Today I attended the open practice the Sacramento Kings held at Arco Arena, and I was pleased to see the number of fellow Kings fans who attended the practice. It makes me feel good knowing that we have some die-hard fans that wanted to get their first glimpse of the new look Kings roster. I had to keep mental notes on each individual player as well as giving my thoughts about how they looked in the scrimmage.
Paul Westphal said that they were going to play four quarters (ten minutes a piece) as a treat for us Kings fans, and I have to say I was excited to see the new look Kings in a game situation. They seemed full of energy during lay-up drills, occasionally throwing down monster dunks to get the fans all riled up (and hearing a few groans themselves when they missed lay-ups).
When they started shooting jump shots I wanted to see who had (and changed) the form on their shots. I noticed instantly that J.R. Giddens and Luther Head seemed to have two of the ugliest shots in camp. Giddens seemed to have a weird hitch in his shot and it seemed to be all over the place, and Head seemed to flail his body in every direction. I was pleased to see Jeter hitting his shots consistently and Tyreke's form seemed much improved.
I had to admit I had chills when they did the player introductions and the excitement the fans had when he said Tyreke Evans name. Its good to know that he support our leader in Tyreke.
I have to admit, Beno is one of my favorite Kings on the roster and I was excited to see the smooth free-throw line jumper that he hit so consistently throughout the season. He wasn’t much of a factor scoring wise, as he preferred to set up his teammates for easy buckets. I was particularly impressed with his nice move to the bucket during the fourth quarter that had all the fans in attendance on their feet cheering. I was also pleased with his passing skills, particularly the full court pass he threw to Darnell Jackson in transition that faked out most of the Kings players in the second half. He seemed to compliment Tyreke well and even played some solid defense.
Jason Thompson disappointed me after watching him in practice. He looked aggressive on offense when he was in the post but he took some tough shots that weren’t even close to going in. A couple of fans that surrounded me groaned just about every time he touched the ball, even sparking some chatter about potentially trading him. I found it hard to defend him after he missed a decent amount of easy put backs that clanked off the front of the rim. He made it to the line quite a few times but continued to miss them. I believe he was 2/8 on free throws which was bad, but in his defense, just about all of the Kings players struggled from the line. I wasn’t getting a good feeling about the way he was acting to the refs, complaining on calls when he claimed he didn’t commit a foul. This new technical rule isn’t going to help his case much.
I didn’t really see much on Antoine Wright on offense, but he seemed to be a solid defender. If I remember correctly, he guarded Garcia much of the time and forced him into taking quite a few forced shots. It was good to see him laughing and smiling after he got fouled on a dunk attempt in the second half. He looks like he has a good chance of being a rotation player this year, to me looking like a longer and tougher Ime Udoka. I didn’t see him shoot the long ball, but hopefully he can stretch the floor out on that end of the court.
Sloan looked MUCH better in today's scrimmage then I think he did throughout ALL of Summer League. He was quicker then I originally thought, and was able to get to the bucket but what impressed me the most was his defense. He was crowding the ball hander often and making it tough to get clean looks, showing promise as a help defender. He knocked down a few jumpers as well. I’m not sure if he is a lock to be on the team, but after seeing today's practice, I don’t think he'll be around.
Both seemed to struggle a bit today, but in totally different ways. Carl seemed uninterested throughout the scrimmage and Marcus seemed to struggle on defense. What I noticed was that Marcus can shoot the ball a little, and Carl can be a force on this team if he actually tries. Hard to judge Carl because I know what he is capable of, but I couldn’t see it in this scrimmage. Marcus seems to be a decent ball player, but I still don’t see him making this team after seeing today's performance. Who knows?
All had a decent outings, I guess. Head seemed to shoot a lot of jump shots and I only remember him making one of them. I cringed just about every jumper he took because it just looked ugly to me. Giddens was almost the same way, but I was impressed with his defense and his rebounding. He scored all of his points off of put backs or easy lay-ups, but his jump shot just doesn’t look good ..... at all. Crawford didn’t do much offensively, but he can shoot the ball. Connor Atchley is someone who is just out there as another big body, but he played alright. He looked timid out there and didn’t do anything to surprise me. Out of this group, Head is the most likely to get a roster spot although I would prefer Joe Crawford after today.
