whole lot.

What sticks out to me is the following:

* Cousins playing 38 minutes and grabbing 8 boards (7 defensive) in the 4th qtr. That really matters. The most impressive stat is Cousins 2 fouls in 38 minutes. That really really matters.

* With 9:31 remaining in the 4th qtr, Tyreke Evans hit a left handed layup.

* 9 total Turnovers for the Kings. 11 total turnovers for the Hornets. I’ll take that every time.

* Kings shot 47%. That’s a good start, but against the Hornets? It means little unfortunately. The NBA, like most things, is a “put up or shutup” league. The Kings allowed 42% from the field tonight which is primarily where the difference in scoring came in. Also, shooting 8-24 from 3 (for 24 total points) vs the Hornets going 3-9 from 3 (for 9 total points) is the biggest reason the Kings won so handily.

* Right now it’s clear that there is at least a 7 man rotation with the way Keith Smart is distributing minutes. The starters + Chuck Hayes + Isaiah Thomas. There are at least 2, if not 3, spots up for grabs, and who grabs them and how quickly might determine the season the Kings end up having.

* Jimmer still needs quite a bit of work, obviously defensively, and from the minutes I saw (what I saw of the 1st half) Jimmer starting to figure out something of a rhythm tonight. 10 minutes isn’t a whole lot for a 10th overall pick, but I’ll take it. It’s a real start for Jimmer. This Kings team absolutely needs an offensive player off the bench, and Jimmer certainly fits that bill IMO. Can Jimmer grab the brass ring? We’ll see over the remaining 42 games.

* The Kings are 9-15, and 3-11 on the road (6-4 home). With 7 of the 9 next games on the road (which leads up to the AS break), that will finish the league’s most brutal 1st half schedule. The good news is that tonight (win), tomorrow, @ New York, @ Detroit, @ Cleveland and @ Washington all represent very winnable games on the 6 game road trip leading up to the All-Star break.

* Thornton’s 3 with 3:30 to go was really important. Evans layup to put the Kings up 5 was really important.

* The biggest shot of the game was probably Isaiah Thomas’ 3 with 4:58 remaining in part because it happened with a defender in his face and with the shot clock running down. It put the Kings up 84-82 and they would never be trailing again. (There were several ties over the next minute and change though.)

The more “glamorous” shot was the pass by Evans that is nearly picked off and then recovered by Isaiah Thomas who hits a 3 with 2:15 remaining. That sunk the Hornets.

Demz da breakz as they say.

As far as Thomas goes, what impresses me most is A) the defense against Vasquez, B) the willingness to take big shots without fear, C) the passing and assists, and D) the 5 boards. Isaiah Thomas is clearly the 3rd best G right now, and, in my opinion anyway, that says a lot about how talented Isaiah Thomas is. Nothing he is doing is well above and beyond his capability. Hopefully the young man keeps it up.

Bottom line? You can’t win games you don’t play. The Kings played just enough at the right times with a few excellent performances to pull out a victory against the Western Conference’s worst team on the road. Nothing to write home about, but that’s the way it goes. Beating the Hornets is something you do if you want to be a 500 team.

Tomorrow Minnesota with the opportunity of (gasp in delight…) winning 4 games? Can the Kings take advantage of Kevin Love’s absence? Stay tuned….

There has been plenty of talk, talk I’ve avoided here on purpose, about how a San Francisco hedge developer wants to bring back the NBA to Seattle. There was a lengthy piece in the Seattle Times (now the city’s lone periodical after the Seattle PI shut down to onlinedom in March of 2009) yesterday about what kind of obstacles need to be hurdled in order to build a new arena in the SODO District.

First off, why the SODO district? Well, among other things, it’s close to Safeco Field and Century Link Field so the infrastructure are already in the area to support a large project. If nothing else, the infrastructure will simply be an extension of those buildings. Second, SODO is almost entirely an industrial district so building a new structure there doesn’t cause the same kind of traffic tie-up’s that typically would be had in other places.

Hansen has acquired property south of Safeco Field’s parking garage, between South Massachusetts and South Holgate streets east of First Avenue South, records show.

While sources have previously said at least one business owner has declined to sell, the issue of the city using its power of eminent domain to acquire the land is no longer a concern of Hansen’s group, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said during a recent interview with The Times editorial board.

Holmes did not elaborate, but his comments suggest Hansen’s representatives have reached some sort of agreements.

Hirsh, managing partner of Stafford Sports LLC, who has extensive experience with arena deals, has estimated the cost of building a state-of-the art facility at about $400 million.

Why is the Massachusetts-Holgate point important? It’s near the Stadium Light Rail station operated by SoundTransit.

Second, it’s possible this could contract the Century Link parking lot (primarily used for a lot of non-Seahawk-Sounder games as day parking for DT Seattle workers) a lot more often rather than having to find parking as most stadiums require. (This seems complicated, but it certainly gives a lot of people other options than just parking in one place.) Numerous places in Seattle double up on parking spaces due to the limited amount of spaces available in Seattle proper (not a problem in Sacramento obviously).

