Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Kurt —  January 4, 2007

Ask the Expert. You want to know about the Kings, you ask one of the very best team bloggers out there, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty. So, I did that and he was kind enough to answer (or was so drunk he didn’t realize it was me).

Q: We read about the friction between Ron Artest and Mike Bibby, does that exist and if so how does it show on the court? A: I’m sure the tension exists, though it seems to be off the front burner for now. (Winning: the magical elixir.) It’s not a locker room control issue – Corliss Williamson is probably the locker room leader, Bibby has never been that, and Artest is far more take-charge on the court than off it. The bad blood here stems from some comments Artest made about the team’s defense, specifically saying it looked like he had to guard the opposing PG, too. Bibby didn’t like that, or the unconscionable play at the end of a game in Utah in early December (one minute left, Kings down by 1, Artest with the ball and about 15 secs on shot clock, Bibby calls for it near midcourt, Artest ignores him, drives left into traffic, kicks it to Shareef in the left corner at the last minute, Shareef hits it). Both want to have the ball in their hands in crunchtime, and sadly, there’s only one ball. But if the Kings are winning, this is a nonissue. If they aren’t, it looks like Geoff Petrie will try to move one of them. (See: Iverson, Allen, and Maggette, Corey.)

Q: How do Kings fans feel about Artest now? A: If you saw Artest’s game against the Knicks Tuesday, you’d understand this is a trick question. (He scored 39 on 22 shots, and added 5 steals. If you asked me before the game how many shots Artest would need to score 39 pts, I would’ve answered 52. I’m pretty serious.) A couple weeks ago, when the team was going under, I think about half of the fans wanted to see him jettisoned ASAP, to prevent further trade value degradation. At this point, he might be the only chance the Kings have at getting to the playoffs. Once there, it’s doubtful the Kings go do any damage against the Big Three, so a lot of fans would rather rebuild by getting something for Artest and Bibby, and maybe Miller. But again, he is the motor of this team and the only chance they’ve got in 2007.

Q: I was one of those guys who thought Eric Mussleman was going to be a star his second time around as an NBA coach. As is often the case, I appear to be wrong. What is he doing or not doing that is hurting the team, as best you can tell? A: Give him time. I don’t think he’s hurting the team – you think Rick Adelman would be five games over .500 with Bibby shooting 37 percent? Actually, all things considered (Miller missed a month, Bibby was horrible for 25 games, Artest has missed seven games, nothing but new and young players in the backcourt/wing positions besides Bibby and Martin), he’s done pretty well to be sitting one game under .500. People forget this team started off 8-5 against a rather tough schedule and no one realizes this team has reeled off four of five. The Kings have had the second toughest schedule in the league thus far. Musselman is doing fine, and this time next year, your prediction will look a lot better.

Q: Just what does Kevin Martin bring to the table? Can he walk on water yet? A: I haven’t seen him walk on water yet, but he did walk all over Channing Frye on a Kobe-esque reverse baseline dunk Tuesday night. Martin is, first and foremost, an incredible shooter from any spot on the floor. He’s averaging 20+ ppg while shooting 50% from the floor, 43% from three, and 91% from the line. The only player in the 20 on 50/40/90 club is Larry Bird (who did it twice). He draws fouls on a level below Dwyane Wade but at a pace better than any King in memory. He’s incredibly quick in the open court, especially when you consider his size, and he’s turning into a nice passer and ballhandler. John Salmons is the superior defender at that position, so Martin is losing some minutes there. But he has good instincts for the ball and will definitely improve his on-ball capabilities. So yeah, we’re pretty excited about him.

