On December 26th, 2011, the Sacramento Kings began their 2011-12 campaign in exciting fashion with an epic win at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hope was high in every regard, for the season and for a new arena. We all know that things didn't turn out the way we'd hoped. Sacramento again struggled to make the jump to the next tier of team. Paul Westphal was fired. The arena deal came to fruition and then promptly fell apart. But for all the ups and downs, it was nice to beat a Lakers team that sat almost all of its main rotation to end the year.
Yes, in some ways the win was meaningless. A win has definitely cost the Kings in the amount of ping pong balls as they are now tied for 5th with New Jersey instead of 3rd with Cleveland and New Orleans. I don't care. This was a season that wasn't even supposed to happen. The Sacramento Kings were supposed to be the Anaheim Royals and Power Balance Pavilion empty. That wasn't the case. We got to see Isaiah Thomas emerge onto the scene. We got to see DeMarcus Cousins begin knocking on the door to stardom. We got to see that Marcus Thornton didn't miss a beat when it came to filling up buckets. We got to see OUR team.
This win against the Lakers actually gave the Kings the 2-1 season series advantage over the Lakers, the first time since 2004-05 that the Kings have won the series. The Lakers, already locked up as the 3rd seed, sat Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Matt Barnes, and also missed Metta World Peace to suspension. As such their starting lineup featured Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill and Josh McRoberts. McRoberts led the way for the Lakers with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Given that, a loss to this Lakers team would have been absolutely embarrassing. The Kings didn't disappoint me by solidly leading throughout the game, winning each quarter. Six players finished in double digits, led by DeMarcus Cousins' 23 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. Tyreke Evans also had a great game, finishing with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in yet another in a string of very efficient performances. Evans shot 68% from the field over the last four games of the season.
Jason Thompson capped off a nice season with a 17 point, 10 rebound, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steal performance. Jason's rookie contract has come to an end and he is now going to be a restricted free agent. You have to think the Kings want to keep him, but you never know if this might have been his last game as a King, which makes me a little sad. Isaiah Thomas finished his fantastic rookie season with 11 points and 7 assists to just one turnover. Over the last 8 games of the year, Isaiah had 52 assists to just 7 turnovers, a 7.43:1.0 Assist to Turnover ratio. Just for reference, 3.0:1.0 is considered phenomenal.
Travis Outlaw and Jimmer Fredette capped off the Kings' double-digit scoring with 11 and 10 points respectively. Outlaw has had a solid run over the past three games as a starter at the Small Forward spot. In fact, his 39 combined points from those games combine for almost a quarter of his season total points. I think that speaks more to just how awful Outlaw was for most of the season than to how much he improved lately. Jimmer Fredette had a rockier rookie season than many of us expected. Sacramento drafted him because of the fact he was supposed to be NBA ready but it quickly became clear that he had a lot of learning to do. Jimmer definitely improved throughout the course of the season, and while he's still not a good NBA player, he's lightyears ahead of where he began this year, which tells me he's a willing learner and a hard worker.
A couple other guys aside from JT had their contracts finish up tonight. Donté Greene, who has spent his first four years in the league here, probably did play his last game in Sacramento. Donté never really grew into his potential and never proved to be consistent enough to earn consistent playing time. While he became a fan favorite off the court, it didn't necessarily translate to on the court where he seemed to get time out of sheer lack of success for the Kings at either spot. I will be very sad to see Donté go, simply because I really like the guy (It's hard not to), and I wish him the best of luck on the rest of his NBA career.
Terrence Williams also saw his contract end. Williams was picked up on a 10-day contract soon after J.J. Hickson was waived and then signed for the rest of the season after earning it with his play. He showed tremendous versatility while in Sacramento, doing a little bit of everything. Tonight was no different, as in his 9 minutes he managed 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. One of his buckets was this awesome one handed dunk:
Will the Kings retain Williams? I don't know but I'd sure like to see them make a reasonable effort to keep him because I believe he adds some quality depth and talent to this team.
Tyler Honeycutt played 17 minutes in the blowout, the most extensive look we've had of him this season. He did a lot of good things, with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists including this awesome no look alley-oop pass to Greene:
This game had a very pre-seasony vibe, unusual for the end of the season, but with all the young guys on both teams playing a bunch, that's the type of feel it had to it. There were a ridiculous amount of obnoxious Lakers fans in the house, and I enjoyed the win even more because of it.
This season wasn't everything we hoped it would be, but the promise of tomorrow continues to shine. I'd like to thank you all for reading and commenting on my recaps all year long. You're all the best.
- Section214 and I finished 4-1 on the year when we go to games together. Not too shabby.
- Brad Miller officially retired today, leaving just Mike Bibby and Hedo Turkoglu as major rotation players still in the NBA from the glory day Kings.
- It was nice to see Scot Pollard in the house and he got a great ovation both times he was shown on the jumbotron. I can't help but think he's being groomed for the color commentary role when Jerry one day retires. Take your time though Jerry, we love you.
- On the lottery: I came into the night cheering for the Kings to win. For one, no matter what you cheer for won't change the way the game plays out, so if you care about ping pong balls, you might as well root for a win and take consolation in the ping pong balls if they do lose. The lottery will play itself out and there's nothing we can do about it. Also, if you ever root for the Kings to lose to the Lakers, you should have your fandom taken away.
- DeMarcus Cousins finished the season averaging 18.1 points and 11 rebounds. The last King to average a double-double was Brad Miller back in 2003-04, and the last King to average 11 rebounds was Chris Webber in 2000-01.
- DeMarcus had a couple really nice defensive moments tonight. One in particular was when he stepped out on the perimeter to guard Ebanks and used his quick feet and wide body to stay in front of him, and Ebanks couldn't get around him and actually stepped out of bounds trying to get past.