Notes From the Sacramento Kings’ First Preseason Game


Last night the Sacramento Kings returned at long last, and Kings fans got to see their team play once again against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. This game was especially exciting considering all the roster moves Vlade Divac made this offseason–there were a lot of questions we’ve had all summer that we’re starting to get answers for.

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Now of course this is still just a preseason game, so rotations and things are far from written in stone, but we did see George Karl‘s first starting lineup of the 2015-16 season–Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos.

Rondo didn’t a whole lot in his first game as a King–in 19 minutes he totaled just five points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. That’s a solid all-around like but ideally you’d like to see Rondo get a few more assists.

McLemore and Gay both struggled hard on Monday night. Gay made just two of his eleven shot attempts and McLemore missed all five of his shots–not exactly the shooting nights we expected to see from those two wings.

Boogie had a pretty typical Boogie game, totaling 22 points and seven rebounds–an impressive line that we’ve basically come to expect from him at this point. Koufos played well in his first game back under Karl, ending with twelve points and eight rebounds and a crisp 67 percent from the field.

The Kings struggled mightily from three-point range, especially the starting lineup. The five Kings starters collectively took nine three-pointers, and missed all of them. That is obviously not good.

Luckily the three bench guys Sacramento needs to be accurate from long-range all were–Marco Belinelli, Omri Casspi and Darren Collison all had good days from deep, making at least 40 percent of their attempts. Any of these three guys could very well push for a starting role if McLemore or Gay continue to struggle.

All three of Collison, Belinelli and Casspi played very well against the Trail Blazers, but Collison and Belinelli were especially good.

Belinelli had a game-best 32 points, along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals. Belinelli was accurate from both three and two-point range, showing that he’s more than a product of the Spurs’ system. He’s seen as a bench shooter, but if he continues to be even around 32/4/3/3 he won’t be a bench anything for very long.

Oct 5, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Ed Davis (17) shoots over Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Collison looked great as well in his return to NBA basketball, managing 21 points, ten assists, four rebounds and a steal. Again, DC is seen as a bench scorer by many (myself included), but he simply outplayed Rajon Rondo today on pretty much all fronts.

This team is going to be very interesting based on how much these bench guys continue to outplay starters. Gay and Rondo are both expensive players with strong reputations, but how much does that really matter if Belinelli and Collison continue to play better basketball?

We also saw Willie Cauley-Stein play for the first time in a real game (Summer League hardly counts), and he did well. After concerns that he was out of shape surfaced earlier on Monday, Cauley-Stein looked pretty good, managing six points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal in his 21 minutes.

The only other Kings that saw minutes were Quincy Acy and James Anderson, both of whom missed all three of their field goal attempts. I was disappointed to not see any Seth Curry in this one, and hopefully he and some of the other fringe players see some minutes in the next few preseason games.

The main takeaway from this (and every first preseason game in history) is that the Sacramento Kings still have a lot of work to do. That being said, there were certainly bright spots to be found on Monday night–the bench provided most of them, but the frontcourt combination of Koufos and Cousins seems to work well in the starting lineup.

The main things to watch going forward into the rest of the preseason will be positional battles at both guard spots and small forward, and the play of young Willie Cauley-Stein.

Again though, this is just a preseason game–nobody is getting or should be benched right now. I would be surprised to see Rudy Gay or Rajon Rondo lose their jobs early, but it’s something to keep an eye on should their struggles continue.

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