Injured All-Star team. An interesting thought from Marc Stein of ESPN.com the other day on the team you could put together in the Western Conference from the injured list: Chris Paul (ankle) and Peja Stojakovic (back) at guard, Lamar Odom (knee) and Rashard Lewis (hand) at forward and Yao Ming (knee) at center … with Kenyon Martin (knee), David West (elbow) and Darius Miles (knee) also in the mix

Life without Kwame, part deux. As part of the “Kurt’s not doing any work today” preview, there are some great comments from James yesterday that I thought deserved notice:

Looking through the stats, individually Bynum seems better than Brown in many ways. His PER is higher, Opponent PER lower (by a lot), field goal percentages better on both sides, blocks are better, rebounding is a better ratio. These are the individual stats, center v center, and by these measures, replacing Brown with Bynum would be an upgrade.

Team-wise, however, that’s less true. As you noted, the Lakers are significantly better on offense with Brown, despite the fact that he is a weaker offensive player than Bynum, because:

1) they get 6.1% more offensive rebounds with Brown out there;
2) all 4 regulars get fewer free throw attempts with Bynum out there, by a large margin with Kobe especially (11.0 to 5.3) and by a lot with Odom as well (6.6 to 4.2). Overall, the Lakers are +6 in net fouls with Brown out there, and dead even with Bynum out there.

I suspect those two facts are related, and that because Bynum has more offensive skills, the Lakers go to him more than Brown, which means the rest of the team is driving to the basket less, resulting both in fewer fouls as well as fewer people near the basket to get an offensive rebound…. One other huge factor is turnovers. When Bynum’s on the floor, the Lakers get four fewer turnovers than when Brown’s on the floor.

Adding to the fun tonight. Steve Kerr is on vacation (what the heck is the summer for, Mr. Working-One-Day-A-Week?) so the TNT announcing tandem is Marv and Sir Charles. Seriously.

Things to look for: The Lakers are going to need a team effort to slow Artest. In the past he would have been Odom’s responsibility, but Cook can’t handle him on the block. Radmanovic may get a shot. But what the Lakers are going to have to do is make smart doubles and rotations, and not let Artest take over.

Can Andrew Bynum stay out of foul trouble? I expect he’ll be motivated but the man averages 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes. He’s got to stay on the court (tonight and for the next could of weeks). Also, he’ll be on Miller, who is happy away from the basket, he’ll need to balance that with rotations inside.

Bibby may not be Bibby this season, but against Smush…. We need some good D from the Laker PG. Also, defense against points has been the Kings weakness, so Smush should have a good offensive game.

Look for Mo Evans to get some key time on Kevin Martin. Kobe has been a step slow on defense (blame the knee) so look for Kobe and Mo to get some Martin time.

Kurt

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20 responses to Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

  1. We just gotta survive until the ASB. This is one of the games we can win, the Kings can’t score inside, and don’t have a great penetrating guard, so we won’t get ripped up as bad defensivley. I am one of the biggest “don’t put Cook at C” propents, but against a guy like Brad Miller, Cook and Turiaf may be better equiped than Andrew. That being said, if they give it to Andrew inside early we could really beat this team up, they play small a lot.

  2. So Artest is not getting along with Bibby because they both want the ball at the end of the game and Artest is not sharing it. Wow, imagine if we had traded for him last year instead of the Kings, would we be having this problem right now because Ron-Ron isnt okay with giving the ball to Kobe at the end of the game because he wants it???? Great move by Kupchak to hold off last year and not gamble on Artest.

  3. re: kobe bad on defense

    I don’t blame the knee – he had a slow start, but we saw a few games after that where he was playing really great, active D. There was one game in particular (can’t remember which) where he was a clear difference maker. That all totally tanked with the nets game, where he had the sinus infection? Some sort of illness. He was a total liability there, and has continued to play pretty bad since then. When he’s not 100%, he seems to conserve energy on defense, so he can make it back up on offense – and I think his stamina took a hit from that sickness, and he hasn’t quite gotten back there yet. Hopefully this game we’ll see him back to high-energy on both ends, given that he’s finally gotten some significant rest.

    My point being, I don’t think it’s the knee. :)

  4. Let’s see if this undrmanned stretch of games can at least serve to make our depth deeper come playoff time. I think we may have to settle for being happy with a squad that can simply compete most nights.

