A little Mail Sac love from Steven: "What kind of team will the Kings be this season? They are not the run and gun team of last year. How would you characterize this team and how will they evolve?"
Zillerbot weighed in on this during one of his RAM upgrades: "I think they are going to be streaky, better defensively and -- hoping here a bit -- really fun at home. But I'm also sending your question to section214 for the next Mail Sac, because I think he'll have some great answers." Stupid robot boss...
Let's start on the offensive end. I think that that this is a team that can present an opponent with a lot of looks. With Vasquez in the starting lineup, half court sets could reign supreme, with DeMarcus Cousins being the primary benefactor. And based on the one game sample size of last night, a DeMarcus Cousins that gets fed in the low post is a DeMarcus Cousins that repeatedly goes back to the low post.
The team gets a bit more up tempo in transition when Isaiah Thomas is on the floor, though it does not operate any faster in the half court set (in fact, Vasquez seems to trigger the half court offense much more quickly than Thomas). The ability to get out and run is very important when Thomas and McLemore are on the floor, and when Cousins is not on the floor. And when both Vasquez and Thomas are on the floor (as was the case for 17 minutes last night), the Kings can change tempo and sets almost every time down the floor.
An opponent's approach will have to be focused on stopping Cousins, so it will be interesting to see where the safety valves come from. Last night does not really serve as an example here, as Denver never solved Cousins (26 shots for Cousins, and no other King took more than 9 shots.
And an "And 1" as it pertains to the offense: 33% of the minutes last night were filled by new players - Patterson, Vasquez and McLemore. That percentage should grow as Mbah a Moute becomes available, McLemore matures, and Carl Landry returns to action. As this team has an opportunity to gel, it should become more and more cohesive.
On to the defensive end. What we witnessed last night was a team defensive effort that was well in excess of the sum of its parts. There was no one that you would have defined as a lockdown defender, but the team managed 8 steals, 7 blocked shots and forced 18 turnovers. One of the things that was different about last night's team in comparison to last year's team is that it was actually evident when someone blew a coverage or rotation. The Kings as a team played defense like a bunch of guys that have been told that their minutes hinge on their defensive effort.
One benefit of this team not having a lot of defensive talent is that it really forces them to play as a team. And while scoring the basketball can often times bring personal gratification, defensive stops permeate an entire team. The cohesive factor of this Kings team could really be accelerated by continued and earnest defensive effort. For all of the time that we spend talking about the offensive side of the ball, it is the defense that will define what the Kings are able to accomplish this year.
I went to a basketball game last night. The Sacramento Kings were hosting the Denver Nuggets. This was the 29th time that the Kings have had an opening night game in Sacramento, and I have attended most of them. This one was kind of different.
I think that you can get a pretty good temperature of the fan base by seeing what they will put up with while maintaining a positive attitude. For example, when fans are entitled (and we've all been there), we don't want to wait in long concession lines, and little things like functioning scoreboards become big things.
On the other hand, when a fan base is energized, a 35 minute wait for a turkey sandwich is not a big deal. Being denied access to the arena through your normal entrance and being shepherded to the main entrance - adding 15 minutes to your entrance time - is a "meh" moment. The fan in front of you that just-won't-sit-down is to be celebrated, as his jubilation is not to be subdued.
There was joy at Sleep Train Arena last night. A happiness. An exuberance. And when Vivek Ranadivé told the sellout crowd, "Sacramento, I have just one thing to say to all of you...this is your team, and it's here to stay!", there was emotion and electricity. There was a collective and simultaneous roar of validation and sigh of relief. Many of us were overwhelmed by the moment. Such a long and tumultuous road that led us to this moment. It was cathartic.
There were 17,316 family members and friends at Sleep Train Arena last night, and one Nuggets fan by my count. There was a fan base willing its team to victory, and team willing its fan base to victory. There were "SAC-RA-MEN-TO" chants, there were calls for "DE-FENSE," and there was a Jewish wave (it read right to left).
There were commemorative pins and glow sticks and t-shirts and working toilets. There were a lot of flavors of beer.
I'm going to guess that David Stern received the loudest and longest standing ovation that he ever received from an NBA crowd, but even he was bested by the love that the crowd poured over Kevin Johnson. It left me proud and humbled to be a member of this fan base.
The night was about new beginnings, 2nd chances, fresh starts, and not letting the little things blur the vision of the bigger picture. There was a symmetry in all of this for me, as I had on my arm the new love of my life. For now we shall call her girlfriend214, but my head, heart and soul tell me that she is destined to become much, much more. Like the Kings, she is what can happen when you never abandon hope. Like the Kings, she is all about new beginnings. Like the Kings, she is here to stay. But fortunately for me, she doesn't know the first thing about playing defense.
And therein lies the silver lining to what we have all been through over these past few years. To learn that even in the darkest of times, the flame of hope still glimmers in the distance, faint though it may be at times. To not give up until well after you're dead and buried, because as long as there is a breath of life left in you, there is a chance. And a chance is hope. And hope can become reality. And reality can be magical. And magical describes last night.
(Major league hat tip to News10 for the photo that accompanies this post. Here is a link to the entire photo stream. I would recommend the News10 website for bookmarking.)
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