Third, it ignores the reality of what challenges renovating Key Arena might bring. Which, I might point out, are numerous in of itself.

The biggest thing for me is that it gives more events for Pioneer Square businesses, and for the city of Seattle to say Pioneer Square is now receiving, to mandate that a new arena go down there.

******

Why does this matter to Sacramento? It’s my opinion that beyond the current RFQ/RFP process explained by Chris Lehane (to a slight degree) in this interview with Blake Ellington at Bleed Black and Purple, the financing for a new downtown Railyards arena in Sacramento is a bit murky on many of the details.

Last September, I felt like a financing source or two would drop and that the city of Sacramento would have to use a plan B. Maybe I’m wrong on that point. Maybe it’s more like that the NBA feels like, and I certainly feel this is true regardless of what’s been announced publicly or elsewhere, it won’t have to contribute a signficant financial chunk to get a new arena done. Kevin Johnson has already sold this publicly as a public-private partnership, and the sense that it would be more than the Maloofs-and an arena operator like AEG would have to contribute. Who is left? The NBA.

The question is now if you are the NBA would you rather let private contributors-Seattle foot all of the bill, or would you prefer to keep a franchise in a destination that has always had trouble putting down roots before arriving in Sacramento in 1985. (It’s worth noting that the franchise has been in Sacramento twice as long as any other stop in franchise history.)

Yesterday, along with the major news article already linked further above from the Times, Steve Kelley, the long time columnist for the Times, talked about the possibility of Seattle not only getting the Kings for the upcoming 2012-13 season, that there could be a NHL team too in a new building. This line stuck out to me though:

Does the NBA really need a third team in Southern California? The Kings’ franchise would be the forgotten child of L.A. sports.

The difference between Kelley’s tone, and Randy Youngman’s tone, is amusingly stark. Kelley has seen firsthand the pain that a moving franchise can create. Youngman doesn’t care; he just wants a NBA team to cover for whatever reason he wants it. Kelley could have sneered at what’s going on in Sacramento right now, but he knows better.

What’s my point? Seattle knows this is still about what it’s always about: Dollars and cents. If Seattle can build an arena that offers more corporate support, a larger market and a TV deal that is more lucrative than anything that could be offered in Sacramento, it could change the NBA’s mind about what’s going on.

On the flip side of all this though, it seems all of the Seattle bluster is just talk about a new arena being built. The NBA may just ignore what’s going in with a potential new arena (this is not the first time we’ve heard of this after all) in the SODO district of Seattle and move forward with Sacramento.

Could one of the weakest points, as far as the NBA is concerned, is that a new franchise in Seattle would have more competition than it did previously with not just the NHL, but the heaviest supported MLS team in the US? (The Seattle Sounders were starting their first season in 2008 as the Sonics were leaving.)

Chris Lehane talks extensively in Ellington’s interview how one of the potential attractions for Ron Burkle is the size of the Sacramento market and the fact that there is little competition there. In Seattle, you have the Seahawks, Mariners, UW athletics, WSU athletics to a limited extent (this is true of Gonzaga as well), Sounders, and now possibly a NHL team like the Phoenix Coyotes in the mix too. That’s some stiff competition no matter how you slice it. There’s nothing wrong with that as it’s typically what happens in the Seattle market. This is nothing new up here.

This is where I think the whole negotiations between the city of Sacramento and the NBA get very interesting. Exactly what does the financials of the whole arena financing plan look like, and who is covering exactly what pennies and why?

No matter what happens here, a glimpse into how business is done in a new NBA could see the first domino fall in Sacramento. It might mean new things in Seattle, or the Kings remaining in Sacramento. I’d be lying if I say I’d rather see the Kings move to Seattle (I don’t), but I’d also be lying if I said I’d be heartbroken if a deal can’t be worked out to get an arena in the Railyards and the franchise ends up moving to Seattle.

I’ve said for a long time that Seattle was the real threat to Sacramento, and it seems that a number of people are starting to clue in on that very fact. The real question: Does the NBA care, and does David Stern?

Marcos Breton had an important point in today’s Bee about the Maloofs:

Sacramento is moving a mountain right now just for the prize of securing a cellar-dwelling team with a cellar-dwelling payroll?

I have no doubts about Kings basketball people or employees. But the Kings owners are a different story.

That’s unacceptable given how Sacramento has stepped up for the Kings and the NBA. Sacramento deserves better.

As of this writing, no one has any idea what the NBA intends to do about any of this.

Before Sacramento and potential private partners commit millions to an arena venture, they need to know from the NBA:

What are they going to do about the long-term future of the Kings in Sacramento and about owners whose future success seems as remote as the Kings reaching the playoffs?

Guess what? Attendance is not stellar right now because the product has been poor for a very long time. It’s not up to snuff, and in most cities most people wouldn’t care at any point. The Maloofs have done everything in their power to alienate Sacramento (and in a not so subtle way either), and this is all coming to a head for them. The Maloofs desperately want to maintain ownership of the franchise, and I don’t blame them. I would too if I were them.