Donte Green didn’t exactly stand out in ways that Omri Casspi did. From first glance I noticed that Greene did seem to get bigger, and I was hoping to see a big duel between the two, but after today I have to say I jumped on the Omri Casspi for Starter bandwagon. He seemed to hit his jump shot with ease, and looked comfortable on the court for the majority of the time. Greene had a few good turn around jump shots that went in, but his outside shot wasn’t falling. Garcia struggled to find his shot offensively, but he looked decent from a defensive standpoint. I was bummed out that Garcia wasn’t hitting the open looks he received, but I had to remind myself that he is coming back from his injury. Still, I was impressed with his leadership on the court. Its great that he have such a good veteran helping out this team.
I have to admit, I was EXTREMELY skeptical when Coach Westphal said Jackson was having one of the best camps on the team, but after today, I am secretly hoping he makes this team (and..GASP...PLAY!) He looked good from a rebounding standpoint, and even chipped in quite a few buckets. His midrange shot looked smooth and I was surprised to see him scoring with efficiency.
I wanted to see if he could be a contributor on offense like Coach Westphal said he could, but after today I don’t want him shooting the ball other then clean up shots or alley oops. He knocked down a few hooks in the lane and even a short jumper but I don’t feel comfortable with the ball in his hands. I was a tad disappointed that he didn’t block a single shot during the scrimmage and his defense was just decent. I think it was because he was coming off of an injury, but hopefully when the season starts he doesn’t play this way. NOTE: I loved the group hug the Kings players shared after Dalembert was fouled in the fourth quarter on a put back attempt. (:
JETER. IS. GOOD. He is just as advertised. He is a lightning quick guard who is NBA ready now. His jumps hot looked solid all day, knocking down shots out of the pick and roll only proves how smart he is on the court. I was impressed with his passing skills, particularly two plays in the first quarter in which he got assists. One while he was falling out of bounds and flicked it to DeMarcus Cousins for the dunk, and another when he threw the ball through his legs for Francisco Garcia to lay it up on the fast break. He is my bet to not only make the team, but serve as a solid backup for Beno/Tyreke during the season. This kid is good. Impressed me.
I have to admit I was extremely skeptical when people said that he developed his midrange jumper during the off-season. I mean sure we got video clips of it, but they weren’t much of a real indication of his new found jump shot. To start off the scrimmage he wasn’t making anything. Not a lay-up, jump shot, or call went his way. Then he got an open look and converted it which drew cheers from much of the crowd. At one point I believe he made like 4-5 of his jump shots in a row, including a pull-up over Garcia. Toss in a few AND 1's and some silky smooth drives and we have our 2009-10 ROY, ladies and gents.
Cousins was a pleasure to watch in person, because he has such an amazing skill set. He is bigger then I originally thought, looking like a big bully from the get-go. He has soft hands and great footwork as advertised, but what impressed me the most was the patience he had on offense. He didn’t force anything on the court and seemed to be a class act for most of the camp (helping his teammates up and apologizing to the kid he knocked over during the game..). He surprised me the most with his passing ability, throwing passes that bigs wouldn’t normally throw, surprising even some of his own teammates. His jump shot looks good as well. I am expecting at least 12/10 this year, hopefully he can do it.
Other Kings notes:
Most importantly, I predict they will win anywhere from 32-45 wins, with 42 being my exact pick. Call me a dreamer.
Hassan Whiteside did not play.
The Kings looked bad from the FT line
We have good passing bigs
I expect Antoine Wright, Pooh Jeter and Darnell Jackson to make the final roster
I expect a BIG season from: Pooh Jeter, Omri Casspi and DeMarcus Cousins
I expect Jason Thompson, Francisco Garcia and Carl Landry to struggle for a good portion of the season