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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 2014-15 Week 4

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento is back up a few games over .500 after a pretty successful homestand and a good start to their road trip with a win in Minnesota.  The Kings have won 3 of their last 4 but now face four of the West's toughest teams in a row to end the month.

The Good:

1. Darren Collison

See Player of the Week

2. Respect

The Kings are finally getting respect from opponents and it's very refreshing.  After the victory against Chicago, Joakim Noah had some very nice things to say about both the Kings and DeMarcus Cousins:

"They're a good team; they play hard at home," Joakim Noah said. "They're starting to build something. Defensively, they are better. DeMarcus (Cousins) is better. You can tell there's been a lot of growing on his side as a player. He is playing more efficiently. I feel sometimes he gets frustrated and that works in our favor. I feel this year, he's the one getting guys frustrated and it's worked for them."

3. DeMarcus Cousins continues to kill it

Boogie's bringing it on both ends of the court with an intensity that I love.  He's taking as much pride in his defense as in his offense and it's winning games.  In Saturday's game against the Timberwolves, Boogie was seen multiple times yelling at his team to get back on defense after a missed shot on offense.  The Kings were struggling to break down the zone, but Boogie was determined that Minnesota wasn't going to respond either.  Cousins is doing it all this year and it's the biggest reason for Sacramento's success.

4. Return of Thrilly D Williams

Derrick Williams has only played minimal minutes this year but he finally got another chance to come in against Chicago and he took advantage of it.  Williams repeated with another solid effort against Minnesota.  It's in both Sacramento's and Derrick's best interest that he become a contributor, and this week was a good start.  Now let's see if he can keep it up.

5. Omrilentless

Although he didn't play well in Minnesota, Omri is still playing really good basketball.  He's attacking the rim with a passion and he's also rebounding and moving the ball well.  Casspi is proving to be not just a glue guy but also a good 6th man.

6. Offense starting to click

The Kings are one of the worst three point shooting and passing teams in the league and yet here they are 13 games in with the 6th best offense in the league.  That's largely because of the offensive prowess of Cousins, Gay and the Kings' ability to get to the line (1st in the league).  It's a pleasant surprise after Sacramento made such an emphasis to improve the offense this summer.

The Bad:

1. Possible DISH blackout

I'm not going to take any sides here, but it really sucks for DISH customers that CSN might be blacked out because of a contractual dispute, especially with the Kings playing their best basketball in years.

2. Come on, Ramon

Ramon Sessions has struggled unlike anywhere else he's played as Sacramento's backup guard.  He hasn't been able to score at a high enough rate to justify the defensive drop-off when he's on the court, and he's not setting guys up enough.  He has just 20 assists to 16 turnovers on the season.  His per 36 minute average of just 3.9 assists is well below his 6.5 career assist average.  Perhaps one problem for Sessions is that he doesn't have many shooters surrounding him when he's primarily a drive and kick player.  It's quite possible that Sessions is simply not a good fit, but Ray McCallum hasn't exactly shone this year either when he's been given the chance to play ahead of Ramon.

3. Can someone guard Ryan Anderson please?

The Kings completely fell apart in the 3rd quarter of a winnable game against the New Orleans Pelicans, and much of that had to with Sacramento native Ryan Anderson unleashing a torrent of threes in the third quarter.  Anderson kept getting left completely wide open as Sacramento's defense broke down.  The Pelicans outscored Sacramento 31-15 in that quarter in a game which the Kings lost by only six.

The Ugly:

1. The Zone

Sacramento has been having trouble dealing with the zone all year, and even lowly Minnesota was able to execute it well enough to bother Sacramento.  That first half against the Timberwolves might have been Sacramento's worst half of basketball since the home opener, and the only reason they were able to stay within striking distance was because Minnesota couldn't score either.  The Kings only really started breaking things down when Ben McLemore started hitting his outside shots, but he's the only King who has really been able to hit a three with consistency.  With Nik still figuring things out, this team could still really use some more shooting.