Guess what? I don’t care about owners who jacked up ticket prices, then didn’t respond to the market dropping by lowering ticket prices in a recession that hit Sacramento harder than any NBA market, and tried to act as if Sacramento was against them by wanting to keep the Kings. Then, to top it off, the Maloofs, especially Joe and Gavin, have tried to pretend there is a split among the family wanting to move to Anaheim when in fact the rest of the family wanted to file and Joe and Gavin figured out first the NBA would reject them.

Guess what? The NBA has a number of moving parts to figure out here, and it would be nice if a wealthy owner just swept in and took away all of the real problems this franchise has with the Maloofs in one fell swoop.

But it won’t happen that way. We know it won’t happen that way. I’m just hoping that the Kings staying in Sacramento doesn’t resolve around David Stern having kindness because we know that won’t happen.

I’m hoping that the Kings staying in Sacramento is a matter of dollars and cents, and that’s the bottom line here. Which market for the Kings represents the best bottom line long term value to the NBA?

******

Right now, I’d say that the odds of the Kings moving to Seattle are fairly slim for a number of reasons. First, as Tom Ziller points out today, the NBA has invested a number of things, including ticket people to sell tickets, in the Sacramento market. (The effort has not been a token small effort unlike a certain family.) Second, the NBA knows that when a deal is nearly consummated plenty of suitors jump out of the woodwork to grab a potential slice of the pie? How does the NBA know Seattle’s effort is really real?

I know one thing: This type of story is the exact type of thing that matters if the Kings remain in Sacramento. The Kings remaining in Sacramento isn’t just a story that matters, but the kind of story that so many said was so wrong about the Seattle-Oklahoma City saga.

It would be nice for a change if Sacramento could get an arena started so that the real conversation that adversely Sacramentans of all walks of life could actually be had: Urbanization. You know, what living in an urban area actually entails in the 21st century.

The ball is in Sacramento’s court. And, you know what, nothing has changed in that regard. That’s the real point. It’s up to the City Council of Sacramento to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity that’s been afforded them. Or, not.

Either way, I actually feel better about the chances that a Kings arena could pass because not even real proposals by another city are being seen as a potential legitimate threat to a new arena in Sacramento. That makes me feel better about the chances a new arena could get done sooner than later.

A new arena would be the best news this city has ever had regarding the Kings. Plenty of temporary events (Gregg Lukenbill moving the team, building 2 arena’s that crumbled fairly quickly, Geoff Petrie changing the nature of the franchise, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and that crew giving fans something to actually cheer about among others) have kept the Kings in Sacramento for better or worse. But, it would be nice if a real actual live long term solution is what sealed the actual long term future of the Sacramento Kings.

A new arena would be the start of a process that would be a pleasant change of pace that doesn’t include a group working against City Hall and residents who simply don’t want to live in the 20th (or 21st now) century and all that implies. It’s time Sacramento grow up. The ball is in your court City Council and NBA. Don’t make a mistake; you often get exactly what you wish for.

A number of interesting things in this game that surely stuck out about why the Kings won. The big one for me, if nothing else, is that the entire starting lineup (Evans, Thornton, Salmons, Thompson and Cousins) was exceptionally productive and instrumental in the victory. Even though Isaiah Thomas, Chuck Hayes, JJ Hickson, Travis Outlaw and Francisco Garcia got minutes, none made close to the impact that the starting lineup made. Which, if nothing else, is progress for a team that many have complained about not having a rotation. It seems like Smart is doing everything short of willing hell to freeze over (and he might get his wish) to carve out a real rotation. And, for everyone who complained about Paul Westphal never carving a rotation out, this is one way a head coach does it.

Let this sink in for a moment. The starting 5 had a combined 40-87 from the floor, 9-19 from 3, 15-18 from the FT line, 46 rebounds (15 offensive), 20 assists (!!!), 13 TO’s, 10 steals and 4 block shots. Combine the starting 5 minutes (rounded up) and you over 217 minutes combined as an unit.

Lotsa bullet points to point out tonight so I suppose this is as good a point to start as any…..

* Tyreke Evans did some good and bad things tonight. But, lets start off with the bad first. The bad really comes down to neither passing nor shooting too much for me. One of the things that really bothers me is that A) Tyreke takes too long to initiate offense far too often (this isn’t news) and B) he settles for terrible shots far too often.

On the flip side, there were some beautiful plays that showed that Tyreke is certainly receptive of some of the things that Keith Smart has been in his ear about. The Tyreke tonight was the Tyreke that was around in the first 4 months of his rookie year. That was the Tyreke to get excited about. The Tyreke tonight was that Tyreke of those first 4 months. Hopefully some legitimate growth is still possible, but I want to wait and see. For now, it’s nice to know that Tyreke is still around. The defense tonight in transition and in the halfcourt still leaves something to be desired, but Tyreke has gotten better in that area since his rookie year. Maybe the best stat of all was that Tyreke was able to go for 48 minutes. See? I’m not all negative towards Tyreke…..

* DeMarcus Cousins does his work, and then he does his work. 21 points, 20 boards (14 defensive!!!!), and 10 missed shots. I’m going to ignore the missed shots.

