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Kings vs. Celtics Preview: King George begins his reign

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball is back!  Ramon Sessions is gone, George Karl is in and Kings fans are excited about basketball again.  The new era of Kings basketball kicks off tonight against the visiting Boston Celtics.  Here's hoping that Sacramento can kick off these final 30 games with a win. Today's action tips off at 7:00 pm on Comcast SportsNet California and on KHTK 1140.

3 THINGS TO LOOK FOR

1. So begins the first game of the George Karl era.  The Kings have had two practices with their new coach, so we probably won't see a huge amount of change but it probably will be more drastic than the switch from Malone to Corbin.  Most importantly, I just want to see the team play hard for 48 minutes in front of what is sure to be a packed house.  Winning at home is an important George Karl tenet, especially against a shorthanded team like the Celtics.

2. Boston is suffering from a rash of injuries and also players not being available due to trade.  Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko were traded to the Celtics yesterday but likely won't be available for action although that could change according to Bill Herenda.  Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are both out with various ailments, which means Boston has a severe size disadvantage as well.  Sacramento needs to take advantage of that and get to the rim as much as possible.  Karl has historically loved attacking the basket and getting to the line, so I expect we'll see the Kings do more of that as the season goes on, starting tonight.

3.  The Point Guard situation for Sacramento could be pretty interesting.  Darren Collison remains doubtful to play with his hip flexor, and Andre Miller isn't likely to be available to play either, depending on when he gets to Sacramento.  That leaves just two PGs on the roster for Sacramento: Ray McCallum and the newly signed Dave Stockton.  We also have heard from practice reports the past few days that Karl has had Nik Stauskas playing a bit of PG in his scrimmages, so perhaps we'll see Nik with the ball in his hands more.  That was one of his strengths at Michigan.

MATCHUP OF THE GAME

DeMarcus Cousins vs. the double team

With Boston having some valuable big men out and Tyler Zeller being one of the few they do have, the Celtics are likely going to send help at DeMarcus Cousins each and every time he gets the ball near the basket.  Coach Karl has expressly said that he wants to experiment with different looks for Cousins so as to limit the amount of doubles he sees, but I could see Boston being very aggressive on that front given that they don't have a single individual player that can go toe-to-toe with Cousins.

PREGAME LIMERICK

It's a new era of Kings basketball,
Coach Karl is here and ready to heal all.
I'm excited once more,
for these guys to hit the floor,
and enthrall rather than appall.

PREDICTION

Kings 128, Celtics 94 as David Stockton finds his Karl Malone in DeMarcus Cousins and the two become an almost unstoppable pair that dominates the league for years to come.