Here's a newsflash: The Kings aren't very good. Why? Their pieces are still mis-matched, their pieces still don't work except on paper and in the land of misfit toys, Keith Smart doesn't really seemingly get the most out of his pieces when they are going well, and well it's hard to figure out exactly what pieces are going well in all reality, and oh yeah the chemistry sucks too. Shitty owners, shitty GM, a seemingly shitty coach, a shitty rotation littered with landmines at every turn.
But what this franchise needs is more patience, right?
There are times, and places, where wins can be cathartic. For a lot of Kings fans, a win against the Lakers qualifies as such. For me what was cathartic is that the Kings clearly got many quality performances across the board tonight in a much needed victory that now has the Kings 3-8 on the season.
I've thought a lot about how to write this, and frankly I'm still confused. That's how confounding this group really is when you get right down to it. On the other hand, there are possible solutions out there. So let's discuss them, yeah?
* This won't be anything special, but just some jotted thoughts in random order I suppose as they come to me. Numero uno: DeMarcus Cousins. This shit has to stop. Immediately. And, will it? Probably is the unfortunate answer. Cousins, if I had my druthers (and I don't naturally), would have gotten 30 games for this bullshit. This. Needs. To. End.
* Cousins needs to grow up, and there are many reasons why. I would just say that at the moment I think Cousins needs a shrink if there isn't a presence in that department already as it is.
* Just for shits and giggles, I re-read my draft day DeMarcus Cousins piece. Yowzah, yowzah, yowzah. It saddens me to no end to say the least that I had Cousins pretty fairly pegged from day one. The blowback from Cousins being moved eventually will be huge with Kings fans, and it will not be fair in the slightest to them. On the other hand, reasonable people don't get butthurt because the other teams analyst said some mean things about him.
* Oh, and on Sean Elliott, this guy is an assclown of an analyst. He's just fucking terrible beyond comprehension. Does that mean just because Elliott is unsavory in his job Cousins has to confront him? Of course not.
Heh. I mostly write obtuse and silly titles to amuse myself. Otherwise, what's the point? That said, sometimes with young dumb teams ugly wins are about the best you are going to get. And, well, an ugly win that was far too difficult and came down to two missed shots by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are a tough way to get victories. Against the top tier, it won't happen. And thus, so it goes.
* DeMarcus Cousins looked much better than he had all season tonight. Shot well, did well defensive rebounding, and the offensive rebounds came off others misses. Not a bad night, and more like this will make me happy. The thing that made me happy was that Cousins led the Kings in minute with 34 minutes, and it could have been more if Smart felt like subbing Cousins in earlier. That's the actual important news in my mind more than anything else.
* Tyreke Evans really struggled tonight on both ends. Struggled off screens defensively, and couldn't get his offense going. The good news is that there is another game coming down the pike, and games like this do happen to everyone at some point. One interesting note is that Tyreke was perfect from the free throw line coming into the game (8-8) but missed 1 of 2 tonight to end that streak. Oh well....90% from the line isn't bad though. Silver linings.....
Okay, sarcasm aside, the road trip isn't a complete failure at 0-3. Sure, wins are always better than losses. And could the Kings gone 1-2, 2-1 or won all 3 games? Of course. But we knew that. And we know the Kings won't do that this year. So, it is what it is.
I'm not going to keep this running forever. Here is the boxscore. To the bullets we go......
The Kings lost, and that's that. Here is the Boxscore. I was going to do the 4 Factors, but I don't feel like calculating Pace and Possessions to do it right now. Maybe in the morning when I'm not in such a "I'm going to conk out" type of mood. Some observations and then I'm nodding off.
* Tyreke Evans was clearly the best player on the Kings tonight. Which was good news and bad news. The bad news is that Cousins had a terrible game by any measurable basis, and Evans couldn't guide the Kings past the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. That's a bit of a problem I suppose, but there wasn't a whole lot of continuity tonight which hurt the Kings a bit. Tyreke also scored 13 of his 21 points in the first 11 minutes of a game, and considering Tyreke ended up playing 39 minutes for the game that was a bit of a problem The efficiency was there (76.8 TS% for the game) and that's a good part of it. The defense on Luol Deng was also there which was a terrific sign. Plus there was 8 boards and only 2 turnovers. An open 3 made with his feet set. A tough lefty layup. I couldn't ask for more, and it was certainly a great first game for Tyreke.
I'll never understand why Smart took Evans out (tired or not) because of the rhythm Tyreke was in, but whatever. It's just one game. I just hope that Tyreke can continue on a roll like that. It felt like Smart was taking Tyreke out for arbitrary reasons and not real reasons. But whatever. It is just one game.
