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Kings vs Suns Preview: Keep Phoenix in the Ashes, or Get Burned?

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The Kings roll into Phoenix in the midst of a coaching change and internal discord, hoping that they escape with a win without getting that icky drama all over them.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

In a move that surprised no one with their action, but everyone in their timing, the Phoenix Suns decided on a coaching change three games into their seasons and just in time for the Kings to slide in for a game on Monday night. With two talented groups of young guys interspersed with wiley veterans, the Suns and Kings square off in a battle of teams that really screwed up in not keeping Isaiah Thomas should be representing the Western Conference at the top of the Lottery this Spring. Devin Booker vs. Buddy Hield, Marquese Chriss vs. Skal Labissiere. Papa G vs. a live Dragon. Oh, and Bogdan might be making his NBA debut against the team that traded him to the Kings?

Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: 7:00 pm PST; Monday, October 23rd

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena; Phoenix, AZ

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Heads Will Roll: You thought this was about Earl Watson didn’t you? Actually, this about * tries to find any meaningful comparison between Earl Watson and Georgios Papagiannis * another human male, Georgios Papagiannis. You remember Papa G getting the first technical in Sacramento’s Post-Boogie season, complete with the headrolliest head rolled that ever rolled from a man’s head? That was against Phoenix; There is no love lost between he and the Suns, and in particular, Dragan Bender. Every time we’ve seen this matchup, whether in be Summer League or regular season, there seems to be heat that comes from the Kings and Suns. The rivalry between these two seems to go back before either player was even in the NBA. Back when Papa G was just a twinkle in Vlade’s eye, Georgios’ father, Papa Papa G, was tweeting smack about Dragan being a bust in the making. Dragan has subsequently spent some time during summer league games running circles around Papagiannis and Papa responded with a brash attitude Kings fans had yet to see from his exterior, when he’s gotten the minutes to do so.

This doesn’t just go for Papa and Bender. Maybe you’ve sensed a bit of rivalry brewing between the two perennial cellar dwellers too. Marquese Chriss, a Sacramento area native and Kings fan, was drafted by the Kings only to be unceremoniously shipped off to Phoenix for picks that wound up being the aforementioned Papagiannis and rising star Skal Labissiere, a player who has then dominated Chriss at least once in my memory of the ‘16-17 season. Last season also saw Devin Booker shake free of Matt Barnes: Defender Supreme to beat the Kings at the buzzer. Every time these two teams have played for the last few seasons, there seems to be a bit more animosity, a little more vitriol. I’m looking to Monday night’s game to gauge it; so please, please thoughts and prayers for a Papa G appearance.

Disappointing Earl-y Returns: This is the section about Earl Watson! Or rather, the finicky nature of the term “up-and-coming team”. If we were to take a look back at this point last season, who’d have said that the Kings had a brighter future than the Phoenix Suns? Though both have been bad for quite a while, and Phoenix hasn’t necessarily handled their assets well (Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe triumvirate anyone?), I’d be hard pressed to find someone in the NBA community who didn’t see the Phoenix Suns as the rising stars of the league, and the Kings as balls of gas circling around a black hole.

So what has changed? It’s still a debatable opinion after less than a week into a long season, but the perception of the Kings and Suns have seemingly moved in opposite directions. Obviously for Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins and most of the vets have been sent packing in favor of an honest-to-goodness rebuild. The Kings finally found themselves a little bit of draft luck, and some of our young guns are starting to develop. The biggest between then and now, has to be the caliber of coaching. I don’t just mean Dave Joerger, either. As more and more time goes on, it looks more and more like Skal is going to be a real player in the league. Buddy Hield, though struggling early, is still apt to come out of it and start scoring like he had in the last 20 or so games of the season. Willie Cauley-Stein has been very successful in his role early on. Meanwhile, Marquese Chriss is struggling to see the floor. Dragan Bender isn’t performing. Devin Booker is still Devin Booker.

I don’t necessarily know where I’m heading with this, other than to point out how quickly things change in the NBA. It’s a relief just to not be considered the embarrassment of the NBA at this juncture, but even more so to know that there’s hope in the Kingdom. Knowing they’re headed for a high draft pick, would Kings fans have called for Joerger’s head if the purple and orange had switched records and performances with the purple and grey? Our talent is very roughly equal, our management with similar foibles; is the biggest difference maker the level of coaching present in Phoenix and Sacramento? Tonight when you’re watching the game, just keep in check where Sacramento was headed this time last year, and at the end of last season; and then square it up with how Phoenix looks in their first game with yet another interim head coach at the helm.

Matchup of the Game:

De’Aaron Fox vs. The Expectation Game: The Fantastic Mr. Fox has seemingly blown expectations out of the water for most Kings fans and various talking heads in the sports world. The hype for him is building at a pace unlike any King’s rookie since Tyreke Evans, and at some point, there’s going to have to some let down. He’s 19, playing the decision maker at a hyper-talented position across the league; he’s going to have to have himself a good-ole-fashioned terrible game. Is that tonight? The Phoenix Suns are in the middle of a “If you’re going through hell, keep going” moments, and with the firing of head coach Earl Watson, all signs point to the weird post-firing bump that all teams seem to have for a game or two. Eric Bledsoe might have recently tweeted “I don’t wanna be here” but if he’s healthy and getting paid, he’ll be a matchup for De’Aaron Monday night; a large physical guard with motivation to get out of town might be someone to give Fox fits. Though I’d expect that at some point, interim coach Jay Triano sees the obvious talent in a speedy backup point guard like Tyler Ulis, right now, those minutes have been taken up by Mike James, an aggressive and explosive, score first point guard who has spent the last few years being a journeyman through Israel and Europe.

All three of Phoenix’s point guards (Eric Bledsoe won’t be one of them though) have traits that could ultimately frustrate De’Aaron Fox, and the question of Fox having a lackluster game is not a matter of if, but when. Kings fan’s are ravenous for a likeable star, and a game against a team in utter chaos like the Suns currently are seems like ripe pickins for a De’Aaron Fox to go off, but this is the Kings we’re talking about here; and if ever there were a trap game four games into a season, this would be it.

Prediction: De’Aaron Fox goes off for 25 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds just to make me look like an idiot. Bogdan plays and puts the smack down on Devin Booker with 5 threes and Papagiannis gets ejected for a helmet to helmut tackle following a Dragan Bender airball three. Kings head home with a victory.

Kings: 110, Suns: 98