What I’m going to focus on was that Cousins played nearly 35 minutes in regulation, and then another 5 in OT on top of it. For the last 5 minutes of regulation and OT, he did so with 5 fouls. (The refs did call fouls on Jason Thompson and Marcus Thornton that would have been called on Cousins a year ago. That shows his maturity and the leeway that you get when you aren’t constantly harping at the zebra’s all the time.) What I liked was that Cousins was able to play, and play effectively on 2 ends for long stretches tonight. The tip-in to tie the game at 99 even with a minute to go in regulation was just majorly impressive. What really impressed me was that the play started with a PnR by Salmons to Thompson who missed the 5 footer and Cousins mopped up. Cousins is progressing nicely, and that’s just the reality of things right now.

The emotional maturity, the ability to overcome adversity (foul trouble), the ability to find ways to be productive, that’s all starting to seep in for Mr Cousins. The only question with Cousins is can he remain consistently productive.

* John Salmons was the best defensive player on the Kings all night long. Defense is disruption, and Salmons disrupted the Warriors perimeter players all night long. Particularly Monta Ellis and Nate Robinson at different times throughout the game. There was the matter of 5 steals and 6 assists by Salmons as well.

The thing that stuck out to me about John Salmons was that at the end of regulation, Salmons missed the 2nd FT to put the Kings up 3. On the first possession of regulation, Salmons takes a 3 in the corner off a Tyreke Evans kickout and without hesitation takes the 3 and makes it to boot.

Is John Salmons going to be great and incredible every night? No, of course he’s not. But Salmons is a quality player who is still capable of illustrating the good things about his game on a consistent basis when allowed.

Just in case you were wondering, coming into the Portland game Salmons 3pt% was about 21%. It’s not 28.1% after going 6-9 these past 2 games. Is Salmons going to hit 67% of his 3′s on a consistent basis? No of course he’s not. But throughout Salmons career he has been a 36% career 3 pt shooter, and I’d be very surprised if Salmons didn’t return to 33-35% by the end of this season too.

* Marcus Thornton scored 18 of his game high 28 points in the 3rd qtr alone. Thornton went ballistic in that 3rd qtr when the Kings absolutely needed him to. Yes, Thornton went 11-24 from the field and 4-11 from 3, but that’s okay. That’s what Marcus Thornton does. Tonight the Kings need his scoring in that 3rd qtr as it gave them the shot in the arm they desperately needed.

* Jason Thompson is beginning to become one of the most underrated players in all of the NBA if he keeps his production up. 15 points, 16 boards (9 defensive), 7-13 field (including 1 3pt attempt that was a necessary shot or the Kings would have had a 24 shot clock violation), and made his only FT. Oh, and Jason Thompson, along with DeMarcus Cousins, has shown why his interior defense is so valuable these days. JT had another remarkable game, and it makes me glad the Kings have not traded him up to this point.

What got me tonight was that Jason missed a few shots (especially that 5 footer with a min remaining that Cousins tipped in) that was simply right there for him to make. But, let’s be honest. That left hand runner with 2:51 remaining of OT is where JT has shown so much growth in his game. JT has become a fairly reliable inside scorer (remember JT can score from the perimeter at a high rate too–plus he can pass!) and become a remarkably effective interior defensive presence.

The biggest concern I have with these days is can JT grab defensive boards because his numbers are badly down in that area. But this is a very minor quibble I have right now.

* The bench wasn’t a whole lot to write home about tonight, with the exception of Isaiah Thomas, but that’s what made tonight so remarkable in many ways. The 5 best players on this roster played a tremendous game as a starting unit and sometimes you need your starters to do that. As far as LSG is concerned, the defense, intensity and confidence was there tonight. That’s what makes Isaiah Thomas such a pleasure. Would it be nice if Jimmer had that? Sure, it would. But that’s not where Jimmer is at right now so let’s roll with that.

* Speaking of Jimmer, there is a reason Jimmer isn’t playing. Jimmer isn’t really ready for NBA minutes, and in the long run this can help him grow as a NBA player. It’s Keith Smart’s job to play the best players every night, and there have been few times where Jimmer has counted one of those. But, let’s be patient. Jimmer started slow during his BYU years, and it may take a crappy lockout season for him to gain his legs. Know this though: I don’t think there is any desire to bench Jimmer on the basis of a personal issue with him. It’s simply a matter of production, and right now Jimmer isn’t giving you the needed level of production you need nightly against NBA players.

* As far as what bench players could be productive, and who won’t be productive, I’ll leave that to the ebb and flow of the game to decide. My personal opinion is that any NBA bench is always a work in progress on teams with a real pecking order. The Lakers are a classic example of that right now. They lost in Utah tonight because that lack of a consistent bench.

* The Kings outrebounded the Warriors 55-36 tonight. Cousins and Thompson had 36 rebounds (13 offensive; 23 defensive) by themselves.

