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Kings vs. Pelicans Preview: A Calipari Family Reunion

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the heels of what can always be described as a "feel-good" victory over the Los Angeles *REDACTED*, the Sacramento Kings look to end the Preseason on a strong note by defeating the Anthony Davis-led New Orleans Pelicans. Tonight's game is unique in that will be held in Rupp Arena, the famed home of the Kentucky Wildcats.

When: 4:00 PM PST

Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY

Can I Watch or Listen?: Unfortunately, NBATV and CSNCA don't seem to be carrying this game. KHTK 1140 will provide their usual (excellent) radio coverage.

2 Real and 1 Not As Real Questions

Will Demarcus Cousins exploit the paint?: As many have noticed and written about ad nauseum, Cousins has been playing on the perimeter more this preseason. Many have been pretty frustrated with this development. I actually think that a young player like Cousins fleshing his game out a bit isn't the worst thing in the world, especially if it results in the ball movement increasing, getting guys like Ben and Willie more involved. That being said, when the going gets tough, or when the matchup dictates it, you take advantage of having one of the best post players in the league. This is one of those games. New Orleans will be without its two best post defenders in Alexei Ajinca and Omer Asik (who he has both dominated at times regardless), and the remainder of their bigs aren't well equipped to handle DMC (Ryan Anderson has Greivis-slow feet, Anthony Davis isn't strong enough/won't want foul trouble, and Kendrick Perkins is Kendrick Perkins). I'd like to see Karl feed the beast early and often, and make their thin frontcourt earn their stops. Put AD on a poster, Cuz.

What is Coach Karl's final starting 5?: We've seen a variety of different looks from Coach Karl this Preseason. Cousins and Rudy Gay are definite locks, and while Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison have both been impressive in different ways, Rondo looks like the starter. Kosta Koufos and Willie Trill "Steamboat" Cauley-Stein have also impressed, though Karl has noted that WCS looks like a better fit next to DMC. Ben McLemore has struggled this Preseason, hitting only 25% of his 3 point attempts while looking tentative on the rare occasions he has the opportunity to create. Marco Belinelli however, has been on fire, adding an element of spacing that we haven't experienced since...Marcus Thornton, when he was right? Peja? He's actually only hit 31% of his 3s this preseason, but his mere presence on the perimeter opens up passing and driving lanes for his teammates. He's also shown his Spurs pedigree on multiple occasions, showing a knack for both making timely passes and taking over some ball-handling. Neither are good defenders, though Ben is pretty strong on-ball, due to his athleticism. Though the minutes breakdown will be most telling, Karl's starting 5 tonight will give us more insight on which way he's leaning in terms of who starts opening night. I will say that I think Ben should get lots of run with the 2nd team regardless, as he already has good chemistry with Collison and Casspi, and would get more opportunities offensively without Cousins and Gay using up a majority of the possessions. (NOTE: I don't think James Anderson is in serious consideration here. He has earned some minutes, but he is depth at this point)

Will Jimmer have an impact?: Not in actual game-time minutes. But you know both teams miss him terribly and will be thinking about him during every three point attempt and dance-cam.

Key Matchups

Steamboat Willie vs. Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson: The Kings have famously struggled against Stretch 4's in the past. Dirk, Channing Frye, Patrick Patterson, Serge Ibaka... you get the point. Boogie is quick considering his size, but isn't really at his best defensively the farther you pull him from the post. WCS was drafted for his defensive versatility, and this will be a good test for the rookie, as he will probably face up against both of these players. Anthony Davis is tough in the paint and has added a pretty reliable jump shot, while Ryan Anderson is one of the best shooting bigs in the league. Can WCS close out quick enough on Anderson to mitigate his presence on the perimeter? Can he make Davis work for his points in the paint and still have the energy to contest when he spots up? And most importantly, can he stay out of foul trouble? I'm thinking he'll be at the receiving end of some superstar calls for Davis, but if we see defensive competence against two tough covers, I'll consider it a win for us.

Tyreke Evans vs. the Castle Walls/SWAT Team/Etc.: Have you guys ever watched this kid Tyreke Evans play? If you haven't, he has a certain affinity for layups. While he has improved mightily at passing once the defense collapses on him in the paint, old habits die hard, and he still loves his twisting, turning layups in triple coverage. After the block party in Las Vegas hosted by 2K/Koufos and Manifest Destiny/Eric Moreland (mixtape dropping Oct. 28th), I'm looking forward to seeing if our bigs can keep up the good work against a known King-Killer who lives at the rim.

Eric Moreland and David Stockton vs. Unemployment :( : Man, this doesn't seem fair, but such is life in the NBA. Two players enter, one player leaves. David Stockton hasn't played much this Preseason, and has struggled when he has, but I've liked his game going back to last season. Has good court awareness, plays fast, can shoot a little, and is by far the most adorable player the Kings have employed in the past 5 years. Eric Moreland has also played sparingly in the Preseason, but has looked good when called upon. His rim protection is still elite, his rebounding and post play have improved, and he seems like a natural fit as a rim runner. Ultimately, Moreland is younger and already seems to have more NBA ready skills, but Stockton is the greatest High School Sophomore to ever play NBA minutes. Could go either way.

Stats, Trivia, and Random Notes

  • Seth Curry has played less than I expected so far, especially for a player with a guaranteed contract. There aren't a lot of minutes to go around, but if you're planning on using him as your 3rd PG, when else will he get to prove himself in games besides the Preseason? I still think he's a SG stuck in a PG's body, but I'd like to see what he can do.
  • This is definitely a Coach Cal game, even more so than a Kentucky game. While there are 4 Kentucky alumni playing (3 on the Kings), Tyreke Evans and Chris Douglas-Roberts also played under Calapari at Memphis. Prepare yourself for some dribble-drive.
  • The Kings are just 23rd in 3pt % in the Preseason, but 11th in 3pt Attempts. Although Karl's previous Denver teams weren't great shooting teams, and it isn't a necessity to be in the top half of the league, it sure would help if we saw some signs of life from shooters besides Marco and Rudy. Looking at you, Ben and Omri.
  • Whatever happened to Eric Gordon? He hasn't looked completely comfortable to start the year, and that's seemed to be the case since he's arrived in New Orleans a few years ago. I enjoyed this article by Nick Weldon at SB Nation profiling him. Really think he could be key for the Pelicans if they expect to make noise in the Playoffs.
  • I've said this before, but I think we're set up for a good rivalry with this team. We match up well, good mix of vets and young guys, and both (now) have coaches who love to push the pace. I want Boogie vs. AD to be the new KG vs. Duncan.

Prediction

Kings 112, Pelicans 109, as Boogie continues his personal quest to make Anthony Davis look foolish at every opportunity, Ben breaks out and Omri avenges the disrespect given when the Pelicans (still, amazingly) waived him on a minimum deal last summer. Anthony Davis remains a Mecha Pterodactyl and keeps it close. Boogie, Reke, and Omri attempt to share a reflective bottle of Zing afterwards, but upon tasting, quickly sub it out for a local Kentucky Bourbon.

Fictional Jerry-ism:

"The PeliCANS PeliCAN'T get anything going against this Kings defense!"

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