In projecting competitiveness and wins heading into an eagerly anticipated season, there are three main factors that portend hopefulness relative to past season struggles:
One: Shift of home court advantage from palpable to rambunctious, with lower level of arena at 99% capacity less no shows, even when the Bobcats come a calling. Empties will be visible only towards the upper reaches, if any at all. Enthusiasm will increase with the live body count, not only when the lotto destined purple and gold are wheeled to town by their geriatric caregivers.
Vivek will impress, as he has since exiting the womb, from those in Kings row to nose bleeds with bells, whistles and attention to detail to enable memorable experience for paying customers. The ultimate unveiling will wait into the new arena launches, but Vivek and Co. will execute creative and entertaining ways to deliver value within the confines of a collapsing structure.
Happy fans are loud fans. A dime dropping point guard with heart on sleeve, a budding all-star big, and two rookies with 40 inch verts will help too. A heroic off-season effort by community and whales, a galvanized fan base due in part to shenanigans to the North, and a team fated to stay for generations will boost the decibel levels to boom.
The noise will be brought. Overall home court may have been worth 3 to 5 points in recent years. Double that advantage in 2013-14.
Two: There is something veteran-esque about rookie head coach Michael Malone. Feels like he’s been here before, though he never has. He seems comfortable in the role of head honcho though he’s never honcho’d one NBA game. Paternal tutelage and apprenticeship from coaching stalwarts seems to have readied Malone intellectually and emotionally. The jury is out, particularly as relates to substitution patterns and in-game decisions, a major weakness of the previous coach, but the genuine sense is Malone is a natural who will hold players accountable equal to himself. He’ll be tough but fair. He won’t be overwhelmed, under prepared or outmaneuvered.
There’s something endearing too about a head coach who runs sprints in practice. The guy is not getting fat on his new 4 year deal, figuratively or literally. He’s ready to lead and delegate, through no non-sense, positivity, strong and subtle influence, including breaking a sweat with his own guys.
Three: There is a 70 to 80% chance the line-up on opening night will be:
DeMarcus - C
Carl - PF
Moute - SF
Thornton - SG
Vasquez - PG
When you trade out one player in your starting line-up, dynamics shift. When you add four new faces, any resemblance to previous group vanishes.
The logic to this group of starters is as obvious as the exile of Reke was before its occurrence.
A pass first PG (Vasquez) with advanced set up skills needs targets (Cuz, Carl, MT). A big (Cuz) with a history of shot selection issues needs trustworthy alternatives (MT, Carl) to the indiscriminate 18 foot launch with 15 seconds on the shot clock. A long range bomber (MT) needs a consistent low post option (Carl) to create space to move. A defensive specialist (Moute) needs options (Carl, Cuz, MT) to whom to donate the pumpkin.
Three proven guys who can score collectively from anywhere. One unselfish stopper who affords these opportunities. And an orchestrator who exploits the advantages where they can be maximized on each and every possession. This is a real recipe to compete.
Someone somewhere might have contended Patrick Patterson as viable fit. Uh...no.
While neither Carl or Patterson are good rebounders, Carl will at least body up on his man. He’ll block out and hope a teammate does the rest. He won’t release and get the ball, due to limits in size and athleticism, but he will afford space for someone else to slip down into the lane. The finesse oriented Patterson will be out of place or pushed more often.
Patterson as a floor spreader and efficient point producer are valuable skills to earn rotation minutes. But he has not shown capable of matching up against starting level talent.
An error in analysis is compounded when it is assumed that DeMarcus needs a stretch four as a perfect complement. DeMarcus has low post size without the low post game (yet). The solution is not to put him in the block exclusively, and constrict his options, but to exploit his advantage where it can be found....high, mid or low post.
Facing him up against the likes of Gasol, Kanter and Asik is the superior approach than to bully low against slow footed heavyweights.
Interchangeable high and low post threats as provided with Carl and DeMarcus allows for targeted strategy and execution by Coach Malone and Vasquez to get the best shot and most efficient output.
Having two guys on the floor that can command double teams, with a weak or strong side bomber ready to exploit, a long armed slasher capable of slashing, and a superior distributor with ample weapons at disposal will set the tone in the first and third quarters as to style and will the Kings will impose.
It is a new dawn. Its a new day. Its a new lineup. And I am feeling good. :)