The preseason is over; Now what?

This is about the preseason. Not about anything else. Just as an FYI. I could discuss the comments David Stern made or whatever, or talk about the Adrian Wojnarowski article stating that the NBA Front Office is pressuring the Maloofs to sell to Chris Hansen which would allow the Kings to move to Seattle, but I won’t. Nothing has changed on any front whether it’s the 7% being sold (finally a bit of news there) and where the team ends up. I suggest reading Carmichael Dave’s piece at CSN a few days ago. Ditto with Rob McAllister’s piece at Cowbell Kingdom. There are some interesting tidbits. As far as what Stern has said nothing Stern discussed tells me anything. Why? Stern never says anything and contradicts himself however and whenever he feels like it. In otherwords, money talks and bullshit walks. That is all the news fit to print. I’ve said what I needed to say already. Onto preseason….

 

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. 

 

The biggest thing that I think preseason serves as it can set as a tone for the rest of the season even if the stats and/or wins don’t really translate. I don’t ever expect preseason wins or stats to mean much. But improved defense and not turning the ball over hardly at all are good trends that typically do not happen in the preseason. (Playing the Lakers helps that though honestly. They don’t force a ton of turnovers.) And, if it’s a trend that continues when the Kings move onto the regular season starting in Chicago, I think that’s a great thing. If nothing else, it gives this team more shots and more shots with this group is not a bad thing when you possess so many above average offensive rebounders.

However, the biggest thing I think this preseason served for me that the idea that defense could lead to offense. Over the summer and into preseason, it was clear Keith Smart was looking to upgrade the offense by running more often. The best way to run is off defensive rebounds and forcing turnovers. By doing both of those things, you increase your number of 4 on 1′s, 3 on 1′s, 2 on 1′s and so forth. This team struggled badly to get easy baskets, struggled badly to keep other teams from getting easy baskets, and that’s a good chunk of why the Kings really lost so often and easily last year.

Which is why Johnson nailing down the SF spot is so important to that. Yes Johnson is not a perimeter shooter, but better perimeter shooters were on the court than Johnson (Salmons and Thornton to name two) and the offense struggled badly in the halfcourt anyway. You can struggle in the opencourt with shooters and without shooters. If you are getting an upgrade many other places that you need help in, you are ahead of where you were. Which, again, why James Johnson locking down the SF spot was so important. There isn’t a massive hole there anymore. Which means Tyreke Evans can play in the backcourt where he has always belonged, and will always belong. (Tyreke is not, never will be, and never has been a SF.)

This is the thing though that had me so piqued and borderline excited this morning when I read Jason Jones piece in the Bee when quoting Keith Smart:

 

“Our guys have retained a lot of the stuff we’re doing,” Smart said. “When we see there are things we haven’t been doing, it’s quickly identifiable and, right away, corrected.”

 

That accountability was badly needed.

 

Jones has it nailed here: Accountability was needed. From Man 1 to Man 15. Accountability is being discussed as a given in the Kings universe more often these days, and that’s a positive change. I don’t think going 5-2 in the preseason means a whole lot no doubt about it. I think that Smart played the bench (which seems like a strength with Thornton as a 6th man), that the starters (Thomas,Evans,Johnson,Thompson & Cousins) could come out and give the bench leads to work with, and that in general that Smart’s concepts were reinforced in preseason with a modest amount of success. 

Was preseason successful? Yes, but because positive changes are possibly looming for a regular season where the Kings have badly underperformed the last several seasons. Having defensive talent at least 4 starter positions, and 5 if Cousins ever gets his butt in gear (he can be better even if he is not a lockdown anchor the defensive type), is a plus for this team. 

Here’s an even better quote from Isaiah Thomas:

 

“Last year, it was if you make a mistake it was, ‘Well, it’s all good,’ ” Thomas said. “This year we know, and people are talking to each other.”

 

A very interesting quote by  Smart that shouldn’t be overlooked either:

 

Heading into the regular season, (Smart) wants to see improved defensive rebounding.

“A lot of them are long rebounds from the free-throw line and a little bit out,” Smart said. “We’re not getting to those balls, 50/50 balls, second-chance points that we’ve got to get to and take away.”

 

Those effort plays are the kind that could lead to second-chance points and to more transition offense.

It’s interesting to me. Where the Kings played improved defense, shot pretty well from the FT line, and didn’t turn the ball over nearly as often as you might think. Yet, there are ways for the Kings to improve and Smart is after this group to improve there. Can’t say I disapprove honestly. And the defensive rebounding needs to get better if the Kings want to sniff the playoffs.

I know it seems odd: I’m excited for the season to see what happens down the line, and (unlike Bill Simmons silly monologue the other day where he rips on this group and posits that Aaron Brooks and Marcus Thornton will throw down because they don’t get the ball enough; umm kay) to see if this team ever turns the corner. The talent is there. The question is do all the other pieces fall into play.

There were some interesting statistical tidbits from individual players (one that comes directly to mind is Cousins shooting 83% from the FT line in preseason; I think Cousins could enter Yao Ming territory from the FT line if Cuz ever puts his mind to it; Cuz finished ranked in the 40′s somewhere overall for the whole NBA in preseason in terms of Free Throw percentage–this will likely shift by the end of the preseason; another is Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas shooting FT’s in the low 90′s which is always nice for your starting backcourt to do), and I’ll dive into them later in a post over the weekend. Hopefully.

Okay that’s it. Some good things abound for this Kings team if they truly have turned a corner and what not. Have they? We shall see. But color me intrigued, and in ways that I haven’t been intrigued by for a long time. Here’s to hoping the season is what we are hoping.