Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Week Three: Kings Fractured Season

 

The week ended in boos from fans at Sleep Train Arena following a disappointing and frustrating loss by the Sacramento Kings, their 4th in a row. The hopes of the preseason and training camp have all but disappeared to reveal the cracks in the team.

Games Played:

  • Game 7 Sunday,  Sacramento versus LA Lakers @ LA, Loss 86 – 97
  • Game 8 Tuesday, Sacramento versus Portland Trailblazers @ SAC, Loss 90 – 103
  • Game 9 Friday, Sacramento versus Atlanta Hawks, @ SAC, Loss 96 – 112

Players of the Week:

Jimmer Fredette offered a glimmer of hope – As the most efficient player this week, he made the most of his hamstrung limited minutes.

Against the LA Lakers Jimmer was the high scoring Kings player with 18 points on 7-9 field goal attempts, making 3 out of his 5 3-point shots, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist in 10 minutes, 45 seconds on the floor. Against the Portland Trail Blazers, he scored 13 points on 3-4 field goal attempts, and 6 assists, which was more than all of the other guards combined, in 24 minutes, 39 seconds. He only played 7 minutes, 26 seconds against the Hawks, making his 2 free throw attempts, but was cold on 3 field goal and 2 3-point attempts.

Fredette is ranked Number 6 among all NBA players, with a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 26.10 on Hollinger’s 2012-13 NBA Player Statistics. He is ranked 3rd of all point guards, with only Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul above him. While these are relatively small sample sizes, given he has not had a free range of minutes, this is still a ridiculous stat deserving of more playing time. No one on the Kings’ team even comes close to his PER ranking. Coach Smart talked about making some roster adjustments on Friday following in his post-game remarks. Hopefully, he will find more minutes for Fredette, as he has certainly earned them.

Jason Thompson was probably the most consistent player this week, meriting a mention. Against the LA Lakers, he scored 15 points on 4-10 field goal attempts, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block in 34 minutes. In game 9, against the Hawks, Jason was the high point Kings player with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes of play. This is tempered with the fact that four Atlanta Hawks players matched or exceeded him in points. They were Kyle Korver with 22 points, Louis Williams, as reserve, with 21, Al Horford, with 20, and Josh Smith with 19. But, all-in-all, this was a good solid performance by Thompson, especially considering the drama surrounding the team with player suspensions.

Assist Counts of the Week:

Given the woeful shortage of assists by Kings players, in the first couple weeks of the season, I took a look at how the team fared this week:

Game 7: Sacramento Kings = 20; Los Angeles Lakers = 23

Game 8: Sacramento Kings = 19; Portland Trail Blazers = 20

Game 9: Sacramento Kings = 25 ; Atlanta Hawks = 24
__________________________________________________________
DeMarcus Cousins = 7
Isaiah Thomas = 5
Aaron Brooks and John Salmons = 4
Thomas Robinson = 2
Chuck Hayes, Tyreke Evans, James Johnson = 1
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* apologies, I couldn’t get the widget to work so I listed the assists by player

Total Kings 64 assists, averaging 21.33 per game; Opponents 67 assists, averaging 22.33 per game.

Tyreke Evans was this week’s winner with 9 assists for the three games played. He is followed by Chuck Hayes and John Salmons with 8, DeMarcus Cousins, who only played one game due to suspensions, and Jimmer Fredette with 7, and Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Thomas with 6 assists.

It appears the message is getting across to increase assists numbers, although the team still averaged one fewer assist per game than their opponents.

Miscellaneous Observations:

It was the Damian Lillard show in Sacramento, by the visiting Portland Trail Blazer’s rookie. Sacramento Kings had a chance to snag him in the draft, but passed him by for Thomas Robinson. Lillard is showing signs that he may go on to become Rookie of the Year. I’ve had a multitude of comments about him filling up my Twitter timeline every time he plays. He will be a player to watch.

We should see some forthcoming changes to the rotation. Following the loss to the Hawks, Smart revealed there will some changes to the rotation. He wants to see which combinations work best together. Since the bench appeared to outshine the starting lineup, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that he might make some adjustments.

Players talking to officials needs to stop. Most notably, DeMarcus Cousins comes back from a two-game suspension only to get a technical. He is too valuable of a player to jeopardize his valuable minutes on the floor.

Booing from the fans – Fans are here to support the team. But I have to admit, with all the things going on with the franchise, the suspension of two players, the chaotic dysfunctional play; I can understand everyone’s frustration.

Are people questioning Coach Keith Smart?  There is no question the genuine effort and heart Smart has put into his players, but are there questions about his effectiveness working with this team? At the end of the day, his value to his team will be measured by the results on the court and compared with last season’s performance. So far, he is off to a very rocky beginning.

Players Only Meeting – Some players, notably, Chuck Hayes, called a players only meeting following the collapse to the Hawks on Friday. This appears to be the first obvious sign of a breakdown to the team.

Offensive and defensive skills – While Smart works to improve one skill (defense) the other skill (offense) suffers. Like a baby learning to crawl … he can’t crawl across the floor just using one side of his body, he has to integrate both sides to navigate forward. In the same way, Smart needs his players to work effectively at both ends of the court. Like the baby integrating his hands and legs, his team needs to integrate the offense with the defense in a smooth transition from one to the other. This will take time and practice.

Wrap Up:

Record: 2 Wins 7 Losses; Win-Loss Percentage. 222

The initial concerns following the first week’s 3-game losing streak, gave way to a meltdown on Friday by fans worn down by years of rebuilding, adjustment to being a lottery team, and worries over losing the team to another city. At the very least, fans want to see some improvement. While Smart has appeared undaunted even unfazed at times by recent setbacks, on Friday, there were cracks in his demeanor, as he could no longer dodge the questions, with losses piling up, people wanting answers, and the players locked away in a meeting. Something is not working and denial only slows the time to recognize the problem. It is not too late to turn things around, but the season stops for no one.

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Tags: Commentary Keith Smart NBA Sacramento Kings

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