* The Warriors shot 16-29 from 3 pt land for 55%. From 2 pt land, the Warriors went 23-61 for a shade over 37%. The Kings had 56 points in the paint; Warriors had 36 points in the paint. The Warriors went 12-13 from the FT line tonight, but the Kings went 18-21 from the line. Plus, the Warriors shot 43.3% overall and the Kings shot 43.9% overall. Even when you factor in the 3 pt FG’s (which skyrockets the eFG%), the Kings and the Warriors shot evenly tonight. With the 3 extra turnovers the Kings had (which led to 33 points for the Warriors; likewise the Kings scored 23 points off 18 Warrior turnovers), the Warriors didn’t take nearly enough advantage to offset the other area’s where the Kings beat the Warriors.

******

To me the bottom line is that quality production from your starters is a tipping point from where this team could conceivably get to at some point. The next step is getting 2, 3, 4 or even 5 bench guys to give you consistent production. Who are those bench guys? Chuck Hayes is one, Isaiah Thomas seems like another so that’s 7 guys in the rotation. JJ Hickson has a lot of talent and has shown he can do some things. Francisco Garcia has played well at times. Travis Outlaw does have talent if nothing else. Jimmer Fredette has a following for at least reasonable reasons (he was really that good last year at BYU).

So the potential for this team to develop is still clearly there. Tonight was the first step, of many, to help fix what ails this team the most: A consistent measure of production. Tonight I think we saw that this team is trending towards average defensively, if not above average, and has the potential to be more as players develop and gain cohesiveness. On the other hand, offensively the PnR’s late (that made me smile seeing JT & Salmons run that PnR that got JT that lefty layup in OT) and the willingness to go to Jason Thompson for a bucket with just over a minute in regulation when things hadn’t been going the Kings way was nice to see. Emotional, defensive and small strides offensively are the kind of growth this team needs. It won’t happen all in one night, but it’s clear that Keith Smart has made a difference this far.

The question now: Can it translate to something more moving forward? The Kings are 8-15 right now, and given all the struggles that this team has had, I can’t say I’m that upset over the record. This Kings team is clearly showing that, unlike 2 weeks ago, is capable of beating teams to win games. This Kings team is learning how to use their freneticism in a positive and useful way. This Kings team is learning how to play the 2 end game that is so critical to NBA success. There is a lot of young talent, a lot of growing talent, and a lot of new talent all trying to come together right now. I get that. It’s just nice to know that these players and this coaching staff is capable of working together. That’s a start, and 3 weeks ago I was hoping I could write that by about next year.

Maybe I sold this group short.

Posted by: natehughart | February 4, 2012

Game 23: Golden State Warriors at Kings

Well. A winnable game at home. We haven’t talked about that much lately have we? Here’s to hoping, eh?

The Kings check in with an ORtg of 97.3 points (27th of 30) per 100 possessions and a Def Rtg of 108.7 points (27th of 30) per 100 possessions. The Pace is 93.3 (6th of 30) possessions per game.

The Warriors clock a grip of hoes like Dolemite with an ORtg of 104.5 points (11th of 30) per 100 possessions and a DRtg of 106.6 points (26th of 30) per 100 possessions. The Pace is 92.6 (9th of 30) possessions per game.

Perhaps you have heard shooting is key to winning basketball games. The Dubs, as it were, are 6th in eFG% for the league at 50.3% and the Kings are last at 43.7%. Glorious.

Defensive eFG% is a bit more interesting as the almighty Dubs for the season sport a paltry eFG% allowed of 49%. The Kings, in part due to the especially demanding aspect of getting back in transition defense, have allowed a 50.5 eFG% on the season.

However, the Kings did give up a 47.7 eFG% against Portland which would put them in the top half of league defense. You should also note that percentages the atrocious amount of easy looks Portland got in the 1st half against the Kings Thursday night. But enough about the Debbie Downer stuff, let’s get to the good things.

As far as DRB%? Yes the Kings are still last, and the Warriors are 28th in the NBA. In otherwords, whoever can get better shots consistently wins the game? Wow, what a shocking revelation.

Required Reading

Ken Berger of CBS Sports talks about the arena in context of whether Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs stick around long term:

3. Kings: Sacramento already has changed coaches, and the annual effort to destabilize the organization from the outside and push team president Geoff Petrie out the door is fully under way. It’s a play that’s been run before without success, and I’m skeptical of the renewed reports of Petrie’s demise in the past week.

Petrie, 63, has one year left on his contract after this season, and his future with the organization is more tied to the expiration date on that contract and the uncertain future of the franchise than on any measurement of the team’s performance in the confusing prism of the shortened, post-lockout schedule.

Frankly, of far more importance is exactly where the Kings will find a permanent home — Sacramento, with new arena costs piled squarely on the backs of taxpayers, or in Anaheim, Kansas City or points unknown.

In conjunction with that unresolved matter is the issue of how long the Maloofs will be able to maintain ownership. Joe and Gavin Maloof have privately maintained they’re fine financially; while they’ve lost millions on the Kings, their future is secure because their trust fund remains intact. But nobody thought the Maloofs would relinquish majority control of the Palms hotel and casino franchise in Las Vegas, and fewer thought they’d sell the family’s original cash cow, the New Mexico beer distributorship they unloaded in 2010.