Player of the Week:

Darren Collison

16.3 PPG, .467 FG%, .500 3P%, 10.0 AST, 3.3 REB, 0.7 STL, 1.7 TOV in 34.9 MPG

Collison has been fantastic for Sacramento and this week was even better as his shot is starting to come around and he also managed to dish out 30 assists to just 5 total turnovers.  That's an assist to turnover ratio of 6 to 1, and for the season he's at a very good 7 to 2 ratio, better than every other Point Guard in the Top 10 in assists (Collison's 7th) except for Chris Paul.  One of the things that I really like about Collison is that he doesn't try to force the issue very often.  I've seen several instances this season where the Kings are on a fastbreak but the opponents get back quickly and instead of trying to score quickly against tough coverage, he resets the offense and runs a play instead.  As Coach Malone said in his mic'd up segments on TNT, "way to run your team".

FanPost of the Week:

The Kings Are Rad or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dream by yokosolo

Images/GIFs of the Week:

We Are Fa-mi-ly

As long as our guys are reasonably healthy, we got this.

Boom

Basically the 2nd half for Cousins

Run Joakim Noah!! Run!!!

Comments of the Week:

Transplant with growing fandom checking in...

Wait a minute.

You’re telling me, a Sacramento King superstar flopped, got the call, AND the other team’s superstar bitched and moaned to the ref, landing in foul trouble?

It’s official. Shit just got real.

It is time to sing that familiar song: Winning cures all ills

The sun shines brighter. You awake with a smile. The air smells fresher.

As the Kings turn their misfortunes of the past to realistic hopes and dreams of a brighter future I expect the feel good stories to multiply. The story of winning does not change – you win as a team. When you lose – NBA players for a variety of reasons find ways to keep the ball – it becomes more of a "we are going to lose anyway – I might as well get mine. When I sign my next contract, I want my numbers to look good". I am generalizing but I believe that individual goals supersede those of the team when it is decided that all is lost anyway.
With winning – everyone shines. The 12th man has value as he is part of the formula for success. How often do we discount good numbers on a bad team or forgive pedestrian numbers on a championship squad – (He’s a winner!). That is the mindset that has been missing in Sacramento. No other coach (or any coach) can reach the player or players who who’s only view of May is dismay.
One month ago (heck, the day after the home opener) the blame game was in full swing – The owner (he is too involved), the GM (he doesn’t know his derriere from a hole in the ground), the coach (I like him but he is too young and inexperienced), the players (trade machine link). Now we talk about playoffs. 
Savor these good times they have been too long in coming. And thanks Blake for another wonderful contribution to StR.

Most important number tonight: 39. As in, the amount of minutes Boogie played. This needs to happen more frequently, obviously.

There was a point in the 3rd quarter where Boogie just never touched the ball at all. And then, suddenly he started touching it and the Kings really took control of the game. That’s also very nice to see.

A few other thoughts: You’ll win a lot of games when Cousins goes 11-15 from the floor and 9-10 from the line. Also when McLemore is 9-17 from the floor and 4-9 from 3.

A note on McLemore: He played a few seconds shy of 41 minutes tonight. That’s either a very scary or a very good thing depending on the perspective. Leaving him on the court because he is the most reliably floor spacer the Sacramento Kings have….wait a minute…still trying to process…. that is….still trying to process…still trying….still trying….a very pleasant surprise. McLemore shooting 40% from 3, assuming it keeps up over the course of the season, might be one of the more important surprises in all of the NBA. It’s nice to have a young player outperforming expectations, even realistic one’s of improvement, as McLemore is doing. I will be pleased if he can finish the year around 37-38% from 3, but still if it’s around 40% with the kind of minutes McLemore is logging, that would be outstanding. It might even make the outpaced and unrealistic expectations of him being an All-Star one day possible.

I don’t even know what to say about Derrick Williams’ performance the last two games. But if he can find himself a niche on this team as a stretch 4, that would be a pleasant surprise (far more so than McLemore’s huge jump in production).

Winning games on the road is not always about aesthetics, sometimes it’s simply about function. There were many flaws in tonight’s game, and many are easily found without trying too hard. But, and this is a big but, Cousins and McLemore, your best player, and one of your 4 or 5 best early in the season, had big nights that propelled you to a W. Figuring out how to beat teams on the road will this team’s biggest challenge because the opportunity to beat weaker teams (particularly in the East) is there. If the Kings can do that out West (the few teams that are weak out there) and not fall into the OKC mess they fell into a few weeks ago, they’ll be okay. If Cousins has a big night, at worst you should be in the game late fighting for the W at the end. I’ve always believed that part of what makes great road teams is not the one’s they win, but the one’s they stick around until the end on their less than stellar nights. Any top tier team should win on the road when they are doing all the right things. It’s about the 50/50 nights and sticking around to the end to try and get those in your favor is where the real separation is made. The Kings are nowhere near that.

