Most NBA seasons begin with some sort of congratulations extended to you; the doldrums of the off-season slowly wore you down, but they didn’t break you! Though like almost everything that has happened in 2017, this offseason defied all expectation and gave us the most thoroughly dramatic spread of dead time in NBA history. The West somehow got deeper and loaded up on even more superstar talent, the East... the East got Gordon Hayward for six minutes (seriously though, get well soon Gordon), an absolute whirlwind! We’ve been blessed with the off-season that absolutely wouldn’t quit and for that, I thank the basketball gods, and congratulate you on making it through. As your reward for not having an absolute fit somewhere between hoodie Melo and Isaiah Thomas: Hip Watch, you get to, well, watch the Kings for 82 games this season. No takesie-backsies!
In the first game of the ‘17-18 season, the Kings catch the Houston Rockets on a second night of a back-to-back. The Rockets spent their offseason on the Island of Dr. Morey, where he and Mike D’Antoni found a way to conjure up a two headed beast, getting Chris Paul to play next to MVP runner-up, James Harden. Local boy Ryan Anderson has also found his way back to Sacramento, for the soul purpose of hurting his hometown team for the umpteenth time. The Rockets may very well be the second best team in the Western Conference, and as they showed in their Opening Night win against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, they have the fire power and craft to keep up with anyone in the league. Complete side note with absolutely no bearing on the regular season; the Kings averaged 90.7 points per game this preseason. Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: 7:00 pm PST
Where: Golden 1 Center; Sacramento, CA
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Questions of the Game
Where Does the Time Go? This probably could have been a fun game of “Guess the Starters” but by the time I got this done and published with 500 words into it, Vlade Divac would just spoil it on a radio interview I didn’t get to hear. Plus, the question we all want to know is: who’s getting the minutes? News to just about everyone, the aforementioned Divac stated earlier that he believed that Justin Jackson had won himself the starting small forward role for the Kings on opening night. But, if by the miracle that is NBA basketball the game is close tonight, will it be Jackson in at small forward during crunch time? If both Hill and Fox are healthy tonight, what does the minutes split look like between the two of them? Dave Joerger has said that he wants to play a ten guy rotation this season: Hill, Fox, Hield, Temple, Bogdanovic, Randolph, Labissiere, Cauley-Stein, Koufos. That’s nine. If the Vladfather is to be believed, does Jackson get the tenth spot over future Hall of Famer, Vince Carter? Obviously with injuries, slumps and transactions it’s ridiculous to try to project these things over the course of 82 games, but, for tonight: who gets the call?
Dribble it, Pass it, Who Wants a Basket? For at least one of the two teams tonight, scoring should come by the rocket load. But for the Kings, I think this will be the question fans ask themselves the most this season: who the hell is going to score for us tonight? It’s easy to throw this to Buddy Hield. Many people much smarter than I see him averaging over 20 points a game this season, and if the number of mentions towards his work ethic could be converted to NBA stats, Buddy would be averaging Wilt Chamberlain numbers. But, I don’t think it’ll be that easy for Buddy. He is still just a second year player. We’ve seen just 25 games of good basketball from him, and so have NBA defenses. By now, they’ve spent all summer preparing for Buddy Hield now (this was likely every team’s top summer priority). If the defense’s key into Buddy Love, or he comes out of the gate struggling this season, who picks up the slack? Is George Hill the guy to lean on for a twenty spot every single night? Is Skal ready to be the feature big? Is Willie Cauley-Stein right and ready to punk a fanbase who thought he was solely a rim runner? Someone is going to have to score, night in and night out, so lets play a game. Try to realistically divvy up 100 points between whatever ten Kings you want and then the explain why its reasonable. Do it for me, because I may or may not be freaking out over here.
Match Up of the Game
The floor and nets vs. a friction fire: One thing is absolute about Tuesday night’s game against the Rockets; they won’t stoop to the Kings pace, they’ll force the Kings to play at theirs. In years past, the speed of Houston is what killed Sacramento; the Kings best player was a behemoth, not a track star. This season, however, the Kings have guys with elite speed at a couple of different positions, and if it was a fifteen man relay race, I think the Kings would actually win. Unfortunately, speed is nothing without points at the end of it, and the Rockets can score. Boy, can they score.
Last night, against the best defense in the NBA of the last few years, the Houston Rockets had six guys score over ten points and three guys (James Harden, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon) put up over twenty. The low scorer for Rockets who played? Chris Paul with just four points. Possibly the most surprising thing about the Rockets from opening night was that they only made 15 three pointers on their 39 attempts. Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni built their team like a video game with the trade rejections turned off: seemingly every single player on their team can hit threes. If Rockets center Clint Capela came out and hit 100 threes this season, I don’t know if anyone would blink an eye. If Nene suddenly became a stretch 4, it would be tossed around in conversation as if it were expected at this point. The Rockets are a scoring beast, but this season they’ve also taken to adding some defenders to bolster their squad for a championship run. Chris Paul, as floppy as he may be, is one heck of a defender. Luc Mbah a Moute is a stopper and PJ Tucker scraps as well. Oof, this could get rough.
Prediction: SIKE! This is gonna be easy! De’Aaron Fox is gonna make Chris Paul miss, fall and we’ll see James Harden game soften after he realizes you can’t flop against someone you can’t see. Buddy Hield will drop 30, Willie is gonna pull out a classic Dr. Dunkenstein and Skal’s all around domination is gonna remind Houston of the 2 hours that Chris Bosh was a part of that team.
Kings: 117, Rockets: 112