Despite the league’s stubborn efforts to keep the team in Sacramento, if a deep-pocketed prospective buyer wanted to take the money-losing basketball business off the Maloofs’ hands, it’s something the family would have to at least consider. Selling the team is said to be a last resort for the Maloofs, according to NBA front office sources. But as one of those sources said, if the Maloofs were interested in making money, they should’ve sold the Kings and kept the beer business. So the whole situation — not just Petrie — bears watching.

James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom has a quality piece about John Salmons and his excellent game against Portland.

There is video of Keith Smart from Jon Santiago at CK and The Bee has video of both Smart and Isaiah Thomas up on their blog.

More importantly though, Keith Smart talks about how he sees his depth chart, where rookies in general place on the depth chart, and the film the Kings looked at after the Portland loss.

Hassan Whiteside was recalled from Reno yesterday.

Isaiah Thomas and the trust from his teammates per Jason Jones of the Bee.

On Friday, Cousins had 2 interesting quotes from the notes section of Jones’ write-up at the Bee:

Kings coach Keith Smart would like it if the team wouldn’t do things that make it easier to defend, such as standing and holding the ball.

The Kings promise they are working on that.

“Those are old ways we’ve got to get rid of,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “It’s easier said than done. When you’ve been in that mode two or three years, it’s hard to get rid of.”

The 2nd:

“We would like it to be we just snap our fingers and it’s just done, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” Cousins said. “We’re going to continue to get better. It’s going to take time.”

Some Warriors stuff……

Marcus Thompson II talks about whether Monta Ellis may be an All-Star in today’s edition of the Contra Costa times.

Adam Lauridsen does an interview with Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob at the San Jose Mercury News. There is a lot of excellent stuff in this (and worth every moment spent reading it), but there is a necessary part that actually pertains to Keith Smart:

Fast Break: On the basketball side, what’s been the biggest surprise?

Lacob: I don’t know that there’s that many big surprises on the basketball side, to be honest with you. I think we knew going in that we needed to do a lot of work. We needed to change the culture on not just the business side, but the basketball side. We made extensive changes to start that process in the coaching staff and, frankly, in the support organization around the coaching staff. A lot of changes. That’s happened. There is a substantial culture change already, and more to come. It doesn’t happen overnight, cultures don’t change overnight. They evolve. With new ownership, with new management, certainly a lot of that has happened already. But we need to do more. So, clearly we knew would have quite a bit of change to do along those lines and we’ve done that. We’re making progress. Keith Smart last year turned out to be a temporary hire. I think he’s a good guy, it was a very difficult decision as we’ve talked about, I wish him the best of luck. I actually think he’ll be a good NBA coach, but at the end of the day I just think we needed more of a culture change. It’s not his fault, but he was still part of the Nelson era.

Fast Break: Why didn’t you bring in a completely new guy — your own guy — at the beginning of last season when Keith Smart was hired on as head coach?

Lacob: I didn’t even own the team. It was hard enough to get done what I got done. It was actually very hard.

Fast Break: So it wasn’t your choice to hire Keith Smart?

Lacob: No, it was, but the idea of going out and recruiting was an impossibility. It was hard enough just to get the previous owner to allow us to make a change, of some degree. The idea that we could go remove Coach Nelson and do a search, it was logistically impossible. It was not possible. And so we had to do what we had to do. That was pretty much our only choice.

(Just on a side note, the Kings have benefitted greatly by the Warriors moving on from Smart. Even if it works out for the Dubs in this respect, it should be noted that the Kings have benefitted from Smart and his attitude.)

Rusty Simmons of the SF Chronicle has a piece about the Dubs aspirations:

The Warriors haven’t won three in a row this season. They did it five times last season, although never extending past a four-game winning streak.

“Great teams win three in a row every other week,” Curry said. “We’ve played hard, but we haven’t gotten results, so those things really mean a lot to us. Eventually, those small victories will turn into an everyday feeling. We’ll know how to handle it, and get right back into practice and work on getting better.

Ethan Sherwood Straus of Hoopspeak, among other things, has a piece up at Warriors World about Steph Curry that you probably should read. (That’s sarcasm for you should read it.) It does explain some of the lesser sides of Curry that maybe Kings fans haven’t seen as often.

JM Poulard of WW also has a preview up of the Kings-Dubs matchup tonight.

Stathead Final Thoughts

Nothing incredible, but the Kings currently have 3 guys over 85% from the FT line (Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas). There have been a total of 24 seasons (out of 258 individual player seasons with at least 50 Free Throw Attempts since the franchise moved to the EC in 1985) of players who have had 85% or better in FT%. There have been multiple instances of two players over the course of the last 12 years. But not once has there ever been a case of 3 players doing so. Of the 3 guys not being able to finish the year that way, Isaiah Thomas is the best bet. In college Thomas had a cumulative 71.9% from the FT line over his 3 seasons at UW.

Some perspective is needed though. If Thomas finishes over 80%, or well over even, that’s a successful season percentage wise for LSG.

