As the seconds ticked away from another embarrassing Sacramento Kings loss, a man two rows ahead turned to his buddy and calmly said, “We suck.” And at the end of the day, that’s all you can really say. You can bemoan the Kings slow starts, awful offense and swiss cheese defense. But saying “we suck” puts a perfect bow on it. The Kings are becoming close to unwatchable, and aside from an enthusiastic spurt in the second quarter, Sacramento was annihilated by the Atlanta Hawks. The final score of 112-96 in favor of Atlanta brought out the boo birds in Sleep Train Arena and sent the Kings to their 4th straight loss.
KINGS STARTERS GET ROASTED – The Kings starting lineup laid an absolute egg in this one, and the five-man group continues to show zero chemistry. Isaiah Thomas (19 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-6 FG, 5 AST) is the point guard who doesn’t or isn’t allowed to orchestrate the offense. Tyreke Evans (27 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-11 FG, 1 AST, 0 REB) is the shooting guard who can’t shoot (although credit him with a couple jumpers in this one). James Johnson (17 MIN, 2 PTS, 1-7 FG, 0 REB), after an exciting preseason, has brought very little to the table. And DeMarcus Cousins (36 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-15 FG, 16 REB, 7 AST) was awful in his return from suspension, forcing shots and getting too caught up in the officiating. The starters set the table for a 14-point deficit after one quarter. And after the reserves fought their butts off to get the team back in it by halftime, there came the starters again to wet the bed in a disaster of a third quarter.
SMART PROMISES CHANGES – Keith Smart says lineup changes are coming. Since last season, I’ve been wishing the Kings would move Tyreke Evans to the bench. The move immediately instills Isaiah Thomas as the one and only ball-handler and lets him run the first-team offense. Marcus Thornton steps in as a shooting threat in the lineup. Meanwhile, the bench role lets Tyreke be the man. He gets to hold the rock and drive the lane. Rather than Isaiah setting up Tyreke for jumpers, it would be Tyreke setting up Jimmer for jumpers. Jimmer gets to play off the ball, where he’s much more comfortable. The Thomas/Thornton and Evans/Fredette backcourt combos seem to have complementary skill sets. But why does it seem like Evans is the starter least likely to be benched? I’ve got a disappointing suspicion that Thomas will be the one on the bench, and the Kings problems of a disorganized offense will continue. Stay tuned.
RESERVES IGNITE MINI RALLY – That was the Aaron Brooks (22 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-7 FG, 3-4 3FG, 4 AST) the Kings hoped they’d see when they signed him this summer. Brooks was a rally starter, pushing the ball, finding open teammates with nifty passes and making crafty plays around the basket. His energy sparked his team and the crowd as the Kings clawed back from a double-digit deficit. Brooks was joined by a surprisingly efficient John Salmons (26 MIN, 9 PTS, 4-6 FG, 4 AST, 2 REB, 2 STL), who supplied strong defense and made some nice plays offensively. It almost begged for that rare instance where reserves start the second half, but Smart trusted his starters, which proved to be ineffective. Nonetheless, the performance by the bench, which appeared to be a cohesive unit moving the ball, bodes well for the near future.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Jason Thompson (33 MIN, 19 PTS, 8-12 FG, 10 REB) just battles. He was the only starter worth playing against Atlanta … Jimmer’s (7 MIN, 2 PTS, 0-3 FG) first appearance came with seven seconds left in the third quarter. A curious starting point for a guy supplying all the Kings offense of late, but really the play of Brooks-Thornton-Salmons made it so Fredette’s absence wasn’t as puzzling … Never good to hear boos at your home arena. Smart heard ‘em once when he benched Fredette after just four minutes of play. And the entire team got a good dose as they left the court after the game … Chuck Hayes (4 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST) has been a constant in the rotation but he saw just seven minutes in the first half and none in the second.