Game 53 Preview: Kings vs. Blazers

A Look at the Kings

The Kings are an interesting lot.  I have a hard time not thinking of them as the force they were earlier in the decade.  The offense of those early 2000's Kings team was amazing.  Along with Utah and the L*kers they were really a dominant force in the West and they probably should have had a chance to fight for an NBA title (see also: the Kobe/Shaq ref attack).  However they also became a textbook case for trying to prop open a window that rapidly and inexorably closed.  Not learning from their cousins to the north, the Blazers, they acquired a bunch of overpriced, downward-spiraling, stopgap veterans:  Bonzi Wells, Ron Artest, Kenny Thomas, Shareef Abdur-Rahim.  (OK...not only did they not learn from the Blazers' example, they flat-out copied off of our test!  Keep your eyes forward, Geoff Petrie!  And by the way, Bob Whitsitt doesn't have the answers right anyway.)  We won't get down on them too much though.  It's easy to see it when somebody else's GM is doing it.  It's much harder when you're inside and you're hoping these guys will be the last pieces of the puzzle that finally put you over the top.

The main point is, Sacramento has finally begun the process of starting over.  They traded once-franchise and recently-wounded Mike Bibby to Atlanta for a package of Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Anthony Johnson, and Lorenzen Wright plus a second-round pick.  It gives the Kings a little young frontcourt help and some cap space.  It also signals that business as usual in Sacramento is a thing of the past.

There's no definitive word whether the new Kings will make their debut tonight or tomorrow.  Either way, this becomes a real wild-card game.  When an NBA game involves any kind of emotion you can usually throw records (23-28 on their side) out the window.  Obviously it would be easier for us without the first-game-in-the-uniform energy.  Lue and Johnson don't exactly strike fear in opponents but both are capable of putting up numbers.  Here's hoping they save it for tomorrow night.

The Kings' attack is still spearheaded by 23-point man Kevin Martin.  He's wiry and dangerous from anywhere, most notably the foul line where he's averaging 87% on almost 9 attempts per game.  Ron Artest is back from injury and is playing well.  He scored 30 in their last game before the break.  He may be on the way out of town but that won't stop him from trying to abuse our small forwards on the offensive end and trying to bully Brandon on the defensive side of things.  Brad Miller always creates a matchup problem for us.  This may be a night when we go smaller at the 5.  John Salmons and Francisco Garcia have both caused us problems in the past and it's never safe to overlook a guy with the range and confidence of Beno Udrih.

There's nobody on the Sacramento side who's guaranteed to beat us but there are a lot of annoying players who could very well slip through cracks and give us a surprise or two.  Is this a game we should win?  Probably.  But it's not a lock.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  Many people point out the relative lack of coordination and energy in the weeks right before the All-Star break.  Fair enough.  We've had a little rest.  Brandon and Lamarcus got their chance to shine.  Time to re-focus and re-dedicate ourselves.  I want to see a look in our eyes that says we want to be out there.
  2.  There's no shot-blocking on the court.  Drive.
  3.  We better move our feet on defense because if we send them to the line we're dead.  Last I checked we were notching 50% efforts from the charity stripe.  They shoot 79% as a team.
  4.  This ought to be a big night for Lamarcus Aldridge and Channing Frye.  They need to seize the opportunity and hit some shots.
  5.  I'm guessing their ball movement and passing isn't going to be up to snuff so it might be a good idea to throw some traps and double-teams in there.  It's also a good idea to make Martin work very hard for his points.
  6.  We need to take the emotion out of this game in two ways.  First we need to get off to an early start so they don't get the idea this can be an improbable, magical night.  Second we need to make this ugly and grinding.  The Kings don't win unless it's pretty and the scoring runs as free as bad booze at a frat party.  93-87 would be just fine.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S.  Don't forget to check out how the other half lives at SBN sister-site Sactownroyalty.com.

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