The preseason is done, the roster is set and the Sacramento Kings will officially open the season Wednesday night against a young upstart Phoenix Suns squad, a team that will have more teenagers running around than that corn maze you went to last week. Questions surround this iteration of Sacramento Kings basketball. Is this another season of DeMarcus Cousins being DeMarcus Cousins, all world talent and all too frustrating to really be appreciated? Can first year Sacramento Kings coach make his mark on a team worn out from the drama that comes with playing in “basketball hell”? How will this roster even be shaped come January? These questions will inevitably be clearer as the year progresses, but for now, kick back and relax and enjoy the - wait, no. Kings fans... Get to the edge of seat, try to keep those jittery hands from dropping any flaming hot takes after Rudy Gay misses his first free throw (obviously, what a quitter, he’s sabotaging his value, am I right?) and please, take a long, deep breath. The 2016-17 season is at hand, and it is going to be a doozy. Let’s talk Kings basketball.
When: Wednesday, October 26th: 7:00pm PST
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140am.
A Few Things to Consider:
The Youth Factor: There are four teenagers playing basketball for the Phoenix Suns this year, three of them looking to play major minutes for coach Earl Watson. Four players who were eight months old or younger the year Michael Jordan beat the Seattle SuperSonics on Father’s Day for his fourth championship and while that overwhelming feeling that you are old as dirt creeps in, lets instead do away with those notions and focus instead on how that might affect the game tonight in Phoenix. Suns management and coach Earl Watson have made no efforts to dress up this season as anything other than what it really is for them, a development year. The Suns roster has talent oozing from their ears. Devin Booker is an uber-talented shooting guard who lead the NBA preseason in scoring this year. Dragan Bender is a new breed of Euro shooting forward who has said his aim is to be more like Draymond Green than Dirk Nowitzki. Sacramento native Marquese Chriss has the length and athleticism to be anything the Phoenix Suns need him. But they need time out there on the court, putting in reps and learning the speed and nuances of the NBA game.
The Kings, by any means, are a vastly more experienced squad and one who has championed the same cause all off-season: playoffs. While it is true that the Kings have their own young guns in need of development, the goal of using the veteran pieces the Kings have acquired to drag this franchise as close to a playoff berth as possible has taken precedence. This game is a feature in youth versus experience from players to coaches alike, and it will be interesting to see how each responds to the other. Will the Kings take advantage of the mistakes the Phoenix Suns core are bound to make, or can the energy that comes with being too young to know when your beat outshine a team with players old enough to have been in just about every thinkable scenario?
Point Guard Watch, Game 1: This might be the single most important match-up every single night until Darren Collison returns. After the Sacramento Kings cut Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Farmar from their final roster, the Kings come into Phoenix with exactly one true point guard on the roster, Ty Lawson. Phoenix will start Monday night’s game with Eric Bledsoe at the point, an athletic bullish guard with enough speed and strength to make Ty Lawson’s night difficult. The Suns can also counter with Brandon Knight the crown jewel of many Sacramento couch-based GM’s mock trades, or with rookie speedster Tyler Ullis. Ty Lawson and de facto back-up point guard Garrett Temple will have a handful in chasing these guys around, but if they can even keep a near pace in scoring and find a way to manage them into the spots Dave Joerger wants them, the Kings should be able to win this game. The first game of season and the Kings weakness is the opponent’s biggest strength. That seems about right.
Prediction: Boogie will crack the shell of the player formerly known as Tyson Chandler and will feast at the rim all night. Ty Lawson will struggle in the first half before trying a new defensive strategy, known only as “The Draymond Dropkick”, too keep the onslaught of guards at bay. Rudy Gay and Brandon Knight will trade jerseys at halftime, and literally everyone will be happier for it, so the NBA will shrug and say “sure, yeah... whatever”. New starting point guard Brandon Knight will score 15 in the second half and Sacramento will open its season as a winner:
Kings: 112, Suns: 98.