The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 2011-12 Week 2

Gbu2012_week2_medium

That goatee was the real reason Westphal got fired.

What a crazy week this has been. Suspensions and redemptions, firings and hirings, blowouts and comebacks. Few weeks in the last few years have been this eventful, and though it looked like it would go otherwise, the team managed to go 2-2, which isn't bad.

The Good:

1. Keith Smart Hiring

It was very apparent that this team needed to change something, because whatever was happening was not working. The promotion of Keith Smart provided that. When the Kings added Smart to the staff this summer, I thought there was a very good chance he could end up as an interim coach. I was a little surprised when he was fully promoted to Head Coach on a 2 year deal (the 2nd year is non-guaranteed), but I can't say I disapprove. Smart did a good job in Golden State last year and has had a lot of great coaching mentors in the past. I actually kind of like the fact that we have a potential up and comer as the coach instead of another re-tread. It'll be interesting to see how Smart does with little to no practice time and a compressed schedule.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

See Player of the Week

3. Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton in Wins

In the two wins this week against the Hornets and Miwaukee, Tyreke Evans looked absolutely fantastic at times. Just really aggressive on both ends of the court. Against Milwaukee, he looked like he was playing in a gear we haven't seen since his rookie year. He seemed much more comfortable. One good sign for Tyreke: His attempts at the rim are up from last year, despite averaging 5 fewer minutes a game, and he's making them at a higher percentage than either of his previous years. He still shoots almost nothing in the mid-range (it's either at the rim or a long jumper for him) but it's nice to see him attacking the rim with intensity again, and more importantly, finishing.

Thornton was similarly great in the wins, and he's currently shooting 51.9% and scoring 26.3 points in wins.

4. Rookies in Memphis

I think it's safe to say that for most of this week, Jimmer and Isaiah have struggled, particularly with their shot. But in Memphis, the two played very well together down the stretch, scoring 17 and 15 respectively, with good ball movement and shooting from each. We've gotten some good flashes from both these rookie guards that hasn't translated into consistency yet, but that's ok. They're rookies.

5. The effort of JT and JJ

Neither of these guys have been playing as well as we would like them to this year, but both are clearly putting in a lot of effort. JT has been the one King actually shooting well (although he doesn't shoot much) and JJ has been killing it on the glass. JT also had some huge defensive possessions down the stretch of the Milwaukee game. With Chuck out for about a month, it will be up to these two to step up their game another notch.

6. Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Honeycutt sent to the D-League

This was a good move by the team. With limited practice time and a lot of road games coming up, having them sit on the bench wouldn't be that productive. Instead they'll get actual playing time in a competitive environment and hopefully be better off for it.

7. The Two Wins

Both of these games became different stories in the 2nd half. The first one against New Orleans, neither team seemed like they could get anything going, shooting 40% or less for most of the game. Tyreke finally went bonkers in the 3rd quarter and the Kings blew the game wide open for their most comfortable win of the season.

The Milwaukee game looked like it was going to be the same old situation that we had experienced the last week, get down big early and get blown out. Fortunately this team didn't quit, and kept chipping away and chipping away and finally strung a few stops together near the end. The Kings finally took the lead in the final minute on two free throws by Tyreke Evans, and managed to hold on.

8. Free Throws

The one thing the Kings managed to do consistently well all week was shoot Free Throws. Considering how terrible they were at the line the first week, it was nice to see them bounce back. They hit 83 of 98 from the line, good for 84.7%.

The Bad:

1. Chuck Hayes Shoulder Injury

Chuck dislocated his shoulder early on in the Milwaukee game and the team announced that he'd be out for 3-4 weeks. This is tough for our defense and we'll miss the on-court leadership he provides. It is also tough for Coach Smart since he'll have to figure out how to best re-integrate him when he eventually comes back.

2. Terrible Starts

The Kings were outscored in the 1st quarter every game this week, and have only led after the first against the Lakers and Trailblazers. The lack of a strong start often means that the Kings are coming from behind most of the game, which makes the margin of error for victory razor thin.

3. Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton in Losses

Against Memphis and Denver, Tyreke looked terrible and just couldn't get anything going. It might have been because he wasn't feeling well (he did throw up during halftime of the Denver game and sat out most of the rest of the game), or it could have been that he wasn't necessarily comfortable in Paul Westphal's system. We'll see how he plays under Keith Smart.

Thornton is shooting only 39% in losses but is still putting up a lot of shots. He's predominantly a shooter, and when his shot isn't going in, it hurts our offense. He's not a great passer and probably should never run the offense like he did under Westphal at times. Luckily Smart seems to realize that as I don't recall him running it much in Milwaukee (the team seemed to focus on getting the ball to Tyreke or Jimmer to run the offense). Thornton also scores most of his shots in isolation, and stands around on offense a lot when he doesn't have the ball. With his scoring prowess, he could be devastating running off screens and such off the ball, and he needs to do it more so his scoring isn't so much coming from purely isolation plays.

4. Small Forward

Aside from the 2nd half of the Milwaukee game where John Salmons had some good moments on both end of the court, the Small Forward spot has been the biggest disappointment for the Kings this season. The Salmons trade was supposed to provide consistency. The Outlaw acquisition was supposed to provide some depth. Both players have been playing some of the worst basketball of their careers however, and the few minutes we've gotten from Cisco haven't been much better. For the Kings to succeed, someone will have to step up at the SF position.

The Ugly:

1. Paul Westphal's Final Days in Sacramento

In last week's GBU, I wrote this:

Right now, listening to post-game comments from the past couple games, it does not seem like there is the greatest mood in the locker room. It does seem that Westphal may be losing his players. I do not know if this is the case, or if it's just a case of frustration setting in, but the mood is dark, and I don't like it.

It turns out I was right to be alarmed, as Westphal came out with a weird press release announcing that DeMarcus Cousins had asked to be traded and was being technically suspended for the New Orleans game. DeMarcus then responded through his agent that he had not requested a trade, and did not agree with the actions taken, but would rejoin the team. The team managed to win comfortably against a hobbled Hornets team, but Cousins presence was especially missed on the glass. The team then embarked on their two game road trip against Memphis and Denver and promptly got blown out in both games by considerable margins, despite the fact that both teams were missing their best player. The team looked lifeless down the stretch in both games, and the next day Westphal had been relieved of his coaching duties to be replaced by Keith Smart. Westphal ends his Kings coaching stint with a record of 51-120, essentially the same "Winning" Percentage as Dick Motta.

2. The Memphis and Denver debacles

I touched on this above, but these games were just a travesty. The Kings couldn't get anything going offensively, couldn't stop anything defensively, and generally just looked like they didn't care. The Grizzlies and Nuggets dominated in almost every facet of the game, but especially in scoring in the paint. The Grizzlies scored a whopping 72 points in the paint, while the Nuggets almost matched that with 68 of their own.

3. Ball Movement

Aside from the Milwaukee game, the ball movement all week was absolutely terrible. Westphal's new offense involved giving the ball to a big in the high post and having the guards cut to the basket from the wing. It didn't take advantage of our guys strengths, and it usually devolved into guys just standing around a lot. As a result the Kings has 112 assists to 127 turnovers for the season. Only 41.9% of the Kings baskets have been assisted. Even last year where we hated how much isolation ball we played, we still managed to assist on 53.4% of our baskets.

4. Shooting Across the Board

As of Friday, the Kings were among 3 teams shooting below 40% for the season at 39.4%. This week alone the Kings shot 41.2%, 41.0%, 32.6%, and 40.7%. A lot of this is lack of ball movement and the team taking tougher shots than they needed to. We have good shooters on this team, and none of them are performing to expectations.

5. Defense

On the opposite end of the floor, the Kings are giving up the 2nd highest FG% in the league at 48.8%. A lot of this comes from terrible transition D, although our halfcourt defense hasn't been the best either (although at times it can be very good).

