Here is the Box Score in case you care about that sort of thing.
These are games that are always tough to write about because of the complicated nature of the struggles. I suppose I’ll start with Tyreke Evans: He flat out stunk tonight. He should be ashamed of his performance and go at Chicago Thursday night with the intensity of a Hindu Penitent to make up for tonight’s stinker. Tyreke probably won’t though so there is that. Whatever he was, Tyreke was not engaged and getting after it tonight. I don’t care what the reasons are; Tyreke needs to be the driving force behind this team night in and night out. Tonight Tyreke did not exhibit such.
Marcus Thornton was off tonight and never really had it going all night. But Thornton wasn’t really to blame. It’s not like he was the only one who was out of rhythm, sync, or even that effective. He had lots of company tonight.
Jimmer Fredette frustrated me all night with his shot selection, but it’s his 2nd game. Patience is very much needed. What illustrated to me that Jimmer hasn’t really figured it out quite yet is when he passed up a wide open 3 (especially for him) to give it up to Travis Outlaw. Outlaw had literally just passed the ball to Jimmer for a wide open 3. Once Jimmer learns these things, I suspect we will see a more consistent performer. Jimmer was beat repeatedly in transition defense, and that’s to be expected. Jimmer is like the rest of this roster: A work in progress.
John Salmons had one of those games that happens. If he wasn’t a veteran, I’d be concerned. But bigger SF’s like Gerald Wallace will give the current 10 man rotation problems unless Evans or Salmons can defend them. That’s really the lesson you should be taking away from tonight.
Isaiah Thomas didn’t have a great game, but let’s be honest: He wasn’t likely going to have to a special moment every night out. The Kings, though, turned the ball over 20 times, and Thomas wasn’t one of them. (He got a bit lucky as a few potential turnover’s ended up not happening.) Nonetheless, LSG took fairly reasonable care of the ball. The Blazers just figured out the Kings number tonight and smashed the Kings for the last 2 1/2 quarters.
Travis Outlaw grabbed 7 boards. If there is one thing I do not understand, it’s the fixation on Travis Outlaw by Westphal and the coaching staff. But, if at some point, Outlaw emerges as an effective contributor off the bench I suppose the early struggles are worth it.
Jason Thompson had some really good moments that showed me he knew what was going on. In fact, all of them came when the Kings were building at one point (gasp!) a 14 point lead. As that lead evaporated the Kings simply and slowly devolved into a hot discombulated mess of a stinkpot offense. It cost them big time on both ends with all the repeated leak-outs by the Blazers (who exploited the godawful transition defense). But Jason Thompson showed that he could hit a shot in the lane, would play active if not effective defense, and looked like he was trying to play well. Whatever happpened during the 1st 2 preseason games are forgettable if JT can perform anything near his 5-6 floor (1-2 line too) performance for 11 points. He only grabbed 2 boards, but that was not entirely his fault. Not when JJ Hickson and Travis Outlaw each grab 7 boards apiece.
Speaking of Hickson, he was also effective offensively at times tonight. Unfortunately, that was all during the building of the 14 point lead. After that, I’m not sure the Kings ran any offensive sets that weren’t offensive. Hickson used his athleticism and scoring ability to get some buckets that I think as the other guys around Hickson figure out he’ll get the ball more in those spots whenever possible. But, as I said about Jimmer, there is growing pains. Figuring each other out is a part of the process.
Chuck Hayes was Chuck Hayes.
And then there was Cousins. He had a reasonably decent statistical game, and that was something in of itself. There was a couple of nice spin moves along with some excellent rebounding. There was also a few turnovers, a few fouls that shouldn’t have been committed. Boogie, and this was the part that I thought really made me happy to see, managed to block 2 shots tonight. If he can manage to block a shot or even 1.5 shots most years that will help this team get better possessions offensively.
My biggest frustration with DeMarcus Cousins tonight was on a play, I think, in the late 3rd quarter where Cuz could have started the break if he could have found an outlet pass to Jimmer (I think) that might have resulted in an easy bucket that could have helped stem the tide. Other than that, he got a double-double and made a few stupid plays. No Kings fan should be upset if you could pencil Boogie in for 17 & 11 all year long.
With so much roster turnover there was bound to be some real ugliness at some point and from the middle 2nd quarter on that was pretty much what we saw with this Kings team. As Akis Yerocostas at Sactown Royalty noted, there was a lot of frustration. Since I was watching the Blazers feed I only got their perspective, but all I saw was looks of exasperation from the Kings all night. (I’m not sure John Salmons or Tyreke Evans have emotions, but if they do it was surely exasperation.) It felt like it was one of those nights where nothing went your way at all. After the mid 2nd quarter, that was completely true. The Kings simply couldn’t run their offense consistently against the Blazers defense.