The Real Final Thoughts

Tonight is the first chance to see whether this Kings team can actually turn the corner. Or, as usual, a bunch of teases followed by falling flat on their face when the team doesn’t understand how to respond to real actual success.

If for nothing else, I want to see this team’s effort (starting with the terrible two) remain at a high level for as consistently as possible. Keith Smart has this team pointed in the right direction, and it’s clear that Smart’s voice was something this team needed. But, as I’ve said many times before, during, and after Paul Westphal’s departure, it doesn’t matter who the coach is if players simply don’t play hard and execute plays. Which is sometimes easier said than done, no doubt, but it’s not too much to ask of professional basketball players.

Game is at 7pm on Comcast California. Night of the living Dub nightmare of the week is almost overall. The anticipation! It’s killing me…..

The headline really says it all. In the 2nd half, the Kings play NBA level defense and ultimately come out on top. That’s really the bottom line. And to the bullet points we go…..

* I hate watching illegal streams. I usually have terrible luck with them, but tonight I didn’t. I’m grateful. (And would have much rather gone to a sports bar to watch it anyway.)

* Tyreke Evans has to develop a mid range jump shot, a left hand and better consistent shooting form. I will say that I thought Tyreke’s setup’s were of high quality for the most part, and the worst decisions were with shooting the ball. The defense by Tyreke was pretty solid if not excellent all night. All in all a fair performance by him. But without an evolving offensive repertoire, shooting poorly is all Tyreke will eventually muster.

If there is anything that makes me a bit wary of saying Tyreke has turned a real corner, it’s that the Blazers weren’t without Batum and Tyreke didn’t take necessary advantage of a player’s absence who gives Tyreke fits all the time. I’ll say that’s a minor quibble though. (It’s not, but I’m being nice.)

One note about the long shot that Tyreke hit: All it did was go in. This was one of the better players I’ve seen Tyreke make in the open court. (Also loved that Jerry compared it to Tyreke hitting the hole as a halfback.)

* DeMarcus Cousins needs to find a way to play more than 14 mins against the Blazers. When he was on the court, and from what I saw tonight, Smart kept him off the court for very long stretches. If Cuz doesn’t learn how to keep himself on the court, it’s pointless to talk about being a duo like what Oklahoma City has. Also, it’s pointless to talk about being a duo if you can’t run a 2 man game with the guy whom you’re supposed to be a duo with. (That is both Reke & Cuz’s fault.)

* Marcus Thornton returned tonight and had some good moments. On letting the shot clock running down so often, I hate that. At some point the Kings need to run a play, and I thought some of that was due to not having Cousins on the court at the end of the game. Running plays matters in the NBA a great deal. If Evans and Thornton won’t run plays at the end of the game, I’ll always be at a loss.

Back to Thornton, his returning from being hit on the head/neck by Gerald Wallace is a nice thing for this team. Thornton hit a big 3 that put the Kings up 5 (at 93-88), and that was nice to see. Seeing Marcus let Gerald Wallace swipe the ball out of his hands so that Portland could get up 2 relatively clean looks at the 3 to close the game is not so good. At least Marcus knows it.

* I wasn’t ready to fire John Salmons as quickly as everyone else and tonight is not really why. (Think more like what happened against the Warriors Tuesday against Monta Ellis.) 8-14 from the field tonight including 3-4 from 3 pt land is a great night in the NBA. Period. John also grabbed 8 rebounds which is a lot better than Gerald Wallace did tonight. I don’t expect John to outpeform Gerald all the time, but it’s nice to see that John could still perform at a high level on a consistent basis for 4 qtr’s. The defense on Wallace/Matthews was stellar all night long, and I thought Salmons moved off the ball well tonight. Tonight John Salmons showed his value as a talented 2 way player. 14 shots won’t happen for him every night, but he did show he can bring it. The only question left: Can it happen consistently? Stay tuned.

An underrated part to what Salmons did tonight was that his offense kept the Blazers from using Wallace to disrupt other players on the Kings as often. Defensively, Salmons certainly disrupted Wallace and limited him to 7 shots. That’s the name of the game yes?

Salmons came into the game shooting 21% from 3 pt land, and left the game shooting over 25% from 3 pt land. Salmons TS% went from 41.5% to 43.5% in one night. That’s doing great work.

* Jason Thompson has made me feel foolish for not believing he would turn a real corner as a player, and I’ve been glad for every moment of it. Tonight JT hit 3 of his 4 FT attempts(!!!!) which now puts his season FT% at 53.7%. (Remember when JT’s FT% was at 37%?) But let’s not forget that Jason Thompson drew the difficult assignment of defending LaMarcus Aldridge who absolutely cut the Kings up in the 1st half. Coming out, JT did a great job of front and denying LMA the ball. Additionally, the help defense and energy that JT provides has been a joy. Despite all the negative things that have gone on with this team, JT has been a positive bright spot. (Also one reason I’m skeptical that players weren’t asked to improve under Paul Westphal.) It’s been a pleasure to see. JT’s TS% (after a 5-7 shooting night from the field and a 3-4 line is now sitting at a 55.5% (came into the game at 54.5%). I’m interested to see how JT’s ORtg/DRtg looks tonight after the 2nd half defense that saw the Kings give up 36 points. Jason also played a second short of 33 minutes as well. It simply doesn’t get better than that. JT made a few mistakes (like passing the ball in the lane rather than shooting it late), but that’s very minor stuff.

