I don’t know if I’ve ever been more confused by a Kings team. The minute I give up on them, they go out and beat the Warriors. The minute I think Ben McLemore is done, he comes out and scores 18 points. The minute I think they have it figured out, they blow a double-digit lead to the 76ers.
At this point, about the only thing I know for sure is that being a Kings fan is exhausting. Let’s look back at the week that was.
The High Post
The obvious highlight of the week was Sacramento’s overtime win against the Golden State Warriors. That was a gutsy effort against the best team in the league and all the players should be proud of themselves.
I want to talk about Ben McLemore though. McLemore has been a touchy subject among Kings fans for some time now as hardly anyone isn’t disappointed with the way the first pick of the Vivek era has gone. McLemore was supposed to be the SG of the future, the player that made Tyreke Evans expendable. He was supposed to be the super athletic, 3 and D player that would transform the Kings backcourt. As we know, that has hardly been the case. The only consistent thing Ben McLemore has shown over his almost four years in Sacramento has been his inconsistency.
So when he was given the starting role on Friday against the Suns after not playing at all for five games and not playing meaningful minutes for longer than that, there was quite a bit of apprehension. After he missed his first four shots, all close range floaters, the tension in the arena was palpable. I heard people starting to boo from the next couple sections, and one fan yelled “get him out of there!”. But Ben didn’t let his early struggles get to him as he so often has in the past. He kept shooting and had easily his best game of the season. In fact, he probably should have been featured more in the offense in the second half but I don’t think the team was used to featuring Ben so he didn’t get nearly as many opportunities as he probably should have.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Ben McLemore is pretty much the same age as Willie Cauley-Stein because he’s been in the league for four years. He’s still got most of his life and career in front of him. I think it’s too far down the road in Sacramento to think that future lies here, but I do hope that Ben does figure it out one day and becomes a consistent roleplayer for someone.
The Low Post
This Kings team is very confusing. How the same players that on one night beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road and the Golden State Warriors in overtime can play so poorly against teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns is beyond me. For a team that aspires to the playoffs, the Kings need to stop treating opponents differently. Right now the Kings are just two wins behind the Denver Nuggets for the 8th spot. There are easily four or five games that the Kings should have won this season that if they had gotten, we’d be talking much differently as a fanbase. Both losses to Indiana featured the Kings losing double digit leads. Same against the Lakers at home. Two losses to the Miami Heat. One loss to the Suns at the buzzer. And those are just ones off the top of my head.
The crazy thing is that despite all that, the Kings still aren’t out of this playoff race. The record for the 8th spot in the West is almost certainly going to be below .500. The Kings have a home heavy back half of the schedule and if they can string more games along like the one against the Warriors rather than the one against the Suns, they might make it. The trade deadline will be a key date, as other Western Conference bottom feeders will also likely be looking to make last pushes (keep an eye on Denver especially at the deadline). At this point I just want some clarity on the path forward, and the fact that the bottom of the West keeps losing is not giving us any.
The View From Section 214
I’ve come to the realization that I am not a Kings fan anymore. At the very least, I am a dormant Kings fan.
The realization went something like this, while watching the Kings-Grizzlies game a couple of weeks ago:
Mrs.section214: Who’s winning?
Me: The Kings are getting blown out again.
Mrs.: Big surprise. Why do you keep watching these guys?
Mrs.: Well? Is there anything about this team that you like?
Me: I like Garrett Temple.
Mrs.: Which one is he?
Mrs.: Is he good?
Me: He plays the game the right way. He’s probably the only King that I can say that about. With Rudy Gay hurt, he’s probably the 2nd best player on the team.
Mrs.: Is he an all-star?
Me: Nah, he probably wouldn’t start for most teams.
Mrs.: But he’s the Kings’ 2nd best player?
Mrs.: So why do you keep watching these guys?
Me: I guess because of the blog. The community.
And with that, the light bulb came on. I have been saying for months that if it was not for this blog, I might not be a Kings fan right now. But the truth is, I’m not a Kings fan right now, in spite of the blog.
I am ambivalent about this team winning and losing games, leaning towards team-crushing losses that will force the organization into action. I have zero emotional attachment to the franchise centerpiece player. My favorite player would be a utility man for most NBA teams, and my favorite individual is a seventy-something color commentator who I pity for having to waste his time on this version of the Kings. Jerry Reynolds deserves better than this. We all deserve better than this.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t goodbye. Far from it. I’m not even taking a timeout. I love this place. Other than my wife and kids, StR is the only venue that can elicit horse laughs from me. The writing and comments here are genuine and often times brilliant. It is a one-stop shopping mecca for pop culture. I can’t imagine my day without Sactown Royalty. And because of the community that is Sactown Royalty, I will continue to follow the team, as it will help me understand and participate in the conversation. Honestly, nothing really changes, with the exception of the self-realization that I care no more about this organization than it cares about me, or even itself. Until then, my Kings fan card reads 1985-2016. Now I just have to figure out how to redecorate my office.
Thanks for being here, all of you. You are a team that I can continue to root for.
And 1 - Two weeks have passed since the above-mentioned Memphis game. During that span, the Kings knocked off the defending world champions and the team with the best record in the league. They also lost to Philadelphia and Phoenix. And so it goes...
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Highlight of the Week
Player of the Week
29.0 PPG, .449 FG%, .364 3P%, 12.3 RPG, 7.8 AST, 1.0 STL, 1.0 BLK in 33.0 MPG
Are we witnessing the evolution of DeMarcus Cousins as a passer? Cousins has always been a good and sometimes great passer as a big man, but he’s never been more featured in a team’s offense than he has this year. Dave Joerger was widely credited with helping expand Marc Gasol’s passing game, and now Cousins is starting to do the same thing. As of now, Cousins has an assist rate of 27.0% according to NBA.com. That would put him among the NBA’s all-time leaders for assist rate among big men. Over the last 10 games, Cousins’ assist rate has gone up to 38.0%. From NBA.com, here’s how Cousins’ season has evolved in terms of passing:
Games 1-10: 17.9%
Games 11-20: 20.3%
Games 21-30: 21.1%
Games 31-40: 34.4%
Games 41-50: 38.4%
For reference, Boogie’s former Kentucky teammate, John Wall, has a season assist rate of 44.2%. The rate at which Cousins has been finding his teammates for buckets lately compares nicely to that of some upper echelon Point Guards.
Now part of that is that the Kings are asking Cousins to do so much. But his passing has definitely improved, and his turnovers are down as well. Now the team needs to go out and get him some help.
Feb. 6th vs. Chicago Bulls at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8th vs. Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10th vs. Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 p.m.