The Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich-less San Antonio Spurs were in Sacramento tonight for the Kings’ third preseason game, and despite the fact that the Spurs left most of their stars at home, every matchup against San Antonio provides the opposing team an opportunity to gauge how they are progressing.
The Spurs still played like the Spurs, albeit with less talent. They moved the ball well, forcing the Kings defense to rotate appropriately, and results were mixed. I thought, like most nights, the Kings’ interior defenders played reasonably well, while some of the guards had mental lapses trying to track ball movement around the perimeter. Rajon Rondo led the Kings in what was a spectacular third quarter that turned a tie game at half time in to an 11-point Kings lead heading in to the fourth quarter. Most of the starters sat from that point on, the game took on a more garbage timey feel, and we got our first real look at guys like David Stockton and Seth Curry.
George Karl mixed up the rotation a bit tonight, so there are plenty of individual player notes to share.
- James Anderson started at shooting guard for Ben McLemore, and notably instead of Marco Belinelli. I don't think this was any real indication that Anderson is above those guys on whatever imaginary depth chart George Karl has in his head right now, but Karl said he started Anderson because he's liked his defensive effort. To Anderson's credit, his defense on Danny Green was solid, and he didn't force anything offensively. He was serviceable. The most interesting part of his night was who he played over.
- Omri Casspi left the game in the first half with flu like symptoms. That could be the reason why he’s struggled through three preseason games. He wasn’t good tonight, and I’d put him on a list with Ben McLemore as guys who haven’t showed us what they are capable of yet this preseason.
Willie Cauley-Stein started again tonight. His second start in a row for those counting. Kosta Koufos played 24 minutes off the bench, and that rotation looked really good with Koufos giving the Kings a big interior presence while Cousins was resting. I’ve got to give Cauley-Stein a ton of credit for his consistency thus far. He’s made an impact in every game this preseason, which is more than you could say for most of the other players who have had their ups and downs. It’s also worth noting that he made a game-winning offensive rebound with less than a minute left, and it was great to see his teammates rush over to him after the buzzer to give him encouragement.
Rudy Gay continued where he left off in Phoenix last night. He’s feeling very confident with his shot right now. If I’m to nit pick, he may be feeling a little too confident. He had five turnovers of which you could attribute most of them to his forcing things a bit, but I’ll take it. He’s playing really well.
Neither David Stockton nor Seth Curry made a major impact in their fourth quarter minutes. Stockton struggled early in his stint trying to run the team, but would eventually find enough of a groove to help the Kings close it out. Curry nailed a tough floater in traffic for his only bucket of the game.
Marco Belinelli loves to shoot. It hasn’t bothered me yet, but I can see myself reaching a point where I’d like him to see him cut the number of ridiculous leaning jumpers he takes per game in half. It’s the preseason, though, and I can think of less entertaining things than watching Marco try to catch fire. Karl is giving him more ball handling duty than we’ve seen out of a Kings shooting guard since Tyreke Evans. His versatility as a ball handler and playmaker is intriguing.
Rondo really found his passing rhythm tonight, particularly in the third quarter, but he was finding guys from the first quarter on. You can tell his teammates are still getting used to the idea that a pass can come from any angle at any moment. There was a lot of fumbling and mishandled passes, but that is something that should improve with time.
DeMarcus Cousins missed another three-pointer tonight, and he spent too much time outside of the paint in general for my liking. I'm not alarmed, but it's something I'm going to keep a close eye on. He needs more post touches, and more opportunities to create from those post touches. Some of the Kings' best offensive sets last season came off of Cousins finding shooters and cutters when double teamed, and we haven't see much of that just yet.