I've attempted to write a season preview for the Kings several times now. Each time I begin, something new happens. As I write this, the Kings are probably trading John Salmons for Dwight Howard (please happen please happen please happen). Nonetheless, time is short. The season begins on Sunday, with Kings season opener against the Lakers on Monday.
Regardless of anything else that happens this season, I'm just happy to be sitting here, writing a season preview for the Kings as the prepare for another season in Sacramento. There is still a lot of work to be done, but a lot of great progress has been made already. That the Kings will open the season against the Lakers is all too fitting.
Last season was one of the stranger seasons I've ever experienced as a fan. By the end of the year, I was barely aware of whether or not the Kings were actually winning games. There was so much going on with the arena, wins and losses seemed less important. I was simply soaking in what I thought were going to be the final moments of the Sacramento Kings. One day during the lockout I was looking over team records, and I was surprised to see that Kings had actually finished one game worse than the previous season. I hadn't realized it. It certainly didn't feel like the team was worse.
Don't get me wrong, last year's team was frustrating. As much as I love DeMarcus Cousins, he was frustrating. This may sound condescending, which is not my intention, but it reminded me of watching my son try to do something new. I want him to do well. I really, really want him to do well. And yet he kept doing little things that just weren't quite right. But you see the potential, and the room to grow. I'm still a huge fan of DeMarcus. I expect him to improve. I can't wait to watch him improve.
Speaking of frustration, watching Tyreke Evans last year was incredibly frustrating. We know what he's capable of, and yet he was completely hobbled. The explosiveness we fell in love with was missing most of the season. Luckily, based on the preseason, it looks like Tyreke is fully healthy. It's time for the league to be reminded why he was Rookie of the Year, and to be reminded how hard it is to stop Tyreke from getting to the rim.
Priority number one this offseason was retaining Marcus Thornton, and I was thrilled with the price they kept him at. Thornton was one of the great surprises of last season, and the preseason this year seems to indicate that he was no fluke. It cannot be overstated how important it is to have guys who a great shooters, and who don't back down from a big shot. Thornton gives us one of those guys.
Speaking of guys not afraid of the big shot, I'm fully on board with Jimmer. Jimmer looks ready to for the pro game, and I can't wait. Having two players like Thornton and Jimmer allows multiple line-ups to be stacked with shooters. Tyreke needs to learn how to find Thornton and Jimmer on the wings, but once he figures it out defenses are going to have an even harder time stopping Reke's dribble-drives. And as much as I loathed the trade, hopefully John Salmons fits into the role of another wing who can hit some threes. We often wondered how many assists Tyreke would have if he had capable shooters to kick out to. Maybe we'll finally find out.
And finally, Chuck Hayes. We as fans have been through quite a rollercoaster of emotions as Chuck's saga played out. I can only imagine what it must have been like for him and family. Ultimately the story had a happy ending. Chuck is healthy, and is back with the Kings. I'm very, very excited by his joining the team. He's a veteran, a vocal leader on the court, great defender, and a guy who doesn't need shots. He's everything this team needed, and I think he'll have a big impact on the team.
I still expect some bumps in the road. The Kings are still a young team, and there will be games where it shows. I don't like that the team is already a little banged up, as health is going to be critical this season. I'm also still unsure about Coach Westphal. By all accounts he's a great guy, I'm just not sure he's the right coach for this team. I would be surprised if he was back as coach next season. I wouldn't actually be surprised if he didn't last this whole season, particularly with Keith Smart waiting on the bench. I hope I'm wrong, mostly because if he's back it will be because the team showed significant progress.
in the end I am predicting 25 wins for this team. That winning percentage over a normal 82 games season would equal 31 wins, a 7 win improvement over last season. Perhaps I'm being to reserved, and I certainly hope I'm wrong. No matter what, at least we still have our Kings. Here's hoping for a great season (and a new arena).