Sunday night I exchanged emails with Greg Wissinger of Sactown Royalty (follow him on twitter, he's pretty awesome) about his team and the Monday night Maverick opponent, the Kings. Take a look and be sure to visit their site.
The Dallas regional website, SB Nation Dallas, also did a Q&A you should check out! We've been switching off but I mixed up dates and games this time. But that means double the content for you!
1. Seems like it's been a frustrating start to the season despite the current three-game win streak. What are the main issues the Kings are dealing with?
In a nutshell, it's simply a lack of talent. The Kings have a lot of interesting pieces, but ultimately it's still just a bad team with a poorly-designed roster. While other teams can point to injuries or other issues to explain their slow starts, the Kings have no excuses. Tyreke Evans has missed 4 of the last 5 games with a knee injury, and is questionable for Monday's game, but the Kings have still won the last three games even as he missed two. Evans has been the team's best player this season, and yet the team plays at roughly the same level without him.
The Kings have also played 12 of their first 19 games at home. Saturday's win against Portland was their first road win of the year. Despite this, the 7-12 record is still terrible.
There was a growing fan sentiment for GM Geoff Petrie to be fired, and I personally hope that this three game win streak doesn't silence those calls. It's time for him to be replaced, even if the entire fan base assumes the Maloofs will hire the cheapest option they can find and won't actually fix anything.
2. Tyreke Evans leads the Kings with 3.7 assists per game. Is the lack of a pass first point guard hurting Sacramento with so many scorers?
The Kings lack of assists is difficult to explain. Part of it is certainly the lack of a true distributor. But it's also due to Keith Smart's offensive system (or lack thereof), and the team's poor shooting overall. Players are rarely in a position to receive a pass and take a shot, and are notorious for passing up open looks in order to create more difficult shots.
The Kings actually have quite a few skilled passers on the roster. Chuck Hayes and DeMarcus Cousins are both skilled passers, especially for big men. John Salmons is a surprisingly good passer and will sometimes run the offense as a point forward. And while our point guard trio of Aaron Brooks, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette aren't prototypical point guards, each has their moments when it comes to distributing the ball. The problem is that none of these players does this consistently. When it clicks in a game, the Kings looks like an entirely different team.
3. I was at Pepperdine when Paul Westphal drove our basketball program into the ground. Its been over a year since the Kings wised up and replaced him with Keith Smart. How has he worked out? Is he the right coach for the Kings?
While Keith Smart has been a definite improvement over Paul Westphal clashing with the roster (specifically, trying to force the organization to trade DeMarcus Cousins), it remains unclear just how much better he is. I personally don't believe Keith Smart is the long-term solution. He'll eventually be yet another name in the coaching carousel in this team's post-Adelman era.
Like Westphal, Smart seems unable to decide on a set rotation pattern. Travis Outlaw had received 13 DNP-CDs this season, and then played 17 minutes Saturday against Portland. But it's been most apparent with the point guards. Smart promoted Aaron Brooks to the starting line-up early in the season, and he's played pretty well when paired with Tyreke Evans. But Smart is completely uncertain of how to use Jimmer and Isaiah. Their minutes are completely unpredictable. Either player might play 20 minutes or get a DNP on any given night. It's frustrating to us fans, and I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for the team. It almost feels like Smart is just afraid to make a wrong decision, so he won't commit to one or the other. And that's no way to run a basketball team.
Ultimately, Smart is a cheap coach and his option for next season has already been picked up. The Maloofs like cheap and aren't about to fire a coach they've already committed money to, so Smart will be around until at least halfway through next year.
4. The Kings seem to be the only team associated with relocation rumors these days. How is your fan base dealing with these rumors?
Unfortunately our owners have turned this into our status quo. We got a minor victory at the end of last week when the Governor of Virginia declined to include a stipulation for arena funds into the state budget proposal. This essentially kills any immediate possibility of the Kings relocating to Virginia Beach. Without state funding, that project won't get off the ground. And although the idea of Virginia Beach seemed laughable to most, we're now at the point where Kings fans have to take every threat seriously. The Maloofs are terrible, terrible owners. They're broke, and refuse to admit it even as the rest of the world can plainly see it. They're looking for a handout from whatever city will give it to them.
It's incredibly disheartening to the fan base. The Kings sold out 19 seasons in Sacramento, despite rarely sniffing the playoffs in those years. Sacramento has always supported the team, regardless of on-court performance. But the Maloofs have destroyed that. Attendance is terrible. The official attendance numbers don't reflect just how empty the arena has become. In short, the fan base is simply tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop. We're tired of wondering when, not if, the team will file to relocate. And unfortunately there's no end in sight.
5. DeMarcus Cousins is the Kings' center piece. How's his season going thus far?
It has been is a disappointing start to the season for DeMarcus, to say the least. He's still averaging 16/10 a game, but he's regressed. DeMarcus got off to a pretty strong start, before being suspended two games for confronting Sean Elliot after the Kings Nov. 9 game against San Antonio. Since then, he's struggled. His shooting percentage is still terrible (42% from the field this season), and his shot selection is questionable. His on-court attitude, which has always been notoriously bad, appears worse. Most Kings fans still aren't ready to give up on him, but we're ready for him to get it together. You can handle having an a-hole on your roster as long as he plays well and helps the team, but it seems like Kings fans are getting tired of defending him.
The season is still young enough that DeMarcus could get back on track. A big part of the frustration is that, as fans, we expect player progression to be linear, but in reality there are bound to be bumps in the road.
6. What are the goals for the Kings the rest of the season?
Ha! Where to begin with this question? Win a couple games? At the beginning of the season, most Kings fans predicted the team would win somewhere around 33 or 34 wins. That was the growth we expected. To finish near that, the Kings would need finish this season by going 26-37. Watching this roster, that seems very unlikely, especially considering how much this team struggles on the road and how much of the early season has been played at home.
So, given that this season is already a huge disappointment, our goals are to stay in Sacramento, hope for an impact trade of some sort, and hope we don't bungle Tyreke's upcoming restricted free agency.
Oh, and of course, hope we can beat the Mavericks tonight.
Thanks Greg! Be sure to check out Sactown Royalty before the game!