The DeMarcus Cousins era begins.
STARTING LINEUPS & INJURIES
Tyreke Evans will serve his suspension for the reckless driving plea tonight. Francisco Garcia will start in his place, with Beno Udrih, Donte Greene, Carl Landry and DeMarcus Cousins. The only other King unable to play due to injury will be Samuel Dalembert.
Jonny Flynn is still recovering from his hip injury, so Luke Ridnour will start at point guard. Second-year player Wayne Ellington will start at shooting guard. Martell Webster is out with a back injury; it appears Michael Beasley will start at small forward, with Kevin Love and Darko Milicic up front. Wes Johnson and Sebastian Telfair are available.
Truth be told, I did not watch the Timberwolves in the preseason; as such, it's unclear what to expect this season. Last season, however, the Timberwolves were terrible.
Ridnour is a really good passer, a solid spot-up shooter, a solid pull-up shooter and an overmatched but not-lazy defender. Beno Udrih is a decent-to-good passer, a solid spot-up shooter and great pull-up shooter and an overmatched and quite possibly lazy defender. How these two match up on the floor could decide the game; either could honestly take it over given the other lack of star talent in the backcourts and the lack of reputable paint defenders available.
More on Minnesota: expect heavy doses of Beasley, which will test Greene's defense greatly. Beasley is an athletic fellow who loves his jumper way too much but can do dirty things at the rim. The key for Greene: keep Beasley shooting contested jumpers. Without Dalembert (and with low doses -- if any -- of Hassan Whiteside), the Kings lack a backstop to do anything but foul a driving Beasley. Beasley from the perimeter is far less likely to kill you than a slashing version of the kid.
We can also expect to see Love run the offense out of the pivot, though to what extent that will happen remains to be seen. To wit: Love had just 13 assists in eight preseason games. Again, without having seen the Wolves this preseason, I'm not clear to what affect the committal to the Triangle offense will serve for Love. (Milicic, the greatest passer since Cousy, had 17 assists in seven games in preseason, roughly on par with a young Stevie Wonder.)
On the other end, the Wolves will start exactly zero plus defenders. (Seriously, Darko has a rep as a good defender, and it's been proven wrong for seven years now.) Landry can attack Love, certainly, and Cousins needs to focus on pounding inside versus spotting up from 18 feet.
MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Ridnour vs. Udrih. As stated above, either could have a huge game. Udrih is a swell enough handler to punish Ridnour. Vice versa also applies. You hate to rely on momentum or "heat" as a determinant of success, but outside of conceding to match-ups in Game 1 and admitting Beno can't defend by putting Udrih on Ellington and Garcia on Ridnour, I'm not sure what you do to make sure Luke doesn't burn you.
PLAYER TO WATCH
It's the official beginning of DeMarcus Cousins' pro career, and it could really go any which way. So, so many people are watching the Kings just to watch Cousins. He's an ultra-compelling character, and as a Kings fan, a basketball fan and a human being with a pulse and two eyes, I know I won't be able to stop watching him.
The game begins at 5 PM Pacific on Comcast SportsNet and KHTK 1140 AM. For out-of-towners, if your cable service supports it, League Pass has a current free preview running (TV only). You can also access audio feeds on NBA.com. We will have a game thread at 5, then a backup at 6:15.
Let's go Kings. Gloria waits.