* JJ Hickson showed off his athleticism with this amazing dunk off an excellent lob by Marcus Thornton (seeing it initially I thought it wasn’t a very good lob by MT23–I was very wrong):

It was nice to see Hickson get to show off his athleticism and do the things he is always capable of. While Hickson isn’t the player that JT has become, his athleticism and abilities are an asset if the Kings utilize him properly. Hickson’s TS% went up despite the limited shot attempts from 41.5% to 43.2%. That’s movement in the right direction at least. Let’s hope it continues.

* I love the #Chuckwagon. What I love the most? Just that he’s a professional who goes out there and does what he can. No more no less. Chuck’s season TS% went from a paltry 42.2% to a paltry 42.6%.

* Isaiah Thomas shot 2-5 (missing a few makeable shots) from the field tonight (including a nice Stop n Pop Terrell Brandon moment), but the block on Wes Matthews was a thing of beauty. For some reason, and it wasn’t just Thomas who made great plays against the Blazers in transition tonight, the Blazers struggled in transition. I’m wondering if that was because Salmons, Thornton and Thomas made great plays or if that’s something routine that is a consistent bugaboo for Portland. (I’m thinking a bit of both.) Either way, it was nice to see the Kings get productive, if not statistically, minutes from Thomas as more consistency from the young man was needed.

* Jimmer didn’t play? So what? There is always next game.

* The Kings margin of winning went down from negative 11.3 to negative 10.6. Progress.

* Even though the Kings were being outrebounded for a lot of the game, the game ended up even in that department.

I’ll repeat myself again: The 2nd half defense was exceptional, and this Kings team has the opportunity if the commitment, as it was for long stretches of the 2nd half tonight, remains. It’s really that simple at the end of the day when you strip all the horseshit away and are left with the barebones reality of what really went on.

At one point Portland was up 13 in this game, and there were times I wondered if the Kings would lay down as they so often had this season. Instead, the Kings cranked the pressure up a bit and Portland only had so much of an answer. It was nice to see that the Kings can A) run a competent NBA style offense and B) play excellent NBA defense. Tonight is proof why young teams are so difficult at times: You just don’t know what you will get. Will this mean more maturity from this group next game? Or an uneven performance lending towards the idea that this team doesn’t have what it takes to win games at the NBA level.

We shall see. Interesting times ahead. Remember, the Kings have had a brutal road schedule, and it will continue until the All-Star break full tilt and then some. After playing the Warriors on Saturday, the Kings head to New Orleans next Monday and to Minnesota next Tuesday. Then back to Sacramento for the Thursday blackout game against Oklahoma City on TNT and a Saturday game against the Phoenix Suns. Then the game 6 game trip that takes the Kings to Chicago, New York (the 2nd of a b2b), Detroit, Cleveland, Miami & Washington (the 2nd of a b2b).

As bad as this schedule is, at some point it evens out which is exactly what will happen after the All-Star game. The Kings play 22 of their road games before the AS break; 22 of their home games after the AS break. This team very well could be on a much better trajectory headed into the sweet spot of their schedule. Nothing in the NBA is guaranteed, and March is no exception. The reality is that in this league you have up’s & downs and little practice time in a shortened season. Except, Smart has made this team practice to help fix the many things ailing this team with all the limited opportunities he has had to do so. The Kings are 5-4 at home, and that isn’t as bad as the losses look. Every team has a few missed opportunities they wish they could capitalize on. The Kings are also 2-10 on the road with some of the worst losses I can remember a Kings team having. Despite all the terrible shooting slash effort blowouts, it does after all sometimes make players realize that those games are only 1 game. Some maturity and growth out of Tyreke Evans/DeMarcus Cousins is what needed to happen, and up to a point in some cases for each we have seen a bit of maturity from both guys.

But a lot more maturity is needed from both Evans and Cousins to get the Kings to a 500 team and eventually if the Kings aspire to be a better than 500 team beyond just the minimum amounts of maturity. Hopefully wins like tonight make both realize that at some point. Until then, it’s just nice to see Salmons/Thompson/Hayes/Thomas have an impact on this team, and it was nice to see both Evans/Cousins make plays that did help the Kings win. Marcus Thornton doing what he does (for better or worse) was a nice respite.

For me, the record was not as bothersome as the lack of effort and attention to obvious details that you know from Jr High on. Some of the lapses are still there, but not nearly as frequent as they were even a week ago. There is at least, if nothing else, semblance of a real NBA team and ability on this badly underachieving team. Was tonight a real accomplishment? Not really. The Blazers didn’t take advantage of some of the gifts the Kings gave them, and the Kings did just enough to pull out a victory.

Okay that’s pretty much it. On the flip side I go. Go Kings?

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