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.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=G9JBqHmff40?feature=player_embedded

(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!