The late 3rd quarter of playing Jimmer Fredette, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton (with Jimmer cover Nicolas Batum) was a disaster and predictably so. But guess what? What is the alternative to that? A struggling Salmons? A disengaged Evans? Donte Greene? Francisco Garcia? All the options are not simple here, and that’s the problem of coaching a roster with enough flaws to lose quite a few games. This is even more magnified with a lot of turnover on the roster, a shortened training camp and a back to back. (It’s not an excuse, but this Blazers team had been together for the most part for at least half a season at bare minimum. It helps with cohesiveness.)
If Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton aren’t giving this team 40-45 points a night, the Kings are in deep trouble. Know that from the start. If Salmons is going to struggle with the bigger SF types, there has to be an answer to those guys on those nights. (Donte Greene seems like a reasonable solution if other players are going well so Donte isn’t stuck trying to make plays for himself on the perimeter.) But Salmons also got in foul trouble that really set the ball rolling for a bad night. Tyreke Evans started well, and dropped off a cliff after getting his 2 fouls. He had no rhythm, and Marcus Thornton never found any rhythm despite 35 minutes of playing time. You’re not going to win if the 2 best consistent scorers (Evans and Thornton) aren’t getting their points in a reasonable efficient fashion. If you’re asking offense out of Jimmer Fredette and he’s struggling to take shots (which Jimmer is), then offense in the 2nd unit is problematic until these kinks are worked out.
The good news? It’s only one game. But these flaws are real and without adjustments made by the players and the coaching staff somewhat, these problems will continue. So while making a mountain out of a molehill (Jimmer especially) isn’t reasonable, being frustrated with a disengaged and out of sync Tyreke Evans is more than reasonable.
The Blazers turned up the heat, the Kings couldn’t counter tonight, and that was all she wrote. This is a young team with real growing pains. What I am after as someone writing a lot of words about this is seeing improvement game by game, week by week, and month by month. I think the Kings will be better in March than they will be in February, and better in February than January and so on. Building on little successes to create consistency is what this season should be about. (If not making the playoffs, but starting small seems to be a more reasonable goal at this point.)
The Kings are 1-1 right now. It’s not like the Kings were going to jump out of the gate and win 12 in a row. The Blazers are a tough opponent, and tonight they showed why. Until the Kings illustrate that they are a better team than their opponents, most nights you will see the comments of “it’s a young team and it’s growing pains”. Well, hey, so what? It’s up to the Kings to change folks mind about their effectiveness and talent level.
Tyreke Evans disappointed me with his energy and effectiveness tonight. Everyone else pretty much did what they did to some degree of effectiveness or no. But Tyreke Evans can’t be disengaged as he was if the Kings want to win games. Tonight Tyreke went through the motions, and that’s unacceptable if he really belives in “The Bluprint” of being a franchise player. Franchise players need to play significantly better than Tyreke did tonight. Hopefully that message is felt by Tyreke here on out.
It’s just 1 of 82 minus 16. Thursday isn’t most likely going to be much better against Chicago. A young team has bumps in the road, so enjoy this team before bandwagon clowns jump on. That’s my only advice here. Whether you realize it or not, I believe if you are rooting for this Kings team right now you are on the ground floor of something. Keep that in mind through every frustrating possession and silly mistakes made by a young team.
If you look at the Kings schedule, the Kings are playing no less than 7 teams that made the playoffs a year ago to open the season. Of the opening 8 games, it includes the lone b2b2b of the season (@Memphis, @Denver & Milwaukee) next week. A rough start to the 1st half of the season that includes 21 road games before the All-Star break. There is a flip side, and that flip side is the Kings will have 9 home games in a row in March. Even though I thought the Kings could have beat the Blazers tonight, I didn’t pencil it in as a win. (I didn’t know about the Lakers; I thought that was a coin flip.) I penciled Chicago as a loss, New York and New Orleans as wins, and Memphis, Denver and a coin flip win over Milwaukee (maybe because of the b2b2b). That’s a 4-4 record, and given the tough nature of the competition I’ll take that every time. But if the Kings only win 2 more games and have a 3-5 record coming out of this stretch, I’ll be okay with that too. The Kings are capable of hanging in with most teams in the NBA in any context, but figuring out how to maintain that consistency is the trick. Young teams typically have trouble with the NBA in this regard.
It’s part of the process. If you aren’t familiar with it, get familiar with it. It’ll feel like a fucking broken record by Saturday. Also, if you see Tyreke before Thursday, light a firecracker and stick it up his ass will ya? Thanks in advance.
Until the next time the Kings disappoint us then. (Or not.)