* DeMarcus Cousins stunk. Got a technical. Picked up fouls for no ostensible reason. Only 4 defensive rebounds and 7 total. Unfortunately there were 7 turnovers out of a team total of 21. 25 total minutes
That said, it's just one game and rather than droning on about some of the stuff that ticks me off (the dribble driving is a major pet peeve of mine that Cuz did for instance), I'll just say it is one game. DeMarcus knows it. Time to move on.
* James Johnson can play defense. The other stuff will come with time and figuring these guys out, but it's clear why Johnson started the game.
* The Kings struggled rebounding with Chuck Hayes and Thomas Robinson on the front line. That might be a strong reason to start T-Rob and bring JT off the bench if Smart can get comfortable with that. (I doubt it. T-Rob has a ways to go to be a starter right now.)
* Marcus Thornton hit some shots in the late 3rd and 4th quarters. Aaron Brooks was off, got a tooth knocked out (hope you're okay AB!), and it happens. Isaiah had one of those games too. It happens.
* The Kings only scored 87 points in Chicago despite 21 turnovers and 41% shooting from the field overall. It could be much worse.
* The last point before I sign off is to say that the Kings kept looking like a team that would get blown out by 25 points at multple junctures come the 2nd quarter, and espcecially the early 3rd quarter when Chicago nearly broke the game completely wide open. Even though the Kings never really came away with many quality possessions in a row, there were so many opportunities to come away with a win had the Kings just tightened up in a few areas across the board. A win in Chicago was not so out of the realm impossible that it's foolish to predict a victory.
That is the good news. The bad news is that beating Minnesota is a lot like Chicago: They are a tough and overhauled team. The difference is that the Bulls have been together much longer than this Wolves group has so the Kings might be able to eek a game out in Minneapolis Friday night.
The Kings gave themselves a chance to win tonight. That's more than I could say many games in the first month of last season. That right there is an improvement and something to note even if a loss is just a loss. A lot of so-so performances with one superior performance and the Kings were right in the game against a veteran opponent looking to illustrate how quality of a team they are without their own best player. I've seen worse things, and quite a few of them were last season. This season seems that an improvement is pretty likely. The question is just how much of an improvement is coming at this point, not if an improvement will happen.
First and foremost, it seems like James Johnson locked down the SF spot. I talked about this when Johnson was traded for, but nailing down the SF spot with average production is what the Kings need. At the time I wasn't not exceptionally fond of the move. Since, I've grown a bit more fond of Johnson's physicality and unique tools that the Kings desperately need.
With Johnson locking down the SF spot out of camp, that's one question that's answered right there.
I'm not one to ever put stock into the pre-season for any reason. There are lots of variables. Like, a player playing his first game with a team (a la Dwight Howard with the Lakers), and thus what does it mean? Usually nothing. Tonight had an interesting wrinkle: The Lakers played their starters down the stretch, and the Kings played all of their reserves and DeMarcus Cousins. And, yes, the Kings won.
The key important part is that A) I think the Kings showed they can play with the Lakers and B) the Lakers bench needs a whole lot of help. A whole lotta help even. Whatever it is, fixing that bench won't just be helped by playing with the Lakers starters unless they just play better wholesale any way you slice it.
I don't really care about the Lakers bench though. I care whether or not a pre-season win can establish this young team moving towards the direction they certainly wish to move in. And, I suppose, any positive moment in pre-season that can help this young team along is better than nothing. Beyond that, it still very much is pre-season.
The pre-season proves nothing. It's a tool that helps teams, and I bet it will help the Lakers. Whether you go 8-0 or 0-8, the pre-season isn't real. The games don't matter. Rotations are being monkeyed with. It's really hard to say who gives maximum effort and who doesn't. What I do know is that the Kings are better off for winning at Staples if for no other reason than it's better to win than to lose I guess. Does it mean anything for the regular season? Nope, and it never does. Bank on it.
Okay. Let me be on record on saying that I think a likelihood for the Kings seems anywhere from 25 wins to 40 or even 45 wins. But 45 wins? Is that really impossible? That's what we are discussing here, and I would say that based on previous seasons that the answer is of course no. Therein lies the problem however: This team is not the same Kings team of previous seasons. And, of course, any real tangible improvement will be because Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins actually play as All-Star (or better) players all season long.
I could contemplate a worse case scenario, but let me say this first: I won't bother. It's stupid. We've all seen bad teams, and bad teams are not fun to remember. (Useful from a context and information standpoint, but not exceptionally fun or enjoyable.)
That said, I think it's possible that the Kings could win 50 games. After the jump I'll detail how.