    I’m in the “Kobe can take a bunch of shots as long as they are in the context of the offense” camp, but if PJax was worried about him being worn down before the loss of LO and Kwame…

  5. Frustrating game. Never should have come to this overtime.

  6. That was the most infuriating Laker victory ever. The Lakers didn’t do themselves any favors, but the refs REALLY didn’t do the Lakers any favors. Good grief.

    2 free throws in the 4th quarter for the Lakers. 20 for the Kings.

  7. Oops, sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be Anonymous. It was me.

  8. When Phil brings in the Smusher to close out a game with the Lakers far in the lead–don’t change the channel or go to bed. Chug some Alka Seltzer. This is going to be interesting!

    Smushaphobes shut their eyes, Smushaholics feel an involuntary tremor, and the other team senses that the game can be won with a series of high pick and rolls.

    I wonder why?

  9. Things I liked: Andrew played a good game. Can he do it back to back though. Cook came out smokin hot. Can HE be consistent. Kobe passing the ball and guys making shots(what a concept).
    Things I didn’t like: Smush on the pick&roll(what else is new) I didn’t like it that Phil sat Cook down for so long. When someone is hot like that, you let them play and force the other team to stop him.

    Was it just me or did it seem like the guys were haveing trouble handling the “old ball”? It looked like the ball was heavy and didn’t have bounce. Seems like there were times that players dribbling expected the ball to bounce up and it wasn’t coming up as fast as they were use to with the composite ball. They’ll just have to dribble harder.

    A win is a win. Now they have to win tonights game or this win was for nothing.

  10. With Lamar and Kwame injured, it may not have been pretty, but I’m happy with a road win however it comes.

  11. chris henderson January 5, 2007 at 10:37 am

    ya gotta give chops to kobe last night. he shot when he had to and made a bunch.
    but the real kicker for me was on the last play of regulation, when he had the ball, got double teamed and hit Smush for that lay up forcing OT.
    in the past, he would have forced up a wild shot being double or triple covered.
    Kobe almost had a triple double, lead the team well, and I think he really deserves some credit for pulling this one out of the trash can.
    yeah, it was frustrating at times, and I also agree that the refs seemed to favor the Kings down the stretch, maybe they got caught up in the heat of the moment, the comeback, the fans at Arco have always been boisteruos to say the least, but in the end they came away with a W, and that’s all that matters.
    it was good to see the contributions from what would normally be our bench…Vlad hit that 3 that really saved our bacon in that game, Andrew got a double double, even though he was inconsistent, and Cookie, what can ya say, it was great to see him, a streak shooter, get in a “Zone’…

  12. The funny part is, Kobe didn’t get an assist for that last play or else he would have had the triple double.

  13. It is not Smush’s fault on the pick and roll, it is the helpside defense that is late to rotate and the bigman (bynum and brown) dont force the ballhandler to go laterally, instead allowing them a running start into the lane. There is nothing Smush can do about those things, its ridiculous to use him as a scapegoat. When they played it right last nite in OT with Cook hedging out it lead to a steal and a dunk, pretty good D that time

  14. You’re right, kwame a. There are two sides to every pick and roll story.

  15. I really see it as a combo. Smush hasn’t fought through a pick since Fordam. But Kwame and Bynum fear leaving the paint, it seems. The combo is deadly.

  16. So we need to put sharks in the paint, thus forcing Kwame and Bynum to rotate out.

  17. I know zones arent the coolest thing, but i liked when Phil went man to begin the possesion and when the team went into high pick and roll he switched to zone. We should use that more often

  18. I’m not getting into this in the Sixer preview, but Smush was -12 in the fourth quarter last night and the Kings run coincided with him coming in.

  19. Best part of the win last nite was hearing fans chant “mvp” for kobe at the end of the game…in freaking arco

  20. What the hell is wrong with the Kings crowd tonight? Are they just sitting on their hands? They’re winning and the crowd just sits?. This is what happens when you price real fans out with high ticket prices. OOOOOOOOHHHHH THIS CROWD SUCKS
    .