Player of the Week:

DeMarcus Cousins

25 MPG, 16.3 PPG, .514 FG%, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 STL, 1.3 BLK

DeMarcus obviously started off this week in a weird way, getting benched by Coach Westphal and reportedly demanding a trade. Yet he managed to finally bounce back with two spirited performances in Denver and at home against Milwaukee. DeMarcus is an incredibly important part of our future, and while he still has a LOT of growing up to do, I think he's worth the wait and the hiccups along the way. I also liked that after the game against Milwaukee he publicly stated that he wanted to be in Sacramento and that this was the only place he wanted to be. Hopefully DeMarcus can continue to sustain the production he's given in the last few games while cutting on his fouls and continuing to play his surprisingly effective brand of defense.

Image / GIF of the Week:

Westphal at today's pre-game press conference

by BurningFeathers on Jan 4, 2012 12:46 PM PST reply actions 22 recs

Comment of the Week:

I can picture Petrie's office today

Petrie: Hi Jerry, it's Geoff, look we have a coaching openin... [click]

Petrie: Hi Phil? PJ! You must be tired of sitting around all day. So we fired Paul and... [click]

Petrie: Larrrry, have you ever seen the beauty of a Sacramento summer..... [click]

Petrie: Rick, so the Maloofs are very sorry about.... [click]

Petrie: Hey Keith, can you sign this piece of paper without reading? Fantastic. Good luck tonight. And I'd recommend saying 5 feet away from Cousins at all times. Our insurance doesn't cover bite marks.

by SPTSJUNKIE on Jan 5, 2012 4:41 PM PST up reply actions 23 recs

FanPost of the Week:

Have to give two people the nod this week, both with excellent takes on the Cousins situation.

This is not an advocacy to trade him (NaATTH)TM - andy sims

Laziest Fanpost About Cousins - wallywagon11

Highlight of the Week:

Caption Contest:

Link to Last Week's Picture (I messed up last week and didn't put up a picture until late. There were still some funny captions for the non-picture though)

Last Week's Winner: Dirkula

This weeks picture must be of a Kings assist, because I don't see any!

Last Week's Runner-Up: tomroadrunner

This week's picture, much like the Kings, did not show up.

This Week's Picture:

115329_bucks_kings_basketball_medium

A reminder of the rules for the Caption Contest. Leave your caption in the comments below, and the most rec'd (to recommend a comment, hit action, then rec) caption wins.

This week's caption contest winner gets fired and replaced by a newer and better commenter.

Question of the Week:

With a new coach in Keith Smart, what specific thing do you want to see change the most from the previous regime?

For me, I really want to see an emphasis on sharing the ball and playing like a team. The Tyreke Evans era to date has been dominated by isolation basketball and that's what we were seeing a lot of early this year. There seemed to be a lot more passing going on in the Milwaukee game though, and I hope it continues.

And Nostradumbass Prediction for Next Week:

v. Orlando 1/8 L (The Kings greatest strength is attacking the basket with Tyreke, DeMarcus and Thornton. The Magic happen to have the best protector of the basket in the NBA in Howard. Without Hayes, and our bigs penchant for foul troubles, guarding and scoring on Dwight is going to be a big issue.)

@ Philadelphia 1/10 L (First game of a 5 game road trip. Philadelphia is playing very well, especially old friend Spencer Hawes. This could be our first competitive road game, but I think Philly will pull it out)

@ Toronto 1/11 W (Toronto has been playing very well under Dwayne Casey, and this will be a tougher game than most think. But I'm pegging this for our first road win of the season.)

@ Houston 1/13 W (Houston is a good team that is underperforming. I think the Kings can capitalize on this and get their first winning "streak")

@ Dallas 1/14 L (Dallas is struggling a bunch this year, getting blown out regularly. That being said, these are still the defending champions and this will be the Kings 5th game in 7 nights)

Nostradumbass Record for the Season: 6-2

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