Too many turnover’s, too many rushed shots, not enough defense at the beginning, not enough precision. Who cares. It’s about the W, not about aesthetics. We aren’t winning a championship, and it’s not like we had a 2nd game of a back to back tomorrow either. Sometimes you just gotta win the game that’s there however you can, and leave it at that. Oh, and by the end, the Wolves still only shot 41% from the floor. And we outrebounded them by a big margin, too, tonight. There are plenty of positives. Pretty, a once in the lifetime game it wasn’t. But even if the Kings had dominated from tip to buzzer, would have it made any real difference?

For a team that’s not a finished product, picking nits at the flaws over a victory (even over a team as bad as the Wolves are without their players), is simply a waste of time. Winning games on the road is the first step, however they come about. Achieving consistency on the road takes time. And, you won’t win them all in dominating one-sided fashion. Sometimes it’s just about being there at the end. Naturally, that doesn’t mean the team has to have this perspective. They should want to be better, and should be disappointed with their performance in the 1st 18 minutes or so. Those games happen though, let it go and move on to the next one.

This team still has plenty of flaws, and still plenty of ways it can improve no question about it. But figuring out how to make these pieces fit is Michael Malone’s job, and it seems like he is doing so ever so slowly. This team now has a pretty set starting lineup. Now it’s about figuring out how to make the bench pieces fit, and some of that will be phasing of the starters in with the subs as the games goes along. I think Malone is doing that more frequently now than he was earlier in the season. The Kings are 8-5 right now, and most were hoping the Kings could be around 500 by the end of the month. Even if the Kings lose the next 4 games (and the appeal is denied by the NBA), the Kings will be 8-9 by the end of the month. That’s, at least, understandable progress.

Now it’s on to New Orleans Tuesday. Go Kings. :)

Highlight of the Week:

Caption Contest:

Link to Last Week's Picture

Last Week's Winner: Mr. Hashtag

Did Hollins tip the ball?

Last Week's Runner-Up: AnotherStupidSN

Kings guard Darren Collison slips a shiv between the ribs of Spurs guard Tony Parker, causing a turnover. Foul on Demarcus Cousins.

This Week's Picture:

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.

Nostradumbass Prediction for Next Week:

11/25 at New Orleans L (The Pelicans match up really well with us and although the Kings definitely have a chance to win this one, I think the multitude of offensive weapons for New Orleans will overpower us.)

11/26 at Houston W (The Kings seem to have played really well against Houston the last couple years, and Cousins loves going at Dwight Howard.  This is the second night of a back to back, but I think the team is going to be amped up and ready to win.)

11/28 at San Antonio L (Sacramento surprised a lot of people when they beat the Spurs last week, but in San Antonio is a whole other matter.)

11/30 vs. Memphis W (If the Kings aren't going to be fired up about this game after the .3 seconds debacle, I'd be very surprised.  Memphis is still very tough and will take Sacramento's A-game to win.)

Nostradumbass Record for the Year: 7-6

Random Observations from around the league:

  • We saw quite a few young players on opposing teams this week and I was really impressed with a few of them.  I thought Jimmy Butler was fantastic, making shots that were really hard to make.  He bet on himself this summer and it was definitely the right move because if he keeps this up he's going to get max money this summer.  I also think Nikola Mirotic is going to be a really good player once he gets the NBA rhythm down. Anthony Davis is already a superstar, and he's just going to get even better which is scary.  Minnesota also has a bunch of young talent, and I was impressed with some of the moves that Andrew Wiggins made against Rudy Gay.  Once Wiggins starts hitting his outside shot with consistency, he's going to be really good.
  • Cleveland is 5-7 and I don't think it's simply a "give them time to figure it out" issue.  This is not a team that looks like they could win a playoff series, let alone a title.  The biggest issue is the defense, where they're ranked 24th in the league.  They're incredibly potent offensively, but they're not going to win anything if they can't make stops.
  • Ban Conferences.  The Western Conference has 10 teams above .500, including an entire division.  The East has 5 teams, and they get to play each other most of the time.  This conference imbalance has existed for almost 15 years now, and it doesn't seem like it's going to change any time soon.