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Kings vs. Nuggets Preview: Kings look to right the ship against the Nuggets

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

First off, welcome back to the regular season! Congratulations! Your favorite current Sacramento King is, well, still a King! Unless your favorite King was Vance Wahlberg, in which case: Welcome George Karl to Sactown Royalty! For all the other fans out there who have seen the un-firing of head coach George Karl, the actual firing of assistant coach Vance Wahlberg, and a litany of trade rumors that had everyone but Sign Lady on the trading block, it isn't a stretch to say that the nine day hiatus from actual NBA quality basketball has been painfully long for Sacramento Kings fans. Rejoice! The All-Star Break has come to a close and with its end comes a Friday night game against the Denver Nuggets. Facing up against former coach Mike Malone for the very first time, and taking on his Nuggets squad that has won the same amount of game as the Kings so far this season, emotions (as well as stakes) will be running high. The game can be seen at Sleep Train Arena or on CSN-CA, can be heard on KHTK 1140 and will start at 7pm. Lets talk Kings basketball.

A Few Things to Consider:

Nuggets by the Numbers: The Nuggets on paper aren't a great team. With a mix of young guys and veterans, Coach Mike Malone finds his squad sitting at 20th in the league in points per game and 21st in opponents points per game, with their offensive rating at 19th in the league and defensive rating currently having them at 21st overall. For those of you who may be wondering about pace: the Nuggets are currently right near the middle of the pack at 17th in the league. The Nuggets are one of those teams that take a lot of shots, but don't necessarily make a lot of them. They're 12th in the league in field goals attempted, but are 25th in their percentage. Kings fans may be thinking, "Yeah, but what about their threes?!" and to that line of inquiry: The Denver Nuggets are 16th in the league in attempts and 24th overall in percentage at 33.7% a game.

On the defensive side of the ball, they're still fairly mediocre, with their real weakness coming from a very similar spot to the Kings. The Nuggets are middle of the road in how many three's opposing teams attempt a game (16th in the league) however, the allow teams to shoot 37.3% with the long ball, which is the third worst percentage in the entire NBA. The Kings by comparison are 25th in opponents percentage, but only .3% better. The Nuggets are also 21st in the league in steals per game, but make up for it by being in the top five in offensive rebounds, and being the 8th best rebounding team in the league.

Road to Redemption: In the summer following the 2010-11 season, former Washington Wizards power forward Andray Blatche decided he'd had enough. It was time for him to take the game of basketball a bit more serious and so, he set off during the offseason to lose weight, recommit himself to the game, and to the chagrin of everyone else, ended up holding a series of team building workouts aimed at bringing his Wizards squad together after a disastrous 26 win season. Enthused and ready to show his teammates and coaches his new mindset toward the game, Blatche had shirts printed out for the team that read "Play Off Starts Here". As the time for the workouts drew close, Blatche found that of his 15 or so teammates, only Chris Singleton and Hamady N'Diaye elected to show up.

For whatever reason, that's the story that comes into my head now when I consider the 2015-2016 Sacramento Kings approach to the playoffs. No longer underdogs, or scrappers, but rather, Andray Blatche saying he's changed his tune, attempting to show it by printing out some terrible shirts, and at the end of the day, having two teammates willing to show up. The subject of the Sacramento Kings playoff chances has been, and will be written by more intelligent basketball minds than yours truly and to be fair, their are absolute somethings that do favor the Kings in the final part of the season. The Memphis Grizzlies have lost Marc Gasol for the season, the Houston Rockets have gone full Apollo 13 and the Kings do own the 4th easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. These things are tangible reasons to look positively on Sacramento still having a shot and yet, with this team, with this coach, with the level of competence they've both tended to show this season, it seems less like a "shot" and more like Michael J. Fox trying to snipe a walnut off a live Merry-Go-Round from the parking lot across the street.

Odds and Ends:

This is of course the first game back for former Sacramento Kings coach, Mike Malone. While his time with Sacramento was much shorter than what most had anticipated, and with the unceremonious early season firing and subsequent rumor slinging by "sources" in the media, many in Sacramento seem to much happier to have him back in town then current Kings coach, George Karl. Malone ended his stint with the Kings with a record of 39-67 and in his last season, had the Kings at 11-13 before being let go. For reference purposes only, George Karl's current record with the Kings is 33-50.

This game also sees the return of former Kings' power forward, JJ Hickson. After trading Omri Casspi and a 1st round pick to the Cavaliers for Hickson right before the lockout in 2011, JJ Hickson went on to lose the annual "Kings Power Forward: Trial by Combat Tournament" to Jason "The Mountain" Thompson, and was released after 35 games.

Prediction: The Kings will come out firing, hitting shots from Gary, Indiana, find a way to muster the will power to tighten down the their defense in the fourth and DeMarcus will finish the game with a hug from Mike Malone whispering in his ear "Eh, man. You 'L' ": Kings: 115, Nuggets: 105

For the other side of things, visit our friends over at Denver Stiffs.