Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Volatility, the DeMarcus Way – Sacramento Kings Preview

I never intended to write about the league’s two worst teams over the past five years in back-to-back posts, it just came together this way and now we’re taking a trip down I-5 to the capital of Cali and home to one of its four NBA teams: Sacramento. Since the breakup of the Chris Webber Kings, a pall has been cast over the Kings-crazy fans of Sacto. Webber was traded on February 3rd, 2005 and while the Kings managed to remain afloat in the Western Conference for a couple years after, things officially bottomed out in the 2008-09 season when they won a franchise low 17 games. It’s been off ever since with the franchise building a young team around strong draft picks who, while entertaining, have proven to be success-challenged—this of course depends on your definition of success.

The reams of losing over the past three seasons haven’t stopped Sacramento fans from showing up and supporting their team in what almost feels like an endearing manner. How else could you love this motley crew that doesn’t get more motley than their 21-year-old center, DeMarcus Cousins; a headband-wearing giant ball of emotion and talent. Watching the young Cousins, it doesn’t take long to see he has a feel for the game that far exceeds his level of experience. It’s one thing when we see a young point guard like Omar Cook whip passes into spaces that only a fraction of the basketball-playing population could recognize, it’s something altogether different and refreshing to see the rare rookie center make passes and plays that defy the unoriginal standards and expectations we place on positions and ages. Then there’s the dark side to DeMarcus, an internal fury that feels Vesuvianly intense and is indiscriminate in choosing targets—the opposition, teammates, refs, coaches, me, you?

The Kings are more than their moody big man. They’re a collection of redundancy which is also referred to as depth. Francisco Garcia, John Salmons (picked up in the off-season) and Donte Greene seem as interchangeable as different brands of socks. Garcia adds more defensively, Salmons possesses a greater scorer’s mentality, but may have an inflated sense of his skills and Greene’s the youngest which means someone, somewhere is still waiting for him. In the backcourt, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and now Jimmer Fredette and even the last pick in the draft, Isaiah Thomas, each brings a shoot-first mentality—they clearly bring more dimensions than shooting, but none of these guards are renowned for their passing. Being on the west coast, I’ve seen quite a few Kings’ games over the past two years and have seen in Evans a talented player who makes awful decisions; particularly in crunch time. When you’re the best and most talented player on your team at 20-22-years-old, there are going to be growing pains, but Evans, and the Kings by extension, could benefit from a true point guard. The data at 82games.com indicates the Kings’ best lineups last year consistently included Beno Udrih who functioned primarily at the point. This truth makes me scratch my head at Sacramento re-signing Thornton and trading for Fredette. By another token, last year’s squad (24 wins) wasn’t exactly making people forget about Webber’s Kings.

JJ Hickson (acquired in a summer trade for Omri Casspi), Chuck Hayes (just signed) and Jason Thompson join Cousins on the front lines for Sacramento. It’s a serviceable, workmanlike crew that isn’t likely win any beauty contests, but collectively knows its role. In terms of intrigue, I rank these guys Cousins, then Hickson.

In what could be the final season for the Kings in Sacramento, the small similarities between the Kings and Sonics situations are just enough to revisit old scars: Ailing franchise coming up on the shoulders of future stars, franchise one foot out the door over some antiquated arena bullshit and a group fans who will suffer the most. The Kings belong in Sacramento and hopefully Kevin Johnson and crew can figure out a way to keep them there.

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